Saturday, January 2, 2010

Merry New Year!

May 2010 be the best year of all, for each and every one of us:

If you have any resolutions for the new year, feel free to share them here. I've got nothing specific planned, just a general hope that I can make it to Dec. 31 as a better person in some tangible and intangible ways.

I'm sure I speak for the rest of the PostBourgie family and the Grape Drink Mafia when I say that I wish you all the same.

Also, in a nod to the end of the aughts, let me provide a link to a moderately interesting Twitter meme that picked up a lot of steam yesterday: #10years ago.

It goes without saying that a lot can change over the course of a decade. But given that, 10 years ago, my personal e-mail address was, I regularly wore do-rags in public and I was convinced that Canibus was going to be the next big thing in hip-hop, I find it hard to imagine that I could possibly mature even more in the, uh, 'tweens.

And yet, that's simply the way of life.

Salud, friends.

P.S. It goes without saying, that as part of being better, blogging more often here at False Hustle is part of the deal. Please bear with me. Shit has been real for the past couple of months. But I miss all five of y'all. Continue Reading »

Friday, November 6, 2009

Making sense of the senseless

James Fallows:

In the saturation coverage right after the events, the "expert" talking heads are compelled to offer theories about the causes and consequences. In the following days and weeks, newspapers and magazine will have their theories too. Looking back, we can see that all such efforts are futile. The shootings never mean anything. Forty years later, what did the Charles Whitman massacre "mean"? A decade later, do we "know" anything about Columbine? There is chaos and evil in life. Some people go crazy. In America, they do so with guns; in many countries, with knives; in Japan, sometimes poison.

We know the emptiness of these events in retrospect, though we suppress that knowledge when the violence erupts as it is doing now. The cable-news platoons tonight are offering all their theories and thought-drops. They've got to fill time. I wish they could stop. As the Vietnam-era saying went, Don't mean nothing.
Ten years ago, when I was a reporter at my college newspaper, Larry Gene Ashbrook walked into a Fort Worth, Texas, Baptist church and opened fire, killing seven and injuring seven more. He then turned the gun on himself.

When I arrived at the grisly scene later that evening, I couldn't help but wonder what sort of evil - or mental illness, or both - would compel someone to wreak that sort of havoc on a group of innocent people.

The wondering has never ceased.

As if divining a motive would make things better.

This shit is really complicated. We don't have any answers, and we might never have any. It really doesn't matter either way.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors and family members of the victims.
Continue Reading »

Friday, October 30, 2009

Free Period: Friday Random Ten

So, I'm assuming almost everyone is dressing up as a sexy nurse, a sexy pirate or a sexy gangster for Halloween this weekend. Something sexy, for sure. Or, as G.D. mentioned earlier, something potentially racist.

But not me. I plan to dress myself in pants two sizes too large, a doo-rag and something really feminine. Like a tunic. Or a wig. I'll be going as a rejected Morehouse applicant.

That said, if you are headed out into the wild and unpredictable night on Saturday, over at PostBourgie, we've suggested a few songs to keep the evil spirits and preteen panhandlers away.

My offering for this week was: Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr.; Somebody's Watching Me by Rockwell; Never Scared (remix) by Bonecrusher feat. Jadakiss, Cam'ron and Busta Rhymes; and this hometown classic ...

Thought we were gonna include "Thriller," huh? GTFOH.

Please, enjoy the weekend. And think sexy. Continue Reading »

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Some of my best friends

Like to party:

This video reminds me of at least two years of my college experience. I can't remember which ones.

h/t Jeff Pearlman. Continue Reading »

Free Period: Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup

"Do The Right Thing" and "Malcolm X" are on the short list of my very favorite films. I fell asleep 30 minutes into "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" merely to escape the unholy rubbish unfolding before my eyes. And don't even ask me what I think about "Meet the Browns."

But when it comes to choosing sides in any silly beef between Spike Lee and Tyler Perry, and deciding who will be the ultimate gatekeeper for on-screen representations of colored folks, I think we're all better off picking Pootie Tang:


Sa da tay, people. Sa da tay.

Now, your weekly random-ass interruption of links can be found here. Continue Reading »

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Of concussions and cruelty

In the end, I guess I was one of the lucky ones. I left the game of football with a touch of arthritis, a few battle scars, a bruised ego and memories that get all the more grand and outlandish with each passing year. Did I ever tell you all about that time I scored four touchdowns in a single game?

Now, maybe it seems odd to say that I was lucky. I played football in high school and not-so-much in college, leaving behind mostly a legacy of mediocrity. I never got even the faintest whiff of the dream of every kid who puts on the pads - the NFL. It took me about two practices at TCU in my sophomore year to figure out that LaDainian Tomlinson had a future in the game, and that I had a future writing about it.

So, what makes me lucky? Here, try some Malcolm Gladwell:
The HITS data suggest that, in an average football season, a lineman could get struck in the head a thousand times, which means that a ten-year N.F.L. veteran, when you bring in his college and high-school playing days, could well have been hit in the head eighteen thousand times: that’s thousands of jarring blows that shake the brain from front to back and side to side, stretching and weakening and tearing the connections among nerve cells, and making the brain increasingly vulnerable to long-term damage. People with C.T.E., Cantu says, “aren’t necessarily people with a high, recognized concussion history. But they are individuals who collided heads on every play—repetitively doing this, year after year, under levels that were tolerable for them to continue to play.”
That's pretty bad. And then I begin to think, maybe I wasn't so lucky. I had one diagnosed concussion in my abbreviated football career, in my first week of college football practice. Looking back over the course of my playing days, I'm almost certain that I had another during a game in my senior year of high school - I was blindsided by a defender, went to the sideline to throw up and I don't remember much more about that night. I kept playing, though. It was a bad night.

But what I'm not tallying are all the other little collisions that might have bruised my brain in some way. I started playing the game when I was a mere child, in the streets and backyards of my neighborhood, and started playing organized tackle football when I was 10.

What do all those thuds and thumps over the years mean? Gladwell, again:

Yet the HITS data suggest that practice—the routine part of the sport—can be as dangerous as the games themselves. ... In one column, the HITS software listed the top hits of the practice up to that point, and every few moments the screen would refresh, reflecting the plays that had just been run on the field. Forty-five minutes into practice, the top eight head blows on the field measured 82 gs, 79 gs, 75 gs, 79 gs, 67 gs, 60 gs, 57 gs, and 53 gs. One player, a running back, had received both the 79 gs and the 60 gs, as well as another hit, measuring 27.9 gs. This wasn’t a full-contact practice. It was “shells.” The players wore only helmets and shoulder pads, and still there were mini car crashes happening all over the field.
I had my fair share of car crashes. And, believe it or not, this was the part of the game that I enjoyed the most. I could hardly get my heart rate up for a game that didn't involve some collisions. To this day, I still long for the chance to randomly stiff-arm someone, or to bury my head into someone's sternum. Yes, I understand this makes me a Neanderthal.

But it's this yearning that makes me object to the premise of Gladwell's piece: that football and dogfighting are more or less the same. Gladwell points out that one of his interview subjects, former NFL lineman Kyle Turley, said "he loved playing football so much that he would do it all again." You'll find that most ex-players feel the same way. Nothing feels quite like playing under those lights, on that gridiron.

I don't pretend to know much about dogs or dogfighting but, to me, the major difference is the element of choice. I - and thousands of others - willingly submitted ourselves to the brutal theater that is football. But dogs, on the other hand, are maniacally conditioned by their owners to "please (their) master," said Carl Semencic in “The World of Fighting Dogs”. This is coercion, this is abuse, this is sick.

Honestly, I can't have a serious debate about whether football and dogfighting share any traits other than violence. But Gladwell's piece is compelling in that we see how players can drive themselves to ruin in much the same way as a "game" canine. The toll seems to be tremendous, man or beast.

Beyond that, I'm much more interested in how dogfighting is juxtaposed against a culture of sport hunting or some of the uglier practices of our industrial food complex. Michael Vick is condemned; Sarah Palin is celebrated. But why?

Because in the end, football can be brutal. But at least everyone knows they're getting played.

Continue Reading »

Free Period: Your Monday* Random-Ass Roundup

Heard this joke? I'm sure you haven't. It's really funny. Like, President Obama was recently nominated for a Country Music Award. Or the Heisman. Or a Pulitzer. Or a Source Award. Hell, so was I.

Trust me. This is all hilarious. Without even giving it much thought, anyone can be Leno these days. Comedy isn't hard at all.

Here's another one: what did the five fingers say to the face ... ?

But enough with the funny. How about some random-assed, PostBourgie-approved reading material from the weekend? There's lots of material at that link. I won't even bother trying to sum it all up.

By the way, in case you all haven't noticed, I've been slacking a bit on my blogging over here. For whatever reason, over the past couple of months, I haven't felt much like writing. But I'm getting the urge again. Like, now. This week. Stay tuned.

Also, if you're not following me on Twitter, I don't know what the hell you're doing. Get it together. That's where I'm putting in most of my work these days.

Continue Reading »

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Free Period: Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup

Turns out, President Obama may have gotten some bad advice about the prospects for Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Games. Fortunately, he seems to care little about taking the L.

From Valerie Jarrett: "We have plenty on our plate to do. He called the president of Brazil from Air Force One to offer congratulations, and by the time we landed in Washington, he was talking about healthcare."


You can find more Olympi-links here, here, here, here, here, here, here. Meh. What's the big deal about the Olympics? Am I supposed to be sad that there won't be Greco-Roman wrestling at Soldier Field? And who wants all those foreigners coming across our borders anyway?

Also, rooting against our country is the hot, popular thing. All the (right-wing) kids are doing it.

Thus, without further ado, here's a link to some random-assness from the past weekend. Continue Reading »

Friday, October 2, 2009

Free Period: Friday Random Ten

Like thousands of bad headline writers before me, I’ll go ahead and indulge my corniest instincts: Blame it on Rio.

Earlier today, Rio de Janiero emerged as the victor in the heated competition to play host for the 2016 Olympic Games. Madrid and Tokyo finished second and third. And Chicago – thought to be one of the favorites coming into the day – finished last.

But there remains lots to love about Chi-Town: the skyline, the deep-dish pizza, the history, the Obamas and, of course, the music.

So over at PostBourgie, we saw fit to honor the great musical tradition of the City of Big Shoulders on a day when the disappointment seems to be weighing pretty heavy this afternoon. My contributions to the list were as follows: Brand New by Rhymefest featuring Kanye West; Reminding Me (of Sef) by Common featuring Chantay Savage; Po Pimp by Do or Die featuring Twista.

As I mentioned over there, off top, I know we missed Muddy Waters, Herbie Hancock, almost anyone who’s ever recorded house music, R. Kelly and, er, Lupe Fiasco (homey is boring, imo). And a couple readers threw Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls into the mix, too. We could run off names all day, you know?

There’s no denying Chicago’s rich musical history. But in the end, it’s hard to compete with this.

At least they’ve got the Cubs.

Continue Reading »

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rep. Alan Grayson

The man is making sense:

"The reaction is overwhelmingly positive, and it’s because people like it when a Democrat shows guts," Grayson said. "They like it when people speak truth to power. That’s a big part of what being a Democrat really means."

And he could use your support.

No go run and tell dat to Baucus and Co. Some of these bears need to use their chainsaws. Continue Reading »

Free Period: Your Monday* Random-Ass Roundup

Now released on c.p. time.

Anyway, I don’t know what, if anything, can be learned from the fatal beating of 16-year-old Chicago honor student Derrion Albert. I don’t know if there are enough words to appropriately convey the tragedy. And I don’t know if watching the gruesome video footage will help much.

But I do know that this is no referendum on “the black community.” Derrion’s death is no more a reflection on me, my kin, my friends or my neighbors than, say, Thomas Junta was for hockey dads:

But most importantly, RIP Derrion. You deserved far better. And so do we.

Here's a link to this week's long-forgotten edition of Your Monday Random-Ass* Roundup.

More later.

Continue Reading »

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Be like Mike

SI digs into its priceless archives and comes up with these photos of His Airness in college:

I thought Ms. Pac-Man sucked too. So we had that in common. Continue Reading »

How 'bout those Coogs?

I might have been one of a handful of kids anywhere who dreamed of someday playing sports at the University of Houston. It was merely a matter of figuring out which sport to settle upon: did I want to pledge Phi Slamma Jamma, or did I want to play in the Run-n-Shoot?

I never got to make the choice. Puberty handled most of that decision: I topped out at 6-foot, filled out to more than 200 pounds, never developed a jumpshot, wanted to move away - if only four hours away - for college and decided to attend TCU in Fort Worth.

Over time, I lost my love for U of H. But last night the spark was rekindled. If only for a few hours. (I mean, Hakeem Olajuwon was on the sidelines last night. The Dream! I almost passed out.)

It's been a long time since anyone other than me and a few thousand alums cared about Houston's football program. That might have changed following the Cougars' 29-28 victory last night over big-brother program Texas Tech.

I don't expect the attention or the adoration to last for long. It never really does at forgotten Division I outposts like Houston. Richard Justice knows this: "When was the last time it felt like something really special was about to happen? Ten years? Twenty? Try never."

Indeed, things have really changed. Few people remember the days when U of H routinely beat Texas and Texas A&M, sent highly rated quarterbacks to the NFL and competed for conference championships and Cotton Bowl berths.

But I remember. Who else but a long-suffering Cougars backer could think of Andre Ware and David Klingler as gridiron heroes? And one memory, more than all the others, stands out.

Of course, growing up a football fan in Houston, it was something I tried to forget.

In the days before we had cable in our home, my father paid for a night (couldn't have been more than $30) at a run-down, trucker motel off Interstate 10 to watch the Coogs take on the mighty Miami Hurricanes on ESPN - the first Thursday night college football game shown on the network. It was a pivotal moment for the Houston program.

Unfortunately, nothing went well that fall night in 1991: Miami mauled the Coogs, the hotel room was so filthy that I refused to eat our snacks, and I was all kinds of tired and frustrated at school the next morning.

Well, the Coogs dropped out of the rankings the following week and didn't return until a couple weeks ago. That was 18 long years ago.

I'm glad they're back. Makes me feel like a kid again. Continue Reading »

The Dumbshow

This piece from The Nation is more than a week old, but Charles Pierce gets to the heart of the health care debate in the skillful way that only he can:

Last week, through serendipitous circumstance, I found myself staring down the very nasty gun-barrel of the despicable way we do "healthcare" in this country. The details are unimportant, but I can say that it had something very much to do with this Kaiser Foundation study that Ezra Klein limns here. This concentrated my mind wonderfully on the current dilemma. I came to the not unreasonable conclusion that most of the politicians involved in this business--up to and including the lemon in the White House--don't care about the simple fact that this country is going to allow people to sicken and die because they can't afford to do anything else. Period. Everything else is dumbshow, a WWE card covered by people engaged in a really bad form of sportswriting--people, I might add, who could care less themselves that this country is going to allow people to sicken and die because they can't afford to do anything else.

Does anyone honestly believe that this White House has acted in good faith? With its allies in Congress? With its constituents? Hell, with its own campaign promises? Does anyone honestly believe that, say, Chuck Todd gives a rat's ass how many people out in the country slowly sicken and die as long as Chuck can tell us who's up and who's down, and what's politically feasible and what's not, and that he can still get a good table at the Palm? Never in my long career as a professional cynic have I seen an spasm of Beltway bubblehood so far removed from the actual concerns of people's lives--so far removed that, last weekend, we had a gathering of the politically halt, lame, blind, and crippled in Washington, gathered for the sole purpose of petitioning various oligarchs to keep screwing them with their pants on. Never in my long career as a professional cynic have I seen a spasm of Beltway bubblehood so far beyond even the limits of Irish Smartass to describe it. The political class in this country - politician and journalist, lobbyist and legislator, Republican and Democratic, Executive and Legislative -- has made a collective decision to protect the profits of one of the least popular industries in the history of the Republic, to preserve the iron grip of corporate bureaucrats over the practice of medicine in America, and to refuse vitrually without serious discussion to adopt measures favored by 77 percent of the voting public. It is to be in awe, is what it is.

And I hate to personalize this, but one of the prime Democratic waffle salesmen throughout this whole unholy mess has been Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) Now, as it happens, I spent half of 1975 and almost all of 1976 working to get Mark's pappy--Mo, of sainted memory--elected president. In the course of my duties, I handed out--or arranged to have handed out--about eleventy bajillion of these handbills. I handed them out at diners in New Hampshire, and hung them on people's doors in Massachusetts. I sent people out at 5:30 in the morning to distribute them at factory gates in Wisconsin in the middle of February. I even brought them (briefly) to the land of the Amish, where nobody votes and few people own telephones. Looking at the old flyer now, I am struck by this passage right here:

Why in America, with our immense wealth, should the poor get sicker and the sick get poorer? We have been promising ourselves a system of national health insurance for a quarter of a century. I am tired of apologizing year after year as we fail to achieve it. We have put a premium on conversation instead of coverage. America is the only industrialized nation in the world which does not provide basic health service as a universal right. As President, I will make sure that we do.

I didn't freeze my cojones off in front of the Allis-Chalmers plant so Senator Udall one day could calculate a half-dozen good political reasons why some people simply have to die. I didn't nearly get killed on a dark road outside Manchester in the snow so Mark Udall could come along thirty-three years later and quibble about which insurance company gobbler can suck up the biggest bonus this year. Jesus, Mark, if you won't listen to the people out there, at least listen to the spirit of the great man who was your father.

In a better place, in another time, we might be talking about a single-payer system and nothing so conciliatory as a public option. But we're not nearly going to be that fortunate because, for far too many people, single-payer is not a politically viable option.

Which is, once again, proof that we usually get the government - and accordingly, the health care - that we deserve.

Sort of related, I recommend checking out McKenzie Funk's piece (subscription only) about AIG's private fire protection service. Though the story mostly centers on the problem of housing development creeping into fire-prone areas of California, even more interesting is the story of how fire insurance came into existence.

Following the Great Fire of London in 1666, English doctor, real-estate developer and economist Nicholas Barbon thought up the idea of the first insurance company. Things didn't work out so well from there.

Also, Barbon died deeply in debt. Which makes sense. Continue Reading »

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Free Period: Friday Random Ten*

Let’s be real about this: there’s no Genius involved in sorting through this list. So it’s all random from this point forward.

My only submission for this week's list at PostBourgie was "Here I Come" by Barrington Levy:

Which reminds me that, once upon a time, I really liked this song. A lot.

Other songs worthy of some quality burn this weekend: "Whistle While You Twurk"(sp?) by Ying Yang Twins; "Just Like Compton" by DJ Quik; "Time Will Reveal" by DeBarge; and this:

One of my all-time favorites. Back in the day, I loved this so much that I had a deejay play it at a friend's wedding reception. Might have been the funkiest moment in Minneapolis since Prince caught the first thing smoking out of town.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

* On False Hustle, this list almost never makes it to 10 songs. Sorry. Continue Reading »