Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Whither Journalism: Vibe is folding

This is from Gawker.com. Note the irony that an online "news" service for peabrains and short attention span folk breaks it...and that they quote Wikipedia:

Vibe Magazine—one of the biggest music magazines in America—is folding. The entire music magazine landscape is full of the dead and dying.
Wikipedia sums up Vibe unexpectedly well:
The magazine owes its success to having a broader range of interests than its closest competitors The Source and XXL which focus more narrowly on rap music or the rock & pop-centric Rolling Stone and Spin. It also differs from the more staid Essence, Ebony or Jet publications by attracting younger readers of many ethnicities.
It was essentially the black version of Rolling Stone, and its readership grew broader as
hip hop became pop music. (Kind of fitting that their last issue had Eminem on the cover). But Vibe hasn't been doing well for a while now; in February, the magazine cut its circulation and frequency, and salaries. Now the music industry is crumbling, and the magazine industry is crumbling, and the music magazine industry is really crumbling.

And I like this quote from theRoot.com: Vibe wasn't always right, but it was one of the good guys."
OK. Recall when music journalism was one of the major fonts of feature writing. Sharp, engaging, insightful? So basically we're saying all we want is TMZ.com-like gossip and tawdry images of cameltoe on redcarpets, screeds, bullcrap fed by publicists of these so-called "artists?" After watching the BET Awards Sunday (and hey, getting the buzz on the landscape of African American prose publishing from BEA) I guess I have my answer.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Kelly Miller Mondays

This is the first Kelly Miller Monday. Kelly Miller was a journalist, writer, mathematician, dean of Howard's College of Arts and Sciences, co-editor of The Crisis.
And he laid down some common sense that, perhaps, our wingnut friends and the T-Pain crowd alike, should heed. Every Monday for the rest of the summer, Kelly's gonna lay down some knowledge. Pay attention, and derive what you can for 2009.

Letter to Thomas Dixon, Jr. 1902

To Thomas Dixon, Jr.
…[F] or Southern White men to berate the Negro for failing to gain [as of barely 40 years after slavery and the midst of Jim Crow and terror in the South, de facto segregation and neglect and abuse in the North] the highest rounds of distinction reaches the climax of cruel inconsistency. One is reminded of the barbarous Teutons in Titus Andronicus, who after cutting out the tongue and hacking off the hands of the lovely Lavinia, ghoulishly chided her for not calling for sweet water with which to wash her delicate hands…
(referencing Tom Watson) “The advance made by your race in America is the reflection of the white man’s civilization. Just that and nothing more. The Negro lives in the light of the white man’s civilization and reflects a part of that light.”
Here again we come across the threadbare argument of advocates of suppression and subordination of the Negro. The aptitude of any people for progress is tested by the readiness with which they absorb and assimilate the environment of which they form a part…Civilization is not a spontaneous generation with any race or nation known to history, but the torch is handed from race to race , and from age to age, and gains brilliancy as it goes. The progress made by the Negro has been natural and inevitable . Does Mr. Watson expect the American Negro to invent the alphabet before he learns to read? The Negro has advanced in exactly the same fashion that the white race advances, by taking advantage of all that has gone before. Other men have labored and we all have entered into their labors. The Japanese did not invent the battleship, modern artillery, or the modern manual of arms, but they use them pretty effectively [noting Japan’s burgeoning conflict with Tsarist Russia and it’s conquests in Korea]...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Amid Frenzy over The King of Pop, don't forget the "Queens" who died in a mangled subway car

Outside UCLA Medical Center, and the Jackson Family state in Encino, there thousands of people gather. Some truly moved and paying their respects, some wanting to be part of a happening (this is wacky California after all). They mourn with an intensity not seen since Elvis departed this Earth for peanut butter-bacon-Qaalude sandwich heaven, and Mark David Chapman gunned down John Lennon.
I get it. But there's no frenzy, tears, sighs or 24 hours coverage for the working moms torn to pieces, smashed and broken in the Metro crash outside of Ft. Totten station, D.C. "Blanket" Jackson will inherit millions. What of the kids of these women...working moms. Single working black and Hispanic moms breaking their backs? What's being devised or legated to them other than sorrow and financial ruin? And Metro, existing on a pittance because the governments of DC, Maryland and Virgina want to keep it a feudal vassal (and GOP Administrations who see mass transit as a little too populist), is at a loss as to how to keep this from happening again. Some of our suburban jerks even sneered that the dead train operator, Jeanice McMillan, was likely yapping on her mobile phone and not paying attention. Jeanice's phone was found in her crushed backpack, turned off. And her family has to endure that dig. The kids of another mom, Ana Fernandez, are apparently receiving anonymous harassing calls about their dead mother's immigration status.
Let's lay some digital flowers, then, on some graves--not just these women, but the men who died, too. Real Dads. Real couples, like the Whereleys. No not single black moms struggling to feed their kids. Just as tragic. General David Wherley and his wife Ann were on their way back from Walter Reed, where they visited DC National Guardsmen--90% of them African American, wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. There's no 90 minute Today Show coverage for the Wherleys or the people they were visiting. Meredith Viera--who was once a real journalist--isn't here to prattle on about how she danced to "ABC" in her bedroom as a little girl.
In a subsequent post I'll show you photos and bios, memorial funds. Real people. Real problems. No face-altering plastic surgery. But let's start.

This is Veronica DeBose, single mom of two little kids. Going to night school to become a nursing assistant. Once she got her certification, she was going to move to North Carolina, buy a little house, re-start her life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Impeach Sanford: Does the national or South Carolina GOP have the balls?

First Sarah Palin becomes a national joke: a wingnut MILF albatross for John McCain. Nuff said. Then comes Bobby Jindal--as the GOP's Obama clone; forget Vishnu--how's about an exorcism? Crash, burn. Out parades Newt, Rush, Beck and the rest of the loonies exhorting tea parties, attacking Judge Sonia Sotomayor on the basis of...well...they've shut up. Next, the recurring self-immolation of Michael "Lexington" Steele. But a bright spot was S.C. Governor Mark Sanford. Aren't Red States, scions of the old Confederacy (to whom the tea partiers pid such cupidity during these mumbled maniacal secession discussions), a bit behind the 8-ball in education, infrastructure, health care? Sure. But Mark stood up to that rascal, that arrogant mulatto President and said NO WAY. No stimulus money here. Sure we'll take defense spending, and a kicker for all our rednecks on Medicaid...but we're too proud to take money from that one in the White House to improve our schools and build our vital infrastructures. Hooray!!! A potential national candidate is born.
But the GOP state legislators in Columbia were not so happy behind closed doors. Seems it IS, the economy, stupid. It IS the budget, eclipsing efforts to make sure public schools teach that Jesus created the dinosaurs 15,000 years ago, or that blacks were just over sensitive about that slavery thing.
Mark disappears. Poof.
His staff lies or is told to lie. His wife, well, we all know that pathology. Yep, he's hiking, or we don't know where he is, or he's clearing his head.
No. He's not hiking. He's having his ashes hauled. In Argentina. He's having an affair, this typical family values Republican. This son of the South. This hero in the face of Obamaism. In Argentina. Hope he got some good meat. Hope he brought his kids back some bolos. Hope he got tango lessons.

Don't cry for me, Greenville-Spartanburg/The truth is, I pretty much f'd you

This is misconduct. Time to own up in Columbia. Time for the national GOP, the rapid pundits, the lying bloggers, to admit yet another comedy. Another crash and burn.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Transformers 2: Evil Robots destroy Princeton?

No, it's not Samuel Alito '72, "Judge" Andrew Napolitano '72 and Concerned Alumni of Princeton--the evil robots, that is. It's Megatron & the Fallen (no, not Dick Cheney & crew, either). This week Michael Bay's latest explosion fest erupts onto screens. Fanboys & girls, everyone in the Nat Turner hut is anxious to see this. Not because I'm a Michael Bay fan. No, because marketing hype compells us. Ok, and because of parental peer pressure, curiosity, the need to be dazzled by toys of old...and I want to see the Fallen (voiced by "Candy Man" Tony Todd), and the Constructicons, Tyrese hamming it up ghettofab style, Megan Fox's boobs and butt, the female autobots who transform into motorcyles...whew. It's not high art. Michael Bay would be as lost if he had to do a film with a real plot, real emoting, subtlety, small sets, a script for human adults. But that's not what's all about. So my question is: When will I see my boy Grimlock and Dinobots?
So now Shia LeBoeuf's character is off to college. Guess which? Thanks Michelle Obama '85 & Sonia Sotomayor '76! Notice, then, how Harvard's never in flicks anymore, and Yale's only tapped when someone wants to pillory the Bush family or make some hackneyed reference to a Skull & Bones-based conspiracy theory? Here are some production shots (including one of Megan Fox...for a minute I thought the average Princeton coed was starting to resemble the average Arizona State bimbo...but no, Megan was just admiring the architecture of Holder Hall). I'm anxious to see what happens when the Fallen roll up on poor Shia as he freaks out in a lecture inside McCosh 101. Resembles an old Tiger Inn trees & trolls soiree, doubtless. Mayhem ensues. Word is, Michael Bay shot some scenes at UPenn, then decided to run to a real Ivy (sorry, I couldn't resist) for versimilitude. Neither university offically sanctioned the film, based on his usual creative license (see, e.g., Pearl Harbor).
I pray the Decepticons and the Fallen don't flatten the campus. Annual Giving solicitations are bothersome enough...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Can you say upstage?

Legend has it that my idol Steve McQueen, in my favorite epic, "The Sandpebbles," threw a major sht-fit during a scene where one of his co-stars, Mako, did a simple and elegant piece of nonverbal emoting: he winced, rubbed the top of head as if confused. Steve said it re-focused the whole scene and made people empathize with Mako...at his expense. Crazy, huh? Well in the days of bad TV (as if these are the golden years?) here are some classic upstagers who literally have hijacked an entire show, at the expense of the intended star(s):

1. The Fonz Upstages Opie
The idea for a sitcom set in the 1950s was inspired by a vignette on the 1970s anthology series Love, American Style. One year after “Love and the Happy Days” aired, Ron Howard starred in the blockbuster film American Graffiti, which solidified his ability to play a retro-teenager. Howard had previously played “Opie” on The Andy Griffith Show, and with his recent film triumph under his belt, it was clear that he was the intended star of Happy Days. But the producers were caught by surprise when Fonzie, portrayed by Henry Winkler, who was only an occasional character during the first season started getting a substantial amount of press. Suddenly “Ayyyy” was on everyone’s lips and you couldn’t walk past a storefront without seeing some sort of Fonz replica giving the ol’ thumbs up. The ABC brass even suggested changing the name of the show to Fonzie’s Happy Days, but Henry Winkler himself vehemently opposed such a change. In fact, Henry has always staunchly credited the success of Happy Days to the work of entire cast, particularly Ron Howard and Tom Bosley.

2. Alex P. Keaton’s Hostile Takeover
When Gary David Goldberg was casting Family Ties, a sitcom about liberal 60s-era parents raising 80s-era children, he envisioned Matthew Broderick for the role of Alex P. Keaton. But Broderick didn’t want to leave New York for a long-term project, so Goldberg was left at square one. At the urging of a casting director, he gave a young Canadian actor named Michael J. Fox a second screen test, and reluctantly hired him (his infamous comment at the time about Fox was “There’s a face you’ll never see on a lunch box.”) Much to everyone’s surprise, Michael J. Fox had that on-screen charisma that quickly made him an audience favorite; he could deliver the most extreme right-wing political rhetoric and make it palatable because he was so darned cute. Meredith Baxter-Birney was miffed, because her understanding when she signed on for Family Ties was that the parents would be the focus of the series. But teen magazine profiles and posters can have a unique impact on a celebrity’s “Q-factor,” and soon many of the show’s plots revolved around Alex. During the taping of the episode where Alex lost his virginity, the audience’s laughter went on so long that the show ran 12 minutes overtime. Goldberg was standing backstage with Baxter-Birney at the time and commented, “If you want to leave the show, I’ll understand.”

3. Jack Tripper Gets Bested by a Blonde (and T & A)
When Three’s Company was being cast, John Ritter was the only actor hired who any sort of name recognition, having played the Reverend Fordwick on The Waltons. Luckily, he also had a knack for slapstick comedy, and managed to make the most out of what was basically a one-joke role (a closet heterosexual living platonically with two beautiful young women). But even though Ritter was the acknowledged star of the show (and won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Jack Tripper), it was Suzanne Somers who got her picture on all the magazine covers and had her own mega-selling poster. Actually, as soon as Somers landed the role of Chrissy, she contacted powerhouse manager Jay Bernstein and begged him to take her on as a client. She wanted to be “bigger than Farrah,” and although (according to Somers) Bernstein questioned her looks and her talent, he was impressed by her passion, and agreed to manage her. Of course, it probably helped that Somers also pledged to give him every penny of her salary from the first six episodes of Three’s Company. Nevertheless, thanks to Bernstein’s savvy promotion, soon every episode of Three’s Company, no matter what the plot, focused heavily on Chrissy prancing around in tight T-shirts and short-shorts.

4. Yes, Urkel Did That
Family Matters was officially a spin-off of Perfect Strangers (Harriette Winslow was the elevator operator at the Chicago Chronicle). The show was supposed to focus on the everyday trials and tribulations of a department store employee, her police officer husband, and their three children. Midway through Season One, their nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel (portrayed by Jaleel White) appeared, oversized glasses, suspenders, high-rise pants, squeaky voice and all. Urkel was originally intended as a one-episode character, but after White’s initial appearance, studio audiences started chanting “Urkel! Urkel!” during subsequent tapings. Several first-season episodes were hastily re-written in order to feature the whiny-voiced, clumsy character. Interestingly enough, Jaleel White had been acting (mostly in commercials) since the age of three, and just prior to being cast as Urkel had told his mother that he wanted to quit the business in order to play JV basketball when he entered high school the next fall.

5. Mr. Kotter’s Lukewarm Welcome Back (vs. John Travolta)
Veteran comic writer Alan Sacks had seen stand-up comic Gabe Kaplan’s act a few times and thought that there might be a viable sitcom to be mined out of Kaplan’s tales of his days in remedial high school classes. When previewing Welcome Back, Kotter in front of test audiences, network brass noted that John Travolta (whose character was then known as “Eddie Barbarina” ) elicited unsolicited random squeals from the crowd and decided on the strength of a possible teen heartthrob plus Kaplan’s jokes to green light the series. Travolta--now
Vinnie Barbarino," for his part, didn’t discourage the Tiger Beat aspect of his fame, but he also craved acceptance as a bona fide actor, and he spent much of his Kotter salary on a high-priced agent, who landed him progressively larger film roles, from The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, to Carrie, to Saturday Night Fever. By the fourth (and ultimately final) season of Welcome Back, Kotter, John Travolta was billed as a “special guest star” and appeared in less than half of that season’s episodes.

--compliments of Kara Kovalchik

Honorable Mentions: Dennis Franz ("Sipowicz" takes over after David Caruso bolts and refuses to let go), Marla Gibbs ("Florence" hijacks The Jeffersons), JacquƩ in 227 (and thus getting George Jefferson's revenge in Marla Gibbs!), Avery Brooks ("Hawk" flies over Spenser for Hire), Larry Hagman ("JR" was never meant to be the "star" of Dallas), Estelle Geddes ("Sophia" was supposed to be an occasion walk on, even die), Megan Mullally (cruel alcoholic slut as foil to the fags...try saying that five times fast!), Rick Nelson (first pop teen idol "Rickie" makes everyone forget Ozzie & Harriet), and Eddie Murphy (the reason Lorne Michaels will never allow an African American with talent back on SNL).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Whither Jane Austen? Teri Woods and our Literary Legacy

The author, in her own words. When the human race is gone and someone else takes notice of our culture, this is what they may find. (note digital records will be corrupted, pages might be long decayed by mold) I wonder what they'd say? Well, hopefully they'll find this stuff before they unearth a fossilized "Madea."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Requiem for Islam in America? PBS's The Mosque in Morgantown

My Georgetown journalism department colleague Asra Nomani, former Wall Street Journal reporter, columnist, author, advocate, is the subject of this documentary by fimmaker Brittany Huckabee. Tune in tonight on your local PBS station, 10pm EDT. The teaser: " JOURNALIST ASRA NOMANI glimpsed Islamic extremism up close when her dear friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague Daniel Pearl was murdered in Pakistan. When she returns home to West Virginia to raise her son, she believes she sees warning signs at the local mosque: exclusion of women, intolerance toward non-believers, and suspicion of the West. Her resulting campaign against extremism in the Islamic Center of Morgantown brings a storm of media attention, unexpectedly pitting her against the mosque's moderates. Through unfolding scenes and intimate interviews, THE MOSQUE IN MORGANTOWN frames this local conflict as a means to explore the larger dilemmas facing American Islam. It tells a story of competing paths to social change, American identity and the nature of religion itself."

In other words, whether you are reasonable or right wing, there's something in this story for you. Of course, the aim is to push people together. Engage us. Show the commonality which makes us uncomfortable, and hint at the cosanguinity that holds us accountable. It is not a stretch nor inappropriate to extend the themes, people, places here to the current fiasco in Iran...or the battle for the soul of Pakistan (borrowing Don Belt's title...it's no longer a "struggle," but a battle).
Here's the link on PBS. Watch it. Learn something.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Iran and US. Peas in a pod...

Let's see...entrenched conservative power cadres steal election, question patriotism of opposition and claims God is on its side...props up a puppet moron...primary rank and file supporters are rural hyper-religious sots. Educated voters and young people in the cities are ignored or disenfranchised...
...are you SURE this was IRAN? Sounds oddly familiar, though. Check out the latest here.
Barack's Cairo speech gave respect and hope to regular folk in the Muslim world. Not the mullahs and this bearded scumbag (who actually started off as a moderate). Not the Taliban scoundrels who brainwash nihilistic young men who feel they have nothing to live for, blowing up pieces of Pakistan. Not the sad sick fools in Gaza, or the West Bank, who feel they must match Isreali settlers (ok, who are really American Jewish fanatics) lunacy for lunacy.
Entrenched forces always explode when facing a new paradigm. Note I didn't say "opposition," as in Palestinians versus settlers, Dick Cheney versus Bin Laden, Yankees versus Red Sox. Exchanging one set of idiots for another isn't scary to the powers competing for power, nor does it foment real change in folks' lives. Changing the paradigm does. Frankly I don't think Lenin and Stalin changed anything in Russia. One set of autocrats switch with another. But changing the rules--now that'll get you killed. The usual suspects on the right and the left don't like that, you see. Then we wouldn't need either of them.
Jury's still out on Barack: new face, old story...or new paradigm? In Iran, let's hope they can set a new paradigm. Alas, the hardliners will call them Godless, label them tools of Zionists and the US. Same kind of thing as goes on here. Maybe they need a mantra to steel them. How about "Yes we can."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

'Bama on NCAA Probation...so?

This was supposed to be critical essay about Farai Chideya first novel Kiss the Sky, but this mess caught my eye the first half of the Lakers-Magic game. See what Kobe missed by not going to college? College...hmmm...is that what it is? This is the corollary to my post on the UDC-Coppin State ranking. This is counterpoint to America being the land of robust ,intelligent debate. Of MIT and CalTech, and the Ivies and sprawling land grant colleges pumping the creme of our youth into the workforce, researching the secrets of the universe. Of the real HU: Howard or Hampton. Of us, campus to the world.
This is the kind of stuff we value--stuff like SEC Football. So why bother penalizing folk for shortcuts, skullduggery, being a farm system to the NFL and NBA. Giving generations of ghetto boys and farm crackers hope for building mansions for their mamas. What hypocrisy. Worse than steroids and baseball. WE wanted the long ball, the cartoonish heroes. Worse than hating George W. Bush. WE dumbed ourselves done, ignored the truth and voted for him. Worse than Fox News and the Holocaust Museum murder, even. Let these universities alone. Let them do what they want. We all know it's bullshit. Watch the video report below, and roll Tide, roll!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Holocaust Museum Murder: Janet Langhart Cohen's press release

As you fanboys and girls know, Nat and Mrs. Nat were going to the opening event and Nat was going to interview the Cohens, mine the thoughts of the VIP guests. Speak to the young actors portraying these young heroes, themselves murdered by enablers, just as Steven Johns, a young black man, was murdered (n.b., I wonder what those young Israeli pub-hoopers who ridiculed Barack Obama on video would say about a black man dying to protect the Holocaust Museum?).
Note I didnt say murdered by cartoon/Hollywood Nazis & Klansmen. Or today by James Van Bruun--a member of our so-called "Greatest Generation" (n.b. the same ones who returned home from WWII to fight integration in the 50s, murder Freedom Riders and little girls in churches in the 60s).
Since Obama's election, we've seen the rage, the lunacy. From churches shot up by people distraught over gays/blacks and gun control, to Dr. Tiller. Cops and innocents shot and maimed by rightwing cretins in Alabama, in Pittsburgh. And all the while, the Michelle Bachmans, the Palins, the Hannitys, the Newts...the Limbaughs...the moronic Glenn Becks...the rightwing preachers, the Focus on the Families...the Janet Parshalls and dozens of bloggers, fellow travelers have railed, cursed, egged, sneered, whispered, gossiped...
And that's who these two teenagers think of, when they share their pain. The people who looked the other way, or gave tacit approval. The people who said it wasn't their business, or served "those people" right. Or said the fearful were overreacting or swayed by outside agitators, etc. The people who benefitted from the oppression, for two years or two centuries, or who were cowards and knew better. And the ones who stirred the pot, bring what was simmering to a boil. That's the evil Janet going to bring to life tonight, through two youngsters who are allegory for what's right and wrong about us as humans.
I'll be talking to the folks before the performance Friday 6/12 (at GWU) report back to you, as well as update you on where the review will appear online and in print. Ironic, eh? A celebration of life, yet Van Bruun comes to crash the party on the basis of the very evil the teenagers discuss. And on TV, in radio studios as the boards light up, on blogs, over the phone and in living rooms, and from barstools & fundamentalist rectories upon the sermon desk--the enablers grouse, grumble, exhort. No need to add any lines to the script, Janet...
Here's the press release:
For Immediate Release:Washington, D.C. - June 10, 2009Contact: Terrie M. Williams, 212.316.0305/tmwms@terriewilliams.com orDanette Wills, 917.474.4348/danettewills@yahoo.com

Former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Janet Langhart Cohen

Former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Janet Langhart Cohen are deeply saddened by the horrific shootings that occurred this afternoon at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, a sacred memorial to the millions of victims of the Holocaust. They offer their sincerest condolences to the victims and families of today's tragedy.
Secretary Cohen was 30 feet away from where the shots were fired. Mrs. Cohen was in transit to the final rehearsal of her play, Anne and Emmett, at the time of the shooting, but was unable to enter the building upon her arrival. Staff, actors, and crew in the building at the time of the shootings were moved to a secure area and are safe.
For security reasons, tonight's debut performance of Anne and Emmett at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has been cancelled. Every attempt will be made to reschedule a performance of at the Museum at a later date.
Anne and Emmett will be performed at George Washington University's Jack Morton Auditorium as scheduled on Friday, June 12 at 7 p.m. The play is sold out. By presenting the play to the public on Anne Frank's birthday, June 12th, we offer both a time of reflection and remembrance for all in attendance.
In one accord, the Cohen's and all of tonight's invited guests offer their prayers to the victims, their concern for all staff and visitors at the museum during this tragedy, and their hopes for a safe and compassionate world.
Anne & Emmett is centered around an imaginary conversation between 14-year-old Anne Frank and 15-year-old Emmett Till. One was murdered because she was Jewish, the other because he was Black. These two teenagers were fatal victims of anti-Semitism and racism. The play explores the commonalities and parallels between their lives. This play will give all who view it an inside look at why it is so vital that the world learn more about genocide and how we can act to prevent it before it is too late. For more information about the play, please visit
www.anneandemmett.net. Mrs. Janet Langhart Cohen and Mr. William S. Cohen are available for limited interviews.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Crazy White People, Parts I and II

...to be followed by Crazy Oprah, Part I.

First, outside of Boston a high school coach and his pal killed their Latino immigrant drug dealer rather pay their bill, then cooked the dude to dispose of his body. Wish I could stew my creditors. Next, yet another "one blue collar white girl rips the foetus/baby from the other blue collar white girl" in the heartland. Never enough episodes of Snapped or any number of Nat Geo, Discovery ID or Cold Case to cover this. The latest is in Oregon. The only reason it's not more prevalent in Texas or Alabama is that pregnant girls are armed down there. When the only way to be valued and value yourself isn't becoming a doctor or hell, even a magazine editor, but by (1) enlisting or (2) getting pregnant (or both, often simultaneously) what's a young, not too bright white girl in the hinterland to do? So it's not a stretch that, in the world of boredom, meth & Republican voting, cadres of lunatics are spawned and a few of them just might murder to obtain the baby they themselves dreamed to have...

Yes I'm being flippant. But you all, and you know who you are, love to tag "us" with anti-social, degenerate labels. I'm returning the favor...

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hydrothermal Vents, Cold Seeps. Cool sh*t of the Deep...

Science Sunday, fanboys and girls...
Cold seeps could produce the perfect bridge away from hydrocarbon-based energy sources (methane hydrate). Or could kill us all (again, methane hydrate exploding up from the deep because of rising ocean temperatures). Thermal vents are the perfect model for life on other planets. Hell, they model the beginning of us. The deep sea's an amazing place. The bottom of the ocean ain't flat and sandy, or the repository of my car keys (from my 1989 Volkswagen Jetta, lost on a fishing trip off Cape Hateras...don't ask).
Check it out here. Or here. Or here.

Friday, June 05, 2009

A Modest Proposal for UDC and Coppin State Col...er...University

I have close friends and colleagues who teach at both. They devote their time, craft, sweat and intellect. Sometimes the reward is that flush you feel when a student "gets it." Sometimes it's a paycheck. It's like that with education, both "higher ed" and teaching kiddies in this brutal economy. We've all heard bad news about Coppin State University in B-mo-Careful (now no. 2 to Detroit in murders, but Charm City will rock 'em next time--after all it had The Wire...Detroit only had Axel Foley and Kwame Kilpatrick!) and the University of the District of Columbia.
The AEI study we lamented...published as roundly as David "Kill Bill/Kung Fu" Carradine's auto-asphixiation-erotica found that only ONE IN FIVE duly registered and enrolled students will ever graduate, and that's after a "Bluto" from Animal House time frame ("Seven years of college down the drain."). The lowest in the nation.
OK we can parse and plumb the reasons later; he's some background as to Coppin, and the news report on UDC. The hint to my thesis can be found in the facetious title of this post, and my nod to Thomas Swift (meaning I'm not truly being mean, elitist and self-hating in what I'm about to say). All right?

First, some people--and here it happens to be black people (including foreigners enrolled in both places)--aren't cut out for college. Not college as we know it and no I don't mean as you measure up with my alma mater, Princeton, or Mrs. Nat's, Howard U. (and HBCU like Coppin). But local school systems have to boast depositing someone they graduate into somewhere. There are not enough Vo-tech institutions and somehow community colleges cannot be the final repository. Besides, they're only for two years. You have to get that "degree" somewhere. The diploma mills you see advertised on the Net or during Maury might be the last resort for many dumbasses and bad luck sufferers or too many members of our military thanks to Uncle Sam's pandering and schitzophrenia (e.g. high standards and big research $$$ on one level, offering scraps to our troops on the other. Frankly I would have thought the wingnuts would have picked up on this). Then again too many of our troops and their spouses are the product of our nonintellectual culture (otherwise would they have enlisted?) and bad high schools regardless of location or racial make-up. These folks don't need a degree. There must be alternatives. We have to admit this and get over it.
Second, and most insidiously, why do these places exist. Wasn't Coppin a "State College?" Now a "University?" Does the District need a "state university" a la Ann Arbor or Charlottesville or Berkely or Chapel Hill just so it can act like a state? You see where I'm going with this, don't you? These institutions are largely the creatures of African American politicians who want to deliver some pork/goodie/promise/symbol--and have in return a legacy and goodwill from duped constituents. OK so let's call something a "University." As Morgan State struggles but manages to educate cadres of students, are those students themselves up to snuff? Can they hack it against mine at Georgetown, or at Princeton. Hell yes, and hell no. The top, the dedicated, will always flourish and, as Hannibal said in 218 BC when asked how he was gonna kick white folks' asses, "will find a way, oe make one." But the least common denominator at Morgan couldn't last at day with Princeton's dregs, let's get over that. They would meltdown at Howard. All the online diploma mills are called "universities" and these "at-risk" or needing additional support students--let's say the C students (without the over indulgent gradeflation and lower standard kicker). As for UDC, it's existence is purely a contrivance of identity politics for black folks, Sowetoization by whites, and some pride need for a statehood analog. It's sad, and it's stupid.
Now let's roll back to the nitty gritty, hinted at in point #1. Not everyone's cut out for college, so why expend the resources to overload on support and mentorship and this and that and all these bells and whistles proposed in political theatre by black pols wish to perpetuate point #2? Why not enforce rigor in admissions and course content; the struggling single mothers who do show potential and current aptitude, but might need an extra hand, sure. But this shouldn't extend to everyone. College by it's nature must be competitive to enter and competitive to remain. That's the thing wingnut never got about affirmative action. You're giving a leg up to folk who can shine once they're in the game, and go on and change the game entirely once out. Training cadres of medium-skilled clerical folk and lower level managers, or legions of IT de-buggers, is not the mission of a university. If folk start out there, the university should give them the world view and study skills--note I didn't say job training--to leap frog ahead. That's the game. And you make the scholarship money and grants available for the people who can go out there and juice the game. Not for EVERYBODY. That ultra-egalitarian, throwback to the 1960s Black Arts/Panther time is not applicable any more. Not for college, not for secondary and even elementary education.

Note this ain't something endemic only to these places. I've been to our shining flagship, Terrapin World, U of Maryland-College Park and have scratched my head at the students' ignorance and lack of preparation, pop culture expectations. Likewise the bubbleheadedness of many Hoya students makes me swoon. But the effect on places like UDC or Coppin is catastrophic.

Therefore: Close Coppin, fold as much into Morgan. Beef up Morgan's facilities, faculty, curriculum rigor. Raise admission standards BUT truly examine each applicants circumstances wholistically. As for UDC. Either you bathe it in capital, pirate faculty, programs, students, etc from Georgetown, GW, AU, Catholic and Howard, or chop it up, make it a vo-tech college and call it a day. De-politicize the place's existence.

So before I am lynched by my own people, I am being somewhat Swiftian here (no, he really didn't want to eat Irish babies, indeed this was his way of attacking the British Parliament and society for oppression of Ireland). These are institutions which have potential, in theory, and, as I said I have friends who teach there. But come on. We have to be real, and stop pandering, stop elements of pure fantasy. Think about what i said about Soweto-ization and competition if anything. White folks are laughing at us...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Federal Writers Project should make a comeback...

...if this was the kind of project the Feds were funding in the 30's under FDR. Mark Kurlasky's book The Food of Younger Land, on writers sojourning like Henry Stanley in Africa is reviewed in Slate.

So what are your thoughts--specifically on the book, or Laura Shapiro's review...or the WPA's 1930s version of a cultural "stimulus" plan...or whether we need one now?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Air France Crash versus "Bruno's" taint & Susan Boyle

Two hundred people died in the ocean this morning. But we weren't even talking about GM's bondholders swapping out for stock. Nope. We were mumbling about Susan Boyle's new career and her supposed physical/emotional swoon after loosing "Britain's Got Talent." If you don't know who Susan Boyle is, congratulations. Or Kobe. Or Kimora Lee (nee Simmons) having a baby. And then there was the two hour long commerical/tweener hypefest called the MTV Movie Awards. "Twilight" and Zach Ephron dominating the show? Andy Samburg hosting? Remember when adults who didnt have to fabricate irony/cool attended the program, had their films nominated...and adults made up the viewing audience? When they had creative parodies such as anything Ben Stiller did to open the show, or the send up of "Pulp Fiction" with the cast of the old "Welcome Back, Kotter?"

No. Just as Kanye, Beyonce, too many rappers and a lot of wanabee stone cold killers in Philly and Chicago didn't get the memo about Barack ( and that brains and common sense were now "in"), the general commercial culture didn't get the message that we're in an economic cesspool. This type of mindless, manufacured hype and 'tude was the corollary to the non-regulation from W. and the Wild West business practices that swamped our national boat. Time to put away the childish, prurient crap and exhault the creative gray matter of our youth, not exploit it. Think of this political analogy: the GOP didn't get the memo that becoming a cadre of fanatics and trivial fools doesn't play well outside of the small tent of well, fanatics and trivial fools.

You tell me which is more compelling. This:

Or this:

For too many of us--and indeed a whole generation of youngsters who are being trained to be rabid and vapid buyers and not diggers, the answer is, well, "Bruno's
taint. Perhaps my wingnut pals have a point about lauding fanatics and trivial fools as the key to Republican resurgence. They seem to know something the rest of us refuse to admit. I'm sorry if I'm all over the place but this pisses me off. Dozens of families wait in anguish for word of their loved ones on that plane. Thousands of families in angst because a bunch of hotshots couldn't adapt to the changign auto landscape, now whole towns will die. And we're talking about Sasha Baron Cohen, and an old Limey hag's stage career. It sells. Lovely.