Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Mar 28, 2013
Wherein our writer contemplates entering someone else’s world and stealing their greasepaint covered soul -- just for a byline.

Part of the writer’s art is knowing which subjects to choose to write about. Sometimes the choice is right in front of one’s face. Sometimes it’s a little more difficult. Such was the case when I heard an old friend had become a “sex clown” in San Francisco, and another writer I know wanted to do a story on the turf battles that take place within the belly dancing community of the Bay Area.


Of course, when I hear anyone has become a sex clown I’m interested as a writer and, well, a potential consumer. However, I don’t take anything at face value so I decided to do what any good writer would do and follow up with this old friend who had seemed to have found a new vocation in the city by the Bay.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Mar 7, 2012
Rush Limbaugh once again finds his way into a national debate and shows the addictive power of offense.

Here’s something to piss you off: A mega-successful AM radio icon’s business model essentially relies on offending people. The more incendiary the speak, the greater the outrage, the greater the interest, the higher the ratings. And that business model makes said radio host a minimum of $40 million a year. It would be the equivalent of me finding a job that would pay $20 million a year to play video games, write a few lengthy journalistic pieces, review albums, and critique vodka.


That radio icon, of course, is Rush Limbaugh. And his latest controversy, of course, is the remarks he made toward Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke and her congressional testimony about the access (or lack thereof) to affordable birth control. Limbaugh has since issued an apology on his website regarding his disparaging remarks toward Fluke. But the damage has already hit Limbaugh in his only apparent weak spot: his pocketbook. So far, nine major longtime advertisers, including Carbonite and ProFlowers, have pulled their ads.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Jan 19, 2010

When more folks today seem interested in protecting their anonymity online, and are even concerned with the death of a social networking account following an actual physical loss of life, it’s important to take a few moments to step back and reconsider the beauty of remembrance and its potential for immortality. For example, Dan Fletcher’s widely circulated article discussing net-death, “What Happens to Your Facebook After You Die?”, appeared on Time.com in October 2009. The article was prompted by the blog entry “Memories of Friends Departed Endure on Facebook”> posted by the social network’s founder, Max Kelly, who spoke about “memorializing” instead of deleting profiles, allowing users to visit friends for as long as their server is up. Kelly’s thread that was prompted by the death of his own best friend, and his own desire not to simply forget. Fletcher’s article demonstrates that many folks genuinely want to know that the net has the ability to forget, though seasoned users know about the near immortality of the cache!


Unlike most other people I know who are around age 30, I think about death a lot. As a gay man, I grew up in a time and place that placed death at my doorstep. HIV/AIDS has lost its initial tag as the Gay Plague (G.R.I.D.), though the attachment to the lives of gay men seems indelible. Although I am trained in, and now work towards HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, and have over the years befriended many people living with AIDS, I still vividly recall the first time that I knowingly met a seropositive individual.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010
The January 6th edition of the Aachener Zeitung predictably found that one Black child to shoot! Epiphany in German speaking lands is what it is: Three Wise Men or not, each little German town will prance an anonymous Black him or her around to announce the coming of the Prince of Peace.

Today, January 6th, is the day when folks here in Germany are likely to see the harmony and cooperation across races that we still seek in other areas of our lives. Today is the day that Blackface is not a minstrel show, and jokes about The Little Rascals representing American multiculturalism, and Buckwheat being Obama won’t hold any weight, like on other days here in Germany.


Today is the day when a Black child approaching a ‘normal’ German house will be greeted with open arms, and not suspicious glances, followed by the hushed gossip. Three kinder dressed as the Three Wise Men (Heilige Drei Könige) who ‘predicted’ the birth of Jesus parade around to each home to sing, collect candy and cash, and mark “C+B+M” along with the year, in chalk above each household’s door. The chalking stands for the latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which means: “God protect this house.” No, there is no official punishment for not participating, but you know how life is in the village even in a so-called secular state (wink wink).


Not all of the groupings of kids in Biblical drag around Germany will be in Blackface, and the practice is apparently not considered offensive, partially due to the (comparatively) tiny nation’s lack of minstrel, race-baiting history with blacks, though the story of Santa Claus and his evil, dark-skinned companion is a whole ‘nother can of worms. It is interesting to note, however, that the Nativity scenes here in Germany almost always depict the historically correct racial construct, whereas in America one cannot help but notice that the three kings are usually all white (is that whiteface?).


Today is the day in Teutophone lands where the fellowship of humanity is observed above all that could separate us. Today is the day when we lay down our arms for armistice and at least pray for peace, for He is coming.


Predictably, the local newspaper here in Aachen found a picture of a happy and content Black child to print. No bondage of poverty from which readers can send in pfennigs to save, nor images of civilians in war-torn nations for by-standers to pity. No images of decaying AIDS patients to pander to this most widely circulated image of Africans in this decisively non-multi-kulti land. No, this is the day when Christians in German-speaking lands will sit back and face one of the earliest projects of globalization known to Man, in spite of the marginal inclusion of women.


Today, especially, is the day for all the non-Christians (like me) to express a deep appreciation for the life of Jesus. Today is the day that we realize His birth, over and beyond His death. Today is the day we remind ourselves of His birth and al that followed, not focusing on Today is the day for all the non-Christians (like me) to express a deep appreciation for the life of Jesus. Today is the day that we realize His birth, over and beyond His death. Today is the day we remind ourselves of His birth and all that followed, not focusing on His death, sacrifice and the folly of humanity, but on humanity’s potential.


Today, let’s extend a hand to one another, to all of us who believe in the Prince of Peace, regardless of religion, and that humanity must realize this dream, and that humanity can realize peace on Earth. Today is the day when pop culture meets spirituality in a most meaningful way—no gifts, no spending, no credit, no savings, and certainly no Bling! Happy ‘Epiphany’ to all my German Christian friends and family. Moreover, may there be peace on Earth regardless of what potentially divides us. To paraphrase the Dalai Lama: Everything is interdependent, interconnected. If you harm others, you get suffering. If you help others, you get benefits. Early Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin reiterates the same: “We are all one, and if we don’t know it, we will learn it the hard way.”


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Nov 16, 2009
“He’s the most influential rapper in the world. If anyone can change young black men’s attitudes about marriage, all fingers point to Hov,” charges Jozen Cummings on The Root.com, a candy store for the politicized hip-hop junkie.

Irreplaceable. That’s pretty much the length of commitment our music and lifestyle promotes. The mindset that people and relationships are disposable is the anti-thesis of marriage and commitment. Beyonce and Jay know that their public personae don’t match their private one, yet I, like Jozen Cummings at The Root.com, cannot forgive them for not being more conscious about their lyrics. They know the state of black America—they grew up with us—yet they still promote men as soldiers and providers, and the sexes as in complete competition, and opposition, with one another.


Of course, that Venus vs. Mars narrative cannot sustain a marriage, or any genuine relationship, including a solid friendship. Yet, friends and lovers, like a Louis or Fendi, are replaceable. It probably has not occurred to the hottest couple in music at all that they are empowered enough to not only shape their respective genres of music, but to move Black America—and therefore America—forward.


Jozen Cummings’s post on The Root.com was prompted by a recent study published by the Yale Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course, claiming that there were few marriageable men for black women, partially because black women were less likely than their racialized male counterparts to wed outside racial bounds. Still, anyone visiting a college canteen can see the ratio of black men to women. Luckily, patriarchal masculinity is not disrupted by this ratio, and in facts rewards men for “conquering all that pussy”, according to much commercial rap music, as well as big and small screens.


Moreover, “Women are penalized for waiting to get married, while men are rewarded for their patience,” exclaims Niambi Carter, PhD on NPR’s Tell Me More, who carried a conversation about the Yale study under the rubric “Black Women: Successful and Still Unmarried”. The study has caused waves.


Despite their riches, B. and Jay-Z are no more liberated, and therefore powerful, than they were as basic negroes on the grind. Jay-Z might feel that he has nothing genuine to offer; the dominant images of hip-hop—the materialism, violence, misogyny, and self-hatred—demonstrate that most have yet to decolonize their minds.


Jay-Z knows that he’s not irreplaceable. B. went from “Nasty, put some clothes on,” with her girls Kelly and Michelle, to a Sugar Mama swinging on a ho-pole, willing to pay a man for his services; “Damn, I wanna buy you a short set,” Beyonce says in her video and stage reproduction, sucking on a caner stick, laid out, out of breath. Neither seems to have comprehended their own potential impact. If their wealth were not so ephemeral, ethereal even, they wouldn’t need to brag about it. The same goes for stardom.


“It’s a lie,” says Madonna to fans during her Confessions concert tour, after singing a smashing, high-powered rendition of her hit “Jump”. “I can’t make it alone,” she repeats, sitting on stage, taking gulps from a bottle of water, contradicting the song’s refrain. Even above 50, the “Material Girl” is still the crowned queen of reinvention . Her album Ray of Light marks one of her most remarkable shifts. From then on, Madonna has remained fiercely critical of materialism, racism, homophobia, the perils of stardom, and especially hypocrisy in politics and morality.


Reincarnating her image has gained Madonna’s stardom the staying power of a Trojan—wood or rubber. If fame were not so short-lived and insubstantial, if fans and stars were not so caught up into reproducing stardom as an end in itself, then perhaps our popular culture would have more genuine artists—we would have more self-aware professional entertainers. Otherwise, pop stars just titillate—ass and tits, or pecs and six-packs—it’s all just diamonds and pearls to please the crowd.


The disconnect is that fans like us would like to believe that they actually are irreplaceable. And why should stars believe otherwise—we’re the same fans that turned our backs on Michael Jackson until it was too late. We treated him like he was replaceable until he was dead, and that’s far too late. Were rappers to value themselves rightly, fans would surely have a richer pool of positive, life-affirming images from which to chose and gain pleasure. Now, if we want a good beat, we simply settle for scraps and scrubs.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.