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Saturday, January 26, 2008

No One Starts Shit Anymore

I want to apologize to any visitors to Dancy's Corner who had to read through my celebrity tragedy (previous) post. I sometimes have to consolidate my percieved obligations. I felt/feel justified posting some of the unadulterated fluff I am sometimes reduced to submitting for a few schillings.

Besides, I learned something.

As a freelance journalist I missed an opportunity to make a statement. Spartacus reminded me in his response the importance of perspective. The smokescreen is only as thick as we allow it to be. The difference between the fluff and a statement is perspective. Ledger and Renfro visible, spoiled adults lapping at the teat of big loss. Young man seeking adventure in a foreign land with fantasies of killing terrorists dies in big loss?

The tragedies mirror each other I should not have mentioned one without the other. Especially right after another local dead soldier's return was being honored. It would have coincided with press time.

I dropped the ball.

Thank you Spartacus I will remember our soldiers.

I will remember we are at war.

The backdrop of perpetual war demands our attention.

Will we give it?

Will we finally give it?

I'll do my do yours

I grew up in Berkeley Ca.. During the seventies and eighties it was- how do I say this?


I guess that is the closest word. There were cops but they pretty much minded their business. The city and state collected taxes so the government was visible. The roads were in pretty good shape. At the time, the public schools were good in Berkeley (metal detectors worked).

I was not fortunate enough to recieve the well rounded education the Berkeley School District provides. I went to the Richmond School District.

Man, did I miss out.

There were a lot of openly gay couples walking hand in hand. Mostly Bull Daggers. I had a whole different concept of equality between the sexes. There were some scary, tough women no one fucked with. Hacky sacks everywhere...herb everywhere many different languages. Guys yellin "thai sticks-got thai sticks"
There was also a healthy need for the people to express themselves.

When the local government failed to address the real issues of the constituents the constituency did everything in their power to convince that particular elected official to do their job.
I have witnessed some dramatic protests revolving around the removal of an oak tree, the name of a park and even public nudity.
People were born with a 'fuck you' attitude towards the Government.
A distrust.
Berkeley was a counter culture oasis, where the rules of behavior were turned upside down.

But it worked worked well.

What happened?

A densely populated urban environment. Everyone jam packed into the east bay. Rich and poor, dumb and wise. Racial assimilation was apparent in the healthy number of bi racial children I grew up with. The only downside was the fact it was a eurocentric assimilation, less tolerant of other cultures.
People basically got along.
There were issues regarding the Police in the black community...people, all people, got together.
It didn't hurt that the Black Panthers started to Police the Police while armed themselves.
At the heart of all the crosscultural comaraderie was the correct assumption that the people have the power.
Even my teachers. I remember Ms. Adams(her real name not being used to protect her privacy) (I love being parenthetical).

She taught the sorry excuse for a history class I took in eighth grade. She was always making note of her half asian descent , in fact, because of her I do not refer to people of asian descent as orientals. She was always giving speeches in class about this, that and blah blah blah. It would always end with you "watch... you see"

Strangely enough she is actually right about a lot of the things she predicted. Incredibly accurate. Hmmm. Then one day she bent over my desk to make eye contact with me and exclaimed.

"China is the sleeping lion...she will awaken".

She continued a long speech that effectively made me fear China...ironic right? I think she wanted us to have more interest- I, on the other hand, was wary of the foreign invaders who would soon buy San Francisco.
If she did that now she would probably be arrested or ,at the very least, dating me.

Back to the point.

No one starts shit anymore.

No one chucks a brick or a flaming milkcrate through the bank window. I used to always hear about planned protests and I, along with my friends, even participated.
Protest was part of my civic reality. It was pleasure and duty.
There were marches over a proposal to increase parking meters. The resolution passed.
Enter plan B.
No one protested or even complained when the vigilantes started to decapitate parking meters. No one accept the city council which asked for more money to help catch the perpetrators.

Berkeley, hell, The Bay Area is a petri dish of social policies that create an exciting mix of lifestyles all within spitting distance of each other.

Completely different universes sharing space but rarely colliding, each maintaing their stable orbit within their singular part of the glorious grid. It worked, it seemed chaotic at times, but it worked.

I grew up in the hills, a rare African American treat-at the time. Our elementary School, Kensington Hilltop School, bussed the inner city (thats media slang for black) kids in from Richmond. It was like a cultural exchange program . Instead of building good schools in predominately black neighborhhoods they would rather take a handfull of kids with high aptitude scores and give them a shot.

Great, well meaning ,liberal, educational policies.

I learned quickly that I did not speak a lick of ebonics.
But whoop ass was another thing.
I was fluent in whoop ass (thanks dad).

The cultural exchange resulted in a boosted confidence in my ability to solve problems without discussion.
I know I am grown and shouldn't even care. But now and back then, I did not like people making fun of the way I talked . The way I spoke was a great source of many fights. I spoke perfect english replete with may I's, thank you ma'ams, yes sirs and excuse me's. A great source of pride for my mother. To top it off I was anal about pronunciation. I was a weird kid.
I did not possess the oral er'.... verbal... flexibility I skillfully use today.

This is about Not Starting Shit Anymore. You see how easy it is for the issue to lose its resonance in the presence of personal experience?

I grew up watching active adults participate in changing the world around them.
Not much seemed to happen. We were always at war, gas was super expensive and no one voted for who was in power. Finally, amidst a growing cloud of apathy, something happened.
I think it started with Love Boat- Fantasy Island Fridays, Disco and cocaine.

The eighties happened.

People, the adults that is , stopped trying to change and adopted a 'if you can't beat em join em' attitude.

Berkeley became different, there was still a counter culture vibe but it was going through a prepackaging process. The image was maturing. But it was still affectionately called Berzerkeley by anyone who didn't live there.

Wavy Gravy hanging out at 'Peoples Park'...people actually came to see that.
Cool right?

They also came to study at the nuclear physics lab at U.C. Berkeley- once again, another story.
Nuclear Physicists and Wavy Gravy within a mile of each other.

The potential for mushrooms so close to together.

The irony.
Street people, a mixture of burnout hippies, street punks and dumped patients from the state mental hospital in Napa lined the sidewalks on both sides of the street.

Social casualties, cast-off's.

Those people, the woefully desperate, could be counted to turn over a car in a heartbeat. They had nothing to lose . They were into a free meal(vegetarian of course) and would latch on to any cause that disturbed the peace.

It took years for Berkeley to clean up Telegraph Ave. where hundreds gathered daily with nothing to do but try to fit in the gritty, high tech bazaar it had become.

Telegraph used to be kinda dangerous. Random acts of mayhem were not uncommon.

The anarchists, at least once a year, would tear that street up. Loot, break glass, flip a car over, cop car preferably.

A cathartic worked wonders for teenage angst.

I seen it all.

Controlled chaos.

No one starts shit anymore...I guess there is nothing to start shit over.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Untimely Death Sucks for Everyone

On January 22, 2008 well known, Oscar nominated , 28 yr old actor, Heath Ledger was found dead in his Soho apartment.
He was found unresponsive by his masseuse and maid.

A week earlier, on January 15th , lesser known but popular actor Brad Renfro was also found dead on the other side of the country in Los Angeles.
They may have been on opposite sides of country but this week they have too much in common. According to reports Ledger was found lying unconscious, naked, face down on his bed surrounded by a deadly brew of different prescriptions. Renfro was found by roommates, in his room, unconscious after a night of heavy drinking.

Both are also parents of young children. Ledger is the father of a two year girl and Renfro rumored to be the father of a four year old son in Japan. Renfro’s status as a father has been confirmed but the details are private.

As they should be.

They were similar but not identical. Young successful actors with real problems. Problems that seem to affect everyone regardless of how much money or fame they have managed to acquire.

Unlike Ledger, Renfro had a long history of well-documented substance abuse problems and run ins with the law. Ledger on the other hand, was rumored to be despondent over his recent break-up with fiancĂ©e Michelle Williams, the mother of his daughter. Ledger’s public life, before the split, was a story book.

Both young actors had established themselves in their respective crafts . Ledger recently became a household name by boldly portraying a gay cowboy in the Academy Award winning film ‘Brokeback Mountain’. A risky move even in our enlightened times. Renfro was quickly emerging as an adult A-list star after suffering a slow period in his career which began when he was ten years old.

How do these guys who seemingly have it all, lose it?

Was it suicide or an accident?

In Ledger’s case those close to him are claiming it as an accidental death but the sheer number of different prescriptions he ingested has to be considered. Recently during an interview he also spoke of a morbid paradox after the birth of his two year old daughter, Matilda.

Before her birth he was not particularly afraid to die however after she was born he had a desire to see her grow.

A surprising disturbing revelation to me. The desire to live, especially for someone young handsome and rich, I thought, is assumed.

In the wake of Ledger’s death those close to him say he was devastated by the split with his fiancee. He was depressed, overworked, staying out late, dabbling in drugs and had even been linked to notorious party girls. The names are unimportant. More tabloid fodder and speculation. Is it possible Heath was trying to stifle the pain of his break-up?

Is it possible drugs and alcohol played a role in his break-up?

He is dead now, it does not matter.

Renfro was, according to his rep, putting the drugs behind him. He had recently spent time with his son in his hometown, Knoxville Tennessee and was working on a film with co-star Winona Ryder. Things were looking up.

Two actors twenty five and twenty eight years old die mysteriously in the same week.
The irony surrounding their deaths will undoubtedly lead to the surrealistic bio-pics on each of their lives. They will continue to live on through their children, the work they finished and the work their tragic lives will inspire.

They say these things happen in threes.

Lets all hope not.

Oh yeah, and hold off on The ‘Brokeback Mountain’ jokes.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I Love Apple Pie...

First Kelly Tilghman.

Now This.
I have the sinking feeling that examples of a noose like the one above on display on the cover of Golfweek speaks volumes.

It is a barometer.

It measures where black people rate in the cult of public conscience. No one has to say nigger, jigaboo sambo or anything else anymore. We have been beaten into submission. To the point where we use the words with love . But of course we take the 'r' out of nigger and replace the e with an 'a'.

Which confines the very limited appropriate usage to the black community. Unless,of course you have a familiarity with the ever changing 'black vernacular' and you can convincingly slip it in without catching a mouthshot.

Or black eye.

Most white people I know that I have heard use the term nigger towards a black person in a non-negative(is that possible?) way are actually testing their own status. I have had several aqcuaintances or would-be friends that have thrown in the n-bomb to see where I was at.

For a white person to able to say 'nigga' safely in room full of brothas means he has already proven his love for all things black. Or he is simply checking if his ghetto pass can be revoked.

It can.

It's all about context.

Back to Golfweek.

The whole cover with the noose should have been the golf community's apology for the embarassing insensitive remarks. They could have spun it in such an effective way. They got the attention with the provocative symbol on the cover, all they had to do was follow up with some substance. Instead they printed the usual fluff that is in demand nowadays. Golfweek blew a perfect opportunity to start a cathartic discussion on race and hatred within the anglocized golf community.

Instead they minimize or overlook the very real possibility of offending a huge segment of society. Many with family members still alive that have shared stories and witnessed, first hand accounts that define the bloody, sadistic history of America in 'Tha good ol days'.
As you can see. They didn't always use a noose.

Kelly knew what she said was wrong. She also knows about five black people watch the Golf Channel regularly. I also understand that she is a college grad from the south. That is exactly why I am not buying her bullshit story about not knowing. She forgot she was on-air. She got to relaxed and waxed poetic to get a laugh just like she does in the country club to endear herself with the stately gentlemen puffing cigars and oogling in her company.

But forget Kelly she is already old news.

Somebody needs to ask the editor.
How on Earth did you come up with this?
Can't wriggle free?

How do they do it?

The same way he comes up with stuff

Golfweek claimed they wanted to educate. I can just see the editorial board having a spirited discussion over the subject.

Sometimes the best way to get rid of a boss you don't like is to co-sign their idiotic decisions. Make sure there is no official record of your agreement.

And Voila!!!
Now you can have the job.

The most disturbing aspect of this particular set of events is how many Americans black and white do not have a firm grasp on our history. I have heard so many insensitive and ignorant responses to the suspension of Kelly Tilghman and the firing of the Golfweek editor.

I am convinced no one has a monopoly on stupidity it is equally distributed among all races genders and orientations.

Maybe it's indifference?


Do I live in a society of sociopaths?

I do not expect anyone to apologize or make excuses for the tragic history we share. But I do expect a little reverence- respect.

Why is he a villian?

He is harmless. Besides, if he didn't speak up no one would.

I don't know.
I just don't know.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Maybe We Should Take Him Out Back...

I waited awhile to write on this.

Kelly Tilghman the first full-time female anchor on the golf channel. Respected in the white male dominated world-er' oh yeah- of broadcast news, shot off one of the most nonchalant, lighthearted references to a hate crime ever recorded.

I had to let her words marinate. I had to spend a few days listening to talk radio(while talkin shit' and typing of course).

I promise not to plug a pundit .

It is safe to assume the host's and caller's opinions represent a segment of society that watches ample television and will sit on hold for maybe an hour or more to put in their two cents while, of course, watching T.V.. I'm sure they might also wait in line at midnight for movie tickets.

For Harry Potter or Rambo IV.

The overwhelming consensus was- 'hey... she made a mistake'- and then they would launch the trademark attack on Al Sharpton. It always included veiled references to shortcomings of the black community. Actually the term 'inner city' is not so veiled. Never the less Al was always a villian for 'causin a ruckus'.

Why do people always blame Al for stepping up?

I was tapping my feet waiting for someone, anyone, to say something.

Tiger did the right thing. He resides in his own Palace of human excellence.

He brushed it off.

But Al?

He is cuddly, kinda funny and lately, I must admit- right.

Despite all his shortcomings we cannot afford to let the 'no child left behind' mentality minimize and casually dismiss a set of historical circumstances that have retarded the social and economic development of a significant segment of our society for a long time. Which has resulted, to this day, in two very seperate and distinct American experiences.

Black people really do not care much for Al Sharpton most people I know are indifferent. We have abandoned the idea he is helpful and adopted the notion he is relevant; but white people either hate him or think he is funny as hell. If you are one of those people my assessment is not meant as an insult or an affront of any kind. I also know I cannot speak for anyone but myself so take my sweeping generalizations in stride. So, if allowed, I will ammend the previous statement :

Black people I talk to do not care much for Al Sharpton.

It is what it is.

Sharpton is the guy at the accident scene on the evening news. The well meaning- we would hope- white anchor always manages to find and ask-

"Excuse me sir,What happened"?

We would shrug our shoulders- damn why they have to ask him?

They shove the mic in the wino's face and let the laughs begin.

The black news anchor always manages to find a black doctor or paramedic to explain what happened. This is my urban news experience.

I know a lot of households, black households, that collectively cringed whenever the mike was shoved in Sharpton's face.

Tawana Brawley really fucked with his credibility.

It demonized the whole notion of righting a heinous wrong. It undermined all future efforts to minimize the daily inequities that many people are victims of.

People caught in the system.

In the back of everyone's mind(at least some of the white guys I know) lies the assumption that a race card, in fact, exists and each black person can whip it out and play it, to their benefit, any time they choose.

It ushered in the pre-Cochran era of the 'race card'.

They never ask people like my mother or any other black, well spoken, college grads gathered around. They never asked people who were humbly making their way on both sides of the fence not just the black side.

They never ask those type of people about anything.


Instead they ask Al what he thinks. They ask Ike Turner(RIP). They ask Reggie White(RIP) to address Congress.

We, with bookcases, cringe.

They invite him on to their shows (wingnuts) and try to set him up. That is where I give Al credit he is not afraid of an ambush. He has sharpened his articulate knife. He easily could have taken the Don King route and kept in the hood but he stuck to his guns and learned the art of rhetoric and thought before he spoke and continues to think before he speaks now.

The best part is he is usually defending a righteous position.

I am perplexed how he got the job- spokesman for black America.

The things people do just fuck with my head.

I had to also examine other unprecedented events surrounding race, identity and what it means to be black in America.

Our current race for the Oval Office has managed to lessen my cynicism in regards to race.

Black folks might just get a clean legal slate as well- Rockefeller repeals and other refreshing events show America just might be removing the boot from thy neck.

Like- for real.

While speaking on Kelly Tilghman one of the pundits said 'I better watch it... I don't want to offend Pookie Ray-Ray or Lucretia'

The Government is one thing people are another.

It is what it is.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2007 The Year The Role Model Died

Once again the year comes to a close. We can all sit back and reflect. Some of us will try to find the resolve to stick to lofty resolutions; some of us will. We can look at our lives and see where we could have zigged instead of zagged.

We can also be reminded of all the surrealistically ridiculous events that managed to captivate us and our shrinking attention spans. Events that seemed designed to distract us from the very reality in which we live. A reality of war, higher and higher fuel, less jobs, slower growth. And did I mention, subprime lenders losing their shirts?

Somehow in the midst of all the real tragedy(war, tanking economy) we were force fed Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse. All young rich and out of control on drugs and alcohol. Sadly the list is longer but I cannot get to everybody.

Each story behind the person/celebrity is a sad series of events publicized by the growing media juggernaut that seems to control our very understanding of the world. However you look at it, regardless of how much glossy packaging and make-up, these are real people with real problems.

Tragic , sad, pitiful are words to describe our cultural demise. We have hit bottom(hopefully). There are no longer any people that we can trust to be beyond reproach.

I must admit I never put much stock in the moral fortitude in any of the aforementioned celebrities nor do I assume anyone else has. That is what baffles me. I want to know why we know anything about these people but nothing about why Scooter Libby is not in jail.

Why dog fighting is worse than treason?

Instead we get up to the minute updates on Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Vick.

There are no more Golden Boys. No more heroes. Honestly I am starting to wonder if there ever were. Yeah, there are everyday heroes who sacrifice day in and day out to make life move on for everyone else. They are called teachers, garbagemen and bus drivers.

Who cares what they do after work? Certainly not The National Enquirer. That is the way it should be. For our entertainers, politicians it is a far different story.

They care.

You care

Your mother cares.

Maybe the lack of privacy, coupled with a technological explosion in the hands of rabid journalist, has rendered secrets a thing of the past? Maybe the incredible influence of Tabloids has altered the landscape of journalism to the point where a boob job is news?

Maybe sometimes the truth just needs to stay a secret.

What will we tell our kids when the next 16yr old Nickelodeon star gets pregnant?

How do we explain the whole baseball mess without creating an instant teenage cynic?

Baseball, Cycling, Track and field a trifecta of American let-down. Roger Clemens, Floyd Landis and Marion Jones. I mention them because they stood apart from the crowd aside from their bulging muscles and bad temperments. Landis adamant about his innocence, Jones coming clean and losing everything. Roger Clemens? Well, he’s Roger- “say it ain’t so Rog”.

Each of these people, Clemens, Landis and Jones, are on posters on some kids wall. A wall of shame. I am cringing in fear Brett Favre ‘s meteoric resurgence this year (at 39) is artificial. But hey , he’s from Mississippi.

Sports was strange enough, however 2007 was full of hard to explain events starting with Anna Nicole Smith and ending with Jamie Lynn Spears all of them trumping the continued loss of young American lives.

It will be far easier to lower my sons expectations in our government, star athletes and celebrities than it will be to explain exactly why his hero is in handcuffs. I will sum it up perfectly for him- ‘nobody is perfect’.

The war? It is far easier to turn on a reality show than it is to explain why we are still fighting .

Here’s to the future.

I am glad it is 2008.