Here to waste your PATHETIC life!! (thanks stewart)
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Today Is My Birthday
It's 11 o'clock at night, I'm sitting at home, and drinking tea. The day was a slow crawl of dreary grey and strange silence. The night doesn't move any quicker, and it brings a chill with it, too. My neck strains and my knees ache from the cold. I feel like an elderly, worn and discarded man...
But today is my birthday. I have seen enough birthdays to understand that this cannot go on forever. So I cherish this day, I cherish what I have. A quarter-century lived has been a full experience; the joys and wonders in life that I find by my God have been enough for me. If tomorrow never comes, I am at peace. I am blessed, and I am thankful.
I just finished reading the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore. My belief is that it is a singularly remarkable piece of comic-book fiction. Not that I should have expected anything less from the writer of the seminal Watchmen book (the only "comic book" to land on the recent TIME magazine All-Time 100 Novels list), the hauntingly dystopian V for Vendetta, and the landmark Batman graphic novel, The Killing Joke.
The book is a peculiar - but entirely cogent - Victorian-era pastiche of prominent characters from classic British novels by such luminaries as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Bram Stoker, to name a few. At the forefront of the story are Mina Harker of Dracula, Allan Quatermain of King Solomon's Mines, the titular juxtaposition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Griffin of The Invisible Man, and Captain Nemo of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The dynamic of this team is something to behold... As if that were not enough, peppered across the entirety of the graphic novel are references and homages to Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe, Fu Manchu, Around the World in Eighty Days, Moby-Dick, Oliver Twist, and War of the Worlds. In any less capable hands, the endeavor would result in complete and utter disaster, but Moore balances the whole with even pacing and a wisdom in focus. (Of course, one could argue that no other popular fictionist, with the exception of Philip José Farmer, would even have dared dream of such grandiose literary blasphemy.) The curious amalgamation here offers a very dark and unflinchingly cynical view of humanity and heroism, and yet never calms its lust for spirited adventure and awe-inspiring visuals.
Seeing as how I had long "outgrown" comic books, I had never heard of League until previews for the screen adapatation were making the rounds a few years ago. I never did watch the film, but judging by reviews and word of mouth, to say that it underwhelmed is an understatement. After reading a brief comparison between the book and film, I can see why the adaptation failed to properly capture what was so brilliantly laid out on paper. Put bluntly, the filmmakers seemed to have ripped each and every member of the League of the exact qualities integral to the essence of their respective characterizations. I guess it bears repeating the oft-used cliché: the book was better. In any event, I would give my strongest recommendation of the book to any lover of British literature and high adventure.
Is anybody watching the Winter Olympics in Torino?
I might as well admit that I'm more interested in MLB spring training. Truth is, I've never felt drawn to the Winter Olympics. Outside of hockey, it's a boring set of events to me, comprised almost entirely of "sports" and competitions unfamiliar to a Southern California boy. But to be honest, even the summer Olympics aren't much of a draw to me anymore. The last time I was excited about watching the Olympics was way back in '92 when the Games were held in Barcelona.
I think I'm a hardcore sports fan. I love watching the Big Three (football, basketball, and baseball) just like anyone other joe. I catch some hockey games or tennis matches. I'll even sit down to watch a round of golf or a game of soccer. But the Olympics bore me.
I need a real reason to watch. Don't argue for the purity of amateur sports or the brotherhood of friendly international competition. That doesn't cut it for me. That doesn't make me want to pick up the remote and check out what's going on in Torino. That doesn't make me curious about what will happen in Beijing in 2008.
You know what I think it is? What's really lacking is political intrigue and political context/subtext.
For me, the real drama of the Olympics lies in stories such as the elation of the Miracle on Ice that threw back the Iron Curtain and years of Cold War fears; the tragedy in the Munich Massacre that made Black September and all other terrorists a much more real danger to the world at large; the beauty in black-skinned Jesse Owens winning four gold medals and singlehandedly toppling Hitler's ideology of Aryan superiority; and the awe of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their black-gloved fists in salute of the fight for civil rights and black power.
After the latter display, then-IOC President Avery Brundage had indignantly said, "They violated one of the basic principles of the Olympic Games: that politics play no part whatsoever in them."
Was he joking? That's the most ridiculous statement I've ever heard about the Olympics! Politics is what the Games are all about! Unfortunately, all of the events I mentioned occurred over 25 years ago. In our ever-so-politically-correct new world, strong subplots such as these no longer exist. You can argue for the peacefulness in the betterment of our global state of affairs, but all I know is that the Olympic Games I loved are gone and replaced by something uneventful and uninspiring.
The year 2005 certainly had more ups than downs in the music world, and that reflects in the difficulty I encountered upon ranking a top album. Last year's Rubber Factory by the Black Keys seemed an obvious choice to me (though I certainly wouldn't have argued against a choice of several other deserving artists' works), but this year I found no such clearcut winner among an accumulation of 20-plus albums. In the end, I decided upon an album that certainly wasn't a widely acclaimed critics' darling and yet was the one that I found myself listening to time and time again as the year came to a close:
Best Album of 2005 The Craft by Blackalicious
The duo of Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel already have a sizeable discography to their name and a superb one at that, but they still remain under the radar to most of the world. Through no fault of their own, the Quannum boys seem to have been overshadowed (for lack of a better word) by their esteemed brother-in-arms DJ Shadow for most of their careers. Perhaps The Craft will help to change that once and for all. Their previous full-length album Blazing Arrow was a joyfully vigorous production strengthened by its sophisticated sonic breadth; Chief Xcel opens the expanse just a bit further on The Craft by the addition of an organic funk band aesthetic. Of all things, the album serves notice as a true heir to the G-funk era; that genre had grown so stale by the late 1990s that the genius of Dr. Dre's innovations had almost been forgotten. Here, Blackalicious redefine the West Coast sound into a lush, flowing, real musicality that bends and shapes accordingly to Gift of Gab's lyrical dexterity, which itself is now freed to experiment away from any gimmicky speed raps of years past. Combined with the duo's penchant, or adroitness rather, for uplifting social/spiritual messages and creative conceptualizations, of which The Craft is in abundant supply, Blackalicious continue to create music that ranks among the best of their generation in spite of an alarming lack of extant recognition of their gifts.
Nominees for Best Album 02. Demon Days by Gorillaz 03. Suit Yourself by Shelby Lynne 04. Arular by M.I.A. 05. Be by Common 06. The Mouse and the Mask by DangerDoom 07. Illinois by Sufjan Stevens 08. Drunkard's Prayer by Over the Rhine 09. Triple P by Platinum Pied Pipers 10. Late Registration by Kanye West
11. The Back Room by Editors 12. Transistor Radio by M. Ward 13. Twin Cinema by The New Pornographers 14. Guero by Beck 15. Z by My Morning Jacket 16. Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team 17. S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. by One Be Lo 18. Takk... by Sigur Rós 19. Beauty and the Beat by Edan 20. The Minstrel Show by Little Brother
21. Naturally by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings 22. Ta Det Lugnt by Dungen 23. Lookaftering by Vashti Bunyan 24. Playing the Angel by Depeche Mode 25. Ozark Empire by Listener 26. Fisherman's Woman by Emiliana Torrini 27. Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Apple 28. The Forgotten Arm by Aimee Mann 29. Lullabies to Paralyze by Queens of the Stone Age 30. The Mysterious Production of Eggs by Andrew Bird
I don't think I quite know how to express properly what this means to me, but last night I went to see John Tesh (*snicker snicker*) lead worship at Shepherd of the Hills and I came back a witness to a live rendition of "Roundball Rock" (aka The NBA on NBC theme)! My life is that much closer to completion. Can I get a hallelujah up in here?
I switched on my iPod and let the songs file in that day by way of the player's shuffle feature: a little Marvin Gaye, Radiohead, some classic Louis Armstrong, Duran Duran... It all started a bit innocuously and curiously devoid of my genre most beloved - hip-hop.
Then it came: a little girl singing what sounded like a schoolyard rhyme... I'd never heard this song before. Before I could check my player's Now Playing menu, a familiar voice started: Talib Kweli, a champion of the hip-hop underground. Odd. How could I have passed over a song by one of my favorite rappers? A quick check let me know that it was a song off his album The Beautiful Struggle which came out last year and hadn't reached the top of my queue for in-depth listening thanks to a preponderance of older albums awaiting my critique.
"Black Girl Pain" - the title and the topic of the song.
Teach her what black is, the fact is her parents are thorough / She four, reading Cornrows by Camille Yarborough / I keep her hair braided, bought her a black Barbie / I keep her mind free, she ain't no black zombie / This is for Aisha / This is for Kashera / This is for Khadijah / Scared to look up in the mirror / I see the picture clearer through the stain on the frame / She got a black girl name, she livin' black girl pain
Before I could let that sink in further, another voice began the second verse. Jean Grae's on this track? Huh... Yeah, that does make sense. A black woman would be needed to bring weight and real truth to this statement, and Jean is the best female rapper on the scene, bar none.
The strength of mommy's backbone / The length of which she went for raising, sacrificing her own / The pain of not reflecting the range of our complexions / For rubber pellet scars on Auntie Elna's back I march / Fist raised / Caramel shining in all our glory / For Mauritius, St. Helena / My blood is a million stories
I felt that; I understood even though I was ostensibly about as disparate from her as possible.
The following morning, I headed to the Dream Center in Los Angeles for volunteer work. I and others from my church were bussed to a park centered in the projects of Watts, where we handed out food and clothes to needy people in the area. After five minutes, there were no more foods or clothes to hand out nor anymore responsibilities, but the bus wouldn't return to pick us up until a couple hours later.
There were plenty of neighborhood kids running around the park, so we headed to the playground to pass the time. Most of the kids - around the ages of 4 to 9 - preferred the swings and asked us to push them for the entirety of our time there. Kids are always a joy, no doubt, but there was the vexing feeling that our time was wasted that day. I thought I'd be going around handing out food and clothes person-to-person, doing cleanup of the neighborhood, giving my time and effort in a tangibly rewarding way; anything but just aimlessly hanging out with a bunch of little kids.
With what I perceived to be a lack of structure and instruction from the Dream Center, I found myself a bit frustrated as the bus returned to pick us up. The kids climbed onboard, too, so that the bus could bring them to a nearby church for the afternoon. The kids, being kids, were abundantly loud and rowdy as they packed in, three to a seat. But as the bus cruised down the freeway, the noise generally subsided and the kids settled down.
That was when I saw her: a little girl, a couple rows up on the opposite side of the bus, sitting on the edge of her seat facing the aisle. I recognized her as one of the kids who had begged me incessantly to push her swing, always giving me the most exact orders on how to do my job, screaming delightedly as I launched her higher and higher. But now here she was just staring vacantly through a window pane of the bus.
The impact of the words from Talib and Jean impressed upon me a profound sense of relation to this girl now. Was she looking at her own reflection in the window? When I gazed upon her, I took her reticence for sadness and I sympathized. But as I looked deeper into her eyes, as I allowed that face to linger in my view, I understood what her expression truly was: it was the look of adulthood.
This was a girl seven years old and yet I saw in her eyes the wisdom and sorrow of a woman who had been worn down by decades. In that moment, I understood why God had placed me that day in a playground in a park in Watts to push this little black girl's swing. I helped her to be a kid again. The innocence of naïveté was hers once more. For those couple hours, she was free to fly on that swing. Whatever worries, troubles, hardships she has to endure, whatever things make her frustrated, make her insecure, make her cry, make her grow up too fast; those things weren't there at the playground.
For Winnie, for Joan, and for Edie / For Norma, Leslie, Ndidi / For Auntie Betty, for Melanie, all the same family / Fiona, Jo Burg / Complex of mixed girls / For surviving through every lie they put into us / Now this world's yours and I swear I will stand focused / Black girls, raise up your hands / The world should clap for us
As the bus pulled up next to the church and the kids jumped off, I sat there watching her walk away. Too often, we box ourselves into distinct and separate societies. It's the easy and natural thing, but we do so at the absence of empathy and fellowship with those perceived as different from us. We forget the commonality we share: we are not only white, black, brown, yellow; we are not only lower, middle, upper class; we are all God's creation, God's children, recipients of His love and salvation with none excluded; we experience the same griefs, we experience the same joys. We all need the same supports in life: recognition, encouragement, guidance, kindness, love.
Did that 7-year-old black girl care that I was a 24-year-old Asian man? All she knew was that she wanted me there with her. I wish I had shown her that I wanted to be there with her, too. I'll never see her again, but I pray that she finds more blessings in her life than she can count.
My mama said life would be this hard / Growing up days as a black girl scarred / In every way though, you've come so far / But they just know the name, they don't know the pain / So please hold your head up high / Don't be ashamed of yourself / Know I will carry you forth till the day I die / 'Cause they just know the name, they don't know the pain
The next-generation Nintendo console, codenamed the Revolution, was said to have a controller that would live up to that name. The rumors swirled for months and months but Nintendo's showing at E3 earlier this year was devoid of any hints about it (which is something I was convinced of only after searching their booth up and down). It turns out they chose this week's Tokyo Game Show to unveil their plans.
There is is, folks. It looks like a remote, doesn't it? Well, it's more than that. For starters, there's a port at the bottom that will allow for connectivity with a number of control units. The first and most obvious one shown is the analog stick unit.
But the real revolution lies in an all-new level of interaction that Nintendo has created by the use of motion sensors. Put simply: you move the controller itself.
Its motion, depth, and positioning are all keys to the way you interact with a game. In a video shown at the Tokyo Game Show, the controller was used to swing as a baseball bat, chop as a kitchen knife, wave as a conductor's baton, cast as a fishing rod, search as a flashlight, flick as a flyswatter, and slash as a sword.
The question: Will this ever amount to anything more than a niche product; is this a catalyst toward a brave, new world in gaming? There are hardly moments when anything lives up to the hype that precedes it, but I could conceivably concede that this will be a true revolution that forever changes the way we play.