Entries Posted in "Culture"

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Out With It...Worst Books Ever Read
July 9, 2004

The time has come. That literacy post got me thinking. One of these days I'm going to post my recommended reading list (right..in all of my infinite wisdom and glory I'm sure). But hey, reader "Donna" suggested it so why not. But now it's time for a little Friday fun. I feel like doing a little ripping, so out with it. What are some of the worst books you've ever read?

As a pre-curser, let's not get offended if someone lists off our most-favorite book. Everything's up for criticism 'round these parts...except of course, the Holy Bible.

I'll start and continue adding as they come to me:

  1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  2. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

  3. Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
  4. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  7. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  8. Everything in my History of Contemporary Christian Thought Seminar by a bunch of old white dudes

  9. Auto-Biography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X (with help from Alex Haley)...yeah I said it.
More forthcoming. Gosh this is fun. I'm interested to hear what books make your list. Have a great weekend everyone!

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July 9, 2004

Ack! I just heard what financial analyst Jean Chatzky said on the Today show this morning in response to Katie Couric's question of what a woman who owns her own house and then gets married should do about putting her husband's name on the deed...Chatzky replies,

"Get a pre-nuptial agreement."

Oy vey. The world we live in.

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Reflections On the Ill-Read Society
July 9, 2004

Yesterday, I read an interesting article in the New York Times called "Fewer Noses Stuck in Books in America, Survey Finds" (registration required). Not quite an eloquent title, but the article discusses the decline in reading amongst Americans in all demographics. A survey called "Reading at Risk" was released yesterday by the National Endowment for the Arts who is really more interested in the percentage of people reading novels, short stories, plays and poetry. The survey is inclusive of all literature however. According to survey data, fewer than half of Americans over 18 read any of the above mentioned genres of literature. Demand for books in all different genres has greatly diminished through the years. Bruce Weber writes,

"What this study does is give us accurate numbers that support our worst fears about American reading," said Dana Gioia, the chairman of the endowment, who will preside over a discussion of the survey results at the New York Public Library this morning. "It quantifies what people have been observing anecdotally, but the news is that it has been happening more rapidly and more pervasively than anyone thought possible. Reading is in decline among all groups, in every region, at every educational level and within every ethnic group," he said, calling the survey results "deeply alarming."
Whaddya know? People have been predicting this for years. In light of our culture's blatant aversion to anything that doesn't include commercials, Weber goes on prodding for possible reasons,
"The study, with its stark depiction of how Americans now entertain, inform and educate themselves, does seem likely to fuel debate over issues like the teaching and encouragement of reading in schools, the financing of literacy programs and the prevalence in American life of television and the other electronic media that have been increasingly stealing time from readers for a couple of generations at least. It also raises questions about the role of literature in the contemporary world."
Interestingly enough, awhile back, I discussed my "distaste" for many of the classics we've all come to worship. Kevin Starr, professor and librarian was interviewed for the article and remarked,
"There are two distinct cultures that have evolved, and by far the smaller is the one that's tied up with book and high culture. You can get through American life and be very successful without anybody ever asking you whether Shylock is an anti-Semitic character or whether 'Death in Venice' is better than 'The Magic Mountain'.
I suppose it wouldn't disprove his point if I admitted I have no clue what he's talking about? Being well-read and its usefulness in society. Now that's a discussion I could sink my teeth into. I would break that concept up into two points of discussion. The question of whether or not people should be well-read is a simple one. Yes. The greater question is well-read in what? We all agree this nation could stand to stress literacy just a tad more. Heck, from the cultural context I know for a fact that Black families don't stress reading nearly as much as other cultures. In terms of what literary work should occupy the arsenal of the average American adult, I say it should vary. The last thing we need is a bunch of ninnies running around quoting Dickens; especially when there's so many well-written and prolific treasures collecting dust in the corner of the library. Many are even written by foreigners. If we're all reading the same books do we really have a well-rounded society?

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Caught in a Fashion Faux-Pas
July 9, 2004

Those familiar to this site know that every now and then I am prone to giving fashion critiques. Well folks, it's time for another. A few days ago, I had a "moment" while driving and just had to take a snap-shot in motion (hence the blurriness). What you see here is a lovely woman, strolling along on her merry way, unbeknownst to her, she would end up at the center of my ridicule on the world wide web. For the sake of my analysis, let's just call her "Jane". Don't worry, I'd never show Jane's face. You may not be able to decipher the photo, but Jane has on some very chic ankle cowboy boots (as chic as ankle cowboy boots can be). What else you say? Jane's also sporting some lovely shorts. That's right campers, shorts. I would like to announce to the relative world, that under no circumstances is it ever acceptable to wear ankle cowboy boots and shorts. Not okay. Be warned. My camera shall continue to be on the prowl.

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Public Displays of Expression
July 7, 2004

Cultural tendencies are a funny thing. I grew up with a mother who had the uncanny ability to embarrass you in public every chance she got. She didn't wear frost lipstick, high water pants, or polka dots and plaid. No. Her crime was much worse; she was loud.

Not only was she loud, she was also outright bold and lacking certain inhibitions of most sane people. These are the same inhibitions that serve as a restraining mechanism for saying things that might embarrass family members and show up on your record when you run for congress. These are the very inhibitions to which most people yield in order to avoid inciting riots. I've never underestimated my mother's ability to say the first thing that comes to her mind out loud. I come from a call and response culture. I've found that most of white culture (whatever that is) in general tends to be less given to outward expressions of fits of excitement, anger, and perplexity. Then again, Greeks are pretty loud. Italians too.

I spent most of my childhood dreading every moment I had to enter the presence of the general public with my transparent (what you see is what you get) mother. She's an educated woman, a Ph.D. at that, so her words were never uncouth. Raw maybe, but never uncivilized. If the platform was available to disagree, she usually would. I've become all too familiar with that pit-in-my-stomach feeling when in the middle of our meal, I know she's about to start telling our waiter how she thinks his attitude stinks. Our culture was one where if you liked something, you said so. If you didn't, you said so too. This is otherwise known as "co-signing". Find your run-of-the-mill predominately black church, sit in the back row, and you will see this concept epitomized. The word "Amen" essentially means "it is so" or "let it be". Now a days, it's common vernacular across racial lines as a vocal affirmation of agreement. Being the non-traditionalist that she is, my mother took her propensity to "co-sign" to the culture. At the ballet it was, "You better dance girl!", at the opera it was, "Alright now, you better sing!", and at the symphony it was, "That boy is PLAYING that violin". All of this was said aloud for the row behind us to hear. And there I sat next to her, shrinking into my seat, hoping no one saw me, praying I could be a white kid. Surely white kids didn't have mothers that proclaimed "Yes that's right!" in the middle of a play or "Amen" in the middle of my high school valediction.

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Give it A Rest Already!
July 7, 2004
My proposed contribution to the evil racket. [ Note: I am actually holding the air ]

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Help! My Dad's a Geezer
July 7, 2004

Famed singer Kenny Rogers' wife gave birth to twins yesterday. At 65 years of age, that makes Kenny Rogers a father at the age of a grandpa. When the twins are age five, they will have a 70-year-old father. Does anyone else have a problem with this? Let's not kid ourselves here. We're not exactly living in the days of Moses and Sarah when old "senior in age" people were experiencing immaculate conceptions. Men are not living to be 500 years-old anymore and there comes a time when women shrivel up. I believe there's a reason for that. In an age where we have legalized genocide, I'm all for procreation. However, I debate internally about this whole issue. Is it possible to be a poor steward of one's "capabilities"? I suppose a father is better than no father, however these brief stints of fatherhood can be frustrating for many kids.

Throughout my school life, I always had young parents while of all my friendss parents were the same age as my grandparents. My mother and father were 25 and 29-years-old respectively when they conceived me. Not exactly teenage parents, but it certainly put them in the category of "young parents" in the inner circles of private school life which was usually riddled with children of second marriages. I'm not sure what it is, but rich white men (not all but some) often get divorced and re-married to young hussies half their legal age. Is that the quarter-year life crisis version of a sportscar? I will never understand what a foreign supermodel sees in Donald Trump. Could it be the power? The money? The hair? The world may never know.

In high school, I had a classmate whose father died at age 78. He was only 18 at the time. He was a product of his dad's late second marriage and he was devastated by the death. Not only was he devasted, he was also angry. His anger mostly stemmed from the fact that while yes, his father's seed brought him onto the Earth, he got stuck with a sick father who spent most of his childhood dying. It's a sticky situation. I don't believe any children are illegitimate. It does bother me that so many prominent men are starting second families they'll never be around to raise.

Thoughts? At what point should people stop having children? I suppose it'd help if men stayed with their original wives.

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Cosby Smites His Critics
July 1, 2004

Thursday, during an appearance at the PUSH/Rainbow Coalition's annual conference, Bill Cosby once again released fire. This time he fought the accusations that he's been airing the black community's dirty laundry,

"Let me tell you something, your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day, it's cursing and calling each other n------ as they're walking up and down the street."
So far the articles I've read are far more bold about the facts than last time around with Cos' speech at the Brown v. Board gala. Almost too bold. Although they've all noted the fact that Cosby's words were interspersed and sometimes interrupted with applause, "Amens" and "uh-huhs" from onlookers, I'm not feeling the headlines: "Cosby Has More Harsh Words For Black Community", "Cosby Slams Poor Blacks, "Cosby Attacks", or "Bill Cosby went off on another tirade against the black community". I think we need to be careful here. Nothing about what Cosby is saying is against the black community. He's addressing a mindset that can be held by anyone. Cosby has referred to his words as a "Call to Action". I realize that "Bill Cosby Mobilizes Black Community" does not make for as good a headline, but this is where the media agitates me. They cast unnecessary tension onto situations.

Interestingly enough, the last time around Cosby admitted that his entire speech was off the cuff and inspired by the moment as writer Cheryl V. Jackson reports,

"...when he looked at the 80-something-year-old players in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision who were seated in the balcony...He then started talking about how he felt that, for some black Americans, education had taken a back seat to achieving glory on the sports field."
Indeed Sambo on the playing field has long plagued the black community. According to Cosby, the games we need to focus on winning take place in the mind,
"Our victory was not in how many white men were knocked out in the ring...Our victory was not in how many touchdowns we ran. It is about our minds, the use of our minds and education."
This time, the focus of his admonition was definitely personal responsibility,
"For me there is a time...when we have to turn the mirror around, because for me it is almost analgesic to talk about what the white man is doing against us. And it keeps a person frozen in their seat, it keeps you frozen in your hole you're sitting in."
I couldn't have said it better myself.

The month following Cosby's last speech has been filled with amazing transformations of the hearts of many in the black community. While many were at first outraged, it seems more are now coming out of the woodwork in support of Cosby; including Jesse Jackson. This time around, prior to Cos delivering his speech, he'd already earned the support of a captive audience. People held cardboard signs that read, "Bill Cosby, You Don't Need to Apologize". Mine would've read, "Bill Cosby, You Don't Need to Clarify". I must admit, I'm half-way shocked to hear Jesse Jackson coming alongside and defending Cosby. I mean, what's in it for him?

Nevertheless, there is certainly a stirring in the atmosphere. Two licks in two months may be a lot for some to handle and trust me, there are plenty who still stand against the "harshness" of Cosby's words. Oh well, folks better suck it up and take heed when wisdom speaks. This is the stuff that gets me going.

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The Bart Simpson Effect
June 28, 2004

Sarcasm. The Simpsons made it mainstream, but even long before the work of Matt Groening, there were prominent comedians and actors who made sarcasm both comedic and famous. I have mixed feelings about the concept of sarcasm. It is a form of communication that has the capacity to be both powerful and destructive. When used with ill-intent, it can cut very deeply. It becomes a machete, decimating everything in its path. Contrarily, sarcasm can also be used carefully like a scalpel, cutting through to the heart of the matter. When used at the right time, it can convey far more than plain words. Even Jesus used sarcasm on occasion.

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And Every Man Was Right in His Own Eyes
June 28, 2004

Well, this weekend was the bang that concluded Gay Pride month. Being a Seattleite in all, I don't want to assume anything so I'll state the obvious: June was Gay Pride month. We can thank Bill Clinton for that. Let's see, June is the sixth month and in Biblical numerology, six is the number of man and/or flesh. Makes perfect sense to me. Seattle of course, included itself in the festivities with parades, parties and whatnot and I'll be the first to say that the heaviness in the air was evident. 'Tis a sad state for humanity to revel in such false liberty.

As you may recall, earlier this month President Bush refused to declare June "Gay Pride Month". This is one of the many reasons why I love that man (notwithstanding his inability to pronounce "American"). Then again, I'm proud to be a "Merikin". The behavior I saw displayed this weekend was not "Merikin" at all.

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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City

I Have a Talk Show