Archive for African-American People

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions #3 | Dame Lorraine

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Drama.

All this talk of myself, and my railing at society but what of Theater? For that I have reserved my concluding words: it’s actually much worse than I thought—though I’ve already expressed that sentiment. But, to this hour, I don’t think my dear reader has ever heard me make mention of Theater’s finer qualities—with any extended detail, that is. And you will, though not now, as I would like for us to quickly turn our attention to July’s stage play, Dame Lorraine.

 

d1

Dame No. 1

 

Title: Dame Lorraine (1979)
Playwright: Steve Carter
Time Period: Postmodernism
Plot: An African immigrant family, mired by past transgressions, gather in the Harlem apartment of their physically disabled patriarch for the return of a family member recently set free from prison in hopes of finding closure with what got him incarcerated more than two decades ago.
Dope Line(s):

[Act 1]

ANGELA
I shouldn’t have come. Why did I come here?

[Act 1]

DORCAS
I never thought to see you in this house again. I ain’t want to see you here … but I too glad you come. You have to understand … we had to stay here and my place was with him. I just a woman. You have to understand. I was doing what I thought best.

[Act 3]

PICTON
I sorry I do this thing to you. I sorry I plant all them bad flowers in you. I ain’t never want to see you cry. I beg you forgiveness. Before God, I beg you forgiveness.

 

har1

Harlem 1970s

 

Coming to you live from New York, from inside an undisclosed location in Brooklyn. But this here story takes place in Harlem circa 1979. No, seriously. I’m in NYC for this one. #TINWIPA goes on the road from time to time… I’m out here on the east coast celebrating my B-Day; this little thing I do where I pick a different city to toast to my getting old. I’m torn between Madrid or Tokyo for next summer and it just might come down to an old fashioned coin toss. But enough of that, I wanna talk Dame Lorraine, part three of Steve Carters’ Caribbean Trilogy (Eden, 1975; Mountain Dew, 1977), all of which could fall anywhere along the timeline of the twenty-six plays Carter’s alleged to have written. (This pompous S.O.B. claims to have some of his plays “hidden” in a trunk somewhere.)

Fair warning: this is the Kill Bill edition boys and girls and aliens, and I’m going to swing the Hanzō around mightily for this one. With that bit of business out of the way, I have just one question: Are black content creators being held at gunpoint and forced to produce material that showcases the most horrific and disturbing images (and sounds) of the Black experience in America, or are they doing this of their own free will? But then to ask that question is to immediately ask another: What is it about Black (and Brown and Asian) suffering that (white) audiences find so enamoring? These two questions always jump to the front part of my mind whenever I encounter material like this. To me, both of them are rooted in the question: Who is this film/play/book/song/installation for?

 

d2

Dame No. 2

 

In today’s world Carter clearly wouldn’t be in touch with his audience; as is the case with whites who lord over the images and representations of people of color. Film and Literature—Theater too it seems—constantly get it wrong whereas Music, Fashion (model representations aside) and Sports hit the nail on the head every damn time. When black youth is the face of sports culture (Lonzo Ball, Dak Prescott) and the backbeat to corporate commercials (Lil’ Yachty, Kendrick Lamar) and the pulse of online buzz (Black Twitter, Beyonce’s Beyhive), I start to wonder what’s taking the others so long to join in on the fun… Black people, I can surely attest, are done with the suffering narrative; they go the other way every time. People like Misty Copeland and Kevin Hart have broken new ground, and so have the Migos and Future and that last dude that was President of this country, yet the biggest movie “made” for black people (and for whites to feel guilty about) this calendar year is Detroit? Yes, the ’67 Detroit riot is an important moment in (Black) American History and long overdue perhaps, but you guessed it: more Black suffering. What about the current cultural zeitgeist known as Turn Up culture? Will it ever see its day on the big screen, or on the best sellers list, or on stage (Hamilton doesn’t count). I feel like I already know the answer so why bother…

 

crumb1

More Harlem 1970s

 

For someone like Steve Carter, I get the feeling that he thought very highly of himself while in his prime. I mean, to be a part of the Negro Ensemble Company he would’ve had to… Still, I’m not ready to put him or his contemporaries—and mine also—on the same level as sadists, but I can’t seem to grasp why their need to go overboard in their indulgences of black suffering. In Carter’s case, an African family is trying to weave back the family fabric torn apart twenty-seven years ago when the oldest of eight sons initiates a gang rape scenario on his young sister only to be caught in the act by his father who he then beats within inches of his life thus making it hard for the man and his wife to survive in Harlem, New York which at the play’s point in history (1979) was figuratively falling to pieces. And rather than having them move on, Carter puts them all back under one roof where they await the brother’s return as if he were the Prodigal Son.

 

globe1

The Harlem Globetrotters

 

Like The Rover, the plot points don’t easily connect and that’s marred even further by syntax—but that’s the gist of what happened for the family involved in this story to be where they are at the start of the play. We enter the home of Picton Moulineaux through the eyes of his daughter Angela Moulineaux (who as raped as a pre-teen) and her bi-racial boyfriend Salvatore “Sal” Buongusto (half black, half Italian; bigotry abound because of this). Rightfully so, she wants nothing to do with this place but since her father is on his deathbed and the coincidental release of her oldest brother King Moulineaux from prison, Sal has put it to her that she should work some things out with her family as it will help things in the intimacy department between them. (Picton named all of his sons with titles traditional of the French royal court like Prince, or Earl, or Marquis). Things happen glacially, and the back and forth took some figuring out… Again, this is that irksome thing I hate about writers who have no actual story and are merely holding things off for shock value: they have characters withhold key information until the very last minute possible or avoid answering direct questions and just monologue instead; it was In The Summer House all over again. However much a mess this play is though there was an opportunity for me (and now you) to learn what a Dame Lorraine is, so there’s that. And seeing as I’ve spoiled the bulk of the play, you can read for yourself how Picton goes into great detail for what he calls a Dame Lorraine which aids in giving the play its title. I would like to talk about the actual Dame Lorraine character that still exists today…

 

apollo

Old school Harlem

 

The Caribbean’s rendition of the cakewalk as discussed in Color Struck, is the simplest way of putting it. Mockery of the ruling French elite that became a thing of its own and can still be seen today in Caribbean carnival culture, hence all the photos of portly black women. More than one character exist and the photos throughout are of the modernized version of Madam Gwo Tete. When returning to the barracks (slave quarters) the slaves would emulate what they had seen while servicing French high society’s elaborate parties and coronations, exaggerating different portions of their bodies, however, for comedic effect. For Madam Gwo Tete it was humongous breasts then later an even bigger ass, the ass originally belonging to Madam Gwo Bunda. So, should you read Dame Lorraine, you’ll have a better understanding of what Picton means when he talks about seeing a performance and his mumbling off of various words attached to the word “Madame.” Lastly, all of the Dame Lorraine characters don masks so as not to make out the “respectable citizen” behaving so lewdly behind underneath the costume.

 

image

Dame No. 3

 

I didn’t necessarily have high hopes for this play though I did hope that it would be decent. It being my B-Day month I wanted to select something from a black playwright and about an issue I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: Family. There’s not much to glean from here other than the fact that I would never do any of the heinous acts committed in this story to my own blood… I’ve always enjoyed the dynamic of families coming together for an event, light or tragic, in one location and maybe not this story but something much milder will always be relevant, especially if it charts the fragmentation of daily family life and the overall looseness of what constitutes a family in the 21st century. Stories like that never get old whereas Dame Lorraine, I couldn’t be happier if it’s never mentioned past this point. Well, that’ll have to suffice. I’m in New York City for the first time ever! and there’s an entire city filled with tall skyscrapers and moving about are 8 million people with 8 million stories—and I need to go finish seeing what that’s about! I’d love to tell you what’s up for next month but my laptop is Los Angeles but I’m sure it’ll be better than this play. Happy Birthday, me! Thank you, New York!

 

 

stage-chair

‘Til August…

 

 

Rating: 1.5/5

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Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions #1 | Color Struck

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Tragedy.

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer
PRELIMINARY CONFESSION #1

I have often been asked—by myself mostly, and in my head at that—how I first became an amateur theater reviewer; and have worried, undeservedly, about the opinion of my acquaintance—again, myself mainly; it being reasoned that I should rely primarily upon my worldly experiences and incorporate them here, by way of serialized installments that are hopefully not too indulgent—though that often tends to be the case with writers—simply for the sake of adding an element of mystique around what it is that I’m doing: theater—rather, old stage play—criticism. This, however, is only a small portion of what actually goes “into it the process” — obviously. True it is, that for ten years (2007-2016) I actively pursued a film career and on occasion did partake in going to the theater, mainly for the fact that it provided me with a small break from my craft (screenwriting and filmmaking) and the frustrations that go along with it: but, so long as I experienced the theater from this angle, I was effectually guarded from all the positive aspects the theater offered, even more so by the long periods between visits where the time away was spent toiling away at what at the time I thought would be bring me pleasure (happiness). It was not for the purpose of creating pleasure, but of mitigating pain, pain of the worst degree, that I later returned and began to use the theater as an occasional sedative for my creative desires. In the thirty-first year of my age, a most painful realization of life, which I had first experienced about ten years before but for something entirely different, barreled into me with the force of ten-thousand dump trucks. This area of my life, as I have stated before in an earlier blog or two, will be expanded upon this summer when I summarize my first ten years (a decade!) living in Los Angeles—and my career ups-and-downs will be one of the many highlights. However, during the period of grief and dejection (that is, from 2011 to 2013 roughly) the theater, even reading (my own work included) pretty much flat-lined: for the two following years I could only resuscitate them at intervals: but now, under more favorable circumstances, from cheerfulness of spirit, the “pain” now yields no other remedy but the theater and any other communal event as well as a renewed passion to write again—though in a different format than I originally had planned. As for those salad days—which brought about this “complicated” relationship between theater and me, which in themselves are quite interesting, as well as the situations that produced them—I’ll have to anecdote about them at a later point in the future and too then answer fully what is the first preliminary question. For now, we turn our attention to Color Struck.

 

dixie-hwy-osceola-co-1920s

County where Zora grew up in Eatonville

 

Title: Color Struck (1926)
Playwright: Zora Neal Hurston
Time Period: Early Modernism (Harlem Renaissance)
Plot: Several black couples travel by train to a regional cakewalk competition.
Dope Line(s):

[Scene 1]

 JOHN
Yes, I want you to love me, you know I do. But I don’t like to be accused o’ ever’ light colored girl in the world. It hurts my feeling. I don’t want to be jealous like you are.

[Scene 2]

EMMA
Oh—them yaller wrenches! How I hate ‘em! They gets everything they wants—

[Scene 2]

EMMA
He went and left me. If we is spatting we done had our last one. Ah, mah God! He’s in there with her—Oh, them half whites, they gets everything, they gets everything everybody else wants! The men, the jobs—everything! The whole world is got a sign on it. Wanted: Light colored. Us blacks was made for cobble stones.

 

gator

Florida gator.

 

“That’s just the way it is, things will never be the same”—at least that’s how I remember the chorus to Tupac Shakur’s Changes going. Makaveli makes short work of Bruce Hornsby’s original record, adding heft with an ever-jabbing bassline that pulsates behind the sample, as he unleashes a barrage of unfiltered lyrical content depicting the miserable conditions that African-Americans were left stranded in, in the aftermath of the trickle-down Reagan Era 80’s and the gas-guzzling post-Bush Sr. 90’s… And on that note I’d like to say: Happy Black History Month boys and girls and aliens. I’ve decided to crack open this nut from the early 20th century in honor of. Remembered more for her seminal work, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston’s stage play Color Struck had been buried deep underneath a mountain of greater works from the time period until it was unearthed in the 1970’s and extracted still ripe from the pages of the now defunct Fire!! Magazine (published in 1926; only one issue ever pressed), immediately anthologized, and has been hobbling along ever since.

 

fire-magazine

Fire!! [R.I.P.]

 

Man, there are some painful revelations that I’m having in my 30s. My brethren and I have been up shit creek for so long, much longer than any of us would care to give thought. And the more I dig up artifacts (sheet music, newspaper articles, corn mix boxes, etc.) from our past, the more I realize how much “baggage” we have still to “unpack”—and skin is one of them. Why we haven’t let this go, why we’ve allowed this to divide us, confounds even the most astute and the most militant amongst the Diaspora—Willie Lynch Theory or nah. Color struck—the stage play’s title defined—is the attitude/allure that darker-skinned African-Americans have for lighter-skinned African-Americans’ (and whites’) skin tone. It’s an old saying amongst Blacks believing that those with lighter skin complexions and Eurocentric features (blue eyes, hawk’s beak nose, “good” hair, washboard ass) are the epitome of Beauty thus more desirable—and what one should aspire to emulate. Further, it is a colorism within one’s own race—an “intra-racism”, if you will. For one to be color struck it is to be stung with an arrow equivalent to Cupid’s; it roils forth the same sort of reckless whirlwind passion of that of star-crossed lovers (Boom! Tie-in to last month’s review) — but rooted in a heated jealousy. The skin “issue”, unfortunately, seems to be generational at this point—which is a bit of heavy-handed foreshadowing on my part. So not to ruin it all by stating it now, I pause to say: One Love to my departed sistah Zora… Oh, and please allow me the honor of nitpicking (critiquing) your work.

 

zora_photo

Zora. Zora. Zora.

 

The first two decades of the 20th century were an interesting time for Blacks in America. What’s billed is a renaissance (Harlem Renaissance; mid-1910’s to mid-1930’s) but if one were to dig a little deeper one would we see that there was an aggressive—and admittedly successful—effort on (white) America’s part to industrialize and indoctrinate socialize Black people. Another notable takeaway of the time period is the outright feverish eagerness on the gens de couleur libres’ part to be “recognized by” and “accepted into” the white (WASP) Elite—and the bulk of the North’s efforts (and moolah) benefited these Uncle Toms. Gens de couleur libres (free people of color) is the term that was applied to people of African descent—a large portion of them being of mixed race—who had never been subjected to the harsh conditions of plantation life. By the 1920’s this group had already become a silent “black aristocracy” primarily in my home state of Louisiana (New Orleans) — referred to there loosely as Creole (“light-skinned” African-Americans). However, these gens de couleur libres did reside in other parts of the country and just like the former slaves had migrated North and West during The Great Migration (mid-WWI more or less through the 1950’s). The 1920’s is also the same period of time in which the black aristocracy’s “power structure” started to become undone via American legislation (Plessy vs. Ferguson [1896; the ripple effects carried into the 20th century], the stripping of personal wealth, the removal/refusal of aid to institutions) and hate crimes (race riots, arson of black businesses, murder) — though a good of bit of their “power” was salvaged by graveling at the feet of the white Establishment for crumbs. Today, there is still a small, insular group of Blacks (again mostly “light-skinned”) who relish the fact that their family’s lineage as gens de couleur libres can be traced back to before the Civil War (spring of 1861 to the spring 1865).

 

blackcreole_circa1860s_neworleans

Creole Man, circa 1860s

 

Again, none of this is to be divisive—or to point the finger. I mention the above only for context, in hopes that a generalized outline of the times (Color Struck’s setting: rural Florida 1900; and the same locale 20 years later) will give one an understanding, and add body and texture to where Zora’s story unfortunately falls short…

And how could she know that her play would still have possible relevance in the 21st century? Maybe in her mind the idea of Black people still squabbling 90 years later over something as arbitrary as skin tone would seem downright cuckoo. Surely a non-issue like that one would’ve already worked itself out in all that time… Hold up; let me fall back. I’m being way too presumptuous. Besides, there’s no need to speculate on what Zora’s thoughts might’ve been. The fact of the matter is that there’s no real way of me—of any of us—ever knowing, so…

 

gcrr100a

Jim Crow rail car, late 19th century

 

Color Struck is an easy enough story to follow. All that I’ve mentioned above along with the arrival of immigrant groups from Europe (Irish, Italians, Jews, etc.) and a smaller, second Industrial Revolution which took in its grasp many blacks and whites (and Mexicans and indigenous) shifted the United States’ economic power and focus to the North (factory work) and to the West (expansionism) as well, decimating the South’s rural economies (agriculture by way of livestock and free human labor) in the process. The effects of which were deeply felt in the state of Florida where Color Struck’s story takes place. Several black couples are traveling from Jacksonville to St. Augustine by train to a regional cakewalk dance competition—which is basically the best thing smokin’ seeing as there ain’t much to do now that most of the jobs are gone and small gatherings like these play an integral role in keeping what little community there is left intact. As for this cakewalk, it is a leftover from plantation life, it being a mockery of whites’ ballroom dancing at first—but then taking on a life of its own. I’d go into greater detail describing it but then I’d be robbing you of your own personal scavenger hunt (Google/Bing). I’ll say this much: just think Soul Train line. And if I have to explain what that is—then I give up…

First impressions: Boy, things sure have changed. Who travels by train nowadays? This means of mass transit always fascinates me because so much literature—Black or otherwise—from this time period starts off this way: someone or a group of people en route to a destination by rail line. More so the uncommon here, as this particular railway car is packed to the brim and segregated by race (Negroes). However, there’s still a noble affable air in the setting, and to Zora’s credit, she presents what is the opening scene in a very matter-of-fact fashion. One could easily mistake it for a passage in a William Dean Howells novel—which it clearly isn’t, and in doing so, one would be denying Zora her proper respect.

 

jimcrowcar2

Early 20th Century satire

 

A fairly sizeable cast—I say five or six—have some weight against the story but it is the character Emmaline Beazely (called Emma throughout) who is the most fleshed out. She’s traveling with her boyfriend John and a few others. She and John though are “dark-skinned”, John himself being a shade lighter (not “light-skinned”). And John—well, I guess they still make guys like John: kind, considerate, loyal, gregarious. So it was a bit disconcerting to see him to have to bear the grunt of Emma’s wrath for the majority of the proceedings. Skimming Zora’s bio afterwards, I learned that this was a recurring figure of hers: a strong (somewhat broken) woman whose only love is of the selfish-angry-hurt variety. In today’s world that kind of “acting out” (characterization) has to have some sort of context, I feel. Because here her rage swishes back and forth around the rim of the cup so much that it made me speed through the middle parts of the play a lot quicker than what I would’ve liked to just to see what this pain (and resentment) was rooted in. And then I get to the end of the play only to see that Zora opted to go the Manchester by the Sea route—which is to say absolutely nothing, implying basically that Emma can’t “beat it”, whatever it is… A bit of a spoiler on my part I guess. But the actual ending, I cannot lie, I never saw coming (dope writing!).

Tossing Zora a bone here, and to connect the pieces to my own review, what I believe Emma’s anger is rooted in is basically the world around her: a “thriving” but not yet failing—though silent to some—black (“light-skinned”) aristocracy which because of her skin tone and/or her lot in life she can’t gain access to, and a rural Black community that has gone to seed, a community Emma possibly feels trapped inside of with no tangible means of escaping. And there won’t be any help from the other side (the rural white South) this time around either because they have their own to look after seeing as the U.S. government has its empirical claws clutching at things elsewhere. Yes, there are “light-skinned” Blacks who are still milling about like Effie, a mulatto girl loosely playing the foil to Emma, whose misfortunes are one in the same but Emma still sees her—and the people with skin like hers—as a threat. To Emma, it’s as if they’re encroaching on what little resources there are left (men, money, employment) and if she drops her guard even for one second people like Effie are going to make off with them. And any of these, maybe all, are potential areas of concern for one looking to adapt this play for television or film, or the stage.

 

white-colored_passengers

Reminders

 

As for the elephant in the room on whether or not this play holds up, the short answer: No! The long answer is a bit more complex and sort of takes away from the overall “spirit” of this theater review series. But in this case seeing as I’ve started off the blog post foreshadowing my sentiments, and it also being Black History Month—on top of other things—I figured: “Hell, I might as well say how I really feel and tack it on as best as I can to my conclusion.” Yes! Hell, yes! I think there’s a lot here that’s still relevant. Not just Black people but America at large seems to have fallen under some sort of weird, perverted colorism, the fallout of which lands often times in large clumps on the minds and spirits of those with really dark skin pigmentation who can’t cheat their skin tone without having to go through with a horrific skin-bleaching process which ends up doing more harm than good. We’ve gotten way too obsessed as a society with wanting to be hazel, and chestnut, and caramel, and brown (not in reference to Latino), and bronzed, and olive (existing as black and green in nature but as light brown in American lexicon; okay sure, whatevs), and tanned… and vice versa so as not to get any darker. A nation as diverse and as narcissistic and as morally bankrupt as ours has cross-pollinated itself to the hilt thanks to the Internet which has now made cultural appropriation the easiest it’s ever been to commit in human history, not to mention what has been imprinted on all of our psyches since this country’s inception (Native American Holocaust) up to and through the Civil Rights Movement (1950’s through the end of the 1960’s; true equality for East Asians, Hispanics, the indigenous Native Americans, African-Americans, Central and South Asians, and the rest of Eastern Europe and Africa) into today. We are all color struck. We are all in awe of each other’s natural skin and features that cosmeticians and surgeons from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to the pricey enclave of Beverly Hills neighboring my beloved Los Angeles have amassed a miserly fortune off of our insecurities (neurosis).

Getting off my soapbox and back to Zora, I think that her legacy is in serious jeopardy. In an Age where more and more people are favoring video content over the written word, I fear that her work may get left behind simply because this generation of content providers trends towards lazy and many of them aren’t going to want to put in the work necessary for a story like this one—and many of her others—which don’t lend themselves over easily to contemporary story conventions. And that’s sort of the other big knock on Zora: her lack of theme. And then, of course, the cardinal sin anywhere in the universe: telling a story that has no plot. More reputable critics have said that her plays and novels are “morality tales” but that to me is like when a filmmaker makes a painfully-bad movie where nothing happens and should anyone ask why that is, the filmmaker defends his/herself by saying that “It’s Art! You just don’t understand.” It’s an answer like that that makes me want to key their car… I mean no disrespect, but that’s the case here: no theme really, and no plot. All in all, if Color Struck is on your reading list—read it. If it’s not, yet something’s compelling you to read it, you’ve been warned.

 

fmatters

Black family on TV, late 1980’s

 

And one last thing on colorism as it pertains to Black people—which I mentioned earlier at the top of this blog post by way of Tupac, recalling his lyrics and frustration over the fact that nothing ever changes. Well, I can concede that the air around the skin “issue” has improved somewhat, although I still have to consider where we all are in the macro- sense… But every time Black people have come close to putting this “issue” behind them the Media not so sneakily places it right back in front of us—why is that? The photos above and below this paragraph I leave to you to dissect on your own. Still, I can’t help but say, “Come on, Black people. We should know better.”

 

empire-tv

Black family on TV, 2010’s

 

Rating: 2/5 stars

 

 

stage-chair

‘Til March…

Tuesday Thinker – Week #3 August 2016

Posted in Writing & Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2016 by gregnett
image

“AphroWoman: In Transit” by CHDWCK80

“We live in a society of an imposed forgetfulness, a society that depends on public amnesia.” ― Angela Davis

Tuesday Thinker (on Wednesday, Silly me!) – Week #2 December 2015

Posted in Writing & Poetry with tags , , , , , on December 9, 2015 by gregnett
gandhi

“Gandhi” – Alex Cherry

 

“Intelligence plus character—that is the true goal of education” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

MOVIE REVIEW: The Keeping Room; or Civil War Panic Room

Posted in Movie Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2015 by gregnett

Perhaps the idea for The Keeping Room came after screenwriter Julia Hart (making her feature film debut here) went on a B movie, woman-in-peril, slasher film bender. Perhaps there was something about the exploitative material of the 70’s and 80’s that needed more exploiting and a re-imagining. And I guess the backdrop of the Civil War was as good as any—perhaps?

He's right behind you! Turn around!

He’s right behind you! Turn around!

After seeing the trailer I was all prepared to wax poetic about how if this movie were about three white men defending their turf while two armies of mostly white men bludgeoned one another over American turf at large, it would’ve been recognized as the start of Good Movie Season and Tom Hardy or someone of his caliber would’ve been mentioned as an Oscar hopeful, and this film would’ve easily played in 2,000 theaters having wiggled its way out of an R rating. But perhaps Hollywood did us a favor on this one…

White clothes...Metaphor?

White clothes… umm, metaphor?

I’m not sure exactly who to shine the spotlight of blame on. The obvious choice would be the director Daniel Barber (Harry Brown) who has a checkered past when it comes to this kind of dark material; or it could be the other way around maybe seeing as it was Julia Hart wrote this—the monologues, in all of their vagueness, are hers. As of this review, I’m still stumped as to what either of them was trying to tell us with this piece. Regardless, what it all boils down to is cinematic pointlessness—and I’m not even trying to be harsh.

Don’t get me wrong: I love period pieces. I just spent the last 3 years of my life writing one. But I pose the same question(s) to the filmmakers of The Keeping Room, the same any reputable critic would pose, the same I posed to myself when I sat down to write my story, the same any general audience would pose sitting down to watch theirs: What does this all really mean? How does this story tie in to today?

Why

Why “run” when I can “walk”…

As far as the latter, there are flashes: the full liberation of women; women not needing to be defined by a man, they themselves should suffice; the constant sexual intrusion of men; (white) male aggression—if I’m reading the subtext correctly. But on the surface where movies need to make sense and entertain, nothing in this film strikes a chord.

Just so at least someone tells you: a keeping room is an area just off the kitchen of a home. Keeping rooms date back to Colonial times when families would sleep in that area when the rest of the house was cold. Since that area could be heated by the kitchen stove, it often provided the only heated place in the house. A fairly light Google search got me that definition. The title is named dropped twice but never fully explained. The “keeping room” also doesn’t factor much into the plot either.

Ominous, ominous, ominous...

Ominous, ominous, ominous…

The year is 1865 and if you’re an American, for your sake, I hope you know that this was the year the Civil War ended. (Bonus points if you know the day and the month.) Three women—two white sisters and their Negro slave—are living together in very close quarters on what I guess is a farm somewhere in the American south. I’m no historian but knowing what I know about Slavery—not the gray sanitized version being taught in American schools—none of what I saw here made a lick of sense. And yes, most stories are contrived, I get that. But this story is contrived beyond forgiveness. The Keeping Room purports that a Negro slave woman, who the movie places at or around the age of 30, would stick around to help two oblivious, lily-white white women, who fall somewhere between the ages of 17 and 30, who know very little about farm work (especially the younger one), who stupidly go walking into the woods and get bitten—off screen!—by a raccoon and become a non-factor (solely the younger one), who have no white men in their vicinity to protect them, who themselves have yet to pack up and travel north to safety, who most likely have treated their Negro slave woman worse than the animals on their farm, who oddly have mentioned to this same Negro slave woman at some point long before the narrative began the whereabouts of extra guns hidden in the house (these guns don’t become a factor until late into the proceedings at which point there is forced exposition on the movie’s part to relay this information to the audience), who ignore danger when it is smack-dab in their face (solely the older one), who lastly, clearly don’t have the muscle mass or sheer will to live they same way their Negro slave woman does and should their Negro slave woman turn the aggressor, it’d be improbable that either of these two white women could defend themselves against her. Taking all of this in I thought to myself, “There is not nearly enough flesh removed from the Negro slave woman’s back to justify this kind of obedience.” Do I have to anecdote about the etymology of the word cracker?

“We all niggers now”, says Augusta (Brit Marling, I Origins) to her younger sister Louise (Hailee Steinfeld, Barely Lethal) [She’s like the go to young lady for period pieces, isn’t she?] scolding her for talking down to Mad (Muna Otaru) their female Negro slave. But nothing about what Louise said was inauthentic. The filmmakers might want to play fast and loose with the time period and its race relations but Louise is absolutely right: why does she have to do field work? Three people don’t need nearly that much food to survive on, especially if all Mad is going to prepare is vegetable soup night after night, and if the men have yet to return home from battle. And why does Augusta need to chop wood for that matter when it clearly looks like and is early spring time? The Civil War ended in the spring of the same year this story takes place. And nights get warmer in the spring. Summer’s approaching, right? I hope the movie isn’t suggesting that she’s getting an early start on the winter which is at best six months away. So again, why is she chopping wood? (Something tells me this story was initially set during the harsh of winter and the production team overlooked this fact figuring no one would notice—that and they couldn’t come up with another scene in which Brit Marling could appear independent in soooo… Well, I noticed not even trying.)

One of my favorite young female actors; this generation's Michelle Rodriguez...

One of my favorite young female actors; this generation’s Michelle Rodriguez…

On the whole, this narrative was concocted in the mind of Hart—a white woman—who keeps Mad broken and docile. Of course if Mad were to slit the sisters’ throats while they were sleeping and then make a run for it there wouldn’t be much of a story, would there? With death so imminent for all the white women cropping up in this film any smart black woman—or any black woman who wants to keep her life—would take her chances out on the road *hint hint* Underground Railroad. Surely Mad’s heard of it; the early 1860’s was its peak time of usage for runaway slaves to Canada. (For one to know just how unruly Africans were, and for that matter, just how twisted and inhumane the white establishment was during Slavery or at anytime prior (or later), it would require personal enrichment beyond American textbooks and mainstream entertainment, I guess.) Later we learn via monologue—a breath of fresh air for these types of movies because speechifying is usually reserved for white principal actors—that Mad is deeply in love with Bill (Nicholas Pinnock, Monster: Dark Continent), a Negro slave man also residing on the sisters’ farm (and the movies way too contrived reason for why Mad is still on the premises possibly), who upon his arrival home is shot in the back while in an Union officer’s uniform. Elsewhere in the movie the other non-principal black characters also die—stylistically—and for no apparent reason: their skulls are burst open before slowly dropping dead, set ablaze while atop run away horse carriages and like Bill cowardly shot in the back while defenseless. Is this another metaphor for something? Is there some deeper meaning in how they die? As for the white characters, well, they die heroically of course, drinking family recipe moonshine and monologuing. But you knew that already…

And it’s because of these and many other gratuitous nihilistic deaths (of mostly white women) that I bring up slasher films. Only in those movies do killers (usually white men as is the case here) silently stalk their prey (young scantily dressed white women) through dark hallways and poorly-lit corridors, only in those movies is exposition doled out through a feeding tube or is just dismissed altogether, only in those movies are main characters silent when they should be yammering. In real life, Bill’s untimely demise could’ve been prevented just by simply saying, “Bill. Thank God you’re home!” out loud. I should be concussed at this point for the amount times I slapped my forehead at this movie’s silliness. I really felt like I was watching a slasher. Even the guy behind me kept huffing his breath and sucking his teeth. (It’s nice when it isn’t just me.)

You could try running...

You could try running…

The film also opens with a framing story that tells us that white men are who we thought they were: belligerent, rapist, sadistic, repugnant scum. And what do white men do to bring on so many bad adjectives, well, the aforementioned and then some. Look, I’m not here to pile up on white men. The movie does that all on its own. But what a movie like this does do is highlight a few cinematic privileges that the Movie Money People of Hollywood would never bestow upon a person of color. The closest filmmakers of color have ever gotten to romanticizing cinematic retribution for Slavery was Django Unchained and even that movie was written and directed by a white male who some think has an honorary hood pass. And that’s life in Hollywood boys & girls…

As for the rest of The Keeping Room, it’s par for the course. We get an obligatory scene of a black slave being called a nigger, a scene where the sisters do their hair and makeup (really tie their dresses) together and talk about “stuff” which is suppose to signify unity or family or something, copious amounts of extreme close-ups of nature, and scene after scene after scene of the two white female leads staring off into the distance feeling exiled, sensing fear, ignoring fear until eventually fear shows up on their front doorstep. Groundbreaking, amirite? A hair slightly above film school all of it—and it even has an obnoxious screechy violin score to boot. As for the dialogue, when characters do speak, it’s of the tin can variety. Which brings me to another thing: I will never understand for the life of me why in the 21st century, with all of the script gurus and screenwriting books, with all of the overpriced film schools populating the country, and with all of the screenwriting best-of lists (the script for this film was on one) and film-centered websites—I will never understand why screenwriters withhold key exposition from the audience, or their characters. I just won’t. Why can’t Augusta and Mad call out to one another so that way Augusta doesn’t have to turn blindly around a corner and shoot an innocent defenseless person in the back? Or make an attempt to call out at least? Why can’t the town hooker say to Augusta that if you continue to hang around town Sam Worthington is going to violently rape you and your sister and possibly your Negro slave? Why! Give me a reason, please do. The entire audience knows Sam Worthington is scum. The framing story explicitly implies it and the rest of the movie hits you over the head with it: white men are sadists and not to be trusted. So who are the filmmakers trying to keep in suspense? Fuck show, don’t tell…TELL! So that way you can find a more satisfying way to achieve actual tension and give us the audience the necessary info we need to buy into your story. Gawd!

Psycho-killer...

Psycho-killer…

I’d go further and discuss this film from a feminist standpoint but what for. It’s all so damn fatalistic. And there’s not much else to it. When people do and act in stupid, senseless ways this film is what you get—a shamble of a production that tries hard to be the third act of Home Alone and the second act of Panic Room but achieves neither. In the end this’ll most likely wind up on Netflix under “Strong Female Lead” which for me is a bit of a head-scratcher. Because after all of the bloodshed, and all of the carnage, and all of the supposed female empowerment, the closing image this movie throws up on screen is three women dressed up like men walking off into the sunset.

The Keeping Room – 1 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama
Starring: Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Worthington, Muna Otaru, Amy Nuttall, Ned Dennehy
Director: Daniel Barber
Producer(s): David McFadzean, Dete Meserve, Jordan Horowitz, Judd Payne, Patrick Newall
Screenwriter: Julia Hart
Released: 09/25/2015; Runtime (in minutes): 95; MPAA Rating: R

The Guy behind the Guy behind the Camera Operator who’s sitting on the floor leaning against the wall charging His cell phone…

Posted in The City: Los Angeles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2013 by gregnett

“… boldness is a child of ignorance and baseness . . . But nevertheless it doth fascinate…”
Francis Bacon, Of Boldness

Suggested background music:
Wale featuring Nipsey Hussle – “Chun-Li” & Outkast – “The Whole World” <PLAY. REPEAT if necessary.>

I’ve been away from my blog for quite some time. I did it so I could focus more on my screenwriting career. Well, career is such a strong word, but one needs to write in order to eventually have the career part come into play. (I would never abandon the one place I can be published.) I also did a little soul-searching. The kid’s weight even fluctuated up and down by about twenty-five pounds or so . . . lost a few friends, picked up a few new ones, you know—the usual. Yeah, this past year has definitely given me a hefty batch of lemons to make lemonade with.

ImageBut outside all of that, I’ve been on task rewriting and polishing my screenplay which took an incredible amount of focus and drive on my part to get done. The entire process kind of left me with the feeling that the whole world was conspiring against me—which is absurd; I know it isn’t. But I’ve never seen so much negative ish come my way. It was like growing up all over again. Now finishing my script wasn’t necessarily a page one endeavor, but it was as close to it as you could get. It’s hella tenuous combing through a one hundred and six page document, checking it for grammatical errors, syntax and overall plausibility—and that’s only the first part. Next you have to show it to someone, someone who isn’t going to feed your ego or steal it, and they also have to be able to give you constructive, sound, honest feedback. Then after that: you have to send query letters to industry professionals with the intention that the material you want them desperately to read is your best offering, and that you’ll be able to generate the same quality of work—or close to—time and time again as a paid, professional screenwriter. And after that: you have to get back in touch with loved ones and explain to them why you needed to be so distant for so damn long—some of whom who thought you were dead, or worse: moved back home. . . Nope! I’m still here fighting the good fight.

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If anyone pays attention to this damn blog, you should know that had a meltdown a while back [Hopes & Dreams… CRUSHED!!! – 06/10/2011] and wrote a panicky, scattered blog post about the screenplay that I’ve just finished as of last week, Chalkboard. Back at that time Chalkboard was just a bunch of scenes and a loose treatment wasting space on my hard-drive and I would only look at it from time to time, and my intention for it wasn’t really to finish writing it. It was what some screenwriters (all writers maybe) call their “top-drawer script”, meaning that only my eyes would see it, I could take some liberties wherever, and it couldn’t possibly be sold or turned into a movie, so what’s the rush in finishing it. In today’s movie-making world, it’s sad but that still might definitely be the case. I looked at that old post just before I started writing this one and I still can’t make sense of what my angle was. If I had to sum it up now it would be insanity—and frustration, paranoia too. I guess I haven’t taken it down because I want other writers to know how crazy and over-dramatic we get about ish, and what being nonsensical looks like as far as me. No one wants to steal my script; I’m not that clever. In the future perhaps. . .

ImageBut distancing myself from people and things for close to a year, though gruesome, was a step I needed to take in order to become the professional screenwriter I think I could be. I always knew how good of a story Chalkboard was, but I didn’t want to buckle down and really write it. But that kind of mindset works against my goal and isn’t what I’m about. So, I guess I got tired of talking about it and thinking about it and decided to give it to some folks—the pages I wrote of course—and the feedback was positive, some wasn’t; but overall it felt good to be passionate and defensive about my work again. And ultimately, every bit of feedback I received went into the effort to make Chalkboard the best screenplay possible, my strongest to date. Again, having another set of eyes other than your own read your work pays huge dividends. I highly recommend it—free sets of eyes that is! Image

Admittedly, I didn’t know if I would be up for it. I had my doubts early on, up until the end really. Why do we do that to ourselves, writers? Seeing so much red ink and having to take so much criticism—it kind of made me want to scrap the whole idea altogether. But then that started to feel like 2008 the year I stopped writing and put a two year freeze on my growth. . . I came back to and remembered: that’s screenwriting, or any other writing for that matter—it’s rewriting. Man, I’ve done so much rewriting! I’ve gotten up and went to bed with this damn script for over a year. Even now after I’ve written The End, I’m still going back into Chalkboard and making changes to it. It’s embarrassing. But seriously, I’m done; I’m not going to touch it anymore!

ImageBut I do want to “touch” on something—talent! Only because no one can say to me anymore that I’m not a good writer. It’s unbelievable how much better I’ve gotten. It’s like when Denzel was released from prison in He Got Game and he returns home to see his family, and his daughter tells him that Jesus Shuttlesworth, his basketball prodigy son, her older brother, can now use his left hand with the same skill and precision as his right. This script is money, and it sucks that it may never get the attention it deserves—which is ironic, because that’s why I wrote a story like Chalkboard in the first place: a story the deals with a character moving on from something the character saw as the end-all be-all to his existence. Now I definitely know what the stakes are as far as screenwriting goes, and with spec screenplays too: only a fraction of those pursuing end up doing. But it doesn’t erase from my mind the fact that I belong and that I’m just as qualified as those working in Hollywood. I’m not begging or whining or prophesying, I’m just stating the obvious: I’m that confident in my craft. So, there’s no reason to hang my head either way. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be taking meetings going into the fall and the coming year. But as far as Chalkboard goes, it just marks my return, my return to writing and feeling good about who I am and what it is that I aspire (still hate that word) to do for a living… I’m back!

ImageI’ll let the universe sort it out, but it feels damn good to be blogging again… I have lot of ish to get off of my chest! And so it begins…

The Talk Now: The Movie-Slow, Slow Motion I-Don’t-Give-A-Fuck Head Nod

Posted in The City: Los Angeles, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2012 by gregnett

Suggested background music:
Frank Ocean – “Forrest Gump” & Theophilus London – “Wine & Chocolates” <Play. REPEAT if necessary.>

“It was the Saturday of the football game . . . It was the last game of the year, and you were supposed to commit suicide or something . . . and you could see the two teams bashing each other all over the place.”

J.D. Salinger, Catcher In The Rye

 

“Baseball is what we were. Football is what we have become,” Mary McGrory once said at some point long before she ceased all life functions. And knowing what I have experienced playing the sport of football—and many other sports—in my youth, watching the games on television; and living, breathing & sleeping football everyday of my life it seems like for the past 13 years or so now that becoming football can’t be a good thing for us as a nation . . .

I too get most of my references—which can be glimpses into the not too distant future or blasts from the past—from pop culture (movies, music, magazines, social media) and am a bit concerned and turned off by the sounds as well as the looks on the faces in the crowds at sporting events in movies like Gladiator and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace—one being thousands of years before my time, the other being a thousands of years after. Both movies however mirror what I see when the cameras are turned on the crowds today at American sporting events, especially the crowds at professional football games.

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Run #44…

It seems like all Empires, or those with a good run at least—Federation for Episode I‘s sake (not a Fan Boy)—all have a centralized live-action sporting event posing as “entertainment”. But in looking closely we should see that really what’s being pushed is the ideology of the controlling oligarchy. (Love our country [U.S.A.] and no one else’s, Love our God [Jesus Christ and the other two-thirds of the Holy Trinity] and no one else’s, Love our Armed Forces [Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Seals, etc.] and no one else’s, and be mindful, but not for too long, of whatever happened during the week—usually a death or an empirical holiday like Thanksgiving—prior to the Big Game we want you to pay attention to, but never politics: ‘Good God, No!’ or our oppressive ways in the name of “World Peace“/”Enduring Freedom.“) [It’s always so controversial nowadays when professional athletes talk about voting when not made to do so in sponsored P.S.A.s of their respective leagues. I guess when you have people right where you want them—asleep—the last thing you want is for them to get a wake up call.]

It’s no secret that football is now the United States’ biggest sports cash cow. Baseball used to be, though it is still very lucrative, but is way too slow of a sport (4-hour Yankees-Red Sox games which end 1-0 for whichever), family oriented (family fabric currently being ripped a part each day seems like) and has been crippled the past 15 years by performance enhancing drug controversies. (Ain’t it funny watching a bunch of old, white, out of shape, washed-up baseball players mill about courtroom telling on each other?) My faithful Red, White and Blues our new pastime is FOOTBALL. But something tells me you knew this already.

Football is white men (usually overweight) with hard-ons for black athletes; it’s men of all races spitting and yelling over women who somehow got a ticket to a game—and more often that not the men spitting and yelling are doing so at each other and it’s over a touchdown (6 points); it’s alcohol and meat-on-a-stick; it’s lusting over Barbie Doll-esque cheerleaders; it’s throwing beer (the much storied Browns game and the following Monday night Saints game in the Louisiana Superdome and probably many others left unreported); it’s parking lot brawls and dunking the opposing team’s fans in the toilets of bathroom stalls (rhyme intended); it’s threatening the lives of game officials—regular people like you and I—who wear black and white vertical stripes one day a week to pay their bills who are trying to do their best—we must allow for some human error—to “regulate” the violence of the game. Oddly enough: going forward: a football stadium could potentially be the only place a man can feel like a man—or any sports venue for that matter. (Please, I hope you’re laughing at that last line.)

[Much of what I’ve said in the paragraph(s) above can be applied to all American sports, but American football—the big, nasty juggernaut it is—has the strongest grip on the American psyche and reflexively that’s where most of my decision to shake free of all sports came from.]

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Game Day…

Rome, Hollywood’s (America’s) interpretation of it, tells us that the Romans were the most civilized people of their time even though their army was out raping and pillaging the known world. (Didn’t some of our high ranking officers get busted earlier this year underpaying some prostitutes down in South America? Oh yeah, and the American Troops who took photos of P.O.W.s giving them fake BJs like it was standard op?) Again not a Fan Boy, but when you title a trilogy—twiceStar Wars it couldn’t be more obvious what the Federation’s method for implementing its ideology on the galaxy might entail. (It’s no coincidence Disney is launching another trilogy—the third—of their own. Lucas polluted our minds for a while and now’s he’s passing the baton. And we all should know what Disney has done to the minds of children . . . I know what they did to me. I know I like blondes for some reason and I don’t know why.) What ensued? Games! Games went on while epic (thanks Sheen) battles ensued, but eventually the good guys won right? I think they did? Anyway, having humans slaughter animals, or the other way around, animals killing humans in the case of Gladiator or people cheering the death of a driver whose vehicle speeds at high velocity over desert terrain into a mountain side and burst into flames in the case of Episode I aren’t the forms of live-action “entertainment”, at least I don’t think so, and how these societies saw themselves, of civilized people.

Game Day...

Game Day…

These live-action sporting events masked what was really going on: wars. Wars to wipeout buildings and structures not like our own. Wars to have people assimilate against their will—people that were in opposition to the agenda of furthering an empire and so on. Yes, wars were going on in these movies yet the general population were focused on the games. War, wars are going on right now and the biggest topic this late into fall—now winter—and quite possibly the largest trending topic on Twitter this year—and continuing into 2013 most likely—was the referee’s final decision of whether or not a wide receiver caught a football pass (everyone and their grandma knew/knows Golden Tate didn’t catch that football) in the back of the end zone not the re-election campaign for Obama or the wars America is fighting all over the world. I can’t front: I got caught up in it, but that’s why I had to back out and for good. Hopefully, you can see how they relate. . .

 As posted on my Twitter page (@GNetterville) on 12/10/2012: I’m done with professional sports FOREVER! (At the time of this post I’m up to 77 followers on Twitter and 2 followers, I think, on WordPress—Yay! So that means at least 79—some are pornbots now that I think about it—of you who have me on record as saying I’m no longer paying attention to sports, and I really do want you to hold me to this.) Again, it’s scary to think how much America has in common with the above mentioned two movies (empires).

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Run Forrest…

Still not convinced a singular sport hallmarks an empire . . .

Here’s a quote from former NFL Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue. During his tenure he added a lot of cash to the pockets of the 32 NFL owners (31 for profit – The Green Bay Packers are city owned):

“I’m a firm believer that all sports will eventually be global. Someday, we may have a quarterback from China named Yao Fling.”

All Sports? (A racist, candid comment like that—wow! And spoken out loud, and so freely—yikes!)

One, Paul means all American sports. Fuck what everybody else plays. Soccer is about as popular as Leap Year is inside these borders. And two, Mr. Tagliabue meant American football. A game a year is already being played in London, and he was so ahead of his time when he spoke of China; so we can bet more jobs, even football related ones, are going to be on their way to the Orient.

Football has that kind of reach—it will at least because the owners of 32 NFL teams (31 for profit) who already share a king’s fortune in earnings still want to grow their product. Don’t get me wrong basketball is popular (China loves it, just ask Kobe), and so is baseball (Latin America is where we harvest most our major league talent), but consider the fact that there are currently two stadiums (FedEx Field and Cowboys Stadium) in the NFL that can seat 80,000 raging football fans eight Sundays a season, respectively, not including the playoffs and a bid for the Super Bowl. If the Redskins and Cowboys organizations could ever win on consistent bases each venue could see their attendances balloon over that number. And just for good measure, there are also a ton of 70K seat stadiums operating right now. And if your favorite football club is still playing in a 60K seat stadium, why the hell is your state taking so long to give its (its being yours in this case) tax dollars to a for-profit entity so that it can have a bigger building to put its product in? (Awkwardly funny, right?)

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CATCH THE DAMN BALL…

Sadly, Jerry Jones (egotistical football titan) and Mark Cuban (obnoxiously cool hipster braggadocio owner) had to give away free tickets just to get the 2010 NBA All-Star Game which was hosted at Jerry’s World (Cowboy Stadium) to their ambitious 100,000 [108,713] mark which made it the most attended basketball game in history. There are college football stadiums that clear that number easily for cupcake squads (Miami of Ohio football wise and Duke Univ. also), and also sell out months in advance.

And everything else: NASCAR most likely if the technology improves it can hang around in the outer regions of the [American] empire, and I can’t help but think it will considering Star Wars; NHL: on strike last I heard; PGA: for retirees and people who won’t let the knit crew shirt and khaki pants look die; and the rest . . .  not going to bother. Nothing comes close to fucking with football! Let me just roll some more numbers your way:

The estimated size of the entire United States sports industry is $435 Billion dollars which I’m guessing is quietly being tucked away offshore somewhere. All are white owned sans Usher (? – I forget which team he has a stake in), Jay-Z (the Nets and he won’t shut up about it) and Magic Johnson (Lakers, I think? and Dodgers out of nowhere). And these minority owners, no pun intended, own decimal point percentages of their respective sports teams. They would probably fair better franchising a few Subways and a few El Pollo Locos. . .

Take a look see at where football measures up.

Annual Revenue[s]:
NASCAR — 629.7 Million
NCAA — $777 Million (Players or Employees rather don’t even get paid)
NHL — $3 Billion
PGA — 3.2 Billion
NBA — $4.3 Billion
MLB — $7.7 Billion
NFL — $9.5 Billion
Other Spectator Sports — 33.9 Million

Equipment Sales Wholesale (All Sports) — $77.3 Billion
Equipment Sales Retail (All Sports) — $41.5 Billion

****side note****
Nike is synonymous with sports—and space exploration too for some reason—and an estimated 24.12 billion will be collected in revenue by big money-bags himself, Phil Knight, before the world ends at the end of 2012 . . . LOL (I always joke to myself that if all Foot Locker is going to sell is Nike products—it’s has to be at least 85% of their store merchandise—why not just call the store Nike? But, then again, Foot Locker used to go by another name, Woolworth’s, and ole Woolies got bullied out of the market by Wal-Mart, so I guess holding on to a name the second time around must mean more to them.) [Anyone younger than me probably didn’t have the opportunity to shop at Woolworth’s. They were pretty much gone by the time I reached my teens. Bummer.]

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Dead-and-Gone since ’91

In knowing all of this, we can safely say that America—that’s us—spends a shitload of money avoiding the reality of what our government and the other the industrialized powers of the world (Europe) are doing to the planet. And not to be too serious, we just plain ignore life for that matter. Hate to give it to you in downer form, but that’s what it is. And the preferred drug of choice is football and we’ve upped our dosage to three days a week (Sunday, Monday and Thursday), four (Saturday) if you’re in need of the college version, five (Friday) if you’re type of person still trolling the bleachers at a high school varsity game.

We’re doing our best to ignore something. Is life that hard to bear? Are there some truths out there we’re not sure how to deal with? (As much as I love film, I couldn’t devote all of my time to it.)

Why is it that after I’ve gone through the trouble of writing a lengthy blog someone will declare me insane for not liking sports? (Really it’s no trouble all, cathartic if anything; especially after reading the last batch of literary representation rejection e-mails I got in my inbox.)

How are we to become better human beings when we subscribe to things that are so savage, cliquish and time consuming?

Have we become so desensitized and jaded to the world around us that we no longer care about the carnage we glorify?

Before reading on: Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve said?

I’m fine either way. Don’t fret . . .

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That “1” Will Never Be a “S” . . .

Here are a few examples of how sports have affected my life:

I once ended a date early because the girl with whom I was having dinner with was a Steelers fan (Pittsburgh, PA’s football club). The conversation gravitated towards the subject of kids, a big no-no on the first date anyway. But what began as light banter turned into a heated subject on whether she or he, the hypothetical unborn child her and I would hypothetically have together, would it either be a Saints fan or Steelers fan—both not being an option. Then gender became our proverbial coin toss: If our hypothetical unborn child is a girl, fine she can be a Steelers fan, but if it’s a boy—for damn sure he’s a part of the Who Dat Nation—point blank! She rolled her eyes. I flagged down the waitress. Check please.

Well, I’m still single. A connection lost over sports ties . . . and a chance for me to see how sexist I am. (I’m working on that also.)

Another.

I tell stories to my friends all the time and if I were to stop unexpectedly at any point during my tale—I usually stop at certain intervals to let the laughter dissipate or to allow the absurdity to set in or to reestablish old information—I would make the “Time Out”, arms-coming-together-to-make-an-uppercase-T motion like coaches and players do, and then say “Let me finish first.”, or “You better believe it!”, or “No, that happened afterwards.” Or worse, the dialogue I’d use to tell a story: It would be laden with sportspeak, sort of like newspeak, borrowing my reference here from 1984, George Orwell’s dystopian novel. “Yeah, bro. I didn’t read the coverage on that one. I thought I was looking at man, but I didn’t see the safety creep down into the flat. She was in a soft Cover 3 and intercepted my advances as I was trying to throw a quick 5-and-out. No first down. She took it to the house!” — Just to serve up an example.

If my example isn’t suffice, I recommend that you download or rent (notice I wrote download first) the movie Ted and take notice to the dialogue in the breakfast scene. And just so you know, Wahlberg’s & McFarlane’s characters are just as analytical.

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Couple-a-Teddi Brewskies…

Another.

A friend of mine spent two months of his life in a coma earlier this year from a gunshot to the abdomen because of what transpired in a NFL playoff football game. He doesn’t even watch football, or any other “real” sport—he’s into wrestling, of the WWE/F? variety—and his only crime was walking into a chain restaurant to pick up his to-go order. I’m not going to go in detail here because bringing it up again sickens me.

And I can go on and on about sports continuing in an empirical fashion; paternally, communally. . . I can examine the overt misogyny towards women, the revenue numbers, and its impact on pop culture—completely smother you.

Ultimately with any decision I make, no matter how drastic—and in this case some will see this as excessive and too dramatic/drastic… whatever. My decision is always a mixed bag. The larger elements of my decision are based in race, humanity and existing in society. Here’s why:

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I just love a good Center-QB exchange…

It seems like we all want to be in a gang from the biggest of the biggest (nation) to the smallest of the smallest (PTA) with our own logo, chant and color pattern. For twenty-eight years—definitely twenty consecutive ones—my logo, chant and color pattern was the fleur de lis, “Who dat say they gon’ beat dem Saints?”, and black & gold. (I supported a few others but my allegiance had always been to the New Orleans Saints.) And now that I’ve left sports behind, perhaps I’m asking to be allowed to do so safely and without bodily harm, my punishment now is to forever be an outcast, a pariah, a raised eyebrow to everything I do and say, to be second guessed, made fun of, to assume I must be lost or misguided, un-American—straight trippin’. It’s no wonder that the football and religion analogy in this country is so popular (accepted). Because removing sports from my life, on some level, is like breaking free of Christianity:

I mean if something doesn’t feel right, can’t I step away from it for a while? Forever if I want to?

But society, ours at least, holds on to these stereotypes. Like even though I aspire (I fucking hate this word) to be a filmmaker (writer-director), every time I’m seen at a Starbucks writing/sketching, no one comes up to me asks me if I’m a writer; they sit down next to me and say to me I must be a rapper or what I’ve been getting as of late, a spoken word artist because that’s what young black males do, right. And I can’t help but think, what the fuck kind of rapper am I to be hanging out with a bunch of house moms and their noisy-ass kids at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and at a Starbucks in the Valley for that matter? And if I’m approached while I’m standing, because of my stature (6’2″)—well, you must definitely be a ball player, USC or UCLA? Which one?—because that’s what young black males do, right.

Huh?

Nope. No baller here, no rapper here either. (Although I was talked into making a rap song—shamefully misogynistic—a few months back with a friend of mine. The song was meh, and I hated hearing my voice rapping back to me. For laughs I’m thinking about putting the song on YouTube. See, I too can get caught up in the Fame Monster.)

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And I was runnin’…

At this point a confused look will cover their faces. What else could he possibly do for a living?, is what the looks on their faces say to me. But they never ask me what I do. (Why in L.A. do people need to know what you do for a living? — I live for a living.) They just grab their New York Times, turn around, an order a bagel or something . . . Woe is me I guess.

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2-points…

None of this alienates me by the way, but the media has marginalized black males to a certain extent. I guess you can say I have a fear of being caged in. Moreover, it bothers me when I hear that black athletes who were able to “overcome” adverse conditions go back to their hometowns (the place with said adverse conditions) and build and/or upgrade sports facilities for the kids in the very neighborhoods they grew up in. Why? Make the NCAA do it. I read somewhere recently that the University of Texas’ football coach is expected to make $5.7 million next season (2013).

What’s the English teacher getting?

Or make the NBA do it. They’re getting the largest cut and exploiting black athletes altogether—already a win-win situation. For realz, the NFL’s and the NBA‘s profits are in the billions (see figures above) and they can’t spend a couple hundred grand painting lines through the grass or getting rid of the milk crates for shape appropriate iron rims?

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Still 2-points…

My heart goes out to the parents—especially the minority parents—who let their kids (usually the sons) play contact sports, especially football. The game is violent, too too violent. We ooh & ahh when we see the collisions, when we see a race cars go up in flames, when we see the human bodies bend in a way they’re not supposed to on the instant replays . . .

Dear SportsCenter, stop showing us (not me anymore) instant replays of nasty violent hits. How do you expect the NFL to “clean up its act” (won’t happen) when you undermine NFL‘s efforts by showing, over and over on the hour through the early parts of the day, the violent hits they’re trying to rid the game of? Then again, that too, isn’t my issue anymore either . . .

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The Truth We Continue To Ignore . . .

Let me stop for a moment and say that this isn’t an attack on the players. They have paid, and are paying the ultimate price—a heroic sacrifice to say the least—in putting forth their bodies for your entertainment. This blog, if it were in attack mode, trust me it isn’t, but if it were, it would be on the American sports industry and the global, predatory, corporate complex it has.

Again, I’m not attacking the sports industry, I’m just letting you (my 2 followers and whoever else) know I’m not down with sports anymore, and here are a few things to consider in and around life (mine and yours) that helped me make the decision in doing so . . .

If you can truly consider what I’ve written only then will you begin to understand that the more you tune in, the more THEY justify their being in existence hence more 3rd degree fuel burns, plastic face guards, broken fingers, missing teeth, ACLs, MCLs, ripped Achilles tendons, concussions and suicides. I wouldn’t wish any those things on another human being, not even my worst enemy.

That’s the mark of a nation that is civilized!—A nation looking to do no harm to its people . . .

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#1 pick of Draft Class 2083 . . .

Hopefully, we—players both current & past and myself—can work together on ways to give insight to future families about how the American sports industry robs their kids of their youth by making them way too competitive at a young age, how it makes them chase a “dream” (I prefer the term hustle) with odds that are 1-in-50,000—football’s odds but I’m sure the other sports’ odds are just as long. Personally, I’m open to giving these jobs to the machines—this being a rare time you’ll get me to okay putting a machine to work over a human. Hell, FOX Network’s back-from-commercials promo features a football player robot; and is the reason why a movie like Real Steel gets made. (We get tested for future products and we don’t even realize it.)

Same year but a 3rd rounder . . .

Same year but a 3rd rounder . . .

Closing remarks. . .

I’d like to acknowledge a few people who I’m going to miss: Charles Barkley, Cris Carter and Arian Foster. Currently, they’re being paid to only talk about/play sports (No complaint; just a reality). Not to say that there aren’t others athletes I’ll miss, but how much do we really care about athletes? (Some of you have prayed to your God that an opposing team’s star athlete gets hurt so that your team can win or put matters into your own hands, re: The Kobe food-poisoning game.) [So don’t bring that over here! *Brooklyn voice*] Anyway, I caught the tail end of Jordan’s career. I’m still new to the reign of Lebron and the ascension of Kevin Durant. And I’m not sure why I should be impressed with Carmelo Anthony’s scoring efforts.

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Shooter…

And let’s be honest, most of you (me too) have never met the people we’ve spent our afternoons in awe of, and the sound bytes of your favorite athletes you love are always of the after-the-game variety, after they’ve been knocked around by other grown men for a couple of hours (damn commercial breaks). They’re usually mumbling—probably because they’re exhausted or concussed—or speaking vaguely about what they did in the game, or skating around any question that’s actually serious. So it’s safe to say we don’t fully know any of them. If it weren’t for Twitter most of the bench players wouldn’t have a voice, a face even—for damn sure a fan base that actually cares about them being on the team. (True! **2 Chainz voice**)

But athletes like Charles Barkley, Cris Carter and Arian Foster just happen to be three people who bring more to the table:

Cris Carter – I can hear in his voice how much he loves the game of football—definitely a been-through-it-all Gladiator type. He did his business in an era where getting off of the line of scrimmage was an every down occurrence. Modern day NFL receivers aren’t really sure what that means. They spend the entire game flinging their arms up in the air, crying for pass interference calls, with a defender playing seven yards off of them. Cris never complained. He just got open. I value his mentorship ability. He speaks to rookies at the NFL combine about how to handle life in the NFL. I’m no athlete but I’ve been apply some of what he has spoken them about to my life.

Charles BarkleySir Charles, I have to get it out of the way one last time. He taught me that I can say whatever I want and people will have to just deal with it. He actually tells you who’s a good athlete and who isn’t. There’s no sense in lying about it. And he wasn’t caught up in being a role model, just rebounds.

Arian Foster – I won’t know how far your prolific “flowing like water” running style will take you in the NFL, but I’ll continue to read your tweets. Arian sees himself as more than an athlete—I believe he says “an aspiring (his word not mine) human being”—which is exactly what I aspiring towards. He has charisma and once he moves on from football, I hope he considers acting. I’d cast him. I’m eager to see how his approach to working out a scene would be. I could easily have a five hour conversation with him.

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Namaste . . .

Please don’t say to me that I’m taking the fun out of life. Because fun isn’t staring at woman’s chest while chugging beers with the boys from the office in stadium bleachers and saying to her, “shake them tits like the ladies down there on the sidelines.” That’s sexual harassment. Or cheering when a player (usually a quarterback) for the team you’re rooting for gets hurt—that’s malice and foolish! He’s supposed to be your guy. Or beating up a father wearing the opposing team’s colors in the stadium parking lot on his way home from an away game with his wife and young kids within inches of losing his life—that’s assault?, or attempted man slaughter?. . . savagery!

There isn’t much good left in the games to continue watching it or defending it. I choose to be human. And I feel like I’m on my way to becoming a better human by staying away from sports for good.

And it isn’t like I’m not going to know what’s going on. I can walk up to any random group of men—and women too now for some reason (The NFL‘s Breast Cancer Awareness Scam worked. Scam because they were looking to open up to new a demographic and going for women and their jubblies was an easy move.) and the conversation eventually lands on sports if it already wasn’t. I’ll probably have to use the bathroom at that point. Because there’s nothing like having to hear the same opinion—which means they all have watched SportsCenter on repeat since last night and couldn’t wait to yelp at one another like a pack of wild hyenas eager to say the same damn thing—that makes me suddenly want to take a shit.

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Celeb Endorsement…