Friday, August 7, 2015

10 Thoughts: Episode 1 of 'The GOP Presidential Candidate Dating Game' (Also Known as The GOP Presidential Primary Debate)

I managed to make through the entire telecast of Fox News' 1st GOP presidential debate featuring the presumptive 'A list' candidates.  In full disclosure, I only watched to satisfy my occasional jones for perverse entertainment and theater of the weird.  Here are the first 10 thoughts that came to mind:

  • The candidates' latest idea for outlawing abortion involves invoking the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect the unborn.  The 14th Amendment, however, only applies to, "... persons born [emphasis mine] or naturalized in the United States...".  Don't these dudes read?
  • The candidates -- most notably John Kasich -- gave Donald Trump a pass for his irresponsible comments on immigration
  • Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson are only in the race for future book deals and speaking fees on the rubber chicken circuit
  • Aside from Huckabee, most of the candidates with experience as public executives demonstrated the importance of pragmatism
  • You just know someone reminded Marco Rubio not to bring a bottle of water on stage
  • Rand Paul is his father with the crazy sanded off.  He desperately wants us to accept him as a 'free thinker', but... he's not.  By contrast, Scott Walker wants everyone to accept him as an friendly idiot.
  • Ted Cruz' campaign isn't sincere either.  I think he's betting The Dumpster Fire Known as Donald Trump will die out by winter, so that he can resume picking up checks from soulless, faceless corporations.
  • Jeb Bush is a mush-mouthed, equivocating wimp in public.  IMO, it's a calculated decision to cover up the fact he's an asshole.  The equivocating is his way of searching for an answer he thinks will shut everybody up, which is the sign of a clever person.  But let's be clear... being clever is not the same as being smart. 
  • Chris Christie is an asshole too.  But he makes no attempt to hide his asshole-ness.  He actually upbraided Paul for defending (?!?) civil liberties
  • The candidates are unanimous in their calls to 'repeal and replace' the Affordable Care Act.  However, not one of them has uttered a single word on ideas for what a replacement would look like.

And to think I missed watching 'The Avengers' for the 237th time for this.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

28 Black Films Black Film Critics Need to See Before Pulling Someone's Ghetto Pass

I don't do lists.  Lists are for lazy people.  More often than not, a list, no matter how good the intentions, leaves off deserving candidates.  At other times, lists are created to lend the author or authors the appearance of credibility.  I came across an example of the latter the other day on Facebook in a link to a 2014 blogpost on Scott Woods Makes Lists from "librarian, writer, poet, and critic" Scott Woods titled 28 Black Films You Need to See To Keep Your Race Card.  The title King of All Blacks is conspicuous by its absence from Woods' blurb.

In scanning through the list, there are certainly a number of no-brainers: Love Jones, Do The Right Thing, Boyz n The Hood, A Soldier's Story.  There are several iffy entries, including Purple Rain and Waiting to Exhale.  But the list is undone with the inclusion of some real dogs, like Harlem Nights, The Wiz, and... Beat Street.

Beat Street? 

So without further ado I'm submitting for readers' consideration my own list of 28 Black Films Black Film Critics Need to See Before Pulling Someone's Ghetto Pass (ranked in no particular order):
  1. Juice
  2. Down in The Delta
  3. Pootie Tang
  4. If God is Willin' and da Creek Don't Rise
  5. Shaft (1972)
  6. Brother From Another Planet
  7. Def by Temptation
  8. The Inkwell
  9. Bird
  10. Malcolm X
  11. Fear of a Black Hat
  12. Good Hair
  13. Cornbread, Earl, & Me
  14. Paid in Full
  15. House Party
  16. When The Levees Broke
  17. Dead Presidents
  18. Coming to America
  19. Bird
  20. Mississippi Masala
  21. Always Outnumbered
  22. Cooley High
  23. American Pimp
  24. Dreamgirls
  25. Antwone Fisher
  26. Deep Cover
  27. Baby Boy
  28. Car Wash.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Honesty Ain't Policy

The main takeaway from a recent media celebrity non-scandal -- ESPN's suspension of First Take's Stephen A. Smith -- is that honesty is overrated.  Smith, certainly no shrinking violet when it comes to expressing himself, gets paid to speculate and otherwise voice provocative opinions.  Beyond the fact he was filling time, I have absolutely no clue why he decided to postulate on the dynamics of modern dating as if it provided additional insight into Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice's knocking out his (now) wife.  IMO, Smith spoke truthfully.  But in doing so, he got in trouble.

I'm not defending Smith as a victim of political correctness gone amok.  He isn't.  Neither has he been subjected to a double standard.  He forgot -- egged on by ESPN -- to make sure his self-check was turned on.  He certainly didn't help his case with that non-apology apology tweet-a-thon.  But I get that.  I am not about to rip him for demonstrating a common conceit of modern journalists, commentators, and pundits.  They're socialized to believe their every opinion is relevant, therefore valid, and facilitates healthy conversation.  ESPN is one of Smith's enablers.  Yet I've got no issue with the network throwing one of its talking heads under the golf cart. 

I refuse to get into an argument whether ESPN and Smith, respectively, were 'right' or 'wrong' as it's clear to me we humans aren't as concerned with candor, due diligence, honesty, full disclosure, etc., as many of us like to profess.  To paraphrase Jack Nicholson's Col. Jessup from A Few Good Men, we can't handle the truth.  We often struggle when facing random and various facts, or more accurately, have difficulty reconciling fact with emotion.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Our brains' ability to block out select unpleasant or overpowering stimuli is actually quite impressive.  Dissonance, and in some cases outright ignorance, protects us.  There is a purpose; a value in 'for your eyes only', 'confidential', and 'need to know'.  None of us need to know everything -- the impossibility of which notwithstanding.

The inverse of We Don't Need to Know Everything is also true: we don't need to say everything.  Having the liberty to express ourselves isn't the same as knowing when, where, how, why, and to whom expressing ourselves is appropriate.  It seems many people in our culture are obsessed with volunteering their every thought or action for all to hear and see, regardless of whether the thoughts or actions make sense or if anyone is actually paying attention.  The behavior drives social media, reality TV, tabloid news, and is the basis for a 'self-help' industry that alternately attracts and repels people, sometimes simultaneously.  Considering the regularity with which individuals are censured for their public, semi-public, and sometimes private faux pas, off-the-cuff bad puns, tortured analogies, and malaprops -- often deservedly so -- my surprise is more of us aren't learning from these examples to just shut up.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Beware: The Phony War on Go Go Music

In metropolitan Washington, D.C., a minor front in the region's ongoing cultural wars is being re-opened as a bass-ackwards reaction to regulations aimed at making public dance halls safer.  Public officials in Prince George's County, Maryland have been stepping up enforcement of an ordinance, CB-18, requiring more rigorous safety, egress, and security standards of public venues that host dancing.  Briefly, CB-18 requires 'public dance hall' [emphasis mine] owners to submit plans demonstrating their venues have adequate emergency exits, sufficient security inside and immediately outside the venue (including the use of security professionals registered with the county), and ample visitor parking with a (now) $1,000 annual license fee.  The law was created in response to the sporadic violence and illicit behavior that's associated with late night crowds, dancing, and alcohol consumption. 

As county officials have grown increasingly aggressive over time enforcing CB-18, it's important to note the law neither bans dance halls nor targets any one genre of music.  Nevertheless, many artists representing the indigenous Go Go milieu are crying 'foul' as various venues are shuttered, or their alcoholic beverage sales licenses suspended and venue owners fined.  Emerging music acts depend on these venues -- mostly 'mom & pop' restaurants and bars -- for earning income from concert performances.  But taken together with fly-by-night event planners/concert promoters and cheapskate restaurant owners, many of Go Go's artists and supporters perpetuate a dysfunctional cycle of superstition, mistrust, cynicism, and general unprofessionalism that alienates fans and undermines the artform's profile.   

Enter felon, race-baiting McActivist, and huckster Ronald Moten.  Moten, a D.C. resident and former CEO of the (now) defunct, scandal-ridden non-profit Peaceoholics, has taken to YouTube with a call to arms aimed at area African-Americans warning of an impending ethnic cleansing, first in Prince George's County and ultimately D.C., by unnamed (assumably 'White') gentrifiers wielding allegedly unjust laws like CB-18.  It's an absurd conspiracy theory considering CB-18 was authored by Af-Am elected officials responding to complaints from mostly Af-Am constituents, vetted through an open, democratic process by a county legislative body made up of mostly Af-Ams, and signed into law by an Af-Am county executive.  Nevertheless, Moten portrays Councilwoman Karen Toles as a hypocrite for defending CB-18 in a recent TV interview after being charged with a traffic violation in 2012, which is like an arsonist calling out the Fire Marshall for puffing on a cigarette at home.  He even has the temerity to justify his outrage as a civil rights issue claiming entertainers are entitled to perform concerts.  Yet not once does Moten address the civil rights of fans attending the dances, or residents who live near the venues to be safe.  Neither does he explain CB-18, the reasons specific events were cancelled, or the fact CB-18 does not prohibit public dance halls or censor Go Go music.

Go Go music's artists, entrepreneurs, and fans would be wise to dismiss the distortions and fearmongering by Moten and others as self-serving rhetoric.  CB-18 represents an opportunity to distance Go Go from the aforementioned negative perceptions.  If we're to organize a movement
educating the public about Washington, D.C.'s music and culture, fan safety at concerts and other public venues has to be a priority.  Besides, creating safe, comfortable environments where people can experience Go Go music is good for business.   

Monday, July 15, 2013

5 Thoughts: Florida v. Zimmerman

I'm still a bit numb to fully organize my thoughts in reaction to the verdict in Florida v. Zimmerman, but the following points were the first ones to come to my mind:
  • Court cases -- whether criminal or civil -- aren't decided on the basis of what's believed or felt; they're decided on what can be proven
  • race was merely a subtext to this tragedy
  • George Zimmerman claimed self-defense, not 'stand your ground'
  • 'profiling', when done by an individual, is legal, commonplace, and a normative human behavior
  • society's cynics, nihilists, and demagogues see Zimmerman's acquittal as their cue to promote their personal agendas at the cost of trivializing Trayvon Martin's life and killing.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Exploitation of Charles Ramsey... and You

Here's an example of our cynical news media at work. A man eating a meal at a nationally-known fast-food establishment is distracted by a commotion coming from outside the restaurant. He rises from his seat to run toward the source of the noise. Upon arriving at the scene, he joins another man in responding to a call for help from a woman inside the house. The two men eventually break down the door, facilitating the rescue of 3 women and 1 girl who had been held captive inside the house for years. Local media arrive at the scene shortly after law enforcement and emergency personnel, presumably, to interview those involved in the rescue. Only the first man who arrived at the scene isn't interviewed. (We'll call him, 'Man #1'.) Reporters mostly focus on Man #2; a distinctly odd-looking character armed with a full compliment of similarly colorful expressions. But we can't find fault with Man #2 for being himself. After all, he's due a little face time in front of the TV cameras after such a selfless act.

However, we're kidding ourselves. Man #2 is an unwitting tool; a prop used by the news media to dramatize an already dramatic story. Man #2 has now become, in fact, The News. Relatively little coverage is being afforded to the still-unfolding police investigation. Meanwhile, Man #1 has yet to get even a complimentary cup of coffee from the aforementioned fast-food restaurant. I can't help but notice Man #1's appearance and mannerisms are otherwise unremarkable. Man #2's interviews have since become a smash Internet meme in the tradition of the Harlem Shake and Antoine Dodson. He and the videos featuring his interviews are getting major league face time on seemingly every national TV news outlet. Both the meme and the so-called legitimate news interviews feed the 24/7 freak show that explains much of American commercial news media today. It's blatantly self-serving. And that means...

Many of today's news editors and journalists are insincere about providing the public with information whereby we can improve our daily lives. I wonder how much of this attitude has infected the media industry after today reading a suburban DC AM station boast about one of its hosts 'interviewing' Man #2 last Saturday (which I strongly suspect was driven by a misguided attempt to make Man #2 a race martyr). Their conceit stands as evidence the radio station thinks of itself as The News ahead of the victims, the accused, the investigation, Man #2, and certainly Man #1. By making themselves the spectacle, they're also signaling their contempt for their listeners' intelligence. All things considered, it's safe to say the news media isn't really concerned with what we think as long as we continue to watch or listen to the sideshow.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Signs of the Apocalypse: Maryland to Join the Big 10?

My question is why would the Big 10 ask Maryland to join?

It's clear that football is the big $$ in collegiate athletics, and a school looking to make big $$ wants to be in the most prominent conference possible.  In the BCS, the SEC and the Big 10 are the creme de la creme; their top teams are assured the highest rankings and best slots in the biggest bowl games.  Even the weak programs in these two conferences benefit from the windfall produced by their top-tier teams' bowl performances.

There isn't an ACC team that's a legitimate threat to win the football national championship.  Truth be told, the conference isn't that focused on football, despite FSU, Clemson... and maybe Virginia Tech.  That means ACC schools ultimately are left with empty cups when the bowl money's distributed.  So, if Maryland is going to field a legitimate BCS football team, it would be foolish for the school to NOT join the Big 10.  This is about business.

All this talk about 'tradition'?  FEH!!!  The ACC threw tradition out the window when it started expanding back in the 90s.  The day has already arrived when the Terps no longer face every conference rival in football each season (it's not like fans are attending games, anyway); in hoops this season MD faces N.C. State, Clemson, Miami, and Ga Tech only once.  If it's tradition you want, ask Jefferson Pilot to put their archived tapes of Maryland games online.

I've resigned myself to accepting Maryland will never, ever again compete for a BCS championship in football, or fill that too-ambitious-by-half football stadium.  I'm OK if they decided to downgrade to the FCS, or not field a NCAA football team.  So, if Kevin Anderson asks me, I'll tell him to take the money.