Thursday, July 27, 2006


Hey Shadow Perusers:

Did you say "dog days?" I don't think this is what the Chinese Calendar had in mind for 2006...Shout out to Queens which was *sweating it out* for over a week! Con Ed is a hot mess!

So I briefly interrupt my usual poetic platitudes to comment on an *amazing* event I went to last night. It was lecture by Armond White highlighting the work of Hip Hop visionary genius, Hype Williams.

For the few of you who read this blog, it's possible that you may have been a student of mine once. If so, you *know* I'm all about a Hype Williams video. I've used Missy's "I Can't Stand the Rain' so much my students can't stand to hear it, LL's "Doin' It" and various other HW creations in class. Last night's event was *nice*! I even got to ask a dorky question about how Hype collaborates. I'm really curious to know how he gets such a great read on the inner aura of his "subjects." (Answer: "It's a weird question." Actually, he also said that the videos are predicated on long-standing relationships he's had with the artists. Most of the people he's worked with he's known for ages. I think he's just got the technique and happens to be very attentive to his client's energies and aspirations. Goes with the vision thing.)

Seeing some of those old videos not only brought back memories (when some of those videos came out I was reminded of my short stint as a PA for Lionel Martin's Classic Concepts about a million years ago), but just how far Hype brought the medium into the present/the future. I was hanging out with my friend Sherrie who tokd me about the lecture and said: "That event made me proud of Hip Hop, how far it's come." Too true.

Armond (who I haven't always agreed with, in fact who I've often disagreed with!) did an *excellent* job putting Hype in context. I didn't get all his references (and I'm a decently read person -- or maybe not. Visual arts and film were never media I emphasized in my research) but he still gave an attentive read of what Hype was executing in his choices. Of course, we all have our favorite Hype videos and slants on what they mean to us as well as their cultural import, but there were several things Armond mentioned that I wouldn't have otherwise caught: Hype's unique use of the "milk box" and "shadow box" techniques, his new approach to videos using split screen images and (in my rough shorthand): the manipulation and inversion of positive and negative space on the frame. The color!The contrasts! Dude has left an indelible impression.

And so, so nice in person! Just a sweetie. ('Course I shook his hand! I had to give him some dap.) Very humble, down to earth guy. But his praises were shouted to the rafters by guests who just showed up such as Irv Gotti, Little X, Theo (?) and others. I wish I were a little hipper and knew more of today's players but, I didn't get all the names. The Lincoln Center folks seemed delighted -- and relieved that Hype made it -- and I have to credit them for letting Armond do his thing and present this work. It was an interesting contrast, too: Armond's prepared notes were clearly for the erudite Lincoln Center crowd but guess what? *Hype's crowd* showed up! Not LC's. This had the interesting affect on Gotti of making him express even deeper appreciation to Armond as well as honoring Hype because HW's work was addressed in such a "culturally elite" way, in other words, Gotti took it as Hype being taken *seriously.* As he should have. And you know, Black folks believe in testimonials! So several folks had to get up and talk about how great Hype was. There's nothing like Love.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy July

Named after Julius Caesar -- but you knew that.

Hope the weather is drying you out, warming you up or getting you a party. Black Music Month, Queer History Month and Gemini season has moved on. Now it's time for hot fun in the summer time, for real though...

What's up with the Supreme Court these days? Hard to read whether there "with us or against us." Us, being the Constitution upholders, btw.

I looked around for a July poem and you *know* what I got-- nine million 4th of July celebratory poems. Since we already have so many opportunities to hear the rockets' red glare, as well as some bombs and other ammo these days, I thought a different tack might be in order:

Fishing on the Susquehanna in July
by Billy Collins

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure--if it is a pleasure--
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one--
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table--
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

-- Now don't tell me that your only association with Susquehana is that Abbott and Costello sketch. Shame on ya! But there's something about this poem that feels particularly urban. In the big city, we're always romanticizing the country but can't quite get to it. Do the best that you can this weekend!