Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Infamous Christmas Post: A 97-year old disses Facebook

...or Facebook as metaphor for what's messed up about us all? Yesterday, Nat spoke to his 97 year old grandmother. She's slightly older than the state of Arizona; she's seen, heard, experienced just about anything a person, an African American, a woman, a mother, a wife could in this fatally beautiful American epoch. Somehow the conversation moved to Facebook.
Her take: "Chris, I just don't understand these computers. The computer tells you who your 'friends are?"
Nat: "Well, sort of."
Grandmother: [chuckling] "But it says you are friends with people who want to tell you all about themselves or their people, but don't care truly about you or what your family is doing?"
Nat: "Um...sometimes"
Grandmother: "It will give you friends who just want to sell you something, or boast about things. If they aren't courteous and caring about people all the way, then they will be so on the computer. I don't understand why people want to be friendly at first if they couldn't be bothered or only think of themselves, especially at Christmas, dear."
Nat: "I guess. But they care about their kids, their families and we usually post that."
Grandmother: "Well, Christmas is about caring about more than your own people, and that is what being a friendis , too."
Well, at that point, I didn't want to explain what "un-friending" was. And she was fading out; it'd been a long day for her up in NYC and Westchester. We talked about Oprah at the White House w/the Obamas, we talked about how much we both missed my mother. It dawned then that my gradmother, if she were more sentient, more one of these "tech-savvy geriatrics" younger people smirk over, she still wouldn't be on Facebook. Not because of our need for both detachment and self-promotion, insouciance and faux-warmth. Naw. Because maybe the technology would tempt her to have 2,000 "Friends," and she'd need 26 hours in a day to share & care & at least try to find common ground, as she feels friends should. And that's regardless of whether anyone answers her back, or cares, or shares, or attacks rather than reconciles. Look, she knows the good ole days weren't that great. But there're some things about now that aren't so glorious. This is one of them.
So Happy Holidays. It's about sharing, caring. Umprompted. With nothing expected in return.
Nat Turner

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Cryptic Take on Barack Obama. Be gentle with me...

Nat played hookie from Natly duties to watch Kevin Costner’s not half bad history-drama “Thirteen Days.” It wasn’t as wacky as Kevin playing Jim Garrison in “JFK,” but nor was is utterly contrived as in Danny Devito’s directorial debut in “Hoffa.” (ironic, Kennedy-Hoffa, eh?) And then, in Busboys & Poets on 14th Street, Nat sat at the bar with a relative of one of JFK’s principal aides. Wolf Blitzer was growling on the tube above about politics. This relative, which I shall NOT name, is very close to JFK White House special counsel and speechwriter Ted Sorensen. Sorensen was among the first old head Democrats to endorse Barack Obama.

You know Nat loves historical parallels. Barbara Tuchman, you are missed. This is an age of celebrated ignorance (I should show you the emails and texts…not to mention the essays, they’d only make you cry I get from 18 to twentysomething students…even Georgetown students. Credibility has come to mean with you mindlessly agree and who you hate. It used to mean critical thinking, preparing a researched position that is supported with logical appeals, emotion, evidence, and the ethical treatment of other points of view. It was about dignity of accomplishment, rather than splatter. It embodied a time where even Huey Long was somehow more palatable, credible, than Sarah Palin.

I’m thinking of doing a long essay on how 2008-10 is really 1867-1876 (Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction), in a snow globe, at light speed. Hey, 50% of the treatise would be dismissing the redneck myths about that time when America was truly made. Here’s a little warm-up, and little discourse for shits and gigs, with another parallel as model. Remember my Busboys & Poets encounter, above…

When Obama ran, when Obama was elected, some supporters and detractors spoke of him as a newfangled JFK. Sorensen’s analysis and analogies where thoughtful though a tad rose-colored. Most of the statements entailed ill-informed second “Camelots” or Michelle as a 21st century Jackie, or “empty suit” talk; some comments were paeans to vigor (“viggah” in Kennedy-ese) and a new age, some were truly loony “ACORN as Joe Kennedy and the Mafia stuff.”

The parallel cures and solidifies when you look at their presidencies with a historian’s eyes, both one year in. Huge promise, yet huge divisions and mistrust. Enemies of all stripes thinking neither deserved to be in the Oval Office. Big missteps, small victories. Bold ideas, small and sickly conventional follow-through. Two men in charge who were/are products of their upbringing in the most pinpoint sense of that admittedly hackneyed term. You lay the outlines side by side and say…whoa.

So here’s my cryptic measure of Barack Obama’s first year: What would the Obama White House—this supposed “Change” movement—be like if Barack had true counterparts to P. Kenneth O’Donnell by his side. And a Robert Francis Kennedy. If Joe Biden was more Lyndon Johnson and less, well, Joe Biden? Hell, if Glenn Beck et al were less clowns, and more like James Reston or Walter Lippman? If Al Sharpton was more Roy Wilkens, and Hillary Clinton a younger Eleanor Roosevelt in her? Beyonce was Eartha Kitt. Blake Lively was young Helen Gurley Brown? Or if Joe Lieberman was less a tool, and little more like Everett Dirksen?

Would this nation, the world, be a better, safer, more just place? Probably not. Would there be Tea Partiers? Likely more so. Look at what was happening in the South then. Made the “Don’t tread on me” nonsense look like a Victoria’s Secret show.

But I’d feel a lot more comfortable about things. I was an infant when Sorensen and this person’s famous granddad were in there where Barack, Rahm and Eric, Susan and Hillary were in 1962. Now I am middle age. I wish I were a baby again, yet with adult ears and eyes.
I hope for the best in 2010. That word hope hasn’t been cheapened. Not yet...

Snowball Fight on 14th Street...and a Black Cop

Mrs Nat and I live in this general neighborhood cluster of Columbia Heights, U-Street/Shaw. It is amusing that a bunch of yuppies would take time off from cross-country skiing or shovelling their sidewalks to pelt each other with snowballs. It's not so funny when folks paste passing driven by folk who are already agitated by dangerous conditions (I don't care if you are from Rochester or Chicago--24 inches of snow in less than 24 hours is still a bitch! So stop grousing, Mr. President & Mrs. First Lady!!!).

And it would have been quite another thing, my children, had these people been black or Latino teenagers, pelting cars as well as each other. Yeah, Nat went there. He likes going there. Feel like grumbling yet, or agreeing? Read on...

African American cops I know in this sub-district--and you gotta know the cops when you live in the cit-tee--suck their teeth and shake their heads when I ask them about this incident. The detective was pissed off and dead-ass wrong they say. What was going through his head, they ask? He often does undercover work in a city that's still resembles Mordor despite gentrification. But, Lord how these same yuppies would have demanded MPD guns at a snowball fight had the shoe been on a "local" teenage foot they say. Nat agrees.

Indeed, what's interesting is that while the footage was all over our local news and displayed on national downright hemorrhaged from right wing outlets like Fox, Reason TV et al. More evidence of evil black Obama ciphers oppressing good and true whitefolk. Even my mole at the...[edited] [Group/Foundation/Network] hahaha confirmed this. A Reason TV young Republican was on hand at the snowball event to record. [Oh don't worry, my man/woman is in deep cover, Donnie Brasco style. Now if I can only get someone into Fox. Maybe put a microchip in Juan Williams' head and a minicamera in his eyeball?]

A neighbor who's co-worker and co-worker's boyfriend were present broke it down this way: "She[the cowroker] admitted then when they started throwing snowballs at cars and a couple of pedestrians who weren't part if the 'event' [ah those young folk and their Twitter] , that was noot good. I could then see maybe one cop showing up to break the thing up and everyone goes home for hot toddies or coco. But this guy [the 25 year veteran undercover dick] created a potentially deadly situation."

Now that's pretty straightforward.

MPD Chief Kathy Lanier, ever eager to please a vengeful public in areas of high voter turnout, quickly put a foot in the gun-brandishers butt. We won't really know the extent of the disciplinary action; you never do when it comes to cops. But quite a few folk want this kept quietly in the family. No harm, no foul, I suppose? Concurrently, however, no one seems to want to ask why it's okay to have a melee, no matter how good spirited or organized via Gen Y social networking media rather than urban pay as you go cell phones...on a public street...a busy intersection in the middle of a snow emergency in a city that doesn't do snow? Had it been young Pookie with braids and droopy jeans, or callow Esteban with his hand-me- down Redskins jacket just wanting to have a some winter fun, we'd have gotten a definite answer...

Stay tuned for the infamous Christmas post.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Missing Pakistanis: maybe Howard U and other HBCUs should enroll African Americans?

Read the MSNBC story here about the DC-area Muslim young men--all fitting the profile of middle-class, educated rather than goat farmers--arrested in Pakistan after bolting the country in pursuit of Jihad glory. Of course these guys were rebuffed as amateurs once they naively showed up, but what motivates young men with everything to lose? Look at US Army Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan--a trained MD and shrink. What is this inner voice that says I am somehow unworthy of my accomplishments in this world...this alien world that has given them so much? Why do they think it's robbed them of their souls as Muslims?

The mosque in Virginia where many were members has been outspoken in their opposition to radicalization, and is largely a congregation of families. Regular people. But the refrain's the same: "He/they were cool people, never giving an indication they would disappear, run to Pakistan, try to join al Qaida or other radical groups, or assist the Taliban in Afghanistan." So how well do they really know these fellows? There is a similar refrain in when folks are asked Did you know he was in a gang...a drug dealer...selling her body for meth/crack...did you know he was a serial killer? Sometimes it's not a lie or covering up. It's denial, disbelief. Willful blindness.

Then we come to Howard and other HBCUs. One of the Pakistani 5, Ramy Zamzam, is an honor student at Howard Dental School (I can see the campus from my window as I type this). At one time, the best and brightest of black America went to places like Howard and the suberb graduate/professional schools attached thereto. But in the last 20 years things have morphed from a brain drain to the UN. Medical school, law school, dental, school of pharmacy studies, engineering and even liberal arts/humanities related gread programs are full of well...Ramy Zamzam. Yes, white Americans have discovered these schools as lower cost, high profile, but the unstated truth is that they are filled with Iranians, Iraqis, Nigerians, Congolese, Syrians, Russians, Ukrainians, Albanians, Chinese, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Indians, Saudis, billionaire kiddies from that mega Disney fanstasy called Dubai, Tanzanians, South Africans etc etc. Many can pay in cash or cut a check that won't bounce, or that mom/dad didn't have take out a second mortgage to cover. Uncle Sam isn't going to sweat them for financial aid...Uncle Sam actually likes having them as much as the colleges' comptrollers do. Well, some parts of the government aren't as happy. Like the State Department, Homeland Security, etc. The African Americans there? Well, they are trying to carry the flag as minorities in an HBCU. Irony? Oxymoron? Nope. And most of these are females. Young men like Zamzam are welcomed with open arms (and deposit slips); young African American men? Ummm...

So what are you thoughts, fanboys & girls?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Latinas, Fertility and Jonathan Swift?

I'm feeling Swiftean today. No, not quite the biting satire of A Modest Proposal. This is a bit more tame, but the debate should be vigorous. As I look around at the first generation immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador, et al in this area, I see young women with lots of kids. Very young. I see Latinas in their 30s who look fifty...and again, with kids. Is it the same with Mexican teens and young women in California, in Texas, or Puerto Ricans & Domincans in New York? Or with the "hey we're just white people with accents, not Indians & negroes" Cuban nobility in Miami?
Public intellectual Richard Rodriguez posits that the label "Hispanic" (a Nixonian construct designed, ironically, as with his formulation of affirmative action, to control or divide rather than empower minorities) is uniquely American because as Americans we are in reality all a mixture, all impure. So I pose this question, Swiftean style: How would Hispanic culture, politics, economic concerns be utterly transformed if young Latinas would simply stop having kids, perhaps putting that off till their 30s? [whew imagine the maschismo metldown...the illegal alien & healthcare wingnuts' building budgets etc on top of that...]

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Last...and Best...word on Michael Jackson

Yes, Schmuley Boteach has "branded" himself, in Dr. Drew Pinsky style, as "America's Rabbi." You've seen him on TV, in print, on his glossy website. From Oprah's guest chair to canting the An'im Zemirot, he's everywhere. For ten years he's been the most visible cleric in Hollywood, out-positioning even TD Jakes. Call it a calling. Call it rank self-promotion.
From 2000 to 2002 the rabbi counseled Michael Jackson in this millieu of ambivalence.
He taped the conversations. MJ's own words, thoughts, honesty, effusiveness, reticence, delusions. Nuff said. The result is The Michael Jackson Tapes
The topics ranged from lost childhood, to children (MJ's and those he had over to Neverland, problematically), to fear of Joseph, to Lisa Marie to women, to his brothers. And fame. Ego. Idolatry. His own, as Shmuley harps as a thesis. MJ was a Jehovah's Witness. Ego, worship of symbols and self are A-1 sins. And yet here was MJ, doing that. demanding adolation, bending of the rules. Not in cruely narcissistic way. No, with childlike prodding. Instance after instance, Shmuley pinpoints this one flaw, and the cumulative effect is stunning. Poignant. Aggravating. Fantastic nonfiction reading--even when you squint as Shmuley's seemingly self-serving reasons for not calling MJ out more forcefully in the interview sessions. In essence, he feared MJ might--and eventually did--dump the rabbi when things got to uncomfortable.
Shmuley posits in spiritual terms what Wanda Sykes put so indelicately: that Michael Jackson died not of massive opiates, but of Michael Jackson. The last 20 pages of the book are instructive, not reflective. For instance, Shmuley describes the sight of MJ's massive likeness floating down the Thames on a barge to be erected in London for the HIStory album. Then there is the interesting analogy to J.R.R. Tolkien's ragged Lord of the Rings character "Gollum." Once a pleasant, loving and lovable hobbit, Gollum lets the ring consume him, to the point that his appearance and mannerisms becomes grotesque, bizarre. Sound familiar?
Luckily Shmuley provides his own mea culpa on the dangers of celebrity. On the ring. Perhaps MJ just could not have been helped. I saw the film This is It as is closed Thanksgiving weekend. I think I can understand Shmuley's saddness. So can you, reading this book.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Great Depression for African Americans. So where's our FDR?

"Black men were less likely to receive a call back or job offer than equally qualified white men," says a Princeton University sociologist. "Black men with a clean record fare no better than white men just released from prison."

It's tough to convince white people to open their ears and brains and shut their mouths with this Ellis Close-esque Rage of the Privileged Class stuff. Especially when they see Lebron, Beyonce, Lil Wayne and OchoCinco and Oprah, of course living well. Now, 20 years ago, during fact-finding on the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and anti-redlining hearings (uh-oh, better cut down ACORN!), similar trends came to light, backing up what we already discussed around the dinner table: blue collar uneducated white couples where getting bank loans easier than professional, uppity blacks (must be our extravagant spending on cars and hair weaves?). In other words, banks were more likely to "work with" them folks. Even them folk with credit blemishes. That stuff's long buried. Reviled, even, by GOP zealots and a citizenry that still wants to blame everything on behavior, not structure, because that's easier to swallow.

The Washington Post has ressurrected this monster and put it on the front page. Uncaged, here it is: per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, joblessness for 16-to-24-year-old black men has reached Great Depression proportions, 34.5 percent in October, more than three times the rate for the general U.S. population, The Washington Post reports Young black women have an unemployment rate of 26.5 percent, while the rate for all 16-to-24-year-old women is 15.4 percent. If you've listened to NPR today, you see things are horrific for Latinos as well--the folk who supposedly will take jobs blacks won't. There's another myth, broken.

Of course there is a broader problem of under-employment, dependence on part-time or temp work. That's not counted in unemployment figures even for white males--our prize and solely competent demographic, correct? Feed that into the formula and the numbers are more frightening than "2012."

To paraphrase the Post's sources: For young blacks, race statistically appears to be a bigger factor in their unemployment than age, income or even education. Lower-income white teens were more likely to find work than upper-income black teens. Even blacks who graduate from college suffer from joblessness at twice the rate of their white peers. Some studies examining how employers review black and white job applicants suggest that discrimination may be at play.

Does this absolve the legions of young men we see loitering around, getting into trouble, bartering in an undeground or criminal economy that only discriminates against the weak, the unarmed, the upright and moral? No. But nor does it absolve the hypocritical, even nonsensical view--now even feeding stereotypes of others around the world (see the Chinese reaction to Obama and black folks)--that there are always bootstraps to pull up. And when even the best of us are sneered upon, feared, pushed aside for Joe the Plumber or (or a Sarah Palinesque lamebrain) then why should the least of us even try?

I don't hear our supposed FDR in this Great Depression Redux, Mr. Obama, even mulling over the answers to those questions, not to mention parsing brave and creative answers. Rather than battle these economic Grendels, Beowulf style, he's gone and created even more bugbears with the healthcare fight. People need jobs, hope, channel to work toward engineering a future...then when can talk about free/public or affordable and common sense health options. The Great Depression almost destroyed us. Then again, so did the end of Reconstruction. How many body blows can we take? Oh I's supposed to make us stronger, less indolent, less violent, less bawdy and pumping out kids (but no birth control or abortions, please), fewer demands of civil rights special preferences, less "handouts." All that evil crap they say we demand. My bad. Then it's "Happy Days are Here Again." Nothing to fear but fear itself...

Read the article and hit Nat with comments.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Living Black History: Maggie Mae Thornton Renfro & Sisters

Unfortunately, this story has come to the fore owing to Guinness Book of World Records week (ending 11/13).
How many Americans know, or care? Check out the piece in The Grio here. Nat's grandma is 96 but that's nothing compared to these ladies--all of whom appear to have their wits (and wigs LOL) about them. Maggie Mae is 114; the baby sister is 103. Carrie Lee no doubt has "middle child" syndrome at 107. Imagine the things these women have seen. And endured. That's American History, talking to you.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Washington in the 60s--required viewing...

...for anyone in this region. Narrated by Connie Chung (yes, Maury's in it too). On PBS WETA-TV.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gang Rape in Richmond Cali: Hispanic teens make their own people look like animals

MSNBC reports here. A history of craziness at this school. And yes--I wonder what professional, educated Hispanics think about this. Same way we feel when black teenagers act like nihilistic animals. Normal kids and families moving out of the school district. Why do we in our ethnic groups protect/excuse the crap? If they were black, I'd hand them over to Glenn Beck or the Klan. They should have never been born. Deepak Chopra says this is an epidemic of emotional retardation in urban communities. That's no excuse, just an explanation. However, the real retardation is of parents, activists (be they black or Latino), politicians, etc. who continuously blame whitefolks or "no jobs" for this. That's way back at the root. This is learned behavior.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Update on my 10/24 blogpost. Check this out: "D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said Monday that any past and current contracts awarded without the approval of the D.C. Council are "legal and binding," three days after he had said the D.C. Housing Authority broke city law by awarding $82 million worth of such contracts, most of them to firms with personal and political ties to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). "

Now I no longer think Adrian Fenty is an empty track suit. He's Nixon, and Peter Nickles is John Mitchell.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mayor Adrian Fenty: No Corey Booker art thee

[Nat's on tamiflu and quarantined till Monday night...but here's something to chew on till then...]
Been watching "Brick City" on Sundance? It's a documentary series on Newark and its mayor Corey Booker; akin to Season 3 of The Wire without the fiction (sorry The and others, but Nat minted that analogy, not you). Corey Booker--Ivy League mayor, bald-headed and piss colored like yours truly Nat--is the central character, and if indeed fiction scribed by The Bard, he'd be one part Hamlet, one part Henry V. "Once more into the breach/To be or not to be/And Gentlemen in England now a-bed will think themselves accursed and hold their manhood cheap." And he is counterpoint to the Sharpe James paradigm of old school ghettofab urban power politics. Brick City gets its name from, well, bricks of crack, not aging masonry of the projects. Sorry.

Though DC has its bamma chimera, Marion Barry and that old, now inapt moniker "Chocolate City," don't have a Corey Booker. And that's despite all appearances. Nope, no brooding Dane or brave Prince Harry at Agincourt. We have Benedict in "Much Ado About Nothing." That's my photo of Hizzoner, doing what he does best: PR appearances. But hey, he's not Marion Barry. He's not an ACORN boogeyman or slave to "corrupt" unions or homophobic mega-pastors and church ladies hiding their felonious grandchildren in the basement or immigrant activists, right? Nor is he the automaton, slave to the white developers & Congressional Republicans--Anthony Williams, righty-right? And doesn't he and Booker have a sort of siamese twin quality, right-righty-right?
So check out this Washington Post article detailing how DC Attorney General Peter Nickles ("Attorney General" used to be "Corporation Counsel:" an name change artifice designed to make the District appear more like a real state) had to swallow some state-like cronyism and go against his boss, Hizzoner. Seems Fenty's pals have been getting lame-bid city contracts, funnelled through the Housing Authority from the Department of Parks & Recreation. Nickles reluctantly had to fess up that the City Council should have reviewed the contracts, goven their amount. Fenty's choice for DPR, Ximena Hartsock--a young pretty yuppie Latina in the mold of Michelle Rhee (a young, pretty yuppie Korean, as everyone in this Adminstration must be young and pretty and yuppie-like for Da Mayor, who, sorry to say, isn't an Ivy Leaguer like Booker and our President) flipped the contracts through whilst she was "Acting Director." The DC City Council thence refused to confirm her into the Mayor's Cabinet; forsothe, our Shakespearean hero turned around and named her "Interim Director" perpetuity. Now that, fair Mercucio Nickles rubber stamped as conforming to the letter, if not the spirit, of blackletter law. But a silly move nonethless. The City Council was livid. Just as pissed off, if not more, than the mess with the DC Public Schools and Michelle Rhee's recent stupid--NOT Machiavellian--moves with firing new teachers and not pursuing all these bucks supposedly ripe for plucking due to her Teach for America pedigree. See Nat's take in last week's blogpost (and remember fanboys & girls: Nat's downright wingnut when it comes to the deplorable state of the public schools, bamma teachers, Spanish-only classrooms, ghettofab parents and animalistic for me to back the infamous Washington Teachers Union and the City Council, Rhee and her boss must have truly screwed the pooch). Things are bad in Butterscotch City, despite the Obamas, Capitals/resurgent Wizards and bistros/rehabbed row houses in the hood.
Now here's the rub, as Shakespeare would say. Corey Booker has a plan. There's a method to the madness. I don't have a problem with Fenty's method, because I don't see a method at all. He's circumvented the Council to pass legislation and empower his pretty crew. Legislation to do what, however? Build what, engineer where? Improve the life of whom? Lead by innovation, make tough choices, say what might not be popular...indeed sacriledge? Nope. What plan is the prettiest street gang in the District executing? (cricket noise here waiting for answer). Nothing. Empty. Tell me. What he's done is not be Barry, not be (sort of) Williams. Williams at least had a plan: kiss the Control Board's ass, kiss developers' & parking magnate's asses, kiss the Lerner Family's ass and build a sterile baseball stadium so white Virginians & lobbyist clients can watch AA level play from skyboxes...then retire to Belgian beers and savory mussels at Granville Moore's on a gentrified H Street NE. But hey, at least he had a method, a plan. Look, Williams and Barry were opposite sides of the same rusted, crusted coin. Fenty's now showing us that you can indeed have something like a three-sided dice, and when you land on any, you loose.
He's a lot more like Barry than we think. First, just because your cronies are bourgies, go to Rehobeth or the Vineyard and attend First Fridays doesn't mean they aren't like Barry's "Dawgs and Deputy Dawgs." Second, some folk wipe the crack haze from their eyes and pine for the days when Barry "helped" the citizens of DC. Again, you have to point to--what? The Summer Jobs "program" (which Fenty has likewise abused or allowed to be abused). He's about PR. Show up, look accountable. It works for the white folks, but when Nat polled a neighbor or two, and some yuppies over in Cleveland Park where Nat & Mrs find the koi's grub: "Look, he's not Marion Barry." What a positive thing to put on a resume. As for the schools, "I'm starting to have second thoughts. I was impressed with Rhee but things still seem dysfunctional." As for crime, "[Chief Kathy] Lanier is cool, but the cops seem reactive, not proactive. They seem to be depending on snitching but that's not helpful when I am walking my dog with my son, and rounds start flying between teenagers and Central Americans." Okay then. Lose the yuppies, lose the election. You know damn well Titus Andronicus (Council President Gray) is making himself more visible among the gentrifiers...

Yea and alas, fair Adrian is indeed Benedict in Much Ado. Remember what they called Obama--and empty suit? Well Barack ain't an empty suit, and he appears to resist Fenty's repeated attempt to be associated with his a sort of lightskinned JFK-RFK-esque ressurection of 1961-63's "vigga." Obama's a part-time athlete; Fenty's a for-real triathlete. Perhaps that yearning for vigor should be spent on the HIV/AIDS population, suffering under shameful corruption in city program or nonprofit oversight and downright Third World conditions. Adrian Fenty is an empty track suit.
Booker has similar policy conflicts and problems...and a similar millieu--like rapid gentrification in both residential and commerical. But again, there's a method, a program. Power struggles, fiefdown fights--hell yes. But there's an order, a pace, a plan. Bourgies, Section 8 folks, yuppies, gray haired Republicans in Short Hills, Corzine/Christie in Trenton, criminals, Ricans, Dominicans, old school Sopranos at Satriale's Meats, car thieves and even Newark denizen Redman himself seem to get the program, whether they agree or not. You feel like Booker's doing something. He's on stage, circling the muddy battlefield of Agincourt, or agonzing over the usurper-king and momma's murder. He's Corey Booker, not "No-Sharpe James."
Is there a fourth alternative? Beyond Barry-Williams-Fenty. Can't there be something better? Next week, fans: solutions.
Exeunt, Act I

Friday, October 16, 2009

Frankfurt Book Fair: Book News from Der Fatherland

The glam parties are no longer. Celeb authors holding court, Dommy P flowing in lit agent's hotel rooms? Nope. But the mood from Germany and the world's biggest book festival is a tad more upbeat. Why? Are more people reading--and reading more than brain junk food? No. They are giddy over e-books. They are scared about the facing the same "travails" faced by the music industry. Yes, you heard me. Check out the details here. Nothing of substance seems to have arisen. But least no more silly parties, eh? But Nat loves silly parties...

Friday, October 09, 2009

R. Dwayne Betts: it's from stories like this we feel good about Obama's Nobel Prize

R. Dwayne Betts is an award winning poet, scholar, commencement speaker at his 2008 graduation from the University of Maryland, mentor, writing fellow at the Broadleaf Writers Conference in Vermont. Dad. Husband. Profiled in USA Today, on CNN and in The Atlantic. Advocate for incarcerated juveniles. Now author of a memoir. He's also an ex-con, having spent nine years in prison for armed carjacking. He was sixteen going on seventeen when he was arrested.
I had the pleasure of appearing with him at the Capital Bookfest; I had the honor of doing a colloquy with him on the main stage. His memoir, A Question of Freedom, offers no excuses for what he did nor does he wrap himself in his "improvement" and "growth" and "change" and other such "prison to new man" trope. His lyrical voice sings of endurance, possibility and ocean-like motion: ebbs followed by surges. There are no couplets on brutality. As for prison itself there's one chapter with no verbs, adverbs or adjectives. Just names. Men and boys with which he served time. Many are still in prison. They just exist. No motion.
It's refreshing to see he doesn't fall into the almost self-congratulatory, self-centered parable some critics have assigned to writers like Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness. This isn't a "work hard, don't be angry at the white man and you'll succeed" lesson. Nor is this "raw street pain, then triumph." It's a life story, truly--where everything is connected yet unexpected. Like the dingy copy of Dudley Randall's iconic Black Poets which found it's way into his prison cell by chance. And the rest is history.
Of course the Nobel committee will likely ever hear of Betts or his work. But this spirit of possibility is why the President won an Peace Prize. Indeed, what flavors Betts' poetry and A Question of Freedom isn't what he's overcome or where he is now. All are paeons to possibility...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Education Mess in DC--Again?

The Teachers Union files suit (see here in Washington Post). I'm usually not a fan of the WTU, but clearly, this was either an utter lack of planning on the City's part, or a plot. Even the DC City Council is saying um--this just doesn't add up. Indeed, the schools ended up with a surplus when Stimulus funds were added to the pot.

Could it be the only reason we support DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is that we fear going back to the Barry days? It's like choosing between a yeast infection and a bacterial infection...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Jesse and Louis at Murdered Kid's Funeral: Problem or Solution

Per the AP: CHICAGO - The funeral of a Chicago teen who was beaten to death on his way home from school drew civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan on Saturday, both calling for an end to youth violence.
OK--how? Where? When? Derrion Albert's savage beating was splashed on Youtube and every TV show from Today to Glenn Beck (for different reasons). Bestselling young poet/author R. Dwayne Betts, himself a ex con, asked at a book festival in Washington, DC: "Did anyone think to jump out the car and help that kid instead of filming a video?"
Jesse and old Louis posturing? Perhaps--nothing real was offered, other than asking what in the hell the city did with the stimulus $$$ aimed at reconstruction in these communities. But that's but one percent of the problem. That's a start. However, the other 99%--the culture and attitudes in these communities.--how do we address that? You've heard it before: "If you don't want to be treated like an animal, stop acting like one."

Beautiful story from Mike Gonzales, Illustrated by Larry Scott

.::literature travel
larry scott

+fiction. michael a. gonzales
+click image to enlarge theking of broadway+story copyright 2005, Michael A. Gonzales+art copyright 2005, Larry Scott

The gray sky over Harlem had been crying since noon.
Swaying from a dead tree inside the stately uptown cemetery, Blaze Garcia was still dressed in his shabby Catholic school uniform and Pro-Keds sneakers the autumn afternoon the fuzz discovered his dead body. Besides the muttering of cops, the only sound heard in the quiet block was his haggard mom’s shrill screams as she stared at her son’s corpse, strange fruit swinging from a thick oak tree branch. Below his dangling feet, Blaze’s black graffiti sketchbook laid open in the brown grass.
Hours earlier, me and the crew had waited for Blaze at Jose’s Candy Store over on 150 th and Broadway. Rowdy as usual we were, in our own minds, a combination of the Wild Bunch without horses, the Wild Ones without motorcycles and the Dirty Dozen without a war.
Clad in our St. Catherine’s monkey suits and rain soaked sneakers, we ruled the candy-shop that had been the crew’s official hang-out spot since forever. Between the flashing lights of the KISS pinball machine and the hypnotic bleeps of the newly installed Space Invaders, shiny quarters flowed like a glimmering river from our hands into the slots. “What’s taking Blaze so long?" Smokey asked, his long fingers flicking the pinball flippers. “I done spent most of my change and I'm 'bout ready to roll."
“He had to finish that damn high school admission essay,” I answered. “Sister Marquez was helping him out.”
In the next few months all of us would be graduating from St. Catherine’s, traveling miles away from home on rickety subway cars or overcrowded buses. No more would we saunter to school together in the chilly mornings, ranting about bony-booty J.J. on Good Times episodes, cool ass Fonzie on Happy Days or riotous Walt Frazier busting butts on the Madison Square Garden court.
Already, I had been accepted into Rice High School, while Voodoo planned to go public domain at G-Dubs and Smokey was going over to Cardinal Hayes to shoot hoops. Crazy about drawing pictures, both Blaze and C.C. had developed elaborate portfolios which they later presented at Music and Art. Of course, we had hoped to occasionally hang-out, playing basketball at the Battlegrounds and popping shit in our favorite movie dive The Tapia. Still, we were well aware that this was the last year our lives would be so simple.
Graffiti comrades Blaze and C.C. often chilled in the scruffy 145th Street station. The sullied porcelain walls were a testament to their personal rebellion. With a small army of virtuoso vandals, they boom box-blasted Grandmaster Dynamite mix-tapes while bombing the underground. In their private world, bombing was the equivalent of breathing; as long as there was a steady flow of paint, the world was a perfect place.
"If you dress flye, you can fool the cops," Blaze advised. "Them pigs think that all graff writers got to look all busted, so ya’ll put on them party clothes and make them walk right past you. While they thinking bombers are bums, we’ll be wreakin’ shit."
Sharply dressed in sheepskin or Corderfield coats, straight-legged Lee jeans and stylish suede kicks, they trooped boldly through the dark, dank tunnel where the subways were laid-up. An underground train yard that extended from 145th Street to a 137th Street, it was where they both painted their first whole car.
With stolen cans of Krylon, Red Devil and Rustoleum, they avoided the 11,000 volts of the third-rail and a loco spic gang that called themselves The Ballbusters. With paint and Pilot markers stashed in their pockets, they inhaled toxic fumes while creating elaborate masterpieces. Caught-up in a desperado mindscape, Blaze and C.C. existed in an alternative universe where aerosol artists were royalty and the rest of the world were merely toys.
Afterwards, chilling at the 125th Street el station, the boisterous boys crowded the splintered platform bench. A few held boxy Kodak cameras, snapping shots of the multicolored pieces when the subway finally roared into the station: Sky High 149, PESO 131, STAN 153, MAG 151, LSD 3, Lee 163, Crash, KOOL AID 131 and countless others. "You watch, one day I'm going to be one of the kings of Broadway," Blaze declared. Dude was pumped with adrenaline during those bench sessions.
"Niggers soon gonna be talking 'bout my style. I'm on some McFadden & Whitehead shit now," he joked. Bugging out, Blaze stood-up and spun on his sneakers like a Soul Train dancer. "No stoppin', no stoppin', no stoppin'!” Everybody laughed. Blaze might have his problems, but that crazy bro always had jokes.
Inside the warmth of the candy shop, I hungrily munched from a greasy bag of Wise chips.
"Maybe Sister Marquez wanted him to do more than make-up that test," Voodoo Ray sniggered, his mouth full of chocolate Hostess Cupcake. Sloppily spraying moist crumbs onto the Space Invaders screen, Voodoo’s teeth were turd brown, but that didn't stop him from shoveling junk food into his trap.
"Have some respect," Smokey snapped. "Don't you know you can go to hell talking bad 'bout a nun?” For a stone cold player, Smokey acted more like a protective priest whenever anyone ranked about Sister Marquez.
Staring at Smokey with amused eyes, Voodoo remained silent. We all knew that dude was like a short fused firecracker, and it didn't take much for him to explode. Crumbling the crinkling chip bag, I said, "You know Blaze could be anywhere.” Everybody nodded. Hell, it wasn't weird for Blaze to drift away on a solo mission, his smooth face lost in a crimson cloud of red spray paint vapors, eyes hovering in front of a blank wall or subway car like a ghetto Picasso.
Blaze and I had been homeboys since the days when we both reeked of spilled milk and soiled diapers, which made me well versed in the sordid history of his bugged-out family. "I’m just tired of all their shit," he once confessed. "I wish I could get away from all the screaming and arguing. You know, do some Huck Finn stunt and just sail down the Hudson on a raft."
On those few occasions when I trooped upstairs to their sloppy sixth floor apartment, angry screams erupted through their dented bedroom door. Over the din of salsa blasting from a battered stereo, Blaze's drunken parents argued about money, the smell of whores on his pop’s body and their two bum sons. Once his bitter mother began ranting that God in heaven was punishing her, Blaze packed his sack and fled the house.
Silently we walked to a 153rd Street, towards Blaze’s sanctuary under the dead oak tree inside Trinity Cemetery. Constructed over a century ago, the gray stones still sparkled under the glimmering sun. Wild ivy scaled the graveyard walls from Broadway to Amsterdam, and a rusty wrought-iron design on top was supposed to keep the riff-raff from climbing over.
Many a twilight, Blaze and I roamed the ancient burial sight, throwing rocks at vicious squirrels and puffing potent bags of Buddha Bless. "Don't you think this is kind of ill?" I asked, as we strolled through the labyrinth of grassy paths. Carrying hefty school bags, we looked for the perfect spot to park our butts. "Why you wanna hang-out in here all the damn time is a mystery."
"You sound like one of those punk kids from a Disney movie," Blaze teased. "Don't worry D., I got a ghost repellent bop gun stashed in my bag," he snickered, squatting next to one of the decayed mausoleums.
"Yo, I'm not afraid. This shit is just weird."
"Chill out," he mumbled, tossing a few new glossy covered comics in my lap. "Shit, it's spookier in my crib than it is in this motherfucker."
"All right, sorry.” Instead of talking, we flipped through the four-color wonderlands of his newest comic books, sharing a taste for the angst-ridden universe that Stan "The Man" Lee and Jack Kirby had constructed. Lately a crew of new jacks that included Berni Wrightson, Jim Steranko, Barry Smith and Neal Adams had taken the graphics to a different level.
Studiously studying their styles, Blaze later incorporated bits of the comic book art into his own pieces. Pulling out his black sketchbook and a pack of magic markers from his bulging book bag, Blaze experimented with different (robotic bubbles, wildstyle characters) letters. The more weed we smoked the crazier were the graffiti theories that tumbled from Blaze’s tongue.
"It's all about style you see," Blaze schooled me, passing me his sketchbook. "Brothers that don't experiment with style just taking up space on the cars. Like that cat Vulcan once told me once, 'Style is the thing that separates the men from the toys.' Maybe all that ordinary shit was cool in the days of Taki 183, but I want to change the world."
"You gonna pass that joint first, ya klingon?" I joked. Although I did my share of scribbling, for me graff writing was not really my can of Coke. Unlike Blaze and C.C., the art thing was lost on me. "Yo, what's up with that scrub Blax 178? Heard ya'll still had beef?" Not that anyone we knew ever saw that dude Blax 178, but for some reason dude had started crossing out Blaze’s tags with his own infantile scrawl.
"Man, that toy scared to surface," Blaze laughed. "He crossed out another one of my pieces on the number one train. Nigga got nerve to put crowns over his name like he thinking he a king or something.”
“Smokey thinks he might be down with the Ballbusters,” I said, referring to the notorious Rican street gang known for jackin’ brothers in the shadowy train stations.
“Man, that punk ain’t down with no Ballbusters,” screamed Blaze. “He just another chump trying to absorb fame off my name.” Blaze beat on his chest like Tarzan. "Man, there can only be one king in this jungle, man. That’s me."
As the sun began to dim, Smokey won another free game of pinball, but passed it off to some goofy kid wearing a Planet of the Apes t-shirt. "Maybe we should walk over to the school and see what the problem is," I suggested.
Moments later, we were standing outside. "It’s freezing out here," C.C. sneered, buttoning his sheepskin coat. “At least the damn rain finally stopped.”
It was almost four o'clock and darkness slowly spread across the dreary sky. Yet, no matter how frosty it might have been, our neighborhood still managed to sustain a festive flavor where hustlers lounged in gaudy rides, grandmothers dragged shopping carts spilling with groceries and sharp dressed corner boys shot dice against a tenement wall. A grisly bum trapped in a trance of intoxication stood next to the Chow Wong’s chicken wing joint, with its sticky bulletproof glass and soiled floor. Bopping in beat-up shoes, the destitute dude weaved in front of a raging bonfire.
"Wait up a sec," shouted Voodoo, stopping in front of the weed spot. His older brother Red had recently moved up in the world from a loose joint hustler hanging in pissy doorways to opening a small black door storefront that specialized in the uptown highs Buddha Bless and Panama Red. It only took a few minutes for him to make the transaction.
"We got that shit now," Voodoo howled, and even Smokey smiled for once. We walked down the street smoking the thick joint as if the shit was legal, yet it was C.C. who first spotted the police cruiser parked on the corner of 153rd Street. A red siren light atop the car rotated in its glass dome.
"What the hell is going down now?" I wondered aloud, and flicked the reefer roach into the gutter. The quiet block was littered with chubby cops and a wagon from the coroner's office.
"Those are his friends!" screamed Mr. Mancini, the Italian janitor from St. Catherine's. “Dese boys…dese boys are his friends.”
Staring at our blood-shot eyes, a baby-faced rookie sternly ushered us through a blue barricade into a surreal circus of chatter and tears. Quietly, as we moved through the whispering crowd, I peeped the swinging silhouette of Blaze's skinny body hanging from the tree. Like one of Smokey's beloved pinball machines, our perfect world slowly tilted.
Vomiting on sight, pieces of potato chip bile splattered on my Pro-Keds.
"My baby, my baby, my baby..." Blaze’s mother babbled madly. “Please God, please God, please God…” Breaking away from her strong husband’s weakening grip, Mrs. Garcia flung herself to the ground, her claw like finger nails scratching the concrete. A few feet away, Sister Marquez stood, silently clutching her rosary beads.
"Get these damn kids over to the side," a gruff black detective snarled. "They don't need to see this shit."
Before we were led away from the rustic gates, a beautiful gold and black butterfly fluttered above Blaze’s head. An exquisite powdery dust shimmered on the bug’s shuddering wings. Indeed, if only for a moment, Blaze had finally earned his shiny crown. "All hail the King of Broadway," I whispered, wiping away the tears.
The End

Harlem native and Brooklyn resident Michael A. Gonzales has written cover stories for Essence, Vibe, XXL, America and Latina. His fiction has appeared in Trace, Russell Simmons' OneWorld, Untold.UK and Brown Sugar: A Collection of Black Erotica. Currently his column On the Corner appears in Newark native Larry Scott currently lives and paints in his adopted home of Maryland. Voted Best Baltimore Visual Artist 2005 by The City Paper, his massive summer show at Sub-Basement Artist Studios entitled The Evolution of Depression was a critical success. Equally at ease with color and simple, spare India ink, Scott is insanely prolific. Larry can be contacted at

Thursday, October 01, 2009

New Book Reviews: Michael Baigent, R Dwayne Betts, John Wasik, Thad Carhart, Frances Kunreuther

Just what you expect from Nat--pertinent, no b.s., honest assessments. Coming soon:

Michael Baigent's (who some accused Dan Brown of plagiarizing) Racing Toward Armageddon

R. Dwayne Betts's inspirational memoir of rising above prison life A Question of Freedom

John Wasik's study on Obama's health care effort The Audacity of Help
Kunreuther/Kim/Rodriguez's text on running nonprofits Working Across Generations

and Thad Carhart's long awaited novel on Sacagewa's mixed blood son (she and him, as a baby, are on your dollar coins!) Across the Endless River

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kill Obama

The latest unanswered lunacy. Interesting how, as with the Wade Hampton types in the South during Reconstruction, the more thoughtful, established or moderate types in the GOP sort of hold their noses only in private (I've seen it)...yet in public, well, you might get an occasional tepid tweet.

Enjoy, wingnuts--and hopefully that nigger will vex you no more...

Obama poll (taken down at facebook, finally)...the ex-Governor of Alaska ain't giving us her opinion, though asked today at a pre-pre-press event for her memoir, Going Rouge.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mad Men rules!!! But...

...just in time for Rosh Hashanah (happy new year, Tribe!) and an early (e.g., September) Yom Kippur, God's Chosen People bring us this parody below. It's definitely better-than-SNL-quality. At a time when network TV (and I include certain shows on CW, BET, TVONe, TBS, TNT and and couple on SPIKE, USA in that toilet bowl) sucks, premium cable (HBO, SHOWTIME), AMC (thru Mad Men, Breaking Bad) and other outlets are keeping the faith. Real quality, intelligence. Plot, complex characters. Wow--Tyler Perry's bane? And no wonder no one under 25 years old watches these shows (real quality, intelligence, remember? LOL)
So congrats to Mad Men for the Emmy wins.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Crack is Still Whack: Oprah Enables Whitney & Clive Davis' Flacks

[from a dream I had]

Talking points memo from strategic communications/public relations firm, to Whitney's translators: toss that nigga Bobby unda the Newark ta East Orange express bus, gurl! Run ya mouth about bein' a good wife. Takin' careya baby Bobby-Christine. The womens'll cry, nod. Uh-uh, we can relate gurl. Blame the drugs...hell, call Bobby the drug. We can relate, gurl...eEven the white housewives will related. Indeed in this sham of a post-racial millieu, hook them by saying hey, I'm just an E-OJ tackhead with a voice conferred by Jupiter, God, Vishnu and Allah...I'm not the gowns, the cutsey image, the Star Spangled Banner or The Bodyguard. I'm a "jeans and tee shirt" girl. They'll relate. I'm a sassy ghetto girl who was pressured into meeting your middle American expectations. Yes, they can get with that excuse. They love thatGet them to relate. Buy. Hell, I Do Bad All By Myself is Number 1 at the box office. Gullibility, retreat to rote, is what sells. What do you think branding is all about?

So fanboys & girls, Oprah set the stage, literary. Just she and Whitney, one on one. "Hard" questions. High ratings gimmick. Whitney Houston as first bit of pay-off and cross pollination between Clive Davis and Harpo Productions. Yes, folks, it's all artifice, all planned by white people sitting around tables with notes, iPhones and Blackberries, dead Fiji Water & Starbucks soldiers strewn before them. Yet we think it's chance, extemporaneous, even. Hearts, being poured out. Our idols, humanized.

What could be more humanizing that Whitney describing how to sprinkle crack into a joint, torpedo style. Oprah cracking up when Whitney recounts lolling about in bed all day, high and stink. Or both "powerful" women sharing a moment--what to do about their kept, less than successful menfolk, wink wink. What could be more contrived than Whitney's saga of darkness. It was better done, and funnier, when lampooned (like Walk the Line, Ray and any other damn biopic) by John C Reilley in Walk Hard.

So what's your take, folks? Perhaps it's rote: she's nuts, but she still's got that voice. And in the end, isn't that all we care about? Me, you, Clive, Oprah.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Worse than Fox News and Pajamas Media? Yes, it's Tyler Perry...

I'll just repeat what many have been buzzing about over the weekend. Yes, Madea him-(er...herself), king (er...queen) of chitlins entertainment, is set to direct a screen adaptation of Ntozake Shange's classic...seminal...pivotal play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.” Read a little on movieweb here. Proving that contrary to Kanye's Katrina, George Bush cares more about black people than movie execs and financiers. Oh we are all bammas anyway, right?

News flash: BET is planning to redo August Wilson's Pulitzer winning plays featuring Perry's character"Brown."

Sunday, September 06, 2009

About Friggin' Time: The National Mall will look Good

Decades of neglect by Congress (parochial ignorance, from wingnut rednecks to urban congressmen for life) might be at an end. This place was a disgrace. Tianamen Square looks better, despite thousands being mowed down back in '89. I have been to movies, picnics, softball games, ruby matches, marches (Million Man, Peace, Breast Cancer, Autism), just roamin' around, trudging to and from Smithonsian Museums and monuments in muggy DC heat or biting sleet storms...and the place never got better, was always bare, muddy, nasty, dusty, pock-marked...Jefferson was almost underwater while the only bipartisan effort on the Hill in the last 10 years was the billion dollar rehab of the Capitol Building and the Visitor's center.

Now, finally...change. Hope. Read here. Yeah m-f's, it can happen if one has the balls (n.b.: Barack still appears to have one undescended testicle...but it will drop, Trust).

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

My new favorite blog: The Prince of Petworth (Washington DC)

Okay, we're now in Columbia Heights (or Pleasant Plains, on the Eastern Gentrification Frontier Zone--my term) rather than Petworth, but the Prince is our town crier.

Check him out here each week, whether you're a DC resident or not.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mad Men: Republicans yearn for the good ole days?

Sterling Cooper, Ltd throws a Kentucky Derby party and GOP fundraiser, ca. 1963. Some things never change. Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dominick Dunne RIP

Usually "journalists" become "writers." Dominick's course was the opposite. He'd written some decent bestselling mystery novels like The Two Mrs. Grenvilles.
But then his actress daughter (the teenager in the family in Poltergeist) died at the hands of her supposedly upstanding boyfriend, and that murder sent real life barreling into Dominick's chest. He became obsessed with the true crime genre; he covered some of the most gaudy, sensational investigations and trials in American legal history--without further sensationalizing them. Paradox? Nope. It's called skill. He became an uber-correspondant for Vanity Fair and My dream gigs. And he was the ultimate glam mole: showing us the ugly side of the celebrities we claim we don't worship.

I own a pair of glasses just like his. RIP Dominick. Hug your daughter, and ask Nicole Simpson if OJ really did it...

A word on Edward Kennedy. I wonder if his decades of public service, his statesmanship (to the point that even John McCain, Nancy Reagan, and George HW Bush refered to him as an "ally"), his balls--all was penance for Mary Jo Kopechne...or in spite of her?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Kanye Envy

I don't usually do posts like this, but check out paparazzi photos of Amber Rose, consort to the artist you "love to hate to love," on vacation recently. Bald is beautiful. Note Kanye's hand gesture to all of us. You'd think he'd show a little more grace, eh? Like me. LOL
(compliments of

Friday, August 21, 2009


Every August 21st, we remember the real Nat. Don't believe the propanda. He wasn't insane. But he was touched.

"If you all didn't have it coming, it wouldn't have happened."

--translated from Latin, a rebel slave under Spartacus to one of Pompey Magnus's soldiers, 70 B.C.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The NAACP Hates Black People??

Per uber black blog Jack and Jill Politics, apparently so. "Hate" by omission, or protected incompetence. Or by being a feudal dinosaur (Sir Tricerotops, thane of the dry wash castle? LOL okay weird choice of words--but those in know understand exactly where Nat's coming from) after the Chicxulub asteroid's already hit... and still not giving the nimble little mammal survivors the reins? Check out the controversy, here. That's NAACP Boy Wonder Ben Jealous in the photo, at NAACP HQ in Baltimore. Where's Julian Bond?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Cul de Sac Syndrome: John Wasik's slap of reality

Here is the second end-of-summer recommended read from Nat. Please enjoy and cogitate on John Wasik's The Cul de Sac Syndrome: Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream. Buy it here.

John Wasik, financial columnist for Bloomberg News, is like "Moe" in the "Three Stooges." He's lined us all up, and I do mean all of us, and engaged in one looooooooong slap. But unlike Moe, he gives us options after "Curly" does his signature bark and whine.

Regard: "One of the primary causes of the housing bust was that homes cost too much to begin with, forcing Americans to take desparate measures--getting subprime loans, lying on loan applications--to secure financing. Everyone, from the southern Californian desparate for a tiny starter home to Wall Street billionaires, was complicit in the crisis."

But according to Wasik, there's a another more troubling layer under even that nasty loam: our fairytale notion of the American Dream. The Cul de Sac Syndrome. The fairy tale becomes nightmare: of sprawl, traffic, pollution, land use decision based on politics, sucking up natural resources, emotional (and intellectual) detachment, de facto race/class segregation, mindless NIMBY-ism. To Wasik, it's about ecology. That's not moonbat environmentalism; ecology means us as humans, too.

This is no screed. Wasik produces a scholarly, expository narrative supported by stats and quotes and non-partisan reasoning. Anyone who isn't a banker, urban planner, architect, environmental engineer, etc. can follow it; even if you disagree, you can nod your head and say "Ok, I see his point." That's all to rare these days (and that's not the fault of authors like Wasik).
The material and data is not dated--it may have been overtaken by other issues, or our own fear, but it's as apt in August 2009 as it was when it went to press this past Spring '09.

As Wasik warns, the future of the American Middle Class, and the planet, is entwined and at stake. Let's not get distracted, or drown ourselves in ignorance & jingoism, as a passive shield against that reality.

Farai Chideya's Kiss the Sky & John Wasik's The Cul de sac Syndrome: good bye summer!

Now comes the Autumn of our (or your) discontent, so get ready. Here are two Labor Day backyard/beach reads which shall help gird your loins...

First is reporter/columnist/commentator and former NPR host Farai Chideya's debut novel, Kiss the Sky. Buy it here. The plain vanilla: This is Farai's semi-(...quasi-?) autobiographical reflection on the music scene of the early 1990s. From the death of 80s pop to the transition pangs of Hip-Hop from Bronx party music to something meaner yet money-making. Sophie is Farai. Raised in Bo'mo'City...Bawlermer--Baltimore for you uninitiated. And Sophie's family is the embodiment of the prosaic clan limited not only by the hood but by their own myopia. There's nothing beyond Greenmount Avenue. Certainly not Harvard. Or the recording studios, clubs and label offices of LA and Manhattan, or Harlem's new black bohos, or London, or Tokyo, or Paris and a video channel that's BET and MTV combined (for better or worse circa 1995 or thereabouts). This world as alien to Sophie's genesis as Farai's NPR is to Glenn Beck. Sophie must navigate this void between the worlds, literally and figuratively. But that's not the whole story...

...that's the plain vanilla. Here's the flava: Yes, Sophie is metaphor for Farai. Yet the story is allegory for universal cultural truths we in or at the edges of her generation have lived. Beautiful and fulfilling on both counts; excruciating, exasperating on both counts. Being a journalist also means being a storyteller. Thus the story is grounded in Farai's experience--and not just memories, but lessons learned from other people, events. Kiss the Sky shows just how cosanguine real life and well-crafted fiction can be. It's all about how the outside affects our insides. We're Sophie, too.

This stuff is in the same genus, and perhaps same species, with Martha Southgate and Lise Funderberg. Or Eisa Ulen Richarson, Tina Mclroy Ansa, Arminatta Forna, Marita Golden. Or Cleage and Files, Tademy and McFadden. Not quite romance, or church-set aspirational drama. Not black chick lit (and you know I love to get the inside scoop on black chick lit!). It's nowhere near ghetto or ghetto-ish melodrama or BDUSSY romp. I'll go out on a limb and say these women and those in close or near orbit who I haven't named for lack of space, not respect are continuing a paradigm set a long time ago in both Western and non-Western prose and poetry. As for the former, I take you back to Dickinson, Austen, the Brontes. Boring English class crap? No. Frilly dead white chicks? No. Like Farai, these women wrote about the outsides affecting our insides. That's what makes it classic.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cartoon Speaks for itself

Take your pick as to the so-called "news" programming, the commercials, the "scripted" reality shows, dumb sitcoms, contrived "dramas," rewarmed reruns on ethnic cable stations, lack of quality anything...this cartoon bites. Literally.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Michael Vick is an Iggle

Tidewater bammas rejoice. Mike Vick's signed with the Eagles, per CNN. Now maybe those Philly scumbag fans will start cheering for Donovan McNabb...

Friday, August 07, 2009

RIP John Hughes

I suppose he was to white Chicago suburbanites what Spike Lee is to black Brooklyn, Woody Allen is to Manhattan and Barry Levinson is to the "Tribe" in B-more. I never cared for the Home Alone flicks. Ferris Bueller was stupid to me then and now. Nothing with the late John Candy was my cup of tea, either. But The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles were as iconic 80s as Reagan and pop-synth of Flock of Seagulls. "Long Duck Dong" is mourning you. RIP, son of Winnetka...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

From the Retort in the Obama Joker face...

My piece from the Retort (many thanks to the Washington Post for the link to the Kennicott article). Enjoy and friggin' learn something.
Tomorrow stay tuned for Farai Chideya review and other books...