Thursday, April 29, 2010


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Drama Queen in the Making

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gay Vatos In Love

Man, I hope they make a proper video for this...

Gay Vatos In Love

Gaby and Mando walking through the park
Looking for love in protection of the dark

Club Cobra, a temple in the night,
The more I hear of Morrissey, the more I feel alright

Gay Vatos in Love

Javi and Kique with their girlfriends in the car
Fronting on Crenshaw knowing who they are
Juan Gabriel says, "amor es amor"
But Angie Zapata is lying on the dance floor


If the world can't understand / Stand by your man!


Women as Radical Traditionalists

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Joni Mitchell Never Lies


by Joni Mitchell  

Everybody looks so ill at ease
So distrustful so displeased
Running down the table
I see a borderline
Like a barbed wire fence
Strung tight strung tense
Prickling with pretense
A borderline

Why are you smirking at your friend?
Is this to be the night when
All well-wishing ends?
All credibility revoked?
Thin skin thick jokes!
Can we blame it on the smoke,
This borderline?

Every bristling shaft of pride
Church or nation
Team or tribe
Every notion we subscribe to
Is just a borderline
Good or bad we think we know
As if thinking makes things so!
All convictions grow along a borderline

Smug in your jaded expertise
You scathe the wonder world
And you praise barbarity
In this illusionary place
This scared hard-edged rat race
All liberty is laced with

Every income every age
Every fashion-plated rage
Every measure every gauge
Creates a borderline
Every stone thrown through glass
Every mean-streets-kick ass
Every swan caught on the grass
Will draw a borderline

You snipe so steady
You snub so snide
So ripe and ready
To diminish and deride!
You're so quick to condescend
My opinionated friend
All you deface all you defend
Is just a borderline
Just a borderline
Another borderline
Just a borderline

Friday, April 23, 2010

"What If The Tea Party Were Black?" By Tim Wise

From the link: 

"Imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings."

More at the link

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Facebook Suicide

From the link:

"In the end, what does all this online, arms-length self-promotion ultimately provide? Perhaps it’s merely one component of the pursuit to alleviate some of the blackness encountered in the existential vacuum of modern life. As Schopenhauer once projected, modern humans may be doomed to eternally vacillate between distress and boredom. For the vast majority of people experiencing the fragmented, fast-paced modern world of 2008, a Sunday pause at the end of a hectic week may cause them to become all too aware of the lack of content in their lives. So we update our online profiles and tell ourselves that we are reaching out."

The Link

New York's Most Livable Neighborhoods -- for White People

From the blog Knowing Coves:

New York Magazine has published a list of the city’s most “livable” neighborhoods, using a weighted index which assigns 6% importance to “diversity”. The highest ranked neighorhoods are for the most part those with the lowest diversity scores. Last place on the list? Harlem.

I’m not interested enough to actually do the math but I suspect that we could establish a negative correlation in these rankings between “diversity” and “overall ranking”. I say we drop this whole “weighted index” pretense: white people view a neighborhood as more “livable” in direct proportion to how few people of color live there. Moreover: white people especially try to avoid Black folks, followed by Brown folks, followed by Yellow folks, in determining who to flee from and who can be tolerated as “livable”. This rule of thumb underlies published “rankings” like this, which feed into real estate values, which feed social investment in those neighborhoods, which feeds back into all those other factors which have negative correlations to “diversity”. All of this convoluted numerical self-justification is also known as “racism”.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We Shall Overcome

Woke up this morning kinda in a funk, wanting to hear something that would both capture my internal but also challenge it. Went onto Facebook and saw that someone had posted this. It fit the bill. And as my friend Charles wrote on my Facebook wall, "It's beautiful and timely, particularly with the recent passing of civil rights leaders Benjamin Hooks and Dorothy Height so close together."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Uptight Religion

This is one of my all-time favorite Stevie Wonder tunes. It has enormous nostalgic powers for me, triggering a host of childhood memories as well as the emotions associated with them. But it's also an ever-potent feel-good dance track in its own right, quite aside from any throwback value. This mash-up re-imagining, set against R.E.M.'s classic brooder "Losing My Religion" underscores the plaintiveness of the song's lyrics and pushes the recording's sense of urgency in a deeper, grittier direction. The new musical bed bounces a darker subtext that complicates the cross-class differences outlined in the lovers scenario of the song, suggesting that everything may not really be "alright," and "outta sight" after all. (The sample of Michael Stipes chiming in with the line "That was just a dream..." is so perfectly deployed as a sobering Greek chorus reality check.) It's just fucking lovely.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Excerpt: Mark Bradford's "Border Crossings"

Last weekend I attended a book release party for Mark Bradford's monograph Merchant Posters at REDCAT here in LA. The highlight of the party was a conversation between Mark and Hammer Museum Chief Curator Douglas Fogle. Below is an excerpt from my essay "Border Crossings," which opens the book.

      There are no velvet ropes in Mark Bradford’s art – not within the work, not between him and the audience, and not between the multiple audiences he hopes to reach. The work itself is dense / multi-layered / staggeringly cross-referential ... Gut-bucket & refined; technically sophisticated & unabashedly mammy-made ... Dope. It’s a visual mix-tape scratched from both mainstream-familiar and underground-sub-cultural advertising slogans / from the titles, evoked ghosts and emotional truths of both vintage soul tunes and contemporary hip-hop (mainstream and indie … no snobbery allowed) / from Greek mythology, Negro folklore and modern-day Latino immigrant realities / from classic Hollywood flicks that are sampled for their viscera-strumming essences / … and from Bradford’s own autobiography: the working class / merchant class Negritude (resilience, innovation, persistence) from which he is sprung. It doesn’t exclude anyone. It refuses to erect “no entry” barriers around any neighborhoods or cultures, and doesn’t require either a degree in semiotics to make sense, or a hipster’s (or blueblood’s) art-world ID badge for access.
      The work crosses borders.
      To create his merchant posters, Mark canvasses Los Angeles, specifically the once-Whites-Only-then-primarily-Negro-now-equally-Latino part of South Los Angeles (formerly and infamously known as South Central) in which he works and still lives. It’s where he harvests the handmade advertising signs that he finds on telephone poles, on the fences and wood barricades that block off construction sites, and in the windows of mom & pop stores. Rewind and pause on a crucial point: Mark works in the same area where he lives, and where he spent the early years of his childhood. He hasn’t bounced to the hills of Hollywood or followed the trend of living in this year’s “hot” LA neighborhood; he hasn’t purchased a sprawling, overpriced Manhattan loft. His day-to-day, both personal and professional, is lived at ground-level.
      It’s fitting that the kinds of posters that Mark gathers proliferated like post-rainstorm mushrooms in the wake of the 1991 Rodney King riots. After the widespread burning and destruction of that civil unrest, the destroyed businesses that were boarded up became wide open canvases, with the wood used to seal them off providing free advertising space. Soon, those new layers of public space were fair game for anyone with a service or product to sell. To be sure, such use of fencing, telephone poles, building walls and the like is an age-old practice. But it took on a new level of intensity post-riots when the damaged and discarded remains of conventional business hubs were reclaimed, turned into the advertising foundations for new / hyper-local / (often) off-the-books entrepreneurship.

      Stroll through South Los Angeles’s Leimert Park, the enclave (and beating heart of LA’s Black arts community) that houses Mark’s studio, and you pass blocks and blocks of barber shops and beauty salons, as well as countless outlets hawking real human hair; soul food spots abound (Phillips BBQ – a ‘hood landmark that’s jam-packed on Friday evenings as folks swoop up their end-of-the-week, celebratory itis-inducing grub – is literally around the corner from him); Project Blowed, the internationally celebrated hip-hop open-mic youth project is within walking distance; shops selling art, music, incense, and African print fabrics are nearby. Folks carved from every shade of black and brown jostle alongside one another, just getting to where they’re going. Ordinary people. Spanish and English are spoken, as is Korean behind a few store counters; all language standards are fractured and then filled in with this week’s slang. Turn off the main thoroughfares and there is also block after block of tree-lined streets with carefully tended lawns, Spanish Colonial homes, post-war bungalows and art deco apartment buildings.
      When you follow the arc of Mark’s career, certain narrative threads emerge – a keen interest in lives that are lived on the margins, in the tools of survival employed by those same margin dwellers, and in the cultural production by folks whose everyday existence is defined by struggle. Dots are connected between disparate realities that, as his work points out sans didacticism or sentimentality, are not really so dissimilar upon closer viewing. Underscore closer viewing: to observe the quotidian in a new light, to unlock the myriad details housed in that which our eyes might fall upon so often that we no longer even see it – that handmade advertising sign; the poor bodies, brown bodies, Negro bodies huddled at bus stops, going to or coming from tedious, low-paying jobs; the scores of undocumented day workers gathered in the shopping center parking lot or working in shadow at hotels, restaurants, and so on. Mark’s interest in those who live on the outskirts of society and work in subterranean economies, traveling across clearly demarcated worlds in order to survive, is an empathetic impulse clearly rooted in his own autobiographical detail – both past and present. As vested as he is in the ever-shifting dynamics of struggling-class realities in LA, he’s also an avid follower of political, cultural, and social unrest across the country and worldwide. In his travels, he observes similar stresses – but also similar responses to those stresses – in spots ranging from South Los Angeles to Brazil, for example, and underscores those similarities in his art.

Here is an interview with Mark which appeared on Huffington Post just ahead of the conversation/party.

Buy Merchant Posters here.
Buy my books Blood Beats Vol. 1 or Vol. 2 at Amazon. Click here

Buy either Blood Beats book directly from my publisher Redbone Press, and you are supporting an indie, black-owned publishing house. You can:

1) Mail your order and a money order or cashier’s check to:
Redbone Press
PO Box 15571
Washington, D.C 2003
2) Phone in your order at: 202.667.0392 (Fax is 301.559.5239)
3) Redbone email is:


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Interview With Director Neil LaBute

Two things, first:

1) I wasn't able to see Death at a Funeral before doing this interview for the LA Weekly. Not even a work-print was available before I spoke with director Neil LaBute.

2) LaBute and I briefly discuss the film Boomerang in this piece but what isn't mentioned ('cause it didn't really fit here) is that I love the film. For a host of reasons. Grace Jones being the main one.


"You know, if people just go into the theater looking to have a good time and to laugh, this film absolutely delivers," says director Neil LaBute of Death at a Funeral, the American remake of the minor-hit British film of the same name (it opens on April 16). That's not quite the sales pitch you'd expect from a man who made his name penning and directing films and plays whose brusque depictions of humanity, particularly late–20th century American maleness, made many viewers recoil. LaBute's 1997 debut film, In the Company of Men, established him as a chronicler of misanthropic, deeply damaged characters — a tag reinforced by films such as 1998's Your Friends and Neighbors, and most of his critically acclaimed theater work as well. Despite the fact that his filmography swerves from Nurse Betty to Possession, from The Wicker Man to Lake-view Terrace, news that he was directing Death raised eyebrows from almost everyone who's been paying attention to his career. In a recent phone interview, he explained why the film is not such a leap for him, offers some biting words for the mumblecore film movement, and reveals the true meaning of Lost.

How did you come to direct this remake?

I was asked by Chris Rock, who wanted to develop it into an American film. We had worked together on Nurse Betty and Chris had directed a couple of pictures [in the interim] but really wanted to just concentrate on acting for Death. At the time, he was doing a picture with Screen Gems, who I'd just done Lakeview Terrace with, so they were familiar with me. And they all knew I was looking for a comedy. I had been for a while. It's hard to get people to believe that, although I always felt that there was comedy in my stuff — whether I put it there or by accident. [LAUGHS.]

Given that you have Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan in the film, was there much improvisation during shooting?

There was. Tracy especially is someone who can riff really well on camera and stay in character. Whereas another person can do a line or two, Tracy can practically do a monologue. There's a section, in fact, where he's sort of doing just that. I'm someone who really — and I guess this comes from my writing background — I wanna make sure that we're telling a story that we actually thought through, and not just thought we can make it better in 10 minutes while standing here. But as long as it was in character and in keeping with what we were doing, and we got a take that made sense in terms of the script at hand, I was open to that.

One thing that was surprising to me, though at the time I wasn't really thinking about it, was that Chris and Martin Lawrence had never had a proper teaming together. I think they were in Boomerang together God knows how many years ago, but I don't even know if they had had scenes together. Chris was the mail guy and I don't think their paths ever crossed in the film. And Boomerang is really a fascinating movie on a lot of levels.

It's interesting that Boomerang doesn't get written about more just in terms of race and class and the ways they play out in that film. It's sort of an Afrocentric utopian paean to upward mobility, yet most of the characters are actually quite unlikable.

Yes, I know what you mean. At least the actors bring some human quality to it. On paper, the characters must have been really horrible people.

I want to flip direction for a moment. Given that you're known for writing angry, fucked-up male characters, I was curious if you've seen any mumblecore films and what you make of the men in them. What sort of reading might you give them, cropping up at this moment on the American culture clock? They're sort of passive, or passive-aggressive and wan...

Yeah, you can't even call them bumbling. That'd be too much effort for them. [LAUGHS.] Talking about passive, they just kinda lay there with their shirts off. C'mon, now. But it's interesting to see that seep into the work of Noah Baumbach, who I know has done some work with these guys — guys and gals, obviously. He has Greta Gerwig in his film [Greenberg] doing really nice work, almost the kind of work where you feel like he just happened to film her. Her performance is so natural and lovely. But yeah, Andrew Bujalski and Joe Swanberg would make sure their doors are locked at night so people like [LaBute characters played by] Aaron Eckhart and Jason Patric don't come in. You know they're out there still.

It's interesting to juxtapose images of angry, red-faced tea-baggers with the males in the mumblecore stuff. It's like the latter are what the former are afraid of being reduced to — these subeffete, sexless creatures who are sort of stripped of everything remotely emblematic of conventional male power.

Yeah, that's probably very true. It hasn't really been that long since the last great movement of civil rights and women's rights and the sexual revolution, where that slice of white American male felt pushed out and put upon. It's sort of like you keep letting other people in the elevator until, "Don't get too close. I need my space. I'm used to the whole damned thing." Whether it's death throes or just a tantrum is hard to tell with the boy-men I write about. But yeah, they don't love change. They're very much used to having it their way. I think that those [mumblecore] guys and the women who are around those guys would really irritate [my male characters] to no end.

People keep saying that Death is the head-scratcher among your work, but I think that honor goes to the promotional short you directed for the game Heavy Rain. It seems the most atypical of your work not only because it's in the service of selling a video game but because there's a masculine tenderness to it.

It was a fascinating project to me because I'm not a gamer of any kind. But it was really just the idea that this was not selling anything so much as talking about the game, which has a fascinating quality to it — the idea that you're still on a quest, you're doing all the things the game asks you to do but you're making all these emotional and moral choices along the way. I certainly have been one who — no matter what the rant has been, whether it has been quiet or loud — has been interested in going back to those really basic things, as simple as good and bad, which after all the black smoke and polar bears may be all that Lost was ever about. You know, what's good and what's bad, and can they ever reconcile? And do they need to? There's always been that interest in me — how far would you go for love? I thought that was an interesting thing to ask. And just to hear Sam Jackson going, "Not very." [LAUGHS.] I thought that was funny. And very candidly true.


Friday, April 09, 2010

New post(s) coming soon... I promise.

Apologies for the slackery. I have now mailed off two new book proposals, am still working on a third, and just signed on to co-edit an anthology that won't drop for a couple of years. But I've sorta missed blogging and I want to get back into it with some meaty stuff. Working on a couple of new posts right now. In the meantime, just for shits and giggles, I'm putting up a few Youtube clips meant to make you smile. The first is the latest from Jackie Beat & Co. in their ongoing, withering takedown of Cher and Madonna; it's called "Tent Hopping," and gets in some sly digs at cultural and sexual co-option/exploitation. But that makes it sound more dry than it is. The next clip is RuPaul's "Tranny Chaser" video, which is kind of flip-side 'hood version of "We Are the World," from a trans-centric perspective. (Peep the rainbow of colors, genders and styles that are upped here.) It dropped late last year so you likley have seen it already, but I wanted to give it a little more shine. The last entry is Jody Watley's classic video for "Friends," which is one of the most underrated music clips ever. It's a fusion of b-boys (the legendary Rakim!), drag queens and just plain fierceness. Watching Ru's clip reminded me of Jody's. Be well...