Sunday, October 28, 2007


Unless you're looking for archived ramblings, there's nothing to see here. And there will be nothing to see in the future.

I'm out.

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

Thursday, October 25, 2007

old friends 4 sale

Tonight is the season premiere of Run's House, and I'm as excited as Al Sharpton when a nigga gets arrested. [...] Maybe someone told me this, or I read this somewhere (though a Google search didn't elicit any results), so I hope I'm not plagiarizing anybody as I publicly reiterate what I've said on several previous occasions: Run's House is the 21st century Cosby Show.

In a way, Run's House is a popular culture perfect storm: hip hop plus reality television plus an eighties throwback equals MTV success. It's very simple. After the millennium, Dr. Huxtable becomes Rev. Run. The M.D. has been replaced by the (former) M.C. Though the Rev opts for tracks suits over Coogi sweaters (both fashions have reached legendary and immortal status via a hip hop verse or two), both men show a particular fondness for silk jammy sets. Both have seemingly unorthodox and humorous approaches to parenting: while Cliff teaches Theo a finance lesson with Monopoly money, Rev teaches Diggy it's wrong to take people's things by secretly surveilling him, and showing the tape in the family movie theater. Rev's mid-life crisis is ameliorated by a surprise birthday party with entertainment care of hip hop has-beens, while Cliff was serenaded by Lena Horne, or chose to face off in a sprint against Tailwind Turner. Cameos by Stevie Wonder and Dizzy Gillespie have been supplanted by Treach and Rockwilder. Yes, once upon a time rap music was merely the trendy vehicle that helped Theo and Cockroach, two upper middle class black kids, learn Shakespeare. Now, hip hop is the only way Theo is getting on television. Who needs Sugar Hill when it can get you Cherry Hill (New Jersey)? In this context, hip hop is the new jazz.

In the Run's House version, the roles of Sandra and Denise are played by Vanessa and Angela. In the way that the originals never really seemed to quite fit into the Huxtable family mold--rememeber, the Huxtables originally only had four children-- and the myriad of casual debates on the idea that Sandra and Denise were in effect "too light" to actually be Huxtable offspring, Vanessa and Angela's involvement in the show seemed a bit forced since by season 2, They no longer lived in the house; further, Vanessa and Angela are Justine's stepdaughters. Jojo, of course, takes up the role as Theo, and nothing makes that more evident than Rev. Run's discussion with him over his grades, or the episode where he's left in charge of Diggy and Russy, the Vanessa and Rudy of the Simmons family.

How, then, might we explain Justine as the reality show version of Claire? Well, the maternal craving similarity notwithstanding (Claire's lasted an episode, Justine's an entire season), there doesn't seem to be much the two have in common. Unless, of couse, we remember that originally, Claire was a housewife, not an attorney. I'm afraid, however, that feminists might have very little to cheer about. Justine, it seems, would be more aptly described as a hip hop "First Lady," whose very identity seems to be constructed and contingent upon her relationship to her husband (and children), in the very same way that hip hop entourages (Ruff Ryders, Terror Squad, etc.) describe the lone female member of their respective group.

That said, I love Run's House. It's probably the only form of "wholesome black entertainment" we might expect to see on this side of the 21st century. Then again, I love the Cosby Show; Run's House is its most entertaining derivative to date. Yet, I cannot help but think about it as another example of the way hip hop has saturated our popular psyche. Is it possible that the only potentially successful portrayal of a middle class black family on tv must necessarily be (w)rapped in a hip hop package? Must televised black life be funneled through rap music for consumers to ingest it?

As an aside: my mother used to cover her dog's medicine with peanut butter in order to get her to take it. Thing is, she got hip to my mom's game, and moms had to resort to other kinds of trickery because mere coaxing wouldn't work. Eventually, my mom ran out of ideas. I don't think Nala (the dog) got any medicine the last time I visited. There's moral to that story--I think.

And you don't stop.


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

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

if i was your girlfriend

Or, Why I'll Never be Anyone's Spokesperson (Reason #217)

Though it's still unofficial, Atlanta will be awarded a WNBA franchise in 2008. It will be the first franchise in the Southeast since the Charlotte Sting folded a couple years ago. Though I only occasionally catch a few minutes of a playoff game--fuck you. I do not feel guilty about not watching the WNBA-- I think this is great. Here's the funny part: When asked if there were concerns about potential attendance since the Atlanta Hawks haven't had fans since, I don't know, the Human Highlight Film/Spud Webb days, Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders had this to say, "We have a significant talent pool with the SEC and ACC, which are very strong conferences for men's and women's basketball. [...] We would have this type of opportunity for women to leave college and go on and play in the Southeast in the WNBA."

If asked the same question, here's how I would have responded, "There are mad gay hoes in Atlanta trying to fuck professional women athletes."

That is all.



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

Saturday, October 06, 2007

something in the water (does not compute)

Lately, in between working on a rough (rough!) draft of my dissertation proposal, and reading some necessary and additional, but ancillary fiction-- which constitutes feeling anything from utter ennui as I slowly, drowsily turn the pages of On the Road (yet again) to paroxysms of orgasmic excitement as I read the rest of Octavia Butler's oeuvre-- I've been trying my hand at fiction, once again. Mostly, I sit and play stupid eye tricks while staring at the computer screen (focused...unfocused!), swig bottled water and munch on a Trader Joe's Trail Mix Bar for an hour, before I get up and pat myself on the back for adding a comma here, a semi-colon there, and changing my characters' names. (More on that in a later entry.)

Initially, it wasn't this hard; it seems that I've written myself into a corner: I can't come up with things for my characters to say. It's among the variety of difficulties I encounter when I sit down to write. How can I inhabit, invent a perspective and accurately relay its actions, reactions, behaviors, and words? I read about the "Desperate Housewives controversy" from this perspective.

I've never watched a scene of DH. I don't think I'm part of their demographic. Yet I'm compelled to address Filipino Americans' demand for an apology from the producers of the show, which came to be after one of characters responded to her doctor's diagnosis that she might be in the beginning stages of menopause by saying, "Can I just check those diplomas because I just want to make sure that they are not from some med school in the Philippines." The petition states that the comment was "discriminatory and hurtful" and "not necessary to maintain any humor in the show." Now, I'm not quite clear on how the comment was discriminatory, but I concede that it could have been hurtful; I'm in no position to talk about the comment within the context of the show. I know nothing of Filipinos' presence in our healthcare system. But one question: are we so consumed with being politically correct that fictional characters cannot say stupid, bigoted, and hurtful things?

This "controversy" isn't new. I suppose there are still folks in the world who are trying to ban Huckleberry Finn because the young hero says nigger. To be sure, I'm not equating DH with one of the greatest novels ever; that would be misguided. As misguided, perhaps, as the petition when it provides the Isaiah Washington, Michael Richards, and Rosie O'Donnell incidents for comparison. For, it would seem to me that in this increasingly PC (politically correct, not personal computer) world, it is imperative that fictional characters utter such things.

Every time I open my mouth I offend someone. In fact, if I were famous, my publicist would have released a blizzard of apologies and "her words were taken out of context," press releases by now. My career, in essence, would be over. And it would be over because we don't allow people to say such things. Instead, we prefer a facade of civility, and pretend that our best straight friends have never noticed our gay lisps. We choose a code of silence.

Fiction can do more than teach us about other people and other worlds. Make-believe can, ironically, give us portraits of real people who occasionally fail to regulate their ids, who say the stupid, bigoted things they (we?) were thinking all along. Writers have the potential to render people in their most flawed and human light, to make them say the things they should not say, and do the things they should not do. So, then, if I create a character who is a racist (sexist, classist, et. al.)-- not a bed sheet wearing, cross-burning, back of the truck dragging racist; but you know, your unassuming, suburban white flight racist-- can I not allow that character to upchuck racist (sexist, classist, et. al.) thoughts? Or would we rather think that diversity training works, and does more than simply preclude us from thinking that we may actually be all of those aforementioned bad things? In my estimation, All in the Family (one of my favorite shows) would have never been greenlit, let alone aired in such a climate as this.

There are those, I'm sure, who see no value in creating Archie Bunker-like characters with all of their "hate speech." Yet how can an honest conversation ever occur if we're not honest in the ways we talk, and none of us knows what the other is really thinking? Can Isaiah Washington get sensitivity training if he never says the word faggot in mixed company? And since it's obvious that he can't utter those words in those "town hall" meetings we like to have, how can we ever have any sort of frank discourse? Well, I might suggest that we begin by creating characters who commit the infractions that are otherwise intolerable. And if we can't do that without the threat of petitions, and the suggestion of editing utterances of that kind of language, where can we do it?

As a (wannabe) writer, who struggles daily with giving her characters words, it would do nothing but further exacerbate my situation if I had to make sure that even my mildest characters didn't say anything offensive or hurtful. Further, such gestures would, ultimately, undermine part of the work that fiction-- televised and otherwise-- can and should do.

That said, I still hated Crash.

Link to the petition.


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