Friday, August 29, 2014

It's Michael Jackson's 56th Birthday: Recall his Pepsi Commercials? And now Janelle Monae (videos)

Today is the incomparable Michael Jackson's birthday. He would have been 56 years old. I must have known this subconsciously because I started writing this post about his 1984 Pepsi Generation commercial before I recalled that today is his birthday. And then I discovered that his brothers performed today at Tom Joyner's Family Reunion show in Orlando, Florida, in Michael's honor because it's his birthday.

Next I noticed that Janelle Monae has done what appears to be a Pepsi-associated video, which is also a street scene in which she surprises street musicians the way MJ "surprised" child dancers in his commercial for the soda giant. Pepsi posted the video to YouTube a few days ago. I've embedded it at the end of this blog post, but I'll have to investigate whether there's an intended connection between MJ's 1984 commercial and her recent video. Soul Bounce says the video is part of Pepsi's #RealBigSummer campaign. It's well-known that Monae counts MJ as one of her influences, and Pepsi owes a lot to Michael because his endorsement helped the company gain on Coca Cola in the cola wars.

If you're old enough, you remember MJ's first Pepsi Generation commercial featuring the Jackson 5 plus youngest brother Randy, and a host of kid dancers, including a young Alfonso Ribeiro. If you watched TV during the 1980s or reruns now, you'll recall that he played Carlton in Will Smith's show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In the commercial, MJ pairs melody of his hit "Billy Jean" with Pepsi Cola lyrics to create a catchy jingle. After Michael's death, ADWEEK ran a piece declaring the commercial deal made marketing history.

Alfonso Ribeiro Dishes On Filming Michael Jackson's Pepsi Commercial

In this next video, Ribeiro discusses filming the commercial, MJ's perfectionism, and the hair fire incident, which happened during the filming of the second Pepsi Generation commercial with Michael Jackson. Ribeiro says he was not there for that filming, but later MJ showed video of the incident in his home.

And here is Janelle Monae's that Pepsi posted.

Quickly, Quicky: My reads from Edgar Allan Poe facts to airplane fights

As numerous headlines zip across my screen daily, I end up hitting the "favorite" or "like" buttons often, not because I've read whatever it is, but because I want to read it. Here are a couple of articles I skimmed today that I hope to return to and some that I've read.

And speaking of what I want to read, I am seriously thinking about blogging my bookshelf because I've collected a number of books that were either assigned but remain barely read or I purchased that I have had not yet read. File that under self-accountability.

7 Things You Probably Didn't Know about Edgar Allan Poe
Rhyming headline aside, if you're a Poe fan, this article at Huffington Post should intrigue you. I didn't know that he went by "Eddy" to some people, nor did I know that he used multiple secret identities or sobriquets.

50 Essays to Make You A Better Person
Found via BookRiot, this list at Flavorwire comes at just the right time as I pledge to read more creative nonfiction. It includes works by James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Philip Lopate, Jamaica Kincaid, Adriene Rich and more.

Book Covers: DIY Advice (for self-publishing authors)
The title is self-explanatory. I post it here as another way of bookmarking it.

Electricity on the Brain: Can Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Boost Memory?
I'm doing everything I can to hold on to my memory (eating fish, berries, nuts, playing brain games, getting in some cardio each day). My mother developed Alzheimer's in her 70s. It's debilitating to sufferers and terrifying to those who love them. So, I read a lot about the brain.  From this Newsweek article:
According to a study in the August 29 issue of Science, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)—put simply, using a powerful electromagnet to shoot electricity into a person’s head—can stimulate the parts of the brain associated with memory, such that the neurons in that brain region work better together.
The article leads with a brief history of how electricity has been used to heal the brain over the centuries, including ancients putting electric eels on their heads.

And here's something else on the brain, "The Lowdown on Longhand: How writing by hand benefits the brain" (Edutopia).

Air Marshals Forced to Subdue Passenger Fighting Over Reclined Seat
Okay, this is just silly, but I did learn there are flights from Miami to Paris (Gawker).

The Expanding World of Poverty Capitalism 
In 2011, I wrote a post about the dangers of shifting traditionally government services to private companies. Thomas B. Edsall's has similar concerns in his op-ed at the New York Times. He says that increasingly governments are outsourcing offender services to private companies, which make their money by charging parolees for necessary services. He continues with other examples of how private companies, due to government outsourcing, now make money off the poor providing services that were once free. In some instances, poor people are being imprisoned for failure to pay for company services. So, we're back in Dickens era now with debtors prisons? Ugh.

If They Gunned Me Down
I watched at Mark Anthony Neal's blog this spoken word poet's video of Daniel J. Watts's new poem "If The Gunned Me Down." I assume the poem was in inspired not only by the recent examination of how mainstream media portrays Black youth who are gunned down by police or vigilantes versus how it treats White youth who've been proven to have committed crimes but also the Twitter meme #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. It's a good poem despite overuse of alliteration in beginning.

Black Voters, Candidates Absent from Political Process in Ferguson
Given that I recently wrote on the topic of voter suppression in the St. Louis metropolitan area, I had to skim this article that discusses possible causes for Ferguson's lopsided political power structure.

Bullets and Ballots
Jelani Cobb's article that will appear in the September issue of The New Yorker about his time in Ferguson during the recent protests and the failure of the system to work for African-Americans. He asserts that Ferguson may be viewed "as a microcosm, or even a precursor, than as an outlier," when it comes to Black representation in government offices, considering the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act last year.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Toni Morrison's 1975 lecture on race, politics, and art freed me to say, "Do your own work!" (Audio)

Last week on Facebook I saw a Toni Morrison quote about how racism functions to waste Black people's time and thwart productivity. When I first saw the quote, I was working on a post about Missouri voter suppression and didn't and didn't have time to stop and find the quote's source, but the truth of her words stuck with me.

A few days later, I searched Facebook until I found the graphic with the quote again. Then I researched it and found it on a Pinterest account, and that led me to MoCADA-Museum's page with more information. I discovered the quote came from a lecture the literature Nobel prize winner gave in 1975 before she won the Nobel. Morrison's picture on that graphic, however, did not appeal to me, so I designed my own.

I listened to the entire lecture, including the question and answer period, via Portland library's Sound Cloud page. The lecture was unearthed relatively recently by an archivist at Portland University, according to the YGR website, and Portland University's Special Collections describes the audio this way:
This discussion, presented by the Portland State Black Studies Center, was Part 2 of 2 in a "Public Dialogue on the American Dream Theme." Panel members were novelist Toni Morrison, poet and PSU professor Primus St. John, Lewis & Clark professor John Callahan, Judy Callahan, and Lloyd Baker.
The audio quality could be better, but I listened to it and searched for the transcript, which I found at Dr. Keisha E. McKenzie's website.

Here is the quote that resonated with me on Facebook:
[K]now the function, the very serious function of racism, which is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says that you have no art so you dredge that up. Somebody says that you have no kingdoms and so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing.
I felt that quote so deeply that I immediately knew it was true, and seeing that truth liberated me. I decided to stop blacksplaining Black people to White people, which is something too many White people on the Internet seem to love to do either by direct question or by uninformed comment: "How can you say that?" or "Slavery's in the past. Why can't Black people get over it," or "If you people wouldn't talk about race, we would not have these problems."

I don't mean that I won't ever write another essay on race in America. I mean that I will not bother to answer White people in depth when they rudely respond to anything I've written or said in a way that shows me they either did not read my essay or blog post. I tend to provide links and sources to support what I say. At this point, I think commenters are stupid when they ask questions for which a detailed response is readily found in the essay itself.

If someone doesn't have enough respect for the work on the page or screen to read what's already been said and to check out the links or sources before they ask a question, then I don't have enough respect for that person to respond to the foolish comment. When it's clear that the person really cares to know nothing about the Black struggle, and is talking to insult my intelligence, then I'm through. It's as simple as that. So, yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a dumb question or comment.

And I will take and have taken this approach with Black people, too, who don't know their own history and ask questions disrespectfully or whose comment shows that they are coming strictly from an ideological perspective without any foundation in history and current facts. In general, I mean Black people who think that because they are Black they can say the same dumb crap that racist White people say and engage me. NO. For instance, don't begin speaking to me with false statements such as, "If our youth would pull up their pants, everything would be wonderful and the police would not bother them."

However, if the person seems to sincerely want to have a conversation and listen because they read my essay or post, then that's different. We can talk. I'll listen to them and respond. If they know nothing, however, I may just answer with a reading list.

Here is the Portland lecture:

I also appreciated this clip from an interview with the author.

I'm adopting this same attitude toward Twitter trolls, those who tweet directly to me regarding one of my tweets and then demand that I explain why Black people feel or say whatever, as though I am the spokesperson for all Black people. These kinds of Twitter folk have come out in force in the wake of the Mike Brown case and Ferguson unrest. They have worn out, "Wait for the facts," completely ignoring that police are public servants and the Ferguson police department seems to think their job is to protect Darren Wilson, not tell the public anything. They also seem to intentionally ignore that no one disputes that Wilson fired at an unarmed man while that man was running away from him, so how could Wilson have possibly felt threatened.

Who has the time to educate such people? Anyway, trolls don't want to be educated, they just want to pick a fight. And if you tell them directly that you don't care to speak to them, they whine back things like, "This is social media. Don't I have free speech."

"Well, ding dong, yes you do, just not on my time."

Again, there aren't enough minutes in the day for nonsense. Also, aren't there are enough White people out there who've studied race honestly that they can talk to like Tim Wise?

And these people who make racist statements or are disrespectful really should go off and be glad that I choose to ignore them because my decision not to talk to them is also my decision not to be uncivil. I know myself well enough to know that after a while, I will tell off a fool. Or as one of my friends says, "I'm too old for this sh*t."

In the last week, I must have said to at least six people on Twitter, "Do your own work!"

As another Black blogger wrote ten years ago, "Read a damn book!" I may say that as well, but my go-to form now on is, "Do your own work!"  Translation, "This is not The Help."

Lastly, when all else fails, and such conversations fail quickly, I go with #BLOCK.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ferguson and the voter suppression issue

This post has been syndicated at!

I suspect St. Louis County, Missouri, has a voter suppression problem. When I say voter suppression, I include not only racially biased voting regulations, district creation, and schedules but also the work of an adept group of GOP activists who will throw out voter registrations under the guise of "voter fraud charges." They will also send overly-zealous vote challengers to monitor the polls, and they have supported a mysterious conservative organization that claimed to be a voting rights organization yet worked to decrease voting.

Voter suppression in Missouri should not be news to progressive political organizers. Nonetheless, it's crucial that people who plan to register people of color to vote in St. Louis County understand what they're really up against.

Most people who pay attention to politics know that Black voters tend to vote for Democratic Party candidates, and they may also know that the Republican party has been unhappy about voter registration drives in Black communities. GOP activists have admitted that much: they want to stop Democratic Party voters from getting to the polls. Therefore, is it possible that in St. Louis County elections the GOP has been more effective than the media cares to report?

I fully disclose here that in 2007 and 2008, I worked about six months as the

Both tyranny and chaos silence free speech

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Yaoband (Chinese)--More music from Apple's Verse series (Video)

Chinese No.1 EDM Team Yaoband's New MV - We Just Love It (耀乐团)
And here's the Apple commercial that features them.

Blogging Apple Verse is now officially a pattern with me.

What did Martin Luther King Jr. mean, "A riot is the language of the unheard"?

Last year about this time, a whole year before the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of 18-year-old Mike Brown, CBS's 60 Minutes posted an overtime segment featuring Martin Luther King, Jr. The segment is part of last year's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington. Its headline is the King quote you may have heard repeated since the tear gas began to cloud Ferguson's night air:
"A riot is the language of the unheard."
The overtime piece features Mike Wallace's 1966 interview with King in which he asked the Civil Rights leader how he felt about a growing number of Black people rejecting non-violent methods. Here is part of what was said, but I hope you watch the full video interview yourself.
MIKE WALLACE: There's an increasingly vocal minority who disagree totally with your tactics, Dr. King.

KING: There's no doubt about that. I will agree that there is a group in the Negro community advocating violence now. I happen to feel that this group represents a numerical minority. Surveys have revealed this. The vast majority of Negroes still feel that the best way to deal with the dilemma that we face in this country is through non-violent resistance, and I don't think this vocal group will be able to make a real dent in the Negro community in terms of swaying 22 million Negroes to this particular point of view. And I contend that the cry of "black power" is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we've got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.

WALLACE: How many summers like this do you imagine that we can expect?

KING: Well, I would say this: we don't have long. The mood of the Negro community now is one of urgency, one of saying that we aren't going to wait. That we've got to have our freedom. We've waited too long. So that I would say that every summer we're going to have this kind of vigorous protest. My hope is that it will be non-violent. I would hope that we can avoid riots because riots are self-defeating and socially destructive. I would hope that we can avoid riots, but that we would be as militant and as determined next summer and through the winter as we have been this summer. And I think the answer about how long it will take will depend on the federal government, on the city halls of our various cities, and on White America to a large extent. This is where we are at this point, and I think White America will determine how long it will be and which way we go in the future.
Lagniappe: I also recommend this editorial by Rebecca Carroll at the Guardian, "Why are white people scared of black people's rage at Mike Brown's death?" Carroll addresses her complaint directly to a white audience. Here's a key passage:
You are the ones who created this godforsaken racist system by using your circumstantial power and privilege 400 years ago to institutionalize white supremacy. Now use that power and privilege you still have, 400 years later, to dismantle it.

And please don’t quibble about whether you have any direct lineage to the architects of racism. You are benefitting from it, so you have a direct responsibility to figure out how to undo it. Because maybe you’ve seen what happens when we black people try to undo it in 2014 – they call in the National Guard.
Finally, if you've been wondering where people who are more informed about what's happening in Ferguson get their news, try this list of reporters who are tweeting news live from the ground in Ferguson.

Tweeted Poem: On Florissant

On Florissant