Real America?

Filed in Everwhatever

I spent a little time driving through “fly-over” country last week. Made more than a few passes down IL Route 59, between Joliet and Aurora. I almost didn’t recognize it. Back when I lived there in the early 90′s and before, most of that was farmland. Once you got past Plainfield and the glass factory, a few houses dotted the landscape, but for the most part, there were fields on every part of the street. Not any more. Now, by my informal count, there were about 736 strip malls, with every store you can imagine — repeating every five miles. But it was the same stores. If it hadn’t been for the old gas stations, I wouldn’t have been able to recognize where I was.

While I was driving, I started to wonder. Is this what so-called real America looks like? This is the place that our values are supposed to be most encapsulated? A place where there’s a McDonalds for every turn of the odometer? I remember being forced to watch a movie set in the 50′s where one character, a military type, was explaining the dangers of communism. He pointed out that if the communists took over, we would have no choices. Everything everywhere would be the same. But I guess that’s not completely the case here. I guess we have the choice to buy our Quarter Pounders from different owners.

Really, I don’t know what to make of what I saw. I suppose a part of me is just dismayed because where I’m from doesn’t look like it did when I lived there. Change is difficult, even from 700 miles and 15 years away. There’s a part of me that feels a certain comfort when I can drive through an old neighborhood and see the tree I fell out of, or the bait store I used to stop at before I went fishing. I suppose that sensation is what drives a lot of the protests about…well, everything. Incremental change is slightly discomforting; wholesale change is alarming. Had I been back more frequently, I might have seen the transformation as it was happening, so I wouldn’t be quite as shocked.

At the same time, I think it’s important to recognize that change is not necessarily progress. I’m sure that the changes that Route 59 has undergone signify that a lot of people have made a whole lotta money — and that a whole lotta other people have spent a whole, whole lotta money. People have been able to claim their piece of the American Dream, working hard and owning a spacious home and some property. For them, I’m sure that the change is equivalent to progress. For me, as someone who doesn’t live there anymore, and as someone for whom that lifestyle is not the ideal, none of that is really better, it’s just different.

In the end, I think that in some way, Route 59 does represent what’s really real about America. It’s not about the dichotomy of the rural and the urban, because Route 59 is happening everywhere, and at some point, even the suburbs become urban. It’s really the combination of the two. Real America is not ‘or,’ it’s ‘and.’ Real America is rural and urban. It’s working hard and getting over. It’s the religious and the secular. It’s homogeneity and diversity. It’s the individual and the collective. It’s ‘what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours and what’s ours is ours, and every possible permutation of the three. That’s not just different, it’s good.

The Black List

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I’m watching Lee Daniels on HBO’s The Black List 3, and I’m struck by one thing he said:

“There’s an African American President, there’s Oprah, and then there’s…Us. I tell stories about Us.”

See, this is my major beef with a whole lotta the Black folks who don’t necessarily speak for us, but will sometimes talk like they do. There seems to be some sort of disconnect between what “regular” Black people do and what happens to the outliers. What puzzles me most is the threshold between “regular” and “outlier.” To use television families, I think many of us believe that Black people writ large are closer to the Evanses than we are to the Huxtables. And while it’s not quite in style to act like there aren’t any Huxtable families any more, it’s still okay to act like they’re Halley’s Comet.

While I can understand the “whatever you do to the least of these” philosophy that tends to accompany these types of projections, I don’t like to see what seems like self-negation. If a person has to act like he doesn’t exist in order to call attention to someone else’s plight, or to perhaps restate it more generously, take the focus off the possibilities he has enjoyed in order to highlight the “real” Us, is disingenuous. It’s someone who has done well but believes himself to be an outlier claiming that someone who is an outlier in the opposite direction is a more authentic representation.

I call false. The Black middle class is a lot more robust than many of us give it credit for being. I think a big part of my shift to the ideological center happened when I realized that I wasn’t as much an aberration as I had previously believed.

On The Black List 1, I saw something else that’s not as much an aberration as some folks would have us believe. Among some populations, there is the mistaken notion that Al Sharpton, to name a name, does not critique the excesses of Black popular culture. False. Even without making a big production of speaking about any specific artist, he actually went at the whole justification for certain genres of rap. But then, he always has.

I am kinda waitin to see if they’re gonna put a name-brand Black centrist or conservative on there, though.

Oh, Really?

Filed in Everwhatever

I don’t particularly fool with Slim and Baby’s musical progeny (with the exception of Weezy just a little bit, and the unfortunately catchy “I’m Still Fly”), but I cannot be mad at this:

Cash Money Records co-founders, Birdman and Ronald “Slim” Williams are trying their hands in another business venture outside the music world. They’re now expanding their portfolios into the oil business.

The New Orleans-bred brothers have launched an independent oil and gas company called Bronald Oil & Gas.

Via the company’s mission station on their website,, they say their initial focus is the “exploration, production and development of oil and gas reserves from conventional and unconventional formations.”

For a number of reasons, I hope the succeed.

Jesus Is Black

Filed in Everwhatever

and his name is Brett Favre.

Look at the video proof:

Wha’chu Gon Play Now? – Songs of 09

Filed in Everwhatever

I’m really late with this one, but here we go.

You Are The Way You Are (instrumental) – Marvin Gaye
Master Teacher – Erykah Badu (the 2nd half is like a warm spring after a hard winter.)
Buttercup – Jackson 5
Under The Cherry Moon Scene? – Prince? (I really don’t know how to label this one, except that it comes from a scene in Under The Cherry Moon, which was Prince’s movie. What I DO know is that it seems to be one of Marley Marl’s favorite break beats, and it’s also one of mine. And I was listening to that joint awwwlllll the time.
Capricorn – Cannonball Adderley (the cool vibes version)
My Help – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
Cold Feet – Albert King
Thank You Master For My Soul – Donny Hathaway
Reach For It – George Duke
When My Words R Few – Tonex
Blairtree Road – Tonex
Home At Last – Steely Dan
Every Time I Feel The Spirit – Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Choir
D.O.A. (Death of Autotune) – Jay-Z
Good Morning – John Legend

Born Day

Filed in Everwhatever


Kal El didn’t want none.

This Ain’t Checkers, It’s Chess!

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As far as spectator sports go, I’m a football dude. I pay attention to basketball from time to time, and baseball during the playoffs (if the Phillies are in it), but if it’s fall or winter, and I’m only gonna watch one thing on television that week, then odds are, it’s gonna be football — most likely, the NFL. Having seen a lot, suffice it to say I was stunned when I saw this from the Wall Street Journal:

According to a Wall Street Journal study of four recent broadcasts, and similar estimates by researchers, the average amount of time the ball is in play on the field during an NFL game is about 11 minutes.

In other words, if you tally up everything that happens between the time the ball is snapped and the play is whistled dead by the officials, there’s barely enough time to prepare a hard-boiled egg. In fact, the average telecast devotes 56% more time to showing replays.

So what do the networks do with the other 174 minutes in a typical broadcast? Not surprisingly, commercials take up about an hour. As many as 75 minutes, or about 60% of the total air time, excluding commercials, is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps. In the four broadcasts The Journal studied, injured players got six more seconds of camera time than celebrating players. While the network announcers showed up on screen for just 30 seconds, shots of the head coaches and referees took up about 7% of the average show.

That’s amazing. I know a lotta people who say football is an overrated sport will have a field day with these numbers. But what I would say to them (not what I will say, because I really don’t know anybody who completely dislikes football) is this: the time that pieces are actually moving during a chess match is miniscule compared to the time it takes to complete a game. While football is a lot more physical, it is very much a strategic game along the lines of chess. No skilled chess player just moves pieces willy-nilly all over the board so they can have more time with pieces moved, they take their time and select the right move based on the situation. Same thing here. A football coach changes plays and player packages based on the moves he wants to give himself the option to make.

(As a side note, I often wonder how baseball managers get to be known as tacticians for moving players around the infield or putting a right handed pitcher against a left-handed batter, but football coaches are not thought of as tacticians in the same way, when they actually call specific plays designed to exploit the opponent’s weakness.)


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Every year, it’s the same thing, only this year the good part wasn’t quite as good and the yucky part is many, many times worse.

About midway through last season, after McNabb got benched against the Ravens, I thought it was a wrap for him in Philly. He and the Eagles proved me wrong with a magical run to the NFC Championship, where they were ultimately outdone by an even more magical team with a more magical quarterback. This year seems to have been the opposite. Early on, they were kinda suspect, but midway through the season and going into the 4th quarter of the season, people were arguing that they might have been the best team in the NFC. Then the wheels fell off. Big time.

Andy Reid just got a contract extension, so we know he’s not going anywhere. Which means that Donovan is likely out the door. I don’t worry about professional athletes, much less feel sorry for them. Not while they’re still playing, at least. But I do wish McNabb had managed to get four more points on the board back in January of 05. I’ve always said that he would be an Elway type, winning his championship in the latter part of his career. Had Andy Reid ever developed a run-first mentality, I think the Eagles would have a ring or two by now. Given that he didn’t, Donovan will be forced to try his hand elsewhere. Wherever he goes, I hope they have a stable running game and a good line.

Meanwhile, let’s go…oh. They’re at home, too.


Filed in Everwhatever

It’s been a long time…I shouldn’a left you… (c) Rakim

Mediamonkey is serenading this morning, and it brings up The Way We Were by Gladys Knight. In the intro to that song, she points out that “We look back and we think, the winters were warmer, the grass was greener…” because those were the good ole days. But, she notes that there are some people for whom today, as bad as we seem to think it is, will be the good ole days. Moreover, there are people who look on our “good ole days” with disdain. People do this all the time, and on a variety of the topics, but two of the areas where I notice it most are with sports and music.

Thomas Sowell brought this to mind a couple days ago, as he waxed nostalgic over heavyweight fighters from yesteryear. Implicit in his piece was a critique of The Greatest, although Sowell never mentioned him – or any of his contemporaries – by name. That’s why to me, it’s mostly a ‘good ole days’ piece, and not a boxing piece. But instead of talking about it on that level, I think I’m gonna focus on the boxing piece. Some of these are points I’ve made before, but they may bear repeating.

I know there are a lot of people who think that Joe Louis was the greatest heavyweight champion of all time; i knew some of them personally. I disagree strongly. I still ride hard for Ali. While there were some people for whom Ali’s antics were off-putting, what they failed to realize then (and apparently still do) is that after play time was over, dude’s knuckle game was supreme. Put it like this: the two fighters he beat to gain the title (we ain’t gon’ talk about regaining the title just yet) were widely held to be indomitable. We can go to the tape on what Big George was doin to people in 1974, but Sonny Liston was pretty much the equivalent in 1964. In fact, when Liston had the belt, there was talk that he might be at the top of the pantheon. But Ali beat them both. That would be enough to do it, but then you also hafta add in the fact that he beat each of them using completely different styles. The Ali that George fought wasn’t the same fighter as the one who decked Liston. That cannot be discounted.

Speaking of “discounted,” the only knock I have on Louis — and this is not a knock on him, really — is the level of competition. Ali once joked that Louis had a “bum of the month” club. Honestly, I don’t know if it’s possible to hold the belt for a good period of time without going through some fighters who aren’t quite at the top of the heap, but I don’t think there’s any question that Ali reigned over a much better crop of fighters than did any of the other champions. You could take any of the top 10 from 72-82, for instance, and they would pretty much break up any other era. Even the bottom half of that top 10 would be championship caliber in most eras.

All that to say, here’s a top 10:

1. Muhammad Ali
2. Joe Louis
3. Larry Holmes (Yeah, I said it.)
4. Jack Johnson
5. Rocky Marciano
6. Jack Johnson
7. Evander Holyfield
8. Jack Dempsey
9. George Foreman
10. Joe Frazier

No Tyson. Mike’s my man and all, but there are some fighters you cannot lose to and retain any kind of ‘all-time’ status. Buster Douglas is on that list.

Battle of the $1 Burgers

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From the Chicago Tribune

Personally, I tend to stay away from them joints. If I go to McD’s, chances are, I’m grabbin that Quarter Pounder. In the BK Lounge, it’s a Bacon Double Cheeseburger.

Although to get down to it, I think I prefer Burger King’s burgers and McDonalds’ fries. When BK switched their fry recipe, it was intersting, but not necessarily enticing. It’s like something I have as a change of pace because I want a change of pace, not because it’s particularly good. I kinda miss the days when McDonalds and Burger King were always in walking distance from each other so I could get the good burgers and fries, even if I had to get them separately.

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