Sunday, May 10, 2009
Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Sunday Evening Fun--District 9 Will Own You This Summer, But First Watch the Original Short Film
District 9 is the thinking person's science fiction alternative of summer 2009. I had heard rumors about this project, but until seeing the trailer before Abrams' new Star Trek, knew little about it. Aliens, a not so thin Apartheid allegory, and black and brown folks as the bigoted xenophobes is a great dramatic mix. But before you see District 9, be sure to watch the original short film that spawned the feature and check out the viral marketing campaign:
G.I. Joe Resolute is a prequel of sorts to the new feature film. When I saw the original footage that was screened at ComiCon San Diego I really "popped." After watching the final episode of the miniseries which has recently finished airing on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, I am sold. This series is a license to print money and I do hope that the powers that be are listening. Yo Joe! And yes...Snake Eyes is (literally) cutting necks.
Here are the first few episodes of the series:
It is a good time to be a ghetto nerd, is it not?
Friday, May 8, 2009
Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: J.J. Abrams' New Star Trek Ain't Your Daddy's Star Trek...And That Just May Be Okay
The verdict: J.J. Abrams' Star Trek is Star Trek while simultaneously not being Star Trek.
Yes, this is an intentionally obtuse statement--one that captures my very confused and almost schizophrenic feelings about this film.
Yes, it has our favorite heroes in Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Yes, our good old USS Enterprise is in the new Trek and she has never looked better. Yes, all the right "notes" are hit, but oddly the sum total of the song they are playing sounds like Roddenberry's classic, without ever having its gravitas.
Perhaps, this is the key dilemma, one upon which a generational divide surrounding Abrams' Trek will revolve: Roddenberry's Star Trek was about something. It had moral vision, complexity and weight. Born of the Cold War and Roddenberry's belief that a science fiction television series could both entertain while also grappling with compelling and challenging social issues. In short, Roddenberry's Star Trek in keeping with what the best of speculative fiction has to offer, provided a stage upon which to act out the core dilemmas of our shared human condition.
J.J. Abrams reboot of the Star Trek universe has no such lofty ideals. It is unapologetic in this regard. Abrams' Trek is Dawson Creek in space, made for an Ipod generation that no longer has a sense of wonder or an attention span longer than 3 minutes. For those children of the original Trek, here I mean those who came of age during the 1960s, Star Trek was the future: a multicultural, peaceful, space faring Federation, led by an American golden boy who practiced soft-diplomacy while always getting the girl--human and alien alike.
The technology and hopeful future of Star Trek was part of its appeal, and quite understandably for a generation that has come to take the fantastic as commonplace, the future is the now. For those children of the 1980s and 1990s--a generation that grew up with the Internet--all wonder about technology seems to have been replaced by basic, uninspired familiarity.
And you know what? Maybe this is okay. Why? Because the movie is still fun and exciting when taken on its own terms. Despite the unmitigated disaster that was Cloverfield (a movie that I eviscerated here) Abrams has crafted a beautiful homage to Roddenberry's Star Trek. As we in fandom are fond of saying, Abrams "didn't rape our childhood." In keeping with theme of Star Trek as an homage to its storied roots, Abrams' vision is not, "a wax museum come to life." Oh no, this film has a heart, a big beating one, and there is lots to enjoy in the interplay of its protagonists.
Christopher Pine is Kirk. I know that many fans will nitpick certain aspects of the character, but to my eyes, Pine has that Kirk swagger...an intangible free-spiritedness and confidence that makes him a living legend. While I found the Kobayashi Maru scenario a bit trite (this is a much storied event in the mythos surrounding Kirk), the other moments, especially Kirk's time in Iowa as a child and his casually throwing the keys to his prized motorcycle to its new owner, are quintessential James Tiberius Kirk. This Kirk is centered differently than the Kirk of Roddenberry's Trek, but again, somehow it fits the world that Abrams' James T. Kirk has been inserted into:
The other foundations of the triad are similarly well-suited to their roles. Zack Quinto's Spock is Spock: in this iteration emphasizing the human over the alien--
Again, this isn't necessarily bad, it is just different. Karl Urban is McCoy. Be forewarned, at first Urban appears to be giving an over the top performance, but it quickly grows on you as pitch perfect.
Our stalwart auxiliaries are all serviceable. Zoe Saldana as Uhura is beautiful, yet she doesn't have the smoldering sensuality of Nichelle Nichols (but then again, who could?). Scotty played by Simon Pegg is passable: he isn't given much to do, but will certainly grow in the role. By contrast, Chekov (played by Anton Yelchin) and Sulu (portrayed by Harold and Kumar's John Cho) are in some ways more substantial than their originals. Of course, Walter Koenig and George Takei will always be those characters and are a given as the yardsticks and standard for the roles. But perhaps in Abrams' Trek, they will be more central to the adventures of the new USS Enterprise.
As Nero, Eric Bana is more than an adequate villain (and at this point Bana seems destined to be a character actor who appears in many films, but never receives much acclaim).
But in fairness, one must acknowledge that Bana's Nero is truly hamstrung in his role as a place holder until Abrams' Star Trek finds its Khan:
Abrams has a clear reverence for Star Trek. There are a few necessary shortcuts, yet nevertheless, the film manages to reconcile canon. To that point, Abrams' embrace of Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime is a master stroke that succeeds in earning the trust of fans. Abrams clearly understands that fandom is critical to the success of this newest Trek. He should succeed with the core audience, because instead of insulting them, Abrams gives the true believers a wealth of Easter eggs. For example (and if you want to stay "spoiler free" skip this section):
1. Kirk as a hell raising kid in Iowa--priceless!
2. The mentions of such locales as Delta Vega; the Klingon Prison Planet, Rura Penthe; the moon of Titan famous for "Titan's Turn"; and a nice reference to William Riker's tactic of holding a ship steady over a magnetic field in order to create a natural cloak.
3. Admiral Archer and his beagle; an Orion "slave girl" at the academy; and Sulu's skill at fencing.
4. The relationship between Spock and Uhura is a nice acknowledgment of the slash fiction that has been written about the series...and what do we now do with the "relationship" between Spock and Kirk?
5. Kirk grabbing a bottle of Saurian brandy in his bar fight with the Starfleet cadets.
6. Red shirts must die. Repeat after me, red shirts must die.
7. Pike in a wheelchair is not as tragic as Pike in a rolling box equipped with a blinking light. Pike receiving a Wrath of Khan like interrogation. Pike as captain of the Enterprise.
8. Scotty has a tribble on his desk. Scotty also has a Jem'hadar/Ugnaught assistant.
9. The USS Hood (a storied ship in all of Star Trek) gets a mention, as does the USS Farragut (which was Kirk's first posting).
10. Why must Tyler Perry appear in this movie? Why lord why?
11. This is indeed the Abramsverse. Yes my people, Star Trek 2009 does indeed feature both a Slusho reference and the monster from Cloverfield.
Roddenberry's Star Trek is about friendship and chemistry. It is not necessarily the well-acted scripts, amazing special effects, or potent and pathos filled episodes that keep fans returning to Roddenberry's Star Trek or its many spin offs. In this regard, Star Trek is wildly uneven where for every City on the Edge of Forever we have many more episodes like Spock's Brain. Even given how indescribably horrible the latter is, we still watch Star Trek because of the chemistry of Spock, McCoy, and Kirk.
As one of my dear mentors put it, he only needs to watch Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan until the point when Spock tells Kirk that he has been and always will be his friend. This is one of the primary reasons that Star Trek endures: the friendships of the characters, and the many ways that audiences see Star Trek as a familiar and rich accompaniment to their lives.
Ultimately, J.J. Abrams Star Trek is great fun. But, it is escapist entertainment that carries neither moral weight nor vision. For me, this is one of those generation defining moments where one realizes they are truly an adult because the world seems to have come full circle. Ironically, born of the tumultuous 1960s the original Star Trek "mattered" because "it was about something." Its contemporary, Battlestar Galactica, was in contrast, about nothing. It was a wagon train in space, a thrill ride for the masses:
In the Obama era, we are witness to a moment when Star Trek is about nothing, a summer popcorn movie at its finest, while the reimagined Battlestar Galactica is/was about the heavy weight of a world at war, in crisis, and an American empire in decline.
Who knows? Maybe in the world in which we live, a little escapism is a good thing, an antidote to our anxieties and fears. And in that context, I may just be able to accept this newest Star Trek after all.
1. Where are the auxiliaries and reserves in the Federation starfleet? Are things so bad that they have to put 20 year olds in charge of their vessels?
2. Spock and Uhura: aliens have long been a proxy for the racial Other in science fiction. Now we have a mulatto (in Spock) getting it on with a black woman. Predictable choice? Or unexpected?
3. Will this cast mesh and create the type of chemistry which the original cast enjoyed? Or, will it be impossible given that the new crew doesn't have a television series as a platform from which to launch?
4. Who is next? Can this franchise find its Khan? Should Abrams even dare to revisit the Wrath of Khan storyline in the sequel?
5. Where is McCoy's mint julep?
6. Abrams clearly has an eye for swashbuckling adventure. What would he do in a Knights of the Old Republic centered Star Wars universe? Would Abrams be a perfect fit for it, or would he be a perfect disaster?
7. What do you ghetto nerds give Abrams' Trek? Good or bad? A thumbs up or a thumbs down?
8. Lest I forget, where was our classic Star Trek theme?
Thursday, May 7, 2009
John McWhorter is a brilliant linguist; but he can also be a piss-poor public commentator on black popular culture and race-related social policy. As evidence of the latter McWhorter’s M.O., check out his recent piece on Ricci vs. DeStefano. This Supreme Court case concerns the constitutionality of the city of New Haven’s decision not to certify the result of their city’s written firefighters’ promotion test lest black and Latino firefighters, who scored poorly on such tests, sue the city for discrimination. For white male victimologists, this case is more proof that the rights of white men are under assault from the liberal tyranny of political correctness and affirmative action.
Not surprisingly, McWhorter defends Ricci, the dyslexic white plaintiff, who is said to have aced the written firefighters’ test by studying 13 hours a day, only to have the test results thrown out because no minorities did well enough to qualify for promotion. (By emphasizing Ricci’s dyslexia and intense study regimen, McWhorter tries to contrast hard-working whites from lazy blacks).
McWhorter quotes the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as opposing written firefighter employment exams because “cognitive examinations have an adverse effect upon blacks and other minorities.” He then uses this quote as a springboard to distort the main arguments against Ricci. In McWhorter’s hands, the IABPFF’s argument that the tests have a racially discriminatory effect becomes the argument that the firefighters’ tests—indeed, written tests in general—are racially biased.
Just read the IABPFF’s Brief of Amici Curiae from which McWhorter draws the aforementioned quote. The brief does not, in fact, argue that written exams are racially biased. Here’s what it does argue:
1.) that there is a compelling state interest in a diverse firefighters force, especially so given the long documented history of severe racism discrimination toward black firefighters;
2.) that the written tests are not an accurate measure of firefighters’ qualifications, practical abilities, and future success;
and 3.) that research shows that black test-takers often underperform because of the stress of the test-taking process, which is exacerbated by their self-conscious knowledge of stereotypes and the expectations of failure.
All of these claims are debatable, and 3.) is especially problematic, but it’s clear that McWhorter has intentionally misrepresented the IABPFF’s argument. Also notice how McWhorter conveniently minimizes the loathsome, racist history that serves as the context for the IABPFF’s concern.
The claim that such tests are biased is heard regularly--for example, one quick way to set heads black and white nodding at a forum on education is to toss off that the SAT is "racially biased."
Not only is this sleight of hand dishonest, the supporting example is bunk. Who are the people at these education discussions? Teachers? Education policymakers? Sociologists?
I’ve been party to more of these education discussions than I can count. Furthermore, part of my job is to follow national discussions concerning how to diminish the “achievement gap” between white students and minority students. At these discussions, participants talk about ways to provide practical support to black and Latino students as well as their teachers and parents. Though there is often talk about the artificiality of tests and the failure of these tests to accurately measure true understanding and higher order thinking skills, there is no black/white left consensus that the tests are racially biased. This meme isn’t part of any major education debate—not the school level, not at the district-level, not at the national level.
But it gets worse! Consider the payoff of McWhorter’s article:
we justify the rhetorical contortions that excuse black people from challenging examinations; in the end, it is based on a tacit sense that such things are antithetical to black authenticity, that it is somehow untoward to require this kind of concentrated scholarly exertion on black people. It is the grown-up version of what Barack Obama termed in his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention "the slander that says that if a black youth walks around with a book in his hand he's acting white."
By insisting that black left elites and the poor black ghetto residents routinely treat academic achievement as the province of whites, McWhorter is announcing that he has lost all touch with the reality of black life.
The funny thing about all of this is that I share McWhorter’s knee-jerk aversion to some black folks’ shameless willingness to tolerate lower standards and to the idea that black folks should not air our dirty laundry before the eyes of whites. My issue with McWhorter and his compatriots is that even when they’re right in terms of instinct, they’re insufferably wrong in terms of rationale and/or policy.
So McWhorter is playing with Confederate money, and he’s using that money to buy pitiful, flimsy straw men. When terrible thinkers erect straw men, it’s annoying; when people who are smart enough to know better erect straw men, it’s infuriating.
Johnny Mac strikes again!
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I'm Funky Fresh Yo! or Michael Steele Knows that You Got's to Rock Your Hat Backwards in the Northeast
Patrick Buchanan's facial expressions are priceless. Buchanan may be a bigot, but at least (in his defense) he is an honest one...and I wish I knew what Buchanan was thinking as he listened to Steele further embarrass himself and the GOP.
Lord, why couldn't the GOP look under a different rock to find a more credible "leader" for their party? Random thought: doesn't Michael Steele remind you of your old uncle who is trying to remain "hip" but is twenty years off with his clothing and slang? Second random thought: when I watch Michael Steele I can't help but think of John Witherspoon in Boomerang talking about "you got's to coordinate":
Any excuse to play some Paul Mooney is right by me:
Why not? We miss you Bernie:
Monday, May 4, 2009
Chauncey DeVega says--Not So Post-Racial: the True Colors of Whiteness as a Twenty-First Century Racial Candid Camera
Humor is subjective. What one finds funny another may find tasteless or despicable.
For example, I have always been partial to the Three Stooges and find their humor to be pure genius. My love of Redd Foxx and Cleavon Little is well-known. I also think that Woody Allen's Match Point is one of the greatest movies of the last two decades with its darkly comic and tragic sensibilities where a foul harpy ruins the well-ordered life of our cavalier protagonist. By comparison, some think that the Honeymooners is a tour de force of comedic genius, a standard in television yet to be matched. By comparison, I think that the Honeymooners is grating and tacky: I simply cannot watch Ralph Kramden, a boorish lout, verbally and emotionally abuse his wife, Alice. Simply, I find no humor in it. Of course, when we add in the complexities of race in a racialized society that is struggling with its efforts, however deformed and half-conceived, to move towards being "post-racial," the question of humor, and what exactly should or ought to be laughed at, falls into sharper relief.
The brewing controversy over True Colors, where race as the ultimate circumstance of both social unease and the source of American obsession meets the classic television show Candid Camera, speaks to this tension in rare form.
Should we laugh at mammy figures such as Tyler Perry's Madea, figures who channel no more than the most basic stereotypes and coonery? Historically, were Black elites correct to condemn such shows as Amos N' Andy, when the masses found the show funny and in many ways surprisingly empowering? Is it so wrong to laugh at J.J. Walker's character in Good Times? Is it shameful to laugh at black folks throwing a fit over Popeye's running out of fried chicken? Do we lose our "progressive" card when we enjoy "regressive" or "un-PC" popular culture? Is it so problematic that we sometimes find humor in those things, be it music, art, literature, movies, or the like that do not serve the best and highest standards of what we imagine ourselves as good, respectable citizens to be? And if we do so, should we heed the words of Mao ZeDong and pause for a moment of critical self-reflection?
Because humor and comedy are so normative and subjective, I prefer not to emphasize the how in these matters--I am less concerned with why something is funny to a given person, as opposed to why a person (or a society) finds some things, events, or circumstances worthy of humor (or not). This is a subtle but important distinction. Moreover, I ask myself, what does the fact that it is okay to laugh at certain things--and do not forget that this criteria is itself socially constructed and contingent on certain arrangements and understandings of what is "natural" or "normal"--tell us about a community's values?
In watching True Colors, I laughed. I will admit it. I laughed with great reservation and unease. I laughed with sympathy. I also laughed with surprise akin to "the didn't just do that, did they?" I also laughed knowing that what I was watching was utterly lacking in wit because of its obviousness. Nevertheless, some of the funniest things are in fact the most uncomfortable.
Consider the following clip:
Okay, a funny sight gag. Yes, the reactions are "entertaining." But just as in the first clip, why would they (the producers/the writers of True Colors) find it appropriate to use this comedic setup? What boundaries of decency do they dare not cross? Where is their internal self-censor, that little voice that says one should not cross a given line of propriety? That perhaps, it is not appropriate to stage a gag that plays on racial terrorism and murder.
Here is one of the dividing lines of race, one that remains (and will continue to) long past the post-racial halcyon days of Obama's first 100 days as president. Racism and white supremacy in this country have centered upon inflicting trauma on those deemed by convention, law, and practice to be outside of Whiteness. This exercise of power on the body and mind has also traumatized--psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally its victims--and yes, Whiteness has also profoundly damaged White people as well.
Of course, a victimized mass of undifferentiated blackness and browness is not all that we are, because to hold such a belief both erases our individuality as well as robs us of agency. For me, the fact that we have overcome so much speaks to our glorious struggle and steel-willed drive and perseverance. It also explains why I shudder with disdain and disgust when so many black Americans, young and old alike, display what is at times a chronic lack of race pride.
With this qualifier noted, the fact that the trauma afflicted on Black Americans can be used for comedic fodder says much about how the full range of our humanity goes unacknowledged in America and the West, and that there is a particular type of historical myopia at work in the heart of Whiteness:
The provincialism of the Whiteness on display in True Colors is one that is incapable of putting oneself in the place of the object of humor, i.e. perhaps, why wouldn't a black person find it funny to see a KKK robe in their doctor's office? The Whiteness on display in True Colors is also a demonstration of an almost pathological narcissism. Here, the world revolves around an unnamed, universal "I". The "I" of Whiteness need not empathize or sympathize with the Other because to not have to do so is the practical advantage that is White privilege.
In total, this may be the unbridgeable divide. For Whiteness, the idea that a Klan robe in a doctor's office may be terrifying because of the complicity of doctors in racist medical experiments on black people, is unacknowledged. Moreover, that there is strong evidence of systematic racism in the medical community which negatively impacts the quality of care that people of color receive by their health providers is ignored. Or that to show a black woman images of "beautiful" White women, and then to have her "boyfriend" consistently pick them over pictures of comparable black women may in fact be speaking to dominant, narrow, and exclusive norms of Eurocentric beauty?
In teasing out how these standards surrounding what is, or is not, fair game and terrain for humor, let us consider the following (not so) True Colors inspired scenarios. Ask yourself: is this funny? why or why not?
1. Instead of two black women discovering that their doctor is a member of the KKK, 2 aged Jewish Holocaust survivors look into their doctor's closet and see a German SS uniform. Funny or not?
2. At a mall, a black pollster asks a white couple if they wouldn't mind sharing their opinions about which men in a selection of pictures were handsome (or not). The wife in the duo is shown photos of naked, muscular, well-endowed black men, all the while indicating how she prefers those men to the comparatively scrawny and more "modestly" endowed white men she is shown in the companion photos. The husband is deeply hurt and offended. Funny or not?
3. Two parents with a son in Afghanistan are visited by an actor posing as an Army chaplain. Said person then informs the parents that their son was killed in a roadside bombing. The big reveal: their son is actually alive and safe. Funny or not?
4. A person applies for life insurance and gives blood to a nurse practitioner as part of the exam. After drawing the blood, the nurse tells the patient that the needle was previously used and that he may have been exposed to HIV. Funny or not?
What scenarios would you add to the list? And what does this experiment tell us about the Whiteness of humor?
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Professional Wrestling Memories--Playboy Buddy Rose has Passed Away
Playboy Buddy Rose has left us for that wonderful squared circle in the sky. Playboy, you will be missed as you were a great hand worthy of much respect.
The old school is always the true school, be it in the arts, sports, politics, or any other of our human endeavors. While it is true that "I remember when" is the most banal of human conversations, but there is something to be said for the good old days in professional wrestling.
A random bonus clip that proves my point: Bruiser Brody, Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, Stan Hansen, and Youngblood in a classic match. Who cares if the match is called in Japanese as this is one hot crowd as their enthusiasm is a Lingua Franca and Esperanto for fans of professional wrestling in all corners of the globe:
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Respectable Negroes Beware! The Popeye's Fried Chicken Shortage Has Unleashed the Proletariat Against their Social Betters!
Do you now see what the pent up energy that was released by Barack Obama's presidential campaign has wrought? To my eyes, it appears that these folks have had a transformational experience which has increased their sense of political efficacy. At present, the Popeye's crusaders don't have a proper outlet for their (now) activated sense of group consciousness. We as elites best be concerned as the masses rise up against us...a series of events ironically begun by a shortage of fried chicken.
Who would have ever predicted such a thing would come to pass? I say let them eat cake!...Or in this case, a Popeye's biscuit.
A bonus clip: more evidence that Popeye's chicken does indeed bring out the worst in people--
Chauncey DeVega says: Don't Get Between Black Folks and Their Fried Chicken or the Popeye's Fried Chicken Debacle
This clips speaks for itself. Some thoughts: how do all these Black folks afford huge SUV's in this economy? Are they leased or owned? What other items do said people lease instead of own outright? Televisions? Couches? Refrigerators? Do these parents show this much enthusiasm and drive in attending to the education of their children? Are they picketing and protesting outside of the local board of education in order to improve the woefully inadequate public schools in their communities?
Being provocative: are all stereotypes based in some degree of truth?
Being really provocative: where is Operation Push, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton? Is this a civil rights issue?
Ultimately, is fried chicken THE solution to game theory's coordination game/collective action problem, i.e. give black folks the prospect of some cheap Popeye's fried chicken and they will organize and work together towards achieving a given goal?
Update--An official response from the television station which aired this story:
Rachel Barnhart (13WHAM-TV)
Not because I don’t think it was a legitimate story. Customers called our newsroom wanting us to do the story about the chain running out of chicken after promoting a big special. They said the Lake Ave. location had long lines of cars.
When we went to the Lake Ave. Popeye’s, there were indeed long lines of cars. Some people took it in stride. Other people were downright angry. A few people made jokes.
The idea of people up in arms over chicken was pretty funny. I think saying the word “chicken” over and over again was funny, too. Some of the things the customers were saying were hilarious, especially the woman who said the store should have had a trailer out back filled with “chicken on ice.”
What concerned me about the story was the stereotype of black people liking fried chicken. Everyone in our story was black. We interviewed a dozen people. Even though the suburban Penfield location also ran out of chicken, and even though a whole lot of white people also like fried chicken, I was worried some viewers would think we were doing the story because of the stereotype. I was worried we were reinforcing or making fun of the stereotype.
I think the story was a story because it was a consumer issue, customers were upset, and some customers were even laughing. The conflict was just so – human. Would I have felt better about it if we talked to white people, too? Yes. Should we have gone to the Penfield store, too? Maybe. On the other hand, do we ever pause when our stories are filled with only white people? Not often - and that's sad.
I was comfortable with running the story. It accurately reflected what happened on Lake Ave. tonight. When I get upset at a business, I am the first person to express righteous outrage. That said, I wish I hadn’t put the story together at such a late hour, because I would have loved to make a bunch of calls to get more opinions on the stereotype issue.
The video of the story we ran is linked to this blog post. We took it down for a time as our newsroom debated this issue, but you probably need to watch it in order to have an opinion.
I'd really like to hear your thoughts. Be honest. Be thoughtful. Be respectful. Any hate language will be removed.
Criticism is often leveled at 13WHAM that we do not feature Black people or other people of color in our stories unless they are criminals. As a person of color myself, I am sensitive to this.
So, you can imagine my thoughts when I saw our report last night about two local Popeye’s running out of chicken and the mayhem that ensued. My gut reaction was that the story--although a legitimate consumer complaint—seemed to reinforce a cultural stereotype about Black people and chicken. I know for a fact that no one on our staff meant for that to be the point of the story, but the fear that we would be accused of this sounded an alarm to me. It’s sad that I even had to worry about this.
The story was what it was: customers, who happened to be Black, expressing anger about a heavily advertised special that ran out. Our job as journalists is not to “whitewash (sorry, no pun intended)” the news. We aren’t here to manufacture, make up, or tamper with what exists so we ran the story. In hindsight, I’m glad we did. Race aside, it is a perfect consumer story…and consumers have a right to be angry.
However, the report sparked a discussion in our newsroom about the way we portray people of color. I have to admit, we tend to overlook the importance of being inclusive in some of our reporting. Gay, Lesbian, Hispanic, Senior, and Physically Disabled people have opinions on any number of topics, yet we tend to only interview them in relation to stories that affect their specific groups. What’s the sense in that?
This conversation is ongoing and I’m so proud that we are able to have it.
What Would a Black Militant Say About Barack Obama's First 100 Days? An Interview with Brother X-Squared
WARNNN: Hello, it has been a long time since we last spoke. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed again.
Brother X-Squared: As always Brother Chauncey, I am here to bring the light to all those negroes who remain lost in the wilderness.
WARNNN: When we last spoke, you offered some powerful observations and predictions regarding Barack Obama's campaign. There you expressed your feelings that it wouldn't matter if a Black man were to be elected president, and you expressed great doubt that Obama would in fact win.
Brother X-Squared: That is correct.
WARNNN: As we approach the first 100 days of Obama's presidency, have you changed your feelings about Obama, and do you not think that his election is an amazing milestone for America?
Brother X-Squared: Does a wet dog bark loudly when he is woken up at night by a pigeon outside his master's window?
WARNNN: Excuse me Brother X-Squared? I am confused.
Brother X-Squared: You are always confused Brother Chauncey because the White man's tricknology has gotten your mindstate upset and out of balance. The answer is no and no! This is just part of the White man's master plan as I told you in October--elect a halfrican negro as quote unquote "president" and then you can say that White supremacy is dead. They played you Tom negroes, dumb White liberals, and Obamazombies. They are already doing it, did you not see that the Supreme court is poised to outlaw affirmative action--that little bone that massa threw you negroes--and that a recent survey says that you black fools don't think America is a racist country anymore? Damn, you all don't know how deep the White man's game is. The Tom Negro Coconut lapdogs for massa are playing 1 dimensional chess while the White man is playing that Star Trek, Mr. Spock 3-D chess. You foolish negroes can't possibly win.
WARNNN: I respect your points Brother X-Squared, but you don't think that given American's history that Obama's victory is not in fact a watershed event, an amazing event of Earth shattering proportions?
Brother X-Squared: Watershed? Lord, Brother Chauncey we need to get your mind detoxed. Watershed? How dare you use such a phrase. Water equals the oceans of the Middle Passage. Shed equals where slaves were brought to be tortured by the overseers. The Renewed Black Panther Party has so much work to do in order to free you mental slaves. Furthermore, you keep asking about these 100 days of his presidency? Don't you see how the White man is manipulating you again? 100 Brother Chauncey, 100! don't you get it?
WARNNN: No, I am sorry I don't.
Brother X-Squared: 100 million of us dead and gone in the Middle Passage! Every time the mainstream media talks about 100 they are dishonoring the Black man and mocking our suffering! This is deep, deep, deep, the levels of tricknology that are being deployed to subjugate the captive Black man in America. Minstrel-hop, Tyler Perry, BET, high fructose corn syrup, these Internets, saggin' pants, we the original Black man are in a war for our souls.
WARNNN: I will rephrase the question. Did you as a Black man not feel a little pride is seeing Obama's inauguration? Did that event open you to the thought that there is some hope for American democracy to make amends for its original sin of slavery, discrimination, and racism?
Brother X-Squared: Let me ask you a question?
WARNNN: Of course.
Brother X-Squared: Which president was Obama channeling during his speech and inauguration?
WARNNN: It was pretty clear that Obama was signaling to Abraham Lincoln.
Brother X-Squared: Exactly. This is political theater of the worst sort. Obama is really channeling Franz Fanon, his inauguration was on some Black Skin, White Mask nonsense. Here, we have a halfrican, "Black" man channeling the "Great Emancipator," a man who would have kept us in chains in order to preserve the Union, and who advocated sending us, the Black man who built this country back to Africa after we were "freed." Lincoln didn't love Black people, he tolerated us--barely. And, you have a President using that symbolism...along with "Southern Belles" marching in the parade? A bunch of getting Black folk lynched heifers and sluts, who loved to take a slave to bed and then throw him to the wolves because she wanted to get some of that Sycamore tree that her melanin challenged man couldn't give her, being "honored" in the inaugural parade. Damn, give me a break. Barack Obama as Abraham Lincoln is like tits on a bull--utter and total nonsense, an oxymoron. This is laughable, a not real Black man living in the White House, a house that itself was built by African slave labor.
WARNNN: Changing topics, how would you assess his first 100 days in office?
Brother X-Squared: Are you still Black and broke?
Chauncey DeVega: Yes, and?
Brother X-Squared: I told you that halfrican wouldn't do anything for you and that he wasn't some messiah, but you all fools drank the Kool-Aid nonetheless. Fools, fools, fools.
Chauncey DeVega: Please, answer the original question.
Brother X-Squared: You are always provoking me Brother Chauncey, but I will answer the question anyway. If Obama doesn't fix this economic mess he inherited, then Obama will be the first and last Black president. Again, the White man left this mess. Little Bush, Redneck Clinton, and Daddy Bush created this crisis. Now, Obama is left to clean it up. Those devils at the Federal Reserve, the IMF, and their peeps in the Illuminati, the Bilderbergs, and those other villains played Obama. They gave a Black man the job to further their ends...and to create a Black scapegoat for these problems.
Turn on your television, what do you see? Tea Parties. And we all know what tea parties really are, but that is a convo for another time. You have these dumb working and middle class White folk wanting to overthrow the government and denouncing Obama because a multinational, fascist company, Fox News, is telling them to do so. Dumb, stupid, White folk. They need to read some history to understand how the White working class has been played by rich White men. Again, if Obama don't fix this mess he inherited then he is going to be the last Black man ever in that White House. If he fails spectacularly, then they may round up us Black people and put us in camps. But of course, the pigs know not to confront Brother X-Squared and his Nubian warriors or they will lose--in grand fashion.
WARNNN: Brother X-Squared, I know that you have found at least one thing about the Obama presidency heartwarming. How about their cute puppy, Bo, that charming little dog that the Obama's kids love so much? You said that you love dogs in your first interview, you must be happy with cute, charming, Bo?
Brother X-Squared: Don't bring my four legged friends into this Brother Chauncey, cause you know you are on thin ice with that one.
WARNNN: No offense intended, but please answer the question.
Brother X-Squared: Understood. They even played you with that dog. Look at that canine: he is black and white. Bo is a mongrel! What about his name? Bo? A good old boy, racist name! Why didn't they call the dog Omar, or Shaka? hmmm...makes one think doesn't it?
Ultimately, Bo is mixed race and weak, just like his human daddy. And, they are socializing those beautiful children to accept race mixing. So sickening. To boot, Bo is a Portuguese Water Dog! Damn, again, the White man--the Kennedys gave the Obamas that dog--the Kennedys, those drunken, racist, Irish, rum runners who earned their Whiteness by hating Black people. This is so deep. Don't you see it, Brother Chauncey?
WARNNN: I am not sure.
Brother X-Squared: Think about it--Portuguese and Water. The former were one of the foremost slave traders. Water is how they killed us. The White man gave Obama a living symbol of the ways that White supremacy enacted power on the body of the Afro-Asiatic Black man. Everyday in the White House a slave catching dog that symbolizes AmeriKKKa's hatred of the Black man is sitting at the feet of a "Black" president. Lord above, help my people.
WARNNN: Per our tradition, at the end of our interviews we ask you to tell us something we don't know. What would you like to share.
Brother X-Squared: Swine Flu.
WARNNN: Huh? Please clarify.
Brother X-Squared: The Swine Flu is proof of my prophetic vision. This pandemic encapsulates everything I have warned you about. It was unleashed by the White man onto a Black president. I will even bet you that it was made in some laboratory by an evil White scientist--you will see. And to boot, damn this is so so so deep, the Swine flu, that dirty pig--we can never forget the role of that beast in all of this--is a result of race mixing, just like Obama! The Swine Flu is a combination of human, avian, and pig flu strains. You see, God above didn't want all this race mixing, and now it will be your undoing! I mock your stupidity, those of you who have not had your eyes opened by the knowledge that I am bringing you.
WARNNN: You are always an amazing guest Brother X-Squared. Will we be hearing from you again?
Brother X-Squared: Absolutely.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Random thought: do any of you who are teachers or professors secretly wish that you could talk to/motivate your students this way?
Second random thought: should this soldier be given the title of honorary respectable negro?
A bonus: a "motivational" clip from the criminally underrated Boys from Company C:
Saturday, April 25, 2009
WASHINGTON, April 25 (Reuters) - An unusual new flu virus has spread widely and cannot be contained, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Saturday.
"It is clear that this is widespread. And that is why we have let you know that we cannot contain the spread of this virus," the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters on a conference call.
The strain of swine flu is suspected of killing as many as 68 people in Mexico and infecting more than 1,000 more, including eight in the United States. (Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Patricia Zengerle)
Am I the only one who has been thinking about the movie 12 Monkeys as the swine flu outbreak seems to be taking on the markers of a global pandemic?
Is this life imitating art imitating life?
Damn It, Why Did Madonna Constantine Think of This First! And where is My 200 Million Dollar Noose? or It is Time for a Respectable Negro Flashback!
Oh nooses, we love you so--get the dark irony? We posted on this last year, and as we do by tradition--here is a respectable negro flashback!
From the Chronicle of Higher Education, on the 200 million dollar lawsuit for unlawful termination and harassment by Madonna Constantine (i.e. the Columbia Teacher's College professor who found a noose on her door in an incident purported to be fabricated as a means of justifying her removal).
Madonna Constantine Strikes Back
by John L. Jackson
Former Teachers College Professor Madonna Constantine became (in)famous last year. More than once.
The first time was because of the hubbub that ensued after she found a noose attached to her office door. The finding turned into a national news story about hate speech and resurgent public displays of racism. Then people began to speculate that she had actually hung the noose herself as a way to deflect from an ongoing investigation into allegations of plagiarism made against her. The noose was found in October of 2007. The investigation was announce in February 2008. And Teachers College fired Constantine three months later.
Just this week, the plot has thickened (as some might have imagined it would). Constantine has filed a lawsuit against her former employer for ruining her reputation. Constantine’s attorney claims that they have proof of her innocence, even speculating that the evidence vindicating Constantine was purposefully ignored by Teachers College in an attempt to justify ousting her.
Of course, Teachers College intends to fight Constantine’s suit, and the school admits to no wrongdoing, calling her suit “baseless.”
I still don’t know how to make sense of this case. It gets glossed as one person’s disingenuous attempt to inoculate herself from critique by using the protective cover of racial sympathy, as an example of taking the so-called “race card” to completely new heights.
I’ve always refused to believe that Constantine put that noose on her own door, even as I admit that the ordering of public events do easily fit such a cynical scenario. But the reality of American life is more complicated than a “gotcha” melodrama about one person’s conniving attempt to short-circuit contemporary justice with recourse to part of racism’s historical iconography, the proverbial lynching noose...
The story continues here.
Black to the past, or is that the future?
Chauncey DeVega says: I Couldn't Resist...Beware the Attack of the Nooses
I cower as I write this. My Zombie Survival Guide, and my SAS Survival Handbook have some valuable tips for dealing with this type of calamity. But, I fear the information they impart may not help me survive the attack.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Through the Looking Glass--Fox News' Unhinged, Irrational Obama Attacks Stir up Violent Right-Wing Militants
Courtesy of Alternet:
Imagine if Fox News had been on the air back on February 28, 1993, just months into the new Democratic president's first term, when agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms attempted to serve warrants on David Koresh's Branch Davidian compound, located on the outskirts of Waco, Texas. Agents arrived because federal authorities got a tip that Koresh and the followers of the misguided messiah were stockpiling weapons.
The authorities were right. Outgunned, ATF agents quickly met resistance from the Davidians, who had a .50-caliber rifle, machine guns, and more than a million rounds of ammunition at their disposal. The shootout lasted hours and became the longest in American law-enforcement history. In the end, four ATF agents were killed, and 16 were wounded. Inside the compound, five Davidians were killed and scores more injured, including Koresh, who was shot in the hip and the wrist. The gunbattle signaled the start of a 51-day standoff between Koresh and federal authorities.
Rupert Murdoch's all-news channel didn't debut in America until October 1996, but it's chilling to consider the what-ifs of how today's Fox News lineup of doomsday, anti-government prophets would have reacted to controversial and defining news events in the early 1990s -- like Waco.
As news of the failed Waco raid broke, would Fox News' notoriously weepy and apocalyptic host Glenn Beck have broken down on the air and wept for the tyranny that he saw unfolding in the government's raid? While FBI negotiators tried to win the release of Koresh's followers, would Beck have warned viewers that the president would "take your gun away one way or another"?
Amidst the 51-day siege, would Beck have warned against the creeping "totalitarian state" inside America? Would the host have gravely announced that we'd "come to a very dangerous point in our country's long, storied history"?
Would Beck have routinely vilified President Clinton as a fascist? Would he have told viewers that he wanted to debunk the militia-movement conspiracy theory that the federal government was building prison camps, but that he just couldn't knock the story down -- and that, at first glance, it appeared to be "half true"?...
the complete article can be found here.
Again, my motto:
Do they know what They created?
Today is a good day, even if I can't help but be a little dark:
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Oh well, any excuse to share the message of the mayor of Blacktown.net is a good one--he seems to be in an especially cantankerous mood on this video. Maybe the mayor needs more fiber?
I was sad, now I am happy again...this brother is a source of endless laughter (and he is right about Oprah).
Are you ready for a Pastor Manning bonus? I am. Question, is it right to pray to God that Obama walks out of the White House and forgets to put on his pants? Isn't there some prayer bylaw against such motions?
Did you know that Obama's tax cuts are to blame for an increase in drug use among black people? So says Pastor Manning:
Lord have mercy!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Who Wins When a Samurai Fights a Viking? or Spike TV's Newest Show, Deadliest Warriors
You know you are getting old when the shows you fantasized about as a child are now being made. To point: Spike TV's Deadliest Warriors. This fun show pits history's most archetypal combatants against one another in computer generated combat. Now, I am not generally a fun of counter-factuals, i.e. "what if scenarios?" because outcomes are a function of a specific time and place. Here, weapons are a function of necessity and the practical challenges one has to overcome. And, how can one decide who the deadliest warrior is in the modern context, where individuals are supported by other assets (be it artillery; air power; long-range intelligence and surveillance)? Moreover, how does one decide who actually "wins" without including the heart, drive, and personality of each warrior in the equation.
Nevertheless, the show makes for great viewing and should be required for all ghetto nerds. Be advised, the first two matchups are a bit controversial. The first show's featured matchup was between a Gladiator and an Apache Scout--an odd pairing, but the show was exciting and well executed. The second, and here is where this ghetto nerd gets upset, featured a Samurai versus a Viking. My people the Samurai won (of course), but a more classic matchup would have been a Knight from the high Medieval period versus a Samurai--this would have been one hell of a thing to see. The third episode features a Ninja versus a Spartan Warrior. I will not ruin the outcome, but will only say that a standup fight between a Ninja and any adversary is outside of the very utility and essence of what a Ninja did/does embody.
These observations hint at the brilliance of the show--late night bar conversation between armchair historians about something that never happened. Quintessential ghetto nerdness.
Here is an episode guide and a featured clip:
1. Greatest military leader? Greatest warrior?
2. Should Ike have rearmed the Germans after World War 2 and under Patton unleashed the Allied Army on the Russians? Who would have won?
3. Other matchups: Delta Force versus Navy Seal Team 6; British Royal Commandos versus U.S. Marines; Gurkhas versus the Isreali Special Forces; a Mameluke versus an Aztec warrior. Your picks?
4. F-15 verus Su-27?
5. Technology aside, is the Abrams series of main battle tanks the best in history, or does that title go to the T-34?
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
What is Wrong with Black People? Who is this Sad Soul? Katrina Pierson, What Has Gone So Wrong in Your Life for You to Believe Such Things?
Lord; God above; JC; Allah; Yoda; El Elyon; Elohim; Jehovah; Most High; the Creator; He who watches over me when I do really stupid stuff and you still got my back and protect me from the consequences of my actions and deeds, I pray for this sad soul. Crom do you hear me?
Is it a coincidence that her name is Katrina? And, am I so foul as to state that there are so many reasons for "us" to hate ourselves, does it not hurt when one of "us" takes the bait? Fittingly, from the Wikipedia entry on Black Skin, White Masks:
In this study, Fanon uses psychoanalysis and psychoanalytical theory to explain the feelings of dependency and inadequacy that Black people experience in a White world. He speaks of the divided self-perception of the Black Subject who has lost his native cultural originality and embraced the culture of the mother country. As a result of the inferiority complex engendered in the mind of the Black Subject, he will try to appropriate and imitate the cultural code of the colonizer. The behavior, Fanon argues, is even more evident in upwardly mobile and educated Black people who can afford to acquire the trappings of White culture. Originally formulated to combat the oppression of black people, Fanon's insights are still influential today, being utilized by various groups such as the Palestinians, the Tamils, African Americans and others, and used in their struggle for cultural and political autonomy. Fanon presents both historical interpretation and underlying social indictment.
Most High, the God I pray to when I am in the most dire of circumstances, am I wrong to imagine that she would be the sort of "sister" to star in an inter-racial porno movie as she is defiled by a group of White men, who all the while hurl the most worst racial epithets at her while she begs for more? Why do I feel bad for her, all the while why she doesn't feel bad for herself? And take note of "White" versus "white," lest one complain (because long time readers know that I am a big fan of race mixing).
Shall she suffer discommendation? I so want to kick her out of the tribe, shall we?
"In the mid-1700s the English captain of a trading ship that made runs between England and the Virginia colony fathered a child by an enslaved woman living near Williamsburg. The woman, whose name is unknown and who is believed to have been born in Africa, was owned by the Eppeses, a prominent Virginia family. The captain, whose surname was Hemings, and the woman had a daughter. They named her Elizabeth.
So begins this epic work named a best book of the year by the Washington Post, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Amazon.com, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a notable book by the New York Times. Annette Gordon-Reed's "riveting history" of the Hemings family, whose story comes to vivid life in this brilliantly researched and deeply moving work. Gordon-Reed, author of the highly acclaimed historiography Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, unearths startling new information about the Hemingses, Jefferson, and his white family. Although the book presents the most detailed and richly drawn portrait ever written of Sarah Hemings, better known by her nickname Sally, who bore seven children by Jefferson over the course of their thirty-eight-year liaison, The Hemingses of Monticello tells more than the story of her life with Jefferson and their children. The Hemingses as a whole take their rightful place in the narrative of the family's extraordinary engagement with one of history's most important figures."
Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of law at New York Law School and a professor of history at Rutgers University. She is the author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy.
2009 PULITZER PRIZE FOR GENERAL NONFICTION: “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II,” by Douglas A. Blackmon. A precise and eloquent work that examines a deliberate system of racial suppression and that rescues a multitude of atrocities from virtual obscurity.
"Under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries, and farm plantations. Thousands of other African Americans were simply seized by southern landowners and compelled into years of involuntary servitude. Government officials leased falsely imprisoned blacks to small-town entrepreneurs, provincial farmers, and dozens of corporations—including U.S. Steel—looking for cheap and abundant labor. Armies of “free” black men labored without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced through beatings and physical torture to do the bidding of white masters for decades after the official abolition of American slavery."
Douglas A. Blackmon is the Atlanta Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal. He has written extensively on race, the economy, and American society.