Friday, September 30, 2005

this weekend's essay: i was just wondering...

  • why are best buy's receipts so damn long? i bought the new tracy chapman cd the other week, i swear to you that shit was 20 inches!!!!
  • what's up with all these new, fancy air fresheners? seriously, i had no idea air fresheners were such a shameful thing to have. this whole, "let's make air fresheners all inconspicuous" movement really perplexes me. i don't care if you notice my fresh linen air wick. in fact, i'd rather you do that than smell my wall because you can't figure out that my electrical outlet and/or cd player distributes puffs of air at 9 minute increments. that's kinda freaky if you ask me.
  • how come no matter what day and time i go to the grocery store it looks like it was decimated by hurricane katrina? did a levee break in the dairy section nigga, damn!!!!
  • am i the only person who has some difficulty deciphering the letters on blogger word verification?
you know what to do.

enjoy. sat. and. sun.

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Thursday, September 29, 2005

a love supreme

a long long time ago, i pledged to periodically post things i love in an attempt to show that summer m., super duper blogstar, isn't all hate. with o week and all the star jones junk, i figured it was again time for me to show the softer side...

so, here are some more things i heart a lot:
  • the movie, hav plenty ("you know what they say...i am the fruit punch bitch.")
  • anyone who has half the appreciation and love for hav plenty that i do.
  • anyone who has seen hav plenty on their own (meaning, i didn't force them to watch it).
  • my brand new, one of a kind puma cabana racer "sum 69s" (picture forthcoming).
  • the way nala greets me. whether i've been gone an hour or a year, she's just as excited. i wonder what it would be like if people greeted each other that way. you know, minus the pissing on the floor.
  • rrrrachel's dog, kasey, a.k.a ll cook k--because all the ladies love him. if it weren't for naleezy, he'd be my favorite. dog. ever.
  • the string arrangement on esthero's county livin'. the world i know/is a world too slow...
  • comments on my blog, because frankly, i have no life.
spread the love.

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

a note on the slowness...

it's been brought to my attention (thanx blu and l') that my site has been really slow lately. since i'm internet stupid, i've no idea how to fix this, but i've gotten rid of the extra stuff i recently placed on my sidebar and republished. please lemme know (via comments or email) if i've fixed the problem, as my isht loads fine on my comp.

the management.

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Monday, September 26, 2005

(start a rumor monday...)

and just as it happened in the days of noah...

more people than george bush have learned from hurricane katrina. in an unprecedented act of "defiance" poor people in urban cities are taking the lessons from the aftermath of the hurricane and putting them to use: they are flooding their own neighborhoods.

in a spectacle not seen since, well, two weeks ago on cnn, poor black neighborhoods in and around the chicago area have become surrounded by dirty, disease-infested water. it seems that residents of some of the poorest neighborhoods on the south and west side of the city somehow "nigga rigged" the city's water and sewage system over the weekend. residents living in some of the more eastern areas have even begun pumping water from lake michigan.

we caught up with the head of the "chicago floods the projects movement," ras the deluger (government name, cortez smith), a 35-year old pimp/preacher/numbers runner/community activist born and raised on the west side of chicago.

fecundmellow: why are you flooding your own neighborhood?
ras: when i saw how folks finally started paying attention to poor people after the tsunami last year, and the flood a couple of weeks ago, i felt like it was the only thing i could do, nahmean?"

fecundmellow: so this is like the la riots, only with water?
ras: i mean, we was gonna burn and loot or whatever, but that shit seemed mad 20th century, yo. plus we wasn't really trying to steal shit.

fecundmellow: then what was your goal?
ras: i mean, we ain't just kickin' it on the roof just for the hell of it. we're waiting for them cnn niggas to come fly by with video cameras. then maybe people will be like, 'it's poor people in other areas, too?' i mean, i know dub-ya got that dis record out now, and it's hot and all that, but why my crib gotta be underwater to get a muhfucka to pay attention?

fecundmellow: well, i know it's a bit too early to tell, but has any good come of this?
ras: oh hell yeah, nigga. jay-z sent us some velour shit, and puffy, i mean diddy, hooked us up with some shiny suits. check out my new g-unit sneakers.

fecundmellow: so you did this for new gear?
ras: hell nah, nigga. we ain't on no christmas in september bullshit. the first thing we did was flood the schools from the inside out. my daughter starts a new school on tuesday. they gave her text books, yo! you can call this the nig version of no child left behind, nahmean?

fecundmellow: but don't you think people will be reluctant to help you because you did this yourself?
ras: man, i seen that hustle and flow nigga on david letterman talking about how those folks down in n.o. was just waiting to be helped and weren't trying to help themselves and shit. so i'm like, ok, lemme help myself to the water department's facilities. maybe muhfuckas will remember us then. we tried to march and shit, but we got arrested for loitering. besides, that ain't really worked since like '63 maybe.

fecundmellow: has the hip hop community been the only one to help you so far?
ras: nah, not at all. this flood shit right here? it's full-proof, yo. white folks ain't been this mad and paying attention to black bodies since janet jackson's titty fell out. they just crying and writing checks...crying and writing checks. it's like the only way a nig can make some scrilla to get out the 'hood without rapping or dunking a basketball.

fecundmellow: thanx for talking with us, ras.
ras: no problem, sis. i just wanna tell the black people in africa that they should really try to this flood shit. i'm telling you, yo. flooding is the new world hunger.

fecundmellow: how the fuck do i get off this roof?
ras: just spray paint the word help, and sit your black ass down. you get a helicopter ride and ten g's. guaranteed.

ras: look, yo! it's oprah and her camera crew.
[ras points and waves.]
fecundmellow: oh shit, nigga, duck!

as of today, no one from the city of chicago's water department has commented or taken any action to stop the "use" of the city's water system. we believe this has to do with the fact that all employees are either in jail or awaiting trial.

**for those of you who missed it, terence howard had some particularly insensitive remarks regarding certain new orleanians during his appearance on late show with david letterman.

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Friday, September 23, 2005

this weekend's essay: cover me!

i haven't really written on music lately. this mostly has to do with laziness; for some reason, i have to think a bit harder when i write about music. anyway, shuggie otis and steely dan have been my own personal soundtrack lately (can't get inspiration information or aja out of my stereo for some reason), and those are two acts that simply require me to sing along. that, along with my current contemplations about a novel i'd like to try to write--though i'm convinced i('d) suck at writing fiction--about a cover band started me thinking: 'if i was lead singer of a cover band, what songs would i sing?' i've come up with the following list:

(in no particular order)

  1. wishing well, terence trent d'arby
  2. baby i'm a star, prince
  3. a 'ladies first medley' which includes snippets from queen latifah's 'had it up to here', mc lyte's 'cha cha cha', lauryn hill's 'lost ones', bahamadia's 'cheap chicks', and jean grae's 'hater's anthem'
  4. criminal, fiona apple
  5. silent treatment, the roots
  6. hold my hand, van hunt
  7. a feminist version of the ying yang twins' 'the whisper song' featuring
  8. rapture, blondie
  9. do it again, steely dan
  10. she lives in my lap, out kast
  11. sweet thang, shuggie otis
so...if you were in a cover band (hip hop group, whatever) what songs would you perform?

have a great weekend.

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Monday, September 19, 2005

(start a rumor monday...)

bush addresses haters, set to record dis record

kanye west said george bush didn't care about black people. well, he's out to change that. in an effort to prove that he's more in touch with his african american constituents than folks think, and to silence those who criticized his response to hurricane katrina, george bush surprised reporters this morning by unequivocally addressing his song.

"there's rumors out there on the internetsssss saying that i don't care about black people," he said earlier today during his monday morning press conference. "i'm sick of all these haters hatin' on me and shit. if i may quote the late homie tupac, they're a bunch of mark ass bitches. so i'm taking the time to let you all know, that george bush ain't no punk. and i'ma let 'em know by spitting a few bars. condi,"

at this point, condi rice pulled a radio raheem-esque boom box from behind the podium, and pressed play. as an "urban interpretation" of "hail to the chief" blasted from the speakers, the secretary of state grabbed a microphone and seemingly channeled doug e. fresh as she beat boxed. unofficial unpaid intern, harold gibson transcribed el presidente's freestyle:

yeah...dub-ya up in this bitch...wit' my bitch...turn my headphones up...yeah/unh/yeah/

i'm the chief, nigga hail me/act like ya know/
when i was gov i fed kangays to nigs on death row/
ray nagin got his nerve/puttin' the commander on blast/
while i'm up here signing checks/his black ass cain't cash/
you got nothing but straight fucked by a bush and a dick/
got y'all feelin' like flood victims/'cause my flow so sick/
you seen pics of my vacay/i'm cowboy and you in'jun/
annihilate ya like genocide/the middle east i'm straight pimpin'/
i'm dub-ya, nigga what!/ask john kerry, i don't play/
when that west rapper comes up dead/just blame the c.i.a./
fuck george clinton/i keep the white house white/
i fuck condi/stick it to her/like white in rice/
my bro jeb will be protected if rita hits the keys/
you got beef?/fuck you, nigga/suck on w-m-deez/**

(poof, pow surprise, oooooooohhhhhhh!!!!!)**

west texas, bitches.

george w. bush, now known as dub-ya, spent the rest of his press conference giving shout outs to fox news reporters.

though there is no release date for his upcoming single, it has been confirmed that dub-ya has signed to noah's ark records.


for the uninitiated, deez is short for deez nuts.

if you get the, "poof, pow, surprise ooooohhhhh!!!!!" reference (without goggling it), i will do one thing for you. anything. you name it.

until next time, this has been start a rumor monday.

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Sunday, September 18, 2005

oprah's legends lunch: a photographic retrospective.

for my coup d'etat--otherwise known as the final nail in my own coffin, for i have committed career suicide (though i've yet to begin a career) by ripping on oprah for 5 straight entries--i present to you: photos from the legends weekend. i, of course, have provided my own captions. (usually i leave this up to my girl, saf, but i tried my best.)

tina turner and oprah congratulate halle berry after she tells them she finally finished reading their eyes were watching god.

mariah shields her skin from the sun (don't wanna get too dark!) as debbie allen takes her fashion cues from pepto bismol.

della reese, patti labelle, and ruby dee collectively look to the judges before awarding gayle king a hug. the judges did rule in king's favor. apparently being oprah's lover best friend is accomplishment enough to be deemed a "young'n".

singer-songwriter valerie simpson shows gratification after it's finally made clear that ashford and simpson's hit, "solid as a rock," had nothing to do with the spread of crack in the 1980s.

oprah sheds a tear as someone reads the reviews of their eyes were watching god.

natalie cole to mariah, "i know honey, both black and white, yet neither. i just finished talking to halle berry."

phylicia rashad looks at kimberly elise bewildered after elise calls her claire and goes on and on at how much olivia has grown since she last saw her on the cosby show. keys later correctly identified herself. elise apparently wasn't listening because she later asked keys what it felt like to turn her psychic abilities into a disney channel hit show.

apparently using, "i know why the caged bird sings,"as a punchline still gets a bunch of laughs in this set. no one knows, however, why maya angelou has on sunglasses in the house.

janet jackson gives della reese her plastic surgeon's contact info, "he's wonderful, dahling."

this just in: even at 66, tina turner still buys the best hair.

pearl cleage leads the call and response portion of the program. halle gives angela the catwoman stare, "i can't believe that bitch said i won an oscar for playing a ho," she would later tell a close friend.

the best way to honor black women: invite spike lee to your party.

"you know, sidney pwaaaaahhhhhtier, had i not been busy playing a poor black girl growing up in mississippi, i would have made a wonderful lena younger."

later that night, courtney b. vance told his wife, angela bassett, "baby, when i talked about spicing up our sex life by bringing another woman into the bedroom, i did not have leontyne price in mind."

honorary black man, michael mcdonald tickles the ivories while smokey robinson and nick ashford compare old black man bad hairstyles.

"careful, white boy, i may dance like yo' mama on my show, but i can still back that thang up. you're no john travolta, but you're not too bad."

who chose this group to read something OUT LOUD!?!?

no, mary j. blige, we're not in yonkers, anymore.

careful, usher, terry mcmillan loves to marry young gay black men.

handsome white man, james brolin pretends not to notice o pushing up on his wifey. also, barack obama, acting like a senator more and more each day.

until next time, friends, this concludes o week.

day 1
day 2
day 3
day 4

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

o week: 4

last time, i considered what i've termed o's "god complex". now, i'd like to turn my attention back to the legends lunch--the thing that sparked o week in the first place. as i stated in my prior post, this legends lunch was conceived when oprah received a 50th birthday gift from cicely tyson; she'd forgotten to invite miss jane pittman to her party. eventually, that idea became the germ for oprah inviting a slew of black chicks over to her santa barbara, ca crib aptly named, "promised land" (i kid you not).

this weekend consisted of a lunch, a ball, and a gospel brunch. as i looked at the pictures, i couldn't help but think about how this event looked like a girlfriends/boule/links/jack and jill event all wrapped up into one...and on crack.** the guest list read like a who's who of the black upper and middle classes. actually, it read more like an, "oprah thinks you rock...sort of" list. but let me slow down just a bit.

on page 179 of the layout--which is next to the list of attendees--there is a photograph of winfrey and maya angelooooooou standing in front of a painting. this painting, called to the highest bidder, is oprah's favorite. she made the following astute observation, "isn't it ironic...that all of these free women are celebrating our lives under the gaze of a woman who is about to be sold into slavery and separated from her young daughter." this quote helps me get to my final point about oprah, and about some other more privileged black folk i've come to observe--albeit from a distance. but to bring you all up to speed, i need to digress just a tad...

in my real life (i.e. grad student life), one of the things i study is race. i'm interested in how people talk and theorize race during certain historical moments, such as the ante and post-bellum period, the jim crow period, and during and after the civil rights movement. i'm interested in tracking what race latches itself onto at these various moments (like freedom, class, and space), in an attempt to understand the varying ways raced subjects relate to and maneuver through the world. i say this not simply to talk about myself and reveal my pet theory on the whole thing, but to consider why ms. o felt the need to make and articulate the above observation.

without getting too much into my possible dissertation topic, i'd like to say this: it's my guess that the reason why some famous black people collect things like slave papers, chains, and/or display artwork such as to the highest bidder on their walls (and make sure you pay attention to these objects,) is because they believe these objects anchor them to a racialized existence that might otherwise escape their cultural memories. the further we are removed from sanctioned discrimination based on race, the more these cultural memories fade. it is my belief that the "successes" of the civil rights movement brought about yet another shift in regard to how race is lived in america. meaning, unlike its historical ancestors (slavery, jim crow), what it meant to be black was not sufficiently (re)defined once the social paradigm shifted. these objects, then, serve as moorings for those who might otherwise very rarely if ever be confronted with racism.

it is no surprise that those invited to the legends party were mostly from the entertainment world. though i agree with the sage jay-z when he said, "all these blacks got is sports and entertainment, until we even," i contend that another reason o's list was saturated with entertainers is because being a model, an actress, or a singer allows you a great degree of white folks. thus, when you go shopping, at hermes for example, the white people don't consider you just another north african nigga black person. there is no doubt in my mind that if winfrey put her mind to it, she could have come up with a list of less visible and/or famous legends whose resumes were/are just as (if not more) impressive than those she invited. but if you want your reading public to give a shit about the 10 page layout on some black chicks you had over for tea and crumpets, at some point your soccer mom has to say, "hey, isn't that janet jackson?" then, said soccer mom pays even more attention to the article your staff writer wrote covering the floral arrangements, how you and gayle protested the first soup bowl because it was "too deep," and how after the two of you couldn't decide which desserts to serve, you decided to include all ten on the final menu. and maybe, just maybe, you reaffirm your uniqueness to your reader, because this group of black women --unlike the other, less recognizable ones--minus the whole black thing, seem just like her.

i buttress this argument by the fact that so many of the less visible names on the list (pearl cleage, suzan-lori parks, darnell martin) have been affiliated with oprah in some way.** i won't do it here, but i truly believe i could prove how each and every attendee fits into some kind of oprah mold. to the untrained hater, one might say, "how in the hell can ashanti and missy elliot be part of the same group as judith jamison and audra mcdonald?" it's because, i claim, there is a politics to something as simple as a lunch, and i claim to understand those politics well. and though i'd love to post yet another entry on why certain legends did not/could not/ chose not to attend the party, i'll leave well enough alone...**

maybe you still love oprah, maybe not. but i hope i've proved why i find her such a problematic figure who needs more critical attention if she's going to continue to occupy such a large space in our collective psyche. but i believe i've overstayed this welcome. so i'm officially done with the long-winded entries oprah.


girlfriends, the boule, the links, and jack and jill are organizations whose membership lists are full of names of the black middle and upper classes.

cleage's first novel, what looks like crazy on an ordinary day was an early o book club pick; parks wrote the screenplay for while martin directed winfrey's version of their eyes were watching god.

legends unable to attend: katherine dunham, aretha franklin, nikki giovanni, lena horne, toni morrison, rosa parks, and alice walker. if you like, i can include the list of folks who did show. but i'll only do that if you're interested.

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Friday, September 16, 2005

o week: three

legends who lunch Posted by Picasa
why didn't i say so?/why didn't i just call?/one day just to say/hey, i think you're such a legend...
--lamya, 'never's such a long time'
well, oprah will never have to sing and mean such lyrics. because, well, it seems along with being a poor black girl from mississippi, oprah's a doer...with a helluva lot of money to correct her "my bads".

as the story goes, oprah was inspired to coordinate a legends lunch when cicely tyson sent her a 50th birthday gift. oprah had failed to invite the screen legend to her birthday party. feeling bad for this faux pas, o decided to invite tyson to lunch. not wanting to think small, o then wondered how much fun it would be if ruby dee could come, too, "and thus began the idea of legends. i started thinking about all the women who'd come before me, many of whom have now passed on -- women whose steps created a journey of no boundaries for my generation. i wanted to thank them, celebrate them, and rejoice in their spirit."

now i'm going to refrain from asking, "what the fuck does it mean to rejoice in someone's spirit?" and continue with this synopsis. so o calls up her guy, colin cowie who is apparently an entertainment expert. (this is an example of white people creating their own jobs.) she came up with a list of 25 african american women who had built "a bridge to now" along with 45 young african american women who have at some point crossed this bridge. after all of her hard work, o, "handed it over to god and let it become what it was meant to be--one of the greatest experiences of [her] life...this weekend was the fulfillment of a dream for me: to honor where i've come from, to celebrate how i got here, and to claim where i'm going."

now for this post i'm going to focus on one of two things: 1) oprah's complex. (number 2, the politics of the legends lunch will be up sometime this weekend.)


whenever i speak of oprah, i tend to use religious rhetoric like "god" and "devil". understanding that i'm a sarcastic asshole who often uses hyperbole to get her point across, i've tried to unpack my issues with the divine ms. o with some concrete examples of why i think she is worthy of such deific terms. as a result, despite my theatrical approach, i think there's maybe an ounce of something i hope folks will think about after having read my (terrible) writing.

that said, when you're oprah winfrey, you pretty much have no peer. can you imagine what it must be like to casually mention something, and all of a sudden sales of it go through the roof? or to decide that you like something, and have that thing rise from obscurity to damn near legendary status? what if you had garnered so much power that every word that you said and step that you took was uncritically admired? what if you could become one of the richest people on the planet and still be considered a "true humanitarian"? is that not having your cake and eating it, too? who else can do that? only god, maybe. i mean, s/he's the only person/entity/spirit/whatever that immediately comes to mind. i truly believe if oprah could and would flood the united states for 40 days and 40 nights, anyone who survived that shit (meaning white, middle and upper class folks with gas money and suvs and 2nd homes) would say there was a message in such madness.

i am thoroughly convinced that oprah winfrey has lost her damn mind. no one, and i mean no one can raise a critical eyebrow(n) to what she is or isn't doing.** when john h. johnson, founder of ebony magazine died, the chicago defender editor, roland s. martin, published a pair editorials critical of winfrey's apparent silence in the wake of johnson's death. martin's offices attempted to contact winfrey several times, but received no response. martin was perplexed as to why winfrey, someone he thought directly benefitted from johnson's work, wouldn't have at least made a statement extending her condolences or something. after the story ran, an extremely furious winfrey called martin to say that what he wrote was unfair and untrue. she told him that she'd sent the johnson family flowers and a note, that she does not make public statements, and that, if i may quote my girl rrrrachel interpreting this final point, "i was, like, totally in hawaii when he died. goooooodddd!"

now for those of you who aren't up on your black periodicals, the chicago defender held a very prominent and important position in african american society during the early and midde parts of the 20th century. from teaching newly arrived southerners how to behave themselves in the city, to profiling and photographing african american celebrities of the day, the defender was an extremely important newspaper. in recent years, however, it's popularity has waned, and the defender is working to revitalize itself. in the three years i've lived in chicago, i've picked up a defender maybe once. and the only reason why i picked it up then is because i had never seen a current edition. though it is a daily, copies of the defender can be very difficult to find, even on the southside of chicago.

i say this to illustrate the point of this diatribe. if i, one who frequents the southside (ok, so it's hyde park, but technically it is the southside) on a regular basis, can't get a copy of the defender with ease, how in the hell did oprah--vacationing in hawaii, mind you--get access to this? (when's the last time oprah was on the southside?) martin made several efforts to contact winfrey through her people, but couldn't get through. yet all of a sudden, he writes one critical article on winfrey and he get's a phone call from the one and only? it would be one thing if the defender had the social standing it once did. but, as i've said above, the paper is struggling to regain its footing. in a nutshell: the chicago defender shouldn't even be on her radar. (hell, it's barely on mine.) and for a moment, it wasn't. but as soon as martin cursed god oprah, she left the beach long enough to give him a call.

[we can criticize bill gates, but not oprah winfrey? okay. so despite the white male, black female issues, economically gates and winfrey are sort of in the same, i am rich beyond even my imagination stratosphere (give or take about 45 billion dollars). ok. let's try someone else.

we can criticize condi rice, but not winfrey? winfrey is only 10 1/2 months older than rice. though rice comes from a middle class background, she and winfrey hail from the south, from states (alabama and mississippi) who perennially competed in the most racist pageant (before,) during (and after) the jim crow period. and though winfrey has been "criticized" for spitting liberal politiks, if you agree with what i suggested on day one, their poltiks aren't all that different. (is there an argument to be made about black females born during this period? hmmm) now what oprah has in her pocketbook, condi makes up for in political clout. and let me tell you, if your country gets stamped with the "condi's axis of evil club" sticker, you're in a western world of trouble...]

the term "god complex" may be a bit of a stretch. then again, maybe not. adam and eve didn't hear from god until they fucked up and ate a goddamn apple. even if we still wish to eat everything lord oprah is feeding us, can we please create a viable space for her to be critically observed so that she can appear at least somewhat, i dunno, human?

thou shall not, i guess.

**i used to call them eyebrowns when i was a kid.

coming up this afternoon/weekend: legends lunch part 2, and a photo entry on the lunch


language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

o week: day two

those who attended the legends lunch received these as gifts. Posted by Picasa

let us return to "jay." for those of you with short memories and/or who didn't read yesterday's extremely long post, "jay" had this to say about an old entry:

It's so sad that you all can't see that Oprah is a true humanitarian. Do you really think Oprah Winfrey would wear conflict diamonds on national television? Steadman [sic] is rich many times over, without Oprah's money, and can afford to buy the best, NONconflict diamonds on the market. Rich people don't have to take the shorts that poor people do. Too bad your energy is not focussed on, I don't know, ending the war in Iraq? Just a thought.

wow. since you all had to endure the torture of yesterday's post, i'm going to attempt to address jay very briefly.

it's so sad that you all can't see that oprah is a true humanitarian.
please see yesterday's post concerning my ideas on humanitarianism, true or untrue.

do you really think Oprah Winfrey would wear conflict diamonds on national television?
i think about this just about as much as oprah walks into the jewelry store and asks, "are these conflict diamonds?" put another way, i don't think "conflict" is one of the 4 c's oprah uses when choosing a diamond. i mean, it's not like her viewers say, "i wonder if that bling in her ears is from sierra leone." in fact, i think if the mutilation of young children in african countries like sierra leone and liberia was that high on oprah's "to fix through my true humanitarian endeavors" list, there would have been a show about it. you know, video of her hugging and kissing nappy-headed african kids with no arms and shit. (can you hug someone if you have no arms?) i ain't saying she wears conflict diamonds (though i admit i suggested that in my prior post)...but your whole "she'd never wear that on national tv" argument, like, totally doesn't move me.

Steadman [sic] is rich many times over, without Oprah's money, and can afford to buy the best, NONconflict diamonds on the market.
first of all, stedman is fucking gay, okay? mrs. reynolds wasn't the first. second, let me take the time to address the thinking which has helped mr. graham "become rich many times over." the following is a quote from mr. graham's website:

None of us are defined by our circumstances, nor are we defined by how other people perceive us. It is up to each one of us to define ourselves, and that is a life's work.

Each of us has the ability to lead a dynamic life by pursuing our unique goals and dreams. There are no limits to what you can do.

sounds like a true humanitarian to me. and before you try to jump on that last statement, lemme just say: i know it's oprah's true humanitarinism that's in question, but i think there's something to be said about the company you keep. that's why i don't keep no comp'ny.

Rich people don't have to take the shorts that poor people do.
if i may quote my west indian bros. and sisters: idiat dem him. (did i get that right?)

Too bad your energy is not focussed on, I don't know, ending the war in Iraq?
nigga, you funny. i like how you defend, and even praise the buying power of rich people, and then question why i don't make an effort to end a war fought by black and brown poor people who undoubtedly have to take "the shorts" if they wanna bling, or, i dunno, not be poor all of their lives. i tell you one thing, though. as soon as the iraqis are "liberated," oprah can start her true humanitarian efforts there. next thing you know, there's a letter to the editor from a subscriber who was kind enough to take a picture of the natives holding a copy of o magazine that serves a skool book. of course, instead of makeup they have on burkha's because, you know, "muslims will be muslims."

further, the fact that folks like you are anti the war in iraq really scares me. i'm thinking of moving to a neutral position, in fact.

and if i may paraphrase my homegyrl, rrrrachel, "why doesn't oprah focus on ending the war in iraq?"

Just a thought.
don't do that anymore. thinking, that is. same thing as not thinking for you. so don't waste your energy.

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Monday, September 12, 2005

o week: day one

a couple of weeks ago, a commenter named "jay" had this to say about a very brief and incoherent post i'd written lamenting oprah's "humanitarian" efforts in south africa:
It's so sad that you all can't see that Oprah is a true humanitarian. Do you really think Oprah Winfrey would wear conflict diamonds on national television? Steadman [sic] is rich many times over, without Oprah's money, and can afford to buy the best, NONconflict diamonds on the market. Rich people don't have to take the shorts that poor people do. Too bad your energy is not focussed on, I don't know, ending the war in Iraq? Just a thought.
though you may read the post for yourself here, i'd like to take a minute to rearticulate my point. the post was inspired by my "discovery" that one of the many branches of the oprah empire is a "south african version" of o magazine. i found this a bit troubling since 8 months after lauching an international version of the magazine, winfrey announced that along with the ministry of education in south africa, she would be opening the oprah winfrey leadership academy for girls set to begin educating in 2007. (you can read the news for yourself under the philanthropy section of oprah's biography posted on her website.)

hyperbolic as always, i concluded in said post that this was yet another example of how oprah was the devil. a few months later, i retold the story of my "discovery" at an ill-fated dinner with a couple of profs, saf, and two other graduate students that this was a type of colonization. one of the graduate students took my use of the term "colonize" to task, saying that perhaps that was too loaded a term and that maybe i had no idea what the fuck i was talking about. hmmm... according to the merriam-webster online dictionary, there are three definitions for the word colonize. this is the third:
to infiltrate with usually subversive militants for propaganda and strategy reasons.
now saf my recall this event better, but i don't remember this graduate student convincing me that i'd used the term incorrectly. but just in case you're not convinced, i'll explain here (and eventually directly address "jay"). i argue that oprah winfrey has very successfully established her demographic, and capitalized on african americans' tendency of collective thinking. let me unpack those things. 1) from her magazine to her show to her book club, winfrey has the white, heterosexual, middle-class soccer mom in her back pocket. if oprah says, "it is good," then it will fly off shelves. 2) i've said before that african americans have a tendency to resist being critical of their own. thus, when clarence thomas was nominated for the supreme court, there was a controversy in the black community. there were those, obviously, who did not support thomas' nomination, while there were others--like winfrey's dear friend, maya angelou-- who supported thomas partly due to the idea that, "black people should support black people, because if we don't..." this, of course, has an historical root. my point is, winfrey's savvy makes her appealing to a very large segment of the american population. as such, she is very rarely, if ever, strongly critiqued. and if someone desires to check her hall pass, one receives comments that are similar to the above.

soon after that comment appeared in my inbox, anne mailed me some articles from the august 2005 issue of o. though the purpose of her mailing me the package (along with a note on REAL STATIONERY!!!!) was for me to see the coverage of winfrey's legends lunch (which i'll get to in a few days), anne was great enough to also include a portion of the letters to the editor. an o subscriber wrote to the magazine about her recent trip to new guinea (that's an island north of australia, y'all). she wrote that during her trip she visited several villages, many of which "are polygamous; the men value land, pigs, children, and women--in that order. but the women seemed to be content, despite how hard they worked, and the children were beautiful, inquisitive and self-amusing."** she went on to discuss how difficult it was to receive a formal education in the area, and how the village hadn't had a teacher in three years. "[but] the leader did have several books and magazines that tourists had given them. imagine my surprise when i saw that one was an o from august 2004!...i wanted a picture of them holding the magazine, they decided to change into traditional ceremonial clothes. girls will be girls! seems like we all like dressing up and putting on makeup."

now i combine this letter to the editor with "jay's" comments for a couple reasons. first, i think the letter buttresses my idea that there are some serious stakes in this kind of humanitarianism. granted, this is a letter from a reader. yet the contents of this letter were significant enough to grant it publication in the magazine. further, the tagline of the above photo was this: o is more than a leisure read to these new guineans; last august's issue now serves as a school book. so, i don't think it too far of a stretch to think that the editors of the magazine (one of which is oprah's lover best friend, gayle king, i believe) espouse the reader's very western judgment of these women and their society. if o is a skool book, what kind of education is this? o magazine is not only gaining more subscribers, but also "enlightening" those villagers on what kind of women they should be rather than merely seeming "content" with their simple (read: backwards) way of life. my argument is: winfrey is creating her own consumer by educating them in a, shall we say subversive? way. this very white, suburban, middle class ideology, perhaps being shielded by things such as "philanthropy," "leadership," and "being your best self" is a similar sort of thing we've seen rich, white, males do for eons. she has, through her various media endeavors, conquered the new world. there is nothing left for her to do except move on to other spaces. if the people who inhabit such spaces are not yet consumers, then she must mold them into the consumers she wants them to be.

if you attend this skool for girls, for example, you will not only be taught how to read, but i'm sure the greatness of ms. winfrey will periodically be addressed. she is, to continue with this rhetoric, a sort of founding mother. this education probably assists in your ascendance from poverty (not entirely bad) to the middle and upper classes (not entirely good). if you are being taught, let's say, to read, you can read o, and if you can read o, well, you get to see all of oprah's favorite things. and, well, need i go on? this ideology, in my estimation, is no different than what we've seen before. except, of course, this one has a black female face. though veiled in this idea of "being your best self," there is really no effort to interrogate the position winfrey needs us to occupy for us to uncritically accept what's she's giving. consequently, while "jay" can call winfrey a "true humanitarian" i say it's the same shit, different day.

you will often hear the argument that the reason why black communities, black people, etc. are in the predicament they're in is partly rooted in our reluctance to do things like support black business. this has always perplexed me, because it seemed to me that whatever exploitation or disadvantages that were rooted in supporting non-black business, was simply being shifted to someone with similar skin tone. this didn't change the exploitation, simply the person who exploited you. my point is there is this idea that if the person looks like you, then the person will be good to you. and somehow, the reality that this person needs the same institutions to be in tact in order to become successful becomes obfuscated.

oprah, being a black, poor girl in mississippi does not change things for most of us. things do/did change, however, for her. thus, when oprah's enraged for not being allowed to shop, in a sense, it is about race--for oprah. it's my guess that at that moment, oprah felt like any other nigga--something she hadn't encountered for quite some time. therefore, for oprah to remain oprah, she must continuously be deemed unique, because if there's one or two or three or four more oprahs, then the possibility of hermes incidents increase. next thing you know, i'm best friends with john travolta. i'm sorry, but my idea of humanitarianism and life change isn't about me gaining extra disposable income to buy products you endorse, thereby supporting your god complex.

my understanding of a humanitarian is one whose philanthropic endeavors not only help people, but help bring about some social change. and in my reading, well, homegirl's humanitarian efforts bring more people to the party while she and a select few kick it in v.i.p. so, to continue with this very corny analogy, the dj is spinning the same records, and the dance floor is getting a lot more crowded.

thanx, oprah.

tomorrow: more on "jay"
later: take me to the promised land...or, the 'o' in g.o.d. stands for oprah.

**if you'd like to see the entire letter, check out the august issue of o magazine, or email me, and i'll send you the entire text.

**also, i didn't reread this really, so there may be some changes to it later.

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Thursday, September 08, 2005

throwing my diamond in the sky: open letter #4
here's you answer, morcy
"'Dey don't always know. Indians don't know much uh nothin', tuh tell de truth. Else dey'd own dis country still. De white folks ain't gone nowhere. Dey oughta know if it's dangerous'...'Dis time tuhmorrer you gointuh wish you follow crow...If Ah never see you no mo' on earth, Ah'll meet you in Africa'...They huddled closer and stared at the door. They just didn't use another part of their bodies, and they didn't look at anything but the door. The time was past for asking the white folks what to look for through that door. Six eyes were questioning God."

--zora neale hurston, their eyes were watching god

dear that nigga ye kangay kanye west,
cc: celine dion

i am writing to formally and temporarily retract any and all hatred of you on this blog, as well as any nastiness spewed before, during, and after meetings with the personality chix concerning the fate of hip hop and other shit. my bad, dog. you really showed me. though i often give folks whose "analysis" is filled with rearticulations of the immediately apparent (like dubya and jesse jackson) the moniker, "captain obvious," i'm going to refrain from assigning that name to you. because, well, as we know, there's nothing new under the sun, but every now and then someone tells you a tale, yet does it in a seemingly fresh way. what i'm trying to say is, you took a "duh" moment, and damn near made it shockingly revolutionary. sort of like when you burst on the hip hop scene wearing clothes that fit...but not really.

let me rehearse the event for those who didn't get to see you in all of your glory. friday night on nbc during a televised concert to raise money for hurricane katrina victims, you and mike myers stood before the camera apparently about to plead to the american people for scrilla. disgusted to the point of illiteracy, you gave the cue card guy the finger, and spoke from your heart. you said:
I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family and they say we are looting, you see a white family and they say they are looking for food. And, you know, its been five days because most of the people ARE black. And even for me to complain, I would be a hypocrite because I would turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right to see what is the biggest amount I can give. And just to imagine, if I was down there and those are my people down there. If there is anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help about the way America is set up the help the poor, the black people, the less well off as slow as possible. Red cross is doing as much as they can. We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way. And now they've given them permission to go down and shoot us.
though, as i said, you were teetering on incoherence, i understood what you were trying to say. i'ma break it down: 1) tragedy or not, the media will make niggas look like niggas. 2) the tragedy was hard for you to watch, and you didn't immediately understand the gravity of the situation. though you are not the secretary of state, and weren't strolling 5th avenue looking for some jimmy choos (or whatever), you feel bad for having not at least responded monetarily more quickly. because although you are merely a celebrity, you're someone who has more than the folks on the gulf coast do, and you have the means to attempt to help assuage the situation. 4) we live in a racist capitalist society where those who are the most unfortunate will get fucked first and fucked often. 5) though there are folks on the ground doing their best, the government failed us by not having the resources (read: troops) to protect the "homeland"--terrorist attack, natural disaster (dubya won't let you forget how "natural" the disaster was), or otherwise. 6) there are folks down there just trying to survive, and they're being treated like criminals.

mike myers, playing the part of the white liberal in this episode, appeared as if he hadn't cast a black chick in his last austin powers movie...looking sort of...uh, canadian?** as you, on the verge of tears, barely got your shit together to say, and i quote, "george bush doesn't care about black people." at which point, mike myers lost his fucking shit, and apparently the folks in the control room lost their shit, too. because instead of cutting to someone who prolly coulda held it together, they switched to another nig--chris "do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?" tucker--who very possibly, whether he found jesus or not, coulda been on his angry black man also.

yo, i must tell you, that nigga ye kangay kanye, i repeated that shit like a mantra for the rest of the night, undoubtedly getting on deshi's last nerve. but i sort of had to, because it was the first time somebody cut the bullshit, and kept it real--which is, if you ask me, pretty ironic for a hip hop star.

you're right, dude. dubya doesn't care about black people. but george bush really doesn't care about poor people, and if he didn't say it, his mama sure as hell did. this is why, unfortunately, cunnilingus--'black' as she is-- can be appalled that you would say such things. i know you didn't have enough time to articulate how this situation was more complicated than the mere eight words you were able to spit out--they would've definitely just took the shit off the air--but i have to give props to you for being willing to be that pebble in the shoe: irritating enough that whoever's walking has to--no matter how hard s/he tries to relegate you to a more 'comfortable' place--keep it in the back of his/her mind that you're there, and every now and again, has to pause and decide if s/he's going to take the time to stop and address your presence.

unfortunately, nearly a week later, your act is barely a footnote in this story. you (and maybe ray nagin) are the germ that spawned yet another conversation on race and class. sadly, the media followed the same formula. as we all know, after someone on the fringe says something real and consequently deemed (temporarily) incoherent, they call in their list of "reinforcements". you know the script. there's a list of black people the media call (jesse jackson, al sharpton, t.d. jakes...alan keyes, and armstrong williams for the black conservative pov) when some sort of black shit goes down. and they get to channel your anger in such a way that doesn't scare white folks. call it a coherent articulation of black rage, if you will. but like audre lorde said, "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." and by tools i mean both mechanical device and bitch dupe.

and though i said your move to "keep it real" was sort of ironic for a hip hop star, that's really not true. what you did, in a sense, was truly hip hop. though you came to your popularity in a moment where hip hop has nearly, if not completely, been sucked into the superstructure (that's the right word, right? correct me if it's not.)--hip hop's "induction" into the academy, in my opinion, is the most forceful evidence of this-- for a moment, you made me believe that hip hop might still be used as a place to promote social change.** that maybe it's not merely just another hustle, but, just as certain aspects of it once did, hip hop can still sometimes speak for those with no voice. so in this sense, the fact that you, the reigning queen king of hip hop, stood up and said this is most appropriate.

in fact, as i finish this letter, i'm thinking my hating on you might even be more than temporary. though i reserve the right to call you on your shit when you're on your shit, when it all falls down (pun intended), i gotta fuck with you, that nigga ye kangay kanye.** because your speech showed me something most important: you love black people. (implicitly, i think you care about poor people.) and i, well, despite my position as the assholish hater, i "heart" black people, too.

what else but love?

though i can't promise not wanting to vomit when you come on tv, i bought--and did not download-- your album yesterday. you deserve the 80 cents. don't spend it on another pink shirt. just kidding.

keep it hip hop.

summer m., unofficial voice of 'the race'

p.s. if you haven't thought of this already, i think you and celine should do a record together.


1) by calling myers "canadian" i know i made that a really loaded term. i am not saying there are no people of color and/or racism in canada. but for some reason, whenever i saw that clip, i kept thinking to myself, 'why does mike myers look so...canadian?' i was not, however, entirely lucid.

2) i am not a hip hop skolar. and i know some of you may want to 'discuss' if the presence of hip hop in the academy signifies its death as a viable space of resistance. i say yes, but many of you may disagree...feel free to let me know how and why.

3) "all falls down" is a song by kanye west.

oh yeah...
i really wanna give a special shout out to the blogger currently known as dandelion, author of the freshest blog, she real cool. not only is that a great name for a blog, but she very nicely posted the transcripts from kanye's television appearance, and celion dion's interview on larry king. thus, i didn't have to search for it. good lookin' out, fellow lover of maud.

to see the non-censored version of kanye's speech, feel free to visit ifilm.

and finally...
going to fort wheezy today, so there prolly won't be an essay this weekend.

open letter #1
open letter #2
open letter #3

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Monday, September 05, 2005

(start a rumor monday...)

summer m. zoolanders at black weblog awards, retires from blogging

sometimes life imitates art. that's what happened yesterday at the black weblog awards when blogger summer m. took the stage. in a scene that mirrored derek zoolander's antics at the vh1 fashion awards, summer m. gave an acceptance speech for an award she did not win.** just as zoolander took the stage to receive what he thought was his unprecedented third straight male model of the year award, summer m. grabbed the black fist statue from karsh's hand and hugged presenter, bernard bradshaw before giving her monologue to the astonished crowd. it seems that summer m. went deaf after bernard said, "and the winner is..." though the humanity critic's name was announced, summer m. rose from her seat as if fecundmellow had been called.

"it was a pretty sad sight," blogger and fecundmellow intern, harold gibson said during an aftershow interview. he later reflected, "if you look at some of her rumors from earlier in the year, you'd say she was a shoe-in to win. but i think her perpetual disses of kanye west got old after a while. and her stuff on star jones? not really that funny if you ask me."

"anybody who didn't vote for summer m. is a beyotch," fellow personality chick, saf said. "and it's obvious that these voters don't have a clue when it comes to 'best writing in a blog'. i'm pretty sure i'm the only nig who used the term 'avuncular' in a blog entry. i flow from the ebonic to the academic more smoothly than any muhfuckin' body. is it my fault you have a limited vocabulary?, beyotches." she yelled into the microphone, "i'm the muhfuckin' toni morrison of this goddamn blogosphere. fuck all y'all that didn't see that."

even saf's rant couldn't shift the focus from her homegyrl's embarrassing faux pas earlier in the evening. sitting near the aisle for quicker access to the podium, summer m.--dressed in a novelty t-shirt that read "split lickety", levis, a cordouroy blazer, and a fresh pair of puma sum 69's--was accompanied by the p. chix and her date for the night, anonymous commenter, blu. when she thought she heard her name announced as funniest blogger, she rose, gave the p. chix dap, tongued down blu, and pointed to various people in the crowd as she walked up to the stage. the confused orchestra played jean grae's "hater's anthem" as summer m. walked to the podium. she hugged a bewildered bernard bradshaw and karsh before turning to the audience and giving the following acceptance speech:

wow. i am soooo shocked and surprised to be on this stage tonite. i truly can't believe that i'm here on stage accepting the award for best humor blog. but the people have spoken. and if i may paraphrase my sister jneezy's favorite group, destiny's child, the people have [*sings*] said my name, said my name. i swear, all the voters musta been like summer! summer! just like kerry washington the other night, and res the night before that. but i digress. let me get to the speech i prepared just in case i won.

though there are a ton of people who i could probably thank this evening, i'm not going to because i want to take the opportunity to thank the entity most responsible for me being here tonite. that person was there at the beginning. in good times and in bad. in sickness and in health. richer and poorer. oh yes, friends, bloggers, countrymen, lend me your ears. picture it:
chicago, illinois 2004. a young graduate student sits alone in her room talking aloud to herself saying: 'no man thinks more highly than i do of the bloggism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who address the world through blogging. but different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, i hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as i do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, i shall blog forth my sentiments freely and without reserve.' and that person listened. oh yes, that being listened as that young, sexy, single graduate student claimed, 'i shall go on to the end, i shall blog in france, i shall blog on the seas and oceans, i shall blog with growing confidence and growing strength. ' this spirit heard that young, charming woman's claims that she would blog from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city. that through blogging she will be able to speed up that day when all of god's children, black men and white men, jews and gentiles, protestants and catholics would have nothing to fear but fear itself. and that this woman would continue to blog until the end. because old bloggers never die, they just fade away.

yes, yes, y'all. i want to publicly thank that one person who was always there, and always will be. and that person is no one other than...


i want to thank myself for being the most clever muthafucka on the internet blogging today. i am a star, i'm a star, i'm a star. i'm a big, bright, shining star. if you smell something funky it must be me because i am hot shit. i am solely responsible for the hotness you read on fecundmellow every fucking day. i know you read my posts and wonder, 'how in the hell does she spit hot fiyah like everyday? how does she consistently moisturize the situation all the while preserving the sexy?' well, i'm here to tell you, folks. like pimpin', blogging ain't easy, but it sho' is fun. and those who can't blog, read blogs like mine.

and to the haters, i just want to say that i ain't trippin on you. what can you expect when you're on top? you know? it's like napoleon. when he was the king, you know, people were constantly trying to conquer him, you know, in the roman empire. so, it's history repeating itself all over again.

and finally, to my fans, i just wanna say, summer m. promises to keep rocking and rollin' and writing better blog entries.

thank me!!! and goodnight. **

it was at that point that summer m. turned and saw the humanity critic standing next to bernard and karsh. she looked at the jumbotron and saw that it was not her name in lights, but his. she turned back to the crowd and said very calmly, "well fuck y'all muthafuckas then." and left the stage.

though the media couldn't get in touch with fecundmellow, miss jessi spoke on behalf of summer m., "summer m. says and i quote, 'fuck y'all ungrateful bitches. i quit.'"

the internet-star studded event airs on upn at 1am tuesday morning.

three things:
1) o week is postponed 'til next week.

2) ask fecundmellow answers will be posted tomorrow, thus no star jones project this week.

3) notes:
**zoolander: derek zoolander (ben stiller) accepts a vh1 fashion award when in actuality hansel (owen wilson) has won. this prompts his retirement, and is the basis for the rest of the film. if you haven't seen this movie, you should. not because it's a great movie (though it is), but because i refer to it way too much on this blog for you not to have seen it by now.

**if you're not up on your famous speeches, i swiped quotes from the following: big willy shakespeare: julius caesar; sophia patrillo: golden girls; patrick henry: give me liberty or give me death; winston churchill: we shall fight them on the beaches; martin luther king: i have a dream; fdr: first inaugural address; gen. macarthur: old soldiers never die...;and, of course, boogie nights.

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Friday, September 02, 2005

this weekend's essay: it's the questions (what?) it's the questions (who?)

i'd intended to post a queston about being the lead singer in a cover band, but that's just gonna have to wait, i guess. in response to yesterday's post, an anonymous commenter asked me a question that i feel somewhat obligated to answer. thus, instead of my initial idea, it's time for another round of ask summer m./fecundmellow. i think i've gained enough new(er) readers to warrant this narcissistic exercise.

basically, you can ask me anything you want. i've done this a few times before. i've answered everything from 'why don't you date anymore?' to 'why do you hate kanye west?' to 'why is the sky blue?' for an idea of what people have asked me previously, feel free to go here, here, here, or here.

depending on the response, i'll try to post my answers during o week.

don't be afraid to offend me. you prolly won't. and well, i can be pretty offensive in my responses.

c'mon lurkers. i know you're out there.

have a good one.

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

Thursday, September 01, 2005

ring the bell, skool's in sucka!!!!

summer m. presents: grad skool for beginners
part 2 of 2

yesterday, i posted some excuses for new and returning undergraduates in a fix. today, i shift my focus to graduate skool. now let me just say this: despite the fact that i'm beginning year 4 of my program, i have no words of wisdom for graduate skool. in fact, i'll prolly just end up talking about myself, and i may include some things i've learned along the way. but whatever, i committed to two parts, i'm gonna follow through. new grad students and/or those thinking of giving the ivory tower a shot might find this helpful.

as i've said before, i'm from your typical midwestern town. my daddy works at a factory; my mother works for the phone company; and my stepdad was a police officer for 25 years. though they've ascended some in recent years, my folks are pretty much working class people. only one of my three parents graduated from college, and that happened about 5 years ago. i'm the eldest of four, and i'm a publik skool kid. i say these things for 3 reasons: first, when it came to applying for college, neither i nor my parents knew a great deal about the process; second, only two people affiliated with my high skool really encouraged my allegedly 'gifted' ass. (that's what they call you when you sleep in class and still get A's, though everyday you show up to class with other books--meaning unassigned reading--because all of your textbooks are in your locker, and you forgot the combination a long time ago.)

the first one person outside of my family to exhibit concern about my choices in institutions of higher learning was mrs. patterson, who encouraged me to apply to smith; she was convinced that i would've really flourished there. i don't think she meant that i would've become a lesbian sooner, which is prolly what would've happened. (i mean, she did get me a prom date.) the second was a recruiter from yale. i think she encouraged me to apply because we had a very brief conversation about their eyes were watching god. i applied to neither skool because my parents said there was no way we could afford it. finally, i say this because though my mama was not a crackhead, and i had two father figures who were more or less present in my life, from one or more points of view, i shouldn't be here.

ivy league dreams aside, i went to purdon't and majored in several things--including business and communications--before settling on english. by the time my junior year rolled around, i figured i'd either become a lawyer or a teacher. i found the idea of becoming a professor alluring, but i truly didn't have any idea how you became one. academia was a very cryptic and abstract thing to me. though there are professionals in my family, there are no professors. someone with a ph.d. was merely someone who was a doctor, but couldn't prescribe you medication. but every now and then i'd get a clue of how one got to teach college classes, and publish books and articles no one ever read. and i figured, i like to read, why not go to graduate skool? yeah, yo. summer m. decided to go to graduate skool and get a ph.d. because she liked to read.

though i'd only been an english major for maybe 3 semesters of my entire college career, somehow i got into grad skool. and let me tell you: getting a ph.d. in english is a rude awakening for anyone who goes because he or she enjoys reading fiction. here are some other things i've learned along the way:
  • if you don't drink, you will. and if you do drink, you'll drink more. since alcoholism runs rampant on both sides of my family, i thought imbibing would definitely open a flood gate. despite my genes, after a year of being an uptight asshole, i turned to vodka. i'm still an asshole, but i'm much more relaxed now. the rest is history.
  • if you don't smoke, you will. 'the more man smoke herb, the more babylon fall.' bob marley ain't neva lied.
  • it's really just learning how to talk. if someone twists my arm long enough to get an honest answer about what i really do--meaning, they don't believe that i'm independently wealthy--i'll be honest and tell them i'm getting my ph.d. every now and then i meet someone who is impressed by that. this is absolutely crazy to me. i've told several people that getting a ph.d. is largely learning how to talk a certain way. my first year, i came up with a very long list of words that should appear in any academic paper i write; a sort of academic lexicon, if you will. i realized it often wasn't what someone was saying that blew my mind, it was really how he/she was saying it. sadly, a lot of professors won't give you the time of day if you don't have the 'words to say it.' to add insult to injury, these same profs will adore the idiots in your class who have those words at their disposal but aren't saying shit. i suppose that's kind of like packaging, or advertising. eventually folks will catch on if the product is bad. but if you have a great idea, and say 'use' instead of 'employ', you look like the store brand. using words and phrases like 'problematize' and 'put pressure on' will get your shit off the shelf and into the cart. french words move your product from the bottom to eye level.
  • value your own cultural capital. if you study some other shit (in all senses of the term) , odds are you will meet colleagues who may condescend when you bring up ellison instead of eliot. it's all good. try this: next time you're all chilling, talking some academic bullshit, bring up some shit you have a pretty good feeling your colleagues may not know about. i suppose he/she will perhaps scoff as if whatever you've brought up is superfluous. but as soon as he/she brings up some obscure french film you've neither seen nor heard of, there's a chance that on some level you're somehow an inadequate intellectual. that's just bullshit-- i promise. don't let these mofos invalidate what you study. and definitely don't think they're somehow more learned than you. especially in the first year, everyone's just as scared and just as clueless. in fact, the more i learn, the more inadequate i feel. yet i'm not going to allow a peer to convince me that they know more, and that their knowledge is more valuable than mine. save yourself the stress. do you, and do it proudly.
  • it's all still a mystery. despite what i've written here, i have no idea what the hell i'm talking about. i'm sure some of my other grad skool pals have something much more concrete and true to contribute.

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison