Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Video Of The Week

For years, my friend C. and I have been mocking R&B love songs that offer literal, step-by-step previews of the night ahead. Besides being unintentionally hilarious, the songs are often bossy (Don't tell me what color dress to wear!) and ridiculous. All night long? No thanks. I've got an early conference call.

I have C. to thank for unearthing the satirical gem "Ooh girl!," which is the perfect answer to years of goofy sexual braggadoccio in song: "I apologize in advance. I can probably give you seven minutes if you don't move around too much."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

R.I.P., Swagger

I remember the precise moment that the word "crunk" jumped the shark. I was still a newspaper journalist, and a colleague was writing a story about a popular college event in town. One of the quotes in the article contained the word "crunk," and the editors decided that the term needed elaboration. It was a perfectly reasonable decision, but when the article ran the next day, I knew the word's days were numbered.

I think we can all agree that the death knell for "swagger" is its use as the name of an Old Spice product. Even LL Cool J as a pitchman can't make this work. Granted, swagger was a legitimate word long before it began peppering hip-hop songs and youth lingo. But in recent months, we've been treated to a Swaggapalooza courtesy of T.I. and Soulja Boy, who downsized it to "swag." (I love how putting words in quotation marks makes them extra unhip, like when the Curtis comic strip writer makes references to "rap" music.) It was great while it lasted, but once Madison Avenue gets its hands on something with a cool factor, the expiration date is just around the corner.

If I were a single man, I wouldn't want to get caught with this in my medicine cabinet, no matter how good it smells.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Death Blows

Might as well put this out there: My dad died on Thursday. We were not close, and at this point, he'd been out of my life longer than he'd been in it. The last time I talked to him was about a year ago, and it didn't go well. Dad was as troubled as he was brilliant, which is to say very. He was good at talking; the listening, not so much.

Like most people who lose an estranged parent, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel. There is sadness, of course, but also long stretches of utter blankness and confusion. In a way, I was long done mourning his absence from my life, and I am (mostly) finished being mad about the chaos he caused when he was present. Frankly, it's probably easier to forgive miserable parenting once you have children. I'm not making excuses for him, but there are days where I'm acutely aware of how hard it is to show up and be present for another human being, day in, day out. It's exhausting. Life couldn't have been easy for a black man with a master's degree in South Georgia almost 40 years ago, and without going into too much detail, my father had internal struggles that I understand all too well.

But still. By the weekend, I was firing off bitter emails to by brother and sister about things I thought I was done with. My sister, in classic fashion, wrote back, "I see someone is rolling right through the stages of grief. You always were an overachiever." And just like that, I thought about the handful of good things that we did get from him, like a wicked sense of humor. His sarcasm used to get on my mother's nerves, and now she's stuck with three adult children who have raised it to an art form. Sorry, mom.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this except to say it's been a deep-thoughts kind of weekend — but I will not, under any circumstances, write a poem. Gotta draw the line somewhere.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oh, Coldplay, You Hurt Me

It's not always easy being a Coldplay fan. Sure, they've sold a gazillion records and have made some of the most gorgeous rock tunes of the last decade, but they're an easy target for hipsters who think they haven't been any good since "Yellow." One of my favorite music critics mocks them mercilessly. Plus, I have a lot of friends who love themselves some Radiohead, and you really don't want to get them started. (Example: My dear friend B. refers to Coldplay as "a photocopy of a photocopy of Radiohead.") And like a chump, I always take the bait and waste my breath defending Chris Martin & Co. as makers of artful yet accessible music, then launch into a diatribe about how there are far, far worse bands, and why don't people pick on them, goddammit.

Anyway, I was oh-so stoked when I got tickets for Coldplay's Viva La Vida tour stop in Tampa. Then somebody in the band got sick and the show was postponed. When friends started saying, "Dude, sorry your show got canceled," I got all shrill: "Not canceled! Postponed! It's not the same thing!" Well, it's officially canceled. After weeks of speculation, Live Nation began sending out the sad, sad emails about refunds.

Guys, how could you do this me? All summer long, I listened to friends' ecstatic reports about seeing U2 and Incubus and Bruce Springsteen, patiently waiting for my moment — mine! — to hear "Cemeteries of London" and "The Scientist" live. This is the thanks I get for (pointlessly) rebuking the naysayers? You don't call yourselves COLDplay for nothing.

Of course, you'll release another CD of soaring anthems, I'll eventually get to see you play live, and all will be forgiven. In the meantime, those tweets about your awesome gigs in (insert European city here) aren't helping me heal.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Noise pollution

While we were in Atlanta last weekend, we met a friend of our in-laws who is from Ghana. She met President Obama when he was in Ghana over the summer, and she's a fan. The conversation eventually turned to American politics and the hoopla over health care reform, and she asked me a question I couldn't really answer: "Why are people so angry? I don't understand."

I muttered something about a segment of people being wary of anything that smacks of "socialism," even if they couldn't define it at gunpoint. I also explained that the complexity of our current health care delivery system makes it difficult to have an informed, coherent conversation about reform, and that people are frightened in hard economic times. But the more I talked, the more I realized that none of those arguments explained the vitriol or the naked rage we'd been seeing on the news.

I feel compelled to say that it is absolutely OK to disagree with Obama's health care proposal or any of his proposals. Rock on. Dissent plays a huge role in our nation's history, and it's nice to live in a country where it won't get you thrown in jail, or worse. But the town hall meeting shenanigans and the congressional heckling and the protect-our-kids-from-Obama sentiment and the commentator fear-mongering have nothing to do with policy or ideas.

Back in my hometown, the city school system decided not to let students watch the president's speech because doing so would take 18 minutes out of the school day. Really? When I was in high school, it was routine for pep rallies to last two class periods during football season. But a speech about staying in school and taking responsibility for your education is too distracting. Right.

If my reaction to all this appears delayed, it's because I'm genuinely troubled by what the "health care" debate has revealed. Or maybe it hasn't revealed anything so much as reminded us of that thing's presence, however diminished it might be.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dispatch from Dragon*Con

I'm in Atlanta attending Dragon*Con, my first-ever comic/sci-fi convention! It's all sort of overwhelming, even with the husband as my (his words) "assistant." Everywhere you look, there are people in incredibly detailed getups, and they're all more than happy to pose for photos. I'll definitely post the best when I return to the ranch. The coolest thing is seeing whole families in costume and getting into the spirit of things. As for me, I'm perfectly fine in my Star Wars T-shirt. The Stormtroopers I posed with certainly appreciated it.

Highlights? Definitely meeting the wonderful George Perez and Darwyn Cooke. In addition to being wildly talented and influential, they're both kind to their fans. Oh, and I got to pose with a blinking, chirping, mobile R2-D2 unit. Not a bad way to spend Labor Day weekend.