Saturday, September 30, 2006

September 30, 2006: Up in Your Errea in a Big Way!

Once again, I'm getting around. Sadly, not in a deliciously slutty way. But it's all good, because I get to meet folks who enjoy my work -- Back to Life and What You Won't Do For Love, lest ye forget -- and to connect with a wider circle of authors.

The supremely talented author Kwame Alexander has invited me to participate on a panel at the 2nd Annual Capital Bookfest on Saturday, October 7 at The Blvd at the Cap Center in Largo MD. My panel, which runs from 11:05 am to 11:55 am, is called The Business of Books: On Writing & Getting Published. Here are the participants:

The Kid (aka Wendy Coakley-Thompson): Author, Kensington/Dafina
Ralph Eubanks: Director of Publishing, Library of Congress
Gregg Wilhelm: City Lit Project
Mondella Jones: Mondella Jones Literary Agent

Come out; let's hang. No pressure...

If you can't come out to Maryland, it's cool. Because, in addition to the Bookfest, I also become one of the columnists of Blogging In Black, which, as its tag says, is “a network of literary professionals sharing their views on the writing life, publishing, and anything else on their minds.” I’m in some good company. Other columnists include Dakota Knight, Monica Jackson, Gwyneth Bolton, Steve Barnes... the list is long and distinguished. My column will post on the 14th of every month. Of course I'll still be talking my own special brand of shit here on my own blog. I've just extended my reach. Blogging In Black launches tomorrow -- October 1, so please help Yours Truly and the other Black authors by visiting often and commenting frequently.

To quote the Bartles and James ad, "Thanks for your support."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

September 27, 2006: When Did Metro Start to Suck?

Boy, I'm back in DC with a vengeance.

Every day, I slog with the masses on the Washington DC-area Metro, the nation's second largest subway system. I loved it when I'd first moved here. After all, I'm a veteran of New York's subways, where to see someone holding his penis and creating his own urine-Picassoesque masterpiece was par for the course.

None of that on the DC metro. Sipping your morning Starbucks, after all, could net you a ticket on a subway system that doesn't allow eating, spitting, littering, or playing your radios too loudly. But now, the bloom is off the rose. People talk to each other in their outdoor voice. Like I want to hear that shit at 7:30 in the morning. They step all over you to get on the train before the doors close shut. They drink and put their stank, unmanicured, flip-flop-wearing feet up on seats that others could be using. More often then not, I'm left asking myself, "When did Metro start to suck?"

Then, I remember that I first started to get an inkling that Metro was slowly headed towards the first concentric circle of Hell. It was the topic of one of my Metro Connection commentaries that originally aired January 17, 2003 on WAMU. Almost four years lately, it's still as timely. I'm reprinting it here -- for your enjoyment... or exasperation.

Metro Connection: Metro As Metaphor For Life

Before I start, let me say that I personally have nothing against our Metro system. Of course, you have the usual elevator outages – or “outrages” as I call them – but as far as train systems go, I like it. In the time I’ve been riding the trains, I have yet to get a lung-filling whiff of pungent urine. And I rarely come face to face with badly misspelled graffiti, like say in New York City. You even get the odd funny moments, like the Asian guy singing Negro spirituals on the Red line to Shady Grove. Or the train operators copping a serious ‘tude because they’ve been forced to say “Next stop. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.” Thank you, former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr.

No, the only thing wrong with Metro is some of the folks who ride Metro. Like David Cop-A-Feel, the pervy Hill staffer in his Zegna suit who thinks it’s cool to rub up against me when the train’s full. Or that citizen who, when the train car is busting at the seams, insists that his feet or his bags need their own seat.

By far, though, my major pet peeve is the Attack of the Cellular Phones. Technology and good manners are society’s latest oil and water. In some Pavlovian way, folks are so excited to get a call that they forget where they are. I was sitting next to this brothah when his phone rang. (Affecting urban voice) “Yo, yo dog, what up? No, man I’m going through a tunnel. Holler back, yo!” And of course, we passive aggressive riders try to hip him to our disgust by sighing him to death. (Hard sigh. Hard sigh.) Naturally, he doesn’t get the hint. He’s probably thinking even now that cell phones make people hyperventilate.

If it’s not the earsplitting conversation, it’s the cell phone ringers on stun. Where are people downloading their ringers from: the CIA Handbook? Some of those could be used as forms of torture. Heck, after two rings, I’m ready to spill where my grandmother keeps the Coakley family jewels.

I tend to look at Metro as a metaphor for life. We’re all trying to get somewhere – work, or the Smithsonian, or a Wizards game... to a promotion… education… escapism… influencing each other as we ride together to a better life. Quoting Rodney King, or the Reverend Rodney King Junior, as Tony Soprano recently called him, “Can’t we all just get along?” Or is Big Brother going to have to add “No cellular phones” to the “No Eating, No Drinking, and No Loud Radios”? Do we not know yet that with every right comes a corresponding list of responsibilities? Or is the new slogan for both Metro and for Life, “Hooray for me, and to hell with the world?” Just snacks for thought.
Just don't eat 'em on the Metro...

Friday, September 01, 2006

September 1, 2006: What I'm Listening To... and Pleasantly Surprised

So, it's September. Thank God! I'm not a summer person. I mean, at least when you're cold, you can add layers without attracting attention. When you're hot, there are only so many layers of clothing you can remove without getting arrested! So, the sweat-drenched cotton is history, and the funky sweaters can come out now. That's the upside.

Downside: it's still hurricane season. I fear for my relatives in The Bahamas every year from June to November. I didn't realize that I should be watching my own tail. As I look out the window, Ernesto is tapping DC's ass. That's not as good as it may sound. The rain is coming down in buckets, and, in typical DC fashion, the media is overhyping this. You'd swear it was 2003 and Hurricane Isabel was spanking us like a toddler. Ah, journalists and hyperbole.

Even though it's not the Second Coming, this would be a perfect day to be at the crib, listening to some soft music. Which brings me to the title of this missive.

I'm so feeling Robin Thicke! Again! He suckered me in three years ago with his first CD, A Beautiful World. I bought it strictly on the strength of that cut, When I Get You Alone, which sampled Walter Murphy's A Fifth of Beethoven. You know that was the cut back in the day... people dancing to classical music in the club. Crazy! It's ironic that Thicke would've sampled that cut, because the song hit the charts in 1976, almost a year before Robin Thicke was even born. I feel so old!

The rest of A Beautiful World... okay, I guess. But back then, Robin Thicke was looking more like Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes. And the dude's the son of Alan Thicke (absolutely no cool points there) and Gloria Loring, Liz from Days of Our Lives (one cool point; she sang that song Friends and Lovers with Carl Anderson). And his name, after all, is ROBIN! No wonder he used to go by just "Thicke." I was like, "What is this dude doing on Interscope?"

Honey, flash ahead three years. I'm in the car, bobbing my head to this hella-sexy cut with some soft crooning, a nice beat, under what sounded like a Kashif sample. Then I see the video. And it's this kid, Robin Thicke, on the beach with Pharrell -- and the requisite "honeys" -- singing Wanna Love You Girl. He's all cleaned up, looking like the boy next door. Then in May, I'm at BEA, where you get a ton of swag forced on you. So, months later, I'm cleaning up, and I run across a CD sampler of The Evolution of Robin Thicke, his new CD that's coming out October 3. Then I see Li'l Wayne and Robin Thicke on MTV Jams, and Robin's singing the hook for Shooter. Now, I'm distrustful of blue-eyed soul for the obvious reasons ... the propensity of the dominant culture to mine the cultures of other folks for monetary gain, and the affectations of brothahs' mannerisms to sell records (see here). Nonetheless, I put the CD sampler in.

The verdict: the CD sounds like it's going to be the shit! He's got some nice collabos -- Li'l Wayne, Faith Evans, Pharrell, of course. Plus his vocals on non-collabo cuts are awesome. That song Angel will bring tears to your eyes. And then I found out that he's married to Paula Patton, Angel Davenport in Idlewild. She was even the model on the cover of A Beautiful World.

So, Robin Thicke has pleasantly surprised me. I know where I'm going to be come October 3 -- at Best Buy with a copy of The Evolution of Robin Thicke and my credit card clutched firmly in my fist.