About Me

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New York City, New York, United States
41 year old African-American Male. I like to think of myself as a jack of all trades and a master of none...I rely on reasoned common sense, rationality and what my gut tells me is right/wrong (combined with the well reasoned opinions of others!). I don't consider myself an expert on anything in particular, but I have lots of opinions.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I may either stop blogging altogether or I may transfer to another service...Still undecided (but, I don't think that I am too pleased with some of the changes that are coming to Google...I am still trying to sort through it with out their spin...stay tuned...)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Pledge Allegiance to Tyler Perry...

Tyler Perry apparently believes that films with all black casts are on the verge of extinction.  To ward off this potential Armageddon, he is encouraging folks to go out this weekend to see the movie "Red Tails", which features an all-black (primarily male) cast.  The movie was produced by George Lucas with very little (if any) studio support [for more info on the production of "Red Tails", you can go here http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/magazine/george-lucas-red-tails.html?pagewanted=all).

A few disclaimers:  I do not like Perry's plays, movies or television shows.  I also noticed that he has written a book, which I don't intend to read.  I think of his products as modern day minstrel shows with the notable difference that the characters may be more dressed up; but, I ask, "Where are they going?"  I also tend to avoid the overwhelming majority of entertainment that is put out for mass consumption, which includes most movies produced by major studios. 

With that said, I think that Perry's "letter", if you will, is a bit disingenuous.  Within the past 12 months, I saw 3 independent movies that featured all-black casts ("Night Catches Us", "I Will Follow" and recently, "Pariah").  Admittedly, I don't go to the movies too often (I really need to feel motivated to separate myself from my hard-earned coins and I need to believe that I won't be wasting time that I will never be able to reclaim).  I also don't want to minimize or romanticize the challenges that each of the folks behind the films that I have mentioned most likely endured in order to see their respective films to completion and eventual distribution.  But, there are in fact films being made with black casts.  Personally, I don't really care if there isn't another large block buster made (with an all-black cast or otherwise).  In reference to "Red Tails", I don't wish the movie any ill-will, but I personally am not interested in a revisionist or sanitized version of history.

What I do want from my entertainment (and, in particular, my films) are complex, well drawn characters who are representative of the human condition.  I want thoughtful story-lines and capable actors and directors with vision---all the things that Perry doesn't appear to possess (or, if he does possess said attributes, he has yet to display them).  I also don't want some self-appointed "leader" telling me what I should do (with my time or my money). 

And to take it a step further, I will say that simply because something is "all black" does not automatically mean that I want to experience it (i.e., I refer to my previously stated opinions on Tyler Perry's work).  I am so tired of these appeals (like Perry's letter) to racial allegiance in the black community that in reality, represent limited, narrow forms of pseudo black-nationalism. 

Perry, of course, has a lucrative distribution (and possible production) deal with Lionsgate.  Although Lionsgate is classified (in some circles) as an independent entertainment company, it is hugely successful and a bit of a behemoth (and there is nothing wrong with that).  For FY 2010, Lionsgate had net income in excess of $19 million dollars on revenue in excess of $1 billion.  I don't think that it takes a leap of logic to conclude that the more commercially successful all-black films are (quality notwithstanding), the better financial deal Perry is able to secure for his productions (and ultimately, the better able he is to line his already well lined pockets).  Again, there is nothing wrong with commercial success (standing alone), but Perry should be fully honest about his motivations (this conclusion is my own...Perry may in fact, just want "Red Tails" to do well financially...However, the connection is unmistakable and the tactic of appealing to racial allegiance in order to advance one's own self interest is in fact, often used.  For example, well-known radio "empiress" Cathy Hughes employed a similar tactic in her battle with the record industry a few years back...you can click here for one take).

I think that sorting through all of the issues at play is complicated and involves many factors (including blatant self interest).  But, I really detest the appeal to unquestioned racial allegiance (in circumstances like this, I often think back to this 2008 article in the Times.  The article was an "expose" if you will, on the cars leased by members of the House of Representatives and the corresponding taxpayer expense.  I found the short profile on Rep. Charles Rangel, who represents Harlem, telling...in justification of his lease of a lavish and expensive Cadillac DeVille, Rep. Rangel explained that his constituents "...like to see that they are somebody and that he is somebody."  Ostensibly, these feelings are conveyed through Rangel's  tax-payer paid DeVille.  Call me crazy...but, I imagine that while the DeVille is quite nice and luxurious, 10 to 1 says that, if given an option, Rangel's constituents would rather see significant material improvements in their OWN overall life and living conditions rather than seeing Rep. Rangel riding in a DeVille...that's just my guess).

Similarly, as both stated and implied, I am a huge proponent in quality over quantity (this ranges from shoes and suits to my choice of entertainment).  By all accounts, "Red Tails" is a perfectly fine movie (and I applaud George Lucas, who is estimated to be worth over $1 billion, for basically, going at it alone financially).  Tyler Perry's motives may very well be perfectly benign, although I doubt it.  But, if one of the outcomes of the commercial success of "Red Tails" is that the black community is subjected to more of the same from Tyler Perry (and those like him), then I question the overall net-gain.

[Note:  while writing this blog post and doing some quick on-line fact checking, I happen to come across the weekend movie financial tabulations, and "Red Tails" ranked 2nd with an estimated haul of $19.1 million, so it appears that all black movie casts may be safe for now]. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

What Am I Doing?

I wrote this post 1/15/12 and set it aside for editing...Before I got around to editing, I had a change of heart about the subject (how presumptuous of me to compile a list of what I am reading/listening to/watching, etc).  Then I remembered that this is my blog...

What am I up? (i.e., reading, listening to, watching, planning to see)...
I am touched on this some yesterday, in terms of highlighting some things that I have seen...For some reason, I have decided to outline a few of the things occupying my time now (not at this particular moment, but in general terms):

[Note:  I am forget/get confused as to whether I should use " ", underlining and/or italics, so I use them interchangeable]

Books:  For me, the good and bad thing about Kindle (no, I don't have an Ipad and not sure that I will be purchasing one...I haven't gotten the Kindle Fire yet either---I just bought my Kindle last in the Spring of '11, so I am not looking to spend money on another piece of electronic equipment anytime soon)...but, back to my point...Kindle allows (even encourages) me to read multiple books at once (not literally) because I don't have to deal with the burden of actually carrying those multiple books back and forth during my working commute/on vacation, etc.  Everything is neatly held in one place---all I have to do is flip the switch (and ensure my device has been sufficiently powered) and there are all of my books!:

1.  Sister Citizen:  Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry (I really enjoy Professor Perry's writing and analysis and although in some sense, this is an instance of preaching to the choir--her to me, its always good to continue to sharpen one's insight).
2.  The Battle for Gotham:  New York in Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs by Roberta Brandes Gratz (I am and have always been intrigued by NY and wanted to try to understand how NY got to be NY...I also question some of the policy planning decisions that have been made and applaud others...this book has been an interesting starting point).
3.  The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones (I actually stopped reading mid-way through...I am a big fan of Jones, but this book is a little too simplistic for me...I am certainly trying to increase my knowledge of environmental issues, but the problem here is that Jones presents the "solutions" without any acknowledgement of our present political environment.  Moreover, I question the efficacy of some of the solutions listed.  Will probably resume in the Spring.
4.  Palestine Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter (the Middle East conflict, history, religion are all areas of interest for me;  combine those interests with a significant historical injustice- and I am not referring to the persecution of the Jewish people, which I am not condoning either, I mean it is possible to be critical of some of Israel's policies and not be an anti-Semite; and, this book is a must read for me).

1.  "Unsung" on TVOne (TVOne is about .5 of a step better than BET in terms of programming, but my partner and I love this show...)
2.  "Burn Notice"- this is my escapist television.  Both the male and female leads are easy on the eyes and its just good, clean fun.  I do wonder if some of the plots are magnifications of real covert intelligence tactics/operations, but in general, I am hooked.  In fact, at 41, this show made me wonder if I missed my calling to be a CIA agent?)
3.  "Homeland" (Showtime...the first season ended last fall...this show is just amazing to me...I am getting a little tired of all of the covert CIA-type shows, but this one is a keeper for me).
4.  "Up! with Chris Hayes" (weekend mornings on MSNBC...This show is a great counter to the inane Sunday morning political shows on the other networks that typically feature the same old, tired talking heads babbling on about the same banal crap...I am also looking forward to Professor Harris-Perry's MSNBC show that is set to debut on February 4).

In addition to "Pariah" which I saw last weekend and "The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975", which I watched on DVD this weekend, I am looking forward to seeing:  "Shame", "The Iron Lady" and I have to figure out how I am going to see "Gun Hill Road".

One of many great things about living in NY is that opportunity to see some really good theatrical productions...there is also plenty of middle-of-the-road garbage as well, but I have done a pretty good job of avoiding most of that stuff...

Yesterday, we saw a matinee performance of W;t (my use of the semi-colon is intentional) with Cynthia Nixon...wow! This was a nicely done and forced me to think in terms of my own mortality (maybe everyone doesn't like to do this, but, in some perverse way, I do).  We have tickets next week for "Gerswhin's Porgy and Bess" (featuring Audra Macdonald).  I have not intentionally read any of the reviews (because I don't want to run into any spoilers or anything else that might ruin the show for me).  I know that there has been some early criticism of P&B (by Steven Soundheim) because of the re imagining of the story.  Since I have not previously seen the play/opera, I will have no idea what I am missing (although, I have to say, I don't want to see anything that is 4 hours long---which is the length of the original opera).


This dichotomy has created a huge disconnect between me and what's generally popular in the world of music right now...I have no idea of what's considered "hot"...I have no idea (outside of Adele) of the music by any of the many most popular artists---Nicki Manji?  Justin Bieber? Kathy Perry?  While I know the names (how can you avoid 'em?), I couldn't name a song by any of them.  I don't say this with a badge of honor (I am now starting to feel like my mom)...I just note the serious disconnect between a professed music lover and the business of music.  Fortunately, this disconnect is not all that new (and I am hardly the only person who shares this view).  There are TONS of artist out there (not to mention vasts archives) where one can find all kinds of tunes that are made to cater to all kinds of tastes...Its also a good thing that I think of myself as the kind of person who will actually find what we is "looking for".  So, after that long-ass diatribe of self-righteous indignation, I say that the latest thing that I am listening to is "Portrait of a Legend", which is a compilation of songs my Sam Cooke...talk about genius (I was watching the "Unsung" episode on Bobby Womack.  Womack was discussing his working relationship with Sam Cooke...I have listened to some Sam Cooke in the past, but that episode piqued my interest further...and here we are...).

I am still rocking Adele (I really need to move on and listen to something else...), Lizz Wright, Dianne Reeves, Fertile Ground, Incognito, Erykah Badu, old Mary J. Blige, Amel Larreux, Donny Hathaway, Rahsaan Patterson...among many, many others...There is in fact tons of good music out there (in addition to all of bad).  You just have to look for it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy 2012...A few weeks late

Welcome to 2012...I am only a few weeks late!
I am trying to figure out why I haven't felt like writing/blogging the last few months and I don't have a good answer.  Yes, I have been busy with work (but, who isn't?  that has never stopped me before).  No, I am not paid for blogging (but, being paid is not my reason for blogging).  I have no idea if anyone actually reads this thing (despite the fact that I read the stats, and, that has never stopped me before)...so, I will just accept that I just have not been up to it and move along.

As always, there is much going on...the GOP Presidential Primary contest should warrant a discussion, but, unfortunately, it doesn't.  The entire field (the front runner included) is pretty much a joke...except, that I think that the potential consequences are dire.  Its not that I want President Obama to lose the election, because I do not.  But, I am pushing myself to rise above ideology.  What I would like to hear (whether its from President O or from one of the contestants on the other side) are concrete ideas/potential solutions to improve the current economic environment.  Unfortunately, I haven't heard much from either side (and to be fair to the President, he certainly doesn't have a working partner with the dysfunctional Congress where the Republicans would rather see the President fail than see the country succeed---so much for "country first").  At the same time, I think I have a realistic view of American politics.  Everyone expects that the presidential contest will be tight...That means if Obama loses, I wish I had some confidence in his successor to implement programs to fix the problems we currently face.  Irrespective of which bone head wins from the other side, I just do not see that happening.

On another front, I finally saw "The Help" on DVD...Although it pushed many different buttons for me (race relations, poverty, limited opportunities for blacks, restrictive gender roles), as I expected, Viola Davis was rocked in a dignified, quiet type of way, and Octavia Spencer was (not too surprisingly) pretty damn funny.  As much as I loathe the "Hollywood" awards season, I am glad to see that she (Davis) is receiving just due for her work in this movie (in terms of recognition from her peers and other industry folks).  Given the limited roles available for American-Americans (male or female) and given the limited number of quality roles (regardless of race), I just enjoy seeing people justly rewarded for their efforts.  I had the pleasure of seeing Ms. Davis on Broadway with Denzel Washington in "Fences"---she just brought so much power and presence and depth to her role.  It was a pleasure to watch.  [I am not doing a very good job of explaining myself here...On the surface, it would seem like I engaging in a form of fictive race pride in terms of rejoicing in Viola's critical accolades.  Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that, but I am not...or, at least, I am trying not to.  There is just something about the integrity that she projects and the life that she beings to her characters that I really appreciate and I think that she is talented as hell!]

Speaking of the world of film, last week, I saw "Pariah" about an black, high school age student who comes to terms with her sexual identity (lesbian) on her own terms.  It was a raw, realistic, honest film by first time Director Dee Ress...Her film has garnered a great deal of well-deserved buzz and I look forward to seeing more from her moving forward (interestingly, I read that she is working on a scripted series for HBO starring Viola Davis). 

As I have gotten older, my tolerance level for trash entertainment has decreased significantly.  I just resent the garbage that is thrown out to "us" the viewing/paying public by the powers that be (the forum doesn't matter---music, theater, television, books).  I am only willing to spend my time and/or money on those things that I think might interest me and when I find those things, I am ecstatic! (for example, I am 99% certain that nothing Tyler Perry does will interest me, so I don't watch any of his productions.  He most certainly can do what he wants, but he won't be earning any of my money in the process).  [note:  I am laying on the bed and a commercial for a "Martin Luther King Day Sale" a K-Mart just came on...Damn!  Nothing is safe from commodification...I am not one of those people who lionizes Dr. King...I appreciate both his humanity and his achievements, but I do think that some things should be off-limits...but, am I really surprised? No]

Finally, I want to welcome a friend to the world of blogging...This is her blog (womanvsweight.com) and its an online account of her battle with the bulge...something that all of us can probably relate to.  I wish her the best and encourage any/all who have an interest to check her out.

Until next time...RT