Thursday, July 30, 2009

'Teachable Moment'

I think it was Malcolm X who had once said, 'You got to make them laugh in order to make them think.'

Last night, the Colbert Report tried to disambiguate the furor over Gates-gate.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - He Who Smelt It, Dealt It
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The Word (flatulence, aside) picked apart why this drama struck nerves. The media frenzy over Obama, Gates and Crowley meeting for a beer, is frankly annoying. And to borrow, POTUS's word (sans modifier), stupid. The amount of minutes devoted to trying to pick apart what racism and racist means in our culture in lieu of real reporting time to present useful details about the health care reform bill is the real tragedy.

You can't cure cancer with a coke and a smile.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Beautiful Mine

Mad Men Season 3 Premiere is a short but distant two and half weeks away.

AMC's website has an awesome interactive program that for a fan like me, was irresistible.

The cultural history is layered. It's doubtful you'd see someone like me, even in my Mad Men avatar, move so freely in that space without it signifying some aspect of the past social contract. But it's nice to imagine that animated me could be patron in a bar, rather than server. It's a period of history I'd rather pretend never existed, and skip to the good part, when we got civil rights and I get to experience integration and live in a 'post racial' society. However, Weiner's drama is still compelling. The nuanced day to day interactions of race, gender and class in what we can now refer to as modern America, are so exquisitely rendered that I can't help but watch the show as if it were a cultural document. For our post-modern, 'post-racial' society, it's an interesting history to watch unfold week to week, a close examination of how far we've come in our own narratives, and a reminder of how far we still have to go.

As a writer, I find Don Draper, Betty Draper and Peggy Olson fascinating. I grew up poor, so suburban ennui, unhappy marriages, or inhibited women are fascinating for me. The women in all of these narratives seemed to be silently screaming. The tension was building last season with the women. Over drinks last weekend, three very liberated women (me and my friends) got to discuss the implications of psychotherapy from that era. We were trying to convince our friend that she needed to get caught up on the show; we were talking of the scene where Betty's psychologist talks to Don about what Betty discussed in therapy earlier. A detail that we found alarming. It was such a common practice, no one questioned it, until 1970. A lawsuit created what we've come to accept culturally as doctor-client privilege.

It just makes me want to reread John Cheever and Richard Yates. Maybe Patricia Highsmith, too. It also makes me want to listen to RJD2 on repeat.

Go Mad Men Yo'self.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Public Option Now

It should be restated again. We need health care reform now.

For one, like MSM, I got distracted by the Gates-gate episode. Following this very complex conversation or rather deconstruction about race, class, authority, law, free speech, and frankly, a story of two 'reasonable' men clashed which escalated about who's member is bigger than the other, was riveting.

It's already been said by many more wiser writers and minds than me; that Obama's presser last week that the real message of the urgency of the need for reform was buried in the MSM coverage of a seemingly gaffe by POTUS.

I've been trying to synthesize my thoughts about the bubbling race in America today question for weeks now. I had a rather random post that was only to function as a primer for me to redress late. I felt something was coming. I just wasn't expecting it to come in the form of segregated pools, excessive force/abuse of power cases, and the death of a pop icon.

Again, I digress.

I also started to draft a post about my recent trip to DC to lobby for reform. Particularly, I wanted highlight the people I met and why they were willing to bake in the late June heat, to push for reform and a public option. A few real life things happened that got in the way of that for me. And then my uncle died. I don't meant to make him out to be some sort of martyr, but the significance of his passing and the health care debate cross hairs for me. He was diagnosed with stage four cancer in March. He didn't have health insurance. It wasn't provided to him through his job. I can't help but wonder if there were a public option, would he have been able to seek medical attention months, years ago for a stomach problem that he could have easily dismissed as indigestion. He stopped treatment in June. Apparently he lived an expectantly longer life than any doctor would have conceived. He had a pre-existing condition that complicated his treatment with chemo. As my mother explained to me this past weekend, he had a childhood disease that should have been terminal. And it's apparently genetic. The irony, if you want to call it that, is that my uncle may have saved the life of his children with the discovery of this disease that was responsible for the complicating treatment that would've prolonged his life. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that.

The other story that seems to get lost is the face of the uninsured. It's an issue beyond black, white and class. 43 million Americans do not have health insurance. I've heard reported (trying to verify) that the number of uninsured Americans under the age of 30 constitute the large part of that number. A detail that I don't find too surprising. The low skilled worker, or the recent college graduate who have entry level jobs often are, for lack of a better word, shafted. Ask any bright, young thing who's employed by a publishing house, magazine, or advertising company to someone who's working as a janitor, security guard, or retail clerk. Do they have adequate health coverage, if any? Would a public option help small businesses who factor fringe benefits in employee compensation? Would small businesses be able to expand and hire more workers? Would that aid in our economic recovery?

I think Obama failed to explain these facts in a way that can incite urgency among everyone. MSM failed in deconstructing the argument in digestible bits that would push the conversation beyond what polls supposedly say about what Americans want: deficit reduction.

I'm biased of course. I'm part of a Venn Diagram of constituencies that's affected by this. I want a public option. I'm a bright, young, African American, thirtysomething that would love the independence of not relying on an employer to provide health care coverage. I'd also love a system that would make it affordable so that people like my uncle can seek and receive care in instances where their employer can't afford to provide them coverage. I'd also like for the forces that claim to read tea leaves through polls realize that my biggest care in the world is not the growth of the American deficit. I do care about it. But I'm a member of the generation that will carry the burden of many debts. I'm still researching the data, but my impression is that the national debt will increase with reform and without reform. I'd like to hear a sound debate about the rate of that growth if we don't reform our entitlement programs now.

It's food for thought.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Picturing Themselves

This is an excellent post about women and their role in the Iranian Revolution from Tehran Bureau.

Women are so prominent in this movement, from mothers surrounding the men during protests to shield them from police and the attacks from the basij. There's a strong feminine energy here.

I'm still following this. I hope everyone else is too.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I don’t think I knew it until I was washing the dishes this morning that I’ve been mad at Michael Jackson for years about Billie Jean.


Like everyone, I was listening to Thriller on repeat upon hearing of his death. In 1982, washing the dishes was one of my household chores. I was eight. Billie Jean was playing on the radio and I finally listened to words of the song and got it.

Who was Billie Jean anyway?

Somewhere, the synapses crossed and I think my eight-year-old brain rationalized that Michael, like my dad, or gave my dad a reason to pretend that I wasn’t actually his daughter.

The first time I called my father daddy, he looked me square in the eyes and told me never to call him daddy because I wasn’t his daughter. I understood and didn’t understand simultaneous. Because I looked like him. I had a space in my teeth like he did. No one on my mother’s side, including my mother had a space between their teeth. Their teeth were perfect. I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t. I think I got angry, because I knew it didn’t logically make sense. He certainly acted like he was my father, so why say some ish like that? Then I thought it must be because it made him feel old to have a daughter. Then I felt some sympathy. I mean no one wants to feel old. It smelled like ben gay, collard greens and mold. At least that’s how I imagined old to feel.

Everyone and their mother loved Billie Jean. I couldn’t tell if it was because it was a good song or simply because of Michael’s deft gravity reversing soft shoe push across the stage and then subsequent toe stand as a ballet dancer. I didn’t like it. I actually hated the song until I made myself love it. I listened to the words, the heavy blues guitar riff, that sounded full of a world of deep delta troubles. Now I can hear Muddy Waters all up in and out of Billie Jean. I’m not sure how as a child I understood the meaning of the song. Maybe it was the hook, ‘the kid is not my son.’ The contradiction in the narrative, ‘eyes were just like mine. Wanna dance on the floor and around.’ The hazy hindsight of one-night stands and adult relationships stirring some rationalization in eight year old me.

In other words, I was pissed. I knew where babies come from. My mom was pregnant with my sister and my father was around and then not. And in the summer of 1982 while I was doing the dishes, he tried to teach me how to moonwalk. He seemed to have grasped the mechanics. It was a soft shoe push backwards. Small steps. All we needed was the smoothed and scuffed surface of the kitchen floor. Maybe a little of the soapy suds from the sink where I was doing the dishes to help with our torsion, motion backwards, like Armstrong. ‘That was how he did it,’ my father, excuse me, Gerald, explained. I did get it for all of five minutes maybe less. Under a heavy bass guitar blues riff, pushing my one foot after the other backwards, a small step for mankind with this man who looked like me and was not of me, yet was everything to me.

Now I realize it may seem weird to be secretly resentful of Michael for a song. Even odder to me that this is thing I’m thinking about today on the fortieth anniversary of the moon landing.

I guess this is how memory works. Fragments of the familiar link back together in space.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

MJ Legacy, Ctd.

For those of you aren't aware, Jay Smooth's Illdoctrine video blog often offers the most insightful discourse on issues and themes in the hip hop world as well as pop culture.

His most recent post about MJ offers a deconstruction I haven't heard too many places except in the comfort of my circle of friends, artists, writers.

It seems to me that mainstream media and its pundits, missed an opportunity to examine this hyper-reality that has manifested in our culture over the past 25 years or so. We watched Michael for nearly four generations in my family. You can't say that about many pop stars. And I don't think any of us thought about the kind of spiritual and emotional toll that takes on a person who is constantly watched, living in a meta-reality, between worlds, personal and public.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Disambiguation, Redux

Toni Morrison shared some wisdom about language, culture, and writing at a talk about a month or so ago. I've watched it a few times. She hit some nerves for me that have been swimming in my head for years. Blogs, Twitter, SMS text messages, hyperlinks... all of these things that allow us to move and share information faster, regardless of quality is unprecedented.

Watching some of the opening statements for the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, I found myself returning again to this video:

The key point? There's a difference between discourse and information. Literature, more specifically the novel, in this age will still act as a vehicle to organize information and human emotion. As Morrison says, 'the novel can be a body of knowledge.'

I'm still processing, sorting, filtering, organizing...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

BET Doesn't Care About Black People

'George Bush doesn't care about Black people.' That was Kanye West. Remember? He blurted that out in a moment of honest frustration with the Bush Administration's blunder at providing relief to victims in the Gulf. Network media cut to commercial fast during the Hurricane Katrina benefit. We all know what happened or didn't happen after that.

Fast forward to 2009 and the BET Awards. We all in the African American community had great expectations for a proper send up for Michael Jackson from America's only Black network.

*Le sigh*

Writer and Comedian, Elon James White, goes where no prominent African American leader or entertainer will ever go.

This is effin' hilarious.