Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Rhymes of Our Lives

Can you tell I'm ready for winter to end?

Before the Academy Award nominations, the mega-budgeted Hollywood movies, and parenting The New Karate Kid and the little girl who likes to whip her hair, Will Smith was known the world over as The Fresh Prince. Along with his DJ/partner-in-crime DJ Jazzy Jeff (arguably the best DJ in hip hop history), the duo made some of the most enjoyable and fun-loving hip hop of their time. They weren't afraid to be goofy and never took themselves too seriously. And even though the two of them aren't making music collectively anymore, their impact on the trajectory of hip hop is undeniable.

Every summer on hip hop stations across the country, this song stays in heavy rotation. Rarely do I meet a hip hop head who doesn't know almost every word. It will live forever.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quietly Militant

So I work at a restaurant waiting tables. It's not easy or glamorous or even fun most of the time, but it's half-way decent money and a flexible schedule. Consider it the actor's way.

One of the pluses/minuses of what I do is conversing with all sorts of interesting, weird, moody, gregarious, and comical people. Sometimes it's actually pretty fun. Others it's tedious and frustrating. And every once in a while, an exchange becomes uncomfortable, bordering on offensive.

Today I had one of the uncomfortable versions. This is an exchange I had with a middle-aged white cat who was having lunch with seven of his coworkers:

Dude: Hey, you look like Spike Lee! (Disclaimer: I look nothing like Spike Lee. For one, I'm taller.)
Me: Really?
Dude: Yea, you do!
Me: He and I actually went to the same school.
Dude: Well, that must be it! (laughing to his friends)
Me: (big smile) Yup, because everyone that goes to Morehouse looks exactly the same.
(slightly nervous guilty-white-liberal laughter from the table)

Now, I'm not as fiery as I used to be. When I was in my early twenties my temper would flare up when the wind blew. These days I'm usually a little more reserved and selective with my energy. And to be honest, I really hadn't put too much thought or effort into my response. It wasn't until I had walked away and began tending to other things when I realized the gravity of my reply.

I really aced this guy.

I was actually proud of myself. I was able to communicate my distaste for his comment without alienating the rest of his party and find a balance between breath and aggression. And I didn't take it so seriously as to let it ruin my day.

It's fun being quietly militant.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I drove from Philadelphia to Elizabeth, New Jersey today; a town just south of Newark Airport. I spent about 3 1/2 hours of my day driving. So I'm spent.

Tomorrow, I'd like to spend a little time hashing out a chronic sense of culture shock I've been feeling since about 2001. But for tonight I'm going to hit they sack while watching this:

If you haven't seen this, you're missing a good one. Check ya'll tomorrow.


Monday, March 28, 2011


Today I rescued this beauty from the icy slumber of winter storage:

This is my 2000 Suzuki SV650S. I bought it in 2008 and I've put at least 15000 miles on it during our time together. We've had wonderful riding experiences in five states and two countries. It has a 649cc 90° v-twin engine and Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart tires. Since we've been together, I've upgraded it with Galfer Wave brake rotors, Napoleon Bar End Mirrors, a Gorilla security alarm, Trail Tech Vapor gauges, and a 2005 Kawasaki ZX-10R rear shock absorber. And the work hasn't ended. This season I plan to convert it over to more upright and back-friendly handlebars and remove the slightly more aggressively positioned clip-on bars.

For the last four months, my SV had been in storage in a facility on the outskirts of Philadelphia. This morning my cousin Nina and I loaded up into my Nissan Xterra and drove out to the storage unit. When I lifted the door and saw my bike sitting there covered and undisturbed, I felt like Marty McFly opening the cave where Doc Brown had hidden the DeLorean. It was like finding a lost treasure.

I rolled it out into the sunlight to install the battery and see if I could get it started. It took a little while, about five or six minutes, but I finally choked and gassed it to life. It sounded better than I remembered. When I first got into motorcycles I was initially drawn to the sound of an inline four. But now the sound of a high performance v-twin engine does it for me every single time.

After we let it warm up for 10 minutes or so, I put on my riding gear and hit the road towards home. And even though the temperature must not have been much over 40° it was a magnificent feeling to be back on my bike again. I can't get away from the pleasure I feel when I am a part of the environment through which I'm traveling rather than passively observing it from the confinement of an automobile. When I got home, my fingers were stinging with pain and my nose was running faster than Usain Bolt. And I had loved every minute of it.

Get ready. You can be sure more motorcycling blogs will be coming soon. C'mon spring!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Theatrical Revelation of Truth

This afternoon I was in rehearsals for a show with a wonderful new company here in Philadelphia called No Face Performance Group. We're building and developing a show called Dime that will begin shows toward the end of April. (Have a look here.) One of the current company members named Justin was doing a little show-and-tell for us today; a solo project designed to explore the birth of a deity.

In our rehearsal space lives a cat named Victor and he, like most cats, does what he pleases. So as Justin was exploring his project for us, Victor the cat decided he wanted to walk on to the stage, approach Justin, smell his ankle a bit, and walk upstage into a room behind the back wall. All the while, Justin was experimenting with a very specific, symbolic, and stylized bit of theatrical creation.

Suddenly, I had a revelation.

There's a saying in the theatre, "Never share the stage with a kid or a dog." The argument is that because kids and animals are so good at observing and engaging their world with breath and simplicity, any attempt to be "real" with them on-stage will feel fake and soulless. Audiences in attendance usually give attention to the kid or the pet, completely ignoring the actors around them.

But today I didn't find that to be the case at all. Yes, Victor's presence in the scene made an impact on the aesthetic of the piece, but he didn't steal my focus from Justin.

That's because Justin wasn't trying to be "real", only "true." There's a distinct difference, I think.

The attempt to be "real" on-stage has always felt like a bit of a sham to me. I've never believed it possible build a performance that is both "real" and repeatable. If we're honest about it, what we consider "real" is never repeatable. That is one of the primary facets of reality; a moment approaches, happens, then instantly moves into our memory as part of the past. So the effort to construct a repeatable reality is, by definition, impossible.

Keep in mind, I'm talking about actors in the theatre, not film. For the most part, film actors are in the search for what's "real", which is why they get multiple takes to find it. The director is looking for the one shot out of 10 that's "real". Fortunately for the actor, that moment will never have to be repeated because someone was there to record it with their nifty camera.

What are we poor theatre actors to do!?

Instead of frivolously banging our fists against the wall of reality, I feel we should be on the journey towards what's "true" in a performance. There are many types of "truth" that have nothing to do with what's "real"; symbolic "truth", metaphoric "truth", poetic "truth." When these ideas of "truth" are examined and explored by a company of actors, they are wonderfully effective in giving the audience enlightenment or insight into the human condition, even when what the audience sees isn't outwardly perceived as "real."

Justin didn't have to be "real" in order to retain focus today. What he was working is nothing anyone would see during a pedestrian stroll through town. But he was engaged and committed to what was "true" about his work; the poetry, the symbols, the statement. That much was crystal clear to everyone witnessing.

I'm thankful for Victor the cat. I made a fantastic discovery today because of his need to go take a nap.

And now I'm not afraid to share the stage with him.


Emcee of the Month: Jean Grae

Here's Jean Grae's video for the track "Love Thirst" from her Jeanius album.

I knew I wanted to highlight one of Jean's music videos today, and in my search for an appropriate clip, I was disheartened to discover she hasn't actually done many.

It's an unfortunate reality of the music industry that artists who reside on independent labels don't have truckloads of financial backing to create projects like music videos. However, when these artists do rustle up enough resources to get a video together the result is usually quite inventive and provocative. Such is the case with "Love Thirst".

Jean's playfulness and variety in this video is quite enjoyable. I'm a fan of multiple personality-type stuff, and the play on religious contradiction at the end is a nice touch. I would have, however, liked to see her spending some time out of the cab in her various personas engaging with people on the street. I feel that would have made the video a more well rounded.

Nevertheless, it's pretty dope. I hope to see another on from her soon!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Emcee of the Month: Jean Grae?

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Tonight I got home and proceeded to compose tonight's blog post, and my computer won't connect to the Internet. Currently, I am using my iPod Touch to write this. So tomorrow morning I will make another attempt at composing the last Emcee of the Month post for March. If I'm not able to get it posted before the end if the month, then I'll be sure to link April's emcee to Jean Grae. I want to make sure she gets her due.


Friday, March 25, 2011

A Quick Thought on Touring Theatre in High Schools

Today I finished a four-week touring production of Hamlet for the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre that traveled to various high schools in the Philadelphia area. I must say it has to be the most demanding theatrical project I've ever undertaken.

My days were quite grueling. I usually awoke at five or six o'clock in the morning to drive into center city Philadelphia. After getting parked, the company would load the tour van with all of our necessary props and costumes, then drive to the school, set-up, quickly rehearse our sword fight, perform the show, have a 30 minute question and answer session, pack all the props and things back into the van, drive back to the theatre, and finally put the gear back into its temporary storage until the next day. We were usually done by 11:30 or 12 o'clock.

Let me tell you, there's nothing like beginning at 5am and not breathing until 12 noon to really wear someone out. I was usually no good at all in the afternoon.

Nevertheless, this has been an incredibly rewarding experience. It's a wonderful day when I can perform a play for a group of kids who may have never seen live theatre, or see it all the time, and discovering a mutual sense of inspiration and excitement. I've met some amazing kids during this tour and I'm proud to have been a part of this production.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Simpler Times

Okay. So I'm not going to go on some socio-political rant tonight. I'm too exhausted for that. All I'm going ask is for someone to point me to a place where I can watch episodes of this:

I loved that show. Simpler times...


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hey Kanye! Guinness Says You're a Punk!

Yo, Kanye. You think you could chime in on this one? You know, give us one of your Hurricane Katrina telethon moments?

Currently, the world's oldest "verified" living person is a lady named Besse Cooper who lives in Monroe, Georgia. She was born on August 26, 1896 and is 114 years old.

Mrs. Cooper is recognized as such because she's able to provide a birth certificate, among other required material, to qualify as the oldest living person in the world.

However, Mrs. Rebecca Lanier was born black in Mississippi 119 years ago, during a time when black people weren't provided birth certificates. Remember, 1892 is only 27 years after the end of the American Civil War. So laws and practices designed to oppress and control black people were very much in supply.

So here's what we have; a woman who has lived through three centuries and witnessed virtually every great event of the 1900s, but can't be officially recognized for her experience due to a political technicality that has been universally admonished by the global community.

Hey Guinness. Mitigating circumstances much?

Here's a text version of the story just to be thorough.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Rhymes of Our Lives

Simply put, this is the best hip hop song of all time.

Tonight, I'll let this one speak for itself. For more info, look here.

I'm off to bed. Check you all tomorrow!


Monday, March 21, 2011

I Heart MotoGP

I first encountered MotoGP in 2007 when I began work at Friendly Honda Yamaha in Baton Rouge. Before then, I had never truly been a fan of any particular series or class of motorsport. I had a pedestrian interest in drag racing, an awareness of Formula One due to massive amounts of Top Gear, and zero desire to watch NASCAR. So to begin following a racing series was something new to me.

I think it was in the home of one of my best biker homies Friscia (that's John Friscia for all you wanna-be's) where I actually saw my first MotoGP race. We sat in his living room watching the race as he explained to me some of the specifications of the motorcycles and the histories of many of the racers on the grid. He hipped me to a time before 2002 when the bikes in the premier class were all two-strokes, and how unruly they were to ride. Also, he made particular mention of one cat named Valentino Rossi and his dominance in MotoGP for much of his career.

Four years later, I'm a complete fanatic for MotoGP, which is unusual for me. I can't stand missing a lap, and I hate it when I inadvertently find out who won before watching the race. My favorite riders are Valentino Rossi (who else!?) and Nicky Hayden, and I can't stand watching Jorge Lorenzo or Casey Stoner win a race. If I could afford a Ducati, I'd have one just because Hayden rides one, and my favorite venues are Laguna Seca in California and Mugello in Italy. And yes, I could go on and on with this fanboy babble!

The first race of the 2011 season was yesterday in Qatar and man, it was slammin'! The outcome wasn't what I would have hoped, but I'm optimistic my team is going to get some steam behind them and make some moves toward the front.

I <3 MotoGP!

As always, here's the obligatory youtube clip. This is the CBS Sports wrap up of the 2008 United States Gran Prix at Laguna Seca. Check it!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Oppenheimer Journey

J. Robert Oppenheimer is the epitome of confliction.

Back when I was in graduate school, my homie Mark wrestled with the idea of doing a solo piece revolving around the life and times of Mr. Oppenheimer. I have to admit I was only moderately interested primarily because I had very little insight into who he really was. I knew of Oppenheimer and his work on the Manhattan Project, sure. I knew he was the physicist who was credited with the birth of the atomic age, and I knew he received much fanfare from the United States government after his creation decimated the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

But because I hadn't been exposed to his thoughts and views on the world, I figured Mark's project would be more of a "what-if-Hitler-had-a-heart" type of affair. I never imagined the man who built the bomb could have had any semblance of empathy or compassion. I mean, the guy BUILT THE BOMB.

Fast forward to March 2011.

I'm working with a company here in Philadelphia called No Face Performance Group on a new piece their developing called Dime. The project involves the musings and explorations of a little girl named Dime and her interactions with the complexities of science and technology as it's influenced our sense of the world. Many of the moments in the play examine the thoughts, frustrations, beliefs, and conflictions of one Mr. J Robert Oppenheimer.

As I've begun looking into this cat and his work, I'm finally beginning to understand Mark's appeal. Oppenheimer is probably one of the most brilliant, tormented, and misunderstood individuals of the 20th century. The paradox created by his sensitivity to humanity contrasted with his devotion to scientific advancement seems to have burdened him to no end. As gifted as he was, I'm left to wonder how such a learned and worldly individual allowed his ambition to blind him from foreseeing the consequences of his research. Did he believe we'd be better off? Did he doubt the United States' desire to use this weapon? Could he fully comprehend the magnitude of his discovery?

As I explore Mr. Oppenheimer more, I hope to work out some of my questions here. Thanks for humoring me.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Emcee of the Month: Jean Grae

I've been listening to Jean Grae interviews on youtube for about an hour now and honestly, I could listen to her all night long. Really. Rarely have I seen an emcee who can converse with such a balance of wit, intelligence, humility, insight, and confidence. Most stick to their shtick and have limited ability to communicate the subtleties and nuances of their personalities. Perhaps it has something to do with a fear or apprehension of seeming vulnerable or weakened.

Not Jean.

She invites us into the frailties and idiosyncrasies of who she is just enough to keep us wanting more. We get a sense of how she observes her world and what drives her. It's actually incredibly enticing. Since the business of hip hop music is such a male driven industry, the usual pattern of women emcees is to mimic the way the dudes navigate the culture. But Jean embraces her femininity, which allows her to seem much more grounded in life and work.

There is a lack of recent interviews featuring Jean on youtube (I wonder why.) but I was able to find clips from what seemed to be many different moments throughout her career. I was fascinated to see how she's evolved in the way she talks about her art and life. Here I'll be posting the most recent video I found, but I encourage you to scroll back and check out some of her earlier words. She's a sophisticated person and her journey is wonderfully colorful.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Today is my Born Day!

So today was my birthday. It was a pretty good day. I received a ton of birthday wishes on my facebook wall, which is always touching. It's quite a sobering event when many of the people with whom I've shared the important moments of my life all converge in my cyber space (intended?) in such a short period of time.

I spent my day doing what I've done for the past few months now; working like a madman. So I suppose I'm taking the night off tonight. All I plan on doing now is finishing my cup of tea, watching Ghostbusters on Nick & Nite West, and hittin' the sack.


tomorrow is Emcee of the Month day! I'm looking forward to it. Jean Grae is making me happy.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why I Do Theatre

Thanks, Patsy. That's about right.

There'll be more on this down the road, folks.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Every night I go to sleep with a video or movie playing as I doze off. It's usually something I've seen a few times before so I don't have to process too much new information and I try to begin in a new place every night. I've found this allows my mind to stay restfully aware of something happening so as not to wander from thought to thought. When attempting to fall asleep without a movie or a video, my thoughts keep me uncomfortably awake for quite a while.

For a while during my senior year of high school my nightly movie was Die Hard with a Vengeance. The next big one was The Hunt for Red October, and after that I was using Porco Rosso. Since I got my iPod touch, I've been making a move towards extended youtube videos and Top Gear episodes on

Tonight it will be this:

I've yet to make it all the way through this video, but I've been chipping away at it for a couple weeks now. My hope is that perhaps, somehow, I'll absorb on some of Dr. Tyson's brilliance by osmosis. Maybe I'll be smarter in the morning.



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Rhymes of Our Lives

Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock - "It Takes Two"

I was seven when this song came out; a time in my life when hip hop had fallen off my radar. Fortunately for me, this track became one of the most celebrated records in hip hop history, and rocked house parties, basement parties, and night clubs from its release in 1988 until well into the first decade of the 21st century. (I'm sure it's still being spun today!) I would argue this is one of the few rap tracks that's truly been enjoyed by more than one generation of hip hoppers.

I would suggest this song has been successful primarily due to its use of a sample from a song by Lyn Collins called "Think (About It)". Lyn was a protégé of James Brown and recorded with him throughout the 1970s. In fact, the instrumentation for "Think (About It)" was played by Brown's band, The J.B.'s. The section used by Rob Base and E-Z Rock contain those wonderfully syncopated "Woo! Yeah!" shouts from Brown himself. The sample has become so famous that it's become its own entity apart from the original song. (See this!)

I haven't been to a club in some time. I probably wouldn't know how to act anymore. But when I do, the dj better play "It Takes Two" or I'm asking for my money back. On the real...


Monday, March 14, 2011

Thoughts on Japan

Have a look at these images.

I was going to make this post about something I thought was substantive. I was going to rant about how I felt that even though the Japan earthquake/tsunami tragedy is nothing short of catastrophic, it would have been orders of magnitude worse if it happened in California, given the lack of attention that's been paid to United States infrastructure. I had planned on identifying all of the nuclear power plants in seismically active areas of the country and highlight their vulnerability. I had planned to use this event to be tough on us...again.

But after looking at these pictures and seeing the level of absolute devastation in the affected areas of Japan, all of that seems a bit frivolous now.

And it's not as if I don't believe in those things. I do. But the events occurring now in Japan are of such scope and gravity, I don't feel comfortable using them as the filter through which I may disseminate my political beliefs; not while 1,000 bodies have washed ashore in Miyagi Prefecture.

I commend the media for its coverage of the tragedy. They've conducted themselves with integrity and professionalism. I will continue to take in as much of their reporting as I can to keep myself abreast of the progressing events.

And god helps those cats at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Thoughts on Japan Preview

I've been reserving my comments on the tragedy now taking place in Japan for a time when I can adequately wrap my brain around the enormity of this event. I feel every time I get to a point when I can appropriately communicate my thoughts, something else goes awry.

I'm going to make an attempt to share my feelings on this catastrophe tomorrow evening after digesting one more day of coverage and commentary. For now I'll simply say my thoughts and best wishes are with those who've lost during this ordeal. I hope their unimaginable hardships subside quickly.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Emcee of the Month: Jean Grae

I'm excited I have an opportunity this month to discuss and highlight an artist whose work I've checked out before now. This is a track of off Jean's 2008 album Jeanius. Titled "The Time is Now", the production is handled by 9th Wonder with Phonte of Little Brother making a fantastic guest appearance.

This is my favorite jawn (Philly word!) on the Jeanius album, primarily because it exhibits Jean's sense of humor and spontaneity. Her verse on this track harnesses an energy that feels much more like free association or stream of consciousness than the more meditative lyrics she offers in other moments on the LP. But the verse doesn't seem sloppy or misshapen in any way. As the listener I'm able to follow the progression of her thoughts easily and clearly, even though the imagery makes significant shifts at times. Jean is very good at finding a balance in her writing that suggests an illusion of performing the verse for the first time while guiding us on a journey with her through the exploration of the text. And judging from the ad-libs that open and close the song, it's evident she's having a ton-o-fun.

Also, she's kickin' with the home state boys, Phonte and 9th Wonder (NC!). I'm always down with that!


Friday, March 11, 2011

I Miss My People

Today I received a set of handlebars from my friends Lauren and Matt in Baton Rouge and this was in the box.

I've done a fair bit of traveling in a relatively short time. And I've been fortunate to make some incredibly valuable and life-long friends along the way. As I sat down to write tonight, I couldn't stop thinking about all the good people I've had to leave and how I wish I could visit them more often. One of these days I'll have the means to see them all again.

So I guess that's all I'm going to say tonight. I miss my friends.


Thursday, March 10, 2011


I figure there's been enough coverage of the Wisconsin union battle everywhere else today, so I figured I leave it alone for now. Besides, I was inspired today by something much more illuminating.

Currently, I've been working with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre as an actor for their school tour of Hamlet. The production consists of one production manager and four actors who practically pack the entire show in a minivan and travel to various public schools in the Delaware Valley to perform. With the exception of the cat who plays Hamlet, each actor plays multiple roles (I'm Polonius, Horatio, Laertes, and Rozencrantz.) and the script is cut from its original four hour length to an hour and twenty minutes or so. After each performance we have a brief question-and-answer session with the students, shake a few hands and such, then pack up our stuff to make our way back to the theater.

Today's performance was at a vocational high school here in Philadelphia. When we arrived, we unloaded our stuff and began setting up on the stage in the school's "cafetorium". As we were loading in, much of the student body were finishing their breakfast in the same room, and it was immediately apparent the school was attended by a majority of African-American students.

Now, I am as susceptible to the frailties of human prejudice as anyone else. Not only that, at times I am apprehensive as to how my work will be received by the folks in my own community. I don't think is incredibly stereotypical to say many African-Americans, though politically liberal and progressive, trend towards social conservatism. Therefore, a stigma exists in the black community towards the exploration of performing arts. Many people who do what I do know this whether they like to admit it or not, which is why quality productions of Shakespeare, Chekov, or even August Wilson are a rarity in black communities. (Boy, I'm going to get in a lot of trouble!)

So I'm expecting the worst; disinterest, lack of attention, sleeping, heckling, etc.


From the very first moment of the show these kids were incredibly engaged, and their energy was palpable. There received every word and had wonderful responses to every action. Many times throughout the show my cast mates and I heard many verbal responses to the events on stage like, "Oh snap! He killed Polonius!" or, "Wow!" and even, "Get 'em Hamlet!"

By the way, for all of you regular theatre goers, most of us actors like these types of responses. Read up on the groundlings that patronized The Globe.

After the show and a wonderfully rambunctious q&a, the kids made their way to the stage to shake hands and take pictures with all of us. And let me tell ya, there's nothing like a 17 year old asking for an autograph to stroke one's ego. It's almost narcotic-like.

As we were leaving the school we were still in disbelief as to how much fun we had performing at 8:30am. We never expected it. And I think we all learned something as well. All people hope for engagement, especially those that may not have ready access to it. I think it's safe to say we walked a little taller today. Days like today are why we do what we do.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The New American Civil War Part II

Chew on this:

Bedtime is 10:30pm for me tonight, so I can't expand on this right now. Plus, I'll be digesting this myself over the next day or so. We'll get into the particulars tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Cue for Passion

A colleague of mine was arrested today for attempting to expose strangers in a public place to the art of theatre. It was quite an event. My group all knew there was the possibility of it happening, but I don't think any of us ever actually thought it would. And as rebellious as I feel against the conventions and implementations of contemporary theatre, (I've wanted to be a part of something like this for a while now.) I find myself more conflicted than I anticipated.

In one perspective, I say more power to my colleague. I'm thoroughly convinced that we live in a society whose ability to experience its world and surroundings is ever receding. We live not as solidly in the actual, tangible world but more in the virtual one created by iPods, smart phones, and e-readers. And while I'm undoubtedly supportive of technological progression (I mean, I am saying all this on my blog.), I feel these advances should serve to accentuate our experience the world, not substitute them. So if my colleague's efforts and subsequent arrest today prompted the surrounding witnesses to notice and observe a real, touchable, smellable, taste-able happening and have a genuine response to it, mission accomplished.

However, I must consider the fact that my colleague was in fact infringing on the personal privacies of everyone within sight and earshot of his efforts. No one out there today chose to be a witness to a person performing for them. I imagine some were sitting outside to temporarily escape the stress of their crappy jobs, to converse with a friend or loved one in seclusion, or simply to enjoy the wonderful weather we had today. They never bargained to have someone speak a monologue to them while handing them a flyer about an upcoming theatrical production. And the responses were as varied as the audience; some simply tuned it out, others seemed quite amused or entertained, and some were visibly annoyed.

Perhaps effective rebellion requires a more balanced approach. Consider the latest political upheaval in Egypt. Those people participated in a rebellion that has inspired the entire world. I think a big part of that inspiration stems from the lack of violence and force exhibited by not only the protesters, but the Egyptian army as well. It proved to the world that force may not be the most valuable ingredient in true rebellion, but rather belief and conviction that wins the day. A message need not only be heard, but the ones who hear it need to be impacted in such a way that evokes engaged response, not simply begrudged acknowledgement (see Wisconsin governor Scott Walker). It's at that point when rebellion blossoms into revolution.

I'm reminded of a song by Amel Larrieux called "Infinite Possibilities" off of her 2000 album of the same title. When I first heard it as a 20 year old having my first tastes of political and social awareness, this track fit me like an old shoe. In the first verse, Amel sings:

All of life has just begun
Got a temper like a gun
Pointing it at everyone
That's his game
And it helps him to get through the day
When a voice inside him says
"How much longer can I play?"

What does it take to bridge the expanse between rebel and revolutionary?


Monday, March 7, 2011

Two Things That Are Black: Holes and Dynamite

I'm leaning back in my chair tonight.

I just found a fantastic website called NASA's Imagine the Universe. Earlier today I was having a conversation with someone about what happens to time inside a black hole. Looking into it more I stumbled across this site:

Not only are there theories and ideas on the properties of black holes, but questions about the search for dark matter and dark energy, traveling at the speed of light, and the physics of stars and galaxies. So I'm going to spend some time soaking some of this up tonight.

Meanwhile, I'll be watching the end of this brilliant piece of cinematic excellence:

Perhaps soon I'll get into this movie with more detail. But for now I will simply say this has to be one of the most hilarious, smart, and well made Black American movies I have ever seen. Scott Sanders, the director, is like Spike Lee with a sense of humor. And Michael Jai White is nothing short of outstanding and outstandingly funny. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend checking it out.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Quick Thought on Motorcycling Responsibility

A friend of mine (let's call him Marley) just bought his very first motorcycle ever, a 2005 Kawasaki ZX-6R. It looks something like this:

For all intents and purposes, this is one of the most powerful and capable models in the middleweight class of supersport motorcycles. It's so capable, in fact, that Keith Code's California Superbike School used a fleet of these (or its predecessors) as their instruction bikes from its inception in the late 1970s until 2009. It's the kind of motorcycle that can get away from a rider really quickly if not operated with respect for its ability.

I can't help but feel concern. Here's why.

Consider some numbers for a moment. This bike produces 105 hp at the rear wheel and weighs 430 lbs with a full tank of gas. In the same year, the base model Toyota Corolla (the best selling passenger car name plate in the world) made 130 hp and weighed 2,670 lbs. It turns out that when you do the math, the Corolla has 97 horses for every 2000 lbs of weight it has to move, or 97hp/1 ton. The ZX-6R has 488 ponies for every 2000 lbs, or 488hp/ 1 ton. To give you an idea of how incredibly insane that is, the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport (which is the 3rd fastest production car one can buy) offers up 474 hp/ 1 ton.

It's not my desire to infringe on anyone's freedom to do or buy whatever they like. I'm all about people choosing their own way. However, I can't help but feel an amount of frustration when people like Marley aren't given full disclosure of this type of information before making this kind of decision. I mean, this cat's a smart guy. He's not an idiot. I'm sure if he would have known that he was purchasing a machine with this type of performance capability, he would have probably considered other options. And yes, he took the motorcycle safety course and that's a wonderful first step. NO, HE DOESN'T HAVE A JACKET OR GLOVES YET. And, most likely, no one properly measured him for a correctly fitting helmet.

But someone did sell him what basically amounts to a bicycle that can do 160+ mph. Priorities much?

Odds are, Marley will be fine. The bike is going to scare him at least once in the first week. He's going to be super-pissed when he drops that thing in the driveway after forgetting to put the kickstand down. That fairing is going to cost a grip! But other than that he'll probably not have any major incidents.

Nevertheless, we as motorcyclist have to be better than this. We must create a comfortable and safe learning environment for our beginner riders. We cannot simply throw them to the wolves of speed and horsepower to fend for themselves. There's nothing out there for them but pain (physical and monetary) and eventual disinterest. The experiences they have in the first steps of their two-wheeled journey will have lasting effects on the rest of their motorcycling lives. We have to make sure those experiences are as informed, as aware, and as inspiring as they can be.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Emcee of the Month: Jean Grae

I first saw Jean Grae at the House of Blues in New Orleans in 2006. My homie Mark and I drove down from Baton Rouge for the show, which turned out to be one of the best ever; The Soul Rebels, Jean Grae, and The Roots. Yea, it was super-live.

We got there early and made our way to the front row, where we stayed for practically the entire night. The Rebels came on first and, of course, they were rockin'. However, they only got a 30 minute set. I felt they were robbed. They really didn't even get warmed up.

Jean came out next. Now, before we went down I had looked into some of Jean's stuff and thought it was pretty dope. She found good production and wrote with definition and specificity. Her work was solid, through and through. However, my skepticism kept my expectations of her live performance low. Big mistake.

Jean Grae is a master of ceremonies in the most fundamental sense, and she rhymes as if she's daring the next emcee to be better. Mark and I witnessed as she absolutely cemented herself on the edge of the stage and proceeded to stake her claim on the entire room. She got everyone moving, and most of us didn't even know who she was. Her rhymes are incredibly precise and ricochet through a crowd like a bull whip in the Grand Canyon. By the end of her set, we were all believers.

She's dumb nice wit' it.

Here's a quick freestyle she did at The Duck Down 15 year anniversary back in July.


Friday, March 4, 2011

The Rhymes of Our Lives

This is the first hip hop song I ever memorized.

I was six years old when LL's album Bigger and Deffer (B.A.D.) came out. My parents bought the tape for me. (This was before parental advisory labels!) The only tape deck in our house at the time was the boombox in my brother's room. I remember going in there when he was away and playing this song over and over. I think I was really into watching reruns of Dragnet on Nick at Nite at the time, so I guess the beat reminded me of some kind of hip hop crime drama. There were other tracks on that album that were dope as well, like "Bristol Hotel", "Kandy", and "My Rhyme Ain't Done." However, it was always hard for me to get past "I'm Bad" because I spent so much time trying to learn it.

This track is super-fresh.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

When The Rebelution Comes

So yea, I was checkin' out these cats last night.

The Soul Rebels in London covering "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley

When I first moved to Baton Rouge for graduate school in 2004, I started hanging out with my now dear friend Mark who was a member of my class. He'd traveled down to Louisiana a few months before we all arrived to look for apartments and scope the scene. During his trip he spent a night in New Orleans, where he stumbled upon a spectacular group of musicians that ignited an audience like no other.

So a couple of months into the semester, Mark says to me, "These guys are gonna be in town this weekend. We have to go see them." Generally I tend to be overly skeptical about new musical experiences, but I couldn't think of anything else I had to do that weekend so I was happy to humor them.

We arrived at Chelsea's Cafe (the old location, for all you Baton Rougers) on a Saturday night about 10pm. As we walked in, I noticed a few cats in the parking lot that were having a spirited conversation about SEC football; not an uncommon occurrence in Louisiana. Mark says as we pass them, “I think that’s them right there.” “Really?” I thought. “You mean they aren’t holed up in pretentious isolation behind some VIP screen? Hmmm…”

After we entered the café and milled around for an hour or so, sure enough some of the guys from the parking lot began taking their places on a postage stamp-sized stage. One guy began setting up a bass drum with a cymbal mounted on top. Another adjusted the angle of his snare drum that rested on a stand just in front of his position. The two trumpet players were assembling their horns, the trombone and sax players were tuning theirs, and the sousaphone player took the time to affix a microphone to his bell. It was maybe 10 or 15 minutes between the time they began setting up until the beginning of their set, and boy did they come out swinging.

The Soul Rebels are able to balance the tradition of New Orleans’ unique texture of jazz with an awareness of contemporary musical progression, cooking up one of the most inspired, soulful, and energetic sonic experiences anyone could ever witness. Their music boils up from an ocean of impulses and sensations, bathing the crowd with funkiness. I’ve been checking The Rebels for about seven years now in a variety of venues. Not once have I observed an audience who could resist cutting a rug to these cats. Their sound is refreshingly relentless; the journey isn’t over until the night ends.

Mark and I were gettin’ down to these cats all night long; so were some other friends of ours that came to the show. We shouted, sweated, and clapped for two hours straight. (The Rebels don’t stop playing ever.) At the end of it all, I knew that I needed to be in the place every single time these guys came to town no matter where I may be. Missing a Rebels show is sacrilege.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Quick Thought on Theatre Collaboration

It's rare when I meet someone who practices a brand of collaborative diplomacy that is useful to the development of theatrical art. Mind you, I wholeheartedly identify with good intentions, and this thought is not to insult or expose any of the wonderful artists with whom I work regularly. If any of them lack collaborative diplomacy, most likely it isn't their fault.

I feel the real fault lies with our society. We live in a world that doesn't view specificity and precision as worthwhile practices. Our daily conversations are bloated with upward inflections at the ends of statements, the words "like" and "kinda" and "just-a" softening our declarations, and a passive aggression that pollutes verbal undercurrent as vocal fry.

These habits in communication breed sloppy, misshapen thoughts and ideas that prove more effective in handicapping conversation rather than improving it.

Since theatre is a collaborative art (though some would have us believe otherwise), this disconnect in communication is often the death knell of collective progression in the work. Until actors, directors, and designers are consistently able to translate their artistic impulses into precise and workable information for the rest of their company, the quality of theatre in America is in great peril.