Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Adrian Smalls

Ten minutes ago I was quite stressed. I need to start working on lines for The Winter's Tale for tonight and I couldn't find anything to put up on my blog. Then I opened an email from my homie Marcel. This is what I found.

Now, usually I'd write something up about something this surreal. (Well, it's surreal to me.) But tonight, I'm hanging back for two reasons. One: I really want and need to get to work. Two: I don't quite know what I think about this. I need a couple of hours, perhaps days to figure out what this means; it may not mean anything.

I do think this, though. Biggie was most certainly a poet and Adrian is most certainly dope for acknowledging that. That's gotta be worth something.


Monday, May 30, 2011

The Gap

If all goes well, I'll find myself riding this road on Friday.

This is Deals Gap (for more, look here). It's known on a map as U.S. 129 and snakes through the Great Smokey Mountains from Swain County, North Carolina to Blount County, Tennessee. The story goes that this road is 11 miles long and contains 318 corners; almost all of them as spectacular as these. Motorcyclists from all over the world come here every year to ride this ribbon of paved perfection.

And now my trusty SV650 and I are gonna have a go at it.

No matter what happens, there will be pictures. And yes, I will take it easy. Seriously.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Obama in Joplin

Today I flew from Seattle, Washington to New Bern, North Carolina; I'm certain that I flew almost directly over this as it was happening.

I can't quite get my thoughts together to make an appropriate comment about this tonight, but I will get back to it in the coming days. For now, have a look.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Emcee of the Month: Eternia

Here's the video for Eternia & MoSS' track "TO THE FUTURE", the third single from the album At Last.

Man, Eternia is nice. It's that simple. I can't tell you how impressed I am by her ability to reveal a balance of thoughtfulness, aggression, and compassion; especially within the context of one track. I think this track provides the listeners equals doses of Eternia's strengths and fears, appropriately coloring the admittedly and inevitably incomplete picture I've presented this month. I can only cover so much!

I've tried a couple of times to write something here that addresses the topic of this song, but I'm feeling wholly inadequate and unable to truly provide useful insight. I sympathize with the story. I'm sad for her final discovery of a reluctant rejection of love. I'm joyful for her choice to speak these words. I feel a little helpless in that all I can do is post this video for my friends instead of putting this track in heavy rotation at your local hip hop radio station. I'm reminded of incredible importance of the feminine energy in the lopsided, male-driven world of hip hop music.

Check for Eternia, for real. She's not playin'.


Friday, May 27, 2011

The Death of Gil Scott-Heron

This is truly a loss. Scott-Heron epitomized revolution.

Gil Scott-Heron, the musician and poet who wrote The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and was seen by many as “the Godfather of Rap”, has died aged 62.

The US artist died in a New York hospital on Friday, after becoming sick on returning from a European trip.

More here.

In a couple of days I will have the resources to reflect on this event a bit more. For now, I would simply like to spread the word.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Rhymes of Our Lives

No, Stankonia wasn't OutKast's first album.

I've told the story before about how I stumbled across OutKast. This track was particularly influential in converting me to a fan of their music. Keep in mind, in 1996 I think I spent more time watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Fox (Yes, I'm a nerd. Deal.) than checking out videos on B.E.T. or MTV, so I had no idea there was a video for this. All I knew was that I had moved into a brand new neighborhood with peers who were both very foreign and oddly familiar, and this was a sample of my life's new soundtrack. Omarr was especially taken by "Elevators" and we used to crank it over and over on his living room sound system, along with whatever Mobb Deep album he was playing at the time.

This song was a gateway on my journey towards the discovery of hip hop. OutKast is incredible.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Windy Weather

Ed Schultz drives me nuts. And now he's really done it.

NEW YORK — Left-leaning Ed Schultz has been suspended from msnbc cable television for referring to radio talk show host Laura Ingraham as a "right-wing slut" and "talk slut" on his syndicated radio show Tuesday.

In a statement released Wednesday, the cable channel said: "Msnbc management met with Ed Schultz this afternoon and accepted his offer to take one week of unpaid leave for the remarks he made yesterday on his radio program. Ed will address these remarks on his show tonight, and immediately following begin his leave. Remarks of this nature are unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

More here.

Let me be clear. I am a liberal/progressive. I am pro-choice, a believer in universal health care, and a supporter of gay marriage. There are very few moments in which I find agreement with the current public persona of America's conservative wing.

But this guy Schultz is a huge wind bag.

He bothers me in the same way Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly does. He espouses his thoughts and beliefs with such absolution and inflexibility, there is no room for humility or thoughtful discourse. Anyone who agrees with him is a genius, all opposed are raving lunatics and deserve nothing but a place on the gallows.

Last October, Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" was, for me at least, one of the most important political and cultural events of the modern era. Along with his colleague Stephen Colbert, they set about deflating the bubble of divisive and manipulative media coverage that skews the public's perspective of political processes. However, we liberals tend to think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert only belong to us, and any criticism they make of the political climate only involves those who oppose our views.


Colbert and Stewart recognize that the real problem is not Republican vs. Democrat, but rather the lack of honorable, reasonable, thoughtful debate and discussion between Republicans and Democrats. The immediacy of today's information-hungry society has transformed politics into the rhetorical version of World Wrestling Entertainment. Sound bites and talking points dominate the public's attention, not insightful and inspiring conversation or commentary. So people like Schultz, O'Reilly, and Hannity feed the noise rather than work to silence it. They're all the same dude.

If MSNBC wants a progressive commentator that knows when he's gone too far and doesn't take himself too seriously, there's this guy named Keith they should check out. Oh, wait...


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dear Missouri...

I don't feel I'll be able to add any more insight to the current effects of the tornado that ravaged Joplin, Kansas this week. Instead, I will do my part by posting some of the more unbelievable and devastating photos I've seen circulating around the internet. I hope something you see will move you to give these people you best hopes and wishes. They surely need it.

My thoughts are with them and all the folks in Kansas and Oklahoma. They are having a trying time.


Monday, May 23, 2011


If the world has ended, then why is this so funky?


Check you all later.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Emcee of the Month: Eternia

Here's a video of Eternia performing at the URBFresh Urban Music Showcase in Toronto back in March.

Ya girl is nice wit' it. I'm really diggin' her energy.

When I watch this video, I'm reminded of an MC Lyte/early Naughty By Nature/Blunted on Reality Fugees-era body language that was very prevalent in east coast hip hop during the early and mid-1990s. (Check out Naughty's "Feel Me Flow", MC Lyte's "I Go On", and The Fugees' "Nappy Heads".) There was most certainly a cultural emcee body during that time which was defined by lots of large hand and arm gesticulation and tons of body rockin'. Eternia has decided, whether she knows it or not, to carry this sense of rapper body into her stage performances. In many ways, I find it refreshing. I'm really big into retro hip hop bleeding its way into the current state of things, and it seems Eternia's wasn't kidding when she said she's been heavily influenced by this period of hip hop history.

I just wish she could find one place on stage to be!

Don't worry. I'll get with her and we'll work on it.


P.S. I apologize for my absence recently. In the near future I will take time to tell the full story of recent events that have occupied my time.

Nevertheless, I'm back.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Where's Reuben?

I'm in Seattle. It's a long story that I'll get into as the days move forward. Just know that due to recent extraordinary events, I'm in Seattle.

I will resume a normal schedule of posting general craziness this evening with a new post on my current Emcee of the Month, Eternia.

Thanks everyone.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Plague of the 'Reflective You'

There is a plague sweeping through the English speaking Americas that is causing ambiguity and miscommunication in every town, city, and neighborhood it enters. You may have heard it in a recent conversation, seen it on the news or some youtube clip, or even used it yourself. And I guarantee you its implemetation most likely causes great confusion amongst any who happen to be in earshot. I've been unable to find an actual term for it, so I've decided to name it "reflective you".

Here's how it works. A person in a conversation will be describing a task or concept in which many people frequently enact or engage. In place of refering to these hypothetical people directly, this person uses the word "you", even if the person receiving this information has never thought or participated before in this task or concept. Therefore, the listener has to translate this usage of the word "you" to mean "the people who think or do this thing we're discussing" which makes the conversation less effective and efficient than it could be.

Let me see if I can provide an example.

Say I'm discussing with some friends of mine a new Wal-Mart being built in the middle of Philadelphia (where I live) and I say something like:

If you put a Wal-Mart in an inner-city community then you will lose all of your local businesses because you won't be able to compete with such a big company.

Everytime the word "you" is used in this sentence it never refers to the listener for whom I've uttered this thought. The first one actually refers to the Wal-Mart corportation itself. The second and third translate to mean the people of the community; "we" and "us" to be more precise. The final one references the local businesses that will lose their patrons to the large corporation. At no time in this sentence does the speaker reference the listener directly. Therefore it should read:

If they (they=Wal-Mart Corp.) put a Wal-Mart in an inner-city community then we will lose all of our local businesses because they (they=local businesses) won't be able to compete with such a big company.

or even better:

If Wal-Mart puts a store in an inner-city community then we will lose all of our local businesses because they won't be able to compete with such a big company.

In both of these revised versions of this thought, the subject to which the speaker is refering is much clearer and the point is made more cleanly. There is absolutely no confusion about what is being discussed and the major players of the issue.

I hear this convoluted usage of "you" very often; in fact almost every day. People use this to discuss all kinds of sophisticated topics that require much more clarity and specificity than this usage can provide. Its popularity has inspired me to work towards removing all traces of its implementation in my daily conversations. I take time to consider exactly who and what I'm discussing and how best to reference them in the stream of speech. Sometimes it means I breathe without speaking for significant periods between thoughts, maybe two to five seconds. Many times that's simply too long for someone to wait for my thought, so I'm often interupted by faster thinking people with less precision.

Nevertheless, I'm determined to rid this plague from our shores! If you or someone you know has been affected by the "reflective you", feel free to contact me and I will provide an appropriate treatment of the proper liguistic medication. Thank you all for your time.

Yes, I'm talking to you.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Emcee of the Month: Eternia

Why is she talking so fast!?

Eternia's got a very sophisticated sense of hip hop music, and it's evident she's given a lot of thought to her place in the culture. I'm especially appreciative of her mention of growing up on '90s rap like Busta Rhymes and Onyx. It was during that era when I became aware of my attraction to hip hop music and culture and I very much identify with that sense of the music. Check this interview.

And if anyone has a lead on one of those "My Favorite Rapper Wears a Skirt" t-shirts, get at me.


Common: The World's Nicest Gangsta

So yea, being in Vancouver is taking a toll on my blogging schedule. Nevertheless, I'll be here as much as I can. Thanks for sticking around.

Okay, so here's what we got:

A White House event intended to be a celebration of poetry and the power of spoken word went off without a hitch Wednesday but enraged right-wing pundits upset over the invitation of the rapper and poet Common.

Common appeared at the "Evening of Poetry"event -- part of Michelle Obama's White House Music Series – where he recited some lines amidst piano accompaniment in front of the audience of children and adults.

Some critics of Common's participation in the White House event, which also featured comic and writer Steve Martin and singer Aimee Mann, were upset that the rapper has slammed former President George W. Bush in his poetry.

More here.

I'm out of the country for one week and these Repugnicans (I shouldn't say that. But it's kinda funny, so I'm keeping it!) haul off and insult my favorite rapper. It's like they were waiting for me to leave so they do it behind my back!

Ever since I heard about this story yesterday, I've been trying to figure out how to tackle it. It's been a bit of a conundrum, really. I've been wondering why I'm not cursing a blue streak and spitting lava about it.

Perhaps because it's the type of reaction I'd expect from people who have no sense of their world. I mean, I can't be surprised by the conservative response, because the Right is notorious for not doing their research. I'm sure no one will mistake Sarah Palin or Karl Rove for hip hop scholars or being in touch with the pulse of the youth. Nor am I shocked or miffed by the lack of sophistication displayed by those wonderful kids at Fox News. Those lovely folks know their shtick really well; absolution, divisiveness, and fear. They do black and white like nobody's business.

So the only thing left for me to feel about this is excitement and happiness. Consider this: Common's first album, Can I Borrow a Dollar?, was released in 1992. That means he's been a professional recording artist for 20 years. Twenty. And while he's always had a very solid base of loyal fans, written some of the most powerful, thought-inspiring, and imaginative lyrics in the history of hip hop, advocated against the use of anti-gay and homophobic lyrics in rap music, participated in the "Knowing is Beautiful" campaign for HIV/AIDS awareness, written children's books, and created the Common Ground Foundation to help empower kids in disenfranchised communities of Chicago, he's never had an album sell with real mainstream success. He's never had anything past a gold-selling record (500,000 copies sold, but less than 1 million).

So good for him that he's made some stuffy right-wingers mad. I hope they call him a cop-killin, gangsta grillin, gang-bangin, drug-dealin, woman-beatin, Impala-drivin, saggy-pants-wearin, child-out-of-wedlock-havin, thuggin, gold-tooth-havin thug for the next two months. Maybe people will finally get a chance to hear what he has to say.


Here's Common's "The Sixth Sense". I think this pretty much sums it up.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Rhymes of Our Lives

I bought the cassestte single of this back when I was twelve years old.

If LL Cool J's "I'm Bad" was the first hip hop song I ever learned, then I think this was the second. I remember seeing the video on MTV and thinking, "Wow! Is this rap?" At the time, the popular hip hop of the day was coming from California and involved extensive amounts of challenging vocabulary, with which I couldn't really identify. So to hear some cats who were taking steps to be clever and have fun was refreshing.

A Tribe Called Quest has got to be the greatest hip hop group of all time.


Monday, May 9, 2011

A Quick Thought About Questions

There has been some concern at the Voice Intensive this year about disclosure of confidential events that occur during the daily sessions. This past weekend the core faculty had a very thoughtful and multi-layered conversation about this new phenomenon of social media and networking. During the debate, I offered to the faculty that I maintain a blog that looks into questions about music, politics and theatre. I wanted to make it clear that I recognized their concern and asked their advice for how I should proceed with any thoughts on our work this month.

David replys, "Ask the questions, 'What is music? What is politics? What is theatre?'" In other words, how can I be in process with my blog in a form parallel to my process associating at the Voice Intensive.

Crap, David. You gonna make me think!?

In the coming weeks I hope to look into some of these questions with more detail. Please stay tuned.

And I'm sorry about yesterday. Blame it on Susan!


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Emcee of the Month: Eternia

Yes, let's get the obvious stuff out of the way right now. She's a white girl. And it doesn't matter.

My homie Marcel made a quick mention of Eternia on facebook about a week ago. The only bits of info I retained from what I read was "emcee" and "Canadian" and thought, "Oh! Maybe she could be my Emcee of the Month for May since I'll be in Canada the whole time." However, to be honest I thought I'd have to fall back on k-os or Kardinal Offishall; established cats with material.


Lemme tell you something. This girl embodies everything pure and primal about being a rapper. She actually reminds me of all the things that were wonderful about so-called "underground" hip hop of the late nineties; passion, hunger, playfulness, humility, and sophistication. Generally, the more visible artists of that period were quite lazy and took themselves way too seriously, which put a bad taste in the mouths of many hip hop fans. Fortunately for hip hop, the Bush Administration has allowed us to rediscover our focus; just ask Questlove.

Here's an Eternia freestyle from way back in 2005. And I'm telling you, since then she's only gotten better.

This is going to be a good month.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Word to Obama

There's been a lot of sobering discussion about the recent fatal capture of Osama bin Laden, and rightly so. It's been a difficult 10 years for people who have desired to see the orchestrator of Sept. 11th answer for his crimes. So anytime we can find something that resembles light and humor in these kinds of topics, it's certainly a welcome injection of hope and humanity. And judging by how many views this video has, it's certainly serving that purpose.

By the way, this cat is not only good at mimicking Barack Obama, he's a really good emcee. Do you know how hard it is to stay in the pocket of the beat while doing an impression? This is hot.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Handle My V.I.

Yes! The Voice Intensive is among us!

Today I had my first meeting with David and the other two associate instructors for this year's Voice Intensive. This year the associates are Patricia Darbasie, David Huber, and myself. The energy between all of us felt incredibly positive and progressive, and since we've all been so influenced by David (Smukler) and his work it's fascinating how we almost effortlessly complement each other's vocabulary and perspective. And of course it was refreshing to see David again. That's my homie.

Tomorrow we meet up with some of the senior faculty to discuss our roles as associates. From what I remember last year, the primary role of an associate is to "hold the work", which means to be a model/guide/ear/witness to the participants' journey throughout the Intensive. I've often described it to some as a liaison between the participants and the senior faculty. Because some of the sessions can have over 20 people in a large room for two hours, we serve as a second or third set of eyes and ears in order to appropriately address specific challenges of our work and communicate our observations with the primary instructors.

Most of this communication helps the associates in our paths to becoming better teachers ourselves, especially for me. I'm most certainly the least experienced of the associates this year, as both an actor and a teacher. So the evolution and clarification of how we talk about what we're doing is extremely helpful. This past year in Philadelphia for me has been about how to grow my experience simultaniously as actor and teacher; most won't respect me as the latter without the former. The Voice Intensive will be a much welcomed outlet for my desire to teach.

I'm so thankful to be here.


p.s. If you don't get the reference of this post's title, see here.


So here I am back in Vancouver. I just got off the bus at the University of British Columbia to have the first meeting with David and the other associate instructors. It was quite an emotional moment arriving here. This place really means a lot to me.

More tonight.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Travelling Man

Tomorrow, I leave from Raleigh-Durham International Airport and head to Vancouver for five weeks to work as an associate instructor at Canada's National Voice Intensive. My bags are packed, my bike is stowed and my cat is secured. My flight leaves RDU at 10:14am and including travel to the airport, I can look forward to approximately 16 hours of travel time.

Considering that 150 years ago it took 16 months of travel to cross North America, I don't think I have much about which I can complain.

Tonight though, I leave you with DJ Honda and Mos Def for company. Consider it my theme music for tomorrow's journey. And to quote I'm Gonna Git You Sucka... :)


Monday, May 2, 2011

Gotcha! (The Prequel)

As you may or may not know, every year there is a social gathering of White House and Capitol Hill press correspondents and top Washington political brass to celebrate the difficult, awkward, but good-natured relationship between the politicians and the media that cover them. Hosted by the White House Correspondents' Association, the Correspondents's Dinner has been a Washington tradition since 1920.

The Dinner has always included performances by contemporary singers and comedians as highlights of the evening, and frequently the sitting President speaks as well; usually with jokes about himself and his colleagues. In recent years, there have been a few controversial performances by the invited performers. Most notably, Stephen Colbert's act in 2006 was especially contentious due to his scathing satire of conservative punditry and targeting of The Bush Administration.

Ironically, this year's Dinner took place on April 30th, just one evening before President Obama announced the death and capture of Osama bin Laden. And though the recent news coverage has been concerned with the responses surrounding this event (and rightly so), I feel the importance, relevance, and risk of this year's Correspondents' Dinner has been underestimated.

Because Obama incinerated Donald Trump this weekend.

Look at Trump! He ain't happy!

It's been rather unfair that Donald Trump, with his deliciously media savvy haircut, has been able to take control of this extravagant "birther" issue while the President has had to focus on nagging stuff like the deficit and national security. I've been waiting to see how Obama was going to allow himself to say Trump's name and still be presidential.

It's a really tough thing to do. The President would be devaluing himself if he acknowledged and addressed every wacko and dummy that drags his name through the mud; there are more pressing matters to attend. But the Dinner gave the President the perfect forum from which he could approach "The Donald" like the joke he really is; a less formal, more cordial, and more playful audience that is as inside the joke as they can get. I got the impression from watching this that most of the press recognize the marginality of Trump's political aspirations as much as anyone else.

Trump recognized that the President can, and will, push back. And he'll do it with his target sitting in the room. Reconsider much?


P.S. I'm not sure if it's right to celebrate someone's death, even if that someone is as warped and malevolent as bin Laden. I feel like cheering about it some times, and at others I don't. But I wholehearted believe our global society can move forward with more unity and less fear without his influence. And I surely won't miss him.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


This is from CNN.com

The most prominent face of terror in America and beyond, Osama Bin Laden, has been killed in Pakistan, U.S. officials said Sunday night.

Bin Laden was the leader of al Qaeda, the terrorist network behind the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. U.S. officials said that their forces have the body of bin Landen.

More here.

So here we are. Apparently. Osama Bin Laden has been killed by a handful of U.S. Navy SEALs who carried out a very quiet operation ordered by President Obama on Friday, based on intelligence received on Bin Laden's whereabouts in Pakistan. I'm sitting here at home watching live footage of a gang of people in Lafayette Park, across the street from The White House, partying like the Redskins just won the SuperBowl.

All the reports are saying Bin Laden's body is in U.S. custody. What are they gonna do, put pictures of it on facebook for proof?

And just last night, President Obama was doing stand-up at The White House Correspondents' Dinner where he absolutely blitzed Donald Trump. This cat is really good at multi-tasking.

So I guess my most nagging question now is, "What next?" If it is true that Bin Laden got smoked, what does that mean? How are things different?

I do know this. Obama just stamped his two-term ticket tonight.

I'll be watching the commentary just like you. Perhaps I'll have more constructive thoughts later this week.