Monthly Archives: January 2012
The idea that some people actually get paid to do something that they enjoy still baffles me. If you count temp work and part time gigs, I’ve had about 25 jobs in my lifetime. I’d probably venture to say that only two of them were things I actually enjoyed. Growing up, the focus was always on finishing school and getting a good job. No one ever really sat me down and asked me what I actually enjoyed doing. By the time I got to college I didn’t have the slightest clue. It didn’t help that I went to a poor HBCU where the budget kept getting slashed so departments were disappearing left and right. I started out as a communications major and when that was scrapped they put me in the theater department. (WTF?)
Five years and six majors later I still didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, but I had bills that needed paying so I dropped out and took the first job I could find. When you work a job that you’re not emotionally invested in, you’d be surprised just how little of a motivator your paycheck is. At first you’re ecstatic to get the check that’s gonna keep the padlock and orange sticker off your front door, but eventually you start spazzing out and that’s where music comes in. The glory of the iPod was that I could make a playlist to keep me gainfully employed. It looked a little something like this:
Working a monotonous job requires precise song placement. If you notice, the first song is Slap because often anger is what caused me to turn on the playlist in the first place. Then it moves into DMX who is basically the mascot for cocaine which makes him the perfect choice for putting into words all of the crazy things that might pop into your head (but you’d never actually do). Pre-jail Tupac comes in to calm you back down and then we get to Jay-Z who has so much money that his songs make you forget that you don’t. Then of course we come to Broke Phi Broke which is why we’re all at work in the first place.
Usually I’d go to break and come back refreshed just to have a coworker or manager or piece of office equipment kick my frustration right back up to 10. So we go to 99 Problems, Everyday Struggle, Crazy and I start to feel better. That’s what a lot of people don’t get about rap music. A normal, non-psychotic person can listen to songs like these and actually calm down. It’s like you hear someone vocalizing what you feel inside, even though the cause of your anger is totally different than theirs. DMX is mad because he’s crazy, I’m mad because the payroll office screwed up my direct deposit. Two totally different lifestyles there, so no, I don’t want to really kill anyone. I like not being in jail. I’m just mad and listening to a smooth jazz song isn’t gonna do it for me. I need to hear someone else curse because I’m at work and I can’t.
Eventually the songs work their magic and I feel better, hence the interspersed random songs like Feel Like Going On from The Five Heartbeats. I always close out my work playlists with Beanie Sigel’s Remember Them Days, because that song was my life as a kid and the whole point of the job was so that I never had to go back to it.
It’s all good now, we out the hood now.
The other day I had to catch myself. For a quick second I forgot where the hell I came from. I Tivo’d a show but accidentally chose the non-HD channel and was mad because I had to watch the show with those black bars on the side of the screen and the picture quality sucked.
Who the hell is this negro?
Not too long ago, this was my tv:
Actually this is isn’t the exact TV. My TV didn’t have two knobs, it only had one. It was supposed to have two knobs. I don’t know what the hell happened to the other one, but we got by just fine with the one. For those who are too young to know exactly how that relic worked… The bottom knob controlled the main channels like NBC, ABC and CBS or channels 4, 7 and 5 here in DC. When we wanted to switch to Arsenio late at night, he came on Paramount’s channel 20, so we turned the bottom knob to U (I guess that stood for upper channels, but who knows) and then we took the knob off the bottom and put it on the top. Since we had nothing to tell us what channel we were on, we just turned it real slow like we were breaking into a safe until we saw Arsenio.
It wasn’t that simple though. Back then you didn’t just turn the channel and watch TV. Every person with a television was a qualified technician. You see, unlike cable TV, you couldn’t just turn the channel and have the station come in crystal clear. You had to earn that shit. Maybe you fiddled with the knob, or you moved the antenna.
Move the antenna to the left. Not that far. Okay, right there. Aw damn it. Try putting it up against the wall. Okay, let it go. It’s kind of clear. Put your hand back on it. Keep it just like that.
It was an act of God if you got a channel clear on the first try, especially those top channels. It wasn’t just grainy. Sometimes the screen would keep scrolling down like the wheel on The Price Is Right. Other times you just gave up and listened to the show as if it were a radio program. If you really, and I mean REALLY, wanted to see something then you’d just stand there and touch the antenna. For whatever scientific reason, your body was one hell of a signal amplifier. You were WAY better than that piece of aluminum foil that people put on top of the antenna.
All of this sounds complicated, but it was so standard that people just adapted to it. You knew not to get close to people’s TVs, because if you bumped into it and distorted the signal, there would be hell to pay. You also learned to memorize the entire TV lineup so you wouldn’t have to get up to change channels and recalibrate everything. Either that or you called someone on the phone who had a TV guide.
The saddest thing for me, however, was playing Nintendo and Atari on it. (Remember you had to turn it to channel 3 to get to the game?) For the longest time I didn’t know that video games were in color. I just assumed Mario and Luigi had the same colors. I remember not being able to play my Nintendo right away because we didn’t have an adapter to hook it up to those two screws in the back of the TV. Black and white TVs are the reason I memorized the Ninja Turtles’ weapons. I might as well have been colorblind because I couldn’t figure out which bandana was what color.
Fast forward to now and I think I earned the right to be pissed at taping the wrong program, but in reality the part of the screen without the black bars is still three times bigger than my old TV.
The Church of Steve Jobs announced their foray into the textbook world this month. The goal is to distribute digital textbooks through iTunes that can be read on an iPad for just $15 a pop. That pissed me off at first. Do you know how many nights I went hungry because I spent my grocery money on textbooks in college? If it weren’t for the good folks at Maruchan and Top Ramen, I would’ve starved to death. My first accounting textbook cost more than my entire college wardrobe, but I digress. At present time this new service only deals with high school textbooks to which I raise this question:
In what world do high school kids all have iPads?
I understand that most of it would center around the school system providing iPads for the kids and then having them download the books through perhaps some kind of licensing deal. Still…
In what world do high school kids have iPads?
I graduated from DC Public Schools in 2000, supposedly the new millennium. The last chapter in my US History book talked about Reagan just being elected to his first term as President and the new Challenger space shuttle. My pre-Calculus class didn’t even have a textbook. Why? Because the school threw away the old books when they ordered the new ones but the budget was cut so they couldn’t afford to pay for them. My teacher ended up making photocopies of the Teacher’s Guide and giving it out chapter by chapter with the answers redacted.
And I went to a MAGNET school.
I am a devout Jobs-ologist, but even I don’t understand really how this is going to work.
Before yesterday, the last time I’d actually set foot inside a Chuck E Cheese was when I was eight years old. Back then, Chuck E Cheese was “the shit.” It was like a crack house for kids. Get hyped up on sodas and pizza and then expel all that energy by running around and doing whatever the hell you wanted. When you leave,
trade your couch for drugs trade your tickets for prizes and pass out in the car.
My how things change with age.
Twenty one years later, Chuck E Cheese is the second circle of hell. It’s where you go to be reminded of just how much you hate children. When you first have kids you mistakenly think that the love you feel for them extends to other children. Maybe you’re out shopping alone one day and you see a kid who does something cute that reminds you of your child and you think, “Aw, I love children.”
Don’t believe the hype.
The same way that a lion cub looks cute and cuddly at the zoo but ferocious as hell on National Geographic is exactly what happens at Chuck E Cheese. You get to see kids in their natural habitat. Right off the bat, the party started with one of the kids walking up to the table with his lip busted crying that another little kid knocked him down. Just trying to walk around and find something that my daughter could play made me feel like I was at a damned lynching. It was like all the kids in there were trying out for defensive tackle.They run into you at full speed and if you show the slightest bit of offense they look at you like a basketball wife.
Did you just call me a non-motherfucking factor?
The adults in Chuck E Cheese just look defeated or depressed. That’s something I never noticed as a kid. What the hell was my mother doing while I was having so much fun? Well now I know. The adults sit over at the table eating what’s left of that nasty ass pizza that you don’t want and thinking about how they’re not having any more kids. Notice I said “adults” and not “parents.” Some of the parents in there were about five years older than their kids. My mother had me at fifteen so I know I shouldn’t talk, but I saw parents playing in the little play area with the kids and looked like they were having more fun. On the other end of the spectrum were the dudes who thought this was the yard or something posted up in the corner. How are you gonna be a thug in Chuck E Cheese?
Anyway, it was a very enlightening experience.
Chuck E Cheese, where a kid can be a kid and an adult can be depressed.
Well, I lead by example and went to see Red Tails.
Damn, that movie sucked.
All day I’ve been wondering whether or not to actually write about how bad it was. At most this site gets about 20 readers a day, so it’s not like I have the Oprah touch or anything. I just feel wrong knocking the movie because it’s the first big budget Black movie in a long time. Every review I’ve seen has been flattering and I really believe it’s being done for the same reason. No one wants to hurt its chances.
That brings me to today’s point. Why does it have to be this way? Why do we have to put up with shitty movies just to see some kind of advancement. The whole time I’m in Red Tails I’m thinking that maybe the movie is a metaphor for the movie industry. Given second-hand dilapidated planes, bullshit missions and completely ignored by the mainstream, the Red Tails accepted whatever they could get in the name of making small strides. Is that what’s going on today in Black cinema? Maybe.
As I cringed through 125 minutes of bad dialogue for a story that everyone swears had to be told, I kept wondering to myself, Where is Will Smith, Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington or basically anyone who is still working these days that can carry this movie and fill seats through star power alone? I guess it didn’t need to be told that bad. Then I had another revelation: What if this does well? Are they gonna copy and paste this type of storytelling onto every future Black film? Does anyone else notice how every Black movie that involves a family or a couple has now turned into a Tyler Perry-esque knockoff?
Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavement even if it leads nowhere?
So yesterday I started telling you why I hate dogs. But I only gave you one example. Here’s another. This one is a two-fer. It also teaches you how my grandmother taught me not to rely on anyone in an emergency.
Seven year old me is down on the National Mall with my grandmother. We went to one of the museums and were on our way home. There’s an ice skating rink down by the Mall and, because I was only seven and stupid, I wanted to see what an ice skating rink looked like in the summer. Was it a swimming pool? Did the ice evaporate? I was full of questions back then. Because I was young and dumb. I believed in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and parental protection…silly things. My grandmother lets me run off to go look at the rink, so I go into the little secluded-by-hedges area and see that there’s nothing in the rink. Just plain old concrete. Mystery solved. I turn around to leave and what’s in front of me?
Big ass dog.
It looked like a great dane mixed with a german shepherd. No owner in sight and it looked hungry. I stood still and tried to walk away. I felt like Warren G. They got guns to my head, I think I’m going down. I can’t believe it’s happening in my own town. If I had wings I would fly, let me contemplate. I glance in the cut and I see my homie…GRANDMA!!!!
I hauled ass. The dog was chasing me, but I knew that all I had to do was make it to my grandmother and she’d figure out what to do. After all, I’d heard stories about my grandmother beating up the neighbor’s dog for attacking my mother when she was little. And, my grandmother always carried her Moses staff around because she was also afraid of dogs. I had like 100 feet to go and I was safe. This wouldn’t be like the last time when I couldn’t get to my mother because of that high fence.
This would be worse.
I get close to my grandmother to notice her waving at me. I think she’s saying, Come here! I get closer and she’s saying, GO THE OTHER WAY! DON’T BRING HIM OVER HERE! HE’S CHASING YOU, NOT ME! She takes off running the other way. My 60 year old grandmother outran me. And not slightly either. She dusted me.
And Dear Mama, you are appreciated.
So…abandoned, I just kept running. I figured that I’d rather get hit by a car than bit by a dog so I ran into open traffic and somehow managed not to get hit by a car. The dog stopped chasing me. With my grandmother nowhere in sight, I started walking home. I lived about 25 blocks away, but it was daylight and not bad walking weather, so I started walking. About twenty minutes later, who do I run into? My grandmother.
I knew if you got away you’d have to come this direction to get home because I know you know how to get home from down here.
No apology. No discourse on how she might have overreacted. She actually said, Next time something is chasing you, don’t ever lead it back to people you care about.
I hate dogs. When I was five years old my mother got a part time gig delivering phone books. For the kids out there, a phone book was like the Google of the telephone world back in the day. Ancient man scoured these huge scrolls to find phone numbers…and shitty coupons in the middle. So anyway, we used to load up her Chevy Sprint and ride around town dropping these things off. DC in the 80s wasn’t exactly a safe place so some people would lock their gate so that crackheads would have a hard time getting in their yard. My job was to jump over the fence and drop the books on the porch.
(Cue the Behind the Music song)
Then tragedy struck.
I hopped the fence, dropped the book on the porch and turned around to leave. When I play it back in my head, it’s almost like that scene in Boyz In The Hood when Ricky gets shot. I see 5-year old me turning around and then all of a sudden everything goes silent. I’m walking in slow motion with a dumb grin on my face and I look up to see my mother yelling at me and motioning to run like Ice Cube. I look back and see the dog from Man’s Best Friend burst through the screen door. His eyes were on fire, smoke was coming out of his mouth. In my mind, it looked like that dog from Ghostbusters. So, like Morris Chestnut, I started running. Then I remembered that the gate was locked. So I just started doing laps in these people’s yard all the while my mother is yelling instructions out to me, but running from one of the horseman of the apocalypse tends to make it hard to understand what someone is saying. Plus I was running full damned speed. So every lap, I heard a different word.
Lap 13: “RUN…”
Lap 14: “in”
Lap 15: “the”
Lap 16: “house!”
I eventually run up the porch and into the house where some lady grabs the dog and starts cursing at me asking why I’m in her house.
Me (Crying with snot running down my nose): My (choke) mommy (choke) told me (choke) to (cough) run (wheeze) in here. So she goes outside and gets into an argument with my mother who is always ready for a fight and they argue for a good minute while I go sit in the car and just thank little baby Jesus for not letting me die.
But this is just one example. Tune in tomorrow for Episode Two of my Dog Wars, The Empire Strikes Back.
Look, I can’t give you a critique of a movie that I haven’t seen yet. I can’t promise that this movie is gonna be good or that it’ll be at least worth the ten dollars. What I can promise is that if it doesn’t do well then there won’t be another movie like it for a long time.
For those of you who live under a rock… This movie was made by George Lucas and even he had a hard time shopping it around to different studios. You can guess why. With an all-black cast, there isn’t much of a market for this kind of movie. I’m not going down the racism path. The truth of the matter is that people go to see movies that they can identify with in some regard and with the majority of box office receipts coming from people who don’t look like us, I can understand the hesitation to throw $100 million dollars at a movie.
But it happened.
For the first time in a very long time there is an action movie with an all black cast and I want to see more movies like it. If this doesn’t do well, there won’t be another for a very long time. So it’s important that you go see it THIS weekend. Hollywood gauges success based on first weekend sales. It’s important to send a strong message.
Times are tough. I’m broke, you’re broke and we’re barely scraping by, BUT if you somehow manage to scrape by and still get a pair of Concords or drop $80 to get your relaxer then you can spare $10 for this movie ticket. Hell, I don’t care if you’re busy this weekend. Buy a ticket online and just let it go to waste. Consider it an investment. Just please support the film THIS weekend.
Office of Tired of Madea
I’m up making playlists on iTunes and it’s bringing up a lot of old memories. Remember high school relationships?
Most, if not all, high school relationships occurred solely over the telephone. There really wasn’t much time in school to do anything that constituted a relationship besides hallway activities that usually ended with you running separate directions at the first sign of a teacher like a bank heist gone bad.
I remember being nervous when I used to call girls, not because I was afraid to talk to them, but because I was afraid their parents would answer. Calling a girl who didn’t have her own phone after ten o’clock was a crap shoot. Sometimes the parents wouldn’t even answer the phone because once your kid hits the teenage years you just assume the phone isn’t ringing for you. But if they did answer you either got the really cool parent who just put you on hold or you got a congressional inquiry. Who is this? Why are you calling my house so late?
In hindsight, the good parent was the one who asked a million questions. One girl’s mother talked to me for an hour before she gave her daughter the phone, but after that she never had a problem with me calling. The worst were the girls who actually had a father. (That didn’t come out right.) I never had a father answer the phone who didn’t hit me with the Morgan Freeman Lean On Me anger. Why are you calling my house? You smoke crack don’t you? It kills your brain cells son, it kills your brain cells!
I’m gonna be that kind of father.
Whenever you did get to talk to the girl, it was always the same formula. Either you, her or both of you were listening to the radio. Ninety percent of the time The Quiet Storm was playing on the radio and you talked about the most random things. I still can’t understand how I spent so many hours of my life in silence on the phone while both of us watched the same TV show together.
You still there?
Yeah baby I’m here.
Okay. I thought you fell asleep.
Naw. I’m not even tired yet.
I don’t have a clue what kids do nowadays since they have texting and cell phones. Back then, cordless phones were a luxury most didn’t have so you showed your love by staying on the phone while the other person went and ran errands around the house.
I gotta go take out the trash. Hold on.
I gotta use the bathroom. Hold on.
(Black girls) I gotta go wrap my hair. Hold on.
Remember how every couple had a song? Whatever was playing on the radio at the moment you two formally declared that you were a couple turned into your song. And since most relationships only lasted about two weeks, chances were that the same song was in rotation when you started talking to someone else. K-Ci and Jo Jo’s All My Life was my song with four different girls. One girl told me that Tha Crossroads (Bone Thugs N Harmony) was our song.
Eventually the love faded, you lost interest or you just moved on. Thus began the period of…calling me and instead of saying something you just put the phone up to your CD player and play me a song. I broke up with a girl once and for the next three days there was a fifty percent chance that when I answered the phone I was gonna hear:
I know you’re going. I can’t make you stay. I can only let you know I love you anyway. And if the road you take leads to heartbreak somewhere down the line. If someone ever hurts you or treats your heart unkind.
I hung up. Of course the next day you’d see black magic marker scribbled over her notebook where she once wrote
I’m getting more and more upset reading the local news online these days. The crime is getting out of hand, or maybe I’m just more aware of it now that I’m an adult with a family and feel as though I have something to lose. Either way, what bothers me most is that I’m running out of counterarguments to the racist comments below the articles.
Some of it is just people hiding behind their online anonymity and saying what they’d never have the courage or public stupidity to say in person. A lot of it, however, comes from pure ignorance and I’m starting to consider that it might not be entirely their fault. The media has a history of influencing public perception through lopsided journalism that focuses on Black perpetrators, but that doesn’t appear to be the case these days.
DC isn’t as “chocolate” as it used to be, but one thing hasn’t changed and that’s the highly pronounced socio-economic and racial boundaries. DC simply doesn’t have much in the way of a poor White population. Because the city is so small and so much of the land area is federal property, what little remaining private space that remains is highly segregated into an economic dichotomy. Name one ghetto west of Rock Creek Park. Name one pocket of upper-middle class denizens with a primarily White population east of the Anacostia river. There aren’t any. To put it simply: Most Black people in this city are poor while most White people in this city aren’t. Poor people tend to commit more violent crimes, so you’ll see more Black people on the news.
So, how do I defend my race on these websites when nearly every crime reported is committed by a Black person? When the crime isn’t shoplifting from a grocery store but killing someone over $200 Jordans, what do I say? There were three armed robberies in my neighborhood in thirty minutes this weekend. Yesterday someone broke into a house, tied up the family and raped the housekeeper. All of this happened within walking distance of my house. In all cases the suspect was a Black male, mid 20′s, between 5’6 and 5’10, dark hat and dark coat. I’m becoming more upset at the situation in general because more and more I’m starting to sympathize with the White people who cross the street when they see 5’8″ me coming in my black Weatherproof coat and matching Weatherproof hat.