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Here’s my issue with depression: It’s a tricky little bugger. There are those who obviously have it, those who think they have it and those who don’t even realize they have it. That third thing is the one I have the most trouble with. Depression shouldn’t be a “maybe” thing, it should just be definite. None of this is to say that I have it or might have it–if anything I just have bad mood swings–this is merely me talking about something that I spend too much time thinking about. If you’ve read this blog enough, you can probably gather that it’s directionless. Like most of my life at this point, it aims to do something but is not exactly sure what… not yet at least. So it just kind of meanders about from topic to topic occasionally presenting itself as… well, “readable” would probably be the most appropriate word. This is all one long, convoluted way for saying sorry there’s no set schedule to these posts; the truth is they come in when they can. Currently, I work a 9-5 to pay bills while I try to turn the writing, photography and editing I do on the side into a business, I write for other blogs (speaking of which my Great Gatsby review is up on one of them now) and I’m helping another (much, much better) artist follow her dreams with a web series she’s created (seriously, go check it out). I try to make time for this when I can because it’s the only time I can be at peace. The internet, in all its chaotic and spastic glory, can sometimes be the best free therapist and analyst (or analrapist) and that’s what this is all about for me: therapy. Right now, I’m in the moment, chasing something that I’m not quite sure what it is or if it’s even real, but I’m chasing it because I spent a year doing nothing and that was a much more depressing time.

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At its core, Room 237–the recent documentary that aims to present the different hypothesis of what Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was all about–is a film about the mind and how it works. It’s about how people take in information and interpret it to fit their worldview. It’s not just about conspiracy theories for a 30 year old movie but about why conspiracy theories are so attractive in the first place. Directed by Rodney Ascher, Room 237 takes on a number of The Shining’s perceived meanings as presented by different Kubrick enthusiasts, meanings that connect the film to things like: The Native American genocide, The Holocaust and “faking” the moon landing to name a few. A lot of it is contrived and flawed but all of it is interesting which, again, speaks to the power of a conspiracy. There’s a need for things to be more that a shallow surface. I love The Shining but I didn’t need to read into it too much to do so, for others (such as those in the movie) there had to be more to it than what was on screen for them to find it worthwhile. By 1980, Stanley Kubrick was already a revered figure in cinema; an almost movie-diety, who lurked in the shadows writing, researching and obsessing over each project he worked on. Even before his death he was more myth than man–a legend whose work begged to be dissected and deconstructed. That’s exactly what the talking heads of Room 237 do: break the movie apart and look at all the pieces. Even if you think (or just KNOW) that all of these theories are silly or coincidental, you can’t help but get sucked into it. The great thing about conspiracies is there’s always just enough given to you to make your argument sound right in your head. In other words: you can always find what you’re looking for–especially if you look hard enough. The magic of the conspiracy is it gives your inner paranoia traction, it feeds your personal sense of superiority for being ahead of the foolish “sheep” and, most important of all, it feeds into your own outlook of the world. There are a lot of things in The Shining that I think are deliberate and there are other things that are just there. I don’t think I’m right and they’re wrong, if anything I think we’re both in the general area. Room 237 refers to the room where Charles Grady, in the midst of severe cabin fever, had his wife corrected, it’s the room that Dick Halloran warns Danny not to go into and, as one Kubrick enthusiast proclaims, it’s the number of the lot where Kubrick filmed the space landing (allegedly). That’s part of the fun really, rewatching scenes in the movie while each theorist narrates what it all means; seeing people point out the inconsistencies of different scenes and different aspects of the movie and trying to argue why they’re there on purpose. It’s all great to sit through and, in a lot of ways, makes the documentary more sinister than the movie itself for the simple fact that it all makes sense to some level. My favorite theory is the Native American genocide on: it holds the most weight and is the most interesting. But the eeriest one had to be the idea that the film was meant to be seen forwards and backwards, not because the idea was eerie but because, one commenter super-imposed the films together and watched it and began pointing out moments thast seemed to match up perfectly. It’s equal parts chilling and awesome. If you watch it enough, all the conspiracy theories attached to The Shining make some sort of logical sense–hell, when I rewatched it I came up with my own conspiracies just to do it and found that it made sense–and that’s what beautiful about a conspiracy, no matter how batshit it may be, if you commit your mind to it enough they puzzle pieces will fall to place. The idea that nothing’s going on is a boring one; there’s always something going on. All you have to do is think outside the box; or in this case, the mythical window to nowhere.

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I’ve been  in love with movies since I was a kid. I loved every aspect of it: storyline, characters, art direction, cinematography, score… all of it. When I started getting into message boards and reading more books about the process, an influx of films I never would’ve known about came into my life at the right time and my appreciation for the film process grew tenfold. The first time I watched Dr. Strangelove I was astonished  by how well the silliness of it could be balanced with the seriousness of the subject; when I watched 8 1/2, that was the first time I truly felt hypnotized by a movie. The Royal Tenenbaums made me truly revere the detail and nuances that should go into filmmaking and the first time I watched The Seventh Seal, I questioned everything I thought I knew about in life. Over the years I’ve continued to appreciate the filmmaking process–especially as it’s started to make a huge impact on television–but my interest in actually watching movies have waned. It happens I suppose, when you go hard at something eventually you tire yourself out. When Roger Ebert died this past week, I started to think about the impact he made to industry and how much of a standard he set for writing about film. When I was a kid, I watched him and Siskel on At The Movies, It’s the first time I can remember truly caring about film and wanting to talk about it in a similar manner. At some point I lost that spark in me and it’s truly a shame that a man’s death had to bring me to the point where I get serious about it again. Nevertheless, that’s where I’m at; ready to bask in the escapism of cinema and connect to the first thing I ever loved again. RIP Roger Ebert: you truly set a standard that other critics and writers can only hope to achieve.

(photo courtesy of elitedcmag.com)

So here’s the thing: Modeling is hard. I’m not being facetious, I genuinely mean that. Well ok, maybe hard isn’t the right word–it’s tough I guess one could say. At any rate, the point is it’s not easy. There’s pressure in the air, tension afoot and it’s essentially one big, fancy endurance test of sorts. I should start from the beginning, I worked backstage for a fashion show last weekend–Fashionably Loud DC to be specific–using it as an opportunity to entertain my interests in fashion and to dabble in something I’m only partially experienced for. I was not ready for this at all, but I think I handled it like a champ.

Given what we (we being the other backstage helpers, the models and the designers) had to work with it well better than one would expect. The biggest trial I had to deal with was the models getting in and out of their clothes. Some payed me no mind, some felt a little uncomfortable. Both reactions are valid: I wasn’t about to be THAT guy at this time, yet at the same time, there really is no way for me to argue that I should be in there–it’s more than professionalism or trust, it’s about comfort. I think I handled it well all things considered, but then again, I can’t see my own face.

The actual clothes themselves were interesting: from simple sets of evening wear to more experimental showcases. Much like most fashion shows geared to the black audience,  the sets seemed almost trade-like. Not so much worried about being provocative or abstract but mainly geared toward showing off things ready to be bought already–which is fine. Sometimes, simple is the way to go. A worthwhile activity for sure and one that served to better get me out of the trappings of my comfort zone. Also, I fell in love. I don’t know her name but I know she looked like Whitley Gilbert and when she did her walk in a full out wedding dress, I never wanted to recreate this more than at that moment.

I’ve been pretty under the weather these past two days (Thanks bi-polar Washington weather!) and, as a result of not being physically motivated to move much, I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking. One of the thoughts that seems to worm their way into my psyche often is figuring out what exactly this blog of mine is, furthermore, what am I hoping to gain from it–if anything at all.

I still don’t really have an answer for you, I just know that I want this to be for me. For me to escape the banality of a so-far unfulfilling life by writing snark-like and candidly about whatever is on my mind or whatever I learn about from different outlets. This is far from a perfect place; really it’s just a place for me to zone out when I need zoning out from real-life (which, who doesn’t?). Ultimately, I hope if you decide to read this at any point it’s because, at some point, I said something that made you go, “me too.”

I mean that’s all we really want as humans right? For someone to understand where we’re coming from.

Genius is an incredibly relative term. We apply it to people who are skilled at a craft and we use it so much that it doesn’t really mean anything anymore. Everybody is a genius according to themselves and the 2-3 douchebags that they converse with–all you really have to do is have a rudimentary knowledge of any subject (or a really mediocre knowledge of EVERY subject) and you can be considered a genius. As a result, now more than ever, the power of the faux-intellectual is as strong as the stubbornness they apply to their ill-conceived notions. Faux-intellectualism would be endearing if it weren’t so pompous, arrogant and loud. It’s not enough anymore to secretly believe you’re the smartest guy in the room (like just about everyone does anyways), it is now imperative that we exercise our advanced theories of modern life at any given moment. who needs peace and quiet at a restaurant when you can endure a boisterous young go-getter breaking down the problems with the American government and social welfare programs and how, shit is like, not as good as the ’60s, you know, that awesome time that’s so awesome that they can talk about it’s awesomeness despite not being born until the ’90s. Maybe it’s the fault of social media that nobody believes in humility or just fucking keeping things to yourself and the few people willing to indulge you; maybe it’s the idea continuously perpetuated by schools and parents that kid’s voices and opinions matter and are special. Regardless, it’s always been my belief that you should always have enough self-awareness about yourself to know that there’s a chance that you could be wrong–and if you know you’re right, you better have the tactical knowledge to prove it. I only know three things about humanity: 1) We’re all animals with self-awareness at best 2) pie tastes pretty good 3) I don’t really know anything. I will always be a student at life and it’s getting kind of annoying dealing with a bunch of assholes who think they’re professors. I went to college and dealt with asshole professors for four years, I’m not here for you tools whose intellectual babble is the equivalent of a 7th grade writes-upon-request paper.

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.


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