Get that outta here!: No Jordans for me, ever!

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First of all let me say this, I do not have anything against Michael Jordan. I don’t know him personally so everything I know about him is second hand information, at best. The fact that he is a very wealthy businessman who financially benefits from the sale of a shoe that bears his name is not innately problematic or evil. If I were in the same position I’d probably, no, scratch that, I’d definitely do the same thing.
The reason that I don’t own a pair of Jordan’s is very simple: I like having groceries better.
The other day I was walking by a national chain store that specializes in sports shoes (which will remain nameless as I don’t intend to give out any free shout outs) and this guy is standing by the entrance.
“Hey, you wanna check out something,” he asked. I felt weird because it was like he was asking me if I wanted to see something that I shouldn’t be seeing, which made me want to see it even more. I shrugged my shoulders like “sure, what’s you got?” He invites me to come in by telling me the new Jordan’s are in. I wasn’t in a rush, plus the smell of new shoes is like nose crack to me.
So I obliged him and let him guide me thru the drab maze of uninspired foot wear. Nothing was inspired. It all looked the same. But then, all of a sudden, there it was. There was…the Jordan. It was suspended in mid-air behind a sheet of glass that was painted like a backboard. It was like it had wings that gently propelled it above the surface of the planet. Most noticeably absent were any signs of a price tag.
As we approached he told me to take my shoes off because I was about to be standing on holy ground. “Don’t look directly at the shoe,” he said. Amused I responded, “c’mon bro.”
He was dead serious.
So I’m standing there in my socks, staring at the bottom of the shoes (because I couldn’t’ look directly at them). It was impressive. It was stylish, aero-dynamic and, best of all; it had the new shoe smell. He asked me if I wanted to try it on. I didn’t want to corrupt what had unwittingly turned into a religious experience. I had no intention of buying it.
“This shoe chooses you,” he said with the wide eyed look of a mad scientist.
I was starting to remember that I had somewhere else to go, plus my feet were starting to get cold. And this guy was starting to get really weird.
“Nah, that’s okay. How much is it?”
You’d have thought I just spit in his face. Deliberately he began to put the shoe back behind the glass without saying a word to me.
Maybe he didn’t hear me. I asked again. By now he had put his shoes back on and left. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
All over a stupid shoe.
And that’s when it hit me: I will never own a pair of Jordan’s.
Sneekerheads take their shoe wearing fetish to a fanatic level that is completely lost on me. Don’t get me wrong, I like nice things, and I like being able to afford them. But the day will never come when I fork over close to $300 for a pair of fancy sneakers that make you want to injure the person who dares to step, get close to or otherwise violate the same air space as the shoes do.
As I walked out of the store and the smell of new shoes gently wafted away from my nose I realized that, had I been younger, there would’ve been no way that I would’ve walked out of that store with those shoes. And that’s just it; the people who benefit most from drunken consumerism rely on the sizzle, not the steak.
And that’s just it. The sizzle doesn’t impress me anymore. As we get older we start to want what is real. This applies to everything, even in our shoes. If I know that it cost less than $20 to produce a shoe that is being sold for the amount of money that a multi-million dollar ad campaign is trying to convince me to spend on it is an exercise in futility. Game recognizes game and it’s simply…too late for games.

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The monster that rap created….

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I love Iggy Azalea. I think what she’s doing is brilliant. She has taken the rap industry and turned it on its head by coming out with a song, err rap, which highlights her ability to sound like a drowning kitten WHILE racking up over 135 million views on YouTube. That’s right, 135 MILLION YouTube views. You do the math. If only 10 percent of her fans went out and bought her single, she will have sold 13.5 million copies, on one song!

Get yo’ paper girl!

And after all, isn’t that what the rap game has turned into? Cash moves everything around me, CREAM, get the money, Iggy, Iggy, Iggy yawl. The ends justify the means, and if the ends are all about, well, ends (money for those of you less initiated in hip hop vernacular) then Iggy Azalea gets my vote as being the queen bee.

Still, there are the critics who are saying that there’s no way this white Australian should be rapping about the things she’s rapping about.

I believe that this is where her true genius shines. What she has done is pull the sheets off the façade that says this generation’s brand of rap has to have any nutritional value in it.  Today’s brand of salacious cellulose that is saturated in gross consumerism and passing itself off as rap music is audible crack. The first time you hear lyrics and a beat that you like, you’re hooked. Couple that with the visual stimuli of The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous meets ghetto-fabulous and voila, you have found the mixture that is sure to gain you a lot of customers.

And, just like crack, it’s equally as useless and destructive.

Growing up in New South Wales, far from the pot-holed riddled and drug infested southern neighborhoods that created the style of music she does, little Miss Amethyst Amelia Kelly heard her first rap song and decided “I want to be a rap star.” The pull must’ve been so strong that, along the way, she decided to trade in one form of white privilege (Australian heritage, long legs, thin waist, blonde hair, and opaque white skin) and morph herself into the object of overt male misogyny. She traded in one career, which was modeling for one of the top agencies in New York, for some butt injections and “swag-on-demand” when the studio producers yelled “spit” (with lyrics undoubtedly written for her).

One of her first hits to go viral was a song about a part of a woman’s anatomy that rhymes with the name Delores. Her audience was primarily comprised of hard living, what I call “catfish folks” who either don’t understand or appreciate the art of subtlety.  She put it all out there, and then capitalized on flaunting her “otherness” to a people programmed to be envious of the very physical traits that she was genetically pre-disposed to have.

Think about it. She already had the hair texture that she witnessed many of her rap contemporaries spend hours, and thousands of dollars, to get their hair to look like. She already had the white skin, sans skin bleaching creams and who knows whatever else many of her other women of color artist were doing. She learned how to rap with the inflection, and the swag, of a rapper from the “dirty-dirty”. She even started dating from what I am sure was a very willing, and eligible, pool of black men.

What Iggy Azalea has done, rather what rap music in its degenerated bastardized form has allowed her to do, is to become the face for a new kind of minstrel act. Like Dr. Frankenstein, she is the monster that rap has created.

In the earliest days of minstrel the performers were exclusively white. They performed in black face to white audiences who were very comfortable with seeing the buffoonery and racially insulting caricatures of black people. What Iggy Azalea has done is a hybrid of minstrel act and survival in a male dominated industry. I have no doubt that she is truly a fan of this style of rap music, and as a woman she is doing what she feels is necessary to succeed in this genre. But, what is most damaging now is that black people have a much greater degree of control over our image than we did back in the 1830’s and 1840’s. The best that we can do is to equate having a big booty and over-exaggerated sex appeal as a mark of approval for a woman rapper?

The repetitive message that most of today’s top rap artist broadcast is as healthy as the residue of a used crack pipe.

This is why I like Iggy Azalea. Her presence atop the charts right now is a mirror that this present rap industry should look into and see that they are the emperor who is wearing no clothes, that they are the evil mastermind that has gathered the parts of a thousand dead bodies and recreated something that has no soul. They’re the ones who have made it very easy for someone like her, and the multitudes that will surely follow, to become the maniacally unpredictable brute who roams the countryside.

So keep on doing it, and doing it and doing it well Miss Kelly.  Maybe one day someone in the rap “game” will wake up from their THC induced haze and realize that they’ve allowed one of the greatest musical art forms on the planet to degenerate into a watered down minstrel show.  But, until then, Iggy Azalea you really are fancy.

Who’s on first? The monster of health care reform vs a comedy team

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Abbot and Costello made a great comedy team. One of their more hilarious routines was the “Who’s on First” bit. What made the routine so funny was that no matter how much Abbott pleaded for clarity, Costello would repeatedly confuse the matter in a nonchalant way that insinuated to his comedy partner that it was his fault for not understanding something seemingly so simple.
Fast forward to the characters we have running the government today and you wonder the same question: Who’s on First?
Everyone knows that the current healthcare system is screwed up. It doesn’t take a scholar to figure that out. We don’t need special interest group-sponsored doctors telling us that we should “stay the course” and everything will be fine, nor do we need poverty pundits, and yes, I said it, poverty pundits telling us the sky is falling when it comes to healthcare costs in this country.
We can all smell the stench that is rising from the trash heap But like any pile of garbage it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the odor is originating from. Is it the leftovers we threw away last night, or the dirty diaper we threw away a week ago?
Here’s the twisted reality that I believe is at the core of this problem: Physicians, for the most part, actually want the patients they treat to get well. The insurance companies, most of which are either publically or privately owned, want to make a profit. So, how do you make a profit out of sick, dying people? Easily; you charge the healthy ones, you charge them deep, and you charge them that way for as long as you can.
I recognize that I’m oversimplifying a very complex problem. But I’m only bringing this to the table to illustrate that there isn’t only one answer, and you would think that our elected officials would understand and agree to that. There has to be compromise, which in Washington seems to be equivalent to saying another c-word.
Depending on who has the mic, this allegedly is what is going on behind closed doors. But, this is far from the truth. What we have here is a stalemate in reverse; it’s very stale and nowhere near mating.
The Affordable Healthcare Act has been ratified as law by the Supreme Court. Get over it! It’s done. Depending on who you listen to this act is either the greatest assault on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we have ever seen in our lifetime, or it’s the greatest thing next to sliced raisin toast with cinnamon swirl.
I understand the hesitancy of those who aren’t crazy about it. Never before in this country, minus slavery, has by virtue of being alive meant that you are immediately indebted to a controlling agency. Think about it. Auto insurance is mandatory only if you own a car. Homeowners insurance is necessary only if you own a home. Health insurance is now mandatory if you’re….breathing. It’s attached to you being a living, corporeal being. Yeah, let that settle in a little. The individual mandate is a tax on being alive.
There are a lot of people (Tea Party) who take a hardline against taxes of any kind. These people (Tea Party) are great with pointing out the problems of what has been retitled Obama care, but have yet to offer a solution whose logical conclusion doesn’t include sending the poor person who gets sick out to sea in a burning boat. (I mean, really, who doesn’t want to go out like a Viking? Just think of the cottage industry that it would create.)
Republicans, for the most part, have tried to push Tort reform, which puts limits on how much a plaintiff can sue for if they claim and prove that they’ve suffered damages while under a physician’s care. It is believed that the amount of money that is spent on frivolous lawsuits and overzealous juries prevents the medical field from being able to lower prices for care. And while this might be a component of the problem, it is, by no means, the whole solution.
But here’s the rub against the often impassioned pleas of the Republicans against the scourge of “Obama care”; Mitt Romney, their presidential candidate, proposed and signed into law a very similar program in Massachusetts in 2006. Yes, Massachusetts is a lot smaller, but after some tweaking (not twerking) it has been hailed as one of his greatest and most long lasting of his achievements. The individual mandate has been most effectively put in place by, dare I say, a Republican. So it’s not that it won’t work, it’s that “our guy” isn’t the one doing it.
Democrats have sheepishly boarded the support train behind this president who was sent over from central casting and have formed a human shield around the executive office. I can only imagine that had the president been a republican, the democrats would be doing the same thing that the republicans are doing now.
And who suffers from this political gridlock? The people do. The powers that be don’t get their way, so let’s screw the people.
So again I ask………who’s on first?

Are black athletes inherently faster than white athletes?

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A few months ago I’m standing and talking with one of the other parents on my son’s soccer team. He and I have known each other for quite a while now and have a mutual respect for one another. So, when the following conversation happened I was a little surprised. It went like this.
Him: “Man, your son is super-fast. I thought my kids were fast, but your son has cheetah speed. Were you fast when you were a kid?”
Me: “Yes, I was very fast at their age, faster than most.”
Him: “Can I ask you a question?”
Me: “Ssssuuurrre….” (Spider senses started to tingle).
Him: “My sons are the fastest kids on their track team, but when we went over to (insert name of all black high school in an all-black neighborhood) those kids made my sons look so slow.”
Me: “So your question is?”
Him: “Do black kids have an extra leg muscle back there or something?”
Welcome to no wiggle room Wednesday. Today’s topic is: Are black athletes inherently faster than white athletes?
It is well documented that slave owners, Thomas Jefferson being one of them, practiced what is known as selective breeding. Because slaves were looked at as a valuable financial asset (they were the second largest cash asset in the southern states), they were treated like cattle and bred for certain desirable characteristics that could be passed onto their children.
To do the type of back breaking labor that most slaves had to do, a wispy looking runway model type with soft hands and small, lady-like ankles would not do. You wanted muscle, strength, shoulders the width of a boxcar, a back as strong as a train of oxen. In other words you didn’t want a Michael Jackson, you wanted a Bo Jackson.
Often a strong male was forced to impregnate an equally strong female. The end result was baby Hercules. And, because institutionalized slavery lasted in this country for over 200 years, and forced segregation lasted another 102 years (laws that made intermarriage between black and white illegal were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1967) the gene pool remained small and became more defined.
In other words, there was a bunch of baby Hercules.
Nobody wants to talk about this in our overly politicized society, but the fact of the matter is this: professional athletics in this country is the unintended beneficiary of the darkest moment in our American history.
Of course the white athlete has his place in history. I would argue, however, that had there not been forced segregation in all professional athletics black athletes would’ve been equally dominant in football before Fritz Pollard in 1919, in basketball before Church Cooper in 1950, and in baseball far earlier than Jackie Robinson. It can be argued that black boxer Jack Johnson would’ve won the world heavyweight championship had James Jeffries, who was white, not refused to face him in as early as 1900.
Not all black people were physical specimens of epic proportion. We can’t all run like cheetahs or dunk the basketball or outrun defenders or hit the baseball a country mile. Some of us missed that portion of the genetic gravy train. Still, there are enough that would give the casual outside observer the impression that we’re all physical wunderkinds, that we all have an extra leg muscle hidden away somewhere.
Sadly, that’s simply not the case.
Fast forward back to my conversation:
Me: “No, last I checked there was no extra muscle back there. I think it’s because we’re used to being chased.”
Him: (awkward silence)
Me: “Just kidding.” (I couldn’t resist it)

How n-words always ruin my day

“Twisted, jammed into a paradox….”
Going into today’s no wiggle room Wednesday I had nothing to talk about. But then, wouldn’t you know it, I’m sitting in my car, and a car full of young guys pulls up next to me. Our windows are down so I can hear them as well as they can hear me.
That’s when my auditory sanctuary was invaded with the bristling ugliness and vocal stench of a terrible, hateful word used so effortlessly by these guys that I had to do a double-take.
“Hey n-word….n-word hurry up and get in the car…n-word why you tripin’, n-word that’s messed (sic) up….”
I was shocked! I didn’t know who they were talking to. Someone is getting knocked out. Was I about to go to jail? Was I going to catch a case? I began to experience emotional overload.
But as I looked closer into their car my mouth flew open even more. It was a group of young Hispanic guys and they were referring to each other! When they saw me staring they looked at me like “what?” They never stopped using the word. In fact, I think their use intensified.
What just happened? Did these kids know what they were saying?
I was definitely offended, but it was more the type that accompanies copyright ownership.
“You can’t use that word like that. That’s OUR word,” was my initial reaction.
But my inner voice quickly reprimanded me. It said, “Do you really want to OWN that word?” It was right. Owning that word is the equivalent of being a white south Afrikaner who is proud of apartheid.
The struggle to define our own identity in a country that has historically been very demeaning in its imagery of people of color seems to be lost on the new breed of youth emboldened with an MTV styled bravado. The end sum of the struggle, if you listen to and believe the multitude of rap lyrics today, is in the ability to substitute the n-word for everything. The n-word is a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, conjunction, preposition, participle and epicene.
On the one hand, these looked like high school kids who obviously had no idea of the history surrounding that word and how it was, and still is, used to subjugate and objectify an entire group of people. Should I read them the riot act? Where did they learn this crap from?
That’s when I heard coming from their speakers….the most foul mouthed rap lyrics I can proudly say I’ve never heard. And that’s where the paradox arose. The only reason these kids felt comfortable using this word is because of its overuse in popular rap music, by, regrettably, black rap artists.
So then the logical question becomes this: on what basis do black rap artists, and to a larger extent, the black community have in taking the moral high ground when it comes to other people using this word? I would say not much.
But then maybe that’s the genius of these artists, to strip the negative power from the word by giving it an interchangeable universalism. Morning cereal can be the n-bomb, a dog, a cat, a weasel (whom you should never tease, by the way) a pet hamster, all n-bombs. Appliances, especially computers, you got it, n-bombs. Perhaps one day the Pope will stand before millions of faithful at the Vatican and say “I bless all of you n-bombs in the name of the father, the son and my n-bomb Jesus.”
I’m not buying it! These folks are not that sophisticated. If I’m the only black person in a crowded room and someone yells out “n-bomb”, everyone looks at me to see what my reaction is going to be.
And that, sadly, is how I felt when these young kids were using it to address each other. As they sped off when the light turned green, what made me sicker was that I know it was probably someone who looked like me that taught them it was okay, in a rap song, to use that word in the first place.
Not cool!
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The Confederate Flag and other stuff that makes me go hmmmm.

The other day I was standing in line at my credit union. Ahead of me was a very large statured man wearing a motorcycle club jacket. He was wearing gloves and a helmet and using very colorful language with the clerk at the window, but it wasn’t because he was upset or frustrated. On the contrary, the nature of his conversation was quite friendly. He simply chose to use profanity in his everyday lexicon.
But that wasn’t what caught my eye, err ears. The back of his motorcycle club jacket had two very ornately embroidered flags, one was the American Flag and the other was the Confederate flag.
At first, my visceral reaction to these two symbols being co-mingled was one of disgust. I didn’t like it. But the longer those images were 8 feet away from me; I began to ask myself “why?” Is it not possible for a person who claims to be proud of their European, Asian, African, First Nation, Aboriginal, or Asian-Pacific Islander ancestry to also be a proud American? Of course it is. Likewise, if we are truly a nation that embraces freedom of expression, then no matter how offensive someone’s ideology may be, don’t they have an inherent right to express it (as long as it doesn’t cause any physical harm to their neighbor).
Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines ethnicity as being a group associated with or belonging to a particular race or group of people who have a culture that is different from the main culture of a country. By that definition I consider a person who identifies with the Confederate Flag and all that it stands for within historical context as being part of a distinct ethnic group. Not all people identify with the ideology surrounding the history of the confederate flag. And, being a Civil War historian buff, I know the difference between the actual flag flown during the Civil War and the one that many groups identify with today. The Confederate Flag that we see today is typically the one pictured in this post. It was made popular by southern segregationist in the 50’s and 60’s who wanted to fight against the federal government’s stand that they could not discriminate against people who were non male white anglo saxons. This was NOT the same flag that was flown by the confederate army during the civil war. The ideals may be the same, but the two flags look different. Likewise the same dictionary defines patriotism as love for or devotion to one’s country.
There is no inherent problem with being proud of whom you are. Self-pride does not, in my opinion, interfere with you being a productive American. The problem arises when that pride metastasizes into misplaced nationalism of any kind.
On that day in the credit union there was only one teller working because it was close to lunchtime. The very large man said his very foul mouthed goodbyes and turned towards me to walk away. As he passed by he looked at me and said “what’s up brother,” and kept on walking. I was in shock for two reasons: 1) rarely am I at a loss for words, which I was in this instance; 2) it’s not every day that you see a Black man wearing a confederate flag on his back.
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