Monday, September 23, 2019

Finding my bologna poem part 2

Over a year ago I wrote about finding one of my more creative poems in different, unexpected places throughout the internet.

I found the poem, entitled "A Forgiveness Poem to Bologna", on poetry lesson websites, on a text lesson website, and on deviant.com where someone actually tried to claim it was theirs.

This week, I found my bologna poem on yet another website.


If this is my legacy, so be it.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Blocked by Jim Breuer



A few years ago, I replied to a tweet by comedian Amy Schumer. Schumer must not have liked my reply and she blocked me. I wrote about the incident here.

I always thought that was strange. I don't engage with celebrities very often, so to get that harsh of a response from someone for what I thought was a benign comment was odd. But that's how she rolls, I guess.

Recently I had another twitter incident with another famous comic. One I have seen live a few times and admire his roles in movies and other media.

But alas, I've been blocked by Jim Breuer.

It all started a few weeks ago when I read an article on UltimateClassicRock.com entitled "Are Opening Acts a Thing of the Past?". The article details how Metallica is no longer touring with an opening act, instead opting to have Breuer, a longtime fan, act as MC to get the crowd warmed up.

The logic of the move to eliminate the opening act is that according to promoters, few fans are there to see the openers, so it is best to skip the formalities and jump right into Metallica. Which I can attest is a stupid idea. In 1999, I saw Sevendust, Creed, and Kid Rock open for Metallica in front of 75,000 fans at the Orange Bowl in Miami, and although each band was relatively new, they all kicked ass prior to the headliner.

But oddly, Breuer agrees with Metallica's new touring philosophy. He states the following:


From a comedian, I found this to be out of touch. Opening acts are part of the show, both in comedy and rock. I have seen Jim Breuer do stand-up a few times. Every time, there was an opening act.

So I tweeted my disagreement with Breuer's stance.


Breuer must have seen the tweet and not liked my opinion of his opinion as he replied:


Pretty sure Breuer didn't read the article before replying and telling me to take a nap. Which is unfortunate, because then we might have had an intelligent discourse on opening acts and modern tours. Maybe I am reading his comments the wrong way. But alas, Breuer was quick with block button, forbidding me from ever seeing his tweets again.


But I think there is another force at play here. I don't think Breuer was quick with the block because he was being a jerk, although that is a possibility. I think his emotions were running high on another target and I was collateral damage.

Jim Breuer is a huge Mets fan and the Mets were not having a good night.


Sometimes the Mets bring out the worst in people.

The next time Breuer comes to Tampa, I will buy a ticket. I am still a fan and I hold no ill will. I think think he is a funny dude. But I will print out the tweet calling me the "great critic of jerk patrol" and ask if he will autograph it. Maybe I will even make and wear a t-shirt that says "great critic of jerk patrol" and ask for a picture with Breuer.

You can't take life or twitter seriously.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Star Wars Political 9/11 Parody



Here is a Star Wars-related political parody I wrote a few months following the terrorist attacks 9/11/2001. This would be great to see in parody video, maybe even deepfake. Unfortunately, I am much more of a writer than a video creator.

A SHORT TIME AGO IN AN ISLAMIC COUNTRY FAR AWAY….

We see the negotiating team of Bill and Hillary Clinton as they venture deep into the Al-Qaeda territory of Afghanistan, seeking the peaceful handing over of Usama Bin Laden. As the couple reaches the audience of the Taliban Rulers, they play a hologram message sent by President George W. Bush for the leaders of the Taliban government.

PRESIDENT BUSH
Greetings, Exalted Ones. Allow me to introduce myself. I am George W. Bush, President of the United States. I know that you are powerful, mighty Taliban, and that your compassion for Bin Laden must be equally powerful. I seek an audience with Your Greatness to bargain for Bin Laden's life. With your wisdom, I'm sure that we can work out an arrangement, which will be mutually beneficial and enable us to avoid any unpleasant confrontation. As a token of my goodwill, I present to you a gift: these two negotiators.

Hillary is startled by this announcement.

HILLARY
What did he say?

PRESIDENT BUSH (cont)
... Neither is hardworking but will serve you well.

HILLARY
This can't be! Bill, you're playing the wrong message.

President Bush's hologram disappears.

The Taliban rulers laugh.

THE TALIBAN RULER
There will be no bargain.

HILLARY
We're doomed.

THE TALIBAN RULER
I will not give up my favorite guest. I like Usama Bin Laden where he is.

The Taliban Ruler laughs hideously.

Several of the Taliban soldiers march Bill and Hillary down a dank, shadowy passageway lined with holding cells. The cries of unspeakable hostages bounce off the cold, stone walls.
Occasionally a repulsive arm grabs through the bars at the hapless negotiators. Bill whines pitifully.

HILLARY
What could possibly have come over President Bush? Is it something I did? He never expressed any unhappiness with my work. Oh! Oh! Hold it! Ohh!

A large arm wraps around Hillary's neck. She manages to break free, and they move on to a door at the end of the corridor.

MANY DAYS LATER, AT THE TALIBAN CAPITAL OF KABUL….

Noisily, the main gate opens to flood the blackness with blinding light and reveal the silhouetted figure of PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH. He is clad in a robe similar to his father's and wears neither pistol nor sword. President Bush strides purposefully into the hallway. Two giant guards move to block his path. President Bush halts.

President Bush raises his hand and points at the puzzled guards, who immediately lower their spears and fall back. The young President lowers his hand and moves down the hallway.

Saddam Hussein appears out of the gloom. He speaks to President Bush as they approach each other, but President Bush doesn't stop and Saddam must reverse his direction and hurry alongside the young president in order to carry on the conversation. Several other guards fall in behind them in the darkness.

PRESIDENT BUSH
I must speak with the Taliban.

Saddam answers in Arabic, shaking his head in denial. President Bush stops and stares at Saddam; he raises his hand slightly.

PRESIDENT BUSH
You will take me to the Taliban now.

Saddam turns in hypnotic response to President Bush's command, and the president follows him into the gloom.

PRESIDENT BUSH
You serve your allies well. And you will be rewarded.

THE TALIBAN GOVERNING CHAMBER

The Taliban Ruler is asleep on his throne. Hillary stands behind the Taliban Ruler as Saddam comes up to him.

HILLARY
At last! President Bush has come to rescue me.

SADDAM
Master.

The Taliban Ruler awakens with a start and Saddam continues, in Arabic:

SADDAM
...George W. Bush, President of the United States.

THE TALIBAN RULER
I told you not to admit him.

PRESIDENT BUSH
I must be allowed to speak.

SADDAM
He must be allowed to speak.

The Taliban Ruler, furious, clobbers Saddam and shoves him away.

THE TALIBAN RULER
You weak-minded fool! He's using the same American trick his father used.

President Bush stares hard at the Taliban Ruler.

PRESIDENT BUSH
You will bring Usama Bin Laden to me.

THE TALIBAN
Your mind powers will not work on me, boy.

PRESIDENT BUSH
Nevertheless, I'm taking Usama Bin Laden and his organization. You can either profit by this... or be destroyed! It's your choice. But I warn you not to underestimate my powers.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A Brief History of The Man



This blog has chronicled the adventures of the AfroSquad for over 10 years. One of the original concepts behind the AfroSquad, before the wrestling and before the comedy, was a struggle against The Man.

But what is The Man? How long have people been fighting The Man?

According to the AfroSquad,

"The Man" is an intangible bugaboo that masterminds the hardships and tragedies of that thing we call life. Being technologically superior, he can morph into anything he wants- your boss, the local authorities, the president, your parents, a lawyer, the guy that signs your inadequate paycheck, etc."

The AfroSquad was highly influenced by the blaxplotation films of the the 1970s. But The Man goes back further than that. Much further.

The Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang does a great job of detailing all the early mentions of The Man on page 173.



In the 1960s, The Man moved from Southern and Black Etymology to a more wider use. White counterculture also used the term to discuss their frustration with authority.  While Yippies and others diminished the racial and historical context, fighting The Man became a universal effort. This change is well described in The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933–1973 by Mark Greif, pages 269-272.


While fighting The Man had become universal, The Man moved to black cinema as the omnipotent antagonist in blaxplotation films. According to museumofuncutfunk.com

"During the 1970’s the term “The Man” became a part of the vernacular of the Blaxploitation film era. “The Man” referred to the police, the mob, the politicians and anyone who was white with power. In most cases “The Man” held the key to the destruction or redemption of Black characters in these films."

After blaxploitation films, The Man slowly diminished from use as a negative term. It started being used as a positive term such as "You are The Man." 

In the late 90s, the AfroSquad started doing their thing in the early internet.

Then, in 2002, The Man had a renaissance in cinema with the movie Undercover Brother. Comedian Eddie Griffin’s character took on a faceless Man who ran an omnipotent multi-national corporation and made life difficult for a diverse group of heroes.

Currently, there is news that Undercover Brother 2 will soon see the light of day. Will the antagonist be The Man?

The Man is still out there, and still holding people down. We should never forget the original meaning and absolute power of The Man.

Monday, August 26, 2019

When COBRA tried to blow up Florida Championship Wrestling

This was a fun video made by SnowMan of the Afro-Squad from our days attending Florida Championship Wrestling (now NXT) in Tampa. Good times, and by the way, SnowMan is a cinematic genius.

I think this video was supposed to be a prequel to another video we did in which I have a bigger role.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

My first website attempt

What you are reading here is not "my website", but a spot in the great googlesphere. Way, way, way back in the dawn of personal websites, before we expressed ourselves on corporate platforms, I attempted to make my own corner of the internet.

Unfortunately, I could never figure out the file transfer side of website development. I had no training or instruction and didn't know where to look, so this HTML file was never uploaded anywhere, but I did create it. It did have a background and graphics, although I think those files have been lost to time.

Nevertheless, the screen capture below is my first ever website. Yes, it is misogynistic with talk of "hot chicks" and other banter you would expect from a 20-year old male in an all-male military unit in the late 1990s. But you can see the dawn of my creativity. This is also evidence that at some point I wanted to be President of the United States or be on the Jerry Springer Show.

Glad I outgrew some of those ideas.

Hard to believe this is 22 years old.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Writing Advice From Leonard Pitts



When I was in college, and just starting to understand how to write, I emailed columnist Leonard Pitts in response to an article he wrote about the mother of Emmitt Till, a young black man whose death was a key point in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. I thought Pitts's article was so well done I had to ask him how I could write like that and how maybe one day I could have my own general interest column. Although I think his assistant sent a canned response, Mr. Pitts's advice was some of the best I ever received - actually, it may have been the only advice I ever received on the art of writing. Anyway, here is what he wrote:
As for advice...practice your craft.  Then practice it some more.  After you're done with that, take a little more time and practice. This is the only sure route to learning your craft.  There is, in other words, no trick, secret, or magic formula that will make you good.  Unfortunately for them, most writers are very good at finding excuses not to write.  This is because writing is not enjoyable.  As some sage once put it: "Writing is not fun.  Having written is." So what is required of the would-be writer is that he or she first develop the discipline to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair and start putting words down on the screen.  You will be awful at first, then a little better.  In time, perhaps, you will become good.  And sometime after that, assuming you possess the basic gifts for it, you will become great. Time not spent writing should be spent reading.  Read constantly and promiscuously.  Read writers whose work you admire and try to figure out how they do what they do and what it is in their work that makes it achieve whatever effect it does.  Read writers whose work you dislike and try to figure out what they're doing wrong so that you can avoid making the same mistakes. Also: It's important to invest in the tools of your craft.  In making an investment, you prove - to others and, more importantly, to yourself - that you are serious about this thing.  To that end, you need a workspace - doesn't have to be fancy, but it ought to be yours and accessible to you on a regular basis.  You need a word processor or computer; a good dictionary, an almanac, a copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style, and a thesaurus. You need a copy of Writer's Market, which is a directory of magazine publishers.  It lists the kind of material they're looking for, the contact persons and the prices they pay.  Also, get yourself a subscription to Writer's Digest; it's a monthly magazine that deals with the craft of writing, but also the business of it.  The magazine provides a great crash course for young writers. Finally, assuming you have any cash left over, you might want to pick up a copy of Stephen King's On Writing.  It's a memoir of the craft that I found inspirational and instructive.
I still haven't picked up that Stephen King book yet. I might want to do that.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Facing the Force of Angry Star Wars Fans



Last June, I wrote an article on Medium.com about Star Wars fans who make money creating videos expressing their anger at Disney diversifying the Star Wars Universe. I commented on the phenomenon, took their arguments and countered them, dissecting one particular creator's opinions, and finally extrapolated how he sees the world to include attacking his misunderstanding of hip-hop culture.

Last week, the online group "The Fandom Menace" found my article. They circulated it on social media and huffed and puffed their viewpoints without responding directly to what I wrote.

They did what they do - they pushed their views, got their likes, and shared their opinion with their followers. That is their community and the issues they choose to bond over. More power to them.

But I was curious how my article was found. The first account to mention me was an anti-Rian Johnson account.



But how did he find it a year after it was published? It had over 1,000 reads on Medium.com, but that's not a lot. The picture I created for the article is one of the top images when if you google the creator's name - that could be how it was discovered.

Interestingly, the article was also circulated on twitter by a bot with 0 followers, 1 following and 40 tweets between June 29th and August 3rd. My article was mentioned in 8 of the account's 40 tweets, many of which were replies to discussions.




I don't even promote myself as much as this bot promoted me.

According to Medium.com's internal analytics, my article was read over 40 times on that one day. That was significantly more than the 5-10 daily reads the article was averaging since its publication over a year ago.

I guess that's the life of a writer - you never know when your work will instigate discussion.

As far as the social media debate the "Fandom Menace" tried to drag me into, that ended when I told them I wasn't interested in engaging on twitter. I posted a screenshot of an email I sent to the video creator alerting him when I published my article. The creator never replied. Email conversations don't make ad money.



Monday, July 15, 2019

Did Braun Strowman comment on my blog?



Many years ago, when this blog started, I wrote a lot about sports. But I didn't write what other people wrote about. I tried to find the most obscure angles to current sports stories.

One obscure angle I took in July 2007 was to compare then-baseball star Barry Bonds to home run leaders in other leagues such as the Japanese League, the Negro Leagues, and American softball leagues. Entitled "Barry Bonds has a long way to go", it was a fun post that got a few comments and if memory serves me well, was linked on Deadspin.com, which was a big deal back then for independent blogs with small audiences.

(Btw, it turns out, Bonds's 762 home runs fell far short of these historic sluggers.)

One of the softball home run legends I profiled was Rick "The Crusher" Scherr. I wrote about Scherr's amazing ability to crush softballs and his over 4,000 home runs.


Typical of internet snarkiness, one of the commentors on my blog post didn't believe someone could hit so many home runs, even in softball. The commentor claimed I made up some of the names.

Following that comment were people vouching for the softball legends, including this comment:



For years, I didn't think anything of that particular comment as family members, fans, and former teammates all commented on the validity of the softball sluggers.

Recently, however, I discovered that Rick Scherr has a very famous son. The given name of WWE Superstar Braun Strowman is Adam Scherr. After a bit of research, I discovered Rick Scherr had two children, Adam and his younger sister Hannah.

If my Anonymous commenter is indeed a Scherr family member (there is always the possibility it is not), in 2007, Adam would have been 24 years old and Hannah would have been 20. According to wikipedia, in 2007, Adam Scherr was working as a mechanic and doorman and playing semi-pro football. Rick Scherr's awards could have been hanging in either of the siblings' own houses or in the family house - the "my" not being indicative of a separate house.

Although it is possible the comment was written by Hannah Scherr, I like to think it was written by a bored Adam, years away from wrestling greatness, spending his day reading sports websites, wondering where his life is going, and defending his father's legacy on a small random blog.

While many wrestlers can attest to "getting those hands", how many blogs can say they "got these words"?

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Jon Stewart and Leadership on Display in Tampa



Recently I had the pleasure of meeting comic legend Jon Stewart. He was in town supporting the 2019 Warrior Games, a series of athletic events involving wounded military members from the US and several other countries. He has supported the Warrior Games as spokesperson for several years.

I noticed a few things about Jon Stewart while he was here in Tampa. One, I didn't realize how short he was. I am 6'1 and he was quite shorter than I am. I thought he would be taller.

But more importantly, I realized firsthand how Jon Stewart worked with people. Throughout the ceremonies and at the events, I never once saw one of the most famous comedians in America put himself first. He was an amplifier and cheerleader of the real attractions of the event: the disabled veteran athletes of the US Armed Forces.

At the Opening Ceremonies, Stewart served as an MC, handing the floor to Generals, the teams, and local politicians who spoke about the event. The famous comedian was just there to facilitate.

At the Closing Ceremonies, Stewart even went so far to step to the rear-most part of the stage while the athletes were getting their awards. Although he brought attention to the athletes and to his other efforts with the 9/11 responders, he wanted little credit himself.

Then I realized stepping aside is a common trait for Jon Stewart. On The Daily Show, Stewart served as MC, letting his correspondents report and his guests tell their story. Although he got his jokes in, Stewart was the pilot as he was at the Warrior Games.

Of course, The Daily Show prospered under Stewart's stewardship. But it also spawned several other shows and careers, to include Stephen Colbert, Steve Carrell, Samantha Bee, Ed Helms, and John Oliver. Jon Stewart let those careers grow under his watch.

Other writers have noticed Jon Stewart's positive leadership. In this Inc. article, they listed 5 leadership traits that Stewart displayed at The Daily Show.

  • Work harder than everyone else.
  • Surround yourself with better people.
  • Demonstrate humble intelligence and polite sincerity.
  • Learn to ask questions and listen.
  • Find your daily “Moment of Zen.”

Likewise, a recent Forbes article pointed out Stewart's ability to challenge the status quo, inspire collaboration, and inspire purpose. Business Insider called Stewart a "superboss" because of his ability to promote other's careers.

I wonder how many of these leadership traits were learned and how many came naturally to Jon Stewart. Where did he learn the confidence to put others first? Was it learned in improv, where you are only as good as your partner on stage? Did he have a mentor? Was these traits learned as the leader of The Daily Show? Or was it something Jon brought to comedy from an earlier age?

However he learned it, I would buy a book on leadership by Jon Stewart. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Jon Stewart looks for the Warrior Games Torch in Tampa

The 2019 Warrior Games is being held in Tampa, Florida this week. The Warrior Games is a competition involving wounded military members of the US Armed Forces and several other national militaries, to include the Brits, Canadians, Australians, and more.

Like other international Olympic games, the Warrior Games begins with a torch lightning ceremony. But unfortunately, before the event could begin in Tampa, the torch was missing. Special Operations Command - the US Military's elite forces - had to call in the only man with the skill to find the torch and bring it home:

Jon Stewart

Stewart and his team of local celebrities, Mayor Jane Castor, WWE Superstar Titus O'Neil, Warrior Games athlete SSG Lauren Montoya, and City Councilman Luis Viera hunted throughout Tampa for the torch.

While on his hunt for the torch, Titus O'Neil boarded a Tampa trolley. Meanwhile, I was minding my business, riding the trolley, wondering what I was going to eat for lunch. Suddenly, I was approached by the hulking WWE superstar who thought I was hiding something.

I was petrified. I had to swear I didn't have the torch. Luckily, soon after, they found the perps - Thunderbug, mascot of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and former mayor Bob Buckhorn.





Friday, June 14, 2019

Yoga moms stealing Hip-Hop Culture



I have been a Hip-Hop fan since the early 1990s. I remember being into MC Hammer and the Fresh Price in middle school which led to liking LL Cool J and Public Enemy in junior high. By high school, I was engulfed in Hip-Hop, collecting everything I could of Wu-Tang, Nas, 2Pac, Redman, and Ice Cube. I traded tapes, borrowed CD's, and recorded radio shows.

But as a white middle class kid in the Florida suburbs, I was detached from the core of hip-hop. Even though the content of hip-hop spoke to me - the idea of getting out of your current struggle and making life better - hip-hop was never really mine. I could enjoy it, I could talk about it, and I could be as big of a fan as possible, but I could never be truly of the culture.

As I grew as a Hip-Hop fan, I started participating in the culture. I wrote freelance articles on local artists, I posted youtube videos of local concerts, and I even got to interview legends. Meanwhile, I grew frustrated with those appropriating the culture. People who looked like me from my upbringing in White America claiming Hip-Hop for their own and never acknowledging the roots of the music or giving back in any way.

Hip-Hop, while being open to all cultures and people, is protective of its cultural roots, possibly because Black culture saw what happened to the Blues and Jazz. But Hip-Hop can't protect against all those who rock the music but miss the message.

White Hip-Hop fans need to call out people who look like them who are disrespecting Hip-Hop.

My least favorite offenders of Hip-Hop appropriation are white middle aged women, typical "yoga moms". Yoga moms are as far removed from the struggle of Hip-Hop culture as possible. Many have come from comfortable middle class upbringings, went to predominantly white colleges, and live in predominantly white suburbs. Yet they have claimed parts of Hip-Hop for their own without adding anything to the culture.

For example, the "Pour some coffee, put your hair in a bun, put on some gangsta rap, and deal with it" phrase is appropriation at best, exploitation at worst. Gangsta rap is not for Starbucks drinking, minivan driving, soccer moms. Etsy stores selling gangsta rap slogans should be called out and chastised.

I though nothing could be worse. Then I saw a predominantly white yoga studio poll its instagram followers whether they should hang up a portrait of deceased Hip-Hop and R&B legends.

No. No. No. No. No.

That's not yours. You shouldn't have that and you shouldn't hang it up. And leave Hip-Hop culture alone.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Serious Tip AfroSquad Commercial

With the relaunch of this website, I thought it only fitting to dust off a old commercial for this site filmed by the AfroSquad.



There is still no stock market information here.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Tall Tale of Rube Bellweather




The tradition of avoiding pitchers during their throwing of a no-hitter started in the 1890s when a pitcher named Rube Bellweather of the Atlanta Confederates refused to shower while he was doing well. During a lengthy streak of success, Bellweather’s odor began to wear on his team. No one said anything, however, as he continued to pitch well and the team continued to win.

During one game, the odoriferous Bellweather was particularly effective, holding the opposing team without a hit through seven innings. As it was a typical Atlanta day, with the temperature well over 90 degrees and a stifling humidity caressing the air, Bellweather’s body odor was too much to bear for his teammates. When in the dugout they purposefully avoided him, staying to one side or even leaping the barriers and sitting with the fans to watch their teammates at bat.

Unfortunately for Bellweather’s teammates, they had trouble of their own at the plate as the opposing pitcher also held them hitless through eight innings. After a scoreless and hitless ninth, tenth, and then eleventh innings, and a growing gross aroma permeating from Bellweather, his team decided to take matters into their own hands. In the bottom of the twelfth inning, Bellweather’s teammates pulled a defensive mutiny on the pitcher, dropping fly balls, kicking ground balls, and throwing the ball all over the field until three runs scored.

But the bottom of the twelfth brought positive tidings for the hometown nine. After quickly getting two outs, the opposing hurler hit the next two Atlanta hitters and issued a walk to load the bases. Bellweather himself strode to the plate with an odor so raunchy neither the umpire nor the opposing catcher could look in the direction of either the pitcher on the mound or the pitcher at the plate. Fortunately, they needn’t hold their breath nor watch the action for long. Bellweather swung at the first offering and hit the ball far beyond the outfield field fence for a game winning grand slam. In honor of Bellweather’s heroics and his teammates’ poor actions, the tradition of avoiding a pitcher while he is throwing a no-hitter continued.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Detained by Stormtroopers in Clearwater, Florida


I recently acquired Jedi robes. I bought them from an ancient dealer of fine attire in the cyberspace realm of the Amazon. They have served me well. Although not a Jedi, I do consider myself strong with the Force. Due to the cost of the Jedi Academy, I could never afford to be properly trained in the art of the Jedi. And now I am too old to begin my training. But wearing the robes of the Jedi is to me akin to wearing the sports jersey of my favorite team. I am showing my support to the cause.

So it was apropos that I wear my Jedi garb to Star Wars Night at the Clearwater Threshers baseball game. It was a fun night at the ballpark, good food, good people, and a great fireworks show.

Until I was detained. Apparently, Clearwater is under the rule of the Empire and had the 501st Legion patrolling the premises, looking for Jedi. Luckily, they let me go. I may or may not have used an amateur Jedi mind trick on them.

I'm glad I didn't bring the lightsaber I acquired on the moon of Ord Mantell.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Review of Ice Cube's Everythang's Corrupt



I haven't written about music in a while, but a new Ice Cube album is great reason to get back to it.

I grew up on Ice Cube. Without knowing anything about Ice Cube, The Predator was the first CD I ever owned. I asked for it for Christmas 1992 on the strength of the Wicked video. I didn't know anything about Cube's history, NWA, or his political views. For a suburban white kid who owned MC Hammer, Kid'N'Play, and the Fresh Prince, Ice Cube was eye-opening. He was punk, metal, and everything my parents didn't want me to listen to.

(This was when rap surpassed heavy metal as White America's most objected music. Parents went from being  scared of Satan and suicide to objecting to anti-police and pro-Black messaging. The early 90s were an interesting cultural zeitgeist.)

After Cube's Lethal Injection album, I tuned out. I migrated into a rock/post-grunge phase only picking up the occasional Wu-Tang, Def Squad, or Boot Camp Clik album. By the time I got back into hip-hop, Cube was making club songs with the Westside Connection and had gotten into acting. He wasn't the angry political commentator of years before.

With the election of Donald Trump, I predicted political hip-hop would make a resurgence. The anti-Trump movement was too powerful for hip-hop not to capitalize. Sure enough, artists who have rarely been political such as Snoop Dogg have released songs or images bashing President Trump. With that in mind, an Ice Cube comeback was not surprising. It was almost expected.

Ice Cube has an interesting background with Donald Trump, however. Besides citing Trump as a rich stereotype in a song (as most rappers in the '90s did) , Cube was also misquoted as supporting Donald Trump in a 2016 interview. In the interview (see below) Cube says "Trump is what every American aspires to be" but advises that Trump will have a problem relating to poor people.



Ice Cube wasn't angry at Donald Trump in 2016, although he did later tweet that he would never vote for that "m*therf*cker". So where does the anger at Trump come from? The song "Arrest the President", while good, lacks detail. None of the verses back up Cube's claim that Trump is Russian intelligence.

Where Ice Cube does have legitimacy is his anger towards white supremacists, who he talks about in "Arrest the President" and in "Chase Down the Bully". Cube discusses their hypocrisy and their bullying tactics and meets their aggression with his own.

Other positives on the album are the Parliament tribute "That New Funkadelic", "Everythangs Corrupt", and the final track "Good Cop, Bad Cop", which quotes Ice Cube's verse in NWA's "F*ck the Police".

After the aforementioned songs, the rest of the album misses the mark. After going for the jugular and attacking the President and the enforcers of systematic racism, Ice Cube then attacks drug dealers and users. That angle might have worked in NWA's "Dope Man", when Ice Cube's vision was limited to the streets of Compton, but with a huge platform and a vision from the boardroom, Ice Cube should be attacking the systems that keep people poor and on drugs. Instead of going after pill users, he should be going after doctors prescribing or corporations producing and marketing opiods and other drugs.

Another negative I have with the album is that Ice Cube doesn't dip into the well enough. Although he quotes his "F*ck the Police" verse in "Good Cop, Bad Cop", he would have been well-suited to drop other references to his classic works throughout the album. He would frequently reference his previous albums during his prime, I am not sure why he opted to do so now. This would have made his intro much stronger, where instead of saying he is the Super OG (his new gimmick name), he could have said the N*gga You Love to Hate (his old gimmick name).

Other problems I have with the album include Ice Cube's lack of song direction and lyrical missteps. For example, the song "Fire Water" is particularly a mess. It not about anything and during the journey to nowhere Ice Cube calls Princess Leia a "crazy bitch". Why did Ice Cube think calling a feminist hero a crazy bitch was a good idea? With so many other crazy women to choose from (any on reality TV, for example, or a Kardashian), that was one example of a really bad lyric.

Other bad lyrics include, but are not limited to:
  • "it's not even fair at the state fair" - "Arrest the President"
  • "Nobody serving Cube but maids and waiters" - "Streets Shed Tears"
  • "Yup, the guys call me Samson, I'm dangerous with a Samsung" - "Non Believers"

I hate to say this, but Ice Cube may have needed a co-writer.

Everythangs Corrupt is not Paris's Sonic Jihad, the Coup's Party Music, or anything from Public Enemy or Dead Prez. It also definitely isn't Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly. Socio-political rap has soared since the days of AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted. Early in his career, Ice Cube kicked in doors and continued where he left off with NWA. These days, he seems to have lost his fastball. His best now would be an average track on his first four albums.

Perhaps on his next album, Ice Cube needs to dip further into his past. Releasing a track with Chuck D would be helpful. Having cameos from Paris and Kendrick Lamar would great as well. Not since Mack-10 has Ice Cube brought up new rappers, maybe the time is now.

But then again, when you have your own basketball league bankrolled by the Qataris and you have another Friday movie and another Ride Along movie coming out, maybe you only have energy for one good pitch per album. Maybe you want to save your fastball for other fields.

Of course, I can't hate on Ice Cube for putting his energy into his other passions. The Big 3 and his movies have done very well. He is a multi-media superstar who has transcended music and become an entertainment icon. But can hip-hop take an entertainment icon seriously? Should listeners believe Ice Cube is legitimately angry at the system that has paid him millions?

I do believe Ice Cube still has some anger left in him. He still looks at the world through his perspective. But I believe in his time away from music he has regressed as a socio-political voice in hip-hop. Whereas in years past he could make an album that had meaning from top to bottom, today he is good for a few good songs and a solid tribute to George Clinton.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Excellent interview with fellow FSView Alumni Khuong Phan



Years ago, I wrote for the FSView and Florida Flambeau, the unofficial newspaper of Florida State University. Writing for the FSView was an awesome experience as it got me really into writing for purpose and introduced me to great people, both in the community and in the FSView office.

One of the people I had the pleasure of working with was Khuong Phan. Khuong was one of my editors and was a great person to work for. While I explored the outsider communities, Khuong often wrote about his family or his fraternity - and not the stereotypical frat dude way. He wrote in a very humanistic style that made you relate and grow with him.

After graduating, Khuong went on to write for local newspapers and then moved to New York City and Los Angeles to do public relations for the food industry. He has made a great career of writing about food, chefs, and restaurants. Recently, he was interviewed for the website CulinaryAgents.com. It is a great interview that provides insight into Khuong's life and career lessons.

Of his many answers, this was my favorite:
Don’t simply chase money or title. I promise you that if you do something well enough for a long enough time, both of those things will come your way. Instead aim for the opportunities that will provide you the strongest connections, access to the people you admire and the experiences you find most fulfilling. These things really pay off in a major way down the line. Your career is a long arc, so play the long game.

This answer is so good and so Khuong.

Monday, January 21, 2019

PowerPoint Platforms and Coming Back to Comedy

I did stand-up comedy years ago. I wasn't very good. I wasn't very good because I didn't do it enough to be good. But like most comics, I got better as I went along. I was terrible in Tampa, ok in Ocala, and got a few laughs in Lakeland.

Then the bombing Afghanistan happened.

That was 2012. I have barely been on stage since. I like to say I left Afghanistan with PTSD - post-traumatic silence disorder. That's what happens when a comic gets so shook after a bad set they never get back on stage.

But a recent article in Vulture.com made me think that maybe in 2019 is the year I return to comedy.

Entitled "Why is PowerPoint Having a Comedy Moment?", the article discusses how several comics are blending PowerPoint presentations into their sets. I am great at PowerPoint. I can do that.

I know, I know. Comedy is about being funny first, props and gimmicks second. Comedy isn't a TED Talk, the audience should be focused on the performer, not words on a screen. But that's when I'll make a slide with a big arrow pointing back to me. The eyes of the audience will follow the arrow back to me. Easy as microwavable pie.

As a medium, PowerPoint is easy for comedy. Every slide can build suspense opening the door for a visual twist. Images also keep people interested if the comic is not. Slides give the audience something read.

And I've already made a presentation that is perfect for comedy: my Guide to Winning a Woman's Interest.





To date, this video has only has 177 views on YouTube. But what if I brought it to comedy shows? What if my entire YouTube channel was filled with funny presentations?

Comedy is calling me again and my perfect platform is PowerPoint.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Thoughts on the AR-15

The AR-15 is perhaps the most polarizing weapon in a very polar gun-control debate. It has been the weapon of choice for several mass murderers in the United States over several years. According to Wikipedia, it was used in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the 2015 San Bernardino attack, the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting, and the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. As well, the Pulse Nightclub shooting was conducted with a weapon very similar to the AR-15.

The weapon is popular - both with collectors and those with bad intentions. According to experts cited by the New York Times (it would be nice if they put a name to at least one expert, by the way), "there are easily several million in the nation’s rifle racks and gun safes".

But is it really needed? Do we really need millions of rifles in the hands of private gun owners across America?

According to gun websites, we do. Here are screenshots from a late 2017 article on the TheTruthAboutGuns.com.

Picture 1:




Picture 2:




The rest of the top 10 were 8 pistols and a shotgun. While there is no arguing the presence of a firearm can help home defense if used by someone who knows what they are doing, and there is no arguing that the "intimidation factor of a pump action shotgun can’t be overstated" as the article says (shlack-lack), why is an AR-15 on this list?

According to the article, "If your home or your property is unfortunate enough to be targeted by multiple intruders" it is best to have an AR-15 handy. Does this happen often enough that the rifle has to be number 2 on the list? Are there groups of robbers and home invaders breaking into houses throughout America?

Also in the description, "In a multiple bad guy situation, an AR-15 will help even the odds by giving you the advantage of distance, velocity, and ammunition capacity". Are gun owners defending their homes or guarding the front lines at the Battle of the Bulge? If the average size of an American home is 2,600 square feet (792.5 meters) with walls, do gun owners really need a weapon with a maximum effective range of 400 meters to 1 mile (1,609 meters), depending on the configuration and ammunition?

According to a 2013 article entitled, "Gun Control Myth: The AR-15 is Not Actually a Hunting Rifle" by Matt MacBradaigh,
In reality, AR-15's make excellent hunting rifles and are normally used for that purpose. They are configurable via a separate upper and lower part that make it possible for the user to configure the rifle for various types of bullet cartridges. Depending on what game is being hunted, and what bullet the rifle is configured to fire, virtually all AR-15 rifles are useful for hunting.
Can a weapon be good for home defense and hunting? Or is there another reason for the weapon's popularity? Could the answer be in the home defense ranking article?

Look again at the first picture. Notice the ads? Both ads are for accessories for an AR rifle. There are many parts gun owners can add to the AR-15 "platform" that increases distance or power. Smaller weapons such as pistols don't have as many parts to add on as larger rifle platforms. Selling these parts are big business. The companies that sell the parts rely on the sale of the platform and their ads to continue their revenue.

The parts companies want to sell more parts, so they buy more ad space for parts on gun websites. Those sites see where the ad revenue is coming from and promote the applicable weapon in an effort to increase the sale of weapon and then tell the advertiser that the ads on their sites are working. Then the website can increase the cost of advertising on their site.

All the website needs is text to pitch a need to gun owners that fits the narrative to support the website's ad selling business.

Like most internet business, selling AR-15s is a shell game based on ads and marketing. Seeing through propaganda is important if societies want to have rational debates about the safety and practicality of purchasable products.

Monday, January 7, 2019

L1ZY and the Artificial Intelligence Takeover

In the horrifying yet possibly soon-to-be realistic film by Ghost+Cow films, a home assistant named L1ZY assists a household a little too much.



BIG DATA - "L1ZY" from GHOST+COW FILMS on Vimeo.

Personally, I refuse to buy a home assistant. I don't want an Alexa, a Siri, or anything else that can record my voice and the voice of those around me. Having a smart TV is scary enough. My goal in the near future is to learn how to firewall my house so no signal can get out or in without me knowing about it. That would prevent my toaster, refrigerator, or toilet from telling a data server about my habits.

"Michael, your toilet says you have been using a lot of toilet paper recently. I've ordered some from Amazon, but should I also contact your doctor? And from the change in atmospheric pressure in the house, you have also been passing a lot of gas. Should we order Gas-X as well?"

I am far from a Ludite, but I draw the line with allowing AI into my house. L1ZY is why.