Sunday, February 28, 2010

Movie of the Day

Title: Jackie Brown
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton

Artist of the Day






Elizabeth Holtry is an artist residing in Frederick, MD. She has an affinity for depicting wildlife and her primary medium is oil on toile canvas. She is also a professor at Mt. Saint Mary's University in Emmitsburg, MD.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Song of Myself (written in style of Whitman's poem of same name)

1

How do I define the intricacies of my soul and being,
Of the ever-changing and complex Shea Kelly?
I am the all-encompassing individual,
No more myself than I am you.
I embody the whole of the universe in every aspect of my existence,
Yet I am intrinsically different.

2

Observing and contemplating, I seek truth in myself and the surrounding world.
I follow no code or dogma other than my own,
Acting and thinking on personal terms and motives,
But always considering and respecting the “bigger picture.”

3

I probe and explore the mysteries of my soul.
I delve into its depths and by discovering more I understand less.
My soul is a vast filing cabinet and I may never open all its drawers.

I know myself thoroughly and intimately,
That when meeting new people I tend to be reserved,
That I speak candidly, never substituting a white lie for honesty,
That I view the world with a sense of humor to compliment my innate skepticism,
That every achievement of mine has come from diligence and responsibility, not from
natural ability,
And that my independence does not inhibit my open-mindedness.
But these are only qualities of my personality,
How can I identify and define the essence of my soul?

4

What is my elusive purpose in this enigmatic life?
I look not to God or any other supposed savior for the answer,
For I am my own savior, my own guide through the maze called life.
I have faith in myself and that allows me to find reason.

5

I am only a miniscule player in the immense drama which is this world.
The inadequate effect of my actions on the world seem to render me insignificant,
But I am an essential part of this infinite reality, a contributing member of Earth’s
dominant species.

I live and breathe the same life and world which is shared by all living things.
By the illustrious entertainer in his spacious Hollywood mansion,
By the homeless and forgotten beggar on the harsh city boulevard,
By the proud alpha male lion roaming the golden African savanna,
By the mangy sewer rat reveling in garbage and human waste.
I am a part of and one with all these things, but more defines me.

6

The comforting and captivating music which streams out of my speakers resounds
throughout my soul.
I am the dynamic drummer from South Philly, improvising an energetic solo with an afro
pick in my hair.
The revolutionary punk whose unknown East Bay trio evolved into a loud, worldwide
instrument for political change.
The poetic lyricist from rap’s mecca who maintains his integrity by sticking to the
essence of hip-hop while all others trade their souls for riches.
The tormented grunge icon who turned his angst into an art, identifying with a generation
before taking his own life.

I am the “ping” of the baseball meeting my metal bat,
And the baseball soaring magnificently through the summer air against the cloudless, sky
blue background.
And the glove on the outstretched arm of the centerfielder as he hopelessly reaches
skyward as the baseball floats over the outfield fence.
And the fresh-cut grass which serves as a soft and inviting landing for the far-traveled
baseball.

Living in the virtual fantasy world on the screen before me, I am content.
I am the fluorescent green, turbo-charged 3000GT racing through city traffic in pursuit of
glory and respect.
I am the master of combat drawing a futuristic assault rifle before annihilating a horde of
fiendish aliens.
I am the loud-mouthed wide receiver juking pursuing defenders before diving into the
endzone and humiliating my opponents with an imaginative celebration.
I am the kingpin of organized crime navigating my urban empire with a flamethrower,
torching anything that stands in my way.
I am anything I want to be, compliments of a 128-bit console.

When I ponder the Song of Shea Kelly, I envision a collection of places - Polaroids of
my life’s defining locales.
From the lush green, rocky coastline of my ancestors homeland,
To the pink bench swing on the cement porch of the Arts and Crafts house which I have lived
in my entire life,
To the shady spot under the weeping willow along the creek where I caught my first fish,
To the concrete paradise beneath I-95 where I used to perfect my ollies,
To the humble pizza parlor in my quiet college town with the cheese steaks I have loved
since childhood.
Peering into my soul, I can travel to the infinite number of places which identify me.

7

What makes me who I am is an array of what I am not capable of being.
My soul is a collage of emotions, traits, opinions, actions, relationships, hobbies, people, places, and things.
My body is the temple in which these things dwell.
I am what I am, unaffected.
I am mine.

Movie of the Day

Title: What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
Director: Lasse Halstrom
Starring: Johnny Depp, Juliette Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Darlene Cates

Song of the Day

Title: Rotten Apple
Artist: Alice in Chains
Album: Jar of Flies

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Punched in the Face

My best friend Dwight and I have many things in common. We both like sports, particularly football and basketball (although I prefer baseball over the two, but can never convince him that baseball is, in fact, exciting), video games, rap (although I prefer Green Day over 50-Cent any day, but can never convince him that just because he’s black doesn’t mean he is sentenced to a life of listening to eternal bass thumping), and expensive shoes. Even though we know each other about as well as any two human beings are capable of, there are some situations in which we genuinely disagree, and occasionally these disagreements can lead to some serious drama.
One day, in the not so distant past we were playing basketball, one of our favorite things to do together. We were playing a pretty heated game of one-on-one, and doing a lot of arguing throughout. I was winning 6-3, when I dribbled hard to the left and quickly changed direction with a spin, and drove to the basket. Right before going up for a tough lay-up, Dwight chest bumped me off course causing me to have to throw up an off-balance shot that went awkwardly off the back rim. I complained that he was fouling, but to no avail. He claimed to just be playing hard defense. The next few possessions of mine ended in similar fashion, with Dwight fouling me on every drive to the basket. Forget this, I thought on my next possession. Instead of attempting a drive to the basket, I took a few dribbles, creating some space for myself, and drained an easy jump shot. This would be my strategy for the remainder of the game. I ended the game by getting a long defensive rebound, and hitting a beautifully arcing three-pointer before Dwight could come defend me. Dwight reluctantly said “good game,” and checked the ball up for the next game. I won the second game in similar fashion, and after swishing the final jump shot, Dwight argued that I had won in a cheap fashion because all I did was fire off jump shots. I retorted by claiming that if he had played fair defense, I would have done more than shoot uncontested from the outside.
On our way driving home, I stopped at someone’s house a few blocks from Dwight’s house to return the basketball which we borrowed from him. Dwight got out of the car with the ball, bounded up the porch stairs, and knocked on the door. He was invited inside, and I figured that while he kept me waiting, I might as well reverse my car back down the street, and turn it into the intersecting street which faces the direction of Dwight’s house. After navigating my car to the side street which was about forty yards from the house, I looked back to see Dwight waiting outside the house looking dumbly at my car. I yelled for him to come on, and he hollered back “what the hell are you doing, come pick me up.” “Pick you up,” I thought, you are less than fifty yards away, I didn’t masterfully maneuver my car here for nothing. “Stop being lazy and get over here, I don’t have all day,” I demanded. Without a hint of resignation he replied, “come back here and pick me up, I ain’t playin’ around.” I couldn’t believe my ears. The same kid who I was relentlessly running around the basketball court with a half an hour ago was suddenly a lethargic imbecile, unwilling to walk half a block to my car. “Alright, I’m gonna leave if you don’t get here in ten seconds,” I playfully threatened, “ten, nine, eight, seven, six…” Sure enough, he stood his ground, and I sped off leaving him to walk the three or four blocks home.
Later that night, while watching TV and not feeling the slightest bit guilty about the minor inconvenience I caused my best friend, there was a loud knock at the door, and Dwight came storming into the room. I could tell he was livid. “Why’d you leave me,” he seethed. “Cause you were screwin’ around,” I said. “So, you still shouldn’t have left me,” he snapped back. I could see this was going nowhere. After a heated debate, with many exchanges of bad words and smart remarks, I said something really witty about his idiocy. In one quick, seemingly surreal moment, Dwight threw a right hook square into my cheek. I shuddered for a moment, regained my composure, and reassured myself that my best friend had just punched me in the face. I looked at him for a brief moment, contemplating what to say. “What the @#!* was that for?” was all I could think of. “Cause you left me,” he blandly remarked. We exchanged a few more four-letter words, and I eventually got him to leave, and he made his best effort to rampage out of the house and slam the door. As I rubbed my swelling cheek and eye, I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that my best friend punched me in the face because I caused him to have to walk three or four blocks.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Perturbing Roommate (written as a tribute to Poe's Tell-Tale Heart and The Cask of Amontillado)

Let me, now, revert to my glorious days of young adulthood, when I was an industrious student at a prestigious boarding school in the Northeast, sent there by my mildly delusional parents, who, at the time, were under the impression that the cure for my intellectual misdirection was a year of stringent discipline and rigorous bookwork. Because I had been accustomed to the frivolous atmosphere of my old public school for so many years, I found adjusting to these new circumstances a mind-numbing and gloomy experience, however, after several weeks of living under resolute austerity, I became conditioned to the miserable surroundings, and over the course of the year, grew quite fond of my new school. In fact, the unwavering sternness of this private school, instead of leading to my downfall, actually molded me into an acute scholar.
Although my boarding school experience had many positive effects in regards to cerebral maturation, my tenure at this institution subjected me to the company of a rather peculiar roommate, let’s call him Barry Fishtail, whose disturbing antics and irregular countenance tormented my physical and mental equilibrium to an alarming degree, and will continue to do so until my dying day.
In order to justify my disconcertment with this Barry Fishtail, allow me to describe my antagonist, for, as I said before, he was an odd character. He was not of impressive stature, standing at an average height of about six feet and possessing a thin, wiry frame, a physique which proved quite functional athletically, for he was an excellent basketball player. My tormenter’s body was anchored by two strikingly unusual feet; wide and large in proportion to the rest of his body, with several of the toes webbed, like those of a duck, so that, when he walked around barefoot, especially after returning from the shower, when his feet were still wet, he would make an unbearable “FLAP, FLAP, FLAP!” sound, which at times drove me to insanity.
His facial features were relatively inconspicuous, and he had an agreeable countenance, except for one remarkably evident attribute; a glass left eye. This eye, when observed closely, had several menacing characteristics which caused me to abhor its existence. The iris, or replica thereof, was a searing red color, like that of a white rabbit, and the pupil, as opposed to being circular or oval-shaped like in a normal human eye, was vertically oriented and slit-shaped, like the pupil of a feline. The most repelling thing about this glass eye, however, was that it followed me whenever I was in my adversary’s presence; regardless of my location, the hideous eye would always be looking directly at me, as if hounding my innocent being.
In addition to his aforementioned physical abnormalities, Barry exhibited a perverted and sinister behavioral and mental demeanor, which was quite incongruent with his modest appearance. To begin with, he was avidly fond of wine and other spirits, so much so that some nights I would awaken at a dreadful hour to find him, dressed in nothing but his bottom underwear, sprawled out in the closet, lavishly enjoying glass upon glass of the inebriating potion while laughing hysterically to himself. This display in itself was unsettling enough, but Barry’s overzealous affection for wine did not cease here; my tormenter, who removed his glass eye at night before laying down to rest, would soak the repulsive orb overnight in red wine, as if it were some sort of disinfectant. Never, after witnessing this routine for the first time, never in my life had I met such a kook.
Barry was a shallow character, who indulged in crude and tasteless humor, especially those involving bodily functions, and he never hesitated to partake in cruel practical jokes, his most beloved of which was to scare an unassuming subject by jumping out and startling him as he passed. Barry’s fondness for indiscriminately terrifying people grew into an obsession, and this obsession proved consequential to me, for he had a particular affinity for choosing me as the victim of his malicious scares. Because of this, I was rendered into a state of sheer paranoia and suspicion whenever I walked into an empty room or hall, knowing that, perhaps, my antagonist could be lurking behind any corner or in any cranny.
My roommate was overly sensitive to and starkly unreceptive of personal criticisms, which was frustrating because, in addition to his incessant practical joking, he was a rather critical individual. Despite his aversion to being criticized, I still took pleasure in making fun of him, and he would allow me to do so for a short while until he set out to put an end to it by grabbing hold of me and administering a barrage of violent and extremely painful pinches – or as he called them, “monkey bites” – until I was put into submission. As a result of these retaliations, some days I would find my chest and stomach scattered with yellow, blue, and purple bruises – the consequence of my harmless mockery. Why – I would ask myself – why must I be so constantly tormented? Oh, but my foe’s torturing did not conclude at this juncture.
Now, let me remind you of my detestation of my adversary’s revolting glass eye, because, although I never displayed or articulated my hatred of the red eye openly, Barry seemed to be conscious of this dislike, since it was in the utilization of this false eye that my rival tormented me most despicably. On a multitude of occasions, at least twice a week, while we were lounging around in our room, he would remove the spherical atrocity, producing a nauseating liquid “SQUISH!” noise, and, knowing I despised the object, wave and flaunt it about inches in front of my face. Every time he did this, I would pretend not to be disgusted, figuring he would eventually cease deriving pleasure from this sick joke. I was able to act unaffected by this gag, until one day, while performing this ridiculous antic, my torturer pressed the slimy, vile glass eye against my lips. At this offense, I practically jumped out of my skin, for I would least be inclined to touch the cursed eye with the tip of my pinky finger, let alone with the precious surface of my lips. I did not condemn my roommate for this unforgivable action; instead, I remained relatively composed and inwardly vented my intense rage, secretly vowing to plot revenge on my tormenter.
And so it was, that for the following few weeks, I deliberated over the proper retribution for my antagonist’s unjust trick, and eventually I devised the perfect, most delightful revenge scheme. Did I mention before, that at night, before going to bed, Barry would remove his fiendish red glass eye and soak it in red wine? Well, it was through the exploitation of this peculiar habit that I would achieve vengeance.
One night, no more than a couple weeks prior to graduation, after my enemy had been sound asleep for close to an hour, I silently rose out of bed, and put my revenge plan into motion. I swiftly crept across the room towards the clear plastic container filled with red wine in which the horrid glass eye resided every night, and as I snuck closer I could see the red eye looking directly back at me as I descended upon it. What a disturbing thought it was, to suppose that the ghastly eye watched me in my sleep as well – oh, how I despised the thing!
After reaching the drawer on top of which the eye rest, I cautiously opened its wine-filled container and peered into the jar to observe the dismal orb, at which point the eye rotated upwards atop its toxic liquid and stared back at me. Before the perverting effects of the red eye’s glare could upset me, I craftily grabbed the entity and removed it from its nightly entombment. I then crept back across the room, glass eye in hand, towards where my antagonist slumbered. Once I reached the side of my foe’s bed, I looked over my roommate’s peaceful countenance and the moonlight, piercing through the window, cast across his face, accentuating the empty eye socket, scarred and saturated with dead skin, in which an untainted human eye once sat. This resounding sign of my opponent’s creepiness caused me to clench the glass eye in my hand, as a spine-chilling tingle swept across my body and soul. I regained my focus, and proceeded to grasp my adversary by the throat, immediately waking him, and before he could react, I pinned him to the mattress so that he was helplessly situated. Then, taking the glass eye to his lips, much like he had done to me that fateful afternoon, I forced the sphere down his esophagus and covered his mouth and nose, so as to block all airways and suffocate him. My rival struggled fiercely for several moments; however, these exertions were completely useless against my deadly grapple, and finally, his movements ceased and everything was silent.
I took a minute to check my oppressor’s vital signs, and once it was clearly evident that he was dead, I lifted his cadaver from the bed, and carried him to a predetermined burial spot, the location of which, for the sake of my self-interest and preservation, I cannot reveal. Before properly disposing my enemy, I removed the devilish glass eye from his cold throat, and as the red eye watched in disdain, I buried my roommate in the secret grave. Once this chore was finished, I returned to our room – which I could now savor as my own - and placed the glass eye back in its wine-filled container.
It is in this same clear plastic container, with the same red wine, that the despicable eye still remains, as I have kept it in my possession all these years, and while it sits upon a drawer in my study its glare continues to follow me whenever I am in its presence, serving as an ominous reminder of my perturbing roommate!

Ludacris - My Chick Bad

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Album of the Day

Title: Who is Jill Scott? (Words and Sounds Vol. 1)
Artist: Jill Scott
Review: Buy it!

Song of the Day

Title: Get Down
Artist: Nas
Album: God's Son

Friday, February 19, 2010

Movie of the Day

Title: Next Friday
Director: Steve Carr
Written By: Ice Cube
Starring: Ice Cube, Mike Epps, John Witherspoon

Song of the Day

Title: Nothing Even Matters
Artist: Lauryn Hill
Album: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Album of the Day

Title: American Gangster
Artist: Jay-Z
Review: When you're used to filet mignon, it's kinda hard to go back to hamburger helper. Buy it!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Donovan McNabb/Rush Limbaugh Controversy

This was a paper I wrote in a philosophy of race and gender course in college. It was written in relation to Frantz Fanon's book "Black Skin, White Masks."


Racial stereotypes are plentiful in the sports world. They are imbedded in the culture of sports and dictate ideologies from the front office to the playing field. It is accepted as fact that white men can’t jump, Asians are athletically inept, golf is a white man’s game, Latinos are the most gifted baseball players, and whites make better quarterbacks than blacks. These are all arbitrary, essentialist classifications which have no scientific validity and can be attributed to Hardimon’s idea of the racialist development. The latter of these essentialist athletic stereotypes came to the forefront of racial issues in the NFL in September of 2003 with controversial comments from far-right conservative Rush Limbaugh on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown:
"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team." (qtd. in World Almanac, 864)
This seemingly racist assertion infuriated the NFL and the liberal media (whom Limbaugh was accusing of being bias) and led to Limbaugh’s resignation from the show. McNabb adeptly extinguished the volatile situation and continued to disprove Limbaugh’s doubts about his ability with excellent on-field performance. However, McNabb became the target of racially implicative criticisms again in December of 2005 when Philadelphia branch NAACP president J. Whyatt Mondesire said he was a “mediocre talent” who was "hiding behind excuses dripping in make-believe racial stereotypes" by refusing to run the ball as often as he did earlier in his career (Cannella, 24). The comments made by Limbaugh and Mondesire represent striking examples of Fanon’s theories of white dominance/paranoia and the black inferiority complex in conjunction with McNabb’s situation. McNabb and the black quarterback predicament is analogous to Fanon’s Antilles blacks and their struggle with the French language.
If Donovan McNabb represents Fanon’s Antilles Negro, then football (and sports in general) and its extensive racial institutions represent the colonizing French. Like the Antilles Negro, his ability to master the language of playing quarterback affords him great power and the ability to elevate himself above racial constraints and stereotypes. However, this power does not allow him to escape from the paradoxical situation of the black quarterback. Similar to the Antilles’ mastery of French, McNabb’s ability to become an expert passer makes him “inordinately feared; keep an eye on that one, he is almost white” (Fanon, 21). Donovan McNabb, like Doug Williams and Warren Moon before him, represents a threat to the axiomatic stereotype that African-Americans cannot be efficient, pure pocket-passers. In his proficiency in developing “white” quarterbacking skills he becomes a threat to the established notions of white dominance, and therefore his position will inexorably be marginalized by white society. Consequently, in Fanon’s words: “The slightest departure (in this case, from efficient passing) is seized on, picked apart, and in less than forty-eight hours it has been retailed all over Fort-de-France (in this case, national news)” (Fanon, 24).
In comes Rush Limbaugh, the far-right conservative talk radio host with a reputation for making brash, racially-tinged statements. Some might argue Limbaugh’s assessment was not an attempt to subvert the success of an African-American quarterback, but yet another defamation of the liberal media. However, there is no evidence to support his claim of a “black quarterback” conspiracy in the media. In a comprehensive content analysis of newspaper coverage from the 2002 NFL season, comparing coverage of seven African-American quarterbacks with seven white quarterbacks with nearly identical statistics, there was no tendency for black quarterbacks or Donovan McNabb specifically to receive biased or preferential treatment from the media (Niven, 685). In fact, there were slightly higher results for critical comments about black quarterbacks (Niven, 690). Since Limbaugh’s pro-African-American media hypothesis is completely erroneous, it appears, like the French colonizers, he is consciously attempting to subjugate the ability of a black man to overcome racial stereotypes and controvert white dominance. At best, Limbaugh’s comments were a debased effort to marginalize the performance of a black quarterback. At their worst, they were a despicable attempt to protect the convictions of white dominance, in Fanon’s words expressing the thoughts of the Prospero complex: “You’d better keep your place” (Fanon, 34).
The most troublesome aspect of McNabb and the black quarterback’s dilemma can be explained in terms of Fanon’s black inferiority complex. Like the Antilles Negro, as a black quarterback McNabb is faced with an “arsenal of complexes that has been developed by the colonial environment” (Fanon, 30). One of these complexes is produced by the stereotype of black quarterbacks being scramblers. Because McNabb is black, he is expected to run (much like the Antilles is expected to speak pidgin). This expectation and stereotyping creates what Fanon terms the black inferiority complex. The only way for McNabb to free himself from this complex is to develop into a skilled passer (the inherent trait of a white quarterback) and refrain from scrambling. Thus, “he becomes whiter as he renounces his blackness” (Fanon, 18). It is in this behavior that McNabb alienates himself from “ordinary” black quarterbacks and black culture in general.
It is in McNabb’s racially-motivated actions that such criticisms come from J. Whyatt Mondesire. Mondesire basically accuses McNabb of “selling out” by playing the “race card” in justifying his evolution into more of a pocket-passer (Cannella, 24). Whether McNabb consciously began steering away from scrambling to avoid being stereotyped is debatable (he has admitted to being pressured to scramble because he is black). Some might argue he is simply exercising sound judgment to better avoid injury and thus increase the possibility for his team to succeed. Whatever the explanation, McNabb’s stylistic transition as a quarterback and the backlash from Mondesire, though outlandish, illustrates the modern dilemma of the black inferiority complex. Although McNabb’s mastery of the quarterback position allows him to break racial bounds and stereotypes, it alienates him from his own culture. Like the Antilles returning home from France and speaking articulately, McNabb is met with suspicion within his own community in his efforts to be a pure passer and abandon the “natural” athletic traits of his race. In this lies the predicament of the black inferiority complex as it applies to the black quarterback; his honest effort to become a better, more efficient quarterback frees him from deep racial institutions but also estranges him from members of his own race.
Race and its implications are inherent in the way we watch, play, and perceive athletics. Racial stereotypes have become institutionalized in the world of sports at the highest levels, as football announcers attribute the successful performance of black players to natural ability and of white players more often to hard work and cognitive ability (Niven, 687). The race-oriented complications facing Donovan McNabb and fellow black quarterbacks was brought to the attention of the mainstream in the last few years with offensive, but fascinating statements by conservative political radio host Rush Limbaugh and Philadelphia branch NAACP leader J. Whyatt Mondesire. The comments and their implications brought to light the similarities between McNabb and the black quarterback predicament and Fanon’s Antilles blacks and their embracing of French culture. Both situations represent the paradoxical nature of the pressure to escape white dominance and the resulting black inferiority complex.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stop Sign

It's time to erase the hate and demonstrate through Practice
The world's ills in my brain stick to me like a Cactus
Is the end of the evil going to satisfy my Thirst?
Not as long as we see our children taken away in a Hearse.

Just listen to my prayers God, please allow me to reveal my Verse
The Halo of righteous men helps the blind remove their Curse
The seeds have been planted to allow us all to Drop
Our pursuits of self-satisfaction need to Stop.

Now is the time to repent and read the Sign
Not in this lifetime will I be turning water to Wine
Guess it's time to pass the lesson down to the Divine -
Our children - the world is harsh but all will be Fine.

Movie of the Day

Title: Thank You For Smoking
Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright, Katie Holmes, Maria Bello, William H. Macy, Robert Duvall

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

We Are The World

This video made me shed a tear or two last week. Again, my heart goes out to Haiti. Donate what you can people.

Poor Victims in Front of White House

This was something I had to witness back in early November and it really bothered me and wounded my high hopes for our future. There were two middle-aged women protesting with signs in front of the north lawn of the White House. They were typical religion-based hatred signs along the lines of "Obama is the anti-Christ," etc. OK, if some grown woman that has a serious intelligence deficiency wants to make that argument then fine. It costs smart people nothing to see something that ignorant. However, these two ladies had their kids with them. Not only that, but their kids had signs of their own that said "God hates Jews," or some similar anti-Semitic slur. I practically vomited in my mouth after reading the poor young kids' signs. And, of course, I had to say something to their parents. Then, for the first time in my days of riding a bike past the White House on a consistent basis (at least four times a week), I witnessed Secret Service remove protesters from their posts. An act of God!!! They rightfully disregarded the First Amendment in the face of something offensive: brainwashing our children into believing that hatred is commendable. Now if only those parents could change their mindset and do the same with their children before it's too late.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Song of the Day

Title: What We Do
Artist: Freeway feat. Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel
Album: Philadelphia Freeway
Play this track whenever you feel like times are getting hard and you will feel ready to face any life obstacle.

Shakira and Alicia Keys

Two hot, talented young ladies splitting one stage for the All-Star game! Count me in! Except Alicia Keys' hook needs to be changed to "Let's hear it for Illadelph," instead of 'New York' and 'All-Star.' I think some young Philly girl needs to be given permission to sing that version and start an even better inspirational ballad for the City of Brotherly Love.

Rest For The Aftermath

Sometimes I find it hard to rest and I find myself up to all hours
And all the powers that be make it hard to see
The appropriate path that was given to me
By those same powers that be.

I know not what or who these powers are because, well, it's
Just not that simple to shed light on my past and
When I find that appropriate path
I'll revel in the aftermath.

Movie of the Day

Title: Smokin' Aces
Director/Writer: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Common, Alicia Keys.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Song of the Day

Title: Like Father, Like Son
Artist: The Game
Album: The Documentary

Visionary

Think of yourself as a dictator for what comes next
Not what you can be, but what you will be
Not what you are, but what everyone else is

Think of yourself as a contributor
To your version of heaven on earth
Or to the fallen angel Lucifer

Think of yourself as a single red blood cell
Delivering oxygen to all those short of breath
A visionary with little time to stress.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snatch (unmatched heart)

My mind is abstract,
forever thinking like an artist,
forever a leader of my tract,
trying to touch those that are farthest,
my heart is unmatched,
light it on cue and it's time to get snatch.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Criticism

OK, so by now I figure I've said enough offensive things on this blog to tick a few people off. PLEASE, SOMEONE CRITICIZE SOMETHING I'VE SAID. There has to be someone, somewhere who disagrees with some entry on here.

Album of the Day

Title: Do You Want More?!!!??!
Artist: The Roots
I wrote this review for a class freshman year at GWU. Feedback is encouraged.

UW 20, Sect. 68
2-27-06

Do You Want More?!!!??! by The Roots: A New Brand of Hip-Hop

Throughout a career spanning nearly 20 years, most of it in obscurity, The Roots have been nothing more than a dynamic force in the music community. They pioneered the art of live, organic hip-hop and with the release of Do You Want More?!!!??! (1994) their authentic musicality and instrumentation was introduced to the general public. Do You Want More? is a creative diversification of hip-hop, and an essential contribution to further innovations in the genre.
At the time of Do You Want More?’s release, The Roots consisted of two MCs (Black Thought and Malik B.), a drummer (Ahmir “?eustlove” Thompson), a bassist (Leonard “Hub” Hubbard), and a keyboardist (Scott Storch, now a famous producer and beat-maker). The live instrumentation of the group’s core members is occasionally supplemented by the beat-boxing of Rahzel (aka The Godfather of Noize). Several tracks, such as “Datskat” and “Essaywhuman,” feature trumpet and saxophone, augmenting the album’s naturally jazzy feel. Therefore, the album’s overall sound is best described as hip-hop jazz.
Most of the songs have a loosely structured rhythm and melody, sounding much like a jam session. The lyrical delivery of Black Thought and Malik B. has an improvisational feel, appropriately imitating the beats formed by the group’s instrumentation. With the exception of “Lazy Afternoon,” “Swept Away,” “You Ain’t Fly,” and “Silent Treatment,” the lyrical content of the album has no specific theme, but is more of a dialogue or contest between Black Thought and Malik B., each flaunting their capabilities as an MC. “Proceed” exemplifies this back-and-forth rap dialogue, as Thought and Malik take turns introducing themselves as MCs, in between a catchy chorus of “I shall proceed, and continue, to rock the mic.” “Mellow My Man” is another of these tracks, in which the talented lyricists finish many of each other’s sentences. This lyrical duality is taken a step further on the song “? Vs. Rahzel,” a battle of noise between the lively drums of Questlove and the extraordinary beat-boxing and vocal impersonations of Rahzel.
The free association of words employed in this album generally serves to portray the intricacies of life as a passionate MC, consumed by hip-hop. This effect is produced most impressively on “Distortion to Static,” on which Black Thought asserts, “I’m every MC, it’s all in me, that’s the way it is, the way it gotta be.” The exclusive understanding of hip-hop expressed in “Distortion to Static” is further substantiated in the track “Swept Away.” On this song, Thought and Malik B. belittle and discredit the tiresome lyrical acts of many of their contemporaries, scoffing, “MCs who slept for days must be swept away,” over a fittingly oscillating, soothing melody.
In addition to its improvisational tracks, Do You Want More? features lyrically themed songs, which are equally impressive. “Lazy Afternoon” is a descriptive, playful narrative about a typical hip-hop summer weekend. The most entertaining of these subject-based cuts is “You Ain’t Fly,” an insightful and potently amusing commentary about superficial women and the dating game. It features a surprisingly impressive verse from drummer Questlove, in which he pursues a girl, and after being bluntly turned down, self-pityingly remarks, “I started lyin’ to myself – she wasn’t that fly.” The subsequent track, “Silent Treatment,” continues upon the topic of women and dating with a moving personal account of a neglectful and detached girlfriend.
The most dynamic and musically inspiring song on this album, “Datskat,” is in a category of its own. It combines an array of instrumentation, with trumpet, saxophone, upright bass, and even a kazoo, in addition to the group’s core instruments and Rahzel’s beat-boxing. This bold experimentation creates an invigorating overall sound, characterized by a blend of be-bop, free jazz, funk, and of course hip-hop. The technical musicianship of “Datskat” exceeds the expectations of any hip-hop group, even one as talented as The Roots.
Although its sound occasionally meanders and its lyrical content lacks the inspiring socially-conscious observations of The Roots’ later albums, Do You Want More? is an innovative musical experience, and nothing less than exhilarating to listen to. It ingeniously applies jazzy elements into organic, instrumented hip-hop, producing a breathtaking hybrid of sound. After listening to Do You Want More?, any hip-hop head will be answering the question posed by the album title with an emphatic yes.

Song of the Day

Title: The Marrying Kind
Artist: Prince
Album: Musicology

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Video of the Day

Title: I Need a Girl (Pt. II)
Artist: Diddy feat. Ginuwine, Loon, and Mario Winans
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc8CIHgvKlA

Friday, February 5, 2010

No More Hate

My prayer for the day is for there to be no hate during this wonderful snowy Philly weekend.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Album of the Day

Title: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II
Artist: Raekwon (the Chef)
Review: Buy it! Too many ignorant hip-hop fans disregard the brilliance of Wu's solo projects and Raekwon is not to be slept on.

Origin of Blog's Title

I was inspired to start this blog and name it "Hollywood for Ugly People" after I heard a peer in D.C. use the term several months ago. It was after hearing this phrase that I, working as a bike messenger, became more keenly observant of the everyday hustle and bustle of our nation's capital. That being said, let me make one thing clear: the "Ugly People" (referring to politicians, lobbyists, bureaucrats, etc.) that fall under my radar of criticism are not at fault for simply pursuing their dreams of political celebrity. Those dreams are perfectly honorable by my standards. There is also absolutely nothing wrong with being physically ugly and overcompensating for those defects by seeking acceptance through political power. However, I like to think such people are victims of Napoleon complex. My beef and the reason this blog carries its title is that American government can be summarized in one word: corrupt. And there is nothing "uglier" than a rich and corrupt system running the lives of the masses. The tide is beginning to change with my man Obama, but as always people will have to suffer a little while longer before their rights and self-images can be fully restored and the "American Dream" can be recognized equally across socioeconomic and racial boundaries ("cough, cough" it's only a matter of time before "old money" becomes "new money," sorry to the corporate "slave"
owners).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hip-hop Matters

I wrote this paper when I was a freshman at George Washington. It is titled "Hip-Hop and Jazz: White Assimilation in Two Eras of Black Culture." Feedback is encouraged for anyone willing to criticize. Please criticize!!! I intended for this blog to be interactive with its viewers and I have yet to get any comments on my entries. Please forgive the format, blogger apparently doesn't allow you to post Word files.

Shea Kelly
American Literature, Sect. 11
5-10-06

Hip-Hop and Jazz: White Assimilation in Two Eras of Black Culture

In today’s America, no culture is more prevalent and influential than hip-hop culture, an expansive institution encompassing music, fashion, dance, attitude, and politics. In 1998, rap, once a genre of music relegated to the fringes of society, outsold country (the reigning U.S. format) for the first time (Scott). Ironically, 70 percent of the albums were purchased by whites (Scott). Though hip-hop is an inherently black culture since its beginnings in the 1970s it is now being widely adhered to by whites. This phenomenon of whites assimilating to black culture is not new, as it can be traced back to the jazz age of the 1950s, as young white “hipsters” and “beatniks” devoted themselves to the black music scene:
“Jazz, rock n’ roll, soul, and R&B each have large devoted white audience members, many of whom share traits with Norman Mailer’s “white negroes,” young white listeners trying to perfect a model of correct white hipness, coolness, and style by adopting the latest black style and image. Young white listeners’ genuine pleasure and commitment to black music are necessarily affected by dominant racial discourses regarding African-Americans, the politics of racial segregation, and cultural difference in the United States” (Rose, 5).
In On The Road, Sal and Dean fit this image particularly well and lead the reader to inquire about the driving forces behind their obsession with the jazz scene. Likewise, the same inquiries arise when observing the modern trend of young suburban white kids associating themselves with the hip-hop world. There are certainly similarities between the motivations of these two generations, and the social and racial circumstances which surround their actions.
From a basic standpoint, there are two definite shared origins for Sal and Dean’s attraction to jazz and contemporary white youths’ affinity to hip-hop: girls (and sexism, misogyny) and homophobia. In On The Road, Sal, and Dean in particular, frequently partake in womanizing to the point of borderline misogyny. They are obsessed with women and are greatly exhilarated by the idea of going out on the town to jazz clubs with girls: “The girls came down and we started out on our big night, once more pushing the car down the street. “Wheeoo! Let’s go!” cried Dean, and we jumped in the back seat and clanked to the little Harlem on Folsom Street” (pg. 197). In today’s hip-hop world, misogyny and the exploitation of women is abundant, as “bitch” is used excessively in lyrics and strippers or otherwise scantily clad women (aka “video hoes”) frequent rap videos. This image of male dominance is enticing to young men, especially whites, as they are the furthest removed from the imagery and thus perceive it in a fantastic nature.
Homophobia is also an issue which Sal and Dean identify with in relation to the jazz clubs. Sal and Dean ridicule gays in several instances, especially when they hitch a ride from a “tall, thin fag” and proceed to call his car a “fag Plymouth” (pg. 207). This homophobic tone is echoed by some of the black jazz musicians in the story, as on page 200 when a “white hipster fairy” asks to play drums with a group of musicians and they regard him suspiciously and proceed to mock his playing. Homophobia is also deeply grounded in rap, and is especially prevalent in the lyrics of Eminem (who often uses it for satirical purposes), who white listeners strongly identify with. Since homophobia is most blatantly practiced (whether genuinely or not) by hip-hop’s only successful white artist, white male audiences are naturally drawn in by the music and its sentiments, as it is a testament to their manliness.
Psychologically, there are also some shared motivations between Sal and Dean’s and present-day white kids’ adherence to their respective black cultures. In On The Road, jazz music and clubs provide Sal and Dean with a sense of escape from the monotony of their relatively uneventful lives. Experiencing the thrill of live jazz gives them a sense rebellion, as jazz music is of a rebellious nature. The same can be said of white kids who listen to hardcore rap like Public Enemy:
“Black people used to wonder how a problack nationalist group like P.E. garnered a large, loyal, white fan base. It was simple: Public Enemy rocked and rebelled, literally, against the status quo. There is an endearing part of the white American mind that as teenagers (and less often as adults) detests the outward manifestations of this nation’s mainstream culture” (George, 66).
Sal and Dean were also attracted by the spirituality of free jazz and the pure energy and liveliness it exudes. The excitement Sal and Dean derided from experiencing jazz clubs can be seen in their adamant wails of “Blow! Blow! Blow!” In the same sense, hip-hop draws in white listeners with its energetic, rapid flow of words and beats, especially with lyrically-gifted artists such as Talib Kweli, Blackalicious, and Outkast (whose listeners are primarily white).
The famous “I wish I were a Negro” passage (pg. 179) reveals a lot about Sal’s reasons for wanting to be a part of black society. As he is walking through the “dark mysterious streets” he yearns to be a minority and expresses a tone of admiration as he observes the lower-class neighborhood around him. White devotees to hip-hop have quite similar feelings as they can only live vicariously through the lives of rappers and have an admiration for their (supposedly) tough upbringings. As social theorist William Wimsatt argues, white youths “suspect they wouldn’t make it through what inner-city blacks do, so there’s an embedded admiration that’s almost visceral” (qtd. in Watkins, 97). The sense of danger surrounding the (usually former) lives of hip-hop artists portrays black society as a “more “authentic” underclass than the hated “yuppies” or “boomers” who run society” (Ozersky). In many ways, Sal and the young white people of today are attracted to black culture because they can never genuinely be included in it, which gives the lifestyle a sense of mystery worth pursuing.
The integration of white people into black culture is naturally going to result in social and racial tension and complication. Anytime a minority attempts to incorporate itself into a majority, the integrity and authenticity of the majority comes into question. In this situation, much of the difficulty revolves around the motives of the white individuals attempting to include themselves in the black culture. These motives can be observed and analyzed in terms of their social impact in both On The Road and in the current infusion of hip-hop culture. Sal and Dean generally seem to be sincere in their experiences listening to jazz and attending jazz clubs. Their enthusiasm and astute knowledge of the music is clearly defined, and they appreciate and connect with the musicians:
“Dean was directly in front of him with his face lowered to the bell of the horn, clapping his hands, pouring sweat on the man’s keys, and the man noticed and laughed in his horn a long quivering crazy laugh, and everybody else laughed and they rocked and rocked; and finally the tenorman decided to blow his top and crouched down and held a note in high C for a long time as everything else crashed along and the cries increased and I thought the cops would come swarming from the nearest precinct” (pg. 198).
Conversely, Sal seems to have an inherently racist disposition which can often be seen in his language. He always refers to blacks in the narrative as “Negroes,” an archaic and insensitive term, and often describes jazz musicians as “crazy” or “madmen.” On page 199, he depicts a black tenorman as a “Negro Hassel.” All of these terms tend to portray some of the black characters Sal encounters as comical, forming an unfair caricature of blacks in the 1950s reminiscent of minstrel show stereotypes. There are also many contemporary theories behind the questionable motives of white people who assimilate to hip-hop culture. Some would argue that white kids are merely appropriating black culture, and in doing so exercising a sort of “white supremacy.” Sociologist Bill Yousman argues this act of appropriation emulates that of white minstrel performers:
“White youth adoption of black cultural forms in the 21st century is also a performance, one that allows whites to contain their fears and animosities toward blacks through rituals not of ridicule, as in previous eras, but of adoration. Thus, although the motives behind their performance may initially appear to be different, the act is still a manifestation of white supremacy that is in crisis and disarray, rifle with confusion and contradiction” (qtd. in Kitwana, 103).
Although this viewpoint is quite radical and pessimistic, it provides the interesting notion that the racist institutions of our society’s past can still have subconscious effects on our current relations, which is why “wiggers” (as Sal and Dean may have been) are met with such skepticism in contemporary America.
White involvement in black culture, whether directly (as rap artists, record producers, dancers, etc.) or indirectly (emulation), has been met with both positive and negative reactions from all reaches of society. In On The Road, the “white hipster fairy” on page 200 who asks to play (active acceptance and participation in a black pastime) with the black jazz musicians is met with suspicion, but the musicians allow him to join them. They end up sardonically mocking him: ““What that man doing?” he said. “Play the music!” he said. “What in hell!” he said. “Shh-ee-eet!” and looked away disgusted.”” So although the odd white guy is accepted by the jazz players, he is only tolerated to a certain extent. Many current hip-hop artists view white participants in their culture with comparable suspicions. Tricia Rose notes, “some rappers have equated white participation with a process of dilution and subsequent theft of black culture” (Rose, 5). These thoughts are echoed by artists like Dead Prez in their song “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop,” Common in The Roots’ track “Act Too…The Love of My Life,” and Mos Def with “Rock ‘N’ Roll” (in which he asserts, “Elvis Presley ain’t got no soul / Chuck Berry is rock n’ rock). When the hip-hop industry’s most powerful artist, and arguably most talented – Eminem - is white, then a backlash is inevitable. Although Eminem is well-liked and highly respected within most of the hip-hop community, he is also the target of many criticisms and accusations. His racial tolerance was brought into question in 2003 when The Source magazine (whose owner Dave Mays and associate Ray Benzino had long-time personal vendettas with Eminem) released rare tapes from Eminem’s early days which featured sexist and racist lyrics against black women. Mays and Benzino, along with other hip-hop “purists,” have expressed the belief that Eminem is well on his way to becoming hip-hop’s Elvis, referring to how Elvis became the face of rock n’ roll, essentially stealing the identity of a black American creation. The concern that hip-hop is losing its true identity is rightly justified, as the same phenomenon happened to rock n’ roll (and jazz to a lesser extent, i.e. Kenny G), and will be a continual issue as hip-hop becomes more homogenized.
One aspect of white involvement in black culture, specifically music, which has been beneficial (but at the same time compromising) is that it promoted the movement to be accepted by the masses. Beginning in the 1930s, jazz began to progress from an esoteric music form to one of commercial relevance.
“As it did [moved into recording studios], it was picked up not only by black artists – Cab Calloway, Count Basie, and Lionel Hampton – but by white band leaders as well – Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Artie Shaw. In this mixed jazz culture, the music became hybridized and, to simplify the point, was changed so that people could dance to it” (Bernard-Donals, 127).
The social aspect introduced to jazz can repeatedly be observed in On The Road, as Sal and Dean often dance to jazz with their girls (whoever they may be at the time). Just as white jazz band leaders were able to make jazz more accessible in the 1930s, white producers and musicians were able to make rock n’ roll a part of popular culture in the ‘50s. In 1953, Sun Records (home of Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison) producer Sam Phillips had a tremendous business idea: “If I could get me a white boy with that black sound, I could make a million dollars” (qtd. in Ozersky). Although recent adoptions of the same philosophy have brought gimmicky acts like Vanilla Ice, House of Pain, and Kid Rock to the hip-hop industry, they have also produced lucrative results. In the last two decades, the majority of hip-hop labels and companies have been owned and operated by white businessmen, and this has not necessarily had negative repercussions on the hip-hop community. As Nelson George, renowned African-American cultural author explains:
“On the owner front, I’d argue that without white entrepreneurial involvement hip-hop culture wouldn’t have survived its first half decade on vinyl. It is indisputable that black-owned independents like Sugar Hill, Enjoy, and Winley cultivated and supported hip-hop from 1979 to 1981. But it was white small-businesspeople who nurtured it next” (George, 57).
From a commercial standpoint, white involvement in black culture has been entirely fruitful, although the concept of popularizing a tradition that is inherently exclusive and thus fragile to overexposure may deaden the successes gained by hip-hop culture’s ascension into the mainstream. Ultimately, the role white involvement played in the progression of black culture into the status quo is delicately balanced between promotion and exploitation.
The assimilation of whites into black culture is a social phenomenon that has occurred throughout the majority of the 20th century and into the 21st. Young white people have always gravitated towards black culture. Whether this attraction is caused by a genuine appreciation of the lifestyle, misplaced infatuation, or even an attempt to appropriate the culture due to subconscious racism, there will continue to be complicated social dynamics surrounding this issue. Hip-hop has become imbedded in the social fabric of America, and is constantly influencing the actions of American youth. As hip-hop pioneer and Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons observed, “I see hip-hop culture as the new American mainstream. We don’t change for you; you adapt to us” (qtd. in Williams).










Works Cited
1. Bernard-Donals, Michael. “Jazz, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rap and Politics.” Journal of Popular
Culture 28 (1994): 127-138. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Gelman Library. 5 May 2006. .
2. George, Nelson. Hip hop America. New York: Viking, 1998.

3. Kitwana, Bakari. Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop. New York: Basic Civitas Books,
2005.
4. Ozersky, Josh. “The White Negro Revisited.” Tikkun 15.5 (2000): 61-63. Academic
Search Premier. EBSCO. Gelman Library. 2 April 2006. .
5. Rose, Tricia. Black Noise. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.
6. Scott, Cathy. “Rap goes from urban streets to Main Street.” Christian Science Monitor
91.63 (1999): 1-3. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Gelman Library. 2 April 2006. .
7. Watkins, S. Craig. Hip hop matters: politics, pop culture, and the struggle for the soul
of a movement. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005.
8. Williams, Armstrong. “Hip hop.” New York Amsterdam News 97 (2006): 13-15.
Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Gelman Library. 5 May 2006. .

Song of the Day

Title: Can't Stop This
Artist: The Roots
Album: Game Theory

Forgive and Forget

I have the ability to forgive
But not to forget
Those that have done me wrong
And disrespected my set.
My close friends and family
Deal with their problems handily
And put me in my place when I can't stand
And see
The error in our ways
Can't sit around and blaze
Without putting words to action
Life is just a phase
That becomes a trap
Not a maze.

Prayer of the Day

My prayer for the day is to turn on the evening news and not hear about a single murder. It might take a while for this prayer to be answered, but I pray nonetheless.