Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 2009 Roundup, Part 2

July 2009, as it happens, will also go down in history as part of the summer when the nation declared open season on Hipsters.

Nobody seems to have come up with a definitive description of what exactly a hipster is or isn't. It seems rather like what the GOP used to say about pornography, "We know it when we see it." The term itself has gathered a rather broad, catch-all, meaning, becoming the most overused (and mis-used) word since Yuppie." I have, over the years, been inaccurately called a yuppie, presumably because I am white, middle-class, and work in an office. Whatever...

Everybody seems to know what a hipster is though, and rarely has any word describing a fairly innocuous idea been thrown about with such a degree of derision. Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, is now world-famous as the hipster equivalent of the Borg Collective headquarters. I was speaking with a client on the west coast, who when she found out I live in Brooklyn (a place she has admittedly never been), asked if I were a Williamsburg hipster. No, I replied with a laugh. I am a nerdy, middle-class salesman and a dad.

It wouldn't be honest to say though that I haven't had a few laughs of my own at the expense of shaggy-bearded, tattooed, pierced, mutilated and otherwise affectedly freaky looking people. Don't get me wrong! I have a fondness for freaky people. I'd prefer that they are more than freaky looking, but who am I to judge. Self-expression is a sacred entity and let those who wish to, go at it wholeheartedly. Every so often though, I allow myself some cruel fun.

And in that vein, here is a site that I've had a great deal of fun with lately, which was first sent to me from my dear friend in Pakistan (yes, it's gotten all the way out there too!):


Ah well, it is what it is. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 2009 Roundup, Part 1, Appendix B

"I'm not going to spend my life being a color."

Yep, I'm going there...

"It don't matter if you're black or white."

Here are two lines that have been quoted out of context as often as most popular excerpts from the Bible.

We are going on more than two decades now of discussion on Michael Jackson's supposed race and gender dysphoria. I won't speak for the latter, but the business about race sticks in my craw.

Consider this: Michael Jackson, like most people born black in a Eurocentric world, never once experienced the luxury of NOT being judged as a black man. I don't buy that he tried to escape it with plastic surgery, skin dying and hair straightening. Millions of other people go to great lengths to alter their appearances and rarely does anybody accuse them of being ashamed of their race... unless of course they happen to be black and famous. It's not like the accusations didn't come from all corners, and all races. There seemed to be a universal condemnation and throngs rising up to say, "Michael Jackson is ashamed to be black."

Was he?

An aside: There have been an awful lot of people over the years involved in the discourse of "what it means to be black." Conversely, there has been an awful lot of discourse in recent decades, when North American demographics are changing, on what it means to be white. Pat Buchanan is really big on that. Rush Limbaugh is really big on that. Think about it...

I will say right here that I have no business whatsoever discussing what it means to be black. You know why? Look at my picture. More white people might want to consider that. There is little more irritating than a roomful of white people discussing race and racism. It is not uncommon that if a non-white person amongst them challenges them on any aspect of the discussion, they take great offense.

Yet I'm also uncomfortable hearing black people accusing other black people of not being "black enough." Think about that for a moment and those whom you've heard lumped into this group--Bill Cosby, Bryant Gumbel, Colin Powell, Michael Jackson, and perhaps many of your friends. (****plug here for the documentary Afro-Punk**** which you should see) White people get in on this humor too. I will slap the next white person I hear call someone Uncle Tom. Seriously...

A thought from Thurgood Marshall which may lend perspective. Upon his retirement in 1991 he was asked about progress in race relations in the United States, and how he felt now traveling in the South. His response was that there was no single place in the United States, North or South, then or now, that he ever had to look at the back of his own hand first to be reminded what color he is.

I can't speak for Michael Jackson and his views on race. I know one thing: There came a point in his career when his videos were supporting MTV and he found it necessary to go before them and threaten to ex-communicate them if they continued to refuse to play other African-American artists. Being a supporting musician in the Power Station and the Thompson Twins was about as far as they had ever gone. I figure he didn't have to do that.

This isn't even really about Michael Jackson though. It's about us. Michael Jackson was only ever judged as a black man, no matter what he did cosmetically. I can't, despite any misgivings I may have about him, believe that for one instant he didn't recognize that. I don't believe there was shame... at least not about that. We all, white, black, brown and yellow, judged him as a black man. Let's be honest about that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 2009 Roundup, Part 1, Appendix A

A placeholder--my last missive came across as far more angry and embittered than I had intended. Just wanted to say quickly that I have no ill will towards Michael Jackson nor his fans. None whatsoever...

It's really just a question of frustration at the celebrity death phenomenon and media-driven cult phenomena in general. I was laughing when I wrote the last business but there is much to say related to the public discourse of the last several weeks.

But that requires time, and that is a limited commodity at the moment. Watch this space.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 2009 Round-up, Part 1

Forgive me Father Google, it has been nearly a month since I've blogged...

Blogging is not unlike making confession in that the longer you go between confessions, the more there is to talk about. I suppose it is also not dissimilar in that it often seems as futile as farting into a hurricane wind because it doesn't really matter all that much anyway.

You can read the news though. Nothing at all has happened in the last month, except for one huge event. The summer of 2009 will go down in history as the summer that not a single thing happened except for Michael Jackson dying. Watch the news if you think I'm lying!

I actually made a vow not to mention it at all. What can I add that hasn't been picked over ad nauseum by every news outlet and every last person you know? That's a hard call, but I'm going to say something that probably won't go over well in light of Michael's post-mortem resurrection and deification. Cover your ears, oh ye faithful.

Fuck Michael Jackson. I was impressed when he danced backwards, but that was 25 years ago and the man had no bearing on my life in any single way. Genius? Get a grip! Humanitarian? The jury is out on that and you damn well know what I'm talking about. King of Pop? Whatever. He entertained a lot of people and now he's dead.

What I'm going to say next may be more unpleasant, but it's the honest truth. I have not heard a single person say a single nice thing about Michael Jackson in more than 20 years. I've heard nobody even discussing his music in a positive light and let's not even get into his personal life! I'm not talking about just the ever-false celebrities who have all come out singing his praise. I'm talking about friends, co-workers, acquaintances.... I've heard NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON utter a single kind word about the man.

Until now that he's dead.

So seriously? Fuck all of you too. I love some of you, but you are lying. As much as the media who picked on his bones while he was alive is now profiteering upon his demise, there is a friggin' trailer-load of dishonesty on every level.

More on the Michael Jackson phenomenon in the next post... I've got a lot to say and it ties into some other thoughts.

And please understand that this is more light-hearted than it sounds. I'm mostly laughing.