Author Archive

Father Time

Posted: June 19, 2012 by chuckspears in Uncategorized

So, yesterday, I got on stage for the first time in a long time. Not rapping as is my usual means of expression, but delivering it in more  of a spoken word “flow-style”. It was a Father’s Day event that my mother helped organize, it took place at the Afrikan Poetry Theatre in Jamaica Queens. The place was full of history, and lots of great luminaries in the poetry world have passed through it’s doors, but a fresh coat of paint and some new furnishings wouldn’t do any harm.

Anyways, I started out the set with a new piece I titled, “Father Time.”

FATHER TIME

 

The time I allowed to share with my father was One year, Seven months and four days.

He got to hear my first words, see my first steps… and change my diapers.

He’d already seen these small miracles three times before me.

At the time of his passing, my mother was coming due with another bundle of joy and he was looking to see it all again a fifth time.

The laughter, the tears, feedings, which lead to vomit occasionally, and always more diapers.

My mother tells me they wanted TEN KIDS, I couldn’t imagine having nine siblings,

But I can only imagine a life where I would be allowed more father time.

Memories of my father aren’t really memories of my own-

But retellings of the things he did, the things he said and the things he allowed.

I was still an infant when I had to face life without him but I’m sure I smile his reflection

I’m sure I speak as he spoke, only with New York regional slang as opposed to a DC metro twang

My father’s passing made him loom larger than most fathers; my mother said he was a martyr

Said he was in paradise with Allah looking down on us

Said don’t do such and such, you wouldn’t want to disappoint your father

I don’t mean to blaspheme but in my mind, my father stood shoulder to shoulder with God

Watching my deeds on earth from a cloud high in the heavens

He and the Angels would casually chat up my playground antics.

He’d talk to the Prophets about how well I recited the fatiha, how straight I stood in prayer.

When he saw trouble coming my way he’d lend me strength

Or yell at the devil in the fire of hell to get him his ages of off my back,

But as I got closer to his age

When I went to prom, I compared myself to his photograph of him at his prom

Was I taller? Was I as strong? Did I have more style?

Was I as smart?

Do I measure up to a man I can’t remember?

Do I measure up to a Legend?

He was like Paul Bunyon, Jesus, Malcolm, Hercules, and Bruce Lee.

I never got to see his faults, I only knew him in his glory,

He was a Black Belt in Karate, He a soldier in the Army.

He was a father, He was a husband,

He was an Imam, leader of Muslim Community in the nation’s capital.

To All his siblings he was a favorite brother, always ready with a joke.

To my mother he was ideal man.

But when I visit his resting place, I can only find his grave because he’s two headstones down from my aunt.

This is the Father Time I’m allowed now.

The short time we shared was valuable; any time you have to share with your father is just as precious.

Let him know that it is.

 

Advertisements

Okay, so tell me who sounds more suspicious in this situation, a 17 year old high school junior with a hoodie on when it’s raining walking home from a convenience store or a 28 year old man in car following a high school student? The guy in the car wasn’t a police officer. But he did have aspirations to become one. George Zimmerman is a neighborhood watch captain and a college student that is claiming self-defense in the fatal shooting of 17 year old Trayvon Martin, who was visiting his father’s house in Sanford, FL a suburb just outside of Orlando, to watch the NBA All-Star Game . By all accounts Martin had gone to the local convenience store to pick up snacks for his younger brother. A simple task that we’ve all had to do at some point I’m sure, but on his way back home, Zimmerman notices him and sees him as a potential threat to the gated community. Zimmerman calls 911 and says he sees a suspicious person in the area, a slim African-American teenager walking around at night wearing a hoodie. Moments later there are other 911 calls, not from Zimmerman but from others in the community who are concerned by the sound of a series of gun shots. Gun shots that took the life of a young man whose dreams, goals, failures and successes will never have a chance to be explored, they were brought to a dramatic conclusion by a man that according to some reports is ten years older and 100 lbs. heavier than the victim. There are some holes in the story concerning what happened between Zimmerman’s phone call and Martin’s life coming to a close. My guess is that, against Neighborhood watch procedure, Zimmerman confronts young Trayvon and is questioned or ignored, this upsets Zimmerman and as a result a scuffle breaks out. The older man gets the worst of it and draws a weapon, a 9mm handgun, which he uses to settle the dispute. He then claims self-defense and is not arrested for the murder of an unarmed minor. And since there’s a law on the books in Florida called “Stand Your Ground” he wasn’t even arrested because much like the law stating you can defend yourself with lethal force in your home, Stand Your Ground extends that to anywhere a gun owner is occupying space (within the state).

This whole situation in unsettling because Zimmerman has a history of run-ins with the law. He hasn’t been convicted of any crimes, but has been arrested once for allegedly assaulting an officer who was trying to  arrest one of his friends. He assaulted an actual officer, a paid civil servant not some random guy that appointed himself the captain of a neighborhood watch organization, and wasn’t shot for his offense. He was also charged with allegations of domestic violence. Although he has had his troubles with the law, he also has a pretty good record as  a neighborhood watch captain, calling into 911 to report suspicious activity in the neighborhood about 50 times in the last year and even apprehending a robbery suspect. Which begs the question, what was it about Trayvon Martin that made this call, where he was told not to take any action so different? What made led to the fight and subsequent shooting murder of a college junior with no weapons on or near his person, and why wasn’t the shooter arrested and tried before being given a pass? Doesn’t self-defense have to be proven in a court of law, not to a patrol officer?

These questions have led to an uproar in the black community. The cry for justice has been heard across the country and there are talks of this being made a federal investigation. In recent cases such as the shooting deaths of Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo, the “wall of blue” put up by police to protect their own led to not guilty verdicts for officers who fired 50 and 41 shots respectively at unarmed targets. What baffles me here is that George Zimmerman isn’t even a policeman, yet for some reason he seems to be insulated from any form of possible justice at the moment.He hasn’t been arrest or charged despite Trayvon’s parents insistence for justice. Some people are chalking this up to racial profiling, but Zimmerman’s father is adamant that due to his mixed background (Latin-American and Jewish) there was no possibility of racial discrimination on George’s part. He even has black family members and friends. Which is a bullshit defense, because when I was a teenager  working at Barnes & Noble, the store manager, who was Jamaican, told me to especially keep an eye out for black youth because they  steal. Meanwhile, the only person we caught stealing in my time there was a white teenager (that I actually went to school with). When I greeted him a few Design markers fell out of his sleeve. The point being, even African-Americans profile and demonize one another.

When is this madness going to stop?

 

Caution, Brief rant by an angry black man.

Not to knock Octavia Spencer for her efforts and all. I know being a black actor in Hollywood is like being Black in any other industry in America, you take the jobs you can get. But for real? According to the Academy of Arts and Sciences, the best supporting actress of all the films that were released in 2011 is a sassy black maid. Again?

Hattie McDaniel did that 72 years ago  in her role as Mammy in Gone With The Wind.

I thought we were passed that as a people. On one hand I want to complain, on the other the Academy Awards has been at least recognizing that black actors are delivering outstanding performances. In the last ten years I think a black woman won the best actress  in a supporting role three times. Hell, one even won the best actress. But look at the roles they played.

Best Actress 2001: Halle Berry for her role as Leticia Musgrove in the film Monster’s Ball, where she plays a negligent mother and wife of a convict. She’s also naked getting the Sh!t F**ked out of her by Billy Bob Thornton,the corrections officer that executed her convicted husband.

Best Supporting Actress 2006: Jennifer Hudson for her role as Effi White in the film Dreamgirls, where she plays a sassy back up singer who was dumped for the fairer skinned lead singer played by Beyonce. She damn near hits rock bottom and is struggling to survive although she was the superior talent in the singing group. Just constantly shat upon in the film.

Best Supporting Actress 2010: Mo’Nique  for her role as Mary Lee Johnston, in the film Precious, where she plays a negligent mother that allows her husband to rape her underage daughter, multiple times and grows jealous of that relationship to the point the she throws a TV down the stairs at her pregnant daughter who is HIV positive.

And this years “honor” goes to Octavia Spencer for her role as Minnie Jackson in the film The Help, where she plays  a sassy black maid that takes a dump in her bosses bathroom and gets fired for doing so.

I don’t know if Hollywood and the powers that be are trying to send a message, that dark skinned black women have to be overweight and miserable in order to be recognized. That black women have to be either demonized or over sexualized to be recognized, or in the case of Halle in Monster’s Ball, both. I just don’t know if I’m over thinking this or if most people are just under thinking it. I do know it disturbs me. It disturbs me that Angela Bassett was only ever nominated for being an abused woman  as Tina Turner in the film What’s Love Got To Do With It? in 1993. I mean it was a great role and performance, but we always seem to have to go through hell to be seen as worthy. I guess what I’m really saying is…

We’re Still Maids in America, oh, sweet Baby Jesus…ooh, ooh,ooh, hoooo, Oh, sweet Baby Jesus.We’re Still Slaves in America.

I had no way of knowing

I made this image back in 2008 for a photoshop contest on Cracked.com with the theme of how big companies are diversifying in a volatile economy,  way before it was possible to know two out of three of these world renowned singers would have passed on in tragic ways. I mean it’s clear that they were troubled and dealing with demons I don’t even want to imagine having to contend with, but it was all in fun while they were still alive and relatively healthy. The only reason I bring this up is because in looking at my stats in Photobucket I couldn’t help but notice this was the most popular image for the last week; by a lot. This isn’t how I want Whitney remembered. But I still find it funny as hell.

Whitney Houston had one of the most amazing voices in R&B music and she was a class act in her early career, so elegant and undeniably beautiful. I remember when her first album Whitney Houston came out on Arista Records in 1985, the art nouveau design with the orange/peace backdrop, the regal and elegant photo in a cream/white dress and the months on end that my mother played it non-stop. Well she might have snuck in a Luther Vandross or Michael Jackson album just to switch it up, but Whitney would be playing before you knew it. It was clear why, there was an innocence in that album, the dance songs were fun and a little flirtatious, but not raunchy and the ballads were mind blowing. The producers knew just what to do with her voice to make listeners really feel something. Looking at the credits now it’s no wonder, Jermaine Jackson, Teddy Pendergrass and Kashif were among the talents behind the project. Perhaps the best known song on that album was the remake of George Benson’s song the Greatest Love of All. So inspirational  and so powerfully performed. One Moment in Time was another powerful song, one I had to dance to  in my last year of elementary school, maybe for a random assembly but more likely for graduation. It was made for the 1988 olympics and was another song that spurned people towards the excellence inside them. Through her music she offered great advice for the youth of the world.

For a good deal of her career in the 80s there were rumors that she was a lesbian. The kind of scandalous gossip that preteens ate up like Now and Laters and David’s Sunflower Seeds around my way. But it was all squashed when we read in Word Up! and Right On that she was dating Bobby Brown from New Edition. My sisters always thought he was nasty. In this one New Edition video he was clearly grabbing a girls breast as he was walking  through a park with his arm around her shoulder. He was a bad boy and Whitney was an angel. This relationship was blossoming around the time Mike Tyson was married to Robin Givens, and they had similar reputations, the aggressive male from the hood and the sophisticated beauty from the burbs. America didn’t want to see Bobby and Whitney, maybe they were holding out the hope that Whitney and Michael Jackson would get together. Now that’s a universe I would have liked to live in, that seems like a special kind of dysfunction only two top pop stars could bring. But Whitney and Bobby looked like they were having a blast and rubbing it in the medias face. Yeah, he’s younger, yeah he’s rough around the edges, but he fills me with life and vitality. I saw them together in the mid-nineties on Hudson Street in Tribeca. My rap group was taking a break from a session and went to our favorite deli to get this vegetarian sandwich with avocados that the counter man “Chewie”always served up with a smile. Somehow I was the only one in the group that recognized them, they looked like they were having a blast standing outside of a fancy restaurant just shooting the shit. I didn’t see a problem at all.

I’m not going to beat you upside the head with the history of Whitney, you already know it. The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale, the Preachers’s Wife and let’s not forget the Barbara Walters interview. The ups and the downs. We were always pulling for Whitney, we always saw her as a shining star, and she was. Even at her worst. I used to want to curse these assholes that booed her when she wasn’t pitch perfect in some of her final performances. F*ck those people, you pay money to listen to autotune singers. Whitney you will be missed, along with Amy Winehouse and I’m praying for you Britney. Hopefully my stupid little picture isn’t to prophetic.

Eat That New England

Chuck Spears:
So I’m sure you’ve heard by now. The New York Football Giants (Why do we still make that distinction, the Baseball Giants have been in San Fran since 1957) have done it again. Against all odds they beat the New England Patriots in Professional Football’s Championship game for the second time in four years. That might not be fair to say. It’s not so much that the Giants won the game it’s more like the Pats lost it, maybe even gave it away. On the first play of the Pats first drive the Giants score two easy points on a safety. They built some momentum in the second quarter, but a few penalties (like having 12 players on the field on defense), and so many dropped passes drove the nail into the coffin of their championship dreams.

I’m assuming football fans either saw the actual game or watched the recaps, replays and commentary ad nauseam, so I’ll just talk a little bit about how it went down watching the fame at my boy Spot’s crib in BUM-FUCK* New Jersey (*aka Totowa). When I get to his crib he tells me that former Giant Plaxico Burress lives in town, and was at the Pizza Shop up the block from his house, lamenting the fact that his questionable* (*aka dumb-ass) behavior got him suspended from the team and how he should have been in the Superbowl. My friend Spot just missed him at the shop but the owner rubbed the missed celebrity sighting in his face. I’ve had their mozzarella garlic bread, with food that good I could probably bear an insult or two from those guys. I might let the cook punch me in the rib for an order. Anyway my other boy Dro drove me, my lady and his boy to Spot’s house from Jamaica Queens. Dro brings some Vegetable Dumplings from Trader Joe’s and Spot belligerently throws them into the sink saying he didn’t want any healthy shit in his house for the game. Meanwhile, Spot’s snack assortment included baked multi-grain chips and a vegetable platter. Spot’s wife, Jaye, was also there along with his pre-teen son, who was watching his first Superbowl, and his Father-in-Law, Mr. O. Mr. O is a 50-something year-old Italian man, but he was sure to give a rest-in-peace shout out to Don Cornelius, sincerely telling us how he used to love watching Soul Train back in the day. There are no words for how much he hated the half-time show Madonna performed. I have to agree with him, but it did get better when Cee-Lo Green helped her out on the last song in the set, “Like A Prayer.” Nikki Minaj and LMFAO did nothing for us though.

Another thing we had issues with was the quality of the commercials. The Doritos spot were okay, and that Valentine’s Day commercial raised a lot of eye-brows, but for the most part they were all “FAILS” according to Spot’s son. A commercial I got a kick out of was by Audi featuring the “hip” vampires in the woods. I was laughing like a kid when the high beams disintegrated the vamps, and was all alone in that cathartic experience. To everyone else in the room it was groan-worthy at best. The ad for the 21 Jump Street movie wasn’t received well either and the only thing we remembered about it was how weird Jonah Hill looked after losing all the weight. Here’s to your health Jonah, but you I don’t think America is ready for the new you, or your horrible re-imagining of a fan favorite 80s TV police drama. 

Back to the game the third quarter had some exciting drives lots of oohs and ahs as the Pats ate up the clock with a 79 yard drive resulting in their second TD and the Giants barreled down field for a few nail-biting field goals. THings got really tense in the final minutes of the 4th Quarter. Spot’s son could barely stand to watch the Giants final drive of the game. It was quite nerve racking. But that drive ended with the best touchdown I’ve ever seen. Giants Running Back, Ahmad Bradshaw rambled undefended to the goal line and in an effort to eat at the clock turns around and plops down on his ass to score the touchdown. A failed two-point conversion later and the score is 21-17 Giants. The bad news is there’s a minute left in the game and New England Patriots QB Tom Brady has the ball. He throws a few of the prettiest and best placed tosses I’ve seen in a while, landing right in his receivers’ hands, but apparently they had just been oiling their gloves or had third degree burns on their hands because they dropped them suckers like hot potatoes. The last pass to the end-zone was too well defended by the Giants, seems the whole team was there swatting away at Bradys hail-mary throw. So the rematch of Superbowl XLII comes to a close with the same result, The New York Giants are the champs yet again. Eli Manning gets his second Superbowl ring and MVP title, this time the arena his brother Peyton calls home. Tom Coughlin, who the Giants ownership were talking about dumping a few months back is vindicated and the Patriots duck out on the end of game interview. Mr. O is mortified as he stuck around after the game was over just to hear what Coach Bilichick and Tom Brady had to say about their performance in the big game. He says he’s seen every Superbowl and has never seen such bad sportsmanship, to his memory it’s the first time the losing team didn’t come out to congratulate the  Superbowl champs. What a bunch of A-holes.

Getty Images

Getty Images

 So we finally head out and there’s not much going outside in the boonies of the Garden State. Dro drops us of by Port Authority on his was back to Far Rockaway, and it’s a different scene altogether in Times Square. People are getting the championship t-shirts and such from Modell’s some are stammering around drunk, and one Patriots fan mouths off, but manages to walk away unscathed even with people in the street demanding that some one kicks that traitors ass. It’s great to see the city so electrified, that’s all I got on the night’s events Diggy, how’d it go for you?

     Sir Diggy:  GOOOOO BIG BLUE!!!!!!!!!!
I was ecstatic.  I was elated.  And I was around a bunch of non-football watchers that decided to tune in and ended up being entertained anyway, either by the game or by my emotional outbursts.  My best friend doesn’t watch sports, so I had to sort of warn him that he’s never seen me really get into a game, especially a game with one of my squads playing for the Big One.  He nor our other friends have never seen me this wound up, and after the game he said it was a hoot to see me that animated. 

I won’t go into rehashing the game because Chuck, you did a great job in that.  I will tell you that I had to deal with a couple of Johnny-come-lately haters.  One was my girl whom lives outside Chicago but is a Packer fan – I’ve tried to explain to her how sacrilegious that is; her best [only] response is that she likes the color green.  She kept sending me texts along the lines of “Giants suck ass” and “when they lose, you’re going to have to wear a green thong for me” (I know, I know; believe me: I don’t even want to see that!).  The second person was my best friend’s ex-girlfriend, whom earlier in the day told me she wanted no part of watching the Superbowl or being around the fellas.  So imagine my shock when I get the following text during the game (and I quote):

“Hey boot pads your team eAt my shorts.”

What?  Huh?

Here’s another quote I endeared from her mid-game when one of the Giant players got hurt:

“Man down man down na nan boo stick head dodo”

Forget for a second that my three-year old niece speaks more coherently even when she’s making fun of me.  This was someone who was adamant about not watching the game, and who knows NOTHING about football.  Needless to say, Chuck, when that Hail Mary attempt from Brady hit the ground and I got done jumping for joy (and relief), I called her ass – naturally, she hid from me by being on the phone with my boy and not answering.  She did answer eventually, and I let her frontin’ ass have it… don’t ask me what she said in defense/response.

I actually made it to the Giants’ parade today, because my bus from Syracuse dropped me off only a few hours from the start of it.  Check here for my post about it – including pics!

LOVE, PEACE and a SOUL at ease.

If you were into Soul Music. Funk. Jazz, R&B or Hip-Hop and had a TV set turned on on Saturdays and grew up between 1971 and 2006 in America, then it might trouble you to learn about the Passing of Don Cornelius. Cornelius,  born September 27, 1936, was the creator and long time host of one of the longest running syndicated music programs in America.

In my household it was a Saturday tradition. I grew up in the 80’s and got to see history in the making. Shalomar and Jodi Watley started as Soul Train Dancers. And my younger loved Jodi Watley , “Friends” was one of her favorite songs and she bit her style so hard. I mean it’s not even funny. But it was cute. Even though my sister was the youngest of the five of us, she would watch Soul Train like a hawk and teach us all the dance moves week in and week out. The family did a bunch of talent shows and she was the primary choreographer. My older sisters watched for groups like New Edition, Guy and Al B. Sure. Stuff we couldn’t see on American Bandstand. We got to see our people dancing, performing and shining.

We got to see hip-hop grow up on the show. Artists from RUN DMC up until Jay-Z. I remember being extra hyped when The Wu-Tang Clan showed up, even though Method Man was clearly not moving his lips when his vocals were playing. De La Soul would contend that “Don don’t like rap.” on the song “Pass the Peas” from their sophomore album, De La Soul is Dead, but I can remember seeing him give big respect to Big Daddy Kane and Public Enemy. The show was ground breaking in so many ways and the best showcase for black artists even with BET’s Video Soul.

Don’s legacy is slightly marred with last years marital struggles and the circumstances of his death. For the news of a suicide of a celebrated African-American to come on the first day of Black History Month is a little questionable, but there is no question about the impact that this smooth, intelligent and savvy brother had on the world of entertainment and the Black Community. We will miss that smooth voice, the charm, and the magnanamous presence of a true visionary. Don Cornelius, we here at  Stop Trying To Play Me sincerely wish you LOVE, PEACE and SOOOOUUUUUL!

Movie Ideas – Repackaging Old Films

Posted: January 26, 2012 by chuckspears in Film, Humor, Pop Culture

MAKE IT A ROM COM –

Zombies couldn't tear us apart.

Oldboy - The Rom Com   Batman 89 - The Rom Com   Gladiator - The Rom Com

1. Our Love Is Legendary

I Am Legend, a post apocalyptic action drama with Will Smith, his pet dog and a backdrop of New York City, capitol of the world. Oh and zombie/vampire/ghoul creatures that used to be human. But what about love? A few snips here and there and you have a blossoming love story.

2. Love and Dumplings

Oldboy, a Korean film about revenge and redemption is a bit of a mind fuck. Not to spoil the story but American audiences aren’t really good with twisted plots, while most of us do enjoy the occasional plot twist. So edit out the uncomfortable parts and you have a nice little love story.

3. Dancing With The Devil in the Pale Moonlight

Tim Burton‘s 1989 hit Batman had something for everyone. Action, romance, drama, action. But although one of it’s main characters was named The Joker, it wasn’t big on comedy, well it had a morbid kind of comedy. If they would have given more time to the Joker and his love for Vicky Vale and less time to Michael Keaton brooding in a cave, this could have been on par with When Harry Met Sally.

4. Commodus’ Colosseum

Gladiator, garnered Russell Crowe and Academy Award, but it wasn’t exactly a Date Movie. There was a creepy segment in the film where Commodus, the new emperor of Rome falls for his sister. I say play that up for laughs, even make it a musical. While we’re at it let’s leave Maximus out of the whole affair. Sword fight and intrigue have no place in a Rom Com.

MAKE IT AN ART HOUSE FILM

1. The Simplicity of Seducing the Women of  Earth

I can’t say I really remember much about Earth Girls Are Easy, but I can say it  help to launch the careers of Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey. Carrey went on to make more serious films like the Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. Think of this as David Bowie’s The Man Who Fell From Space, experimental and thought provoking. With Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis rounding out the cast, surefire Art House gold.

2. TMNT – By Akira Kurosawa

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was pretty cheesy, and I’m not just talking about the pizza references. It featured four guys in latex suits performing ninjitsu. But what if it were the product of Akira Kurosawa, the visionary behind Seven Samurai and Ran? What if it was by some guy that was just a casual fan of his and a member of his fan club? Okay there may be no helping this film, but at least you can give it a serious poster.