Monday, June 30, 2008

Chess boxing

What would happen if you mixed the sweet science with the game of kings?

Chess boxing.

Yes, that's right, chess boxing. It may be stupid, but it really does exist. Doubt it? Well, they even have their own website.

So there.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The James Earl Jones Alphabet

When Darth Vader speaks, you best listen.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Negro Hulk

So, I've always been a big fan of the Incredible Hulk, but I'll have to admit that I was never a bigger fan than when Hulk turned into a Negro. That's right. A Negro. Sometime in the late eighties, Hulk caught reverse vitiligo, his skin darkened, and he got super smart (and cool as hell!). Some may call his behavior, for lack of a better word, well, Nigrish, because he moved to Las Vegas, started carrying a beeper, and chased a bunch of White women around.

G-Unit, my ass

When I saw this cover with the shotgun and the chips and the ladies and the dollar bill tie...well, let's just say it pushed the right buttons in my adolescent mind. The storyline goes that although Hulk is smarter and able to control Banner, his skin is sensitive to sunlight (?) and he's physically weaker. He goes to work as a casino bouncer for a mobster named Berengetti, who renames him "Mr. Fix-It."

He was Biggie before Biggie was Biggie!

And if there were any question about the Hulk getting to "smash" in the movie, no such ambiguity is found in this version.

"Who is this paging me at 5:46 in the morning...?"

And of course...
Kool Moe Dee says: Three days later, go see the doctor

Negro Hulk, you will always be my hero.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hulk Smash? Most definitely.

My man Rion did a great post the other day on his blog about the new Incredible Hulk and how, in the movie, Banner can't get laid because whenever he gets (sexually) excited he turns green and violent. It's funny because I purposefully didn't read Rion's post before I saw the movie because I didn't want to be influenced by his reading, but this movie is definitely a freak fest.

'Sup, girl?

To Rion's assertion that Betty should just have sex with Hulk, just so he'll chill the funk out, I pose the following query: Who's to say that Hulk didn't in fact "smash?" The movie is pretty vague about what happened after Betty called him in out of the rain and they both laid down. Next thing you know, it's morning time and she's laying on top of Banner. Who knows what happened? Banner sure don't. One of the things I liked about the movie was the way it showed both the pleasurable, and horrifying, side effects of power.

The Jesus Juice Cure!

Banner is shown both loving and fearing the awesome power he wields. Betty seems similarly captivated. Is it just me or doesn't Betty look awfully disappointed when Banner says he's trying to destroy his bigger, greener alter-ego? Hulk would definitely get it on with Betty, but Banner always seems to get in the way, so the only person Hulk can express his emotions to physically is a big, sweaty, male, beast. Poor hulk.

Damn, Michael Chertoff was in the movie!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Five Pearls of Incredible Hulk Wisdom

1. Giving Hulk a shield in this movie was a stroke of brilliance. In the last movie, Hulk was just a raving lunatic. Now he's a misunderstood super soldier with an anger management problem.

2. Early on in the movie, Banner's on the run in Latin America. He's jumping from country to country and ends up down and out in Mexico City. It tugged at my heart strings to see a White man being brought so low. I could tell it was tough times when the little Mexican boy thought he was a begger and gave him some pesos (I guess the dollar isn't worth what it used to be). How humiliating! I almost teared up, but I did a breathing exercise. I'm aight now.

**NOTE: Want to do a fun experiment? Try putting the keyword "Mexican" (Not safe for work) into Google image finder (without safe search on.) This is the third highest result:I wonder what the Google algorithm is trying to tell us. And yes, I put in "Black man" (definitely not safe for work.) Trust me, you don't want to know.

3. Is it me, or is it not such a big deal to see US soldiers blown up in a movie nowadays? Especially the cartoon movies. In Transformers, it was shocking to see Decepticons slaughtering US soldiers in the desert. Forget about an IED, our soldiers are safer in real life than they are in the movie theatre. What's more troubling is that the films don't emotionally involve us in the death of the troops. We're used to that kind of treatment for the usual "enemies" in the movies--like angry Negroes, or crazy Arabs, or crafty Asians, but to be cheering along the hero as he kills good-ole-American troops apart is surreal.

It was a sad moment in Ironman when the troops died, but not enough to keep Tony Starks from jeopardizing more soldier's lives. Hulk takes it a step further. He plucks a helicopter out of the air like it was a mayfly and sends men hurtling to their deaths. It's kind of scary that as a moviegoer, in that moment, you don't even care. And if anyone has forgotten, there are soldiers dying--for real--as a result of a military experiment gone horribly wrong.

4. And isn't it a little creepy the way these movies depict the military industrial complex? They make Tony Starks--an arms dealer for goodness sakes!-- into a hero and SHIELD is made into the Department of Homeland Security on steroids. Quick question: Where was Nick Fury when Katrina hit?

I hear they're making a new Shield movie, but I'm going to have to pass if they cast Michael Chertoff in any more films.

5. Besides the Incredible Timroth, there is an even more potent wielder of super power in this movie: Betty Ross.

Take special note of when and how the weather changes in this movie. Here's a hint: Whenever Betty (Liv Tyler!) wears a white top, she causes it to rain! Maybe I've still got Lord of the Rings on the brain, but she's got some power. Storm, chile, get out the way! When this woman takes her coat off, the clouds churn and out comes the wet stuff. She could be the Muhammad Ali of wet T-shirt contests!

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin on the Ten Commandmants

George Carlin is dead, y'all. One of the smartest comedians of all time is gone. In the tradition of Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, he was never ever afraid to go there.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Slavery By Another Name

If you haven't peeped it, you definitely should check out Stephen A. Blackmon's excellent new book, Slavery by Another Name. The book documents the age of "Neo-slavery" that funded American expansion in the post-Civil War period up until WWII.

As the US raced towards industrialization at the turn of the century, the South was still a major source of raw materials, like cotton & steel, that the country desperately needed. There were machines to be built, train tracks to be made, crops to be picked, and fortunes to be amassed. The South had built much of it's economic infrastructure with the slave labor model and corporate interests saw little reason to change the status quo. A system of "peonage" was developed to arrest newly-freed Black men on bogus charges, like "vagrancy," and send them to "work off" fines through forced labor. Although working conditions were horrendous everywhere, some of the worst were in the steel mines. This was especially true in light of the fact that there was little to no government oversight and Black life was considered cheap. Slave miners were forced to work without proper equipment, clothing, food, or medical care. Forty-five percent of the men who went into the mines never came out and tens of thousands either lost their lives or were permanently disabled.

Although Blackmon's book is exhaustively researched and provides an extensive account of the economic and political forces that contributed to this form of slavery, he effectively ties these larger dynamics to the personal accounts of those caught up in the web of this system.

In 1901, John Pace and his wife Nora were in their twenties, had two kids, and had their own cotton farm near Goodwater, Georgia. Not bad for people who had been considered property just a few decades earlier. But, the Paces struggled to both pay rent to the White owners of the land and have enough to feed and clothe their family. And then Nora took sick and had to stay with her parents. When John went to visit his wife, he was arrested on bogus charges by a local constable and sentenced to work off his fine in a steel mine in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. John survived and was later able to testify against his captors, but many others weren't so lucky.

Slavery by Another Name should not only be required reading for those interested in the history of Black folks in America, it also illustrates some of the frightening ways that unchecked political and corporate interests can exploit the most vulnerable members of society. This is even more important these days since Amnesty International estimates that the modern day global economy benefits from the forced labor of 27 million people. Scary, but true.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Atomic Dog is... of the greatest videos ever made. Off of his Computer Games album, George Clinton was still blazing trails in the eighties. Overton Loyd won an MTV award for his cartoon work on the video, which was also the inspiration for Indiana Review's Funk feature flip-book cartoons on the bottom of the page.
This song brings back memories for me because when I was a freshman (C/O '96!) at Berkeley High school members of the football team started calling themselves the Atomic Dogs. Lead by one of biggest guys in the school, Jihad Akbar (who, come to think of it, kind of looked like a dog), they held impromptu step shows in the school courtyard with a boom box blasting this song. Seeing those brothers stomping in the yard, I was in complete awe. I get a similar feeling when I watch this video.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Funky Snapper: Diem Jones

The newest issue of Indiana Review features the work of Diem Jones, AKA Fladimir M.S. Woo, a poet, musician, and producer who served as principle photographer and art director for the P-Funk organizations in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

He was responsible for the Uncle Jam Wants You cover, among others and for some of P-Funk's more elaborate stage shows. His own work can be found in Sufi Warrior, A Collection of Words, and his poetic musical CD collections Black Fish Jazz and his current CD, Equanimity. He also wrote a book, #1 Bimini Road, a photo history of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic in the 1970s. He's got a new book and CD, called the Wizards of Ra, coming out later this year. Jones is also heavily involved in arts advocacy, with VONA, and others.

And if you ain't hip to the stage show, check out the following. (Hint: the Mothership returns somewhere around the 9 minute mark.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tiger Funk

Back when we we're soliciting writers for the funk issue, I talked to Tayari Jones on her blog about Funk and she gave me some names and asked about who was and wasn't funky. I said that Tiger can be funky at times, despite himself. Well, Tiger was definitely funky at the US Open today.
Tiger had knee surgery recently, but it obviously hasn't kept him from handing out a beatdown. The only difference now is that he's got a harder pimpstroll than Goldie.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Prediction:

They save Bill Russell's ring. 94-93, overtime.

Update: Looks Like the ring is not safe yet.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Richard Pryor Alphabet

...that's the Z of the game.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

George Clinton's Funky Drawers: Pedro Bell

The new issue of Indiana Review features art from the original P-Funk cover artists, including Pedro Bell, who may be the most well-known and controversial. I'm not sure how to describe his designs, but usually they are kind of kinky and weird and grotesque and funny. Kind of like P-Funk itself.

This cover was from Funkadelic's The Electric Spanking of War Babies album (1981). Okay, so basically that looks like a space penis with a naked woman inside being spanked. I'm not sure what more I can add, except that this cover ended up getting heavily censored by Priority records.

This is from the Hardcore Jollies album (1976). This album is funky and weird and bluesy and spacey, kind of like the cover. The title track, with it's refrain, I can hear my mother call, is freaky when you take a look at what's actually going on on the cover.

This cover is from Funkadelic's , Standing on the Verge of Getting it On album (1974). According to an interview Bell did with Rocktober magazine, his designs seem to be influenced by Funkadelic, but he was never "told" what to create. Bell writes about his influences on his Myspace page:
My favorite books growing up were Genesis and Revelations, which somehow inspired me to become obsessed with science fiction. This led me to become fascinated with machinery, and subsequently, automotive technology. Though my teenage interest in sports cars may have been typical, my rabid studies of the infamous car customizer Ed “Big Daddy” Roth (who combined cartoon and horror imagery with automotive design) profoundly affected my outlook on life. When my high school art teacher told me that my painting projects followed a surrealistic theme I looked up Salvador Dali, and went on to study other artists and movements (especially Dada).
For this issue of Indiana Review, Bell contributes, Motherhood in Red, Black, and Green, that he did in his pre-P-Funk period. If you look real close, Bell uses this really cool pointillist technique in this painting that uses all kinds of little dots and circles. Now, I may be tripping, but I wonder if the Afroed woman in this picture is at all related to the ones that keeps popping up in all these covers.

So how did the art of P-funk affect hip-hop art? Well, take a look at Pedro Bell's work and compare it to art from Outkast's Stankonia, Southernplayalisticadilacmuzic, and Aquemeni albums.

FYI: If you want to get your hands on a copy of Indiana Review's funk feature, you can now order it online.

***Update: Check out Misstra Knowitall's interview with Pedro Bell

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Funkentelechy: the Funktoon

This is so ahead of it's time it's ridiculous.

The Art of Chess Boxing

The most effective means of avoiding actual work is online chess. No matter what you're doing, chess has the ability to make all else feel insignificant, which is what you want in a good distraction. It looks RZA has gone ahead and for real started an online chess club for the hip hop set, Wu Chess. The site went live last week and looks decent (although the snapshot of the chess pieces looks terrible). According to their website, Wu Chess is a part of a larger initiative by RZA to popularize chess with the youth, and the populace in general.

Now, I ain't trying to hate, especially on a brother doing something positive, but I wonder about this business model. The one-year membership costs $48(!), which seems kind of senseless. The best thing about a site like Yahoo chess is that you can play a lot of different players for free. People aren't used to paying money for stuff online, so I'm wondering who's is the target audience for this? And what happens to my one-year membership if (when?) the site closes down in three months? And it says you will have the opportunity to learn from "REAL chess masters". I'm wondering who this will be. Suddenly I have an Old Dirty Bastard flashback: I teach the truth to the youth. I say, "Hey, youth, you better start wearing bullet proof.

But, I wouldn't necessarily bet against the RZA. If he can go from Prince Rakeem to Bobby Digital, anything is possible.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Overton Loyd funks a building

I'm not sure when this took place, but I found a video of O-Dog giving this building a laser-assisted funklift.

Monday, June 9, 2008

George Clinton's Funky Drawers: Overton Loyd

Overton "O-Dog" Loyd put in overtime for Indiana Review's funk feature. He's literally got work on every page of the section. If you haven't noticed, down at the bottom of the left-facing pages, there's a breakdancing lowrider/Funkmobile, he did our cover, and contributed a piece that starts off the art.

So, who is Overton Loyd? Well, he's a Funktoonist. He was one of the original cover artists for Parliament/Funkadelic and, like Pedro Bell, Diem Jones, and Stozo da Clown, helped develop George Clinton's Funkmology.

The character on our cover, Sir Noze, actually was produced as a collaboration between Loyd, George Clinton, and other members of the band. Story goes, one day everyone was hanging out in a hotel room on the road and someone brought in some clown noses and started passing them out. After that, as you can imagine, people started clowning. Loyd was drawing Clinton with one of these noses on and Clinton liked it. He asked him to throw a pimp hat and a cape on, someone else named the character (think Cyrano de Bergerac), and Sir Noze D'Voidafunk was born.

According to P-Funkmology, Sir Noze places himself in opposition to the forces funk, personified by Dr. Funkenstein and Starchild. Sir Noze is unable to walk under water wihout getting wet and it leaves him a frustrated and bitter man. He doesn't want to be moved by the power of The One, so he does all he can to destroy Starchild. Loyd said Sir Noze is kind of like Darth Vader, Dr. Funkenstein is Yoda, and Starchild is, of course, Luke.

This story is relevant to our Funk feature because it describes the degree to which Funkmology is the product of a unique collaboration between lyricists and visual artists. In the issue, we're hoping for a similar interaction between the visual and the written. I think the artists pull this off brilliantly (in my unbiased opinion, of course). But you don't have to take my word for it.

*Cue Reading Rainbow music*

This cartoon, from The Motorbooty Affair (1978) album, gives you a flavor of what they were up to. If you can't funk with this, than I don't know what to tell you.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

"We're not on a plantation, Clint."

Clint Eastwood made two films, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwa Jima, that you gotsta see if you haven't already. Both concern the lives and stories of soldiers fighting in the battle of Iwa Jima. Letters is an interesting take on the Japanese perspective of the war, while Flags takes on the American side. Both are great movies. Anyway, I didn't really notice it, but neither film features any Black soldiers. Seven hours of film with no Black faces is pretty hard to excuse. It didn't bother me that much while I watching the movies, but I guess I should also admit that I also really like Clint Eastwood, as an actor and director. Even if he's a Republican, you can't fake that kind of cool.

But recently Spike Lee criticized Clint for this omission. If you've seen Do the Right Thing, it was a "Why ain't there no brothers on the wall?" moment. Usually that wouldn't be news because the mainstream media is not really concerned with Spike (especially since he's never been charged with possession of a firearm or non-payment of child support--which runs counter to the standard famous Black male narrative.) But this was different because Clint got mad, like he's want to do, and said that Spike Lee "should shut his face." He explains that he didn't have any Black soldiers because the story was about the picture and there wasn't a Black hand on that flag. He says he was trying to be historically accurate and didn't want to compromise the integrity of the narrative.

Then Spike basically lights into Clint Eastwood's ass. He connects his criticisms of Clint to the larger pattern of Hollywood ignoring the contributions of Black soldiers. (You would think they would want us to see more examples of these contributions so people would be more ready to fight in all these wars, but the image of armed Black men could be unsettling for some). Spike also mentions that Clint's tone is kind of like a slave master and that he should be easy and take a step back.

This story is interesting not only because it's cool to see people fight, but Clint's response (even though it's angry) opens the door to having a real conversation about how Black soldiers have gone unrepresented. In the past twenty years, starting most notably with Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Andre Braugher's performances in Glory, the situation has gotten better, but there still is a lot of work left to do. It's also kind of cool when respected artists criticize each other's work. It can be messy sometimes, but it's nice to see people trying to hash out exactly what movies are supposed to "do". In some ways, criticism is the sincerest form of flattery.

All that being said, I have to give respect to my man Clint for the way he uses Adam Beach in Flags of Our Fathers. Beach plays a Native American soldier who is uneasy with the government's propagandization/marketing of the Iwo Jima story. For me, his was the best performance in either movie, and Clint doesn't shy away from making a statement about race and history. And although Spike speaks with some authority on the issue of racial representation, he still has some crazy ideas about women and gender that he needs to work on. (Have you seen He Hate Me?)

Hopefully Dirty Harry will consider what Spike is saying and come back with something intelligent to continue the conversation. Or maybe Clint will just go all Callahan on his ass again.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Funk Feature

So, the summer issue of Indiana Review is out now and if you don't got a copy, you got to get yourself one. Besides top-notch work from Gary Soto, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Denise Duhamel, Liza Wieland, and T. Geronimo Johnson, this issue also has a funk feature.

What, pray tell, is a funk feature? Well, dear reader, you're going to have to get you a copy of the issue to really find out, but for now let's just say that the funk feature is poetry, fiction, and art with a funk aesthetic. Terrance Hayes, Aracelis Girmay, Patrick Rosal, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Tim Seibles, Jericho Brown, and Ed Pavlic contribute some of the funkiest poetry ever assembled, Honoree Jeffers offers a story all about Mad Dog 20/20 (Duce Duce!) and then there's the art.

There's a lot of incredible work in the art section, but most notably it features the work of the four artists who designed the album covers for Parliament-Funkadelic. Yeah, all of them. It is off the hook.

I'm officially done at IR, but since this issue is my baby (as I was so astutely reminded by one of my favorite poets, Marcus Wicker) I'm going to talk about it a little bit more. In the mean time, if you haven't already, you need to be checking in with the Indiana Review blog (The Bluelight) to here authors reading some of their work.

And don't forget to buy the issue. Chim Chim insists.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

"When 900 years you reach, look as good, you will not."

If only Vader could have harnessed the power of the Force and not let the power of the Force harness his soul. That's the thought I have when I see John McCain speak these days. If only he hadn't been seduced to the dark side by Karl Rove, he might have made a great president. Instead, Rove accomplished something that no North Vietnamese waterboarding torture could do: make McCain compromise his principles. McCain had his chance back in 2004, when he could have paired with Kerry and ended this madness, but he didn't have the vision, and as much as it pains me to suggest, the heart, to do what his country needed him to do. And now he is a shell of a man. Once a maverick, now a crony. has a video of him speaking after Obama's victory speech. This thing is sad.

Although the appearance thing is a pretty big deal in terms of electability, I hope we don't get too deep into this narrative about how perfect Obama is and how flawed McCain is. That's boring and it doesn't focus attention on the more important policy differences between the two. Plus, and I hate to say it because I don't want to wish anything bad on anybody, but history tells us that in order to crucify a brother, you've got to raise him up first. The more the public understands him as flawless, the harder people are going to be when they eventually become aware of his flaws. Even if/when Obama becomes president, he's going to have quite a job in front of him. If you haven't noticed, the country has fallen into a bit of disrepair. He's going to take a lot of heat for stuff that's not his fault and he's going to have to deliver a lot of painful news to a citizenry that's not used to politicians asking them for actual sacrifice.

And on a separate note: I heard that Obama was about to put his foot in Joe Lieberman's ass in front of a bunch of reporters. I have to say that Senator Obama has my full support.
That dude is a straight snake. One of Al Gore's worse mistakes was picking him for VP. I don't think we fully understand the ramifications of Lieberman's presence in that election. Watch that recount movie on HBO for a reference point, but I tend to think he really did sell Al Gore out. This history should further caution Obama about who he chooses for VP. He's got a lot of options.

By the way, one of them is not Hillary. Why? Plenty of reasons, but reason #1 is Michelle Obama. Can you imagine her and Hillary in the White house together? Michelle don't need nobody looking over her shoulder, criticizing her choice of curtains for the White house. So what if the drapes is going to be kente cloth? That's the last thing we need: Obama's trying to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians and he gets a call because Hillary Clinton done got hit upside the head with a shoe. Not a good look.

Speaking of ghetto, didn't Clinton and them steal some furniture before they left?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Because he's Weng Weng, dammit.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Letting go...

So, I'm only weeks away from graduating with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. It's kind of an odd feeling because I never thought I'd end up in Indiana in the first place, but I've been here three years now and it's kind of hard to imagine being anywhere else. But, such is life. I'm moving to Chicago to teach high school Humanities (English/History) and Journalism through Teach for America. I feel ready for that next step, but I guess I've identified so closely with this experience that I've kind of forgotten how it felt to not be here. My homie, Megan, knows what I'm talking about.

Besides, it seems like the graceful exit is a bit of a lost art these days.