Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Measurements -- Revised

Today, I left work after an hour of professional development (a series of classes run by one of the school's literacy coaches, math coaches or assistant principals) with a colleague that is 10 years younger than me. And that is cool. We got onto the train and he gave me a much clearer landscape to contemplate.

He knew the former profession of some of the other male teachers. There are only 5 in the whole school. The most organic of us used to be involved in heavy industry, building parts for large engineering feats, like damns and generators. He is very cool.

To hear this story from my colleague was a glimmer of hope concerning the types of conversations I could have with my colleagues, but also showed astuteness of the young 20-something. Sometimes I wonder what the ultimate end is to such astute observations. In America, I believe it is marginalization. You have to somehow buy into the consumerist ideology to benefit from it, or just sit on the sidelines. You gotta be in it to win it, that is for sure.

"He is a blue collar worker, so he comes in does his work and goes" the young teacher said.

I need to learn to take teaching in this manner, despite the age of the students, the level of the students, or the subject matter. And for a moment I had a flashback to some crazy discussion with academics and bibliophiles concerning that certain other "other" -- the worker.

I guess the tyranny of the well intentioned missionary -- may they be actual religious zealots or actual Marxist zealots -- never dies with white folk. The program I entered has a modus operandi and under-pinning that is the same as the Peace Corp in Africa except it is aimed at the inner city. And I guess in our quest to assimilate into the folds of American society, some of us black folk have replaced our own corneas with theirs. And in their quest to help, some liberal white folk can not forgive us for being successful or not falling into their idea of what collards/coloreds should be. In other words, to help is to be a black missionary in the great sea of white missionaries that have helped other minorities assimilate into American society. But to say that you don't need their help places everything on edge.

I wonder how long it will be before I see clearly. I am the only black male teacher in the school. I was the only black male in my publishing office 10 years ago. It just seems to be fate in someway.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Beyond the Blog


I have had a total change in latitude over the last couple of months. I now work in the South Bronx as an educator working specifically with the Latino and West African communities.

So, on top of the culture shock, the mistaken identities (a couple of people have called me Habibi in the bodegas that I have thought were Spanish, at other places people have not bothered to stop speaking Spanish to me), the graduate work (it is turning out to be a lot of busy work, observations, and self-reflecting . . . who knew that a formal education as a pedagogue would turn into a deep Freudian/Saussurean examination of self and signs) and moments of sheer exhaustion I have not been able to write a descent blog entry. In fact, I feel like my blogging brain cells have been rearranged yet again. I find myself asking the man in the mirror "What is blogging?" and "Are you a writer or an educator or a linguist?" Each time the clock is ticking very loudly and I have very little time to answer my own questions.

The other problem with my blogging is that I am too busy critiquing my own teaching style, or observations concerning a gigantic administration, that I have very little energy to switch voices and talk about all the other things that come and go in my life. Add in not having a computer, and navigating our country's medical system with a chronic disease and it is amazing that I have a second in my mind to write these lines.

So, let this be the announcement that I am back to talk about this stupid campaign schedule that has all the talking heads going crazy, but not much of anyone else in my circles. But damn, Obama has some big balls, he is going after Hillary like a preying mantis. Let this be the announcement that I am back to talk about Heroes, The Ultimate Fighter and Project Runway. Let this be the announcement that I am back to talk about my fight to conquer my bills, act like I am grown, get interested in the plight of (fill in the blank), and finish some work that I started.

First step. French tutor.
It happens once a week for 2 hours.
I forgot how complicated the verbs can really be.
It has never been more apparent that "tenses" and not just "words" can have different meanings too.

I have many blogs to catch up on concerning reading.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

On the Contemplation of a Watermelon Caipirinha and a Brioche Recipe I Do Not Have Time to Make

I have been so busy starting up my new gig that I have been unable to post. My thoughts are always elsewhere. Sometimes on a morsel of a larger fiction that I am contemplating; or, in joyous spurts, the fiction of my life; or, when I am feeling a little overwhelmed or just down, the realities of my life, which glare at me from every window of the 5 train. They mingle in the sunlight when I am above ground.

Funny, all thoughts abandon me at the Gunhill station as I make my way to Bainbridge.

Now, the reality of life is rising at 4:30 am to be at work by 8:00 am. We won't even talk about night school and the second job.

So, again I am forced to give a video. A favorite. It is from the Geiko commercial. I think the band is from Norway. I got a post today by the way from a friend who is a music producer. He is working in Sweden for a month.

That will be me again.


One day soon.

Till then.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Labor Day Weekend

I have to work this weekend. But there are parties on the horizon (Labor Day Weekend is the second New Year's Eve Party for those in academia), plus a Harlem apartment is in my sights. I guess the Bronx will have to wait for now.

But I found this article in The New York Times today. I guess Condoleeza Rice and Peas will have to look for a position elsewhere after her tenure as Secretary of State is up. Maybe she could do the MLA Conference in November.

"Reading Bush Foreign Policy as Post-Post Modern Literature"

What other courses could she teach?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Saudade Revisited

Cero commented on my Saudade comments found on Beached Bones. I am printing my response here.

Nostalgia that is the word! But that word does not translate now does it. The whole problem is that Saudade, as a state of being, is the substantive representation of ‘an act’ in the continuous tense by implication, not to mention it is “sweet” by connotation.

Saudade is a state that is far more ethereal than Nostalgic or Nostalgia, which are both more concrete. You can buy Nostalgia in a Time Life Series of CD's at 3:30 in the a.m., or even eat it at Crackle Barrel at lunch time (I interviewed with their corporate representative at a job fair once. It was crazy. All the companies in Nashville just examined me, one Christian publisher asked for my pastor’s name, another Christian publisher’s human resource person just held in a giggle when I showed her my resume . . . but I digress).

Nostalgia is not an individual experience; we can all experience it in someway.

I do not know Portuguese very well, but saudade is an important word no? That is the problem I think I have with cross-cultural studies -- without a certain linguistic mastery, things kind of fall to pot . . . in a certain genteel and polite Afro-dandy way.

But yes, Saudade leading into a discussion of Nostalgia and the Post-Modern is very interesting. I am going to come back to you on that. I have a problem with the absolutism of the Post-Modern theorist in practice; no holes are allowed to be punched, so I think I cut myself off from many useful ideas in the end. And in the end, I have cut myself off from ever really feeling comfortable enough to finish a doctorate based on theoretical methods. I have been looking for a safe strait in navigating that ocean.

Damn! I used the word “useful” in that jargonized way. I vowed never to do that in writing after I finished my first MA.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Second Chances

The picture above is of Ganymede. Ganymede is the "water bearer" other wise known as Aquarius in the Zodiac. He was seduced by Zeus and made the chef attendent to the king of the gods. It is my sign.

There is a movie called Second Chances that deals with race and religion in a very interesting way. OK. Maybe not that interesting. I just know of the director from childhood and my mom plays bridge with his aunt.

I liked the film staring and directed by Jeff Carr. In some odd way, I think I am going through the same sort of wave of second chances. I think it was that sentence "Report to the Bursar's office, pick up your bill, get it validated and . . . "

Hell, I have not heard that sentence in 14 years. Two phases of seven, a cycle is repeating and resetting and repeating again,. . . and I am spinning out of my Saturn Return . . . only to return to 1993 . . . no, make that 1992. Interesting.

To be a student, in America, like this again.

Friday, August 17, 2007

And Now a Message from Our Sponsors . . .

Per Ms. E and Malaika Adero. I think you should check it out.
For further information on the event check out

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Looking at the Boys and My Private Fangora

Love, Cinnamon and Cloves, in the Morning
So, this morning I am surfing through my Myspace page and drinking coffee while listening to "Labios Compartidos" by Mana, which is the sexiest song I have heard in a while. It is more of a Gypsy Kings manly sexy Latin tune as opposed to an Eros Ramazzotti lyric which makes me giddy and happy like a 15-year-old girl speeding towards Jones Beach in a VW bug with no air conditioning. So I guess that this is a signal that some form of normalcy if returning to my life. I probably should enjoy this break because I have only the rest of this week before graduate school returns as well as my new nine to five.

The Needle and the Knife
I will finally be insured by the end of the month, but the havoc my finances have gone through in the past 2 years is enough to put me back on the drip. I still have to pay out of pocket for a while and wait for reimbursement. I just don't know where the money will come from. Sometimes as a teacher and instructor I just don't feel like a professional person. Security is just very, very shoddy. It is a shame what people go through in this country. Embarrassing to everyone, including the doctors that have no explanation as to how I am to pay for the care I require; and, it is embarrassing to me to have to ask for charity. Why the hell did I go to college?

Sorry, just venting. It really is a horror show.

The Wayward Spiral of the Dead Dowager Empress
I was sent an article this morning by a Cuban friend about Brooke Astor's funeral. The New York Times article ends by saying that the funeral is beyond the end of an era -- there has not been a Mrs. Astor in New York City for the last 150 years. Pity. Growing up I remember this noblesse oblige mentality as being the equivalent of corporate brand recognition at the end of all the PBS programs that I watched. I used to wonder about the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts. I used to visualize them in my head as people running the world, still dressed in an Edwardian fashion tailored so tightly you would think that they were stitched into the upholstery of their Victorian furniture. I don't know how I made that association, but I did.

There is some sense of horror to this situation. There are no replacements to that world. The rich have changed and New York has changed again. Or, maybe the horror is my placement in the situation, I am witnessing the closing of one century and the dawning of the next and with that comes a hyper-awareness that this new fortress being built is one I do not recognize. New York is becoming Chicago, a Broadway lite poster board replica of the Death Star, as menacing as a prequel without the funk of the 70's. With each passing day and step I open the paper to see one more building bought, one more neighborhood striving to maintain after the closing of a Copeland's or a CBGB's, and now with the death of Mrs. Astor, the erasure of a certain aesthetic. Forget the Astor 400, it is the way old money made me feel as a writer, a viewer of the arts, a purveyor of Lincoln Centers tall columns before Balanchine died. Maybe I am still playing catch-up to that New York, because I came to the city for far different reasons as a boy (hip-hop) and now am returning to it hurt by what I didn't know about the legend of the philanthropists and their pack of muses. I should have payed more attention, but my head was in a whole different stack of books -- maligned by race, class and gender, the foundations of the city never touched my fingertips.

I am making up for it now though. And there is more to report.

Oliver's Morbid Twist
My father has always been good for giving me the most unbelievable speeches while I am in the car. I guess I can't escape. I have always been a reclusive child -- at least around my parents. My grandmother was who I sought out. And in certain ways that has continued to adulthood. Even watching my father return from work in his grey suit sets off something in me concerning expectations and values that is incongruent. I am not like him in so many ways, but I am exactly like him in all the other ones.

It is as if my father is unable to speak for hours on end in the house, but once we are alone in the car he digs into me, or imparts a gem of knowledge, or makes a confession. It is like when I finished my stint at my HBCU and I was riding with my father on the New Jersey Turnpike heading north. In middle of his tyraid, as my 21-year-old mind drifted to the reeds growing in the toxic swamps beyond the oil refineries my father said, "It is all corrupt from top to bottom." I remember pushing my dreads away from my ear in some sort of physical response to the words I were pretending to ignore.

My father was in his fiery mode of speaking. I can count the number of times the man has been in a church, but the passion in his voice is something that I have inherited for sure, just as I witnessed my paternal grandmother siting in her chair with her cane using "the voice" at points of frustration or when instructing my younger cousins to pull up their pants , then coyly asking if them if they need her to buy them a belt.

"It is totally corrupt son. The entire system."

And I sat their in my new found righteousness thinking something odd with my father. As time has gone on and I have transformed from dread bean pie eating collegiate, to insecure graduate student, to secretively sexually liberated night walker, to naive office worker, to wise instructor, to just not giving a shit I realize that my father was simply trying to protect me. And that conversation concerning corruption is one of two different speeches I actually remember out of the hundreds my father felt he could embark on as soon as we jumped on the New Jersey Turnpike at exit number 9A.

My father's words have never rung so true as when I read the New York Times article concerning the bribery charges and subsequent confession of New Orleans councilman Oliver Thomas. The disappointment that I am feeling oscillates between despair and disbelief. This indictment hurts me worse than the Quincy Troupe affair a couple of years ago (well, that didn't really hurt, that was just human folly). New Orleans is without governance and I am wondering if there is any order into the investigations. Those council people who are disappearing seem to be disproportionately black, just as Operation Tennessee Waltz swooped up several black elected officials in Tennessee. But in the end, the ball lies at the feet of Thomas and all of his infamous alumni. Conspiracy theory or not, New Orleans is suffering from an attitude concerning its public contracts and rights as being part and parcel of private funds accessible to elected officials. And, on top of that, the most articulate and visible personality representing the disenfranchised in this terrible fiasco of the post-Katrina picture show is now gone. Oliver Thomas officially stepped down from his post, and it is effective immediately.

His absence was felt by me just as instantaneously.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Reading List for the Down Trodden but Hopeful Hearted in All Matters of Love

Right now I am staring at the blank page. It has been a couple of weeks and just as I finished that piece on Marie Antoinette by Sophia Coppola, I started thinking about my writing in a much different way. I contacted old friends from the "industry" and started to hope for a lunch here and there. I also received word of a journal run out Paris, so I felt my writerly self and my concentration on French verbs congealing into a proper project -- a true transformation. Now after a couple of weeks of job preparation and learning how to navigate a bureaucracy that has to be one of the largest in the country, I am back to square one, so to speak.

That vision of my time and writing is different now. It is slowly starting to settle in on my psyche that I am in the New World, where I am not an ex-patriot. New York, for all of its international appeal is much different than the streets and avenues that cross each other like a dying matriarch below 14th street, and the perfectly kept bodies and mobility of Bloomberg's Mecca in the east 50's. That is the transient New World, rouged in new money and Hermes cologne. New York is its children I am starting to learn. All one million of them. Many of them multi-lingual and trapped in a world where cognitive linguistic communication stops on the surface level of all things. Solely spoken Spanish, half learned English from the streets, snippets from various advertisers and newspapers are creating a weird pidgin dish of French speaking West Africans, Mexicans, Dominicans and Chinese dialects. It is a world full of its own commerce, beliefs and norms. I am just starting to wonder how I am going to elevate my students' respect for their mother tongue and English so they are interested in learning the academic language required for them to master both languages. Right now I only see our American democracy concentrating on the pre-eminence of English with very little regard to the advantages and complexity of other languages. My assessment at this point is that we are producing adults who are functionally illiterate in 2 languages because of the neglect of our system to address children who may very well be the first in their families to received formalized education. It is evident in the number of teenagers who are unable to talk about language using the 8 parts of speech in very rudimentary descriptions of how they form a sentence.

So, I am wondering about this French lesson I started 7 weeks ago when I was 20 pounds heavier. It is already giving way to Spanish in the restaurants, in the bodegas, at the corner grocer and at my local dive where I enjoy 5 dollar plates of food and beer. French is already giving way to Hispaniola as a whole.

There was that night when I sat on a giant blanket in a Bronx park drinking a Heineken and a Dominican friend talked about crossing into Haiti on a truck and having to turn back. It was all to much. The way he paused, took off his hat and wiped his face of sweat made me embarrassed -- all this talk of the Creole world in the wake of a horror that defies all suffering. The difference between erudition and witnessing never was more apparent.

"We are all part Haitian. We are from the interior. We are near the border. We are the Dominicans with the most soul." the other friend added.

I remember the sky being so beautiful as twilight started to turn the green trees black and the drink of choice switched from beer to cognac.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Bloody Sunday


I love Sunday mornings.

I think it is my favorite day of the week.

Just Sunday morning.

(Dinah Washington Sunday Morning,

not Etta James Sunday morning).

I have not been blogging because I have just had a house dropped on my head. This summer is my formal but unorganized introduction to applied linguistics. So far I have gone through 3 weeks of graduate school, which has been great in terms of meeting people with similar experiences as me. The number of world travellers in my classes is comforting, and so is that collective and uneasy culture shock that lingers with us from 6 years in Thailand, 9 months in Brazil, or a brief love affair in Japan after finishing up university in Hong Kong. We all seem to have itchy feet.

The feat of applying certain linguistic concepts (These concepts are not really related to the type of stuff I did 14 years ago with cultural theorists, it is more concerned with function. It is the end product of a certain pedagogical analysis that looks at both the surface structures and deep structures found in learning a sequence of patterns.) is far harder than actually learning it. The majority of my students are Spanish speakers, and so are the majority of bilingual instructors in the program. I believe I am the only fluent German speaker, but I feel that my Deutsch skills are waning as time goes by. I speak fine, but my ability to use more cognitive skills in translating a text or reading academic writing (always hard in German) seems to be seeping into the Hudson.

After certification, the age of my possible students may range from five to 20, and many may never have had a formal education. This basically means that they have never sat at a desk all day in their entire lives, nor have they received information in such a manner. On top of that, their intelligence may lie elsewhere, which reminds me of the kids form Appalachia in my first grade class who could tell you the name of trees and birds as if they were reading a book printed on the blue sky. Or friends of mine who can make music with the ease and solace of a confectionerie's solitary mistress mixing and rolling truffles with a sticky right hand.

So, needless to say, the field work that I have been participating in has been interesting. I am just afraid that my artistic endeavours are suffering because I am starting to break down language and codes into very basic parts. The social problems of signs and signifiers is a subject that comprised the majority of my Infamous University experience; but studying it as a set of required verbal exercises and orthographic markings meant for providing all the neccesities of life to my young students make me feel as if I have walked into the ritual of language. I am working with the most basic of human instincts, which is to communicate -- I am learning to relate to the human experience, not as a full grown man, but from the eyes of a child. To apply theory in this way is rounding out my world and pushing my own intellect into other dimensions. Salt of the Earth. Soil. Tiling. Chocolate Ding Dongs. Hall Passes. Bells. Factor Trees. Crips. Bloods. Flagging. Testing. Testing. And More Testing.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sextidi, 5 Messidor, Année 215

Tête à Tête

Lately, I have been taking Gaulish odysseys in the mist of starting up a new blog, attending to required reading, lamenting over an unfinished field work assignment, surviving a job interview in the South Bronx, going to my survival job, battling a predatory financial institution and visiting that infamous hip-hop magazine where I set my eyes on a friend I have not seen in 14 years. Then he was a bald music critic/editor. Now he looks like a curly haired surfer, but some how just as young and spry despite a childlike girth that must be chasing him into his 40's.

I have not been blogging because I have been clumsily wanking my way through a French grammar review that is doing much to recharge my memory, but still leaves the language as a literal one for me and not a verbal one (which is the exact opposite of German, when I look into my deepest heart). There is something about the way the words are represented versus how they are spoken that is cause for deep concentration. Spelling in French is like walking through a minefield. Syntax seems easy enough once one can remember that what one says may be represented orthographically by 3 or 4 apostrophes, 3 accent marks and a circumflex.

The other thing that has been pulling me away from my blog has been all this New Orleans/Haitian bonding that is happening in my personal life. Chief among my crescent shaped cyber world nexus has been Professor Zero. For the past couple of days we have been in a joint diatribe of all things perilous about both academic and amorous life. Flirting, Lacan, political double speak, making a fetish of the oppressed and the different forms of Spanish spoken in the Americas have all been the soup du jour at one point or another. It has been "Oh, so middle class" in certain respects, as we look across the Gulf of Mexico into Venezuela, or into the bayou brackish waterways of young Cajuns studying English, or talking about the almost frozen Southern mentality that still clings to the first Reformation in a Afro-Anglo creole ritual that turns Cero and I into silent monkeys, able only to vulgarly gesticulate to one another our desire to add a red pepper to an iron clad Dutch oven. Thanks Cero.

According to American Zombie's blog the collapse of New Orleans' social services and fabric have brought much heartache to the residents and I imagine much unwanted affirmation for many Gulf Coast communities that they are not really a part of “America”, just located within its boundaries. The feeling that "we are different down here" is mumbled in Cajun and spicey versions of English, all dialects simply chalking up this current Bush era of neglect as a continuation of the same ole same ole (In fact I have an aunt that can't stand to have such conversations about Laura and George, it makes her physically disgusted.). Gentrification may just pave over the entire city devouring the old Creole houses. It seems to me that this is the beginning of the second American invasion which the master narrative has set to save the city. And if this New Orleans is to be Disneyfied through privatization; then, the villains in the eyes of the prince's white horse are the poor and the blacks. Nagin, who is suppose to be the prime custodian of New Orleans’ citizenry, and promote models of civic duty and responsibility is the darkest of wizards I suspect. Regardless of which side of the mirror you stand, New Orleans has been neglected, and its incestuous politics have disenfranchised the population to the point that they are now at the mercy of the sea. I just wonder how long this will transpire, and if the wild crime wave will become worse before it becomes better.

Nouvelle Orleans the lifestyle is free. Its history is un-replicated in any other latitude this far North; but, maybe all of this reading and speaking of about the Creole world is a certain sign of its physical demise in the United States. Maybe it is spirit converting concrete to fable and myth, ensuring its survival in some linguistic double helix, which may be unlocked like a flies tell-tale proteins in a lump of amber. Or, maybe it is the sign of a rebirth, a marching return by all of Louisiana's descendants to claim the bon vivant mantle of a grandfather who made white liquor in a secret spot just beyond a moss bordered pasture or an adventurous grandmother who danced in red on top of the pews one Saturday afternoon when no one was looking, whistling a jig catching a spirit with a striked match. We are at the crossroads. We are at the cross.

And so . . . that is what happened to me a couple of nights ago when I could not sleep and my ancestors kicked me out of my bed again (this is becoming a more than perennial occurrence). While channel surfing, I thought it beyond serendipitous that I caught part of a documentary on New Orleans music and culture called Make it Funky. I saw footage of the Mardi Gras Indians and Allen Toussaint before I returned to my lumpy bed.

From Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, to Alejo Carpentier's Explosion in the Cathedral, to a sweet woman named Marie from Port-au-Prince, to studying French grammar in between my hectic schedule, I feel like I am migrating towards some other world. It constantly beats underneath the floor boards, beckoning me to loosen a couple of planks and descend through a hoodoo worm hole, to emerge in a more gentle and relaxed Atlantis.

“Am I comfortable in English?" is an unspoken question in constantly in my mind and heart. Only one other person has suspected the possibility that I was born with a misplaced language in my head.

Marie, the Fortunately Misplaced Interlude

At night, I exit my job and sit under the night sky that has become summer with an unexpectedness I vaguely remember not seeing since the break between my junior and senior year of college. You just wake up one morning and there is your life and all its faults appreciated by everyone, critiqued by no one. The difference now is that I am alone. There is no need for a jacket, and the humidity has leveled off just after the buses have stopped running, so I have no problem talking to Marie for those couple of minutes before my ride comes, and before her boyfriend arrives to pick her up.

Marie is from Port-au-Prince and ten years my junior. She comes from a neighborhood in the west of that fantastical and anagogical city. Marie's voice is very deep and eloquent and her accent is off register making it hard to place. Maybe Marie is from French West Africa, maybe Reunion Island, maybe some village in Dominica or Suriname. Each movement Marie makes with her fingers, while preparing inventory, is happening with strict purpose so that her mind can wonder elsewhere, maybe it is the floral arrangement she is doing for a wedding, maybe it is a conversation with her father about a Haitian first family covered in a local Creole radio talk show. The way Marie walks is erect and alert like the school girls in Ghana or Antigua, the way Marie holds her purse is in the manner of a woman of means.

At night we both sit on the same grey brick embankment that holds mulch and shrubs that are eclipsed by the boring grey structure of the storehouse. We then continue the small talk that we started days back when I uttered bad French to her, and she giggled. Later she confessed that she spoke French only in school, and felt fluent only in Kreyol. She also confessed that she does not read the written Kreyol with its li's and k's, they are extraterrestrial to her. "I spoke French in school, Kreyol everywhere else and studied Spanish and Latin, though I do not see why we had to take Latin." she said to me in a mass of jumbled boxes and women chattering. “The Kreyol I speak from Port-au-Prince is different from everywhere else.” she continued, like a city girl ripped to the suburbs of a Northern land.

I brought a book on Afro-Creole Louisiana and we studied the songs together with great interest as she told me where the words were different in Haitian dialect, in representation, form and cadence. She stared at it like a puzzle whispering to me later that she doesn’t read much, just French romance novels. I sipped on my watered down red soda and took her confession to heart, books make life very complicated.

Each day our conversations would become more intimate in details. Because I did not want to talk to her about her Haitian-American boyfriend who does not speak Kreyol, I talked to her about Haiti. "How do you say Aribonte?” I asked in the middle of her impromptu lesson concerning the regions and provinces of Haiti. "L'Artibonte" she corrected me, but she told me that no one says that, they just say "Bonte". We talked about Jacmal one day. She said that she loved it somehow, though she has never been there. She said that she is going to go there next time she returns to Port-au-Prince. I told her that I had heard of it and wanted to go.

"Yes, that is where the whites are."

"Excuse me." I said

"I mean the people that are light in color. They are not white. They are beautiful."

We both laughed.

I said mélange. She said mulate. I said class. She said en masse. I spoke of Boyer and Petion. She stared. She walked away to the back room commenting on my knowledge, I told her I had few people to talk to about what I know, just academics.

Later that night, she touched on a level of violence in Haiti I could only surmise before from details in the New York Times. Her voice was of regret. "I do not believe." she said in reference to violence and the folk religion. She talked about the beauty of those that practice it in West Africa and other ceremonies here in America, but she also hinted at the violence of other communities in her homeland. She touched on the prejudice she has felt against her person due to her "perceived" beliefs.

Our conversations often begin with the beginning of each others stories with us not telling each other the endings.

"You have not been married?" She asked. I told her "No, I have been close, but no. “I stared at the moon on this night, and Marie's voice seemed so honest and pleasant that for a split second I felt like a wounded soldier being tended too. These feelings of some sort of affection are so few and far between in my modern world of genderized power negotiation that I could not help but notice that solitude with a woman on a warm night is something that has evaded me for some time.

"What happened?" she asked, and the most extraordinary thing happened, all of my disappointments in love collapsed into one, and though I was telling her about my latest, I was truly telling her about all of them. She replies, "Don't worry, it happens." Just then my ride pulled up, and as always I leave first, saying good night, aware of her staring at me as I walk away, and I am aware that my body is communicating to her that I am leaving for some loveless limbo that is the basement underneath my father's house.

Madame Capet

Daniel Mendelsohn's astute review of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette in the November 30, 2006 issue of The New York Review of Books starts out by describing the type of woman Sofia Coppola has found fascinating enough to place at the center of all three of her movies. She is the privileged woman who finds herself in a world of foreign signs and symbols who must somehow negotiate her way out adolescence into womanhood. Some succeed and some do not (that is my assessment, but is there any way of measuring success and failure in such transitions, transition happens regardless if we 'succeed' or not). Because everything is so well written in the NYRB, I always settle into the critique with some over-arching expectancy. I feel as if I am receiving an education due to precise quotes from sources far beyond my post-colonial, handsomely erudite, and patch-worked required readings. I love to hear the writerly voice of a biographer or geologist talking about a 1930's New England mining town ravaged by copper in a well, or a 19th century émigré who must some how settle for winter at the Danish coast because of a decree viciously enforced after a czar was blown to bits.

Kirsten Dunst's performance as Marie Antoinette is by far one of the best I have seen for this time period. If there is any fault with her portrayal of Marie Antoinette, it is the eschewed context in which the director chooses to place the last Queen of France. Glenn Close's Marquese de Merteuil in Dangerously Liaison is for sure the best depiction of 18th century debauchery and female modification in all its physical and psychological baroque bondage; but, Dunst must manage a far more broad and nuisanced portrayal of Marie Antoinette. The woman was truly an invention created by the convergence of the European states. She was a rebellious teenager that tittered back and forth on the fault line that public life and the royal protocol demanded of her. Her crucifixion, ridiculed name, and slandered personality are parts of a larger world around her, and in the end the movie does not leave the audience with a greater understanding of the mob or its inciters, we are left with a cloistered soul peeled from the canvas of a painting; therefore, the audience is only able to see parts of Marie Antoinette out of context. It is due to this wavering juxtaposition of narrative success and historical failure that Coppola's flaws become a beauty mark. She doesn't want us to see it all.

The movie opens with the 14-year-old Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria (Antoine) waking up from her palace bedroom in Vienna and being summoned by her mother the Empress Maria Theresa to receive the news that she has been betrothed to the Dauphin of France Louis-Auguste. This wedding was to bind the Bourbons to the Hapsburg and bring a great European Union, which may well have been seen in the same light as the current one, in terms of diplomatic possibilities for the continent, but limited by the conflicts of the time.

From there, Coppola’s film takes us down a winding staircase of "this" reality, but does not give the audience the proper perspective on the expectations of this marriage. Coppola's tome of reference, Marie Antoinette, The Journey by Antonia Frazer, deserves a close reading, simply to put into perspective Coppola's artistic choices. On the surface these choices are creatively sound and at points ingenious. Marianne Faithful as Maria Therese is perfect. Her voice is so deep and dark, with a placement of words that is so precise that one is given the impression that the Empress never speaks unless every syllable is thought out. Faithful impresses on her empress's opulent vocal chords the power to manifest into the physical world whatever she conveys. Absolute power is generative. If you don't want it, then don't say it.

Molly Shannon as Madame Victoire and Shirley Henderson as Madame Sophie embolden the court of Versailles with all the sly gossip and petite intrigue that in many respects just turns into a family joust under the hideous insignia of "the French" court. These castings were also surprising choices. Shannon and Henderson are slightly out of place in their jumbled English. One cannot help but think that the slide remarks in French must have been more cruel and complicated to decipher in the gluttonous ennui of court. Again, this is magic, because the cruel bridge club remarks strike up the condescending pettiness of their rank, which in the end is without power. They can do nothing but gawk and draw lines in the sand.

Judy Davis as Comtesse du Noailles is another superb touch that garnered a great height in the plot and portrayal precisely because Coppola decided not to develop the Comtesse any further into the story. The Comtesse du Noailles was the First Lady of Honor to Marie-Antoinette and nicknamed Madame Etiquette. In the movie she stands at the French-Austrian border ready to bang the young Archduchess Antoine of Austria into a Dauphine with a stern lip. In another scene, Comtesse du Noailles explains the customary dressing ritual performed by the dauphine’s ladies-in-waiting as prescribed by Versailles. Davis curtsies with a dip and slight sway in the back, demonstrating the strain of the morning salutations; but, with a tight rhythmic arch that steals the scene and reminds one of an Alvin Ailey choreographed step, or the relinquished pain of a tired seamstress, or Hagar quenching her thirst at Zam Zam (I wanted to scream Work Bitch!).

Other actors are cast with an eye towards perfection. Asia Argento as Madame Du Barry is haunting. She is callous and uncouth, but ravishing in her exotic feathers and velvet dresses that weigh her down in ill bought prestige as the nimble Hapsburg child runs rings around her on the velvet ropes and catwalks of the palace. And Rose Byrne as the duchesse de Polignac is a head turner, as the strong vivacious proxy den mother of the Antoinette krew.

Coppola is fixated on recording life in Versailles and in many ways that is the best part of the film. She fleshes out the beautiful prison the palace is in a scene where Marie Antoinette ascends the steps from the garden to the doors of Versailles to resume her court life. The celluloid texture becomes wavy as if bombarded by the radiation of black asphalt. It is a metaphor, as the glitter of the Sun King becomes shockingly brilliant and the reality that life under the guise of rulership is just that -- a guise, exhausting, asphyxiating and debilitating, leaving the young Queen constantly parched and short of breath.

In order to exhale, Marie Antoinette's choices are clothes, parties and endlessly jovial hours with her girlfriends. Here we have some greater understanding of her choices, since decapitation and centuries of degradation have turned her into a neutral allusion to the uber-feminine like Cleopatra, Helen of Troy and Marilynn Monroe. Her exorbitant spending and decadent lifestyle are shown with great care by Coppola. And to watch the scenes involving shoes, wigs, gambling parties, masquerades, champagne, hemp and the lustful giggles of hide and seek is to watch a PG-13 version of Bob Guccione's Caligula.

Marie-Antoinette was not the first fashionista, but in terms of public figures, she was the first to carry a brand image as a both a debutant and a consumer. So in many ways, the marriage of pop music to the film is again an ornate and achronistic scarification. Historically, there is no way that the choices can fit, but in many ways, it enhances the scenes. As Marie-Antoinette and her husband return to Versailles after a night in Paris, the Dauphine’s hand is extended outside of the window as the northern light casts a shadow in the carriage. The scenary of the carriage ride and the Dauphine's extended hands are elongated by Bow-Wow-Wow's version of Fool's Rush In. The first time I saw this scene I thought it unwise to "waste" time on such a giddy female afterglow when history is marching full speed towards our very neutral hero and heroine. The second time I saw it, I really did see the beauty and mastery of Coppola's music and image, of the post-adolescent princess and New Wave vocalist co-habituating in the misty early dawn. Then cut, the King is sick, and the impending responsibilities of being sovereign fall into their laps. It all made them seem like fat cats feed to be slaughtered, pampered to be torn to bits, but in the meantime there are loves and leisure . . . and music.

But outside of this beauty was a corruptible future that is hard to grasp -- a world where everything would be turned upside down. The days of the week would be re-arranged into intervals of ten, the churches would be ripped open with looters turning chalices into pure gold, and the masses would participate in the first public hysteria induced by the fermented tit of ideology. As quiet as the secret is keep, life, liberty and fraternity are the first songs of our theoretical age. In my high school we looked at the Thermidorians with a condescending tone of folly. It was in the Bible belt, I was an American, to dismiss God and the European church where it all started (Protestantism), was a natural reflex.

In my opinion the complications of the times are still loss to Americans. To Coppola the tragedy and mass killings of the French Royals is more than compensated for by the palace, the carriage and the rows of slippers. Will our American imagination every construct a Europe that is different, that sees beyond its overly powdered noses? It all is represented so clearly by a conversation I had with a German friend. She talked very excitedly about a long lost American cousin and his family visiting her in Stuttgart. They were aghast to see that their family did not own a castle.

Foreshadowing was somewhat surpringly absent in this film concerning the last Queen of France, a figment of the state who was born Maria Antonia, lived as Marie Antoinette and died as Widow Capet, Prisoner 280. Nor in the performances do we have a sense of the mobs’ wavering and finally being saddened at the beheading of Madame du Barry, who was in hysterics on the day she was taken to Madame Guillotine. There she spoke the famous last words “Encore un moment, monsieur le bourreau, un petit moment” (Just one moment, Mr. executioner, one brief moment). Nor do we have an idea of the eventual fate of other characters such as the duchesse de Polignac who dies of breast cancer shortly after hearing about the death of Marie-Antoinette, with Victoire suffering the same fate years later, both of them forced into exile.

The chapel scenes where the Dauphine endures compulsory services with princesse Lambelle can be thought of as a foreshadowing of martyrdom. In real life the princesse Lambelle dies at the hands of the mob. She is raped and bludgeoned to death with hammer blows to the skull; her breasts are torn off and her severed head is paraded on a pike in front of the window of Marie-Antoinette at the Temple. Her loyalty to the Queen was her downfall; she refused to denounce the monarchy, but embraced the ideas of equality. Even the comic performance of Judy Davis as Comtesse de Noailles is sullen in the knowledge that in true life de Noailles went to the guillotine together with her husband, daughter-in-law, grand-daughter and niece on June 27, 1794.

Such a mystical and violent experience is hidden under powdered wigs and chromatic filters that give us pastel almonds and champagne dipped raspberries in abundance. Even the ending is golden, with a wonderful shot of the quirkily handsome Jason Schwartzman as Louis XVI re-assuring the queen that the rising sun is not part of a dream. One would assume that a fantastic phase of her life ended. When it comes to this simple closing scene, I agree with Daniel Mendelsohn’s observation concerning this beautiful game of Hollywood indie film house as practiced by Coppola and the murderous historical reality:” You’d never guess this that men’s lives – those of the Queen’s guards – were also destroyed in that violence; their severed heads, stuck on pikes, were gleefully paraded before the procession bearing the royal family to Paris.”

Months later the woman who launched haute couture would have her head served to the roaring public like a sacred calabash. Coppola’s Marie Antoinette deals with the girl but forgets the woman, and barely highlights the slanderous habits of the revolution, the masses, the court and our inaccurate allusions. The film is a breath of fresh air, but strangely drifts to an enchanted kingdom that only manifest itself in 80's New Wave love songs.


Paris Hilton would have been my natural casting selection for Marie Antoinette if she could act her way out of a Frosted Flake commercial. It is like Stephen Spielberg wanting Tina Turner to play Celie in The Color Purple; their experiences are a perfect match. Tina said no because it brought back too many memories. Paris Hilton is currently too busy living the life of Marie-Antoinette.

Hilton is royalty, unreasonably beautiful, and seems to inspire ridicule in the highest sense of the word. Her excesses and poor choices in dealing with the public follow the doomed dauphine as if she is practically slipping her feet into the snowy footprints of a princess lost in the snow. And what she has done to change fashion, notions of womanhood and public life may be noted with greater congruency by historians in the next century; but, I know that the cosmic umbilical cord has brought us Marie again. And, if we can not phantom 18th century notions of mob rule, it is only because we are not looking into the mirror.

The arrest, release, and re-arrest of the heiress are our Tower, our Temple, and our death procession. Robespierre took 3 hours to reach the platform in order to greet Louisette, during which he was probably pummeled with rotten vegetables and fish. In our cyber age, Paris Hilton was speed away in a matter of minutes to her vaulted room, but we poured our yellow watered basins and spat out our globs of cloudy saliva onto her image for many more hours than Robespierre. We have removed her crown and declared our intolerance to transgressions that could only have been surmised about people in the 18th century. Today all of a princess's debauchery is filmed and dried in the sun to the point that even Madame Hilton's shaved genitals appear before us like an announcement for a sale at Norstrom's. We do no have to pour through an archive of first hand accounts or royal medical records to decipher her dietary and social habits. What luck, in the 21st century, this Marie Antoinette Re-Incarnate does not have the common sense to treat her forays as a masquerade, she is bold face and everyone sees; so, there is no difference between the transgression and the public humiliation. A guillotine would just confuse the situation more.

Un Petit Moment, Madame Louisette

Unfortunately the ending of this piece is chopped off. I wanted to talk more about Alejo Carpentier’s Explosion in the Cathedral which deals with the historic events of the French Revolution and their influence on the New World. That will take up too much time because I must finish packing up my things and head back out to the Bronx this afternoon; and, after that I must get ready for more work. I am completing two graduate courses in seven weeks, plus student teaching, so time is dwindling down to one blog entry a week I am afraid.

Lately I have been accused of being too European in focus, which may or may not mean that I am not Afro-centric enough (cultural people) I can’t decide. It is starting to bother me for some strange reason. Well, the reason is not that strange, I have experienced this before when writing for hip-hop magazines. Some editorial staffs just thought I just didn't fit. Now it seems that with African-American culture vultures, my delving into France does not signify a Creole World or Créolité, it harkens to the Old World vogueing femme. I remember one other fellow graduate student saying to me years ago, that the people in the black pack at Infamous University just did not understand, nor did they want to except that people of color willed a certain level of privilege and power in Louisiana. She said this and just walked off the stage after getting her degree. I guess I am having the same sort of experience . . . again. If I said that I was trying to get back to Africa, I think I would have a much different reaction. I guess the Antilles and the Gulf of Mexico are just too close.

The cultural wars are always raging in one way or another, but I must say I have evolved enough to want to discuss the suffering of people regardless of race. Two hundred years ago, during the Thermidorian Reaction, people used go to the cemeteries for balls where the only pre-requisite for admittance was to have lost a family member. Men wore shirts with material that sometimes covered their heads, women adorned red ribbons around their necks. If a man fancied a woman he would signal to her with a finger motion slitting his throat, the woman would react by bowing her head. There is something so beautiful and sad about that use of non-verbal language. To acquiesce to desire while dancing on top of headless kin is divine. And to think that with the guillotine that uncertainty was shipped to Guadeloupe, Martinique, Haiti, French Guiana, Suriname and anywhere else French dominance had irrigated a little earth. And that is where I will pick up with Carpentier and his beautiful master piece some time in the near-ever-after. I am sorry, I have to go.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pause: The City: Amerika: Capital: Abstinence: The Coming Guillotine

I wish my life could be like this picture for once.

Right now, I am simply running from job to job, trying to figure out all the things that need to happen before September. I guess I just long for a slower lifestyle, as opposed to the road rage and gridlock I see everyday on the Route 27, US 1, and the Jersey Turnpike. Hmmmmm!

Yesterday, I sat in a co-worker's beat up car, and sped from Edison to New Brunswick to catch the Princeton local Suburban Transit bus which drops me off at my sub-division. There were three of us in the car. One co-worker was dealing with a boyfriend that was abusing her, the driver was dealing with the daily life of getting by on the small amount of money he had, and there was me, thinking about another drama that is amplifying itself into something I don't want.

Maybe I should take my father's advice and just sing the blues, which I guess is the same as a cigarette and a short shot of espresso. But there was something placid about the silence we all enjoyed despite the small talk. I felt like I was in the middle aged caravan lead by a wooden effigy of St. Martin heading out for a better life in the movie Flesh & Blood.

I am working on a larger blog entry, so that is why there has been a long absence on Unbeached Whale. And with the birth of Beached Bones, I think I am seeing this project a bit differently, which seems to happen from time to time. So, please bare with me, my cyber world, my literary world, and my physical world are not congruent; they are disfigured to the point that what I read and write finds no loci in the persons I speak to everyday.

Give me a day or two to entertain you once again.


For two years I have been working shitty jobs (America's insurance debacle started this journey). And, though many people have thought I have been absolutely crazy, or completely lost my mind, I must say that I never knew that this America existed. Or, rather I have not experienced it; life at $9.50 an hour is emotionally and spiritually confining.
Other observations:
-- Immigration is wrecking havoc with our pay scale.
-- Our national mythos regulates Spanish to a lower tiered language, which is a common occurance concerning dominate cultures and sub-cultures.
-- There is a sense of entitlement by this new crop of immigrants that falls somewhere between Ellis Island and the reclaiming of California, I am not sure how this will be addressed and I don't think it is really wrong.
-- The Achilles heel presented to the new arrivals deals with issues of race; the binary opposition of white and black are expanding to add a third. What will that mean? How can all these ideas I have be applied to current public policy? It is my blind spot.
-- The current disucssion of race includes very blatant accessments by everyone that the majority of blacks have low expectations and a poor work ethic. Sometimes I wonder if that is why people of all backgrounds ask if I am African, Dominican or Haitian when ever I entire the American work environment.

I hope to take these observations back with me to the academy, to my high school students, to my writing and to my artistic cohorts. This travel into the restaurant kitchens, retail stock rooms and sales floors is something that is harder for me to write about because of a certain air of upper middle class appearances instilled in me from childhood, but at the same time, as with my experience teaching mechanical and electrical engineering students, there is something liberating about what has just happened. I can somehow focus better on the task at hand, because reality has been re-defined and the fluff is being discarded . . . again.

I am going to stop here.

I have to finish my coffee and meet Ava for lunch in the city.

More later.

I promise "it" will included former promised subjects like adolescent fun and the story of Marie Antoinette.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ms. Honey

Today I saw evidence of colony collapse in bees, I have heard so much about. I got off at the Baychester Avenue stop on the 5 train and walked across the walkway that is suspended above Interstate 95. There was slopping of earth that started just as you crossed the traffic jam below. Perched on high was a tall bush, in full bloom, smelling sweet and delectable. At first I thought it was honeysuckle, but the flowers did not have a bugle shape, instead it had a small gardenia like setting, white and with a light petal count. The blossoms were small and in bunches.

On this tree there was not a single bee. I know that I was in the Bronx and all. But damn.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Beached Bones

I made an after-thought-blog.

It is kind of blog light, for when I don't have time to say what I want to say in a properly written construction.
I just looked in the mirror and decided to divided myself in a very Ego Trippin' sort of inspired moment of surrealistic Afro-Punk desperation in the middle of my Suburban/Subalternite Life.

Can you dig it?

It is called Beached Bones.

But it is cute.



Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Left Overs -- Notes from a Life Fiasco

The past couple of days have been pretty long and full of unwelcome trials. First, my basement is still jacked up, so I am back to living out of boxes and bags since the lower level of my father’s house was in all actuality my de facto apartment. The ant infestation is still here. Yesterday I saw a larger black ant, which in Tennessee harkens drought because they live so deep under the earth. I wonder what they mean in New Jersey. I guess I should Google it.

My cell phone is dead and I won’t have money to buy another one till the end of the week. My commute took 3 hours yesterday and my day “job” work schedule is in full conflict with my scheduled field work. I also found out that my summer stipend, besides not being enough, will be distributed in two parts, one in the middle of the term and the other at the end, which means I have to wait one month longer than I expected to get my hands on it. Plus yesterday my father and I had a very touchy conversation concerning relationships, as in what floats my boat . . . wink, wink.

Oh! And, how could I forget, my computer has caught something. I was battling it last Sunday night while I was doing work for my father’s business. My father insisted on the deadline, I just don’t think he understands the gravity of the technical situation. I am glad that he is my father and my boss, and not just my boss. He has a much lighter hand as a father.

So, on to publishing . . .

The last couple of weeks I have been picking up bits and pieces of information concerning the state of the book business. Since my stint as a consultant for Reader’s Digest Germany I have been out of the loop.

Exhibit #1
The New York Times printed an article 2 weeks ago dealing with the demise of the book review as a separate section in many major news papers. I enjoyed the article because it dealt fairly well with the marketing and advertising issues that are essential in print media and how books are fairing in an ever more capitalist game. It also touched on the electronic media’s effect on the reading public and featured a couple of literary sites and blogs.

It is funny. Seven years ago I worked for a bunch of old Jackie O stalwart New Yorkers, who while smoking their cigarettes, exhaled through their open brown toothed mouths, scratching their tweed shoulder, staring at the computer like it was shard of crystal dislodged from a frozen comet. I departed for Germany after that experience. Now the nightmare scenario they could have headed off if they had one ounce of business acumen is perilously breathing down their necks. I know book businesses that were still working on typewriters at the turn of this century. Now the high nosed reviewers of that same ilk do not only have to deal with the habits of their readership, but the decentralization of their deafening gaze concerning what is literature and what is not. Even the white boys are tired of the drivel of critics whose economy of praise is governed by their inflexible molars. The thing that worries me is that there is a grave possibility that underneath all of these mergers and reductions of publishing houses and distributors, the nurturing of writers, editors, sales representatives, publishers and designers is at stake. I am not sure if publishing can replicate its own environment. Who can make a living doing it?

Exhibit #2
So, I have been listening to my sources at Vibe/Spin. It is not a scandal, but from what I can surmise, Vibe is restructuring and it might loose a little bit of its edge. But this is just a hunch. I dare not get too detailed because I heard more about the business side of things, which, again in the new media industry, treats editorial as the “content” division which is interchangeable with television programming, websites and infomercials. So, we will have to see. The ouster of Mimi Valdez and the placement of Danielle Smith at the helm have not moved my fingers to the magazine rack. So, I doubt if there will be a change in editorial vision just yet, which will have me wanting to write an article for them.

Exhibit #3
Jstheater has put up some great blog entries on poetry and distribution. The entries speak for themselves and contain an excellent resources.

Brainstorm #1
I think that the small publishers that do poetry should send a proposal to Ingram and see if they could work as a consortium. The Ingram family made their money originally in the barge business before becoming a book distributor and they donate tons of money to Vanderbilt and different organizations. If a consortium could assure the feasibility of having part of its operational cost being tax deductible under 501C tax status, then maybe poetry houses could gleam the benefits of both world. To have such a distribution giant as Ingram married to not-for-profit business tenants could breath new life and a mode of competition that is viable against the miss guided steps of Peruses who are over-stretching their staff to the point of breaking with mergers that in the long run will make reaching their customers ineffective. Did I mention I lived that life before?

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Imperative MEME

Sorry about the long pieces. The "purpose" of this blog has morphed a bit, and it will probably morph again, as I have been thinking about blogging more in terms of art, writing as practice and writing as an experiment. A couple of my friends believe it to be a bit self-indulgent (Rat-mo and Ava), so, I give a shout out to them because they read it anyway and they are involved in the stories if they like it our not. Hugs Amigos!

Writing about politics is a bit nerve wracking for me right now simply because I have been very frustrated since Senator Barak Obama has requested protection from the federal government, and it was granted. I can't really discuss it. I just feel a level of anxiety equivocal to some silent threat circling my house -- that barely audible snap of a dry twig in the brush, followed by long irregular intervals of nothingness. Maybe this is what some people call ancestral memory. I truly that my nerve endings are honing in on the unrest of post-Reconstruction Alabama.

So, on to the Great Imperative Meme, thanks to Professor Zero by way of Geoffrey Philp

The great imperative of my life has been . . .

Man that is a really hard self reflective question. For me, it has been not to be scared of other people. I have a tendency to poke my head into a million different places, not altering myself, and figuring out if it is the place for me, or if it is hostile, or if it is indifferent to me. Sometimes I go so far as to learn how people speak. That is probably grounded from growing up between Nashville and Anniston, Alabama but spending many summers in the either Washington D.C. or New Jersey/New York. As a teenager I went through great pains to not sound like I was from Tennessee when every time I went Up South. That was from about the age of 12 until I was in college. In the long run, it has proven advantageous for learning how to replicate sounds in other languages.

First and foremost my maternal grandmother lived in Anniston, Alabama and traveled all over the world, regardless of what white people or black people said about her. She went to Egypt, Yugoslavia, Fiji, Italy, England, you name it. When I was about 11 she would brag that she had been to every continent except Antarctica. I would look at her in amazement. And her joy of life was so vibrant that she talked to me about her death like it was just a passing spring shower. Sentences such as, “I want to travel to the tip of Argentina before I die.” would just pop out of her mouth while she was doing the dishes. She seemed so fearless to me, able to plan and execute her travels oblivious to the fact that many people thought my grandmother was too proper and too high maintenance for her own good. The town’s people said that you needed a dictionary to speak with her. The world outside her door seemed to be tolerated; the world she engaged was far beyond our national borders. She would read articles in the paper to me as a kid, and then discuss them; or, my fondest memories were of her criticizing Ronald Reagan on television calling him an old fool. “He is older than me and has no business in the White House.” she would chide, especially when the administration tried to make ketchup count as a vegetable on school lunches.

My father has also contributed to my inquisitive life. While he was a professor at Vanderbilt University he would take me to the campus just to watch him work, and then immediately turn around and take me to the projects to get my haircut. What a great gift. You have to remember that Vanderbilt in 1977 was just being “intergraded” faculty wise, and I remember going to the faculty dinning hall a few years later with all the other professors and their families. It was my father, my mother, my grandmother, my sister and I. We were the only black family, and the only other soul people I remember seeing were dressed like they were from the set of Gone with the Wind. All the men were stiff cryptic looking butlers. The women wore all black with white lace and doilies adorned as aprons and pinned to the crown of their hair. The only things I remember are the waiters smiling at me and my sister as they served us. I was delighted and they were too, and in some way, I remember my race consciousness coming to me at that moment. I was suppose to be there, and not suppose to be there. My grandmother was such the grand dame, my mother was too militant to actually enjoy it, and my father leaned back with a Kappa swagger, oblivious to the chatter around him.

To move from that sphere to the barbershop in the hood was normal for me as a seven-year-old. I remember the drive with my father. I felt as if I was in a space ship, not only because he drove a 1977 Cordoba with Corinthian leather, but because the environments were alien to one another. I remember that these two worlds did not mix, and once we stopped by Farmer’s Market to pick up some part of the pig -- I must now eat with great convincing -- and headed into the Fisk and TSU area, we were in fact in another world.

Afros, decked out deuces, soul food sold through a large rectangle opening on rusty locked gated doors, tonics and salves of various colors and fragrances were all part of that world. The men gathered and talked about Jaws the movie, about Tina Turner’s real age (Dad remembers seeing her play at some juke joint, and figures she is much older than she is saying), about basketball, about the benefits of Aloe Vera juice, and about Ronald Reagan. They used to joke about my father being a Republican. They called him Doc. We always felt welcome. My father always made a point that you don’t change because your environment changes.

So, I learned, from these experiences not to be scared to walk into any situation, no matter what people may or may not think about you. As a writer I like to report what I see, but the impulse to open closed doors comes first. I don’t like to be told to act a certain way because white people will think this of you, just as much as I don’t like to be told the same thing concerning black people, French people, Puerto Rican people, Korean people, straight people, gay people . . . whomever. I will change if you tell me that my signs and gestures are offensive due to a cultural difference; and, I will want to know more about what I can and cannot say or do.

I am a man. I am not perfect. I get angry. I am amorous. I am smart. I get sad. I have feelings. I have armor. I am an Independent (don’t like the Republican/Democratic assumptions). I am convinced you can only afford to be a Socialist in a Socialist country. I think the Black church is a great social institution that could be greater if it did not close itself off from information. And, the list could go on and on. I have never seen why I have to be any different because my environment changes. Let’s be honest. I can see you. And, you can see me. I am willing to take the time to learn how to communicate with you, and I am willing to be misunderstood.

OK. I have to tag 10 people for this blog.

J’s Theater – because your blog has taken the place of the nightly news.

Jocko Homo – because your blog brings out the Soho prowling, elastic waist cargo paints wearing, inner muscle boy in me that I am trying to let out.

Blabbeando – because your blog is the Care Bear that is not scared to fight the dark Seth Lords.

Felix D’Eon – because your site is dedicated to the beauty of East Tennessee.

Lyrically Yours – because your poems are cool to the touch.

Hedonistic Pleasureseeker – because your blog is hot, literate, insightful and hot.

Black PhD – because your blog makes my heart race.

SWEAT – because your blog posts are the most cherished.

Angry Black Bitch – because your blog will kick me in the pants and get me to fightin’ for my life. Go on bitch!


You – cause I don’t know you. And I want to know you, but not in the biblical sense.

Your answer can be one line or a million. It doesn’t matter. Thanks again Professor Zero and Geoffry Philp

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Obama Drama, Foreign Currency and Deemi

These are the things that have caught my eye over the last couple of days.

Obamaphobia, by J. at J’s Theater is amazing. Again, I found it difficult to confront because all the Rush Limbaugh commentary really depresses me. The threats to Obama have put me on edge, especially since I have never known New York to be a place where you are attacked for being “liberal” (whatever that means), or for being an artist, and that is exactly what has happened to me in one of my numerous gigs. I know what is beyond the Hudson, and its fury must be harsher than I thought for it to reach me all the way over at 59th and Lexington.

Foreign Currency by Professor Zero is a post that brings into sharp focus a reality I lived for some time, though the country she describes is not named. I really don’t have a clue of where it could be. It could be any number of places in the EU. But it is an interesting set of observations.

Deemi – I have been rocking this for days and days while I work on the computer. She really hits it home for me, though our lives are very dissimilar (I am not a baby’s momma if you have not noticed).

I do recognize her story from good friends of mine that have had the same experience. Her songs are sad, but the story is real, and I love that she sings about herself and reality so passionately and candidly. And, it makes me feel like I am at home. NYC has become sort of an adopted home for me; and, the Brooklyn sound -- with its raspy songtresses over well worked and popular beats -- hits me in the heart everytime.

Friday, May 04, 2007

American Byways, Highways and Crossways -- The Freestyle Entry

I am at a loss for what to write right now. Not so much because my vision or imagination has stalled but because I am embarking on teacher pre-training and graduate school. As I communicate with my new classmates and colleagues, I am super aware of my life experiences. Mind you, some of this is good baggage. I have stories from other places, great skill sets that I would like to expand, mistakes I have learned from and wonderful friends and relationships. But I can't help but feel cynical about the next 2 years and the process I am going through. I am constantly comparing things to Stuttgart, Nashville, or Cologne. I wish I could talk to someone and not think: "Our social system has too many wholes in it concerning retirement and health insurance?"; or,” Why is education so politically charged in the United States?"; or, better yet "Why do we spend so much time explaining Black people to White people? Are they that unconscious of the world around them? Aren’t there better things I could be doing with my time? Why is it always my responsibility to explain these things? Damn! It has been 400 years and people seem not to get it yet? Am I still responsible for White people's progress?" Evidently, after watching the Republican debate, I still am.

So, I feel a little mixed up. On one hand I feel happy that health insurance and a pension check I can actually see is coming down the pipeline. On the other hand, I feel like I am settling into a profession where the barefoot party monger side of me will have to sit still as I make my way into the community as a teacher. I must admit that people have shown some sort of respect towards me that was lacking when I was managing inventory for a publishing company, or when I was even teaching university. I would explain my ideas about the Creole world and people would immediately say, "What are you going to do with that?" But now I seem visible to everyone as a black man that is a teacher in our community. And with that comes all the race pride and preacher complex salutations that make me feel a bit asthmatic. I am not worried about the teaching part; I have that down packed after four years. I am worried about the family reunion, Christmas, the barbershop and my gym in mid-town where I am forced into a wool, double breasted, black pin stripped suit of African-American normative behavior where rice and peas with coconut milk and steak au poivre become either exotic or the signifier of an uppity Negro.

Whew, I need some water on my face.

For example, I talked to my friend Kurt last night. I was busy typing on myspace with all my crazy cats and cool babes when a message came up from him at 1:57 am that I should give him a call. My self proclaimed “project” before bedtime was a meme sent by a barefoot stomping party gal/church worker who was run out of New Orleans by Katrina and is busy making a life for herself in S.C. I decided I could not send it to everyone on my list because many of the people were professional colleagues and I did not want them to know such private things about my life; and, because many people were friends, but they used their myspace as a promotional tool and I did not want to interrupt anyone’s vibe with what I sometimes think to be childish. But, hey I still want to party.

Kurt is now a famous lyrist and producer with work on a Jennifer Lopez album, many European hits and trips to Norway for house and electronic music stuff. But ten years ago, we were just 23 or 24, traveling between Rutgers and New York City and all points in between just to finally settle in Harlem. Kurt and I learned from a friend I will call the Mighty O everything about ball culture, clubbing, orishas and uptown institutions (like Ralph Ellington’s address). We were the Mighty O's acolytes and he was the bestower of our most piercing criticisms; divinator of our most unattended and deepest feelings; and, our truest benefactor with a wealth of uplifting heart felt words for our battered self-esteem after being dogged by the music and publishing worlds. The Mighty O took us to the Octagon and Sound Factory Bar like they were weekly temples in the summer. The Mighty O cooked cornbread and greens in his kitchen. The Mighty O strolled with us through Harlem, Mid-town, Chinatown, The Cloisters, Washington Heights, Columbia and Times Square like we were out bird watching or shopping for a new blade for the lawnmower on Main Street. For Kurt and I, The Mighty O was our greatest wish in the flesh, a guide through the looking glass and into the New York we were searching for but could not find without his special key.

Kurt and I talked about that decadent afterlife in quick flashes of disjointed memories. The majority of the discussion was the demise of The Mighty O, a fall that wrecked havoc on all who knew him. It was a string of other late night sentences and conjuring. But, the mourning tone was there, The Mighty O's misfortunes piled up so quickly and astonishingly that no one had time to act. His heartache was maddening. His manipulation was maniacal. The volleys of insults and control were terrorizing. All of it disguised in terms like "pouring tea", "throwing shade" and "trade". All of his towers seemed to fall after 9-11 and Kurt witnessed it and I did not. I was far away. The conversation soon turned to us, those that are left. Kurt and I were thinking about the young boys we were 10 years ago, and the parts of us that wanted that back.

"Who was I? Who was that kid?" said Kurt.

"I don't know? But there was nothing wrong with you then." thought the Unbeached Whale.

I just stayed silent as I let Kurt talk about that party time.

I guess I am busy writing about that conversation because as I sent my meme out via e-mail to those select few (cause I did not want to bother anyone else with what I was feeling) talking to Kurt made me realize that not only is New York not the same anymore, but neither am I. And, that “summer of '97 and ‘98” guy is gone, smashed up into a million carbon atoms that only live in my brain; or, maybe he is all dead skin devoured at night by small mites; or, maybe he is a broken toenail at the bottom of a pool on the mezzanine level of an Atlanta high-rise hotel. But, in the meantime, this same Unbeached Whale is wondering when he will get a chance to dance and party like that again. Is the party really over? Is New York really dead? Or, is it just me, scared to jump into the deep water? Party life is a hard thing, even if you are there only for the music. The Mighty O is not the only person we have lost.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Waiting for the Love to Come

Things have been pretty settled lately. I made a major turn around the corner last week; I had my first formal meeting with my new employers on Monday. As I got onto the elevator, I was the only male out of about 8 people occupying the large mechanical lift. We were all going to the 8th floor. I felt a vertigo like flirtation. I was super aware of myself. Again, the realization about my choice as an educator and writer conjured up a million question. The most paramount of which is, why does it seem that only women and gays read? If Bush had picked up a few books before he invaded Iraq then this terrible war would not have happened, but that still does not explain Condoleeza Rice. I will have to revisit issues of difference as outlined by Derrida at some point for my own sake and the country’s.

Anyway. Sexist and heterophobic . . . I know, I know.

Alas! Viola! The doors opened and I walked out into a more even crowd of fellow nubies.

My new employer is paying for a second Master's so I have been trying to be as attentive as possible despite wanting to simply disappear for a couple of weeks to the woods of East Tennessee; or, in a crowd of drunken twenty and thiry-somethings, bar hoping from one juke joint to the next in Oxford, Mississippi or Austin, Texas (don't sleep, me and Wine Tasting Lesbian are two coloured folk that wouldn't think twice about pulling that stunt off); or, follow some band through the deep South sucking on Coronas and swallowing raw oysters on the half shell. It must be the bottled-up frustration from the mini-construction site that my basement dwelling has become. But I always count my blessings . . . things could be much worse.

So language acquisition is in and history dissertation is out, at least for now. And blog wise, the last three entries took a bit out of me to construct, but I am glad I did them. This blog is becoming my creative compass in many ways; I find that I can focus better now that my professional future is a bit more decided. Lately I have seen that others have been blogging about poetry. Jstheater comes to mind instantly. I contemplated a poem, but since I went to the Gender Amplified Conference a couple of weeks ago I have decided on a video yet again. This one has been the constant backdrop of all my mental ramblings and internet navigations. But in the meantime I finished On the Road and have started on Alejo Carpentier's Explosion in the Cathedral. I have been surfing myspace like a basset hound listening to much contemporary Haitian music and wondering about this coming summer. Two graduate courses and field work. Plus this need I have to complete a creative mission and live a bit of the good life. I have been a miser for eight months, and it will last a little bit longer. Oh, boy! I am wondering what kind of fruits these seeds will grow. Man!, what a mélange.

Get at me!


Monday, April 23, 2007

Lady Beat Makers Black Mambo Masala

The Author verses the Auditory

As an artist I find that I vibe with photographers best, but somehow I am always surrounded by musicians. I get along with photographers because I am a real aesthetic kind of guy when it comes to what I write. I feel as if I am constantly trying to play with ‘style’ the same way photographers play with lighting or Photoshop. I want there to be some sort of ultra-violet landscape in my prose that is bumpy and grainy, making one’s mind’s eye trace a barren backdrop or lush foreground only to focus in on some delicate flower, or brown skinned woman with one unexpectedly cold gray pupil, or a certain fowl's shade of blue that has ringlets of white. When I look at a book of photography or talk to my friend Lenny (the photographer), I feel equal.

As far as musicians go, I am unequal. I am a perpetual groupie, a hanger on. Part of it is due to how music makes me feel, and part of it is my jealousy of how they create – writers must face the page alone, while musicians all live like Robin Hood and his Merry Gentlemen. Or, maybe they are more like Shaolin Monks, practicing their craft in an isolated and tormented bliss, and then assembling themselves into a fortified fighting group – symbiotic duos, funky trios, uber-melodic stringed sextets – that practice their craft in a mystical one mindedness. My best friends overseas are all ex-patriot singers who are adorned, loved and fetishsized in a way that makes you think of Jimmy Baldwin and Bid Whisk on the Riviera. As friends and artist they are demanding because their bodies are their instruments and they do not shy away from the spotlight in their art or in their every day interactions. Pops Wilson once told me after I joined the choir: "Once you say that you are a singer, you must be prepared to perform at any time." Funny, even my male church going ultra straight friends, who are vocalist, are divas, grabbing the mike and rushing the band along at frantic speeds to get to that one special note that allows the audience to float back down to earth. ” To be professional”, as my friend Michael has told me many times, “is to deliver the exemplary notes exactly the same way every time.” It is the demands of zero mistakes, which accounts for the madness. It is also the illusion, the performance, the band, the key, the leadership, the divvying of the pot, the wardrobe, the connection to the audience and required nakedness of any performance artist that reminds me of what a turtle I really am. I do not envy being “present” in order for others to experience my art. I relish the written word. My body is not there to be picked over by malicious critics. The page is my physical emissary; I would rather they chomp over my sentence splices than to chop me up physically and emotionally. The advantage of being a writer in the face of the critic is the rebuttal, there is no such advantage for the performer. But, whom am I fooling; I am the critic in many instances -- the lofty loner intellectual who writes about My Chemical Romance, Dreamgirls and Whitney Houston, picking over their full red wine bodied whole notes and personal lives without acknowledging what my musician friends have taught me about deliverance.

Trepidation and The Women’s Hip-Hop Invitation/Innovation

Two Saturdays ago I went to the Gender Amplified: Women and Technological Innovation in Hip-Hop conference sponsored by Africana Studies at Barnard (sorry for the late entry but I was flooded out of my basement abode in New Jersey right after the festivities at Barnard). The title alone reminded me of how different hip-hop and my Gospel/Broadway/Funk/Soul/Boss nova experiences have been. I have not been in such a hip-hop inspired discussion for a long time and the parts of the conference that I did attend were a reminder of my truncated digital life. I have been one of many performers on stage when it comes to voice, but when it comes to hip-hop, I have only been the critic and many times it has not been the music I dissected, but the culture.

On that Saturday evening, I debated whether I was going to go to the conference or hang out at a bar and have a beer. I guess my hesitation about going to a conference that was focused on women was because of what it means to me. In terms of participating high academic theory, the knot in my gut is the equivalent of sitting in on my older cousin’s tea party. I was allowed in but there were internal and external voices asking me why I was not playing with the boys. I always get that feeling in these groups, because participants start talking about women and men from a vantage point that reduces being male to some essential and oppressive element or set of prototypes. I agree that our socialization, standing in society, markers for professional competency and ways of communication are different but what about when we lay down our swords? Can we have a conversation with one another that is not politicized? If we are in love, or choose to love, must it be a battlefield also? Maybe I do not get the female perspective, then again I sometimes marvel at all of the supposed networks and infrastructure I am suppose to access effortlessly because I am male. These assumptions do not call for questions concerning race or sexual orientation? And if we were to tackle those assumptions, then we would also see the horns of the black male Mandingo and faggot rear there ugly heads. But enough, we could start unloading from there, but I am not in the mood, and I swore off theoretical double-speak and Newport Lights around the same time.

In the end I decided to go. After I got off from my job, I walked from 59th and Lexington to the 1 train station stop not far from Carnegie Hall. My sojourn to Barnard included a discussion with a tall brown skinned middle aged man from Milwaukee who has been in NYC since 1970. "I have witnessed a great transformation", he said concerning the city. As we left, he gave me his card then walked up towards Harlem. With all the young college kids running around me, on a clear cool spring day (hours before the Nor’easter’s merciless deluge), I felt optimistic and reminiscent. A friend housed me in his dorm for months at Columbia University during the winter of 1995.

So, I missed Tricia Rose (who people said was dynamite) and Spinderella. Rose spoke sometime around lunch time, I am not so sure about Spinderella. I got uptown around 5:30 pm, in time for the “Gender in Real Time: Tracing Women and Technology” panel’s question and answer period. By the time I got there it had turned into a discussion of the Imus Affair. It was interesting listening to the female students talk about the “nappy headed” problem. Very interesting comments were made by one student about how women are boiled down to a sort of currency, devoid of personal power, but regulated to a sign of men’s power. At times, I had that childhood feeling again. I did not really know how to hug, introduce myself, talk or gauge relationships. Who I thought were sisters were mother and daughter. Who I thought female lovers could have been business partners. Who I thought male and female lovers could have been artist and producer. To top off this lack of sexual radar, all codes of hip-hop are confusing to me, because the facade of being hard is always with in reach with the turn of a baseball cap or the donning of a coat. Who is what, is never clear, but that did not hinder me from meeting new friends and people that were asking the same questions about hip-hop as I am. I also meet people that had stayed in the game longer than me, and it was refreshing to see grassroots organizing happening in the genre. I have been divorced from it because of location and in hip-hop location is everything (Brooklyn, Bronx, Uptown, the dirty South, ATL, Cashville, etc. . .).

When I was 21, studying at NYU I remember how much all of this gender based agitation upset me. The assumption that I was somehow going home to some bastion of power was an opinion held by several instructors and not just by fellow students. Part of it was the condescending voice of a new New York liberalism that assumed I needed to be educated about the plight of women despite being raised in a household consisting of three generations of women in one house. The other part was simply how I perceived gender specific arguments in my 21-year-old mind. Where most of my male friends from Hampton University were off to work for television stations, computer companies or entering law school, to be nurtured by male mentors; I was a singular male in many groups and discussions, and mentorship was coming in a haphazard way. Despite all the time I spent in Africana, it was the Latin American department that took me under there wing. In the end it made dating impossible and professional relationships with my age group tempestuous. First because the age difference between a 21 year old male and a 28 year old woman is probably more like 15 years than seven. And second, because the language that was being used in class was coming home to roost.

Me (21-year-old): "God he . . ."

The Girl/ (Wo) man (28-years-old and fucking me): "(eyes slightly crossed). . . God is a female, at least in my mind. But God should be referred to as 'It', because 'It' is a higher form of he or she because 'It' does not denote gender."

Me (the kid): "It" is an inanimate object. A higher form of he or she is "we" or "us".

The Girl (the grown-up): I am tired of playing games.

And that was what my whole undergraduate relationship to black women was to a certain extent. "Why is he so resistant" one woman would ask of another, and the answer became "because he is so young." I just felt like they were playing word games, I wanted to get to know someone, not fight. But then again, I made bigger mistakes, in my skewed notions of what honesty and fairness was, but I shy away from mentioning them, partly because they embarrass me and partly because in the end, my mistakes in relationships do not denote a position taken in the gender argument. Many times love was lost from this oil slick of love and identity politics -- for me gender distinctions and roles were always soiled, in the muddy waters of being a 20-something (at least until graduation).

How the Ladies Schooled the Pimps On Laying Down Green, Hot-Fire, Hip-Hop Tracks

My hesitancy about going to the conference was this feeling that I was slipping away from the all male road trips and beer binges to an afternoon chat with five women working on their PhDs and being completely lost in confessions of chauvinistic abuse by hyper-masculine signifiers; or being literally trapped in the middle of a debate on George Lamming and his portrayal of women in his novel Castle of My Skin. I wanted to desperately receive new information, but I was not sure about how I should behave as a male in one of those spaces again.

Lady Beat Makers vol. 1 directed by Tashelle "Shamash" Wilkes was an amazing movie experience. It chronicles the experiences of 5 women music producers: Josie Carr, Laticia "T.C. Lewis", Shakti, Jewel Brown, and Stephanie "Diverse" Whittaker. All five of these musicians/producers were totally different and fluid in their art form. In terms of shattering the gender myth, I reached an epiphany through the movie about God given affinities and life's passions as being totally different from gender. I was rocked out of my socks and had the feeling I had heard something that I had never heard before. And like a faux country and western television jingle, "I was very happy that I came."

The movie did not talk so much about their lives in a male dominated art form, but showcased their work and distinct backgrounds. The movie is actually several exposes stitched together in succession. It gives the feeling that you are actually taking a stroll through one single neighborhood, peeking into the windows of 5 extraordinary homes since many of the featured producers include footage of their family and parents. And it is the individual input of each artist that makes the film, since the director shots footage on their blocks, in their studios, and in their family rooms. You get a concrete sense of their lives in one moment in time, instead of a biography that tackles their lives from birth to final edit. This makes the film very fresh and new, and gives the viewer more time to actually "listen" to their music instead of ruminating on how hard it is to be a female hip-hop producer. That point has been made, though that film has yet to be made. The irreplaceable circumstance of viewing Lady Beat Makers is a chance to partake in the audio cacophany of Josie the Rock Star, T.C. the Soul Gifted, Shakti the Sweet Star Feminine, Jewel Brown the Self Invented Uptown Electro Beat Box Girl or Diverse the Street Blessed Warrior who seems ready to compete with any of the guys at the drop of a dime. In fact, all of them do. Behind their smiles, at the panel following the screening, it was a sight to behold -- all of these producers staring out into the crowd with a serene sort of battle raging in their eyes. They all seemed ready to fight and defend, their eyes all glared outward as if they were trailblazers in a dense forrest with no time to waste, they were all of few words. Their work speaks for itself.

Goddess From the Machine

The after party included 3 sets by DJ Ayana Soyini, DJ Sparkles (scratching behind her back) and DJ Rehka. There was more conversing and more personal flashbacks as I watched all these young people congregate on the edges of a dance floor in the middle of Barnard. It made me aware of the constant need to create and re-create places of culture. But it also made me aware that some people jump into the stream, some wade by the pool, and some refuse to take off their clothes. But as always, this did not mean people were not having a good time.

So, it turned out to be a good thing. Especially with all this stuff swirling around hip-hop today. Funny, just as French hip-hop is the center of social rallying calls and the anti-libretto to the French elections, the long view towards 2008 is bringing hip-hop into our political focus. But for us, it is not as vanglorious as the French hip-hop scene that reminds me of all my days listening to The Poor Righteous Teachers and Public Enemy. Our political discussions surround language and its devolution. Our political discussions challenge our communities' visions and views of itself. Does hip-hop really represent the people that Russell Simmons says it represents, or only a part? And, if it does not, then what about the people that are shut out of the game, may they be musicians, producers, rappers, writers, journalist or photographers? Is there a litmus test that countervalences the past Imus public relations test concerning content, language and artistic privilege? The gansta is dying in our mist, and when the bullet plugs are pulled out of the holes, hopefully we will begin again.

Gender Amplified (more pictures)did much in showing me that another community exists outside of the multi-media world I consume (but not always volunterialy) . Maybe these 5 producers and 1 film makers are the superwomen ordained to rescue us from the mediocraty of hip-hop and its money making complex. It is amazing what hip-hop has gone through in the last 15 years as it rose from a grassroots social and party anthem generator stretching beyond the 5 boroughs, to a megaplex of instant stars racking in the cash. Sometimes I am lethargic about it, like the bitter end of a relationship with someone I must see everyday. And at other times I look at it like a giant mammal stuck in a desert. It just needs a little resissitation. Lady Beat Makers vol. 1 made me believe that help is on the way.