Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Disappointment...and Coming Attractions

Update. Sadly Heather Hunter at PG Plaza was a little bit crowded. And no camera phone pictures, sorry. As I said in the comments below, HH is somewhat overly made-up...but hey, she's still going strong. Alas, sorry for all the controversy. Every book like this I buy from Karibu means they'll have the money to keep supporting other authors. Right.

Anyway, stay tuned for these items, fanboys & girls:

1.Post-Comic Con rants, update on The Darker Mask, how I feel cheated by Dark Horse now that the Green Hornet's being written for the screen (and played by)--you ready--Seth Rogen of "Knocked Up" and "The Forty Year Old Virgin." WTF? For the graphic novel I envisioned penning a Hornet with a Terrance Howard type as media mogul Britt Reed and Zhang Ziyi as a female Kato. And I may very well get to do that, according the folks in Oregon. Just not any time soon... ;-(

2. NAACP once again shows it's irrelevance by asking NFL to "be kinder" to Michael Vick. Did they read the indictment? He bankrolled the whole enterprise and knew about the shootings, eletrocutions and hangings of these Pits, you idiots! Not to mention the drug dealers (and babies) who came by to bet on the fights.. the ATL branch probably gets it's budget from milking rappers, athletes and strip club owners' guilt. All hail Hotlanta and the Dirty South...

3.Ocean City, Md woman performs abortions on herself. People ask why. Not a teen, not a retard (though she is a Worcester County redneck, overweight, lives with her skinny boyfriend and loves NASCAR). She runs a fairly successful taxi firm at the resort. Thank God we go to Delaware. Anyway, they find a numebr of dead fetuses (Foeti?) under the sink. Now everyone's asking why why why. Lord, like Andrea Yates and so many white women, the impluse is to study, debate, chalk up to post partum depression or abusive hubbies. But woebetide if you are Black or Latina. Fry the bitch! The animal! They breed like flies anyway and use crack (as opposed to white folks who use meth, and we have to get them to treatment for Godssakes). Perhaps the NAACP should address this, as well as let's see--black boys dying in Iraq, crumbling schools, crumbling values, lack of capital and access to debt by black businesses and entrepreneurs, KKK prosecutors in Jena(Louisiana) and in the Glenarlow Wilson case, voter fraud by the GOP in at least three US Senate elections. Gee...

4. A retired general and Alberto "Frito Bandito" Gonzales, ready to fall on their swords for George Bush. Who's more disgusting--the retard or the fools who cover for him?

5. The Chief Justice and other such oxymorons--he's got such great free health care, doesn't he?
6. More author interviews. Steve Barnes-Tananarive Due-actor Blair Underwood. David Anthony Durham. "Sleepers" author Lorenzo Carcaterra on his new deal with Atari. You know I do it better...

Happy August. Feel free to leave some thoughts on any of these.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Move over, Alice Walker!

Tomorrow night, I stop being a hater. Some background: St. Martins Press is the home of our newest Black literary heroine--porn star Heather Hunter. Giving folks what they want, no matter how base, is no crime at least on a philosophical level, eh? And as HL Mencken once said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of the American public."

Nuff said on that. Back in the day I was a big fan in (the early 90s) and I still have my old Royce's Video Club Card, Georgia Ave NW DC (yeah boy!!!) in a drawer somewhere safe from my wife. While girls like Jeannie Pepper and Mauvais De Noire (upon whom Nicole Ari Parker's character in "Boogie Nights" was loosely based) were the Rosa Parks of porn, Heather was like "Julia" and "The Cosby Show" bringing black entertainment up to the par and glamor of the mainstream.

I'm going to Karibu, a successful black bookstore in the DC area to pay homage to HH at the publication of her new book, Insatiable. To remain successful, black bookstores--even those run by conscientious brothers and sisters--have to make payroll, pay rent, buy stock. You don't sustain that selling by reprints of James Baldwin novels or cheesey stuff from Christopher Chambers (hell often you even don't it by selling just books, really, but that's another rant). Am I, Mr. Elitist, Mr. Fanboy of Cora Daniels and mega-Curmudgeon Stanley Crouch a hypocrite?

Hell no. I am honest about what I want and why. Again my beef has been with those publishing folk, well-meaning bookstore owners, rappers and BET execs (good to see the "Hot Ghetto Mess" debate spread nationwide) make unsoliticited, lame-to-downright offensive justifications and characterizations for what they've wrought on black culture and ethos at a time when we need every molecule of "lift" we can craft. I love it when I hear some honesty about dispensing brain candy and escapism from these folks; St. Martin's editor Monique Patterson ws such a person, eschewing the usual contrived defense of the state of black literature and merely saying HH's book's a hot and sexy read. Nothing more, nothing less. Prurience. And I can dig prurience. Look, an analogy (loose) can be made to what Stephen King once said: "I am a salami writer. I try to write GOOD salami, but salami is salami."

I read Shannon Holmes and Relentless and a lot of other crap for the same reason I eat too much cake, watch re-runs of "Blind Date"...or worship HH. I am honest about that. I just lament the wat that stuff, including Heather, is now the bar, the norm, the spotlit gleaming centerpiece! Lord, when I took my wife's copy of Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy to read, it was almost as if I hoped she would leave town on business so I could lock all the doors, close the vertical blinds and...well, you know. But if I'm not reading a a Relentless Aaron/Fiddy Cent "novel" on the Metro I'm a miscreant. If it's Upton Sinclair's The Jungle...day-um I'd be a downright pervert scumbag!!! Where's Chris Hanson from NBC?!

So all I wanna know is--how can I get a gig ghostwriting a Jeannie Pepper or Spontaneous Exstacy novel (hint hint Monique)? Hell I'd even help Peter North write one (he'd have to explain how he gets such velocity and volume in the money shots after 30 years in porn). Of course no one wants a book on the exploitative treatment of black images by many white publishing houses, by VividVideo, by VIACOM and of course by inference the private equity firms etc that own stock in all without a hint of regulation, but screw that. Can you hook a brother up some ghostwriting?

Friday, July 27, 2007


About as allegorical as you can get without LSD--what's wrong with corporate power, marketing , manipulation...and how it behooves them to keep us dumb. Oh, and workable allegory for the Bush Administration as well:

NEW YORK - So you thought that water in your Aquafina bottle came from some far-away spring bubbling deep in a glen?
Try the same place as the water in your tap.
PepsiCo Inc. is the latest company to offer some clarity about the source of its top-selling bottled water as it announced on Friday it would change the label on Aquafina water bottles to spell out that the drink comes from the same source as tap water.
A group called Corporate Accountability International has been pressuring bottled water sellers to curb what it calls misleading marketing practices. The group has criticized PepsiCo over its blue Aquafina label with a mountain logo as perpetuating the misconception that the water comes from spring sources.
Aquafina is the single biggest bottled water brand, and its bottles are now labeled "P.W.S." The new labels will spell out "public water source."
"If this helps clarify the fact that the water originates from public sources, then it's a reasonable thing to do," PepsiCo spokeswoman Michelle Naughton said Friday. Aquafina water is taken from public sources then purified in a seven-step process.
The corporate accountability group is also pressing for similar concessions from The Coca-Cola Co., which owns the Dasani water brand, and Nestle Waters North America, seller of Nestle Pure Life purified drinking water, which gets some of its water from municipal sources.
Dasani's Web site says that Dasani comes from local water supplies, is filtered using a process called reverse osmosis and enhanced with minerals.
"We don't believe that consumers are confused about the source of Dasani water," Coca-Cola spokeswoman Diana Garza Ciarlante said. "The label clearly states that it is purified water."
Sales of bottled water has been a growing source of revenue for companies such as PepsiCo, based in Purchase, N.Y., and Atlanta-based Coca-Cola as they lessen their dependence on sales of traditional carbonated sodas, as consumer concern over health issues has weakened demand.
Nestle said Friday it has been printing new labels for its Pure Life water that say whether the water comes from municipal supplies or ground water, and the labels will begin showing up later this year. Pure Life is the only Nestle bottled water that uses public water sources and the company did not have an estimate for how much of its supply originates from public sources.
Wholesale sales of bottled water grew to $11 billion in 2006, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp., and the industry is expected to maintain growth rates of about 10 percent. The fastest growing segment of the industry is sales of bottles of less than 1.5 liters, which includes the individual serving sizes sold in many convenience and grocery stores.
The decisions by Nestle and PepsiCo come as criticism grows over environmental concerns about the industry's use of local water sources as well as consumption of resin and energy to package and ship the bottles.
Last month alone, a barrage of news hit the industry: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom banned city-funded purchases of bottled water; New York City launched an ad campaign called "Get Your Fill" to promote the benefits of tap water; and the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution to bring attention to the importance of public water systems and the negative impact of bottled water.
"I think it's unfortunate we have gotten into this tap water vs. bottled water debate," the CEO of the International Bottled Water Association, Joe Doss, said. "I do not think consumers are uniformly replacing tap water with bottled water."
PepsiCo shares fell $1.18, or 1.8 percent, to $65.66 Friday amid a broad market pullback.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Married men--does this strike a chord?

OK, I was going to post on Lindsay Lohan's blow, on more dog-wagging from the White House on terror and the need to have the Frito Bandito (our joke of an Attorney General) removed, and of course humbolt squid invading California ("Calamari this, muthafukas!"). But this video struck a nerve, as it should for all married men...Enjoy

Monday, July 23, 2007

And still we debate the root causes?

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hail, Dame Rowling!

You have gotten a lazy, unengaged generation of kids READING. Intricate plots, vivid and developmed characters, universal themes and conflicts...even vocabulary words. Once you were on welfare, writing these story longhand as you sat in a pub, depressed and wondering of the future. Such a story in itself. Hail...

Maybe we in African American community can take heart. We have folks coming close, in sci fi and fantasy. We have folks like LA Banks or David Anthony Durham. But many people don't care about them, or seem to have no time for such creativity and wonder. Fairy tales of thugs in love and thongs on fire are passing for fiction these days, and our young people suffer. At least...once they overcome the stigma of "reading too much" or acting "white" or spending $27.50 on a hardcover and not toward a pair of shoes or Young Jeezy CD or bootleg "Assasin's Creed" for X-box...they have you, Dame Rowling, and your young wizard who's now enshrined with Raskolnikov, Oliver Twist, Janey, Emma, Tom Jode, the old Cuban fisherman, Bigger Thomas and so many many more...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday funnies

The original Petey Greene's Washington on old Channel 20. History recreated by Don Cheadle in the new movie Talk to Me.

Enjoy this bit of DC nostalgia...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

INTERVIEW: Cora Daniels

If you haven’t seen Cora Daniels on TV or read her pieces in Fortune, the New York Times, Essence, O: The Oprah Magazine, USA Today, Heart & Soul, FSB: Fortune Small Business, Savoy, Working Mother, well you need to put down those Tyler Perry DVDs and that Playstation 3 controller and take note. Cora has served as an expert on diversity and business issues; she’s been a commentator on ABC News, CNN, CNBC, BET, NPR, and the Charlie Rose Show. Her first work of non-fiction, Black Power Inc., got the critical and reader acclaim due an author and journalist of her caliber.
But it was her most recent book, Ghetto Nation, A Journey into the Land of Bling and the Home of the Shameless, which has burned up the talk show circuit, message boards, letters to the editor. It may have even percolated to the very folk who don’t watch talk shows, log into the Net for information, or read a daily paper—causing everyone regardless of education, income, geography to THINK. And how timely this book is, coinciding with Bill Cosby’s comments on character and poverty, over the Don Imus rau and the debate over Hip Hop’s current excesses and lack of redeeming creative or social values, over crime and class, over white America’s—and America’s corporate media & image giant’s—obsession and adoption of things “ghetto.” Taking, to paraphrase Prof. Todd Boyd, “everything but the burden.”

Cora, welcome to the blog.
Let’s jump right in with recent events. BET heads Reggie Hudlin and Debra Lee have taken a lot of flak for this new show, “Hot Ghetto Mess” (which I lampooned in the July 16 post). Major sponsors have abandoned the reality show aimed largely at BET's usual teen audience; BET seems to have tried dress up the show as social satire/public affairs debate of sorts! What’s your view on this controversy?

CD: I think the reason why some people are worried about BET's Hot Ghetto Mess is, well, because it is BET. There is not a very good track record there for dealing with issues sensitively or thoughtfully. Why not be nervous, then. I am always up for honest self reflection. I do not believe there is such a thing as dirty laundry. So in general a potential show dealing with these uncomfortable issues doesn't bother me. But if the goal of this show specifically is really to inspire thought, and action, and "get us to do better", as the website that it is based claims, then why have a comedian host? That signals to me that its primary goal is to make us laugh, and in this case, laugh at the expense of other Black folks. That's the problem. It is unfortunate because Hudlin has not been part of that history that makes us distrust BET so. And he's right, we don't know how things might play out in his hands. I am also encouraged that we are starting to realize the power of our consumer dollars since that is always a more effective protest than marching with signs. But, the swift reaction to something that no one has seen yet is striking considering that on a sister station there's a minstrel show called Flavor of Love that too many of us have indeed seen. And the fact that that hot ghetto mess continues to draw more viewers than protestors is shameful.

So you think America--and black America if there is such a monolithic thing--is getting tired of "ghetto?" In sports for instance, the hood hero patina has worn off of folk like Mike Vick, Allan Iverson, "Pacman" Jones, "Tank "Johnson; Lonnie Baxter shoots off a gun near the White House and FedEx's another. We're seeing more "nerd" urban leaders like Adrian Fenty and Corey Booker rather than the old school Marion Barry types or slick new-schoolers like Kwame Kirkpatrick. Hip Hop sales are down. Black professionals in the suburbs are fighting Section 8 housing in their neighborhoods; my favorite target BET's even doing a reality show called "Baldwin Hills." Have we turned some sort of corner or reached a saturation level?
CD: Hmmm. Are folks getting tired of ghetto? I hope so. You have no idea how much I hope so! Seriously, I do think there is a lot of much needed healthy self-examination going on at the moment which is good thing. That said I am not sure I would lump everything on your list into the ghetto category. No need to insult Section 8 residents by putting them in the same breath as Pacman Jones. :-) And that perhaps is a big point we should get out of the way first. Ghetto is a mindset. Ghetto is no longer where you live but how you live. It is a mindset that celebrates and embraces the worst. I think the mindset can thrive because our expectations -- of ourselves and each other --are too low. We have gotten to the point where behavior that shouldn't be acceptable has become acceptable. And that type of thing happens in both Baldwin Hills and Section 8.

To the meat of the book. Agree or disagree: these two passages from Ghetto Nation best sum up the book's theme-" 'Nothing frustrates me more than to see guys acting stupid to assure themselves that they are Black.'" [says an African American student at T.C. Williams High School here in the DC area] and "It was culture of self-destructiveness that was holding these [black men in depressed economic areas/situations] back." [referring to studies by sociologist Orlando Patterson]?

CD: Wow, it is a bit weird to have your own words quoted back at you like that. I think they are at the crux. One of the biggest misconceptions is that being ghetto makes you more Black. Sorry, it just makes you more ghetto. Black and ghetto are not interchangeable and is about time we realize that.

Here's a related question: some folk say "ghetto" a merely creature of corporate America, of MTV and Reebok a la Benjamin Barber's Jihad versus McWorld, while I say it's purely the polar opposite of what black conservatives like Shelby Steele (and indeed more sinister right wingers in general) would call "the culture of responsibility." Do you come down closer to consumerism or Chambers? (smile)

CD: I don't think ghetto was created by corporate America I think it was exploited by corporate America. And perhaps full disclosure is necessary here: I am a business journalist by training, having spent most of my career at Fortune magazine so I can never ignore the bottom line. It is the job of companies to make money by any means necessary. So if we are dumb enough to degrade ourselves we shouldn't be surprised when companies figure out how to make a buck off our degradation. I don't consider myself a Black conservative by any means but I also don't think "culture of responsibility" is a conservative notion. It may not be fair but Black folks have to be twice as good, always. (Maybe even 3x as good.) That is the reality of being Black in a white run land. I think too many of us have forgotten that burden. We are a people who fought of hoses and dogs so that our children could have an easier life. I am one of those children - a post-civil rights baby. Unfortunately with those "easier" lives many of us got comfortable. And the truth is Black folks don't have the luxury of being comfortable. Not when we are still climbing and have so much farther to go. Call me a cynic but I think the isms we battle will always be there, we can't really control that. What we can control is what we do to ourselves because often that makes it easier for the isms to hold us down. To me that thinking is neither conservative or liberal or any political leaning. It is being a realist.

Despite your discourse regarding some of Bill Cosby's controversial comments on class, some critics of Ghetto Nation still maintain it's an elitist, anti-poor person or "bourgie" rant ipso facto tacit support for Cos. Do they just misunderstand you or are they in denial? Columnist and curmudgeon-in-chief Stanley Crouch has gone as far as to label many black academics and activists--many of whom took issue with some your themes--"ghettocrats" who seek to legitimize the apparent nihilism and excess of contemporary Hip Hop culture. Your take?

CD: The truth is there was one critic who dropped the elitist bomb and honestly I do indeed think he missed the point. Unfortunately, his review was syndicated, so what are you going to do? By far the majority of feedback from critics, reporters, radio hosts, and most importantly readers has been exactly the opposite. Most say that it would have been easy to allow GhettoNation to become an elitist rant but it doesn't. I don't think any of us are above being ghetto -- including myself. That is why I didn't shy away from putting my own business out there in the text. I think when folks call the argument I am making an "elitist, anti-poor person, bourgie rant" they are revealing their own biases. They are making an assumption that I am talking about poor Black folks. But nowhere in those 200 pages do I limit ghetto to poor or to Black. And there have been some at my book signings who have been disappointed when I steered the discussion away from going in that direction. To me folks who think these issues are just a poor Black thang are just as ghetto. That is part of the problem. It is too easy to point your finger and think that other folks are at fault. It removes you from any culpability. But this is all our fault. We are all part of allowing this mindset to perpetuate - and the most basic contribution made is our silence, (and most of us are indeed silent) because our silence is an endorsement. And getting back to your first question of whether we are at a turning point, I worry that the fact that most of us only see it as a problem of others will mean that we are going to continue to be drowning in ghetto for too long.

Let's talk about publishing and journalism. You devote a decent portion of space in Ghetto Nation to the negative effects of "ghetto" on black literary/creative output. Is this just a reflection of what's going on Hip Hop, sports...entertainment in general? Nick Chiles and Martha Southgate in the New York Times, and Brandon Massey in the Wall Street Journal have all sounded an alarm, yet "thug lit" and raunchy soap opera books still reign. Should white publishers and editors take some of the blame, as white TV/music/advertising/sports owners might--or do black readers just have simpler tastes and we're getting what we want? Has "ghetto" stifled cutting-edge black non-fiction? What about journalism, public affairs discussions and analysis--has "quality" suffered in those spheres due to "ghetto" culture?

CD: I think ghetto has infected every aspect of our lives. So you are right ghetto is reflected in Hip Hop, sports, entertainment in general, you name it. I am a writer and a journalist so for me highlighting the effects of ghetto on the publishing world is personally meaningful. Does ghetto stifle "quality" analytical thought? To paraphrase her heinous Ghetto Queen Whitney Houston, hell to the yes! Let me tell you -- it is hard out here for a Black woman who writes serious non-fiction. A Black woman who wants to stir our thoughts up? Honestly, It's not a voice that gets much support from the powers that be. It is not just books but movies, music, etc. Our ongoing struggle is that through white eyes we are seen as one. Diversity of Black thought and creativity is not acknowledged. So it becomes that much harder for a variety of our voices to be heard. I don't think Black readers have simpler tastes. Black readers are just not being given much of a choice. Ghetto is a slice of us and so it is natural to be attracted to it -- that is why it sells. The problem is that instead of being just a slice it has taken over - and for that we can blame the publisher AND the rush of folks willing to participate by producing it. What we truly need is balance.

Would you like to see Ghetto Nation as a documentary film? Do you think it would be tougher to get interviews (as folk tend to chafe a lot more on-camera than in print)?

CD: Funny you should bring that up. I have actually been approached by several film companies about turning GhettoNation into a documentary! I think there is great potential there and I remain hopeful. The challenge will be to bring complexity and thoughtfulness that are natural for the printed page to the screen. But I'm not too much of a print snob (smile) say it can't be done.

Ha! Maybe Reggie Hudlin should take heed and produce the documentary. So then what's up next for you?

CD: I have a couple of book projects swimming in my head at the moment. Not sure if any are ready to share but as a journalist I hate it when folks dodge questions so I'll let you have a peek: an anthology, a novel, and another serious work of non-fiction. And not necessarily in that order. In hopes of getting at some solutions to GhettoNation I'd like to put together an anthology of a series of interviews of thought provoking Black women. As I travel the country talking about these issues I am struck by the notion that many of us feel that "when we grew up" there was some watchful eyes in the neighborhood who kept the young folks in line, typically these eyes in our memories belong to women. I'd like to gather that collective wisdom and give us what we think is missing from our neighborhoods today. In my mind I call this book: Mama Said: Lessons from the Windowsill. I am also writing a novel. I know, I know I am a journalist committed to serious non-fiction and challenging argument. But after writing two such books back to back (Black Power Inc. and GhettoNation) my mind needed to exercise some different muscles so I couldn't help myself and immediately within days of finishing Ghetto Nation I started writing this fictional story that has been unfolding in my mind for a while. That said, the journalist in me is constantly reporting and thinking about different leads for my non-fiction topic to explore next. I have a few ideas at the moment, but those I'm not ready to share yet. (smile) Both my parents had jobs not careers. They punched time clocks, my dad wore a uniform every day, and after a day of work meant that your muscles physically ached. I feel very privileged to be able to pay my bills with my passion -- writing. So talking about what I'm working on sounds so, I dunno, fantasyland to me. It is what can happen, though, when you keep your expectations high.

Cora thanks so much for your time and insight. This debate’s not going away—and you see it even seeping into the words of our political leaders and clergy. Fanboys & girls you can check Cora’s website for public appearances, buy the book there, on my blog or at a store near you. By all means give her feedback on the site and leave you comments here.

Monday, July 16, 2007

We aren't all ghetto, Reggie...

Ergo we aren't all stupid. This show isn't a cultural microscope, and no, it won't be about dialog or debate. Negro, please!!! It will be about ratings, showcasing and fostering even worse behavior and fostering voyeurism by our own people. You want to do something meaningful then put the news shows and documentaries back ON. No? I didn't think so. Reggie, you took this from the VIACOM playbook--MTV, VH-1. MTV gives teens "My Super Sweet 16" which doesn't make any such Hudlin- and Debre Lee-esque excuses about showing uber spoiled brats bathing in wretched excess much to the delight of the viewers. VH-1? Hell where do you start? The Flavor of Love and beyond is hardly raising consciousness anywhere, and not a single overweight person has been inspired by Screetch on Celebrity Fit Club. Insipid, retarded. Reggie please don't shuck and jive like we ARE ghetto and say you're giving us McNeill-Lehrer, okay? You want to keep these kids stupid because stupid means ratings in your mind. Has anyone even BOTHERED to test the flip side?

We'll touch on this again with CORA DANIELS and our interview on her book Ghetto Nation tomorrow...

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - "Hot Ghetto Mess," a BET series that has provoked criticism and sent advertisers fleeing before it has even aired, will prove detractors wrong, BET entertainment head Reginald Hudlin said.
"It's unfortunate that people are making an erroneous presumption based on absolutely zero information," Hudlin told a meeting Sunday of the Television Critics Association.
"Hot Ghetto Mess," making its debut July 25, combines viewer-submitted home videos and BET-produced man-on-the-street interviews that the channel said are intended to challenge and inspire "viewers to improve themselves and their communities."
The six-episode series is hosted by comedian Charlie Murphy ("Chappelle's Show"). It is based on a Web site that features photos of men and women, mostly black, with extreme hairstyles and clothing typically linked to hip-hop fashion.
At least two companies, State Farm Insurance Cos. and Home Depot, asked BET to drop their ads from the series' debut. Sponsors had yet to see the show, Hudlin said Sunday
Observers including What About Our Daughters, a blog and audio podcast that focuses on how black women are depicted in popular culture, have accused the site and the show of demeaning blacks.
Hotghettomess.com was created by Jam Donaldson, 34, a black lawyer from Washington, D.C., who is an executive producer on the BET program. On her site, Donaldson calls for a "new era of self-examination." The show builds on the Web site's effort to take "a hard look at some dysfunctional elements of our community," Hudlin said.
"The intent of the show is no different than what Bill Cosby is doing as he's going across the country and lecturing as he talks about the problems of the (black) community that we need to address," he said. "Hot Ghetto Mess" approaches its goal in a lively way that will engage BET's young audience, Hudlin said.Donaldson told reporters that the series has "exceeded my expectations."
"Everyone that sees the show will be pleasantly surprised. ... I think they will learn something. There's black history. We go to the community and ask what their opinion of some of these images are," she said.
"The show is so much more than the name," Donaldson said. She started the site because of "images of black dysfunction" that were being distributed on the Internet without discussion of the need for change. With shows such as "Hot Ghetto Mess" and "Hip-Hop vs. America," Hudlin said, BET is trying to be part of the solution.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

V for Vendetta

Isn't it amazing how a movie (or novel) can transcend times, settings, genres, characters--when the themes are timeless? Note the graphic novel from which the hit film came was a response to the right wing social, economic and foreign policies of Britain's "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher some 25 years ago. As I sit here contemplating the Bush Administration's ebb at home and abroad, I think it's time to don that mask, hat and twirl those knives. Something to think about this Sunday.

"Good evening, London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine- the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke. But in the spirit of commemoration, thereby those important events of the past usually associated with someone's death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent. Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I destroyed the Old Bailey, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you've seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

RIP "Ladybird"

The scene: Somewhere in the afterlife...

LBJ: Well Bird, whutchew think about this peepsqueak Dubya usin' me and mah so called failures to justify this bullshit in Iraq...and pissing all over whut I tried to accomplish for a just society? Thas right gurl--whut I accomplished, not that phoney baloney Jack Kennedy or his whiny little brother Bobby!

Claudia: Oh Lyndon give it a goddamn rest! You flap your gums more than Hubert Humphrey on meth. Where's the goddamn ladies room in this place? Last thing I recalled before my soul floated off that table was Lord, I gotta pee like a mare!

LBJ: Well now Bird you think this little ree-tard's gonna pull sum'thin' shady in the next few months...sorta "waggin' the Dawg" to di-vert all them dumbass folk whut voted fer him? I hear his "Homeland See-curity" fella's got a "gut feelin'" about a terrorist attack. Hell, I don't know much, but I know the difference 'tween chickshit and chicken salad...

Claudia: Lyndon I swear you need to shut your damn trap and find me some barbeque and a tall lemonade. Now I'm gonna go play a hand of bridge with Abigail Adams and Jackie...yes, Jackie...maybe you can inhabit the body of that colored boy Obama, or even that Mexican Richardson--and have mercy what kind of a Mexican name is that? Go teach those fools in your old party what leadership and hardball's all about. They need to learn it quick. I kept tellin' them all along. Hope they listened...

RIP, Bird. They broke the mold with you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bronx Biannual Event

For all you fanboys & girls in the New Yawk area...come to a book reading for the last best hope of black literature in this country--Bronx Biannual, edited by Miles Marshall Lewis.
Check it out on myspace and get an evite.

“For this hip-hop baby with a love of literature, Bronx Biannual is destined to be the hybrid I crave.” Felicia Pride, Vibe.com

So keep Saturday, July 14th, 7pm free and come celebrate the smoking second issue of Bronx Biannual with a book party and reading at: Bluestockings Bookstore / 172 Allen Street, between Stanton and Rivington / (1 block south of Houston and First Avenue. By train: 1 block south of F train, 2nd Avenue stop. Writers in attendance include contributors Greg Tate, Michael A. Gonzales, Carol Taylor, Reginald Lewis, Sun Singleton, S├ękouWrites, Liza Jessie Peterson and Miles Marshall Lewis. Bronx Biannual is published by Akashic Books.

Back from Vacation...

Yes, this is a filler post. Just got back from the beach (our house on the congested Delaware shore). Speaking of congested, exposure to toddlers and babies has given me a 102 fever to compliment my sunburn. However I got to check out my new favorite TV this summer, Flight of the Conchords on HBO. Comes on after Entourage, which is getting played, if you ask me. Check it out. The parodies of Hip Hop (ie I be rhyemenosaurus) and Jamaican Dancehall (Who de boom boom?) are hilarious, (and testament how bad Hip Hop and Dancehall have sunk creatively as it has become easier to riff on them). The thick accents are part of shtick. I love it.

Glad so many of you liked the interview with Lisa Jones Johnson. We got 300 hits over the holiday just on that post.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

INTERVIEW: Lisa Jones Johnson

Author LISA JONES JOHNSON roared onto the mystery-thriller scene last year...a quiet roar that rolled up into something any lioness would envy! Now Lisa's blown up, and even folks outside of the mystery genre are abuzz. I met Lisa last year when I mc-ing a panel on which Lisa was a guest, and she wowed the crowd there at Borders!

Just some background. Lisa's a Harvard grad, former corporate attorney. Sound familiar? Such yearning and art in the minds of we shysters, eh? But Lisa's now a producer in Hollywood, helming ComedyexpressTV, a content provider of comedy talent and shows on cable and online. often she works with the venerable National Lampoon. All this and mom, a wife, and now, novelist. Lisa, welcome...
So let's start. Clive January as ghost-victim, and Bob Greene as medium-detective--what inspired you to create that plot device? I ask because outside of a very loose comparison to The Lovely Bones, this kind of extraordinary relationship is rare in detective/suspense fiction, and even rarer in African American fiction. Tell us little about that.

You're right, although when I was writing my novel I didn't think of it that way. What I was trying to do was to get in the head of the main people who were effected by the crime. Usually this is just the detective, but when you think about it, there's really no one who's more impacted by the crime then the person who's killed! Especially when they don't know who did it as was the case in A DEAD MAN SPEAKS, hence the title of the book. He's trying desperately to find out who killed him, thus "speaking" to the Detective and other characters who also show up throughout the book who may be able to help him solve his own murder. As it relates to African American fiction, I think it's a shame that we are pigeon holed into certain "African American" genres, like street lit or others that supposedly reflect the African American Experience. But in reality the "African American" experience is as diverse as the 30 million plus African Americans, so why shouldn't our literature reflect that. I guess this is my way of trying to inject some "diversity" in a generally non diverse literary environment. And when you see books like The Emperor of Ocean Park and The Known World selling the way they have, you realize that there's a real thirst out there for something different, outside of the acceptable boundaries for "African American" literature. The people have spoken, now if we can just get the publishers to realize that!

Stephen J. Cannell, writer/producer of several hit TV shows and a crime novelist in his own right,endorsed your book. Did that validate such a long road for you? Do you think you are growing as an author?

Having Stephen endorse my book, was a major watershed for me. Here's someone who's been one of the most successful writer/producer/creators of mainstream television and is also a best selling novelist himself who's saying your book is good. I couldn't ask for more. I do think that I'm growing as an author, only if based on the millions of times that I revised my book (and also my screenplays and everything else I've written!)!

So let's get to som juicy stuff. How did it feel when you got the news your work was nominated for an NAACP Image Award? Did you speak with the other nominees at the program's taping?

I was thrilled when I found out. It was a little unnerving because of course being in Hollywood, I knew when the press conference was being held to announce the nominees. So with some trepidation, I called the office and found out that I'd been nominated! It was particularly gratifying because it took seven years to get my book published and it was of course a small vindication for all of the rejection letters that I'd gotten from editors who just didn't "get it," particularly as you've mentioned the fact that it wasn''t what they'd expect from a murder mystery where one of the two main characters is African American. Do I sound annoyed?? I hope not! And yes I did speak with some of the other nominees who happened to be seated near me at the Award ceremony. It's always great meeting other authors.

Regarding crafting the book, you a female author, chose to write it in first person, with males as the main characters. Was that difficult?

Actually it wasn't. I'd been a screenwriter before so I was used to having to write in different gender voices and this story just semed to tell itself from a male perspective. In addiition, for some reason I seem to be able to get into the heads of my male characters, and (so I've been told) write in voices that are authentic to them. Also, I've always had a lot of guy friends who were just buddies so since we were just friends, I got a window into their world that most women wouldn't have if they were involved with them. I think that definitely helps when I'm writing male voices.

As African American writers we seem to also have the burden of giving a lesson on race as well as telling a story. What did you draw upon to tell Clive January's story--he a Wall Street shark who worked his way "up" from racism in the South, and making few friends doing it? Did you base the cop, Bob Greene, on any "real life" white people who struggle to understand us or our perspectives?

Clive's character is based on my experiences working on Wall Street and knowing the "archetype" (Black or white) of the type of person who's phenomenally successful but many times is not the nicest person, at least to the outside world. What I was really trying to do with Clive was to get the readers to look beyond the obvious, ie. rich S.O.B. and instead probe why he was like that and perhaps understand his pain and ultimately see him as any person who has good and bad. Detective Bob's character is not really based on anyone, but rather again living in NY and interacting with the panoply of people that you're forced to rub shoulders with there, some of their energy rubs off, which I guess is good if you're a writer. Some of his thoughts are things that I've heard people say or imply and when you add the class issue, ie. Detective Bob is working class and Clive at least in income is upper class, it only makes the bitterness of the "disenfranchised" white male that much greater. But ultimately what the book was really about was that despite the obvious differences between the two, they were really the same and in the end they both realize that, and consider each other brothers, albeit one dead and the other living. I've had a lot of people of both races tell me that the characters in many cases of a race not their own is more like someone that they know of their own race then they would ever have imagined. One white woman at a book club told me that her father was like Clive's father and her mother was like Clive's mother and so she a white woman totally identified with Clive's story and his struggle. On the Civil Rights aspect of the book, that just flowed naturally from working backwards from when the book started. I wanted to start the book during a time of great stress and upheaval on Wall Street and 1987 was the first really big crash in modern times. So working backwards, Clive being in his late thirties at that time would have to have grown up during segregation. That being said, one comment I get all the time, is how did you know in such detail about that period, because I wasn't born then and never experienced segregation first hand. I have to say that was the part of the book that just wrote itself almost as if someone came in and told me their story. Hmm. But don't know who.

You went from being an attorney to a television/internet exec/producer to an author. Tell us about the transitions, and how, if at all, these experiences enriched your writing?

That's a whole book in itself, suffice it to say, I never planned to be a writer. I thought I'd practice law make partner etc. etc. But when I started I realized that I really didn't enjoy the practice of law and felt this need to do something creative. That ultimately led through a very convoluted path to writing, first screenplays when I came to LA from NY and was a full time screenwriter for four years. Then followed a stint in the music business as an Executive Producer and record exec, and then ultimately back in TV, also as an executive. I guess I'm one of those split right brain/left brain people that go back and forth between the two worlds of crazy creative people and equally crazy in their own way "business" people, but usually staying in some form of the media business.

What new projects are you working on?

I'm starting to think about a second book in this series with some of the same characters. Detective Bob will be back, Clive has moved on but there's another equally troubled soul that Bob is working with now, surprise, surprise also a Black man. As in A Dead Man Speaks his journey tracks Bob's current challenges at that time and by solving the crime they both are able to close a loop in their lives, one living the other dead. I'm also working on some other non fiction writing projects that I can't discuss in detail now but soon!

Lisa, thanks. I hope folks will visit you online, and also for those in the "business," check out www.comedyexpresstv.com And Fanboys & girls, you can buy A DEAD MAN SPEAKS on Amazon through this blog, or at bookstores near you. Follow Lisa carefully, because we all will be hearing a lot more from her in the future--on the shelves, online and on the small screen.
Coming next-Tananarive Due & Cora Daniels!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Prayer for Deliverance this Holiday...

Patrick Fitzgerald, Esq.--can you hear me? I have a suggestion...see image to the left.
Oh, and coming post-Fourth, my interview with author LISA JONES JOHNSON, who penned the novel A DEAD MAN SPEAKS, nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Lisa lso works with National Lampoon and ComedyTV.com.
Next week look for my talk with CORA DANIELS, author of GHETTO NATION. And be sure to check out Martha Southgate's piece in the New York Times about the decline of black literary fiction, and the travails of trying to compose something that doesn't contain the words "Thug," "Thong" or "Jesus, I need a good man" in the title or contain plot elements of "The Young & the Restless."

Monday, July 02, 2007

"Uh...he did WHAT?"

Yep, our very own Caveman from Crawford commuted Scooter Libby's sentence after a US Appeals Court told Scooter Libby he, like all other damn criminals...like you or I if we were convicted, even wrongfully, would have to go to prison pending his appeal. Now, we are all told this Administration, and this "new" right wing GOP, is about law, is about moral leadership that is a beacon to the rest of the poor wretches on this earth, and makes our enemies jealous (I guess Putin and the Chinese aren't in that boat--and they aren't jealous for they do gangsta shit like this all the time). We're told it's the liberals who are about cronyism and corruption and paying off interest groups and cynical politics, and power for power's sake. And yet I hear stuff like "Well, it wasn't so bad." "Um...Clinton pardoned Mark Rich so this balances things out." And those are the milder statements. Sound slike stuff my 7 year old nieces and nephew would say. I guess Republican special prosecutor and forthright Princeton man Patrick Fitzgerald was just a fool then, and Judge Reggie Walton, a black Republican trained by Daddy Bush (boy, isn't he starting to look like not such a bad President compared to Junior?) was a useless affirmative action negro brainwashed by liberals, and the DC jury was probably a bunch of blacks from the hood. Uh...no to any of that.
The situation now: Any moderates, any independents whom were fence sitting are now planted on terra firma away from the GOP. This is going help even clowns like John Edwards raise money! And you notice none of the "main" GOP candidates are saying a thing. But in Hollywood you can hear Fred Thompson screaming, "Uh...he did WHAT? I'm the damn fool's gotta bob 'nweave on all this mess when I de-bates that boy O-bama in a year! Hell, that boys gonna pucker my anus worse than Memphis barbeque inside the gut of a faggot with Crohn's Disease!"
Stick a fork into our retarded, cynical scumbag of a President. I'm sure the blog/Fox News machine will sweat into the night trying to come up with a way to spin this,even if it short-dicks every terrorist in Tehran. Optimus Prime...we need you buddy! Roll in from Cybertron and I'll drive you and the other Autobots all the way down 16th Street NW to the White House...then we rumble to the Capitol and clean house...(even you, Miss Nancy. I'm having Bumblebee drive you away as you have proven to be a lame grandma).