Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Gift of Insight

As I was traipsing through the web trying to figure out how to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, I came across this picture and thought of the implications of it. A Black Santa, after all, can go two ways. But when I read the article that this picture accompanies, I realized that there was a lot more to the picture in itself, and the article goes a long way to inspire readers to look further into the subject of discussion. I hope you take the time to read the whole article, not necessarily today if you want to celebrate, but at some point you should read it, and I hope you may wish to read further.

I will say this; the section the picture refers to reminds me of a school project I and a classmate worked on for one of the school's administrators at DCC. He had a sizable collection of "black memorabilia"; items, relics and antiques relating to the images that prevailed about black people in America in the early 20th century. He was displaying some of them in an exhibit in the art department's gallery, and we were assigned to make a video of the exhibit. We shot some footage and I composed some music collages to accompany the images. He liked the end result well enough, but our teacher was somewhat disappointed. In retrospect, I understand his disappointment because the video did not include interviews or explanations of the articles on exhibit, but I also remember that we had very little time to put a much deeper program together. Sadly, this footage has not survived, but if I were to do this again, I promise it will be quite an interesting documentary.

All together now, "Merry Christmas!!!" (and Free Jolly Jenkins! >;)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sporting Rants (because I sometimes talk about sports then start ranting instead...)

I was originally going to post this as a comment at Bronx Banter, who some of you know is a Yankee-centric fan site I often habituate (if I may so indescreetly use the term), but then I realized, "Hey, this is another one of my long rants that decidedly go off-road, so I better put it somewhere where no one will feel compelled to actually read it..." Well, if you've gotten this far, I strongly suggest that you continue...(click-click!)

Not too much being said about Toyota and Audi (happily?) stepping in for General Motors, who chose to stick with the Mets in cutting back on sponsorship deals. Were the Yankees asking for more and GM decided they couldn't afford it? Does this make more sense for the Yanks? And how do the local media, who trumpeted the split, feel about it? Personally, I have no brand preference beyond performance, so though I own a Ford Explorer, I'd much prefer a Toyota Highlander. (More on this: GM and the Mets are in negotiations for an extension of sponsorships, and while they have cut loose six major league teams, they are reviewing all of their deals in light of their nearing bakruptcy and all...)

Also, JetBlue becomes JetRed (essentially) as they partner with the Red Sox as their official airline and on some deal with Fenway Park. From what I've heard lately about JetBlue, it's no better for the Red Sox, so good luck with that.

Should Derek Lowe and his ilk be surprised that their sticker prices are being viewed as a little too high for even contending teams? They may have been steady producers, but are they in their prime? The market is busting for prime players, not producers with a long history (unlike, say, the movies)... Manny, for example, may have hurt himself immensely by playing the agent's game of opting out so late in the game for a bigger contract during an economic crisis, never mind forcing his way out of town in the manner that he did. But is Manny a bigger fool if he doesn't get what he thought he would, or Scott Boras (doubt it) for advising him to do so? No, the biggest fool is whoever signs Manny for three or more years.

Then, there's the whole thing with Furcal. I looked over by our old friends at Dodger Thoughts, and most have opted for the shrugged-shouldered "well..." response in regard to Furcal's agents backing out on Atlanta. I would like to think that the Braves were justified in their indignation if it weren't for the fact that:

A. Frank Wren could not close the deal on a trade for Jake Peavy.
B. Frank Wren could not close the deal on signing A.J. Burnett (despite the howling and warnings of many Yankee fans and media types alike).
C. Frank Wren traded Mark Texeiria when it looked like they were out of the pennant race instead of locking up a potential free agent star, then canceled himself out of this year's sweepstakes early. (Perhaps not a fact, but an observation)

That's a lot of bad luck for a seasoned GM taking over for a well-seasoned GM who usually makes deals like this with his eyes closed. And with the economy going the way it is, I don't know any "good" agent who isn't going to make sure his client doesn't get as much as he can from exactly where he wants to be. I don't agree with what Furcal's agents have supposedly done, but one shouldn't be surprised that it happened, and the real loser is Frank Wren for not doing due diligence by his team by meeting with Furcal in person, like some GMs would have. If he'd done everything possible to sign Furcal, even knocking on his door with a term sheet and literally shook hands and THEN they backed out, I'd have a little more sympathy for their plight.
Some say David Wells did the same thing when he signed with the Yanks the second time after meeting with George over cheeseburgers after he said he was about to sign elsewhere, but whereas George and Wells actually got together and literally broke bread, Furcal's agents supposedly took the offer back to the Dodgers because Furcal wanted to stay there and be a shortstop. Dirty pool, but not unwarranted considering THEY were doing due diligence by their client.

After that, I start getting a little mean, so I'll shut up for now...

Btw, I wanted to add a shout-out to former MLB pitcher Dock Ellis, who was once quoted as saying that he wouldn't start against Oakland's Vida Blue in the All-Star Game because Major League Baseball would never start "two soul brothers'' against each other. That being the 70's and all, and much of the 70's flew over my head as I was but a little child, I wonder how that was received by the baseball fans at that time. I likely would have shook my head in agreement, but I also have to think, "does he mean soul-brother because they're black, or soul-brother because they both did so much drugs?" I dunno, I was just a kid, born in midst or end of their prime, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

Nevertheless, I do remember Dock Ellis being sort of a low-level folk hero among my sports-fan family members, so there's incentive to catch up. Diane Firstman at Bronx Banter makes a good point that it's a shame where you have a sport that has blown up so much economically on the backs of its former players, (glamorous or not I might add) that you have a former player like Dock Ellis who didn't even have health insurance and had to rely on the good will of his friends. Really, it is, and speaks volumes on the priorities of a country experiencing major economic downturns rivaling the Great Depression that insists on first bailing out the very businesses that helped cause the problems instead of the people who were victimized by their decisions.

After that, I get a little mean, so I'll shut up now... >;)

(Thanks again to Diane Firstman at Bronx Banter, who inspired much of this rant with her News of the Day column which I read semi-religiously. Also acknowledgments to for the Dock Ellis illustration by James Blagden)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sock & Awe! New Viral Game by PopJam

Recent events have brought to bear an outpouring of... um, expression, if you will. This game (from the folks at PopJam) is just a reminder of how cool the internet can still be when you have time on your hands, an imagination, a little bit of initiative and at least a firm annoyance with the administration of the 43rd President of the U.S.... Enjoy! >;)

(So far, my roommate has the top score in the SC network with a score of 7. Beat that! >;)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Home Girl Does Good!

Noemi Figueroa Soulet; Producer, Director, Writer of THE BORINQUENEERS!

The Borinqueneers is a powerful documentary about the all-Puerto Rican 65 Infantry Regiment who participated in the Korean War. This is a chapter in Puerto Rican History no one often talks about, as the press release states: “Their toughest fight was not on the battlefield! What does that mean; just see this documentary!" The film nationally premiered on PBS this past August. Noemi and the f elm crew spent nearly 9 years producing the film for no salary. As she stated: “Our goal was to tell the story of these unique soldiers from their previously unheard point of view. The research we did was viewing military records, personal collections and dozens of oral histories. We identified our interview subjects and went to work."

This past November 7, the documentary was shown at the Wechsler Theater, the same building which is the home of El Museo Del Barrio.’

Noemi gave CALL ME ISMAEL five minutes of her time to talk about the documentary.

CALL ME ISMAEL-“You’re a home-girl from the neighborhood. True?

NOEMI-“Yes! I was born in Puerto Rico but grew up in East Harlem. I used to live on 103rd Street, then on 117 Street, and lastly on 123 street-all on the East Side. My fondest memories are of going to the Cosmo Theater on weekends which was on 116 street between Lexington/Third Avenue. I would go see Spanish films from the Golden Era of Mexican films starring Pedro Infante, Cantinflas, Etc and going to La Marqueta on Park Avenue to shop. I still smell the odors from that market of spices and fish!

CALL ME ISMAEL -Showing this film to the people who grew up with you in the neighborhood. How did you feel?

NOEMI-“Coming back to my roots is a wonderful feeling. If I can inspire others from the old neighborhood to work hard to make their dreams come true, then that’s great!

CALL ME ISMAEL-Ken Burns! Are you critical of his new documentary which does not show any Latinos?

NOEMI-“The segment that I saw of the Ken Burns series “The War” did have some interviews of Latino veterans. But I do think that overall not enough of our Latinos stories have been told. That is the main reason I produced “The Borinqueneers” because noting had been visually documented in a feature-length format of this famous unit the 65 Infantry Regiment and I thought it was long overdue.”

CALL ME ISMAEL-In hearing some of the things these individuals went through was there ever any emotion from the crew.

NOEMI-“Some of the crew I hired did not even speak Spanish so they did not understand what the veterans were saying but, or course, you could hear the emotion in the voices of the veterans and know that something emotional was happening to them. For the crew that did not understand Spanish. I am sure they were moved by the interviews but, as professionals, they could not disrupt the interviews.”

CALL ME ISMAEL-You state that it’s about time we look out for ourselves when doing documentaries which profile us. What did you mean by that?

NOEMI-“Well I feel if others will not tell our stories then it’s our responsibility to tell our own stories-from our own unique perspective!

CALL ME ISMAEL-The documentary has been getting good feedback. True?

NOEMI-“We have received an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone who has seen the film. Puerto Ricans and non-Puerto Ricans, civilians, military, 65 veterans, and their continental officers! It really has made a powerful impact for many and we receive many, many, letters and phone calls from people thanking us for making the film.”

CALL ME ISMAEL- How much was the whole budget for the movie?

NOEMI-It is really hard to determine the exact budget because I spent nine years of my life working on this for no salary. We made four versions of the film. English/Spanish feature-length versions and English/Spanish one hour versions for PBS. There were many people who either gave us discounts or volunteered their time. So how much money was raised and actual worth of the films are two different things.”

CALL ME ISMAEL-Finally a three part question! Has Hollywood seen the film, do you see this documentary being a featured film, any Latino Actor past/present that you like to be casted.

NOEMI-“I think the story of the 65 Infantry Regiment has great potential to be a wonderful feature film. Some future prospects exist but there is nothing definite yet. The film was aired in Los Angeles, California but I don’t know how many people saw it who could make a film happen. Of course we have some wonderful actors who would be perfect to play Borinqueneers! Benicio Del Toro, John Leguizamo, Esai Morales, Jimmy Smits and many others. Let’s see what the future holds. Meantime, everyone can enjoy the documentary and visit our website at for more information on the film.

By the way you can also purchase a copy of the documentary at “El Museo Del Barrio” located at 104 street and Fifth Avenue.

Friday, December 12, 2008


There is a site (there is a site),
a certain site (a certain site),
a certain site you read it might
have you roll on the floor,
This certain site (this certain site)
with little might (with little might)
and with some irony
you'll all be banging down it's door,
You'll like this site (you'll like this site)
or maybe not (or maybe not)
I'm sure some people think
the makers should be found and shot,
But you'll agree (we hope you do)
as you shall see (go on and look!)
so click or ping the website,

dot commmmmmm...

Mm-hmm. Thanks to Nikki (my niece) for the link, and apologies to Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles for the satire. But as the title implies, the principle of this site is brilliant. Be it irony, offensive, trifling or just plain silly, don't be surprised if you hear something about it on the late-night talk shows. Shout out to the creator/s!

...ommmmmmmm... >;)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

fallout in the aftermath of the Obamenon...

perhaps this will be a long diatribe. perhaps will be something considerably less masturbatory. for my own sanity's sake, perhaps this should be something that finds the halfway point between the two.

it was just last night that will and i were talking about getting distance from election day 2008 in order to write about it with a clear head. we were joking about writing in such a way that it sounded like "i woke up, i voted, i went to work, i went home." basically, we both didn't want to make a big production number out of it.

will was over election day even before it arrived. like myself, he had grown tired of the election season and just wanted it to be over. as for myself, i was too busy thinking about the work that lied ahead of us to be overly jubilant about the election day outcome.

but something happened this morning that has caused me to finally write something for the site. if you have a facebook account, you've seen these little add-ons to your page where you can become supporters of artists, groups, or people you admire. last night, i become a supporter of michelle obama. one of my high school friends commented:

“that sort of took you a minute, really...”

something inside of me snapped after that. this was my response…

“GOD FORGIVE ME. i just saw this yesterday, so i added myself. sorry for not getting there 185,569 supporters earlier. i come here to build with people, not to find numerous things to support and superpokes to enact and whatever other bells and freakin' whistles to add to my page. to be real honest with you, i'm more happy to see michelle as 1st lady than i am about barack being president. that's why i added myself.

since this forces me to go into it, my vote was not an obama nor a mccain vote. it was a green party vote, the cynthia mckinney/rosa clemente ticket, to be precise. yes, i saw something on election day that i hadn't seen before and yes, i was in awe. and on some level, i was happy to see so many people happy, not just black people. at the same time, i will not allow myself to say 'yes, we did.' it implies that voting was all we had to do and now our part is done. and that is far from the case.

and beyond that, just exactly WHY was i supposed to show said support earlier? just because i'm black doesn't mean that obama support is automatically programmed into my dna and my melanin. members of the democratic party didn't show up in my 'hood with a negrocentric neural implant and a 'barack the vote' bar code to stamp on the back of my neck. one would think that i wouldn't have to explain this to people, but apparently i do.

(note to self: do not check facebook comments in the morning before you go to work...)”

"sheesh, i was sort of being whimsical there...." my friend replied about two hours later, only to counter with the following:

"note to you: remember to take this whole facebook thing with a proverbial grain of salt and try not to offend friends (offense taken)."

i suppose that's what i get for responding to such comments before nine in the morning. not for nothing, but "whimsical" is a place for two-year olds, peter pan and maybe michael jackson. i can understand it when my two-year old daughter's being whimsical. it becomes increasingly unnecessary and straight up annoying when grown-ass people do the same. life ain't a tim burton movie and your name ain't edward f**king scissorhands. and although i turned 35 the day after election day, i mentally feel twice that old, which means that i probably have no business being on a site like facebook. the grain of salt i should take things with i often treat like sand in the vaseline, because that's just me.

i've been accused by best friends, my wife, and plenty of other people that i overthink things too much. yeah well, for every person that overthinks things, there are at least 10,000 that don't think enough, if at all, so i suppose we all have some shortcomings to work on. but let me reel the anger in, because i make it sound like i'm unrepentent about all this, and that's not true. i threw out verbal daggers, somebody took offense to it and the power of Christ compelled me to make things right. so even though i stood by viewpoints, they admittedly could've been handled with more tact and i apologized for that. i closed the issue with the following thought:

"now everyone hug, make like post-racial muppets and sing "Obamahna" to the tune of "Mahna Mahna" and go about our business..."

remember mccain's concession speech and the torrent of boos from the crowd just from mentioning obama's name? remember him trying to quell the crowd in that same calm manner that he uses whenever he says, "my friends..."? did you notice a slight twinge in his voice and mannerisms at that moment that seemed to suggest that he really wished the booing throng would just shut the hell up, as if they had clearly done enough damage to his presidential run already?

remember jesse jackson's tears? ever stop to think that maybe, just maybe, his tears didn't necessarily translate into happiness for obama? let's be real: his tears could've meant a number of different things, either "that should've been me" or "i really wish martin was here" or "i really wish i hadn't talked about cutting barack's balls off in front of a live microphone."

and remember barack obama walking out onto the stage to a cheering crowd of thousands? of course you do. now please note that i said "walking" and not "floating" or "hovering." he does not walk on water. he does not have the cure for AIDS. and his win did not move us into a post-racial america. (and if you think i'm just pouring out haterade, you might want to have this conversation with the black muslim brother on staten island that got his ass beat by four white men on election day, just after barack was named our president elect.) to treat obama as some sort of cure-all or worse yet a messiah figure is setting the brother up to fail: he is a HUMAN BEING, prone to make mistakes, miss the mark, and not always get it right. may GOD protect him and the first family, but the sooner that this sits well with black america (and obama supporters of all backgrounds), the better off we'll all be.

okay, so...long diatribe. what do you want from me? just be thankful that this wasn't written before nine in the morning...i probably would've gotten this site shut down by lunchtime...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Keep Practicing, Kiddo!"

That's what Lucy told Schroeder as he was playing Beethoven on his "toy" piano before kissing him (to his eternal annoyance) and wandering off. Schroeder, after regrouping, calmly launched into one of the best musical moments in animated history.

(Though the clip begins way before the moment, it leads into it around the 5:00 mark and includes the movement in the movie.)

Just felt like sharing. There are certainly other musical animated moments that compare favorably to this, but this was a cathartic moment for our child prodigy and for millions of fans who suffered silently alongside good ol' Charlie Brown. Maybe I'll start listing my favorite moments, but if you have any suggestions, feel free to comment... >;)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This Little Guy

I was walking home from the doctor's this afternoon and I turned down one of the back streets towards my house, when...


I'd seen him/her? him, when I was on my way to the doctor's, only he was perched on the step of a house that was itself perched on a small, but steep hill. Now he was on the street with me, lampin' as it was. I said, "Hey there, you!" and he decided to stroll over and chat (which, all things considered, is natural for le chat). As I also happened to be carrying three grocery bags full of food, he was a bit curious. "Whatcha got in the bag, dad?" he leaned his head inside and purred kittenly. "Oh nuthin', just thought I'd cook dinner tonight instead of goging out for Burger King," I said, lifting the bag slightly off the ground so that he hung in mid-air. "Ain't nuthin' like cookin' fur yurself," he continued, "it's much better for yer system. It won't drag ya down or leave ya hangin'..."

A dour woman walked past us quickly, and I lowered the bag so he wouldn't get stepped on. When she passed, he hung his head inside the bag again, I lifted him and the bag off the ground and we continued.

"You're such a nice kitty. I don't usually see you guys so interested in what I have to say, usually you look at me like I'm gonna eat you or ask you for money." I softly twirled the nape of his neck as he purred contentedly.

"Well, I don't know much about that, but then agin', I don't know much aboutanythin' since I just got here myself only a little while ago," he replied, eyeballing the London broil.

"You're in for a real treat, then. Seems you came at the right moment. We're in the throughs of history as we speak, or so I'm told."

"Yeah? Well don't that beat all. What's it about?"

"Well, this cat was just elected President, and he's the first man of his particular type to be so honored in such a way. What's more important is that in doing so, he's given a whole lot of people a lift, in that now they can dream a little bigger and mean it, if they want to."

"Is that right? A cat as President?"

"Well, yes and no..."

"Well, whutevah that means, I hope he's as cool as this cucumber ya got in here. Hey, what's that..."

I lifted him out of the bag just as a much larger cat tracked our ever step from above; from what I could tell this was obviously Mommy.

"Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me!" she looked at me somewhat nervously. I handed kitten to a somewhat bemused Mommy and politely excused myself. As I crossed the street, I looked back, and junior was trying to follow me.

"Hey, stay there! Stay with Mommy!"

"Well, all I wanted tuh say was good-bye, it was nice talkin' with ya, mistuh..."

I smiled and walked down the sloping road towards my house. Halfway down, I stopped. Damn, I forgot to take a picture! I raced back up the sloping road to where I left the two of them together.

They were already gone.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Out Of Order

I know what you're looking for, an article about my reaction to Obama's election. Well ya gets none... yet. I'm working on putting together a bigger piece with all my fellow posters and a few of you guys and gals to present varied perspectives of our initial reaction, and there you'll find my long-winded analysis (if not my own, certainly Macedonia and Call Me Ismael should have a lot to say)...

No, this is just to let you know I'm sick again with a recurring theme of abscess-removal (this time in a more visible location, thus I'm hiding out in my apartment until the healing process has run it's course. I honestly don't know what's causing them; it could be that my apartment is crowded and my roommate has made it even more crowded with the addition of pet guinea pigs, it could be that said guinea pigs were caught frolicking on my bed and the chief offender was unrepentant until threatened with immediate eviction and bodily harm (not necessarily in that order), it could be that I came off a very stressful assignment with Celebrity Apprentice 2 (bad crew people, bad show, bad etc.), it could be that I find PAing wholly unfulfilling, abusive and a poor source of income (so I have to advance quickly in film production or die trying), or it could be good ol' fashioned stress.

Whatever the case may be, a lot of factors have to change soon if I'm to break this nasty little cycle. I'm thinking leave NYC quick, fast and in a hurry, but then what? Cali's much worse off than NYC, believe it or not. So I continue in my recovery and eventual return to the hectic pace of production, with a good notion that I may be practicing my directorial chops very soon. As usual, I'll keep you informed >;)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

a CTW moment: -tion, -tion, -tion, -tion...

for those who are wondering , CTW stands for Children's Television Workshop. i consider myself a child of CTW and proud of it. i had been thinking about sharing some CTW moments captured for posterity on youtube and figured, yeah, why not?

the first is courtesy of The Electric Company. Sesame Street will always have a special place in my heart, but TEC is my absolute favorite. so much so that i realized i can remember a box set's worth of skits and songs that didn't make it into the first two DVD volumes. that's kinda frightening. at any rate, i reckon if this were the official going green campaign song, everybody would be recycling. file under "environmentally funky"...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

On The Road Again: Celebrity Apprentice 2

Guess I'm gonna be driving around in circles in Midtown Manhattan again; ducking, dodging, bumping and rubbing my way through pedestrians ignoring traffic lights and taxi sudden-stops and cutoffs in the middle of six-lane boulevards as Celebrity Apprentice rears its head for a second (technically eighth) time. This is my second go-around with this show; I did learn more about NYC driving than at any other point in my life, not to mention knowing traffic patterns and stupid behavior by drivers and pedestrians alike. If anything, it shows that this show is located in the right place.

Last season, I drove around photographer Tommy Baynard and company as they shot photo of the proceedings throughout. Tommy's a great guy to hang around with; laid back and generous, with a beautiful young family. The pictures he took were the ones you saw in the papers the next day while the show was broadcasting. Too bad he won't be back this year. I hoped that I would be able to work with him this year, as he promised I would be able to work more closely with him as he found out I was interested in photography myself. Oh well.

I signed up hoping I would get to drive nights this time (so much easier to drive NYC at nights), but alas I'm stuck on day shift again; I'm one of their better and more presentable drivers, I guess.

After this, I'm hoping to sign up with a traveling show so I can work outside the city for the winter. My film partner insists that he'll need me on-set when we go into production for any of our developing projects, but then he's got a six-month gig taking him out of town, so hey. I'm finishing a short screenplay about a crack mother and her drama today, then I'm diving into some shot footage to assemble a story line from. So, as the money starts trickling in, I'm staying busy for the next month. If anything tickles or ticks me off, I'll let you know; stay tuned! >;)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Moving On...

It's time to elevate to the next level, as far as my film career is concerned. I'm still writing (as soon as one of the scripts or treatments gets picked up for production, I'm joining WGA) and still aspiring to direct (working on the money aspect to greenlight these projects), but as for the every day get-money gigs, I'm really, really, REALLY tired of PAing. In New York, at any rate. Lately, perhaps because of the latest twists and turns in the economy, or maybe because they are self-serving bastards, the production companies have been taking longer and longer to pay their crews after production is wrapped. That's fine if you're a working DP (Director of Photography), a Gaffer, a Key Grip or such who gets paid a lot of dough that they can put aside and live on for months, but if you are a PA, that's hand-to-mouth money. Such as it is, a PA can't wait three weeks to a month to get a measly pittance. It creates hardships that are less forgiving because you make less than others. And because PAs have no union to back them up, they are at the mercy of the production company, which as I've mentioned have been taking their sweet-old time about paying the crew lately.

No, it's not cool. So other than securing a shotgun or greenlighting your own productions, you have to move up and out of the position, at least to ensure that you get a better rate and more protection with the unions behind you. So what's next up from PA? I can go in a few directions, but I'm choosing the one from the picture because it's quicker and easier to learn than the others. Not to say I want to continue going up in this direction, but it's a new vine that gets me closer to my objectives.

Can you guess what I'm gonna do next? >;)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Democracy Deferred?

Here is where I'm likely about to lose readers, loyal or otherwise. If you cannot ascertain the fundamental gist of what I shall say, then good riddance.

There is a poll that suggests that Democratic candidate Barak Obama will come close to winning the election... but only close. It suggests that he will likely fail. It suggests that he will likely fail because of one thing. It suggests that beyond all of the evidence that suggests itself that he is the most likely candidate to effect change in a society that needs it, he will fail because said society will not change one crucial apsect of itself.

That aspect is racism. Pure, uncut, unashamed? Passive, apologetic, prejudicial hybrid? You tell me.

I heard on a program on MSNBC a term I had never heard until now: grievance politics. Grievance politics is a new code phrase that suggests that a person or party that complains in public or a political forum that their rights are alienated are inasmuch practicing an unfair and hypocritical form of fascism; one that reverses the tyranny and hardships that this person or party that suffers on those who are only "guilty by association" of fascist, tyrannical and hateful behavior of their own. That is to say, "by gaining the upper hand, you would instead become the villain and inflict racism upon the innocent; those who are only guilty of being descended from the unenlightened, why should you blame us for our fathers' sins?" In grievance politics, Malcolm X is evil because he returned the hatred that was first inflicted on his people by Eugene "Bull" Connor. In such politics, Martin Luther King would be in lock step with Governor George Wallace for his supposed passive-aggressive views on racism. Jesse Jackson is a hatemonger for his comments about Jews in New York and Al Sharpton is despicable for race-baiting that dates back further than Tawana Brawley.

But here is a man, Columbia and Harvard-educated (magna cum laude) and representing the honor and hopes of a democratic theory without trumpeting the fact that he is descended from two races that "ostensibly" are polar opposites of one another, and this poll suggests he will fail in his mission, simply because he is defined by half of his race; a race that is considered by many in passing, declaration or in silence as inferior and dangerous. Already there is editorial rhetoric about how history will come to vindicate George W. Bush for the many ignorant and evil decisions and costly indulgences that have come to nearly destroy this country and perhaps the world; saying that "he made the country safe." But what will history say about a country that failed it's fundamental principles of equality and justice when it could not consider the possible election of a non-white candidate, not based on flawed policy or theories of his or her own, but because of prejudice towards his race?

What does this ultimately say to non-whites? That no matter how hard you try to appease, succeed or grow beyond such ignorance, there will clearly be a majority of the voting population that will never trust you, never allow you to form policy that will alter or govern their lives and decisions, never allow you to compete or strive to embody the principles they themselves hold dear. Level playing field? After a defeat based on this idea that this poll suggests, you will never be allowed on the playing field again.

All the apologies, all of the reassurances, all of the explanations and promises, all of the "wait a little longers" and "wait 'til next years" will rightfully fall on deaf ears. There will be no explanations that justify why a majority of our nation continue to ignorantly fear the brightest, strongest and most honorable of our ranks, to explain how those who played by the rules are still remanded to the sidelines. Those who by all standards possible have achieved the highest of plateaus are torn from their stanchions and flung to the cabin floors, to await the repercussions of daring to dream, daring to work and daring to achieve beyond their assigned station inside a nation that loudly proclaims it's disdain for divisions. If what this poll suggests should come to be the deciding factor on a competition of principles, then the Constitution should be dissolved and the nation torn asunder and thrown to its creditors abound. History? History will only talk of the overwhelming failure of human nature to abide by words that do not exist: humanity, civility, democracy and freedom.

Understand this: this is not a threat to those that disagree, but a threat to the principles that all men are created equal, that freedom is an inalienable right and that democracy is worth fighting for. Democracy cannot exist where there is not freedom for all. Slavery continues to bound those who cannot see and think on their own. So yes, I don't like it. But I will not leave until those who tell me to do so leave from where I would go. Shall we continue to fool each other and ourselves about what defines the United States of America? To paraphrase someone who knew quite along time ago, "remember, remember the fourth of November."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Milk Is Killin', China's Illin'...

I like milk. But I'm glad we don't import it from this place.

With all of the corruption and perhaps ineptitude coming from this area lately (leading to massive casualties there and around the globe), why can't we just say no? Is it worth saving a buck or two when the person you're trying to sell your product to is dead or dying?

While we're at it, how about reigning in some of that outsourcing, huh?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Snoopy Goes Home: Bill Melendez

Bill Melendez, multi-award winning animator, and the "voice" of Snoopy, died today in Santa Monica, CA at age 91.

Melendez, a great-grandfather 11 times over, was the chief animator for Charles Schultz's "Peanuts" productions, and was the only animator permitted by Schultz to work with the characters. He was known well for his handlebar mustache, as well as the grunts, groans and guffaws that underlined Snoopy's pantomimic actions on screen. Before that, he was an animator for Walt Disney, working on several classic Disney movies and shorts like "Pinocchio", "Fantasia", "Dumbo" and "Bambi" among many others. We also worked for Warner Brothers, doing animation for many of the Merrie Melodies and Loony Toons characters. After leaving Warner Brothers, he developed a prodigious portfolio of commercials and films for several production companies; one of which brought him on to animate several car commercials involving the Peanuts characters.

Several years later, Melendez and Schultz teamed up with producer Lee Mendelson to create "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which in the initial opinion to all was a collosal failure. "Oh my God, we killed it," moaned Melendez to his staff. Even the network executives were down on the final results. But serendipedy favored the luckless trio as the network executives were forced, because of time constrainsts, to release the movie as scheduled. The rest was history.

A few thoughts stand out in my mind... one is of Melendez with Peter Robbins, the original voice of Charlie Brown, talking about the recording process and how he had to instruct the children how to inflect moods and tones in their voice acting. Because he spoke with a heavy Spanish accent, Robbins said, he often repeated what Melendez said verbatim... including the accent. "And he even copied that!" Melendez laughed.

Another thought is of the animation style that Melendez employed for Peanuts; static backgrounds and simplistic line variations, but easily identifiable with it's source material. Melendez used colors and shadows in a way that made the world of children seem bright and inviting, or foreboding in the mind's eye of a child. Comically underwhelming, yet artful.

My favorite moments in Melendez' Peanuts animation are many, but the ones that stand out the most are (in no particular order:)

-A Charlie Brown Christmas: the dance sequence (especially that kid doing the head-bob and shoulders thing, along with Shermy doing the Running Man and Sally the twins with a simplified version of The Wop), Linus' immortal speech about the meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown's agony over "killing" the tree he bought, and the gang's redemption and subsequent revival of the tree and themselves. The closing chorus of "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" still brings me to tears.

-A Boy Named Charlie Brown: "I Before E Except After C", Linus' struggle to find his lost blanket, Snoopy's ice skating solo, Linus finding his lost blanket, Charlie Brown's ignominiously tragic defeat in the Spelling Bee after surviving to the last round (notice how the scene lingers in a wide shot on a slumping and humiliated Charlie Brown alone in the spotlight on the darkened stage after blowing his last word), and the closing sequence where Lucy pulls the football from Charlie Brown as he flies in the air and crashes (to the strains of "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" sung by the illustrious Gene Kelly), signifying that life would go on as usual.

-A Charlie Brown Halloween: Linus' lonely vigil as he waits for the Great Pumpkin, only to be disappointed, his vow to "wait 'til next year" (and his fear that he may have forever alienated the Great Pumpkin by letting slip with a phrase that implied doubt), and of course, "I got a rock..."

-Snoopy Come Home: One of the most heartbreaking moments in movie history was the good-bye party for Snoopy, who felt obligated to return to his original owner, who was sick. After all of his friends tearfully spoke in front of a podium and gave him a goodbye gift, Charlie Brown approached the stand, bowed his head, struggling silently to say something... and screamed as Snoopy wailed loudly beside him. After Snoopy left, Charlie Brown sang himself to sleep, looking over his empty doghouse. You'd have thought Snoopy had died the way Charlie Brown was carrying on over him, and perhaps there was more to it behind the scenes than we know. It was an honest way to deal with loss as a child.

-Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown: This was Snoopy's showcase, mind you, but we did have a ball with him going from one place to the next, First Class all the way. Of course, the best parts were when he was flipping off the French drivers as Marcie yelled at them in fluent French. But who can forget, "Loaf de bread, sie vous plais? Mer-ci!"

Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown: Somehow, this is my sentimental favorite. Charlie Brown shows some leadership for a change, yet we realize that for all his triumphs and moments of personal growth, he is constantly undermined by his friends, well meaning and otherwise. At the moment of victory, the girls overzealously celebrate and knock all of the boys overboard before they reach the finish line, allowing the camp bullies, who had been dogging them and cheating throughout the entire race, to pass them. However, their overqualified vessel sinks after having absorbed much of its own abuse. When Woodstock fashions a makeshift sail to continue the race after his and Snoopy's tube is grabbed and punctured by the bullies and their nasty cat, the cat takes aim to strike again, but Snoopy, in one of the greatest moments in Peanuts history, knocks the cat out with one punch, securing Woodstock's victory. (In a later scene, the cat tries to catch Woodstock again, but Snoopy bum-rushes him and applies a well-deserved beatdown...)

-It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown: Charlie Brown finally gets the girl of his dreams, and she smooches him at the big dance, setting off a satisfying flight of fancy for ol' boy (too bad he didn't remember how gangsta he was after that...)

And this one, which for some reason has only been seen a couple of times: I think it was a vignette in "A Charlie Brown Celebration"; it was an update on the older Linus & Lucy joke, "Put in the mouth!" in which Linus has programmed a new arcade video game starring Snoopy and Woodstock, frolicking in the meadow searching for Easter eggs. Lucy happens along and watches Linus demonstrate the game, during which Linus nervously suggests that she may want to skip the monster that tries to catch them. Of course Lucy demands to see the monster, and Linus is forced to reveal a giant Lucy roaring and chasing the video-game Snoopy and Woodstock. Outraged, Lucy grabs the joystick and manipulates the giant Lucy monster to swing at the video screen, and "POW!" Linus is seen laid out on the floor, stars floating around his head.

As with Charles Schultz, Melendez informs much of my own artwork. Knowing that he also worked on some of Disney's most memorable animation makes me feel much better about his influence, being that as I do love Peanuts and the feel that was created in their shows, it was not fulfilling in terms of the style I seek in my won work. Bill Melendez was no one-trick pony, to say the least. He will be greatly missed in this part of the world.

Keep Yo' Eye On Yo' Luggage!

"Yes, he has his bags back, but the cash
and underwear are missing..."

Dang. You lose your job in one city, get a job in another one and on Day 1, before you can even settle down and get to know the place, someone takes off with your cash and your drawers. Do I even want to know what he intended to do with the underwear?

And the thing is, you were caught on camera taking the stuff. The best excuse you could come up with was that your teammate, who was also cut, asked you to pick up his luggage, which just happened to be outside the head coach's office. No, the TEAM PRESIDENT"S OFFICE!!! I'm the team president of an NFL franchise, yet I personally want to meet with the guy my coaches cut last week... so I can wish him a happy career elsewhere? Make sure he got all his crap out the lockers?

And hmm, he brought the luggage to a female accomplice's house... never mind if she took the money, what if she took the underwear? Do you trust a woman who would steal another man's underwear?

I find this all to be mildly entertaining, obviously. That's what happens when the Yanks miss the playoffs for the first time in fourteen years...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

And the Cow Says: "From Hell's Heart I Stab At Thee!"

Have you ever wondered if Burger King and Wendy's were out to get you? I mean, what's with the flood of commercials and print ads exploding on the page or screen with big, huge, gigantic images of beef, dripping with greasy strips of bacon and cheese?

I've noticed that these two fast-food titans (plus Dairy Queen, which has taken the annoying step of hipping themselves by calling themselves DQ) have given urgent and not-too-secret indications that they want you to die. And not slowly and excruciatingly over time and a failed life of bloated misery and past dreams. They mean now; heart exploding when you walk up a flight of stairs now. Hand clutching chest while other hand reaches for the toilet paper now. Wake up in front of St. Peter, who says "Tell the truth, 'you gonna finish that?" now.

The irony here is, I like meat. Well, I did more as a child than I do now, especially since I'm not a child anymore and children's bodies can do things that adults' bodies can't do (like grow straight up overnight). I like chicken, then a little bit of beef (which has been getting littler by the year), then pork, then that's it. I used to looooove lamb chops, but at age 9 they suddenly started to taste really strange, so I quit. Now, beef is having that same effect on me, but I can't quit as easily as I did with lamb. I can go for a month or two without eating beef, but I won't regurgitate if I have a steak after so long. Even then, I've seriously cut down on how much I can take at one sitting. I miss Outback Steakhouse for that reason.

But since I've decided that I do want to live past my fifties when I get there, I've taken an interest in the things I eat. And with this awareness, I've also noticed how many attack ads are proliferating the airwaves, cable lines and publications telling people to ingest carcinogenic or irradiated meats in mass quantities. I expect the words to the National Anthem will soon be totally replaced by a chorus of "baconbaconBEEF-baconBEFF (clap!) baconbaconBEEF-baconBEEF (clap!)..." Sunday preachers will jump up and down screaming "LAWD HAVE MERCY!!" and mean it because they drop dead. Burgertime will replace Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog as the all-time most beloved video game in American history (and there will be new significance to Halo and Quake, not to mention what happens to Lara "Craft Table" Croft).

I'm just thinking ahead here, but I don't think these guys have your best interests at heart. Yet, it's undeniable that what's at steak (yeah, I said it) is a matter of the heart. Blah blah blah 860 calories blah blah 0 trans fat blah blah revenge is mine, gotcha.

Micky D's, by the way, has been conspicuously absent from the battle to kill all humans... or have they? I love the warm-and-fuzzy commercials touting a scary clown popping up out of nowhere and teaching children to get up off their butts and exercise. Otherwise, they don't love their mommy, who was kind enough to get them their favorite treat. My favorite commercials involve the black folks eating or craving Chicken McNuggets, or one of their multitude of chicken sandwiches. A catchy tune, a smile on everyone's faces and a message of love. Sounds like we've all got some voting to do in a couple of months!

Lastly. I miss ice cream. But after I had DQ for the first time in ten or twelve years, I can miss ice cream a little longer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Freakin' Black Smurfs

No, not the New York Knicks. Not even Ja Rule. I'm talking about the cutesy-wootsy, nauseating pieces of crap that was an inexplicable hit during the eighties when even the suburban kids I grew up around would beat you up if you said you liked them, much less knew each one's name.

Well, back in 1963, Belgian artist Peyo, who had created "Les Schtroumpfs" a few years beforehand (who knew they were that old?) issued the first "album" (issue) of Smurf comics; this particular one entitled "Les Schtroumpfs Noirs", in which one Smurf, roaming around in the woods working or such, happens to get bitten by a black fly, which naturally turns him into an evil black-skinned zombie hopping around screaming "GNAP!" Of course if almost anyone were to suddenly turn black when they originally weren't, hairstyle would not likely be "album" number one...

But it doesn't stop there, oh no. Brothaman has to go around and start biting other smurfs on the behind, turning them into evil black smurfs. Then they hop around looking for hotcombs and biting other smurfs on the behind... you get the idea. In the end, of course, "Papa" Smurf (that's so close to "Massa" you could almost taste it) apparently uses black magic to turn the evil black smurfs back to "normal", yay...

The funny part is that I didn't make any of this up. Smurfs can be disturbing as they are, but damn... it was so obvious that when Hanna-Barbera adapted the Smurfs for that awful series that ran on for way-too long, they changed the story a tad and made the evil black-skinned smurfs purple. I don't recall if they also changed the dialogue from "GNAP!" to "SCHPLIT END!", but apparently they were well aware that I or someone like me would be rather offended at the images and implications of such material. Much was made of the original material anyway; a pointed reference to African immigration, perhaps? What the ass-biting had to do with it, I'm not sure and I'm not gonna speculate.

But it does raise some "albums"; Hanna-Barbera, the studio that developed the series, had made its first contribution to equal opportunity in animation (the result of being on the losing end of a standoff between themselves and the originator of Josie & The Pussycats), yet embraces a cartoon with a long-debated racist introduction and tweaks it a little and still leaves room for debate. Of course, no one was thinking about racist smurfs when they first appeared, they were thinking about how cutesy-wootsy (puke-inducing) and most importantly, how marketable they were.

The very worst news is that a full-length feature starring the Smurfs is scheduled to be released in 2010. Will we have to endure an updated version, akin to Alvin & The Chimpmunks as a modern hip-hop or boy band; where one or more of the smurfs are characterized as Crips and does some stupid CGI dancing? I hope not, because the la-la-la was annoying enough.

So, who was it that said there were no Black Smurfs? That's what they want you to think... enjoy the music below, coupled with the image above. (Taking tongue back out of cheek now, take care! >;)

New York - Ja Rule

Saturday, June 28, 2008


It happens every year! The day after the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the United Nations has hearings on the subject of Puerto Rico. Every year representatives from the Independence Movement, Commonwealth, Statehood all come and give a shout out on what’s good for the island nation. Eventually just like three signs of anger.

1-The hearings were not scheduled to be open to the general public. After yelling and screaming for close two hours people were told that by 3pm they can enter the hall and see the hearings. Unfortunately by then several like this reporter, left and didn’t want to take chances what if they came back and said it again: You can not enter!

2-Resolution 1514 from 1960 states: Granting independence to colonized people. It states that “an end must be put to colonialism and all practices of segregation and discrimination.
It adds all “All peoples have the right to self-determination by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development! The United States created the ‘commonwealth” or “Free Associated State” in order to have the UN to remove Puerto Rico from their list of still colonized nations!

3-The hearings were never made to the public, nobody in the Puerto Rican Community knows about this, during the parade often times the political education/information does not appear in the parade. Hardly ever talk of Venues today and past, torture of political prisoners. The sterilization abuse of women, the use of the island as a training ground for invasions.

Dominican Republic 1965, Grenada 1983, Panama 1989, the training for these operations all took place in the island of Vieques! It’s mention in the hearings, yet the U.S. Government keeps it’s mouth shut, and the statehood supporters do they the light!

Ride The Long Black Train

As I was watching V For Vendetta, I heard a subtle snippet of this song in the background of one of the scenes. I don't know how it actually fit into the scene, but it was a low, wistfully sad tune that stood out among everything else...

It reminded me of a dream I had, in the very few days after my Mom and sister died. In the dream, Mom came to me outside of the school I was attending at the time. I was sitting on the curb behind of the largest building on campus, and she appeared beside me. I burst into tears, and she comforted me, explaining that she had to go. As she was talking to me, I saw in the clouds the clouds transform into a long, dancing chain of train cars, with an old-fashioned locomotive in the front. There were musical notes emitting from the smokestack, and the sun crested the top of it and brightened everything within its reach. I was reminded of how Mom loved trains, her father having been a railroad man on the New York Central for many years. I wanted to come with her, but she wouldn't let me. I had unfinished business, as it was...

It also reminded me of something in real life. In North Tarrytown (now called Sleepy Hollow), along Beekman Avenue towards the river, there used to be a wonderland of an automobile factory. My mother worked there for years, as did one of my uncles, and even my youngest sister. I almost had the chance to work there, under the same program my sister was involved in, but they ended the program the year before I was eligible. Besides, Mom said, you're going to school to be an engineer, not an assembly line worker... GMAD Tarrytown it was officially called, and I was as fascinated by the structure and lights and it's inner workings as I am by great stories and artwork. Believe me, this plant was a work of art, especially at night; all lit up and glowing like a car-producing version of Times Square. And the memories it held, of people and things and events, including me as a little boy making my way up the long escalators, along the train overpass which shook with the thunder of a thousand feet during each shift change, and down the stairs to the security desk and the gateway to the magical land of automaking, where Mom lived.

The last time we ever crossed along the path and on our way out was the last day of plant operation. GM would close the plant in 1996, and with it its storied past, both bad and good. For me, it was the last time I would see many of the people who worked in that plant alongside my Mom and knew me from when I would show up, unannounced, to "pick her up" and walk her back up the roadway and across Beekman Avenue to Hudson Street, my ancestral home. Only now, I was a young man, driving Mom's Toyota Camry to actually pick her up and carry her home to Wappingers falls, where we had lived for nearly two decades. The road home was the same; the same way she always went for years, and the same way I learned to take her. We could both sleep on the way home and land safely in the driveway at the same time it always took.

But after she was gone, and a couple of years after that dream, it was decided that the plant would also go the way of its workers, wherever they were. In 1999 they began a long process of demolition, disassembling and clearing a major part of Tarrytown's heart, as well as my own. By then I had moved to the Bronx in order to attend Hunter College. I didn't know that they were tearing it all down when I came through to visit the old neighborhood, and in shock and dismay I examined the humungous pile of utter ruins of history and home. Ancient Rome had nothing on what I saw that day as I parked my red Nissan Sentra, "Gertrude" and stuck in a compilation tape of Blues tunes my sister Terry had made some time ago and I had fortunately rescued. I laid back and listened to the varied tunes, thinking of what once was and what lay ahead. With every slow song that sounded wistful, I turned away and wiped tears from my eyes, as red as Gertrude. I left after sundown, as there were no longer a fantasy land of lights to show the way home.

When I took subsequent trips north by train, I would pass through the scene, pictured above. It was sad and eerie at first, but eventually I became accustomed to the stark emptiness, save for a section of the overpass that was left because it passed over MTA property that could not be practically reached. I thought for some time I was okay with this, that time had moved on and I had grown wiser and more mature. In fact I had, and I know this, believe it or not, because when I saw the picture above, coupled with the low, wistfully sad tune that stood out among everything else, I burst into tears. I know it's okay.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin & The Paradox of Life

George Carlin passed away on Sunday at the seemingly young age of 71. It's hard to tell whether 71 is young for someone like Carlin, whose humor in the past decade had certainly grown crust on an already razor sharp edge. His death is not surprising in it's manner (heart failure, which he famously joked about in regard to previous episodes), but in its timing. In the midst of what is likely to be the most important election seasons in American history, Carlin could be expected to discourse profoundly, yet concisely about the aspects that, only when put to voice, are significantly obvious. On the heels of the national outpouring of condolence and ceremony for Tim Russert, don't expect the same type for Mr. Carlin, who is equally deserving of such significant respect from the common man.

George Carlin spoke to us in a way that made you understand that you were not only allowed to, but you were supposed to think; to color outside the lines with whatever you chose, and to question authority and demand answers. Carlin held himself and everyone in the world accountable for their thoughts, but made sure you knew that you were allowed to think them.

Much like his social contemporary and fellow comedic titan, Richard Pryor, Carlin was privvy to the thoughts and feelings of the everyday man, and was unafraid to set an expample by using his own experience and observations as fodder, a foundation or a jump-off point for a clearer context. But in my mind, Pryor and Carlin bookended each other in terms of the context of their humor; whereas Richard's humor was rooted in his experiences as a Black individual who observed life from that vantage point, George's humor was rooted in his experience as a White individual with a different class background. However, the conclusions they drew from their points of view were often written on the same page emotionally, and provided equally descriptive and complentary commentary to the discussion on American culture.

Aside from Bill Cosby, Richard was arguably the most personal comedian in existence. Also aside from Bill Cosby, George was arguably the most observant. Together, yet in their own circles of existence, they articulated the subconcious fears of the everyday American and made us understand. I would say that only Bill Cosby has consistently and most successfully been able to dominate in this and other aspects of humor in general, but where Bill draws a line at offensive references and topics, Richard and George made it a personal invitation to come along. That way, they were able to discuss issues that effected even those most out of touch with or rejected from mainstream society.

As a black man, I found that Carlin's humor and observations were beyond acceptable; they were easily relateable. His humor acknowledged the existense of race descriptions, but much like other categories and beliefs in society, decidedly rejected them. People are human beings, with significant flaws and few redeeming qualities, in his opinion, but not beyond redemption if one chose to think in a critical manner. It was, in fact, the flaws that made people interesting in the first place and the breakdown of societal structures and barriers was his mission. "Entropy excites me," he once said in one of his comic routines. His life had many examples of that, on and off-stage, from his iconic battles with the FCC to his humbling treatments for substance abuse. Like Pryor, he had the ability to feed off of his own hubris and turn it into gold. But where Pryor built his humor from his personal experiences, Carlin was famous for his somewhat obtuse subjectivity and (very) critcal observations. Where would Jerry Seinfeld be without the guiding principles of Carlin?

I sought a quote that I could reference that could represent the comedic genius of George Carlin, but there is much too much to choose from. However, I did find something that can easily be an epilogue to his life that he would deem fitting, as he had wrote it on the event of his own wife's passing. Ultimately, it reminds you once again to practice critical thought, and it serves as a strong reference point for anyone who has sought meaning in life and personal loss. Like Mr. Pryor, the loss of Mr. Carlin to me feels quite personal.


The reference above to the linked epilogue was strenuously disavowed by George Carlin himself, which is not surprising  given his distinct distaste for anything reverential or spiritual.  Thanks to anonymous for the tip, though I would encourage you to not be so anonymous next time; I'm not a hater when I make mistakes or when mistakes are kindly pointed out, so reprisals are limited. Come again! >;)  

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Joseph J. Collection

My big brother Joseph is moving back to California with a promotion and a raise, not to mention his girlfriend Karen... this is something I predicted some time ago, as he likes to remind me; I being the baby and rather naive of serious matters such as these, it was shocking to consider (hee-hee) that I might be right about something of this nature, but here it is. He's finally going back to the place where he found happiness, and I couldn't be happier for him, not because I predicted it, but because he actually gets his wish, and on his terms to boot.

This, of course, created a situation where he had to unload some some stuff relatively quickly (they leave in the afternoon of the day I'm writing this), so over the past few weeks, we've made some quick deals. I acquired his 1996 Ford Explorer XLT (V8 AWD, a real gas guzzler but a kick-ass vehicle) and have since been using it to transport other housewares they have gifted to us (to save on moving expenses, but this is quality stuff, so I'm not complaining!) Among the apartment living booty we've been given, I was also blessed with something that means a whole lot to both of us: his collection of cassettes of classic soul and jazz music. I call this the Joseph J. Collection, because he really has been collecting this stuff and making mixes of stuff for years. The amount of cassettes he has given me is quite surprising, only to be rivalled by his legendary and tragically lost collection of LPs that dated back to before I was born. Between him and Terry (I like saying it that way, so shaddup), they had close to a thousand LPs and 45s, only a handful of which I saved by pure chance from that day... that day which I realized only a moment ago was exactly eleven years and two days ago!

There are reasons for everything we do, whether we know it or not, and I don't believe it's coincidence that both of us are being blessed at this time. On Thursday, I drove Nikki up to Kensico Cemetary, where our family are buried, for a small flower ceremony. I think Nikki is very quiet about her motivations and intentions, so I didn't ask, nor did it occur to me, why she wanted to go up there that day. I figured that she was happy that I had a car and now we had a vehicle to visit them when we wanted to. Nikki has since chided me on that, saying that wasn't the reason; she assumed that I knew and remembered. As I explained to my roommate afterwards, that's not something I want to remember every year for the rest of my life. If anything, I want to remember them on the days where we had extra reasons to celebrate, like their shared birthday, or on Mother's Day or the traditional holidays, where Mom was the most charming and spirited woman you'd ever want to meet. I don't want to remember them for their loss, and I believe that over the years I've transcended the grief that is associated with that day.

It didn't even occur to me, eleven years later. Wow. I miss them terribly, but I'm okay with myself.

So, the Joseph J. Collection carries even more significance than I was applying to it before. It represents not only a collection of grooves and memories that marked the years of our lives, but it also represents a victory in life, where we can move two steps forward without looking back, without holding back, and without chaining ourselves to our fears. It signifies growth for both of us; the pursuit of happyness (sic), and the love we have for our family, here and there, everywhere we are and will be. Amazing.

Now about these tapes... I'm planning to digitize each of them and import them into my iTunes Library, where I can create CDs and ship them back to my brother... or perhaps I'll buy an external hard drive and download them onto that and ship it to him with all of the songs from the cassettes, of which there are literally hundreds. This is gonna be some project, and when it's done I'm sure I won't need the Classic Soul channel on IO Digital anymore >;) For those interested, I will be posting an inventory of the Joseph J. Collection in the coming months, and if you're interested in acquiring something, we can talk. At any rate, keep coming around, as I'm certain I'll be on a hot streak of posts pretty soon. Take care! >;)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sarcasm? (Please & Thank You...)

I love well-placed sarcasm, especially when you are given an incredibly easy set up. Take Baseball Toaster, for example... thanks, Ken! >;)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Now That's Effed Up: Sue Simmons and the Negro Moment at 11...

By now EVERYONE has seen or heard about this one (and hopefully it's still here when you click the screen above). When I read about it, I didn't think much about it, assuming that is was an innocuous comment that she mumbled under her breath and someone with good hearing happened to overhear and transcribe for everyone. And despite the number of people who called in after seeing it happen (around 125 from the earlier reports), I still didn't think much...

...until I told my friend Alcatraz about it, and suggested that he search on YouTube for the inevitable clip. Alcatraz is a hard-edged cat by most standards, so I was piqued when his response after viewing the clip was, "OH, WOW!!!" He turned it up on his speakerphone so I could hear it; me not having a computer in front of me at the time...

Wowzers...! A new national icon for precipitously dropping standards, not to mention fresh meat for the late night hosts, has been newly introduced. Unfair as this may seem, and mind you I have a lot of respect for Sue Simmons as a newscaster for her disarmingly charming demeanor, you know that this is going to be analyzed and overdone like prime rib on a charcoal grill in Uncle Bob's backyard. 

She's not done per se; Arthur Chi'en did the same thing three years ago on CBS Channel 2 and now he's on CW11 after they "overreacted" by firing him (he won a ruling against them in which the court agreed they should have instead disciplined him), but if memory serves me correctly, the circumstances were a bit different; some idiots promoting Opie & Anthony's show snuck in behind him while he was doing his live report, while Ms. Simmons, umm... was in the studio teasing a report. No matter how annoying Chuck may be by not paying attention (but I guarantee ol' boy's eyes will be glued on her the moment he looks away from either the camera or the telescreen imbedded in his desk!), this was certainly not a duress situation.  Unless... 

There is much speculation that she'll ride out the rest of her contract and summarily be replaced by someone younger and cheaper. NBC's news department is currently under new management, and that likely means new faces and lower budgets; Simmons and Chuck Scarborough are the highest-paid local anchors in the regional news industry, and that means a lot in the current economy. Simmons did herself no favors, even if it was a mistake, conservative news programs (and make no mistake, they're all extremely competitive and conservative to a larger degree than they would have you think) don't take controversy of this sort likely. Arthur Chi'en, who has every right to comment on this, has smartly chosen not to say a word.

Let's get into deeper questions, though. Did it bother you, and why? Did it not bother you, and why? Does this indicate a deeper and darker complex of personalities and intrigues within the world of broadcast news, or was this simply an isolated incident? What does it say about yourself and your view on society if you think this was an important issue or a non-issue? As the standard-bearer of all present-day media would say, inquiring minds want to know...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Re: Sports Media as a Class Struggle by Mike Carminati

How hard is it to put the perspective of class struggle in American society into how sports journalists perceive bloggers? Mike Carminati of Mike's Baseball Rants easily accomplishes this with his thesis on the clash between traditional sports writers and the blogsphere as a whole. Among the replies is my own thoughts on the subject, which I've often sprinkled liberally among the comments at Bronx Banter.

To further my own point in support of Mike's rant, I believe that media is a key component of any ruling class' ability to enthrall the general public, either positively or negatively. A great possibility of how a dictatorship can actually create an ostensibly progressively democratic society than the system currently in place is written out in science fantasy form by the great Piers Anthony in his series Bio of A Space Tyrant, in which the title character outmaneuvers a renown member of the fourth estate to insulate him by making it the writers' obligation to criticize him; a de facto ombudsman of sorts.

Now, I'm not advocating dictatorships, but I'd like to point out that some of this country's greatest leaders have gathered the reigns of power to themselves alone by delegating not the decision, but the action to those they oversaw, and convinced the masses that it was by their own power that the results were indeed accomplished. Abraham Lincoln was a master at this in his speeches and addresses to his cabinet, to Congress and to the country at large during a great war, as was FDR with his fireside chats and JFK with his use of television to secure his public image. You can also include Martin Luther King, who during his lifetime secured the sympathy and humanity of millions by projecting himself as the face of the subjugated (willingly or not) via the same method of utilizing the press as a means to communicate his principles, ideas and vision to the world. Today, we can argue about the proposed visual aesthetics of the largest memorial statue to inhabit Washington, DC's National Mall, quite an accomplishment for a Black man in any regard, never mind that it will outdo some accomplished leaders already memorialized in statue there.

But I digress somewhat. I do that, but believe me, it all connects. Go read Mike's column and get back to him or me, whomever you wish >;)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

throwin' it UUUUUUUUUUUUUP!!! for obama...

the video is courtesy of taz arnold from sa-ra creative partners. at one point, i thought that they were going to be funkadelic's successsors, but it ain't really that deep. they're more skin than sonic substance, but they have their moments, especially with some of the music they've produced and/or remixed for others.

this, however, is taz proclaiming his support for barack obama. be warned: this is not the introspective, "we can change the world" vibe you get from the clips over at it's quite indescribable, really. after watching this, i have come to the conclusion that reverend jeremiah wright is the least of brother barack's problems. may GOD have mercy on us all...

(truth be told, i'd rather cast my vote for jeremiah wright, but i digress...)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Work is Starting to Pick Up...

Hey folks, sorry to keep you waiting (or drive you away from the inconsistency), but as I predicted, the work has picked up.  Currently I am driving for a reality show for P Diddy (it's not "Making The Band") , wherin Chyll Will gets to test drive some SUVs all day/night... I've driven an Expedition (the training-wheels brand for full-size SUV owners), and the Chevy Tahoe (nice, but not much for cargo room when all seats are up).  I've heard top marks for the GMC Yukon (handles well and smooth ride) which I'll eventually get behind the wheel of soon... well hey, it is P Diddy after all.  

The past Monday, the production caravaned down the NJ Turnpike to Fort Dix, NJ, where the contestants (more on that in another post) participated in some competitive drills.  I found a number of crushed empty rifle shells, which I plan to give to my niece >;)  and I chatted with some of the Army soldiers who escorted us.  I can say this with absolutely no fear of reprisal or contradiction, that the soldiers are not happy about Iraq and how it's caused havoc and financial distress on their personal lives.   It's cool that most civilians I've observed have been sympathetic to the trials the soldiers have endured personally while having to fight in a war that should've never happened in a lot of peoples' opinion, but unfortunately the federal government... well never mind, that's an entirely different post yet to come. 

After this, which should wrap around mid-May, I'm helping a publisher convert some files into Microsoft Publisher for a yearbook-type of thingy, I'm not sure (but apparently I'm the only temp in the tri-state area with experience with Microsoft Publisher, which makes me wonder how bad this possibly could be...) and then I'm lining up some stagehand work, doing concert load-ins and load-outs.  Hey, it's steady work, which I need to support myself for two reasons:

A.)  I intend to move from my current basement (and periodically flooded) apartment asap, likely to a larger space that is AWAY from the noise and filth of lowlife neighbors, so I need consistent paystubs to show that I'm capable of maintaining the rent, and...

B.) This might render the first point moot, but I'm planning to produce and direct several scripts I have written or edited, which means that I will be approaching the big time soon.  

I have a feature that I've been writing and rewriting for several years, and it has generated some interest among aspiring producer folk.  I have a producing partner who's making contacts like crazy and reaching places I've not dared to go who is absolutely behind me on this; he told me today that he showed a piece of my work to another aspiring producer who now is interested in contacting me (I'm flattered, but I'm also loyal), not to mention some of the experienced industry folk who have peeked at a portion of my work and have really liked it.  So, now you have an idea of the stress I was feeling at least a month ago, which has dissipated somewhat as I put plan A in action and actively develop plan B.  I predict major relief by June, but in the meantime I'm hanging on and making adjustments.  

So, what does this all mean?  I'm cautiously optimistic, but working hard to make this really happen.  I'll keep you posted... >;)  

Monday, April 7, 2008

Happy Birthday, Chyll Will!

See this guy, who probably has better things to do than to pose for a group photo? Back in the early part of the seventies, they all probably did. I recall times and places in that era like they were yesterday, mainly because they were a time of innocence that didn't require a lot of filtering or blocking. My oldest sister Terry took this picture of her younger siblings, including the new addition about to protest on the right. He's not quite certain how he ended up with a fade, nor how he's caught wearing all pink. Perhaps it's to accesorize the pink Cadillac he's expecting to drive in a few years (he ended up driving a '67 Mustang instead), and he doesn't seem quite thrilled with the sudden burst of light. (A subsequent picture with Terry in it confirmed that he's not a fan of flash photography).

We lived at 273 Spring Street in Ossining, NY at the time. Years later, when I was working at a vinyl factory in Ossining, one of my co-workers wondered how he was gonna get back home in time for something, remarking that he lived right on Spring Street. "Is it 273 Spring Street?" I asked off-handedly. His eyes grew wide in disbelief. "How did you know??" his jaw dropping to the floor.

There was a large ochre-yellow building across the street from out building that first served as a kindergarten school, then a plumbers' store. It's gone now, replaced by a church with a steeple. In the subsequent years after we had left Spring Street, 273 had been boarded up for a number of years, but some time in the nineties it was refurbished and is now a co-op. From the looks of it now, you can tell that it was probably once a mansion; what with a front door that was sectioned off as another apartment (my best friend Ernest lived there) and a detailed facade. I recall the huge steel door that enclosed our apartment. I also remember tossing things out the window; books, silver, anything I could get my hands on. For years, we had incomplete series of World Book Encyclopedia, Encylopedia Britannica and The Young Children's Encyclopedia... did I mention that I love books?

I remember tripping on this large root under a tree in the backyard (still there, I'm told) and crying everytime I fell down. I also remember Mom's car right before we moved; a white 1974 Chevy Impala. I sat in the baby seat and watched intently how she shifted and maneuvered everything that made it go. Noting this herself, Mom bought a toy steering console to keep me occupied (did she suspect something?) and we had many adventures riding to and from the stores nearby and in distant towns. At this age, I often visited my grandparents and uncles, who still lived in North Tarrytown. I remember when my father would come home and we all sat down for dinner; when we had steak he always cut my piece into little bite-sized cubes that I would happily chew on forever (or throw at everyone, whichever I felt like doing at the moment)...

Everyone in the building we lived in took their garbage to a shed on the end of the dead end street that the building cornered. Often I would follow whoever's turn it was to take the garbage down the street to this shed, where we were just as often met with the familiar stench of old garbage and skunks. Yes, skunks. On several occasions we witnessed skunks tipping the tops off the metal trash cans, and that would be our cue to RUN!, with or without the garbage bags in tow. I was pretty fast when I wanted to be; you can ask anyone of my family who tried to give me a spanking for any one of various infractions of my youth >;)

The walks were the best. We walked all over town or wherever we happened to go. There's a park not far from 273 Spring Street; Nelson Park, and my Mom or siblings would walk me to either the park or towards the main highway (Route 9, also called Highland Street throughout Ossining), and invariably carry me back home. There's a KFC along Highland Street that seems to have been there forever; whenever I have occasion to stop in Ossining, I go there. I learned to love Kentucky Fried at this age, so much that I walked there myself two or three times. I learned the lay of the land fairly easily for a really little child; an instinct that serves me well to this day. Of course, nowadays I don't get spanked for wandering off by myself...

Sing-Sing Prison was also nearby, and my youngest sister and I would often walk over there and try to throw rocks over the wall. I had no idea that it was a prison, mind you, and I'll bet my sister didn't really know either. I can't honestly think of what I thought it was, but I do recall admiring the setting sun over the sillouhette of the walls and watchtowers. Maybe I thought it was a marina of some sort, because I remember thinking of boats. I'm certainly glad I was not curious enough to want to know what was inside. I have a good idea now, and to say the least, I'm not that interested, but they do have a museum...

We left Ossining in 1974, mainly because my mother and father were splitting up again. I remember the Ryder moving truck in front of the building, and how various relatives and friends helped to move our things into thr truck. My contribution was to roll my brother's billiard balls up the ramp... thr truck moved on and we climbed into the Impala and moved on ourselves, to a very wooded place that would prove to be my most favorite address in my life. Welcome to Teatown Lake Reservation, Croton-on-Hudson...

(I have a feeling that this will be continued!) >;)