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There’s a scene pretty early in the film Looper where a futuristic mobster, played by Jeff Daniels, has a chat with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character. In this conversation, Daniels spends the beginning of it making fun of Levitt’s fashion—his outdated tie especially; I’m paraphrasing but he essentially makes the comment, “Even in this advanced world, you’re still dressing like those old movies.” It’s an interesting moment—both in the film and for me personally—because it points to the fact that with all the advancements made in modern society, high fashion still emulates the Hollywood of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. As someone who’s obsessed over every kind of film I could get my hands on and watch, it’s not without good reason. People still wanna dress like James Dean because James Dean is still the coolest guy in any room and that suit you think you look so dapper in, I’ll bet money on the fact that you wish you could wear it like Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.
I grew up loving movies, especially ones from the 60s and 70s. Saturday mornings were spent by the TV watching weekend double features on the local channels—a time in life that introduced me to Burt Reynolds, Bill Cosby (before The Cosby Show), Robert Deniro and a cavalcade of Kung-fu and Blaxploitation films that helped to warp my young growing mind. I loved these movies and the characters in them like they were close friends and all I wanted in life was to grow up to be like them. They owned their style, 100 percent. Everyone owns a white shirt, but Dean made it his and nobody I’ve seen has worn a fedora and turtleneck sweater as good as Cosby—hell, I don’t even smoke but I still think about smoking a cigar just because of that guy. I know these guys were stars and they had stylists and make-up artists and all types of people who made them the gods they seemed to be on-screen, but that’s a moot point. At the end of the day you can where whatever you want, if you don’t have the flair to pull it off then you just don’t have it. It’s a lesson I learned early on as I started buying my own clothes trying to look like them. I may have bought the right things but I couldn’t make it work for me. (Not at that time at least.) It was especially rough considering that I was trying to dress like actors in the 70s while being a teenager during “the baggy era” in black culture.
Other than the fact that my parents found it deplorable, I never got into that phase because frankly, I just didn’t find it cool. Shirts as long as evening gowns, shorts sagged to the point where you might as well just be wearing pants; it was a dark time for everyone. Meanwhile, I’m still stuck on nostalgia for a time that I never even experienced, watching films like Lady Sings The Blues and Mean Streets, wondering why my own generation couldn’t embrace the essence of cool that Hollywood still obsesses over to this day—and also wishing that I could have just an ounce of the swagger that Deniro had in his younger days. Nonetheless, despite ridicule about the slimness of my jeans or shirts, I carried on (and thankfully enough people got out of that “all baggy everything” phase) and as I transitioned to college and adulthood, I started to discover myself more and more when it came to fashion. I became focused on finding my identity within the clothes I wore and began to deviate from wearing things just because they were popular. This was probably the moment that I realized just how influential those movies were on me; I would go shopping thinking about scenes in Easy Rider or 8 ½ or hell, even The Mack, trying my best to figure out how to take what I liked about characters there and how I could adapt it to my own sense of style—and my budget especially. I may not have it all together but it’s definitely coming together nicely, merging the past with the present and putting my own personal stamp on what I wear. Contrary to popular belief, style is not effortless—it involves trial and error but most of all maturation. Anyone can wear clothes and look good but what makes it yours. I can look at the same exact outfit on 5 different people and it will look different on each of them; clothes don’t make you stylish they only make you trendy. So at this stage of my life, I find myself trying to express who I am through what I wear; and as I still figure out who exactly I am in this post-grad life of mine, I’m also figuring out what to wear. That’s the one thing I think learned most from those movies I spent every weekend watching, you do what’s for you and make your own path.

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On January 22, 2003, Comedy Central premiered a new sketch comedy series by a funny, yet relatively unknown comic named Dave Chappelle. Named simply Chappelle’s Show, it was a modest little production that aired on a Tuesday and, suffice it to say, one of the most important moments in television began. I remember watching the first episode in my room with the sound low, because my parents did not allow me and my sisters to watch TV during the school week. I remember that very funny (and now incredibly dated) opening sketch and I remember that great blooper of that first sketch that followed it. Then, of course, there was the final sketch of the night: the black white supremacist frontline sketch; I was still relatively young at this point but even then I knew how ridiculous this idea was and but I was still too young to fully grasp just how daring of a sketch it was. With it, Chappelle’s Show had already cemented its legacy in the first episode.

Ten years later, it’s hard to watch the show without thinking of it in some sort of pseudo-psychological way. You look for the cracks within the show that led to Chappelle quitting: the symbolism in the sketches, the hints of animosity, hell even Paul Mooney seems prophetic in retrospect. It’s hard to remember how you felt when you first watched the show all those years ago. For that first season, I remember loving it instantly (I also remember being one of the few of my fellow classmates watching) and I remember planning out ways that I could watch it each week without my parents catching me. The second season was even better—in fact,  it’s one of the best seasons of any television series—and suddenly everyone in my school knew every line of every sketch. I knew how great the show was then but, having been a television obsessive at that point (and just being an all-around pessimist), I never felt good about the show’s third season. At the time it was mostly a fear that it just wouldn’t be as funny or as good as those first two seasons but, as we all soon would find out, there was a lot more to it than that. By now we all know the story (and if you don’t, start here), the show was a machine and it no longer felt comfortable so Dave bolted. That’s not what matters believe it or not; despite the controversial ending of the entire series, Chappelle’s show was too good a series and too important a moment to have that overshadow it.

We could argue all day whether Dave should’ve left or not. Was the show getting too big to handle? Maybe, was it dangerously close to moving away from responsible yet extreme social commentary to just plain masked racism? Possibly, did he make the right call by turning down the money and leaving at the peak? It depends on what vantage point you look at the situation. What I do know is that for two years Dave Chappelle captured the world’s attention by putting on one of the most brilliant, important and funny programs to ever air on television. Yes there were the lost episodes that make season 3, and while it had some great moments, it just didn’t cut it—it’s basically The Godfather 3 of the series. Chappelle’s show was a phenomenon and a force; when you think of lil Jon, you’ll think of Dave first (same goes for Rick James, Prince, Wayne Brady and R. Kelly). I still say “game, blouses” and “this ain’t trading places nigga, this is real fucking life! Protect ya got damn neck!” on weekly basis. Charlie Murphy will always be the guy who got UNITY jabbed into his forehead, Donnell Rawlins will always be “Ashy Larry, Marcy projects… Marcy son, what!” Wayne Brady will always be the guy the scariest black actor ever and when a rapper says “turn my head phones up” or some variation on a track, I will forever laugh. When I remember Making The Band, all I’ll really remember is Chappelle’s parody of it; if I actually heard a white person scream “white power” in public, I would laugh because of Chappelle too. Tyrone Biggums, Tron, ridiculous comedy special tropes, Mos Def making bird calls and Dave running out of a press conference when questioned about oil are some of the best things ever, and no matter what Rashida Jones does she’s never more perfect than when she tells her friend all about “some pads that’ll make your flow mothafuckin’ tizight.” At the end of season 2, Dave’s last words were, “we shook up the world!” That you did Dave… that you did.

These past couple of months–in the midst of debates about women’s issues, women’s representations in congress and women’s bodies–I (and I’m sure many others) have been thinking a lot about… well, women. More specifically, I’ve been focused on how we look at women due to popular culture and our own ideas based on years of subconscious reinforcement. To go off on a tangent about every facet of popular culture, laws and attitudes that are clearly dismissive or think lowly of the female gender would be too extensive and complex to get into all at once, so for now I will focus on a specific subject–one that is, unfortunately, the most obvious and egregious offender: Rap. Discussions of the misogyny inherent in hip-hop is as old as time–pretty much anything that is, or started out as, male-centric will always come with inherent misogyny–the reason it continues to be a major talking point seems due to the fact that, in the roughly close to 40 years of its existence, it’s made very little progress. You’d think, with the advent of the internet and the constant flood of music daily, there would be more obvious examples of rap music showcasing voices that were unique and separated from the enslavement roles that have been placed on women (particularly black women), but even today you have to go to the low low depths to find that.

In reacquainting myself to indie rapper Open Mike Eagle’s 2010 album Unapologetic Art Rap, I was reminded with how unique I originally thought it was: from it’s stylistic wordplay laden with pop culture references to its all-out blitz on mainstream hip-hop and the corporate infrastructure that profits over the musical glorification of a black person’s worst attributes and thoughts. This is particularly pertinent with the song “unapologetic”, a 3-1/2 minute ode to the backpackers who “In ’96 they would have been De La Soul fans…” but in 2010, “…It’s My Chemical Romance.” Detailing the ideals of young black men who just want to have fun and create, and the corporate stooges more than willing too profit over it. Standard hip-hop (and black music) complaint; what I do find the most unique  about this song comes near the end:

“‘Cause my little brother never heard of Little Brother
‘Cause all the girls in their video kept their nipples covered
The only ones he can discover
Are the ones that please Viacom’s executive nigger lovers
So it’s another monkey-po gimmick
Sambo videos with country crows in ’em
Middle school virgins playing run-and-go-get-it
‘Cause they memorized songs about nuttin’ on women.”

This then leads to a bit of a rant about how “cool” it is that the most popular song out at the time contributes the line “superman dat hoe” which, for those not in the know, is essentially a euphemism for ejaculating on a young lady. “Real good message for the young ladies” he says. The first time I heard this I felt a sense of both pride and shame: pride because someone finally said it and shame because I knew that I was just as much part of the problem as those rappers being referenced. Most of us are part of the problem, and the ones who aren’t, God bless you, I’m truly jealous. For most of my life, my generation (as well as the ones after) has been inundated with images of pure sex. This is no different than most generations before us, but what made us unique was we were at the beginnings of the internet age. Sex came from every avenue now. No longer did young males find themselves enamored by dirty magazines like playboy or hustler, now the raunchiest of things was but a mouse-click away. We became numb to it and as a result, we upped the ante–to the point where rappers could make songs about ejaculating on women.

The problem with society and pop culture’s view on sex is it’s mostly (in most cases completely) unfair to women. It, more or less, perpetuates a hatred of women. Rap songs champion girls who act loose,  or are open about their sexuality or are just plain down to fuck whenever and wherever; at the same time, these same songs attack women who aren’t these things by labeling them as “stuck up”, “bougie” or “bitch”. Men write songs about having sex with any woman they want due to their fame, while lambasting those same women for only wanting to fuck them because they’re famous. Society has taught us to hang onto an archetype that says men are this way, women are that way and we should accept it. A whole social enterprise has been made of exposing the percentage gap between the number of men and women in the world, by insinuating that men should do whatever they want because “why not? There’s less of us than you, so you can either except it or be alone–which we know you don’t want to do because of your natural “emotional” state.” This is further capitalized by then exposing this idea by advertising dismissive “relationship manuals” that more or less apologize for this behavior but offer no real advice on handling or fixing it.

In a struggle to keep up with this heightening of sexual obsession, television (music video channels especially) have gotten dirtier. The most obvious example was the BET staple Uncut, a showcase for rap videos to hot for TV–featuring both underground rap artists, as well as some of the biggest names in the game at the time. Chances are when you think about Uncut, you remember the infamous “Tipdrill” video by Nelly. A video so hypersexual and demeaning that it proved to be the tipping point that led to the show’s cancellation, and the ensuing protest by students of Spelman University led to a stall in Nelly’s then skyrocketing career. This is nothing new, MTV used to get in the same kind of trouble during the heyday of 80’s glam rock where women were nothing more than lust objects either writhing around on sports cars or being fetishized like baked goods.On Ab-Soul’s fantastic mixtape Control Systems, He uses the track Double Standards to take aim at a mindset that puts a man and a woman in the same scenario yet congratulates the man and ostracizes the woman. “See the moral of the story is… she a ho, he a pimp” he raps, “My auntie told me always treat my lady right, my uncle told me only love ’em for a night, you can see the immediate disconnection, between a man and a woman, the reason for aggression. A staple as old as time, boys being raised to continue this trend of using women anyway we feel like while teaching women to behave “proper” and “lady-like” lest she shames the family name. What makes rap so interesting is that it’s a hyper version of what’s happening in our world. It’s hyper-aggressive, hyper-masculine and it showcases the anger and hatred of women inherent in us as men. When I say anger or hatred, I don’t mean it in an active sense. I don’t hate women, nor do I think these young men do; what I do know is that a hatred of women is in us subconsciously because we’ve been raised not to think of them as people–and their pursuit of rights and respect are bringing that hate out. If you’re familiar with the bottle episode trope used in television, you know it puts the main characters in a room together for a whole episode to bring out the tension that’s been boiling over. The hip-hop/top 40 pop club is a classic example of societies bottle episode: put people in a room together, mix in liquor for good measure and watch the tension between men and women boil over. There’s aggressiveness and well, let’s face it, a lot of sexual assault taking place–that’s its own article for another day.

This piece isn’t about bashing men or how terrible we are, nor is this an opportunity for meto act high and might about my progressive thinking. As I’ve said before, I’m a shameful pawn in this as well; I’ve absorbed hours of this stuff, I’ve lusted, I’ve been aggressive… and angry with women. My itunes is filled with misogyny. I’ve bought into generalized gender roles and fed off of the ideas promoted by music, TV and movies on how to regard women. Yes, I’m more than aware there are exceptions to the rule–there are awful women out there, because there are awful people out there period–and not everything is a man’s fault. This isn’t about blame or individuals, this is about an infrastructure. That’s the biggest problem with trying to talk to people about this–about anything really: racism, sexism, ageism, social class, etc.–is that people can’t understand that ideals are built into our society. It’s not enough to say we’re equal because it wasn’t ingrained in us to be so. Mindsets don’t just disappear because you wake up and say “ok everyone equal now.” There are no easy solutions–there never are–but it’s important that we talk about it. I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman and it’s silly for me to try to pretend that I do or that someday I will… my goal is to understand where they’re coming from and just treat them like the human beings they are. This is how I want to be treated as a black male and I’m sure this is how others want to be treated. I’m trying to do better with my issues personally; I hope others are too, especially in rap… because nobody–regardless of race, gender or anything else–deserves second-class treatment.


I find Girls to be a pretty enjoyable show. The idea that it’s such a polarizing program is mostly laughable. There’s nothing really “offensive” about it–the lives of over-privileged white girls slumming it because their parents won’t give them more money, that’s a pretty damn safe premise.  Most of the vitriol (and praise) it is just a tad unnecessary.

Calling it one of the best new shows on television doesn’t really say much (I mean it’s closest competition is probably Veep) and calling it a “great” show seems a bit much. As I stated before, it’s enjoyable–it even has moments of greatness–but it always struck me a show just shy of being a favorite of mine. Something about the construction of the show doesn’t click with me enough–and it isn’t because I don’t relate to it, I don’t give a shit about that–I think I just find it hard to care about Lena Dunham’s “Hanna” character.

The detractors of the show, while making some valid points, go just as overboard. If you don’t like a show that’s fine; entertainment is subjective and people have opinions. The idea that this show deserves some sort of special hatred pedestal is ridiculous. As far as the whole “no ethnic people” issue, well here’s the thing: the criticism is deserved but let’s not forget that this is a show about over-privileged white girls written by an over-privileged white girl. She’s writing what she knows, and while she herself admits that there is a level of responsibility to reflect reality, it seems to me that the New York of Girls is just another reflection of a life she’s led. That’s not to say she doesn’t know any black people, that’s just to imply that it’s probably a limited experience.

With that being said, much like with The Walking Dead, I will be tuned in to the new season. Hoping that this likable show becomes lovable and that the characterizations get a little better than they were in season 1. Here’s hoping.

Here’s the thing.

I’m obsessed with death almost to a fault. This is mostly due to my serious fear of it and my lack of real understanding about how you can exist and then not exist for a way longer time. With that being said, I lost a relative this week. What happened doesn’t matter and we didn’t get to be as close as I would’ve liked but that’s the tragic undertone of life I guess. As someone who obsesses over pop culture, there were two pieces of entertainment that pervaded my mind this week–as they always do when I think of death: Sufjan Stevens songs and Synecdoche, New York.

Released in 2008, Synecdoche, New York marked the directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman, the absurdist manic writer behind such films as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. The film follows the life of Caden Cotard (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) as he spirals ever closer to depression and death while losing loved ones and trying to use a MacArthur Fellowship to fund the greatest living and breathing theatre piece ever made.

When the film was first released it was incredibly polarizing. People celebrated its embrace of the despair in life while others find it to eager to be the grimmest portrayal of reality. Truth be told, both views are right. it’s an often times overwhelming piece of art on life and death that borders on depression porn; it’s messy, exhausting and relentless in its presentation and, upon first viewing it, I really wasn’t sure how to feel about it–I was pretty sure I didn’t love it though. Then a strange thing happened: I kept thinking about it. It was on my mind heavily for a long time after viewing and I eventually bought it on dvd and watched it again. This is when I realized that I did love it–and still love it. What this says about me, I’m not sure but what I do know is that, for all it’s rough edges, Synecdoche makes for a wonderful thesis on death. It’s relentlessness is a great asset to it as well. If you can watch Cotard’s life crash in oblivion until his death and still walk away even feeling a little bit better about your own mortality then I think some real personal progress is made. Knowing what I know about my relative who passed I remember why I was so turned off by the movie in the beginning. As much as I hate the sappy redemption story, I feel that an extreme opposite story is no better–but it is more realistic. Maybe shit doesn’t get as bad as it did for Cotard but it does get bad, and no amount of happy endings can gloss over the abysmal affair that is death. I may never get over my qualms about death but I do have an almost child-like appreciation for life.

So R.I.P to my loved one, I’ll remember you for how you were and I hope that you’ve found true peace.

The Muppet Movie provides the central theme of 2013–well for myself anway. I revisited it recently this past Christmas eve and the more I think about accomplishing goals and following some sort of path to a better life, the more I think back to this movie (it totally holds up by the way).
Released in 1979–between the third and fourth seasons of The Muppet ShowThe Muppet Movie provides the backstory of what brought the gang together on a journey to Hollywood to become rich and famous. Kermit is but a frog, living in the swamp, singing and strumming a banjo, who is approached by an agent, fascinated by his talent, and motivated to pursue a career in show business. Kermit, inspired by this idea, sets off on a cross-country trip to Hollywood, and along this journey to the land of 1,000 fake body parts, he meets new friends like Fozzie Bear, Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem, Gonzo, Camilla the Chicken, Swetums, Rowlf the Dog and future beau Miss Piggy.  All the while, they’re being hunted down by a Colonel Sanders-like, bumbling villain Doc Hopper and assistant Max in an attempt to convince Kermit to be the new spokesman a French-fried frog legs restaurant (which is seriously not cool dude).
The movie has everything you could want from a film meant to appeal to children and adults: Jokes galore, meta-references, winks to the audience, emotional depth and western style showdown, Steve Martin and Richard Pryor (because why the fuck not), fun and engaging music, Mel Brooks Mel Brooksing it and the appearances of muppets from other Jim Henson vehicles. Speaking of which, the ending to The Muppet Movie is great for the nods it gives to Sesame Street, Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas and The Land of Gorch (and, you know, Rainbow Connection). It feels like Henson’s whole life has built up to this moment. This movie–and the success of The Muppet Show–came after years of toiling away in mostly obscurity, save for a cult following of devotees. From an early career making 5-minute puppet skits for local televison, by the name of Sam and Friends, to his work in commercials, tevelision guest appearances and children’s specials, to finally garnering real success with his work on Sesame Street–and also Saturday Night Live. By the time of The Muppet Show, it was clear that all that grudge work and time paid off and he created a force bigger than himself. This is what makes that ending in The Muppet Movie so poignant; It’s a timeline of what got Jim Henson to this place in our hearts.
The Muppet Movie, if nothing else, is a film about following a dream against all odds. Poetic? Sure. Unrealistic? Maybe. Embraceable? Most definitely. Look, nobody’s gonna believe that you can take a cross-country trip to Hollywood, barge into talent agent Orson Welles office and get a “rich and famous” contract on the spot–that’d be foolish, but foolish is what you gotta be sometimes to follow any dream you might have. I wouldn’t have this blog if I wasn’t foolish enough to believe it might go somewhere for me. Yes, the ever-pervading idea that I’m wasting my time and am destined to sit behind a cubicle, pretending to work, will always be there but fuck if I won’t try anyways. I’ve spent the past two years going through the 5 stages when it comes to a sustainable career in writing, I’m fully at acceptance of whatever happens now. Whether I make it on my own cross-country trip is left to be seen but for now… well, there’s the rainbow connection: the lovers, the dreamers and me.
But if you do happen to have a “make your dreams come true” contract, hit me on the email bro.
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