Thursday, September 29, 2011

Roger Ebert, Times Talks

Went to a Times Talks with Roger Ebert and A.O. Scott a couple days ago. wrote a little recap on it for Grantland.

His memoir "Life Itself" is getting a lot of coverage, and of course everyone pretty much loves Roger. As they should. He's a modern day saint, in all aspects of the term (didn't fully vet that phrase out in my brain, but per his internet/social media proclivities and general dopeness as a reviewer and person, I'm sticking with it).

You might be able to see a stream of the talk somewhere. And Flavorwire (home of the best Exciting Fall Books List in all the land!) put up a ten best quotes list.

Long live Roger Ebert.

At Roger Ebert's Times Talk [Grantland]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dear TAN: Is Perez Hilton Always This Racist?

My book, Negropedia, Touré's book, Baratunde's book coming soon, all seem to pose the question of: what does racism look like today? And, is it to be taken seriously, or with a sense of humor. And I guess the answer is: Perez Hilton is still a racist!

Send your questions/letters to theassimilatednegro [at] gmail [dot] com.

In this edition: The metaphysics of Perez Hilton's racism!

Dear TAN,

For whatever reason, I've found myself skimming his site for the past week or so.

Check this out: "She joined by some dude name Zalon. In this alternative universe, the white bitch is rapping, while the black guy is singing the sweet melodies. Go figure!"

Or this one: "Also, Whoopi Goldberg eats fried chicken - and we love her for it!"

???? I like to err on the side of not accusing people of being bigots, but I don't even know how else to interpret these. Do you follow the site regularly? Are these just aberrations, or part of a trend?

- Not Terribly PC


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Salt Water Taffy Creators Concede Failure, Return To Drawing Board

(before this blog became a space more pointedly focused on deconstructing race/culture etc. it was just a sketchpad of riffs, rants, other odds and ends. That TAN will return, but here's one from the archives...)
+ + +
The creators of Salt Water Taffy have decided to concede failure and go back to the drawing board in their quest for a “candy that provides a satisfying taste experience.”

Said one of the inventors of Salt Water Taffy, “we look at the candy marketplace right now and we see a lot of options, and our Salt Water Taffy (tm) product is just not cutting it. We have some niche cult fans who continue to swear by us, and amen to them, but that’s not enough to grow in today's economy. We want to be up there with the Snickers, M&M’s, and Jolly Ranchers of the world. So we’re formally announcing our agenda to go back to the SWT drawing board and try and tweak the formula some.”

The current formula on the drawing board for the mildly popular candy is:
mediocre flavor


disconcerting texture


high stickiness-to-teeth ratio


generic blob shape


peculiar “salt water” flavor reference/association


Salt Water Taffy

Can I break character for a moment?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Blackface: Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't...Take It Off Before Anyone Sees

I don't think I can add much to what white people Gawker and Gabe have had to say on the matter of the University of Monteal business students putting on blackface to celebrate (YAY!!) and honor Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

Gabe came up with this wallet-sized flowchart to the right for everyone considering an outfit topped with blackface and smiling about the hijinx and wacky hilarity sure to ensue. Because, y'know, there was that time when the *blackface gag* (haha!) was nailed so perfectly by [nobody's name goes here]...

I had experience with this odd impulse soon after starting this blog, from my own school no less (no, it wasn't a tribute in honor of me). So I'm starting to think words and blog posts don't matter much in getting the message across. But undaunted and always on the cutting edge of anti-racist technology, I'm pleased to inform anyone reading this that I've just come back from purchasing all the Wite Out in my neighborhood. Oh yeah. I figure if telling people blackface is retarded doesn't connect, then maybe putting on witeoutface will drive the point deep into their hearts and allow them to finally understand.

while i'm putting on my makeup, here's the vid of those crazy canadians:

so funny and awesome! who wouldn't feel honored?

An Open Letter to the University of Montreal students Who Wore Blackface [Videogum]
Trinity's Assimilation Program Stronger Than Most [TAN]
Don't Support Blackface by pre-ordering NEGROPEDIA!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

THIS SUNDAY: TAN @ Brooklyn Book Festival

The BROOKLYN BOOK FAIR has a ton of amazing writers, panels, readings this Sunday. I'm fortunate to be a guest on one of the late afternoon panels.


5:00 P.M. Media Representations and Reality. The debate continues over whether the media reflects reality or has a hand in shaping it.  Like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, the act of presenting the news can very often alter it.  No one knows this better than Brooke Gladstone of "On the Media," whose new book The Influencing Machine with Josh Neufeld examines the role of the media in American society. Patrice Evans, (Negropedia), examines media representations of African-Americans, and Jennifer Pozner (Reality Bites Back) looks at the completely unreal world of reality television. Moderated by Juan Gonzalez (News for All the People).

look for the Clair Huxtable Flyers

Have you forgotten the borough already?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Squirrel's Like, AAAAYYYOOOO!!

From Daily Mail: This attention seeking squirrel will do anything for some nuts - as he dances with his jazz hands out in a desperate plea for the spotlight.

The outgoing critter was photographed by Ian Rentoul as it sprinted across a fence top to alert him as he dished out nuts.

Read more: HERE

No Homo and the Evolution of Tolerance


Jonah Weiner, who serves as one of the hip hop/urban music ambassadors for Slate, has a solid point-of-entry piece on the "No Homo" craze in hip hop (and beyond, since the term has by-and-large crossed over into more of a pop cultural phenomenon). His point, essentially, is: yes, saying "no homo" is still homophobia; but it's a lot better than what used to be status quo in hip hop.

Both those things are true. But, just like when racial or religious or *any* sort of intolerance needs a firmer hand, or at least noting that we are only scratching the surface of a much more profoundly complex issue, I think that's called for here. Because honestly, we need to be further along, and I say that mostly from the spirit of being a fan and hip hop urban-culture enthusiast.

Coates at the Atlantic has run some harsher words over this before. And been much more pointed about the problem. It makes me briefly wonder if Jonah, and/or Slate as proxy, can only approach with a certain cavalier attitude because it's not *their* issue so much. Maybe The Root and Skip Gates need to be slamming the door on this a little harder. Because while i don't actually cry, I do think about shedding a tear or two -- i feel the emotional swelling (no homo) -- when considering the rampant homophobia and ultimately, hypocrisy of intolerance, when I think about all the rappers and artists and *Heroes* who have brazenly been hateful to a group of people. It's really no different than your daddy being a racist.

Jonah opens his piece with the both brilliant and obvious example of Kanye. Specifically mentioning his rant about homophobia, that came a little prior to his "george bush hates black people" comment. Which got a lot more pub. He notes the anti-homophobia rant for its unique anomalous nature; no one else has really come out of the closet in such a bold declarative way on the homophobia issues in hip hop (and hip hop serving in some sense as proxy to black culture here).

But the more direct attack and implication is to consider Kanye extending the George Bush comment in this way: "George Bush doesn't care about Black people, Black people don't care about homosexual people. (Homosexual people don't care about vaginas, but that part is neither here nor there.)" Such a line might have framed the tradition of (American?) intolerance in a more comprehensive light.

In any event, i wonder about proprietary issues when righting a wrong. Correcting an error. Obama challenging black folk is different than Bill Clinton. An old-wave feminist doing the same to women, is a similar formulation. Rappers and black people need to be more forceful and demanding in this zone. Because we are losing when we reject ourselves in this way.

Which segues to some of Jonah's extended premise in his piece. A sense of humor/jokes as indicator of progress, movement towards truth.

This makes sense in the realm of racial and sexual identity politics. Black people make black people do this and white people do that jokes. Men and women make men do this and women do that jokes. "No homo" is in fact often a funny addendum. If you can insulate yourself from the hateful part of it all, it's an amusing pithy little phrase. And certainly when used to access the even broader construct of masculinity, femininity etc., it can bring a smile. Of course, that shows the "no homo" isn't even actually about "homos" any more. But what we consider masculine and feminine. The Katy Perry "ur so gay, and you don't even like boys" sentiment. Kanye and many famous "tough rappers" are probably a little removed from knowing how to fix a car that broke down on the highway, chop down a tree and start a fire, fist-fighting, but know about the latest fashion-designers, getting pedicures, etc. No homo?

But as any dysfunctional comedian will tell you, the sense of humor, comic relief, is sourced by a sense of detachment. ironic distance. you/we couldn't make jokes about black people for a long time, because it was too raw and serious and immediate. The wounds were still open. Then they scar over, and it gets a little easier. And now, shoot, we almost can hardly tell it's there now with all the cosmetic surgery we've enlisted *cough*.

So that's progress. But again, point of entry. There's a narrative of tolerance here. Where are we progressing from? How did the story begin? Why was hip hop culture so invested in hating others in the first place? I sense this racial issue, like so many others, is a gateway to larger American or human issues. In this case my suspicion is that when we have been abused we want someone else to at some point experience the same pain/abuse. We want to be empowered by damaging someone the same way we felt damaged. If we stop and *pause* and think about it, such logic doesn't make sense; all of these abuses and wrongs are circumstantial. You can never inflict the same pain, only the particular pain for those particular people/circumstances. If you as a father abuse your son, he doesn't know the abuse you received from your father, his grandfather, any more intimately. He only knows the pain he's receiving from you. This is why the Golden Rule works practically, not only as a morally idealized notion of the universe. We can't transfer our rationalized selves, which is what the psychological scars from abuse are. There's the immediate pain (or joy), and then how we live with it and synthesize it into the new us that emerges from the experience.....

I've sprawled out into deeper waters, and want to stay swimming safely in this smaller pool.... so, no homo. i guess, much like with women, we just need a "homo" rapper who through the sheer force of his will makes all the jokes and lines premised on intolerance, obsolete.

The Changing Face of Hip Hop Homophobia [Slate]
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