Monday, December 6, 2010

Ban This, Lousy Bastards

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and all that David Blaine crap. But that stuff bores me. So instead I’ll tell about last month when I went to Philadelphia.

I had a morning flight out of O’Hare. But not too early. That would kill me. People think that because I run I get up really early. But I don’t. I really don’t. Anyway, I got to the airport with plenty of time, and the security line was a breeze. If you really wanna know the truth, I kind of like the airport and security lines. I mean it. I really do. You get to see all types of jerks—unless you’re one of those bastards who have their own jet. God I hope you’re not one of those bastards.

I spent most of the flight eating my bananas and reading some corny book. The guy who sat next to me kept mumbling something to himself about leaving the foils on the subway. Crazy sunuvabitch. You would have liked him though. You really would. He wasn’t one of those goddamn jobbers who yaps your goddamn ear off the entire goddamn flight. I can’t stand those bastards, I really can’t. I think they should have non-talking flights. I mean, if nobody can smoke on the goddamn plane, nobody should be able to talk on the goddamn plane. All that yapping could interfere with the plane’s communication signals or something.

The first thing I did when I got to Philadelphia, I rented a goddamn car. They gave me a Dodge something. What a lousy car. The only good thing about it was the goddamn satellite radio.

I didn’t have anything special to do, so I decided to drive to Camden, New Jersey. I saw 40 guys in the middle of this one street, wearing their caps with the peaks to the back and to the side, horsing around, shooting the crap and drinking eightballs. I thought about asking them if they know where all the ducks go in the winter, but they seemed like the type of guys that might get sore about it—so I didn’t.

After driving for 300 goddamn years, I checked into my hotel back in old Philadelphia. Boy, what a room. It had a kitchenette and two flat-screened televisions and a bed with 800 pillows and everything. You could even order Super Nintendo games and play them through your goddman television if you wanted. I thought about ordering Super Punch—Out!!, but you have to be in the mood for that type of thing. Instead, I had a drink and watched Teach: Tony Danza on two goddman TVs.

The next day I went to the wedding that I came out to Philadelphia for. For Chrissake, you really didn’t think I was one of those phony bastards who just goes to Philadelphia because they goddamn feel like it, did ya?

At the reception, I had a couple of cocktails and chewed the rag with this guy at my table. We talked about old Schopenhauer and his goddamn suffering. Just for the hell of it, I asked the guy if he knew where the goddamn ducks go in the winter. He said the ducks didn’t need to go nowhere because it was always sunny in Philadelphia. What a prince.

The last day of my trip, I didn’t have anything real special to do, so I decided to do some pull ups. People never do pull ups. I swear to God they don’t. They’re always too busy raving about life or trying to imitate characters from coming-of-age novels they read in high school.

My flight back to Chicago was freakin' grand. I finished that corny book. And when I got home, I almost gave Ol’ Dirty Bastard a buzz. But he’s dead. That’s all I’m going to tell you about.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I’m No Bruce Willis

Have you heard of "the illusion of upward social mobility"? According to this idea, the social class that you are born into is the social class in which you will remain. In other words, the American Dream of starting from scratch and making it big is a myth.

Maybe this explains why I work in the dairy cooler at a grocery store. It may not pay much, and the hours can be unfavorable, but it’s an honest paycheck—and in a world where occupation and ascribed social status are synonymous, it may be my destiny.

The thing is, when I think of destinies, I think of self-sacrificing heroics, like jumping into a volcano to save the dinosaurs or what Bruce Willis does at the end of Armageddon, not hourly jobs. But, as a recent Pew study reports, destinies, as thought of by 72% of wireless Internet users, are as much practical as they are heroic. Bruce Willis did not just fulfill his duty as a hero. He also, quite pragmatically, saved Earth and the human race.

Now, I’m no Bruce Willis. Statistically speaking, that guy is average. I think I’m more of an outlier. Practicality seems to out power the heroics of my fortune as a dairyman by about 10,000:1. And this is fine with me. I’m a practical guy. My job’s pay and status align well with my lack of desires. I won’t want a car payment. I don’t want a dog. I don’t want to save Earth.

My not wanting of things and predisposition to working in retail became apparent when I met Dennis. Dennis and I met in front of the dairy case. I made a baba ghanoush recommendation. He made a playing card disappear. The next thing I knew I was in an unmarked business complex interviewing with his boss for an opportunity to sell Tupperware insurance.

BOSS: If you woke up tomorrow and didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do?

ME: I’d probably run a little, read some, and keep busy by working somewhere where I had access to food.

BOSS: Sooooooo, you’d do the same thing you’re doing now?

ME: ...Yeah, I guess. (Though there would probably be a considerable more amount of time dedicated to grilling vegetables and listening to Eazy-E records, be he didn’t need to know that.)

Unimpressed with the promise of making big money and a difference in the world by way of plastic container protection plans, I decided that getting solicited for a life path by an amateur magician in front of the humus display was probably not the best way to upgrade destinies. So instead, I went one worse by checking in with family members who had no idea what type of fate I was looking for.

My grandma, who made a life out of taking jobs that nobody else wanted, told me that Best Buy was hiring. I told her that was fantastic. Then I told her that I already had a retail job.

Understanding my lack of interest in a lateral move, my mom gave me a napkin with a web address scribbled on it. “Check this out,” she said. “This guy said they are looking for good people.”

I checked it out. It was a job posting for a senior-level helicopter repair technician. I imagined myself in a baby blue jumpsuit wearing a tool belt that held really tiny hammers and saying things like “Here’s our problem. The rear hemi axel blade is low on trans capacitor fluid.” I daydreamt a little more, hoping that the helicopters I would get to work on would be of the stealth variety, but then I reminded myself that my publishing internships probably didn’t qualify me to fix flying vehicles, let alone flying vehicles that could disappear.

With family leads shot, I revisited Craigslist—and though it may be great for finding slightly-used, third-generation, 4 GB pink iPods with minor scratches, I don’t recommend putting much stock in the ‘pin the tale on the destiny magic 8 ball’ app. Mine kept coming up as Assistant Manager at Nike Outlet Store (aka no thanks, but will reconsider in 6 months).

Only after this series of events did I realize that this was just the Societal Godpeople’s way of getting me to accept my vocational decree. And with that, I'm able to strut to my aluminum-encased, 30-degree office, taking solace in the fact that the Government won'’t be calling on this guy to save the planet when the jig is up. Hopefully, they’ll call Dennis. I heard he’s good people.

Friday, July 30, 2010

An Open Cover Letter to Lil Wayne

July 30, 2010

Dwayne Carter
Best Rapper Alive
Eric M. Taylor Center (AKA jail)
10-10 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370

To Mr. Carter:

I am writing to apply for the Young Money Associate Fan position posted on Yahoo! HotJobs. My interest in this position is based on the following objectives:

1. To aid Young Money Entertainment in providing the highest quality music imaginable
2. To further my career in educational publishing

As a practiced fanatic, I have the background and skill set that is necessary to support your record label’s positive image during your prison sentence. Key qualifications for my candidacy include an online certification in Youth and Money Studies, experience commenting on YouTube videos, and an overall mastery of the entire fanatic process.

In addition to 2 plus years of accomplished zealotry, I also possess the killer instinct to ‘penser de façon originale' (that's French for 'think outside de box'). As an Intern Fan for Gucci Mane, I Simpsonized an image of Gucci and made it available on CafePress. This idea alone generated a bottom line revenue increase surplus of $26.70 for the Gucci Mane/OJ da Juiceman 32 Entertainment estate.

If that's not convincing enough, know that I own five variations of the “FREE WEEZY” t-shirt, and I wear them all the time as a testament to you being the political prisoner of our generation. I even have a tattoo with your name across my chest, and my girlfriend is jealous because I talk about you 24/7.

Weezy F Baby, I am confident I can help you, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and that other guy continue to be on every single song on the radio. Please contact me to discuss this in more detail.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Young Money 4EVR,
Meta Physics

P.S. I think I’m an alien too!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

You Can't Blog Your Way into Heaven

I don’t like writing. Many people find this odd. After all, I have a blog. But to me, my reluctance to writing is perfectly logical. I don’t like it.

It hasn’t always been this way. I used to like nothing more than to write. In high school, I was recognized for my ability to write about grapes. In college, I started my own news publication.

Then I reached the pinnacle of the writing world—I became a blogger, eventually blogging on the highest level, the Internet. There, reality began to tear away at the fantasy world I had created, making me exactly like anyone who’s ever thought something was a good choice and then found it’s really not (e.g., the grown man who performs Britney Spears showcases at family parties; the kids who major in communication more than once).

I dreamed of the day that I would share a cyber space with like-minded grocery clerk revolutionaries, basking in the expression of hackneyed ideals, only to find that the only parts of our minds that were alike were the ones devoted to bananas and barefoot running.

Big deal, right? So my life is a lot like everyone’s. Who cares? Except that, in the example I live, the loss of innocence is even more pronounced.

So, after weeks of cultivating the public image of a devout born-again-in-waiting, I have decided to reveal to you some of the putridity that I’ve long known to exist. And I do so with the utmost benevolence. But prepare yourself. What I’m about to tell you is something that even a one-hour Pat Robertson interview couldn’t ever hope to do.

Blogging is escapism. It is the opiate of lost souls. Blogging does not help people grapple with the big issues of existence and purpose. That’s what watching LeBron James play basketball is for.

Oh, sure, there are those who disagree—those who paint blogging as participating in some type of democratic, synergistic woo-ha. And sometimes they are right. Sometimes, blogging achieves something close to truth, justice, and beauty.

But let’s be honest. Most people blog because they don't have King James in their life.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Interview with Tavis Smiley

Bad news. The tape of my interview with Tavis Smiley was stolen before it could air. Thank goodness for transcripts...

TAVIS SMILEY: Good evening from Los Angeles. I'm Tavis Smiley. Tonight, we continue our "Brilliant Minds" series in a conversation with up-and-coming gospel music sensation Meta Physics. Meta, we first met a couple years back at an inspirational music convention in San Diego. You've come quite a ways since. A top-selling debut album, televised concerts—what can we expect from you next?

META PHYSICS: I gotta new album coming soon, very soon. I’m just waiting for Dr. Dre to finish up ‘Detox’ so we can go head-to-head in first-week sales. Music been hurtin', so him and I decided to bum rush all your ear holes at the same time. Drake was supposed to be in on it too, but dude got scared.

TAVIS: And I hear you’re taking some cues from Ice Cube?

META: Yeah, we just starting working on a movie project together.

TAVIS: What's the film going to be about?

META: Well, Cube wanted some 'Are We There Yet?'' remix thing, but I convinced homeboy that we should go for something less risky and more familiar. So instead, we wrote a classic coming-of-age tale of a grocery clerk who decides to become a hitman.

TAVIS: Speaking of hits, some aspects of your work are arguably hardcore and uncharacteristic of gospel music. Case in point, the EP you released last year is an entire record dissing Kirk Franklin and God’s Property. The gospel genre is not usually known for producing public feuds amongst its artists. What made you decide to go this route? And why Kirk Franklin?

META: The Lord guided me this way. Kirk Franklin and I used to be tight. He’s the one who got me an audition on Sunday Best. But then he started creepin’ on my girl Roxanne Roxanne. He’d tell her that I wasn’t about positivity in the community and all this other stuff that just wasn’t true. So I was like, you steppin’ on my game, Imma step on yours. Eye for an eye—just like the Good Book says. That’s when I hollered at my man Michael Eric Dyson for some of that motivating epistemological apartheid fire.

TAVIS: But you and Kirk Franklin are both gospel artists. Doesn't this feuding run contradictory to the popular messages of the genre?

META: T, I bring the church to the streets. Plus, as a man of God, I have a responsibility to these kids.

TAVIS: Can you elaborate on this responsibility?

META: Uknowhutimsayin’.

TAVIS: Not entirely, but you mentioned that you worked with Michael Eric Dyson, a friend of mine. Are there any guest appearances or collaborations on the new album?

META: Yeah, Dave Hollister is on the album. Fred Hammond. And then I’ve got a church banger with Spice 1, Justin Bieber, and Swizz Beatz.

TAVIS: That’s quite a diverse roster. Might your efforts of musical amalgamation come from your upbringing as a jazz man? As I understand it, you’re closely connected to Chano Pozo, the great Latin jazz percussionist.

META: Yeah, my third cousin on my sister’s mechanic’s side is friends with the son of Pozo. Plus, I own like five albums by The Roots.

TAVIS: Good gosh oh mighty! You know, as a kid, I would always imagine myself playing in a…

META: (snores)

TAVIS: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about the reactions you’ve been receiving for the antics you bring to the world of gospel music. The beef, the diss tracks, the controversial videos not unlike the ones aired on BET: Uncut. There are those who are saying that you need to redeem yourself both as an artist and as a man. How do you respond to this criticism?

META: Redeem myself? Pleeeaze, I ain’t no coupon. All I got to say to the haters is that Meta Physics is running this mutha (bleeeeeeeeeeeeep) gospel game. Kirk Franklin, eat a (bleeeeeeeeeeep). God’s Property, eat a big fat (bleeeeeeeeeeeeep).

TAVIS: That's our show for tonight. Thanks for watching and, as always, keep the faith.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Film Review of 50 Cent's 'Before I Self Destruct'

50 Cent’s latest album, Before I Self Destruct, is awful. In fact, aside from Eminem’s guest spot and the artful 'Baby By Me,' this CD should be sprayed with bullets.

But when musical content doesn’t measure up, it allows for other parts of an album to shine. For example, I didn’t care for Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2, but the cover art and liner notes for that album were first-rate. 50’s Self Destruct cover art? Not so much (it’s a Photoshopped headshot of him looking like an “as is” floor model of a T1000).

The sub-par music and art of Self Destruct don't matter though, because the album—or at least the version I checked out from the library—comes packaged with a movie, aptly titled Before I Self Destruct, in which 50 stars, writes, and directs.

In this poignant piece of cinema, 50 plays Clarence, an ex-streetball superstar who, after his mom is shot dead and he loses his job as a grocery clerk, decides to become a hitman. In this role—and especially in the scene where he tells the grocery store manger that he can read—50 separates himself from other rapper-turned-thespians (e.g., Will Smith and Mos Def) by showcasing his raw talent as a gifted method actor. A true student of Stanislavski, 50 outperforms everyone in the film, even Lloyd Banks.

50’s writing and directing are also superb. The film’s complex narrative and innovative mise-en-scène are that of a young Orson Welles, and the use of the Self Destruct album as the film’s soundtrack has Clarence listening to 50 Cent (which, because both Clarence and 50 are fictional, is brilliant). Also, in classic griot fashion, the film ends on a powerfully symbolic note with Clarence dying in a gunfight and his younger brother addressing the camera with the line: "I can't lose nuthin'. I got nuthin' to lose." Like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, this ending is bound to stimulate discussion in undergraduate film classes for years to come. If 50 keeps this up, he'll be on his way to auteur status—something that even Diddy doesn’t have.

Before I Self Destruct is more than a film. It’s an avant-garde social commentary disguised as a movie in which an artist named after a coin faces the ultimate moral struggle: whether or not to kill for lots and lots of money.

Bottom line: 50 and his directorial debut are genius. It’s his best work since Formula 50 Vitamin Water. And he didn’t have to lose 50 pounds to do it.

Watch the 'Before I Self Destruct' trailer.

Friday, May 28, 2010

John Galt Wore Pro Wings

As a kid, my parents always bought me shoes from Payless. This is how I uncovered the connection between Ayn Rand and Kris Kross. Let me explain...

It was a BOGO, and my parents thought it would be a great idea for me to get two pairs of the exact same shoe. Do you know what happens when a ten-year-old has two pairs of the same shoe? He wears both lefts to school. And yeah, he plays it off to his friends as intentional and all that mucho macho mess, but he still ends up getting yelled at by the powers who thought that the two-pair thing was a good idea and, as a lesson, is forced to label the inside and outside of his shoes L1, R1, L2, R2.

With stylistics like this, it was no surprise that everyone on the block looked to me for artistic expressions of moral purpose. Sweatpant cut-offs, PlayStationed shoes, socks higher than Method Man on Jamaican Airlines. I was warming it up and showing those fascist suckers how it was done. I didn't need Jordans or Pumps. I had Pro Wings.

But going into 6th grade, I succumbed to the peer pressure of statism. So I saved up, tossed the generics, and bought a pair of Reebok Classics. Did the new shoes detract me from my self-interested ways? Not when I was still secretly wearing girl’s jeans. What up Ms. Rand?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Of Books for Women

The other night a friend was scanning the bookcase in my shared office.

“Are these books yours?” she asked.
“No, those are my mom’s. She’s really into Zizek, KRS-One, and cyborgs.”

Of course, I was kidding—my mom hates cyborgs. But is it that farfetched to believe that she’d be into Lacanian psychoanalysis and boom bap philosophy? Not when she (giver of birth) is currently reading the autobiography of an Olympic snowboarder, and I (finisher of marathon) am reading a book on the female brain.

Some might think this opposite book thing is cool—and it is cool to hear your mom’s take on 50 Cent’s new self-help title—but when company is over and spots a copy of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough or The Go-Girl Guide: Surviving your 20s with Savvy, Soul, and Style, and they find out it’s mine, it can get weird.

“Wait, you’re reading that?”
“Actually, I just finished it.”
“You read the whole thing?”
“Yeah, I read the whole thing.”

At this point, I usually walk into trouble. I try to explain that I’m curious about how I, post-postmodern man, am being represented in this literature, something that is not targeted toward me, but which, in a way, is very much about me. Though it never comes out that way.

“I’m really into things that are not for me.”
“Like things that are for women.”
“Yeah, especially younger women and girls.”
“You’re into younger girls?”
“No…you…damn it...that came out wrong.”

Awkward justifications aside, I find these books very insightful. For example, in Marry Him, Lori Gottlieb writes that marriage is not about metaphysics. How true! Marriage should not be about some dairy guy who works out at the playground.

Throughout my savvy, soulful studies, I’ve also discovered three universal truths.

1. Males and females have different parts.
2. Only females can give birth.
3. Females tend to write more about the differences between males and females than males do.

Someday, if Mr. Barely Enough ever decides to show up, I plan to turn these truths into a book of my very own. And if the genre has anything to say about it, you can bet the cover will be painted with pinks and reds and that the title will not match the content inside. After all, according to Gottlieb and friends, I exhibit many of the characteristics of a stylish, independent woman—and stylish, independent women write books. Yay! And rawr.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pop Pop for Beginners

In '94 I was listening to a lot of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. I think everybody was. Between Thuggish Ruggish Bone and Foe tha Love of $ being some of the most requested jams on The Box—and I being 13 years old—it was hard not to.

One of the joys of listening to Bone was trying to figure out what these guys were saying (as anyone who has attempted to transcribe and decode a verse by Bizzy Bone can attest). But one Bone line that did not require an attuned ear was “pop pop.” This one was obvious. Pop pop was the sound of gunshots, as in, “We rippin' them guts with buck shots, pop pop.”

Per George Gerbner, my friends and I adopted pop pop into our everyday communication. We said it when Craig knocked Deebo the fug out, and we used it as trash talk when playing Samurai Showdown. For us, this phrase functioned not so much as the sound of a firearm but as the ultimate synonym for "in yo face!"

Over time, my use of pop pop faded. High school, college, marathons. All pop pop-less.

Years later, in grad school and in need a break from reading about Derrida (who, like Bizzy, requires a lot of decoding), I threw on some Bone, as those who need breaks from Derrida often do. The voices of Krazie, Lazie, Bizzy, Wish, and Flesh took me back to my adolescence—a time when I read comic books that were not about philosophers.

With Bone back in my life, the Bone-izms returned.

“What’s that?” Marj asked, referring to the two-count slap as we drove over a speed bump.

“It’s my antenna hitting the roof. Pop pop.”

Moral of the story? Language changes. The word "awful" was once favorable. Pop pop used to be rap lyric gunshot—now, it’s one of Derrida’s undecidables. People use it to describe sounds their cars make (ok, I use it to describe sounds my car makes), and cereals use it as their last line of defense. Pop pop is both accurate and un-accurate*, and neither accurate nor un-accurate, at the same time, both in the shower and out.

*Un-accurate is a Meta term. If Derrida is allowed to make up words, so am I. Pop pop, Jacques.