Friday, November 30, 2007

Kid Nation

I have been know to watch a reality show or two (or three). My favorites are "American Idol" and "Big Brother", but I also like BET's "Sunday Best" and I don't usually watch BET for obvious reasons. The one reality show that has me really intrigued is "Kid Nation". At first I started watching because I wanted to see if these children would actually be left alone to run this town by themselves for forty days. Once it was determined that there were adults there too intervene if crisis's arose, I was able to watch the show without feeling like I was contributing to the abuse of children.

The premise is that 40 children were transported to a western town called "Bonanza City" to get the town up and running. In true nineteenth century fashion the town has none of the modern day luxuries. They have to pump their water and bring it back to the town, for cooking, washing dishes, drinking, and cleaning. The town is divided into four districts, the Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green. The town is socially stratified and each week there is a showdown to determine which category each group will find themselves in. There is the Upper Class, the Merchants, the Cooks, and the Laborers. Of course everyone is vying for the upper class and no one wants to be a laborer.

Each week there is also a town meeting in which the town council (one child from each district) votes on the town citizen who deserves the gold star, literally worth it's weight in gold (20,000 dollars). At the town meeting the citizens are asked if anyone of them wants to go home. So far at least three children has found it too difficult to stay in Bonanza City.

I am hooked on this show and I am always in awe of how intelligent, well-spoken, and determined these children are as they attempt to successfully build a city.

The Computer Wins!

The personal computer seems to be the most important invention of the last one hundred years according those who took the poll. I personally would have chosen the television although I do love the computer. My only criticism of both computer and television is that it contributes to certain health problems in children, such as, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. Actually rather than blame the woes of the our children on technology, I should the place the blame squarely on parents who allow the computer, television, and video games to babysit. But I digress, here are the results of the poll.

Television 0%
Computer 75%
Cellular/Mobile Telephone 0%
Electronic Mail 0%
Other 25%

Thursday, November 29, 2007

He's Back!

Imus is returning to the airwaves after a seven month hiatus. I am one who thought he never should have been fired in the first place. Sure he may have offended the Rutger’s basketball team a little bit, but that’s what people like him and Howard Stern are paid to do, ruffle feathers and say the things others might think, but are too socially conscious to verbalize. He’s a shock jock after all. I like knowing where Imus and his type stand because I don’t care much for surprises. I was angrier that he apologized because he didn’t really mean it. He just uttered an empty and obligatory “I’m sorry” to save his job, I do not believe the apology was heartfelt in the least.

I must say I was never a fan of Imus’s in fact I never heard his show. I had seen him on television a couple of times and hurriedly changed the channel because I don’t suffer fools gladly. Can we expect a kinder and gentler Imus and do we really want him to be politically correct? Should he be returning at all? I would like to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thursday Thirteen # 1 - Movies That Are Among My Favorites

Thirteen of my Favorite Movies

I am a firm believer in the ideology that you are not only what you eat, but also what you watch, listen to, and read. In other words we become what we take in though our senses. In my very first TT I am going to share some films I enjoy watching. I hope you find some of them enjoyable as well.

1. American Hot Wax (1978) – Malcolm of “Pop Culture Dish” and I are always saying that this film should be released on DVD. This movie was a wonderful tribute to the man who coined the phrase “Rock and Roll”, Alan Freed and the era that the genre represented. The film is also noteworthy because of the solid musical performances by Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and a host of entertainers. A young Fran Drescher and Jay Leno also star.

2. The Color Purple (1981) - If I am flipping through the channels and this movie is on I cannot turn away. This film is noted for its breakout performance by Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, who were both nominated for an Oscar for their performances (neither won). This film gave us a glimpse of what it was like to be a woman in the Deep South dominated by men. When Sophia (Oprah) rebelled she spent the better part of a decade incarcerated. Still it was a good story for the spirit because good did triumph over evil in the end.

3. Dirty Dancing (1987) – This is another film that I have watched more times than I can count. It is just something about it that remains so fresh too me, I think it is the dancing. Patrick Swayze sure knew his way around a dance floor. There is nothing remarkable about the plot, it is your typical good girl falls in love with the bad boy scenario, with some really corny dialogue (nobody puts Baby in a corner), yet somehow it works.

4. Do The Right Thing (1989) – This is one of my favorite movies by Spike Lee. It is always a treat for me to see Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis together and they were at full strength in this movie. The setting is one hot summer day in “Bed Stuy” New York where racial tension rises until a young man is left dead on the sidewalk. From the opening credits with Rosie Perez dancing to Public Enemy's “Fight the Power” you are engrossed by what is unfolding before you.

5. Friday (1995) – Whenever I want a good laugh I pop in this DVD. My favorite scene in the movie is when the mother has prepared all of the food for breakfast and Ice Cube’s character (Craig) finds out that he will not be getting any. Chris Tucker (Smokey) is also hilarious. [Craig Jones: We ain't got no sugar. Smokey: No sugar? Damn. Y'all ain't never got two things that match. Either y'all got Kool-aid, no sugar. Peanut butter, no jelly. Ham, no burger. Daaamn!].

6. Hair Spray (1988) – The Ricki Lake versions is a favorite of mine. The cast were well known, albeit “B” or “C” actors. I guess I am a sucker for a good musical and this film delivered. The dance sequences are great and the soundtrack is superb. Rounding out the cast was Sonny Bono, Deborah Harry, Pia Zadora, Jerry Stiller, Divine, and a fine performance by the late, great Ruth Brown.

7. I Want To Live: The Barbara Graham Story (1958) – This is one of my favorite movies of all times and my most favorite starring Susan Hayward. The 1958 film tell the true story about Barbara Graham, a petty criminal who is tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Ms. Hayward is gives a stellar performance that tugs at your heart strings. You really care about her and wish her well, though it is not to be. She was the last woman to perish in California’s gas chamber.

8. Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960) – The sequel to “Knock On Any Door” focused on the drug addiction and the disenfranchised among us. The main premise is how a mother and her friends try to insure that her son does not end up like his father. What is more telling is how poorly society deals with the lower class. The film included stand-out performances by Shelley Winters, Ricardo Montalban, Burl Ives, and Ella Fitzgerald (yes that Ella Fitzgerald) as Flora. I don’t see this around very often, but I recommend it wholeheartedly.

9. Malcolm X (1992) – What can I say about this film other than Denzel Washington channeled the spirit of Malcolm X. How he failed to win an Oscar for this performance is a mystery. The transformation from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz was extraordinary. I was mesmerized the entire time. The film featured some excellent work by Delroy Lindo as “West Indian Archie”.

10. Piece of the Action (1977) – My favorite of the three films from the duo of Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. They portray criminals who are blackmailed into mentoring teenagers at the Benjamin Banneker Community Center by a well meaning detective. When they meet the kids, the fun and games begin. The center facilitator/babysitter questions Barbara’s “attention span” and all hell breaks loose. Curtis Mayfield is responsible for the soundtrack which is sung by Mavis Staples of The Staple Singers fame.

11. Sparkle (1976) – Before Fame and performing the Flashdance theme song, Irene Cara was Sparkle, of a trio of sister’s who have aspirations of making it big in the 1950’s recording industry. There is an abundance of hardship along the way, with drug addiction, poverty, and domestic abuse taking its toll before the human spirit triumphs. This film also has a Curtis Mayfield soundtrack, sung by none other than Aretha Franklin. Although I love Aretha, I always thought the songs on the album should have been song by the stars who sung them in the film. I later heard that Curtis Mayfield admitted that he wished he had released the album with the kids.

12. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) – This star-studded film cast included Barbara Stanwyck, Kirk Douglas, Lizabeth Scott, and Van Heflin. This film had some of the best dialogue between the characters portrayed by Ms. Scott and Mr. Heflin. They don’t make em’ like this anymore, the really don’t.

13. Why Do Fools Fall In Love? (1998) – The film was supposedly the true story of Frankie Lymon, who along with The Teenagers was a popular act circa 1950’s. The group disbanded when Lymon went solo and he like many stars of the era became hooked on heroin. Vivica Fox was hilarious as Frankie Lymon’s first wife, the petty criminal. Halle Berry and Lela Rochon were wives number 2 and 3 respectively.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another Young African-American Woman is Missing

Latasha Norman, a twenty year old college student at Jackson State University student in Jackson, Mississippi has been missing for last two weeks. Blogger “The Field Negro” focused on the incident, stating that “she isn’t white so you won’t hear about her…” I tried Goggling her name to see if she had been found, but I did not even get an article reporting that she was missing. I ended up going to only to learn that there is no new information.

My sadness is two-fold. I fear that since she has been missing for so long, there is the possibility that she will not be found alive, which is very troubling to me. It also saddens me that the media is once again disinterested in acknowledging that a woman of color is missing and providing the national attention needed to garner the resources and manpower to actually find this young woman.

I often inform students who take my intro sociology course, that it is a definite privilege to be white and that white life is much more valued than the lives of people of color, be they black, red, or brown. Journalist Gwen Hill describes this phenomenon as the “missing white woman syndrome”, in which all media attention is extended to missing white women (and white children), while people of color get virtually no media coverage.

I feel for this young woman, her family and friends and I pray that she is found unharmed.Anyone with information regarding Latasha Norman's whereabouts is asked to contact JSU's police department at (601) 979-2580 or the Jackson Police Department at (601) 960-1210.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Jackson Reunion Tour

Well it is about time. One of my favorite groups from childhood, The Jackson Five is about to be reunited. According to Jermaine Jackson, the bassist and sometimes lead singer, they are in the process of launching a full-scaled reunion tour with all of his brothers, including Michael. The famed group's last album came in 1989, five years after the "king of pop" left to become one of the biggest recording artists of all time. Jackson said the group believes it has an obligation to perform. "We feel we have to do it one more time. We owe that to the fans and to the public." Jermaine, who was lead singer of the combo in the early days until his younger brother took over, added that Michael has been active in the reunion plans.

Jermaine also stated that earlier attempts to reunite were put on the back burner in the midst of the child abuse allegations against Michael. At the peak of the group’s success, the members in chronological order were Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael. There was no mention of whether their younger brother Randy would be joining the festivities, but I am assuming he will since he recorded with them on several of their later albums. There is also talk that the reunion may actually result in a new album.

I know if the tour comes anywhere near the Dallas area, to quote one of the groups older songs, “I’ll Be There”. Here is a clip showcasing the brothers singing a medley of their hits.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

How To Rent A Negro

Sometimes you stumble upon something that is controversial, yet kind of cool at the same time. A couple of years ago a woman by the name of Damali Ayo authored a book entitled “How to Rent a Negro”. I had the book on my shelf for a while, but never got around to reading it until recently. I found it to be a hilarious and satirical look at what goes on between the races in American culture. The book is set up as guidebook for transactions between the renters (whites) and the rentals (blacks). The premise of the book is that if you are going to be the token black in a situation you might as well be compensated.

Although "the purchase of African Americans was outlawed many years ago," Ayo writes, "black people are once again a valued and popular commodity." In her view, they appeal especially to whites who rely on their relationships with blacks as evidence of their own progressive politics or simply to inject some sorely needed "cool" into their lives. Ayo has in mind real-life versions of George Costanza, the "Seinfeld" sidekick who spent an entire episode in search of a black person whom he could pass off as his friend in a social situation.

Whites like George need not despair that slavery is no longer legal, Ayo suggests. "Those who want to utilize the service of an articulate and well-mannered African American are easily classified as renters. Those who find themselves serving as certified African Americans for colleagues and friends are conveniently referred to as rentals." Her book is a tongue-in-cheek guide to completing such "transactions" with a minimum of fuss. As I mentioned the book is very funny, but it also has a sobering ring of truth.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Lena Baker Story

Tichina Arnold ("Everybody Hates Chris", "Martin") will be starring in an independent film entitled "The Lena Baker Story" about the first and only Georgia woman to be sent to the electric chair. First of all I am totally against the death penalty under any circumstances. The main reason is that it is a barbaric and outdated way to deal with crime. Secondly, it does not deter crime because those who commit crime do not think they will get caught and many people actually do not get caught.

Another problem with the death penalty is that some people on death row are not guilty, which brings me back to Ms. Baker. It seems that this woman was used for sex (raped) by her employer regularly and when she finally got the nerve to fight back she ended up killing him which led to her being convicted (by an all white, male jury) and sentenced to death. Although she proclaimed her innocence, stating that she acted in self-defense, she was executed. Sixty years after her execution she was pardoned by the Governor of Georgia.

Although justice came far too late for this mother of three, her story can help to illustrate what is wrong with the United States justice system. The same problems that existed sixty years ago still persist today. People of color continue to bear the brunt of an justice system that often times simply does not work . Some people say that the time has come to move on and not focus on the past. I beg to differ, “Those who are unaware of history are destined to repeat it" - George Santayana. I welcome any comments you might have.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Boondocks

Anyone that familiar with me knows that I love the "Boondocks" an adult cartoon on the Cartoon channel created by Aaron McGruder. The cartoon is actually a spinoff of sorts from McGruder's political comic strip in which the main characters are 10 year old Huey, 8 year old Riley, and Robert Jedediah Freeman or "Grandad" as he is affectionately referred to by his grandsons. Rounding out the cast is Thomas Dubois (The District Attorney), his wife Sarah, his daughter Jasmine, and Robert's self-hating buddy, Uncle Ruckus (no relation).

Riley is a grifter who is forever trying to get something for nothing. For instance he convinces his grandfather to act as if he is blind in order to reap the benefits from two reality show. These schemes always have a backlash and unfortunately the characters end up in much worse shape than they started.

Huey is the voice of reason in an insane world. He is intellectual, militant, and well-versed. In one episode he is asked to speak at his grandfather's friend funeral. Huey recites poetry from Khalil Gabran, the little brother is DEEP!

There is also the semi-regulars that stop by from time to time, such as, Remy and Ed Wunsler III, a new character called Thugnificent and his crew consisting of Macktastic and Flownominal. Below is a clip from this week'
s episode in which Grandad is introduced to the world of internet dating.

The Twenty Fifth Anniversary of AIDS

There is a movement to promote AIDS/HIV testing between now and February. Organizers of the Black AIDS/HIV Awareness day are asking the public to know their status and get involved in the education and awareness raising process. America could be more diligent in stamping out AIDS/HIV if it had not be for the homosexual implication of the disease. In the beginning AIDS research was not a priority in this country because it was viewed as some sort of punishment for what was considered an immoral lifestyle. Now twenty-five years later, we still do not allow advertisement of condoms on television, unlike England, Sweden, and other European countries.

The powers that be in television do not accept condom advertisements because that are concerned about the backlash from religious and political leaders who oppose public discussions about sex education and birth control. Once again the powerful dictate public policy, which causes the citizenry to be ill-informed, unaware, and unprotected. This attitude will not change in the near future because it stems from a deep and unresolved cultural conflict in American society.

I am interested to know what others think about AIDS/HIV and the issue of condom advertisement in the United States.