Thursday, November 29, 2007

Throwback Pop Culture Clip of the Week

In honor of the impending Advent season, I bring to you my favorite song off of Boyz II Men Christmas Album. I formerly thought the name of the song was White Christmas, making me a jaded child who believed that all the white children were having a better Christmas, and I also thought the play on "white Christmas" was genius. This week I came to sad realization that the song is "Why Christmas." I think part of my childhood just died.

If anyone ruins the Kirk Franklin and the Family Christmas Album or the A Motown Christmas Album, it's going to be on. Let's preserve my childhood ...please.

The Queen

Saturday, November 24, 2007

American Gangster: What Happens When They Put a Brother on the Wall

I just came back from seeing American Gangster, and my most prominent thought is Do the Right Thing. I know, two different directors, and with the exception of Ruby Dee different casts, but the similarity of two simple scenes was left etched on my mind. In the words of Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) from Do The Right Thing, "Why ain't there any brothers on the wall?"

What trips me out in this historical fiction (mostly historical, but adapted for the screenplay) is the subtle commentary on race that director Ridley Scott does not play up, but he does recognize. In Russell Crowe's character's attempts to figure out who disseminated Blue Magic, he starts by placing pictures of suspects on the wall. The bulletin board in his office quickly becomes full of Italians. Watching it, I did all but say, "Hey Sal, why ain't there any brothers on the wall?" Time and time again the idea that it would be ludicrous for a black man to have power over the drug game was hinted at. Once Frank Lucas was discovered, the question then became "Who does he work for," and the Italians still remained on the wall.

American Gangster is a difficult movie to dissect. While many are quick to put it with the legions of mob films like Godfather and Scarface(which I admittedly haven't seen), the film becomes complicated with race issues which then gets tied up with morality. Hearing cheers in the theater as Frank Lucas, a black man, took over the drug trade in Harlem, it became necessary to pause. You want to say yes for black business, but not to black on black crime. Is black on black crime better than Italian on black crime? Is that a question that should even be justified?

Still in the end, a racial scorecard is kept and Blacks still lose. At one point in the movie Lucas mentions that these are immigrant groups that came to America after Blacks were first imported as slaves, and they too were able to exploit blacks. If you need a movie reference for the history of this, go watch Gangs of New York. Frank Lucas ends up in jail and his family and operation are torn down, but the mob families go untouched, and are even used as a possible threat to Lucas's career.

Thinking back to how everything came down the weakest link proved to be one of Frank's brothers, who allowed himself to be wired in order to save his life. Is this to say that blacks can't mobilize because the one that's threatened always gives up the answer instead of fighting to the end. It was always the house slave that told the master about the plots to run away, wasn't it? If that's the case then I say the disciple Peter was black, because he betrayed Jesus three times in less than 24 hours.

So, American Gangster doesn't leave any main character as the hero. Frank snitches, Russell Crowe's character is extremely flawed (and really just took on Frank because he found Blue Magic on his dead friend) and the crazy NY detective commits suicide because he was crooked. Still, the mob can go on and live their life and continue to destroy families. Should we honor the mob? No. But something about the resilience of Ruby Dee as Frank Lucas's mother leaves a beacon of hope for us all. Maybe, the real lesson lies in her strength and her largely untold story.

On another note, isn't it strange that JayZ's most acclaimed album since Reasonable Doubt brings him back to the drug game. I know there are deeper lessons about life, business prowess, and respectability to be gained from the movie as well as Mr. Carter's album, but it's interesting to note that his tales of being rich and a mogul don't strike the same cord as his rhymes about an O-Z.

The Queen

props to Russell Crowe on the accent, and Cuba Gooding Jr. I still have a bone to pick with you. Don't dupe me into thinking you're going to do something worthwhile ever again. I think I've lost whatever hope I was holding out for you

Friday, November 23, 2007

Save the Princess!

A few weeks back AOL had a feature on Mario and the timelessness of the game. At that point I thought it would be a great post for Vanity Dark, but kept saving it for a throwback post. Unfortunately I cannot find it anymore. But now the NYTimes has beat me to the post, and I can't stand for that anymore. So click on the link for the article and get lost in the wonder. All of the new hype is because a new game is coming out, so if you're still into gaming this may be one to buy. It's not HALO, but its classic....

Mario is indeed a cultural phenomenon, from the addictive tune to that cheesy movie , to its ability to attract people from all walks of life and various age groups to the mission of getting to the princess in time. Goodness there was even a cartoon:

It's funny that Mario has all the basic elements of violence that other games have, but no one attacks it as such because its coded in traditional fairy tale language. Ordinary plumber goes on mission to save the fair maiden. This is the game that came in a package with Duck Hunt, which used an actual gun as the player control and you pointed at the screen.

This video became a viral hit a few years back and I thought it was brilliant when I first saw it:

Also play the game below.


The updates haven't been flowing as quickly, I've been , well sleeping which isn't usual for me, but it can be come quite addictive. Back to regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This is a problem

"This is what we expected," Simpson told The Associated Press before he left the courtroom. "If I have any disappointment it's that I wish a jury was here. As always, I rely on the jury system."

from Judge Orders OJ Simpson to Stand Trial on AOL News

No one should always rely on the jury system, unless they are a paid lawyer or judge. Besides that, its problematic when you find yourself relying on others to get you out of criminal cases. SMH...I told you O.J. should have remembered Cochran was dead and Kardashian has troubled offspring to worry about.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Actually Alicia, We've Seen You Like This Before

Alicia Keys's new video, "Like You'll Never See Me Again" is conceptually interesting adds to the Alicia Keys/Common pairing that's become popular lately, and the song tells a nice little story...but I must say Alicia, we've seen this before. I'm not sure if its the same director, but a lot of the themes in this video are very similar to the ones in the "If I Ain't Got You" video, from the standing on the street near to the pay phone shots to the idea of separation, to the inclusion of a rapper (then Method Man, now Common). There's also the same fight scene, and then distraught Alicia afterwards. "If I Ain't Got You," I guess was her younger, more hood look at losing love and "Like You'll Never See Me Again" is what you get as she slowly edges towards the R&B/Soul/ (cue scary music...dunh dunh dunh)ADULT Contemporary lines. Anyway, If I Aint Got You is below...and I cant embed the other video, so you'll have to catch it on your own (edit found it...see below):

Monday, November 12, 2007

Help Others....

and learn a new word.

Really you're procrastinating already anyway...

R.I.P. Donda West

People Magazine started reporting the death of Donda West, 58, mother of Kanye West yesterday. Rest in Peace.

MSN article

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Can I rock Chanel Sandals

...and still be a Reebok Vandal?

Ode to the 54.11s that cost 90 dollars.

Not to be outdone by Nike, Steve Madden, Puma or anywhere else, Reebok will let you customize your own 54.11s. Thanks to the Around the Way Girls for notifying me. Simply go to and get your party started.

I'm so fly...kinda...couldnt show the whole thing, you just may jack my color palette. Lol. I know....there are sooo many colors in here.

Brooklyn Art Space

Out on Main Street in Dumbo is a neat exhibitions space called the Powerhouse Arena. Note, I've never actually been there (well I've been to Dumbo and I've even worked on Main street...but never been to this arena), but was put on to them just now by Around The Way Girls blog and am impressed with what I see. So many good exhibits are ending today, but some pics are up so you can get a taste of what you missed. Visit the Powerhouse website here.

A few missed exhibits

Black in White America: From what I can tell its a collection of black and white portraits dedicated to portraying a sample of the black experience in America, but on a real level. The pictures don't immediately shock or anger, but is reality on a day to day basis. There are kids playing in hydrants, ladies with rollers in their hair, and the such. Still through it all you get a sense of what life is : the highs and the lows, and injustices that occurred. I wish I could tell you more but I don't have much to go by. The photos are from Leonard Freed, a prolific photographer and artist.

Partnered with Black in White America is Jamel Shabazz's Seconds of My Life. I can't lie, I'm feeling the photo with the Nike Jackets and the parts in the hair( These are the same jackets Kanye blogged about on his blog, tho he didn't mention the book Seconds of My Life...I also think there's a pic of Ye in the book with Johnny, either its them or all black people look the same to me). This is another day to day exhibit and it goes far beyond the materialism of Nike and their hold on the black community (I'm taking Spike on for that one day...but that should be an exhibit in and of itself...Nike and the Urban Community). He also captures performances, ceremonies, a girl with a scary cat and a Sistah Souljah book, and what appears to be The Nation of Islam along with Israelites (well not in the same picture). The pictures also range over time, from people rocking fades and using Nynex pay phones to murals of Dipset. You can also check out the book and more images there from one of the links on the URL that is linked above.

Another two exhibits that are partnered together are The Breaks: Stylin and Profilin 1982-1990 and Born in the Bronx. These two exhibits take two different but complementary looks at Hip Hop culture in the early years. The Breaks, photographed by Janette Beckman showcases the B-Boy stance and shows a lot of images of both male and female artists, crews, djs...etc. It's EastCoast/NY centered and captures some of the more influential folk of the Period. Born in the Bronx examines hip hop as originating from the Bronx (even tho Run DMC sneaks there way in there) and was done by Joe Conzo. Looking at the Bronx, the Hispanic influence and participation receives more of a focus, but not an overpowering one. It's something that makes sense since it is the Bronx/NYC (and we all know NuYoricans are a huge part of the culture and its all jumbled anyway), but not something that's thought about (at least I never thought about it) that much: so a history lesson for all. They were in there before Big Pun and Fat Joe.

And according to the PowerHouse website, the Smithsonian is now taking on a Hip Hop brace yourself.

All in all, a neat exhibition space and someplace to keep in mind for the future. Brooklyn has so much to offer...if you can take it in, don't let it pass you by.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


So now this is almost like liveblogging my evening. As I sit here listening to the Quicklist of The Cool Kids on imeem, I remember that I opened up the Vibe website hours ago to follow up on a lead off of concerning Al B. Sure's comeback . So, as usual, I don't read the article, but there is an article on The Cool Kids. Just re-emphasizing their on point nature at the moment. I'm not a stan or anything near that, but I like them. I also like Pacific Division and hope that they and U-N-I can make some waves too.

Also, I will write in defense of Hello Brooklyn once I think of a more substantive reason than the fact that Jay mentions Albee Square Mall....

The Queen

Writing about music

Its not something I will profess skill at, despite my love of arts and entertainment and a few stabs at album and video reviews in college and occasionally here at Vanity Dark. This doesn't mean that I can't appreciate some good commentary.

Some websites I like are Honorable Media at, Sasha Frere Jones at and the Status ain't Hood blog over at Village Voice. Since I don't really have a sites I read section...I just thought I'd let it be known. Also, Kelefa Sanneh is the truth. Lola Ogunnaike was also on day, I may make the list (my professional writing is nothing like the uber casual style I take here, although I maintain the same sentiments ...just in case a straggler on to the site was scared).

With that said two songs you should go listen to if you haven't yet, "Hostile Gospel" by Talib Kweli and "Drunk and Hot Girls" by Kanye feat. Mos Def

"Surviving Droughts, I wish you well"-Jay Z

The Queen

Throwback Pop Culture Clip of the Week

I miss when learning was easy and Saturday morning songs explained life. Anyone have a song for stats? I thought I'd do something different from Conjunction junction to illuminate the wonders of your favorite house schoolhouse schoolhouse rock! Schoolhouse Rock- How a Bill Becomes a Law

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

There she is....

If your like me, you've pondered in the last few months Julia Roberts whereabouts...I mean, iconic Oscar winning actress that has up and disappeared form the scene. Thankfully Vanity Fair informs us of her whereabouts in the December issue. Unlike the rest of Hollywood that out being talentless and causing a scene, our dear talented Julia has been at home with her kids while continuing to work. That's lovely and I sincerely applaud her.

Note, I have doubted her talent, but after seeing what untalented is, I admit that shes great. She also doesn't pull Cuba Gooding Jr.s and take random jobs. Plus she also provided me with my historical understanding of Wellesley through Mona Lisa Smile...and I now use that to explain the school to others while I'm across the pond. Chuckles...


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

First one guy gets Merrill Lynched

..and now Dick's Time is Parsoned Out.

Two major black heads in business have stepped down (or been ousted) recently. I didnt really follow O'Neal but I've been righy there along with Richard Parsons and the travails of Time Warner from the day I spotted a sketch of a minority on the fromt of the Wall Street Journal back in 2002. No matter what is said, he inherited a company rife with problems and afaults and manged to not sell off everything...which in my opnion makes him a strong man.
He's still chairman of the board, but not CEO.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Cool Kids

Around the same time I heard about U-N-I and one of my new favorite songs K.R.E.A.M., I also heard about this group called The Cool Kids. There is some buzz going out about them at the moment, and from what I've read around the net their performance at CMJ music festival was pretty ill. They're music is out on the indy scene, but their core is hip hop...Smurf ...Whop ..they bringing 88 back (a nice lil NASty shout out). Someone needs to talk about the flyness that was 86 tho. I'm just saying...

props to beats and rants and Sasha Frere Jones of the New Yorker for putting me on...

The Queen

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Throwback Pop Culture Clip of the Week

In honor of this article on the twist in Vanity Fair, I wanted to show the clip of Carl Winslow singing with his pals at his high school reunion. Since I couldn't find it, we'll settle for a Family Matters Clip and the Urkel dance. Sadly enough I was just alking about this in an email with a friend the other day. Im a loser: I remember most of the steps.


ohhhh Snap...You can Crank that Urkel dance. Okay, someone stop the insanity tho...Cranking dances must end.