Wednesday, January 30, 2008
What also makes it bad is that the landlord, only interested in staving off foreclosure proceedings, misrepresented the make-up of the family; when I asked if it was a family who was moving in, he said, "No, it's not a family, not at all." Three days later, he introduces me to a family of five, later to be six including a precocious tot who, like the landlord's own daughter, loves to run. That they are Section 8 recipients only matters in that it ensures they'll likely stay until the house is actually foreclosed on, something I'm willing to bet the landlord did not inform them of (among other things wrong with the house) when they moved in. They've already discovered the leaky pipes in the kitchen, but wait until flood season!
Now I don't have a problem with Section 8 recipients per se; one of my ex-girlfriends lived in a remote townhouse complex while receiving Section 8, and I used to wish I had it myself. In New York City, it's impossible to get Section 8 unless you're a battered wife with children and low to no income. My roommate and I endured homelessness at least twice, and not only could we not get Section 8, but we couldn't qualify for social services of any type because I had a job. Granted, it was a job that could barely cover the suddenly exorbitant rent (Thanks, Mayor Bloomberg) , but if you have any type of job, you "gets none" from NYC.
That said, while cheaters do exist, there has been plenty of ignorant or resentful blather about recipients being nothing more than welfare queens (the present federal regime has cut funding for HUD programs in an effort to eliminate housing subsidy programs altogether) and stereotyping recipients in general when it comes to finding a decent place to live. However, I argue that it's the landlords and management companies that are the abusers of the program; more often than not in my contact with buildings that house Section 8 families, the complaint made most often is that they are not properly maintained and are often neglected. For quite a few landlords, it's easier to pocket the money and creep back to the hills than to pay on the mortgage or invest said funds into repairing or renovating the building (unless, of course, the repairs or renovations are in anticipation of gentrification, which is another story unfolding before us).
In that regard, the question of import is, "where do the current residents go after they've been priced, taxed and redlined out of their own homes and businesses?" The answer: "Hahaha, who cares? That's not our problem!" Or better yet, "Let's not talk about that, let's talk about how misinformed and un-trusting you are and how service and temp jobs will take you out of your miserable poverty!"
But I digress. My point about Section 8's main problem being abuse by greedy landlords and developers is exclusive of the perception that my landlord is duping some recipients who inadvertently fit some of the less-evil stereotypes of Section 8 recipients. After briefly flirting with the idea of soundproofing the ceiling (only to discover that the ceiling is made of sheet metal, practically making the apartment a studio-sized snare drum), my roommate and I are actively planning on moving out altogether. Maybe the landlord had this in mind; we've been tenants for three-plus years and we've had our ups and downs. When we had a set of papers handed to us by a processor that outlined foreclosure proceedings, the landlord's response made us less-than confident: "Don't worry about it, this is nothing." No, it's not nothing. After trying to sell the house for nearly two years, you're being foreclosed on. Nothing? Hee-hee, wait until the house is gone, then you'll know what nothing means. So we started saving a contingency fund, preparing for the inevitable.
That the new tenants upstairs, who according to the landlord is not a family, are wholly unaware of these proceedings, makes it all the worse. If I recall, the last tenants who lived upstairs (between the landlord with family and this new non-family) broke out without a word four months into the lease. I kinda feel bad for them, since having spoken with them on a couple of occasions, I find them to be if not genuinely nice, then well-meaning. That the young adults in the household loudly converse in ghetto lingo, including casual and liberal use of the "n-word" is disappointing, and serves to hasten our exit. With this bad impression in mind, I must state that the most important consideration of living in NYC is the quality of living, and my new neighbors, nice and well-meaning as they may be, exhibit less-than quality traits of behavior, which I find unacceptable in neighbors of any and all statures (especially ones who live above us in a rickety house).
Easier that we leave quietly and ask forgiveness for not wanting to live next to people who blare their stereos even after you asked them not to, and carry on loud conversations starting with and including in Tourettes-like fashion the "n-word", not to mention the thief next door who stole items we stored in the garage while cleaning (funny, after confronting the suspected thief who denied everything, those items reappeared outside our door!) This doesn't bode well for warm weather, and I have past experience to back up my contentions. So it goes, and so do we. I'll keep you posted on our progress, but in case you're interested, we're looking for a 1-2 bedroom apartment with utilities included. A cottage would be especially nice, given that it means we don't have to share vibrating walls with anyone. Having a somewhat decent income has brightened our prospects at least.
Pray on it for us, okay? >;)
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Um... Hello Kitty, the Gojira of commercial mascots in Japan and elsewhere, has decided to target young men for... I don't know what, but apparently if you're eighteen and maybe a little curious, there are some tees and undies with your name on 'em.
Seriously considering that Hello Kitty is perhaps one of the largest industries in Japan and perhaps the world, this is not supposed to come as a surprise, I guess... and if your homey wants to rock the HK boxers for that gangsta strut or perp walk, I don't have a problem with that >;)
Thursday, January 24, 2008
I was at my loctician's studio getting my locs refreshed when this video came on BET. I almost want to say it was a mistake on their part, because it's naturally above and beyond their usual fare, but being that John Legend's a household name now, I imagine they simply wanted to cash in. But it's not that simple...
I put this next to Dead Homiez by Ice Cube; for different reasons they are equally troubling. An interesting exercise in expressing the power of words and visuals would be to switch the music for each song to each other's visual. Just picturing that in my mind says John Legend comes out on top because what he is saying is so universal and certainly applies to the subsconcious of ghetto youth. Cube is certainly on-point in terms of what's been happening, but it's so literal and seething, yet disconnected from emotion that it startles you with it's bleak and glib vision. Legend is part of the scene, yet disconnected from the action like an apparition or the conscience of the subject in the video; reaching out, trying to connect his spirit and either guide or redirect with what's happening through his voice; the tragedy being not that he cannot, but that he tries and fails, which brings you to the kicker at the end.
Oh, if only Alicia Keys had been so bold as to visualize No One beyond the obvious...
Simply put, I am haunted by this song. I remember reading about the event that inspired this, but it didn't hit me then like it does now. There's a unique quality about John Legend in this video that transcends the visuals and squeezes your throat. I think of someone innocent who is at the crossroads of a spiritual journey and is begging for just a hint that it all matters.
My roommate, who doesn't think it matters, was nevertheless struck by it as well, which is saying a lot. Take what you want from it, but you will be affected.
I'm also posting a YouTube link to a video of John Legend performing this song live at the Royal Albert Hall. Compare the video with the live performance and let me know what you think or feel.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
This article in the St. Pete Times (Florida) explains the motivation and concept behind the action. I emailed Darrin Bell, one of the organizers and participants, to find out if I can participate as well, wish me luck!
Thursday, January 17, 2008
this is what happens when hip-hop becomes activism. it's not a new strategy, but one that our present-day b-boys and b-girls can't afford to let go of. check the video below for a moving presentation on the events of the day...
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Mapantsula, which is Hustler in the Bantu language, is an anti-apartheid film from 1988 co-written/directed by Oliver Schmidtz and Thomas Mogotlane, and starring Mogotlane in the title role (he would later be the assistant director for a better-known South African film, Sarafina!). Oddly enough, when I googled Mr. Mogotlane, I saw in some places he was billed only as the main actor, while in other places he was credited as director and star. I believe that has to do with the times; Mapantsula was made under the pretense of being a common gangster flick, so was permitted to be filmed in the South African townships of Soweto and Johannesburg. Billed as anti-apartheid movie "made by the people, for the people" thus drawing comparisons to Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, it was the first such film made entirely in South Africa, and was initially banned there, but later garnered seven major film awards in that country. The fact of the matter is, there is a fragmented smattering of info concerning the production of this film, so if anyone wishes to contribute, feel free to do so.
What I will remark more about is the plot. The story centers on Panic (Mogotlane), a petty thief who has to decide between survival and personal gain, or supporting his cellmates, freedom fighters against the Apartheid government. In flashbacks, we see that Panic robs white passerbys of downtown Johannesburg by day, then bullies rival criminals at night and tries to stay one step ahead of his landlady, all the while mooching off his put-upon girlfriend Pat (Themba Mtshali), who herself is trying to maintain employment despite his plotting and intrusions. In the present, Panic is run through an elaborate system of manipulation and cruelty by the local authorities, bent on convicting the militant protesters he has been locked up with by chance. His past and present eventually merge in a series of events; including Pat leaving him for Duma (Peter Sephuma), a freedom fighter, who along with the landlady's son Sam, is organizing a rent strike and mass protest. While Panic is hunting down Duma, he is told that Sam is missing, so he instead searches for the missing boy. Panic confronts Duma, but both are soon running for their lives as they are being tailed by government agents. They make an agreement to help each other, but before long they are swept into the protest as the landlady confronts the police sent to disperse and arrest the protesters. The next series of events mirror the struggle in Panic's mind as he is forced to decide whether to help the government or his countrymen.
It is this climax in the film that first brought me to tears. The mother, distraught over her missing son, is escorted by the two men with an uneasy truce who set aside their own agendas for her sake. The moment of Panic's epiphany is tense and dignified without melodrama. One can argue that Panic's life until then makes it hard to sympathize with him, as he seemed to run against the current of the film's premise. But it's precisely this defiance that redeems his character in the end. One can only speculate what happens to anyone after that, but it's a great moment to build up to, and in it's quiet way it hits home.
If you're interested in seeing this movie, this is where it can be ordered. It's currently only available on VHS, but perhaps in the near future and with more visibility and interest, it can be produced for DVD (and thus Netflixed).
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I'm talking about Steve Watkins, a fellow comic strip artist and contributor from my days at Howard University in the early 90's. Steve has a comic strip called Housebroken which has been syndicated by Tribune Media since 2002. He has since had two compilation books of his strip published, "Housebroken: There's A New Dawg In Town" and "Gangsta Yoga With DJ Dog" and his site contains an animated short with his main character and starring a take on some familiar faces.
I won't immediately get into the strip without first getting into how I know Steve first, since I know more about him than I do the strip. Steve Watkins was part of a small crew of comic strip artists who published together in Howard U's newspaper in the early 90's; a comics page that was founded by Head Artist Rodney Reynolds and also included KJ, Vladimir Leveque, John Dean, Lisa Ransaw, Chris "Nomad" Jones and myself.
I remember when Steve came in the first time; somewhat shy and quiet, with his portfolio in hand and eager to start contributing. KJ and I looked over his work; we were impressed particularly with a rendition of a film poster of the movie Strictly Business (starring a young lady he had a professed crush on; new to movies named Halle Berry) that he did in pencil. His strip was congenial, yet indicative of the sarcasm that informs his and many black-oriented strips today; poking fun at Hip-Hop Generation's mixed notions of priority and sensibility. He was adopted by the group and sort of fit in as the little brother that everyone picked on, yet cared much about. Whenever we had a production meeting to discuss the strips that were being published that week, he would sit quietly in the back or to the side in our small section of space in the what was the newspaper office and offer short and quiet reviews of our work. Feeling that we was sensitive, we always made a point of including him in the conversation and allowing him space to make his observations.
Yet, we did not spare him from criticism, or teasing for that matter. Once, I made an off-hand remark about how his artwork reminded me of the comic strip Curtis, which several others nodded in agreement to; his eyes shot open wide and you could almost see his foot hit an invisible gas pedal. Steve stood up and responded to the bit of criticism he had received on the particular strip, and then turned to me without pausing, "and don't you EVER compare my strip to "Curtis" again!!"
You see, Curtis at the time was, in many of our opinions, a rather obsequious strip that, although featured black people as the main characters in one of the few widely syndicated black-oriented strips, excessively criticized black culture, and lampooned Hip Hop culture in a strangely conservative, almost right-winged fashion. To top it all off, we all agreed that for all of it's didactics and rhetoric, it was poorly drawn art. Needless to say, being compared to such a strip was quite an insult (though certainly not intended in this case) we were all quite shocked, yet impressed with this unlikely outburst. I never mentioned "Curtis" around him again.
Steve was very smart, given that he was so quiet around us, he took on a lot of responsibilities, including becoming the newspaper's Business Manager before I left D.C. for good. I imagined that he was refocusing himself on a more lucrative career path, and that comics was an outlet to release his pent up energies. I didn't figure that he was secretly, or not-so-secretly continuing his efforts as a comic artist all throughout his academic career (his bio says he went to Yale Law School after Howard and naturally became a lawyer afterwards) and continually pursued his ambition to be a professional comic strip creator into the next decade. I suppose from a glance you can say, "nice fall-back option", but as I've said before, you don't know what a person was doing right before he got there. I haven't seen nor spoken to Steve in fifteen years, so I can't rightly say I know what he went through to get there, nor would I compare his journey to my own (who would?), but I can say that I'm not surprised that he made it. He's definitely deserving of the breaks he'd gotten and the success he is having with Housebroken, and I hope that I'll be able to follow up with a contact from Mr. Watkins himself and perhaps a discussion on the old and new. I did send him an email, hopefully he'll get back to me soon.
Meanwhile, I'll catch up on his new strip, and keep working to get where he is. Wish me luck! >;)
Monday, January 7, 2008
I'm sharing the meat of the tangent with you to give you an idea of how multifaceted the commentors can be when they're in the mood. I'm excerpting directly from the site, so I hope this is not a permissions problem... The boldened lines are commentor names and skipped comments not related to the extended joke to, um, "keep it focus"... (By the way, nice provocative titling, Alex! >;)
From today's Post, courtesy of Mike from Hoboken:
January 7, 2008 -- BOW, NH - Some Rudy Giuliani volunteers bused here from New York City struck out as they went door to door in advance of Tuesday's Granite State primary while wearing caps or jackets of the hated New York Yankees.
"Some people really don't think," said a person with knowledge of the situation.
"You're in the middle of Red Sox Nation wearing stuff from their enemy. It's absolutely ridiculous.
"Can you image if people were running around The Bronx in Red Sox hats?" he added.
Giuliani reps didn't immediately return calls for comment.
Giuliani, a longtime Yankee fan, raised eyebrows in his home state this fall, after the Bronx Bombers were eliminated from the playoffs, when he said he would root for the hated Red Sox to win the World Series because they are an American League team.
(2) So if GWB campaigned in 2004 wearing a Varitek jersey, that would make it perfectly acceptable to vote for him?
When you're letting your baseball rooting interest affect your political decisions, I can say without hesitation that you truly are a moron.
14. Chyll Will
(10) I wouldn't vote for the George Washington Bridge even if they draped Mo's jersey on it (though I'm sure it would solve some middle-late inning relief issues).
Brooklyn, on the other hand...
17. Bama Yankee (14) It's no surprise that you wouldn't vote for the George Washington Bridge. Everyone knows that you are a big Tappan Zee supporter. Rumor is that you have even made a few contributions to the structure's campaign for office... curiously in $4 installments.
Don't get me wrong, I'm with you on voting for Tappan Zee. I always vote for the Cantilever Party candidate. You have to watch out for those Suspension Party candidates, they can be such flip-floppers. Remember Galloping Gertie:
(boy, I hope Randym reads this post so at least someone will get my feeble attempt at bridge humor)
(17) The Tappan Zee is I think the longest bridge in NY but it is a Moses bridge. There seems to be an undemocratic quality to it's magnificent span. I don't know if I could vote for that bridge. Give me a bridge from good solid immigrant stock like the Brooklyn Bridge and you'll get my vote. If nominated do you think it will run? If elected do you think it will serve? We should consider a draft petition for the BB.
Chyll and I are well acquainted with the old Tappan Zee. The house I grew up in has a fabulous view of it.
There are serious questions about how it's managed to function so well for so long. It doesn't have as sturdy a frame as many of the others, but it still manages to carry a heavy workload year after year. It has remained remarkably durable despite all expectations.
There have been rumors that Zee has been given megadoses of solder and other substances to improve its performance, but those remain just rumors.
I vote for the Willis Avenue and 3rd Avenue Bridges...anything that helps you avoid the Major Degan gets my vote.
21. Chyll Will
(17) You don't give yourself enough credit, my friend >;) The problem with suspension bridges is that you never really know what they're up to. Cantilevers on the other hand are very stoic and family-oriented; there's a lot of give-and-take, which the Tappan Zee definitely has. Brooklyn may have the name-recognition, but it can also be bought pretty easily...
22. Chyll Will
(20) I don't know if you can truss them. They do have "short attention" spans...
(17) I'm sorry... but you can't trust a bridge that runs on a platform of stability, and then acts like that.
I have that URL bookmarked as it's one of the great examples of how bizarre natural law can be.
(17) et al...
where are all the Verrazano Voters???
25. Chyll Will (24) They've all been suspended... in fact, they're serving the longest suspension in US history...
Hmm, I'm not sure I like all this City centric bridge support. Given all the time I spent upstate, I'm throwing my support to the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge:
Besides, how can you not support a bridge named after the godfather of funk, George Clinton?
27. Chyll Will (26) Good thinking... that bridge is always pretty high...
28. Bama Yankee
(18) Good call on the Brooklyn Bridge, although as Chyll points out in 21 the lobbyists would have a field day...
(19) Performance enhancers for ol' Tappan Zee... there goes that Bridge HOF induction.
(25) & (27) Nice.
29. Shaun P
(26) The upstate underdog bridge would have to be the Green Island bridge:
Its a drawbridge, which has retro appeal, but man is that thing ugly.
30. Chyll Will
(26) As a side note, my favorite memory concerning bridge crossings was crossing that bridge the first time... my family was on another excursion when we happened upon the bridge the for the first time. My sister Terry, who was afraid of heights, started screaming and hollering, which set off Mom on a hilarious fit of shadenfraude; I was kinda queasy myself when I observed that not only was the bridge very high (you couldn't see the other side considering the high arch), but it has absolutely no sides whatsoever... (well, low guardrails, which don't count)... the return trip in total darkness was fairly interesting as well, and didn't curb the screaming either >;)
What about Todd Bridges? Or Tito Puente?
32. Chyll Will
(31) Too street for main stream...
(32) What you talkin about chyll Willis.
34. Bama Yankee
Actually, I think I'll vote for this bridge:
Not only does it give fans safe access to Spring Training Yankee games, it was fabricated here in Alabama and I had a little something to do with it. So, even though I'm biased, I am throwing my support behind this bridge (notice I said behind and not under... we stand behind our bridges, just not under them ;-)
35. Chyll Will (32) ...http://tinyurl.com/2f5szv
36. Bama Yankee
(29) You ain't kiddin'. That's one ugly bridge.
(33) LOL. Good one.
37. Chyll Will
(33) ugh... I walked into that one (scraping shoe on edge of curb, located conveniently on 35 ) >;)
38. Chyll Will
(29) Wowzers... seems like Wiki got that wrong, it's probably maintained by the Department of Corrections (my eyes!!!)
OK .... I think we've taken a bridge conversation too far ...
(39) Nonsense! Here's a vote for a foreigner, the good old Golden Gate.
I'd love to see the reaction to a vote for the Triborough.
45. El Lay Dave
I hear the 59th St. Bridge is feeling groovy. (cont')...
This might go on for a while, but you could always go there yourself and see >;)
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
If you didn't receive this personally, don't take it personally (sorry about that turn of phrase, too); I probably didn't have your address. This is my positive expression of love and hope to the world at the beginning of a new year. Enjoy; now I'm going back to sleep >;)
I was totally bewildered by it when I first watched, but the comments lead me to other parodies and eventually the original SNL skit. This, in turn, led to the source of the parody itself, the ending scene of Season 2 of The OC, a show I would normally scoff at as pandering trash (well, perhaps I am being harsh, but so what >;)
Putting it all together, I was thus laughing myself silly when I returned to the SMB parody, which upon further research was one of the very few original takes on the parody. For some reason, the SNL parody itself has inspired a million parodies and copycats of its own.
I've listed the videos in the recommended order of viewing (don't worry, there are only four here); I picked the two videos after the original and the SNL parody because of their original variant from the normal set of parodies. Watch these in order below and I guarantee you'll be laughing for days. I'm starting to feel better already! >;)
1.) The OC Season 2 Finale (The Source of the SNL Parody, see figure above!)
2.) Dear Sister (The Original SNL Parody)
3.) Parody of SNL Dear Sister (Jean Claude Van-Damme version)
4.) Super Mario Brothers "Dear Sister" Parody (Hooray for "originality"!)
While you're at it, you might also check out the Kappa Mikey version of that Avenue Q song (you know which one) which, followed by the Sesame Street version, is the best-crafted on YouTube.
Oh, and that song is called "Hide & Seek" by Imogen Heap. Really nice, but the video leaves something to be desired. (I think Enya is better right now, honestly.)