Monday, November 28, 2005

Change is Good; new

I've been thinking about what to do with this blog for awhile. It's covered a bunch of random topics over the past few months, and whereas the past couple of posts have had asomething resembling a theme (Critical Thinking), it's time to change things up.

Over the next couple of weeks, this blog will change to become part of a new, which will officially be set up by Jan 2006. Watch this space, there's change coming...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Music: The Mainstream Is Full of Crap and Piss: Lady Sovereign

Lady Sovereign is wack!

Lady Sovereign is wack!

Lady Sovereign is wack!

Lady Sovereign is wack!

Lady Sovereign is wack!

Lady Sovereign is wack!

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

What's with the title of this post and the first eighteen lines, you may wonder? It's just a reaction to some of the "product" I see being pumped through the media, where the disparity between the hype surrounding an event and the actual entertainment value of the event is so great that it defies comprehension and makes it difficult to maintain any kind of trust in the printed word.

Hype is nothing new; the scenario I described happens all the time. I don't think people understand, or appreciate the measures that corporations and the media undertake in order to push that hype. I remember an article from MTV covering the Black Eyed Peas performing before the VMAs in 2004. The article ended with "and Will.I.Am closed the song out with an explosive breakdancing routine". Now I'm no fan of the Black Eyed Peas, but I could watch some good breakdancing (on mute, of course). I might have liked to to see that.

Oh wait a minute. I did (not of my own volition; it was job related. Give me my hip-hop pass back). Homeboy did a backspin for two seconds, stood back up again. Yay. "Move along. Nothing to see here, people". You want to see an explosive breakdancing routine? Check this out. Then take a look at your gut and go hit the gym.

Paul Graham is this hacker who came up with the right application (e-commerce store builder) at the right time (the bubble) and made millions. He touts the virtues of computer languages most programmers have nightmares about. He also has some pretty insightful material on his site about business and technology. In his essay called "The Submarine", he discusses what he's learned about PR firms while building buzz for his application (read: hype machines) and their influence on the news:

"Suits make a corporate comeback," says the New York Times. Why does this sound familiar? Maybe because the suit was also back in February, September 2004, June 2004, March 2004, September 2003, November 2002, April 2002, and February 2002.

Why do the media keep running stories saying suits are back? Because PR firms tell them to. One of the most surprising things I discovered during my brief business career was the existence of the PR industry, lurking like a huge, quiet submarine beneath the news. Of the stories you read in traditional media that aren't about politics, crimes, or disasters, more than half probably come from PR firms.

The biggest and most frequent tool used in communication is repetition. It's as old as anaphora and alliteration in Latin. In 2005, News and PR firms take it to an obscene point. If you didn't believe it the first time, you will the millionth. That's why Funkmaster Flex drops a bomb on every song every four bars on a new song he's pushing, to the point where you don't actually hear about the 100 inch rims that MC Corporate Ho has put on his baby momma's stroller. That's why TV networks have multiplays of the same show 2 to 4 days per week (Apprentice, or Survivor, anyone?). And that's why every couple of days the food in my stomach heads towards my throat when I see some coverage of one of the latest hype products: Lady Sovereign.

I Recently came across this paragraph in the article by Tricia Romano in the Village Voice.

"Lady Sovereign may be one reason to bother with hip-hop post-1990 (emphasis added). I am not the biggest fan, but after seeing her blink-and-you'll-miss-it set, I had newfound respect. Her delivery and her songs are as tough and compact as she is. She was originally slated earlier in the night; rumor had it she was pushed back so "Jay"—as in Jay-Z—could catch her. The other rumor was that Jigga had signed her that day. (Of course, similar notions were floating around about M.I.A., but that never came to pass.) The Lady looks like a hardened Fiona Apple in an Adidas tracksuit (very Run-D.M.C.—what'd I tell you?), and, if possible, sports a bigger scowl. She's so punk, after she was done, she simply dropped the mic with a thud and stalked off the stage. If I were a rapper, I'd totally be the five-foot Lady Sovereign (I'm already almost the same height—just gotta work on my skillz and my scowl)."

While I am entertained by Ms. Romano's accounts on a scene in the city that I haven't checked out myself, I can't take her opinion and/or perspective on hip-hop seriously after giving Lady Sovereign any type of positive review. Google "Lady Sovereign Review" to see what reporters have thought of her performances. I saw Lady Sovereign at a concert with real rappers Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif and Blackalicious on September 15.

She was performing as entered the venue at Webster Hall. I saw what looked like a 12 year old in baggy sweat chirping in an accented voice, four or five hipsters-in-training (you know, those who in a few years, will grow up to hit the first stop on the express train from the Manhattan dorm room to Suburbia, currently Williamsburg) yelling in response. The beats were ugly choppy Casio CZ101 synth chords over 808s, and she had no stage presence. The NYC crowd, while not being overly excited, was actually paying her attention. I wasn't sure why, until I picked up a copy of the Fader magazine at the show. Cover number 2, y'all. You've got to be kidding me.

People must have seen her picture, or read part of the article and said to themselves, "Well, it doesn't matter what I may think. She's got an article in Fader. There must be something to her music. I'm going to listen until I figure out what it is."

That's hype. Her team must be good, because reportedly Jay-Z's trying to sign her, or has signed her to Def Jam. Or is that hype too? Well, I'm letting you know right now, Don't Believe The Hype. I have both Streets albums, and Dizzee Rascal's "Sitting in the Corner". I like those. I enjoy their music. I may also like other grime artists that come out. However, I don't feel Lady Sovereign, and don't think she deserves the accolades she's getting. In order to counter the loads of massive spin, I'm going to do what I can to fight it.

Lady Sovereign is wack

Lady Sovereign is wack

Lady Sovereign is wack

Lady Sovereign is wack

Lady Sovereign is wack

Lady Sovereign is wack

"So what should I buy" you say? "What should I get to entertain me without insulting my musical taste and intellgence?". Time for some counter PR. This is my first attempt, so let me know how it goes.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

Buy the new Blackalicious album.

and while you're at it...

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Buy the new Danger Doom album.

Hmm...maybe I need to read a PR book or two.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Debunking Urban Legends: Will Blacks lose the vote in 2005?

A few days ago, I got an forwarded email from a friend with the subject line "Camille Cosby's Speech." The email refers a Camille Cosby column on racism where she says that Black people will lose the right to vote in this country in 2007.

Seems outrageous, doesn't it? Something along the lines of Nigerian bank scams and spam promising to increase your penis three inches. But what if there's some truth in this email? It's time to hit the net and do some research.

First, I tried to figure out if Camille Cosby did actually say that. Lo and behold, it does seem that Mrs. Cosby did write an op-ed piece on July 8, 1998 in response to the killing of her son, Ennis, by a racist from Eastern Europe. In this piece, she does mention the Voting Rights Act. She writes that...

"The Voting Rights Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 will expire in 2007. Congress once again will decide whether African Americans will be allowed to vote. No other Americans are subjected to this oppressive nonsense."

My next stop was the Urban Legends Reference Pages, a one stop shop where people can check on the truth behind any email that ends up in their inbox. Will Microsoft pay you to read email? (no) Are there really traces of cocaine on 80 percent of US dollar bills ? (yes).

In this particular case, doing a search on the "Voting Rights Act" reveals that the Voting Rights Act will indeed expire in 2007. The 15th amendment of the Constitution gave Blacks the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act was put into place in order to overcome the Jim Crow laws and obstacles put in place by Southern States to keep blacks from voting, including the poll tax and literacy requirements. If the Voting Rights Act were removed, local governments wouldn't have to consult with the federal government before making any changes to their voting rules. The Urban Legends article claims "that we as a society have finally (if slowly and painfully) progressed to the point we no longer need to take special measures to ensure that every citizen has a fair opportunity to participate in a democratic voting process. There are times when we should get all riled up about what our government is doing, but this isn't one of them."

I don't think I agree with that sentence. Both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were filled with scandals of Black disenfranchisement, especially in Florida. Michael Moore has a section of "Stupid White Men" devoted to it. The People for the American Way web site has an article detailing the extent to which politicians (mostly of the Republican stripe) will go to in order to reduce numbers of Black people at the polls.

I got more information on the Voting Rights Act, by checking out the page available at the Department of Justice pages here. They also have a response to the numerous letters that they have received as a result of these email forwards here.

From all these sources, I was able to put together these conclusions.
Camille Cosby did make that statement, but it's not completely right or wrong. If the Voting Rights Act expires, Blacks will still have the right to vote, but without the federal monitoring of both registration places and voting policies provided by the act, Mississippi might return from the 74.2% voter registration rate in 1998 to the 6.7% voter registration rate in 1965. It is fair to say that if this act is not extended, there will be enough leeway for local districts to incorporate any discriminatory practices they would like. That could result in many Black people finding that they cannot vote.

So what is there to do? I've sent an email to the Department of Justice asking about the process involved in extending the Voting Rights Act. I'll post any response I get.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Free Event Websites in NYC

I've been looking for a change of scene, change of activities or perspective for a little while now. In my quest for something new and different, I've come upon various listings for free/cheap/unusual activities in NYC. These lists are a mixed bag (some lists have events mixed in with requests for friends to accompany the events), but there's enough material to chew on and perhaps get rid of that Time Out subscription:

Monday, September 26, 2005

The College Republicans; Learning Their Dirty Tricks Early

I recently read this article on The New Republic called "Swimming With Sharks". This details the current year's dirty tricks and money that are involved with selecting a chair for the College Republican National Committee, a post that pays $75,000/year (in constrast to the Democratic equivalent, which pays nothing). The history of the CR is reviewed, in addition to the role that the CRNC has played and continues to play a role in the machines of conervative operators like Karl Rove. Here's an excerpt from the article:

"But the significance of the CRNC goes beyond that. The Committee is the place where Republican strategists learn their craft and acquire their knack for making their Democratic opponents look like disorganized children. Many of the biggest-brand Republican operatives--from Karl Rove and Lee Atwater, to Charlie Black and Roger Stone, to Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist--got their starts this way. Walking through the halls of the convention, it is easy to see the genesis of tactics deployed in the Florida recount and by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Republicans learn how to fight hard against Democrats by practicing on one another first. "There are no rules in a knife fight," Norquist instructed the young conventioneers in a speech. And, while Norquist described a knife fight, the Gourley-Davidson rumble transpired around him. "

These young politicians are learning the dirty tricks that will continue to define the political landscape for decades to come. I'm not assuming that the democrats have any moral high ground; the main difference between the parties seems to be one of money and organization. The takeaway I get from this article is a detailed reminder that thes are the types of people who seek to rule, or have control over other people. Every word and promise should be eyed warily.

The full article is available here.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

List of Smaller/ Community Based Organizations for Katrina Relief

For those who may not be happy/comfortable with donating to the Red Cross, has a list of community based, smaller organizations accepting donations and help for Katrina victims. The URL is here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: Experiences from a New Orleans Refugee

There's a lot more to what's happening down there than what you'll see on CNN, Fox or any of those networks. Look a little deeper.

Hurricane Katrina-Our Experiences

Larry Bradshaw, Lorrie Beth Slonsky

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the windows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and
the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters.There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed
the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed, were the real heroes and heroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers, who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians, who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses, who took over for mechanical ventilators, spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen, who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers, who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics, who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the city. And the food service workers, who scoured the commercial kitchens, improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the
French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees
like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and
shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts
of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were
pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been
invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled ourmoney and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses,
spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the
sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the
"imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street
crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement".

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and
were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not
have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The
police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in
and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the
street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City.
The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and
explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear
to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched past the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then
doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches,
elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began
firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as
there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and
black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the
rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to
build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the
center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an
elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the
same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery
truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When
individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for
yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was
talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news
organizations saw us on their way into the City.Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us.
Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated,the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or
congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims"
they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay
together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small
atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was inIraq and that meant
they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they
were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a
coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort
continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal
detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children,
elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker
give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome.Throughout, the
official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, "you owe me". Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Back to the Daily Grind

Well, I'm back from vacation. It was absolutely wonderful to get away from everything, to relax and enjoy life outside the daily grind. School has started as well, so I've gone directly from a vibrant paradise to the same old, same old.

The shock of returning to "normal" life has been multiplied by Hurricane Katrina. I've given $110 to the Red Cross so far, and I'm going to send some clothing down and figure out other ways to help out. If you're reading this, I'd advise you to do the same thing. Find a charity you can support and believe in, take a bit of time and money and do something. I'm not deluding myself into believing that my contribution by itself will make all the difference in the world, but it's something, and a hell of a lot better than the apathy, indifference and incompetence that has surrounded this disaster.

If you decide not to do anything, please do me a favor; don't let me find out about it. I don't want to hear any sarcasm laden speech complete with cynical filled bullshit about how it won't make a difference anyway. Especially since some people who read this definitely have the means.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Hasdic Reggae; Walk for Diabetes

During a conversation yesterday over at my friend John and Cori's place nearby, we somehow meandered to the recent press someone had seen about this Hasidic Reggae act, Matisyahu. A deadhead who went to Yeshiva and turned to reggae music, this band has released two CDs to moderate success (about 20,000 copies sold of either of their albums in their 1st six weeks). I don't know enough about either Ras Tafarianism or Hasidic Judaism to know whether this postmodern culture mashup gets good reviews from the dreads in Bed-Stuy or Jewish cats in Crown Heights, but the general press around the web has been positive. Check the site out and judge for yourself.

On another note, I'm doing the Walk for Diabetes this year. I went to a wedding for my cousin where I was reminded of how many people in my family have been affected by the disease in one way or another. I figured I might as well try to do something about it. My goal is to raise $5,000.00 for this year's walk by October 16th in Riverside Park. If anyof you are feeling generous and would like to sponsor me, check out my page and drop some loot for a good cause (and it's tax deductible!).

My Donation Page

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Allow me to reintroduce myself...

My name is Mark...

Here's a quick update on things from my end of the spectrum. I've been running around,
Headless Chicken Style, getting ready for all these weddings (Four, in the span of seven weeks).

On another note, I'm still trying to rebuild after having my iPod crash, my Sidekick crash and my hard drive crash for the second time in a year, losing all documents I had. I got a big 300 GB network drive and I'm putting together an ultimate archive solution so I never lose anything again.

By the way, if I've taken pictures of you in the past, those pictures are likely gone. All guilty parties can now breath a sigh of relief ;) This also means that I'll need to get more pictures though.

I'll be back with more compelling material shortly.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Web Site Round-Up: 7.29.2005

Here's what I've seen/heard over the web that has caught my eye:

Slow It Down - Web Site for DJ Tomasz, who makes some very phat downtempo/deep house mixes. The latest in his "Sirens" series of 80 minutes mixes includes a trip through some very mellow house grooves, perfect for a late night drive, or chilling out by the pool, or in a park. He's based out of Canada, but is very accessible; his ICQ contact info's on his site.

The D-Nice Journal - How does an old school rapper survive after the record stops spinning? If you're D-Nice, you become a photographer, start a web development company and set up a blog where you reminisce over old times, and document your struggle with nice pictures. I came upon this site while reading an article about how rappers should cope when it's time to hang up the mic. That article is available here.

"You have zero privacy; get over it" - These words were said by Scott McNealy in 1999, and they're proving to be more and more true everyday. In a perfect storm of dimished consumer rights, the rising police state of the Patriot Act, NYPD searching your bags in subways, and now, anyone's cell phone records for a fee: LocateCell will get someone's cell phone if you can provide them with an address or a Social Security Number. Even better, they'll provide cell phone call records for $110. Scary, isn't it?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Ignorance is not sexy

This is not a joke, and it's very sad. This is the result of black people telling each other it's okay to use the word. A clothing store in Malawi with an effed up name. Something's gotta change. The full story is here.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Salute to Carol Carbomb

I came across this card while cleaning out my Rolodex. It took me a second to remember how I got this card, but when it came back to me, I couldn't help but chuckle.

On one of the weekends when Ish and I went up to see my mom in Albany, we stopped by the one local bars to grab some out of city atmosphere. I'd had enough of people with high minded attitudes scoping out my shoes to see if I'm worth talking to.

After a couple of drinks at the local pub, we ran into a very nice couple who loved talking smack and a good drink. As we shared stories of our liquor filled past, (I went over my years lost in Boston), Carol and her man regaled tales of staggering home from various Lark Street. After 15 minutes of banter back and forth, we somehow ended up having a round of Irish Car Bombs to celebrate good times, past, present and future.

Much later, Carol passed us her card, scratched her name out, and wrote down something that would remind us of the afternoon. I do, and if you're out there, I salute you, Carol Carbomb.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

That's an A!

Just a quick post to let the world know I got an A on my midterm in Discrete Math. The class is 2/3 through, and I'm feeling fine.

The birthday rush is just about over. Let's see how many June/July people I wanted/needed to say Happy Birthday to:
Jay Lewis
Suzanne Lee
Me, Myself and I
Matt Smalls

We've got a couple coming up, but that's a lot of birthday cheer; sheeit; I'm going to have to budget for it next year.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

WHOA! Part One - Racial BDSM

While checking out different tribes on, I found something that threw me for a loop. Now, I'm all in favor of hedonism in general, and going to great lengths to find that pleasurable activity in particular. I'm also in favor of living and letting live (I wish some people I know could do the same, but that's another story)....

Racial BDSM, on the other hand, takes it to one of my limits, IMO. Here are some excerpts from the article:

"begun to engage in what is called 'race play' or 'racial play' -- that is getting aroused by intentionally using racial epithets like the word 'nigger' or racist scenarios like a slave auction. "

(Bond refers to Mike Bond, a Racial BDSM proponent)
"During his workshop, Bond told the audience about his own history. He first considered race play when a partner asked if it was humiliating for him as a black man to bow before her, a white woman. He hadn't thought about it before. 'But if that made it more embarrassing, ' he said, 'then I was all for it.'

On the panel with Bond were three white women he has played with. They emphasized that race play isn't about hate. For one woman calling Bond 'nigger' was just another bad name that aroused him. But another woman, who is Jewish, said it took time and encouragement to be able to relax with race play. After the talk came the demonstration: A woman dressed in a business suit and planted in the audience heckled Bond, then grabbed him by the collar and threw him down, all the while yelling about what gave Bond the right to criticize 'her people' (rednecks)."


I don't have any words for now. I do know that I don't want togo there when I'm in the bedroom. Too much blood going in both directions...something has to suffer for it.

If you have any comments on this, let 'er rip. I've removed the login requirement, so hit me up.

My New Sidekick

No, I haven't moved on from my lady. It's the T-Mobile Sidekick, which we both picked up for the woman's birthday. It's a pretty nice device for staying connected, with Instant Messenger (AIM and Yahoo), email and even an SSH client. I've had it for a few days and it definitely simplifies life, gives a brother more time to read emails on the subway, or bounce an app server remotely.

There are problems, however. First, the web browser is weak (doesn't do javascript). The network can be goddamned slow (I should have expected this, considering it's T-Mobile). I also ran into an unexpected situation last night with the UI. I'd just left a message for a friend and thought I turned the phone off, but I didn't. I then proceeded to talk for 5 minutes, filling up the voice mail box with random conversation. Not cool. Turns out that my gf has done the same thing over the past couple of days. Word to the wise, please check that your phone's off before you start speaking!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Ish's 28th Birthday on June 11th!

Click Here to see Pictures of Aisha's Birthday Celebration

Happy Birthday Ish. People came from far and wide to celebrate your birthday. We all had good food and fun. The top floor at Madame X is the only way to celebrate. The lounge with the nice soft couches were perfect to relax and talk in like adults. Maroons is a fantastic restaurant as well, with top of the line service. What else can be said?

UPDATE: The link is fixed, okay

Hopstop: Mapquest for NYC people

Thanks to the Burner list; someone on there dropped the dime on HopStop, a Mapquest based on travel by subway, since most of us in this city don't have a car, and those who do, don't use it. Check it out; makes scheduling travel a lot easier. It evidently even estimates travel based on train speed at the time of day, so it'll take into account the 8AM slowness of the 4 and 5 trains headed downtown.

Outlook and Plaxo rule my life

I wake up in the morning, start up Outlook, review my overdue tasks, push some forward, delete others. I log onto Plaxo, check to see which of my contacts have been updated, sync my tasks for when I'm on the run. Right now, life looks like a mountain of obligation, a towering stack of Post-It Notes, with rays of sunshine, and the faint aroma of fresh air and a precious life peeking from around the other side of it.

I shouldn't even be typing this; I've got an unorganized apartment, work tasks spilling over to my home life, a load or two of laundry at the laundramat. I'm just keeping in practice. With that said, I'm out the door!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Happy Birthday Jay Lewis!

Jay Lewis at Maroons

Jay Lewis at Maroons, a nice Jamaican restaurant in Chelsea. People need to go there; it's a fantastic place with good food that can handle large groups, a rarity in NYC.

All these parents conceiving in September - October leading to all these June babies. I've got about 5 birthdays to observe/check out/sing at from now until July. And that doesn't count the random person's party I'll probably run into while taking a break from class with my good friend Patron.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Picasa -> Hello -> Blog?

I'm having problems publishing photos from Picasa to this blog. Hopefully, I'll figure out the missing ingredient in the secret sauce. That's it for now; I've got discrete math studying to do. I'm out for now.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Finally copped that Little Brother joint

I know I'm late on this, but I finally checked out that Little Brother album, The Listening. What can I say that hasn't been said already? It's a nice, cohesive piece, 9th Wonder's production is tight, Phonte and Pooh have that undeniable chemistry, and they rap about real life situations, from pseudo-righteous coffeehouse cats on "The Yo-Yo" to life moving too quickly on "Speed". It's in my regular rotation now, joining Common's "BE".

I got the listening from eMusic, my favorite music download service. For only 20 bucks a month, I get 90 tracks from a pretty large catalog of non top-40 music. These are VBR MP3s with no DRM; no restrictions, they're yours to keep. You won't find all the latest releases from the hottest artists (according to radio) on there, but I'm not looking for that anyway. If you were looking for an obscure demo or live performance by your favorite non mainstream artist though, you've come to the right place. It's also emerged as a distributor for smaller labels. If anyone wants to try it out, leave a comment on the page.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Friday the 13th, part deux

Saturday morning, 3AM and everything's fine.

Here's one of the pics from Friday the 13th. I had the good pleasure of catching up to Mike and Priscilla on one of their excursions into the city after spending some time celebrating Kate's b-day at Mannahatta, which reflects the best of Gentrified, 10.00 per drink East Village. I also met Eva and Chuck, who are a wonderful couple who have broken free from the shackles of Bostonia, are headed out to the Bay, and will see us out on The Playa. Nice house music up in the spot, plus good people, even though the crowd was a bit sparse, and I got some unwanted attention from the male bartender. Donyo and Bryan made it out to part deux, as well. After dancing until they kicked us out, Khari, Mike, Eva and Chuck carried their good energy into the wee hours. I myself headed home, since I was headed up to Albany the next day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Customer Service down the tubes

I'm a pretty easygoing person, but over the past few months, it seems like even the companies best known for good customer service have slipped a notch or three. Speakeasy used to be my ISP; I loved those guys, until I moved from one location to the other and they fumbled and bumbled heir way through an address transfer that took two months to complete. Meanwhile, I'd moved to Cable and never looked back.
Vonage who seems to have bought up every third internet ad, should spend the money on their e-commerce implementation, which charged my credit card 17 times within two weeks because they couldn't get their transactions straight. I spent four hours the phone with them and my bank before they realized that they had a problem. And now, sends my mother the wrong basket on Mother's day. If anyone knows of a place where people can keep track of bad customer service experiences with large companies, please let me know. People deserve better treatment if they're spending their hard earned money or (worse) going depeer into debt.

BTW, if you noticed, the URLs for those companies actually go to their competitors. If they're not getting my money, what makes you think they'll get clickthroughs off me either?

Monday, April 04, 2005


Here's the first. Learn about our plans to take over the world, straight from the headquarters in Harlem.