Monday, November 29, 2010

Reading of excerpt from Patches of Grey





After recording an excerpt from my novel which is a little under ten minutes long, I have a new found respect for anyone who has produced an entire audio book. It was no easy task, requiring multiple takes to get through without making any significant flubs. I finally completed a full take that is to my liking in the midnight hour. Hopefully you will enjoy it as well. Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think. If you like how this excerpt sounds, I'm confident that you'll love how the full story reads on the printed or electronic page.

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Also, a little something for your amusement. So, you think you want to write a novel?

Monday, November 22, 2010

First Come First Serve - Thanksgiving Special





























So here's the deal. Do you like to read great fiction? Are you a football fan? Will you be in the NY/NJ area on the 2010 edition of Turkey Day? Do you have a Paypal account? Would you be interested in attending the Thanksgiving Day game between the first place, hard knocking New York Jets and the star studded, never camera shy Cincinnati Bengals on the evening of November 25? If you've answered YES to these questions, all you need to do now is go to RoyPickering.net. The first person who does this and then proceeds to purchase a copy of my novel Patches of Grey (already a great deal at only $10) will receive a ticket to the football game as bonus prize. That's all there is to it. So what are you waiting for?


Also noteworthy: Available just in time for the holidaze travel season - Forever Travels - Short story collection that includes my tale Dear Google

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Man's Game









How do you penalize men for hitting each other while playing a sport that is all about hitting each other? How do you remove aggression from a game that is all about being aggressive? How do you fault guys for actions that take place at top speed in the blink of an eye? How do you differentiate between the malicious and the unavoidable? How do you look into a man’s heart and determine if he wanted to be where he ended up, or if his true intention was to be an inch lower, or to the right, or the left? How can you tell if someone has been betrayed by a subtle shift in momentum or the lower beasts of his nature? Does a mathematician need to do the evaluating? Or a priest? Perhaps a panel of judges with areas of expertise covering the complexities of angles, spatial relations, philosophy, morality and spirituality? To simplify matters perhaps the NFL should place electrodes in helmets and uniforms. If a helmet makes contact with any part of a player’s jersey, a buzzer goes off. If a helmet makes contact with another helmet, buzzers plus strobe lights signal that the eleventh commandment has been broken.


Does all of this sound rather impractical? Well I think so too, but the National Football League has decided enough is enough, that tackling the impossible is better than simply ignoring the situation. Minimizing migraines and spinal injuries that lead to paralysis has to be a good thing, even if the method to the madness borders on absurd. Who can say what evil lurks in the hearts of linebackers and cornerbacks and safeties? Only the shadow, as portrayed by the NFL governing body, knows. Will the game be watered down by a Safety First mindset? Will fans gripe that it’s bad enough quarterbacks are in proverbial skirts, must we now place women’s garb on wide receivers as well? Is it only a matter of time before running backs get the two hand touch – no, that can still get a little rough, make it the flag football treatment?

Will such complaints matter much in the overall picture? Surely there were those who griped when it was decided that boxers should wear gloves rather than fight bare fisted. The decision to reduce the length of major matches from 15 to 12 rounds no doubt rankled boxing purists. When I stroll down memory lane on a tour of the all-time greatest heavyweight tussles, 15-rounders seem more pure. There’s something majestic about the epic struggle to emerge as the better man over the course of those final three character revealing rounds. Is it animalistic to see purity in violence? Yes, but Homo sapiens are merely a species of animal, and violence performed with practiced skill and conforming to a strict set of rules can truly be a sweet science in the opinion of many. Otherwise the concept of Pay-Per-View probably would not exist. There's a reason more people watch the Super Bowl than choose to go to a ballet that day.

As in boxing, many measures have been taken over the years to make football safer. These measures need to be at least one step ahead of increases in size, speed, strength, and overall athleticism. If today’s NFL players still took to the field in leather helmets only a few would likely survive to the end of a game. When helmets are used as a weapon rather than a protective device, bad things can and do happen.

What also happens is the unavoidable and accidental. Should mistakes be punished to equal degree as actions taken with bad intentions? If not, how can we tell one apart from the other in order to judge fairly? This is a question without clear cut answers, my favorite kind of query. The NFL will do its best to solve the riddle, pleasing some, alienating others at least for the short term. Some of the decisions rendered will be agreed with by most, others will be as questionable as the personnell strategies of Andy Reid, Mike Shanahan and Brad Childress. Hopefully football will manage to retain the qualities that arguably make it the greatest of sports while also becoming safer for the combatants. I could have called them players/participants/athletes but used the word combatants because as we well know, tackle football is not for the faint of heart/body/soul, and with any luck it never will be.

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On a completely unrelated note please take a moment to stop by the Guys Can Read indie authors contest, and if you are so inclined, I would love to get your vote. Thanks!!!






Friday, October 8, 2010

Book Review - SOUTH OF BROAD by Pat Conroy




A lifetime of avid reading has brought many surprises my way ranging from mildly pleasant to absolutely thrilling. On occasion the pendulum swings in the other direction and I find myself disappointed by a book that did not live up to the lofty expectations I held for it. Great reviews, prestigious literary awards, and electrifying word of mouth are among the things that cause me to open a book with anticipation that my proverbial socks are about to be knocked off. But more than any of these factors, I tend to expect the best of books by authors who have wowed me with their prior efforts. I’m well aware that past success does not guarantee similar accomplisment in the future. Perhaps more so than any other endeavor, duplicating greatness time and time again is most difficult with the writing of fiction. When you see Kobe Bryant score 60 points in a game you expect that he’ll play spectacularly the next time out. Nine times out of ten he’ll do just that. He may not score 60, perhaps will only reach half that total. Thirty points is not nearly as impressive as sixty, but it’s still a damn fine effort. Great athletes tend to be consistent with the flaunting of their talent, and the same can be said of many other vocations. But when you look over the career arc of a prolific novelist, you’ll sometimes find that your favorite and least favorite books by them are oceans apart. You may find yourself wondering if the same person could have possibly written both books, particularly when they are published in the same decade. The weight of expectations from a highly successful novel can cripple an author, preventing future efforts that they fear (and rightfully so) will not live up to the reputation of its predecessor. Harper Lee is the ultimate example of this, winning the Pulitzer Prize for her first (and last) novel – To Kill a Mockingbird. We also have Margaret Mitchell who wrote the blockbuster Gone with the Wind and followed it up with…zilch, nada, nothing. Neither of them weakened their legacies with substantially weaker follow-ups to their signature works, but I’m sure they left many bummed readers hungry for more.

Up until recently the sharpest drop off I’ve experienced in enjoyment of novels by the same author would be the peak of John Irving’s The World According to Garp to the valley of his A Son of the Circus. Garp is not a very easy book to live up to, but Mr. Irving has managed to come pretty close over the course of his stellar career with brilliant works such as The Hotel New Hampshire, The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany. So he is easily forgiven by me for efforts that I find less impressive, especially since his worst is still better than many writers’ best.

Pat Conroy is an author who has dazzled me with the gift of his prose in the past. The Prince of Tides was a revelation. Like his other books The Great Santini and The Lords of Discipline, it was made into pretty good movie. So I dove into his latest novel, South of Broad, prepared to be floored. But this was not to be. Although the lushness of his prose when describing his beloved South Carolina continues to be on full display (various other setting elements are carried over from his previous writings as well), I did not find myself to be nearly as invested in the characters who populate South of Broad as I was in those brought to life in The Prince of Tides. Rather than feeling I was getting to know new people intimately, which is what the best of fiction does, it seemed to me that Mr. Conroy merely presented a lineup of caricatures this time out. Each of them was a specific type who spoke and acted according to predetermined dictates. The book is full of melodramatic events, and this sentence may be the greatest understatement I’ve ever made. Pretty much every tragedy other than the holocaust happens to these characters. Incestuous rape, abandoned orphans, stalking by pscho killer, flaunting of extramarital affairs in faces of spouses, suicide, AIDS, caught in a hurricane, victim of pedophile priest - you name it, this book has it. And I’d be happy to consider all of this to be a plausible series of events among a small group of friends so long as I did not feel the majority of them were cardboard cut outs rather than real people. Pat Conroy appears to be going through the motions when it comes to developing them, far more interested in putting them through the roller coaster pace of his plot while paying homage to the beauty of Charleston every few pages. There is a gay male character who perhaps literally is not given a single line of dialogue that is not sexual in nature. We get it, Pat, he’s gay. Gay people talk about more than just the fact that they’re gay, you know. The movie star is a self involved diva from beginning to end, always performing for her friends and for Conroy's readers rather than simply being a human being from time to time. The snob is a snob in all he says and does. How he doesn’t manage to permanently alienate himself from a group of people he considers himself to be far superior to is beyond me. Why he continues hanging out with people he barely finds worthy to wash his car is beyond me. Pat Conroy wrote that they will remain in each others lives for the sake of the storyline, so they do. The African American characters are noble and overachieving from beginning to end, no flaws other than an inability to tell the snob to go screw himself when he says something racist. One of the orphans becomes an upstanding citizen, the other goes crazy for no particular reason to be gleaned other than that at least 50% of those with screwed up childhoods surely will go on to become screwed up adults. The protagonist is the one character we get to know a little, although he is remarkably unemotional and reacts to pretty much everything with a flip comment. His specialty is always having a joke at the ready, delivered with a straight face. His father is a saint, his mother a bitch except for when she’s being a nun, and Toad somehow ends up as a gossip columnist who every now and then reacts to tragedy by being admitted to a mental institution when he can’t come up with a punchline. We see these characters at two points, when Toad and his friends are in high school, then years later when they go on a rescue mission to San Francisco for a couple weeks and then return to the greatest place on earth - South Carolina [Sure the south has its bigotry and rigid class distinctions separating bluebloods from the riffraff, but it’s also really really pretty]. In between these two points they have married off in pairs, sort of like the TV show Friends. Poor Toad gets the crazy one because it's his lot in life to catch bad breaks. He also lusts after the one who marries the snob because it's her destiny to be Mrs. Snob.

In Conroy’s latest effort I found far too much reader manipulation for my taste, a soap opera rather than Masterpiece Theater. Am I being harsher on this book than it deserves? I’m not sure. Perhaps if I did not come in as such a big fan of The Prince of Tides I would have given it more leeway. But regardless of how I feel about an author’s previous work in instances when I’ve read it, I can still recognize heavy handedness when I see it. I’m able to notice when an author is taking short cuts to draw emotion rather than carefully building tension, can spot border line absurd dialogue in place of what feels more natural for people to say, am capable of detecting paper thin character development when it’s evident. All of this was discovered in South of Broad. Pat Conroy’s sheer talent at constructing sentences got me to keep on pushing through to the end, and the novel's final 50 pages or so are probably the strongest. I think this is because Conroy was just about done with his plot machinations (just a twist or two or three left), so most of the characters are dispensed with, sent to the backdrop of Toad’s life, allowing the reader to spend a little one on one time with him. When he doesn’t have anyone around to make inappropriate wisecracks to, we get an extended peek at Toad’s inner thoughts and he finally starts to become interesting just in time for the book to end. Pat Conroy is an enormous talent, but South of Broad is one of his off days in my humble opinion.


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Thursday, September 30, 2010

BLACK SMOKE RISING



BLACK SMOKE RISINGBy Roy L. Pickering Jr.
(Copyright by Roy L. Pickering Jr.)




You can get lost staring at flickering flame atop a candle. You can forget everything that happened while captivated by the fire’s hypnotic shimmer. As the flame dances and sizzles and candle wax drips to form new fantastical shapes, you can forget the entire world, forget that it has crumbled. But eventually the candle will burn out, and as black smoke rises from the extinguished wick you will begin to remember all over again, to feel the pain as if experiencing it for the very first time.

My bottle is empty. It doesn’t seem that I could have consumed its entire contents already, but no other explanation is feasible. I did not spill a drop and the gin certainly didn’t evaporate. Yet I have never been more sober. I take a swig of the tonic I had meant to use as a mixer but somehow forgot to open until now. I’ve become quite absent-minded of late. I used to always be on top of things, a slave to the diction of the clock, organized to a fault. I was a master of minuscule details often overlooked by others. Now what I look over is a hole in the sky that used to be occupied by two testaments to the industriousness of mankind. The twin towers of Babel were taken away from us. Nothing left in their place but the rubble of decimated architecture and broken dreams.

I light a cigarette in order to have something to do with my hands, although I know better than to smoke inside. Rules, like brick and steel and concrete and glass, often prove too fragile for the exploits of desperate men. Merciless time inches forward. Eventually I notice the nearly inch long ash clinging to the end of my cigarette. I have not been bothering to tap it off as it grows. I have probably not even been inhaling and exhaling the toxic vapors, but merely watched the nicotine clouds floating upwards, spiraling towards the Heaven that I now hope exists more than ever, dispersing before managing to reach the ceiling fan.

I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the glass door of the china cabinet. When did I start crying? I suppose it doesn’t matter. The tears will stop on their own, just as they will no doubt resume flowing when the whim strikes. My stubble is near the point of a full-fledged beard. I have been clean-shaven my entire life. My face has always suited me just fine as is. I’m the sort of person who has known who he is and what he wants from day one. Never had to go searching for myself. No need for experimenting, whether with my appearance or the ideologies I follow. It’s as if I was born completed, no growth of any kind necessary. This is the sort of proclamation that pisses certain people off, but they tend to be people I couldn't give a damn about impressing anyway. Many would say that I was full of myself, an accusation I don’t find completely fair. Let’s just say I had a rather narrow set of self-indulgent priorities. Now my lone objective is either surviving this heartache or else succumbing to it.

Why was it fated that our last words to each other would be spoken in anger? Do I not have burden enough to bear? Did she understand that I did not truly mean the awful, hurtful things I said? I try to convince myself of this, but the attempt is in vain. I know how convincing I can be. The next day I would have arranged for a bouquet of roses to be sent to her. Later I would have apologized in person, on bent knee if necessary. Not merely to appease her, but because I’d had an epiphany, like the song goes, was blind but now could see. But the next day would turn out to be no ordinary day. The next day would drastically alter my existence along with the lower Manhattan skyline. Many other lives would be forever ruined as well. But with all due respect, this is not their story. It is mine.

The day I first met Alexandra, I was left breathless by her beauty. I resolved on the spot to win her over, was determined not to rest until she was mine. To consider a lifetime or even a single night with anyone else was out of the question. If I settled for someone else, someone lesser, I would forever be haunted by the knowledge that my ideal was in the arms of another man.

There are men who take what they have for granted, but this was not the case with me. Even after dating for a year, then moving in together, then getting hastily married when she missed her period, I gave a silent prayer of thanks to no god in particular every time I awoke and gazed upon her face in the morning light. As she continued to sleep, barely disturbed by the alarm clock that I would quickly silence, I placed a gentle kiss of gratitude upon her supple lips. You could say that my life was Camelot. I do not recall what specifically went wrong in King Arthur’s idyllic world. But if memory serves, it did not last.

I am ashamed to admit that as Alexandra grew with pregnancy, resentment defied my will and began to settle in my heart. Gone was the lean, flexible, amorous goddess who set my body ablaze on our four poster bed. My wife did an awful lot of eating for someone who knew she wouldn’t be able to hold down the fatty foods she now relentlessly craved. I missed the passion, the excitement, the ecstasy that had once marked our days. I could not wait for her gestation to end and my nirvana to return.

Hope was indeed the most precious child ever born. I doted on her every move during the first few months. The slightest change in her facial expression would fascinate me. I loved experiencing the world through her new eyes. In addition to being a very proud papa, I was also quite anxious to resume loving my wife as in days past. But it seemed that unlike the weight gained in pregnancy, Alexandra’s carnal desires had abandoned her. Every night I would literally receive a cold shoulder from my bride. I accepted her unresponsiveness more readily than you might think, for my desire was muzzled by the loose vagueness of her flesh. So you see, everything had changed from what it once was. Alexandra appeared to have minimal interest in returning to the role of my fervent lover. My own longing was for a woman who no longer existed, one who had been swallowed whole by a woman who bore only a passing resemblance to the great love of my life.

At first I was silent on these matters, confident that they would right themselves soon enough, that her true form and fire would return at any moment. But over time it grew increasingly clear that there was a holding pattern on my domestic torment. And so my frustration began to manifest itself in bitterly muttered remarks and less than subtle glances of disapproval towards a body once comprised of sinewy feminine muscle, now doughy and stretched out to unappealing proportions. The woman beside me in our unruffled bed was not the one I had fallen for. I felt as if I had been robbed of something precious and did not have the luxury of resenting from afar, because I lived with the thief. I found myself lingering for longer than necessary at the office, accepting offers for after-work cocktails or whatever else might come up to keep me away from home. When I did return to my wife each day, a fresh wave of disappointment washed over me. My God, it feels so harsh to have felt this way, so utterly cruel. Yet I will not lie, mislead, or sugar coat the dread that engulfed me. Point your finger and accuse away. The poster child for shallowness, that’s exactly what I was. And I earn no points nor stray any closer to your good graces by owning up to my faults now. I did not abuse my wife, did not cheat on her, did little outwardly that would earn your condemnation. I simply mourned for what I had lost and ceased to appreciate all that was still mine.

I suppose I instigated our argument with some snide comment, but on that night Alexandra refused to let it pass as she had on prior occasions. Instead she demanded that I speak my mind, that I hold nothing back, and once I got started there was no slowing down, much less turning back. I’m not exactly sure how I put it. I cannot recall precisely what I blamed her of doing. It seems ridiculous now, but at the time it seemed remarkably crucial. Alexandra had changed in shape and substance. Regardless of whether her metamorphosis was caused by conscious decision or hormones now flowing in a different direction than before, it was interpreted by me as a personal attack, as unwarranted rejection. I needed to get the heavy feeling of abandonment from off my chest, for nothing is worse than being abandoned by someone who is still there. Whatever was said, I vividly remember that I pleaded my case with limitless zeal, and what I earned for the effort was seeing my wife cry.

We eventually went to sleep, she in our bed and me on the sofa. The war of hateful words was supposed to be temporary. Everything would work out in the end. Couples fight sometimes. We hurt who we love precisely because we possess the power to do so. The truth was, I felt more relieved about having finally spoken my piece than concerned that irrevocable damage had been done to our marriage. Now that Alexandra understood the depth of my confusion and hurt, we could begin to work on making our life as it had once been. Now that I had spoken plainly rather than making veiled insinuations, perhaps the things that troubled me would come to weigh less heavily on my soul.

Her early morning appointment at the World Trade Center had been set up weeks earlier. Whether or not I argued with my wife on the night of September 10, 2001 had no bearing on where she would end up the following day. I was able to foresee no better than anyone else that terrorists would attack, striking with our own planes, bringing those two majestic structures down.

Did I love Alexandra for the wrong reasons? No, I do not believe this is so. When I saw the wounded look in her eyes on the night of our argument, I recognized that it was there because she loved me unconditionally and believed I did not feel the same. But she was wrong. I did love her, in spite of my pettiness, my anger, my frustration over a situation that it seemed she had purposely spoiled. For a time, it was difficult for me to see past Alexandra’s extraordinary beauty. For another time, it was just about impossible to see past what I perceived as the ruin of her near perfection. But in the moment of clarity that occurred seconds before she banished me to our sofa for the longest night of my life, I understood that the love I felt for my wife was indestructible. Loving Alexandra was what I did best, no matter how badly I botched the expression of it. Loving her was what I would do forever.

I rise to my feet, command them to bring me across the room, then lift my child from her crib. Hope is too young to recognize the chaos about her. She does not comprehend that the empty space within view of our living room window is actually filled with what cannot be seen – fear, uncertainty, pain, loss, rage. I believe she understands that her mother has not returned to her, for she cries much more frequently than she used to. Does she realize that I am barely holding on, that she is the sole reason I haven’t surrendered to the hurt, to my guilt, my regret? If she looked upon me with the slightest hint of sympathy, this might be enough to convince me that I am worthy of release from these mortal coils, worthy to join my beloved Alexandra. But Hope shows me no mercy, only need.

And so I will change my daughter’s diaper and fix her a bottle of formula. I will take a shower and shave. I will move on with my life because I have to. Perhaps that is not the best motivation, but it’s all I am equipped with right now. It will have to do.





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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In the Alcove




I had the pleasure of being interviewed at Lexi Flint's Author Alcove. Curious about what she had to say regarding Patches of Grey, what she chose to ask me, and what my answers were? Then hop aboard the merry go round and read on...



Sometimes life isn’t simply black or white, meaning can be found in THE PATCHES OF GREY, a novel by Roy Pickering


Author Roy L. Pickering, Jr., a native of the U.S.V.I of St. Thomas was raised in the boroughs of New York and currently resides with his wife Erin in New Jersey. Roy, a former English major at NYU writes short stories and novels that examine the human condition.


Patches of Grey is his debut novel which follows the life and struggles of high school student Tony Johnson who dreams of a life outside of the box that his address, race, society, and family places him in. Constantly at odds with his father, Pickerings main character wonders ” With everything the world had to offer, Tony marveled at how the golden nectar of barley and a box filled with moving pictures managed to placate his father. Why didn’t he need more, or at least comprehend why others might?”


Tony’s attempt to escape his current life through higher education is further complicated by his interracial relationship with a classmate, increasing the tension between father and son. “You think a couple of new laws and some tokens in high places makes everything fine and dandy?” Lionel asked. “You don’t actually believe that changes what they think of us, do you? Getting good grades in school don’t mean you know shit about life, boy. I could have five PHD’s, but that wouldn’t change nothing. I could click my heels and think good thoughts all day long, but they’ll still see me as a nigger. You’re my son, so how do you think they see you?”


This novel should be required reading for all students inspiring them to not be limited by their circumstances but to rise above and succeed despite the obstacles they must overcome on their life’s journey.


I had the pleasure of picking this author’s brain this past week. I enjoyed our interview and am happy to introduce you to this wonderful “new” author.


Thank you Roy for visiting Lexi’s Author Alcove we will start with the easy questions first…









Friday, August 20, 2010

What did you just call me?!!






I don't know much about Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Based on this conversation she's an obnoxious idiot. She does make one valid point, although by making it in such an offensive manner she stomps on the value and makes herself a target for outrage rather than an instructor. If you want to make it clear to others that calling you by a certain name offends you, don't then call yourself that same name. Confusing to fools, a huge opening for jerks. Yes, intent is key. Yes, two people can use same word in very different ways. But why provide excuse for confusion even if it's fake confusion? If I chose to call myself an asshole I'd have a weak argument getting pissed at someone else for calling me an asshole. Simple logic. Everyone knows blacks who habitually use N word don't mean same thing by it as head of KKK. Still, it gives bigots opening to feign ignorance.



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I do wonder how someone who listens to this woman & has phone # for her show doesn’t know that's the type of answer she'd give? Not giving Laura an excuse to be obnoxious since she already gave herself convenient one, but it is rather curious.



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If it's okay for a black person to say a word but not cool for white person to say it, that's endorsing inequality, just as vice versa would be. Demanding equal rights & special privileges simultaneously is a form of hypocrisy. If a word offends ANYONE, even if not you personally, don't use it. e.g. The C word that rhymes with hunt doesn't offend me personally, but you won't hear me saying it casually because I know people who hate it.



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One of these days my petition to have the N-word refer to NUBIAN rather than what it currently refers to will be realized. #KeepingHopeAlive Biggest problem I suppose is that current usage of N-word rhymes with a lot (trigger, figure, bigger, dig her). WTF does nubian rhyme with?



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Sarcasm aside, the fact that blacks fight with other blacks over appropriateness of N-word is sufficient reason to abolish it. Why promote division from within? How can you focus on being angry at another race (if that's your thing) if you keep getting tripped up by members of your own? #Think



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I doubt any habitual users of the N-word who happen upon this blog entry will be convinced to cease and desist. They believe they have every right to vocalize their re-interpreted version of a word that hurts and angers us more than any other when spoken by non-blacks. Now surely what people have the right to do and what they SHOULD do are not one and the same. Nevertheless, experience has taught me that people usually remain entrenched in initial opinions until something dramatic happens to alter their perspective. Strength of conviction is good, but inability to concede there are valid points other than yours equals refusal to learn what you don't already "know".



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I don't listen to radio/TV shock jocks yet suppose they serve purpose of shedding light on opinions that are not exclusive to them, but disturbingly common. Eliminating N-word would not solve myriad problems. But like the election of a certain President not too long ago it would have meaning & be a start. Every long journey needs the initial steps. I always side with freedom of speech, which includes the right to insult yourself. I just wish people weren't so eager to insult themselves. I don't claim to be more enlightened than anyone. I just know I'd rather be called Mr. Pickering or Roy than nigg**.



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All being equal I might say self-deprecate away. But even the most optimistic don't claim all is now equal, so proceed with caution. After all, people who brag on themselves are sometimes believed, somtimes not. But people who insult themselves are always believed. "Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." - George Orwell



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I suspect that by quitting her job, Dr. Laura is purposely drawing attention to herself as promotion for an upcoming project, call me #Cynic. She's a fool that may serve a useful purpose though. If a black person said what she said, minimum attention is paid. White person does, ears perk up.



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I don't care if black people stop using N-word out of pride or to spite a foolish white woman, so long as they stop #MissionAccomplished. It's often more effective to shock people into action by being offensive than convincing them by teaching/preaching. C'est la vie.



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Americans have right to free speech & all Americans have right to the same words. Sorry if this upsets you but that's how it goes, folks. I can say fuck/bitch/cunt/shit/nigger/dago/kike/etc. You can of course be offended. You can unfollow/block/respond, but not silence me. Censorship is unpatriotic.



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Yet there are limits to free speech. You can't shout fire in a crowded movie theater or niggers in a movie theater in Harlem. Endangers people. So yes, Dr. Laura has right to say N-word. Yes, she should reserve her right NOT to say it because she knows it's offensive. Simple stuff made complicated by emotional response. People have the right to say N-word & mean "something different & inoffensive" by it. People also have right to find this hypocritical. A rose by any other name...Words hurt as much as we allow them to. N-word is not really worth defending by anyone of any race really. I'll defend your right to say most anything because that's what being an American is about. But some things I wish nobody was compelled to say.



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As for those who support how Dr. Laura chooses to exercise the freedom of speech guaranteed to all of us by First Amendment such as @SarahPalinUSA - Hi Sarah. Please keep saying whatever it takes to make you increasingly irrelevant & unelectable. But I can't work myself into a lather over latest displays of ignorance by Palins-Becks-Limbaughs etc. of the world. They're simply doing what they do.


xxx



xxx


Sorry if anyone was offended by salty language of my rant. Necessary to make my point.

Friday, August 13, 2010

AMARETTO KISSES





She took me in with emerald eyes, slanted ever so slightly from a partial Asian ancestry. Her tongue habitually licked her pouty lips whenever she was about to smile, and each time I imagined those lips in the location and activity of my choosing. They say a woman knows well in advance of the proposition if she will sleep with someone. I strongly believe this to be true. I can’t make a woman’s mind up for her, but I usually know what she has decided far before she officially informs me. My radar picks up the slightest indication of desirous inclinations. A touch on the elbow, a lilt in her laughter, the directness of a gaze, the subtle whisper of invitation beneath her words. Or sometimes not so subtle.

“Come on, let’s get out of here”, she said.

It was then that I received my first taste of Lola's amaretto kisses.

Her apartment was just up the street. We went there to explore one another, to see if what we'd find would hold up to the exquisiteness of what was promised. It did. So much so that I remained for three days. Three days of raucous love making that left me spent and supremely satisfied.

Playtime is always too brief. Reality invariably intervenes to stake its claim on one's priorities. Enough was enough. I returned home to settle the argument with my wife in a more civilized manner than walking out.

Vanessa and I are quite the pair. When we disagree, which is often, no one fights like us. When times are good, no one loves like we do. We each serve as a magnet to the other's fiercest passions. She courses through my veins, infecting my bloodstream with a sweet poison to which there is no antidote.

In the past I had exchanged relationships at a faster rate than I switched television channels. Only the slightest provocation was required to call it quits. On one occasion after another I would suddenly and irrevocably decide that time was up on my liaison of the moment.

Vanessa changed all that. I could not get enough of her. The craving was a phenomenon beyond logical explanation, unless one gives credence to that fairy tale notion known as love.

I opened the door to our home with the scent of Lola seemingly still clinging to me in spite of a shower and cologne. My wife lay naked in the middle of the living room, a sight to behold, beauty beyond comprehension, clearly lifeless. In a daze I dropped to my knees and crawled forward, the shag carpet feeling like ten thousand razor blades.

Who could have dared to destroy such perfection? Our home appeared undisturbed, nothing of value removed. Not even Vanessa’s engagement ring had been taken from the finger I had so recently placed it upon. But if robbery was not the explanation, what else could account for how this horror came to be? My wife had no enemies. Who would choose to be the foe of an angel? Only the devil himself.

I cradled Vanessa's limp form, kissed her fervently, sobbed prayers of desperation. But neither my lips nor my tears possessed the power to resuscitate.

The kiss sobered me sufficiently to begin thinking straight. I would be blamed. The whole building knew of our altercations, could not help but overhear our heated disputes. I am six foot four inches tall; two hundred and forty muscled pounds; with searing eyes that gaze straight forwardly from a cleanly shaved, ebony skull. My mostly Caucasian neighbors instinctively perceive me as menacing. Their stares never mask the disapproval they feel of one of their own; a five foot three inch, one hundred and five pound, blonde haired and blue eyed white girl; living and loving with the likes of me. I would have to grieve later. First things first. I needed to get in touch with my alibi.

It seemed the cab I took missed not a single red light. Every driver in front of us was determined to keep their miles per hour in single digits. Finally I arrived at Lola's apartment and began knocking on the door. Ten seconds later a man stood before me, wondering who I was and what I wanted. Over his shoulder I spied Lola on the couch, staring at me with shock and worry. Immediately the situation grew apparent. This man was her husband, come back from wherever he had been. I had no alibi. What I had in my hands, on my shoulders, in my lap, was a heap of trouble.

What I needed was time to think. Once Vanessa's murder was discovered, the cops would be all over me. They would naturally assume I had done it, and use their brutish tactics to force a confession which matched their conclusion. The cops I could handle, having dealt with their legally authorized brand of racist terrorism on more than one unpleasant occasion. Badges, clubs and guns didn't intimidate me. But I knew sufficient evidence could be gathered to put me on trial, where my chances of proving innocence would be slim.

I returned home, entering as conspicuously as a shadow and proceeded to do the unimaginable. I placed Vanessa's body into the bathtub. Disregarding the memory of her submerged in bubbles upon which rose petals floated; her glorious face illuminated by candle light; sipping a glass of Moet as the music of Vivaldi massaged her senses; I commenced to hacking her into pieces with a miter saw and butcher knife and placing each chunk of flesh into a garbage bag. It was tougher work physically than anticipated. As for the emotional challenge, mourning and revulsion had to be put aside. I operated in strict self preservation mode. Before removing my wife's head from her torso I caressed the bruises on her neck. They were no doubt caused by the choking hands that had ended her life. When all was done, I tied the dark green bag shut on what had been my world.

Much cleaning up was required. I began washing away the gallons of blood, working quickly and efficiently, performing as if my life had been spent in preparation for such mortifying acts. I was beyond shock, beyond fear, in a morally comatose state which allowed me to move as purposeful as a well trained soldier.

Three hours later I sit in an airport lounge awaiting my flight to exile. Vanessa has been carefully and permanently disposed of. We are both pulling disappearing acts, neither of our paths traceable. A part of me insists that I feel some measure of guilt, but I am certain I can drink this part into submission. The death of my wife was a tragedy. For me to take the fall, to be condemned by strangers for destroying what was most sacred to me, would just make two tragedies. No point to that. Vanessa's spirit would not be able to rest easy if on top of the heavy duty of coping with her loss, I was also blamed and punished for her unfortunate passing.

I continue to drink my spare time away but soon find an accompanying diversion. A lovely young lady sits next to me, starts up a conversation which grows increasingly intimate. Her feline orbs are topped by mile long lashes. Her skin is the same tone and seemingly identical texture to maple syrup. Immediately I make plans to immerse myself in her sweet, sticky stuff.

“So where are you off to?” I ask.

“I’m headed back home to Austin.”

“What a coincidence. I’m going there as well. I was offered a great job. I suppose I’ll be pretty lonely at first, since I won’t know a soul.”

“You know me”, says Sharon, her voice a little slurred from the cocktails she’s been imbibing to settle her nerves for the flight ahead.

“I’m beginning to. And we do have a long flight to get much better acquainted.”

“I just hate to fly. I know the fear is somewhat irrational. The odds are greater of being killed in a car accident, or slipping in your bathtub. So they say, anyway. But that doesn’t make me any less nervous.”

“Fortunately you have a new friend to help make the flight go a little easier”, I say. “I’m great at distracting.”

“Sounds promising.”

Next thing I know our tongues are exploring the inside of one another's mouths. The taste I come upon is familiar, remindful of the recent past. Succulent, tantalizing, irresistible amaretto kisses. My memory floods so quickly that it gives me an immediate, sharp headache.

I should have walked away from Lola's door. It would not have been difficult to stammer a quickly conceived fib about having the wrong address. But I panicked. I needed an alibi to prove my innocence of Vanessa’s murder. Lola's secret from her husband would have to be revealed, my liberty was at stake. I had no choice but to truthfully state my purpose.

Ideally there would have been a more civilized manner in which to handle the whole tawdry affair. Once tempers flared and the situation grew hectic, it became obvious that control was necessary. So I took it. I quelled matters before they went from bad to worse, not bothering to clean up afterwards because I had no intention of sticking around long enough to be connected to Lola by the bartender and a couple observant alcoholics upon questioning.

It's funny how certain events can slip one's mind until another scarcely related happening sends it spiraling backwards. Not until I was through hacking Lola and hubby to death with the butcher knife I’d held on to in my gloved hands for safe keeping did I realize that she was not a valid alibi after all. We actually met each other more than an hour after my wife's death. I knew this now because the precise time and reason and cause of Vanessa's execution had crept to the top of my consciousness. What I was certain my neighbors would falsely believe and the cops would erroneously suspect, turned out to be in fact, the truth. It was I who choked Vanessa to death, directly after making frantic love to her on our living room floor.

I had grown mighty curious about the many hours spent by Vanessa in front of our computer terminal. The evidence I unearthed proved my suspicions to be well founded. At least her adultery was not yet one of the flesh, but still confined to sweet nothings typed on screen. Each romantic declaration found in the emails they sent one another was now branded on my skull. I had to determine if it was possible to reclaim Vanessa's roaming heart.

But in the argument which ensued after I made love to her one last time, my hands somehow wound up around her throat. My actions seemed too strange to be anything but the product of an overworked imagination. This could not be reality. It had to be a macabre nightmare from which I was finally awakened by the scent of perfume drifting in the air of an unfamiliar tavern as a beautiful woman sat in the stool next to mine. I have yet to figure out how I get from place to place during my occasional black outs, but more often than not my feet guide me to a place where alcohol is being served and women are generously partaking.

Now that the full story has been told you probably look upon me as a monster. It is easy for you to sit back in judgment. If I dwelled upon these heinous deeds, perhaps I too would be horrified. The very act of continuing to live would grow unbearable. Which is why I don't look back. I simply clean up all traces of the past as best I can, and then move forward. I head to the only place where relief can be found, the beautiful state of intoxication, though it is only temporary salvation. Eventually I will find myself with someone else's blood to wash from my hands. Though I may once again say "never again", I can't seem to make the oath stick. I am no stranger to airport lounges, another city and identity awaiting me. Again I will fall in love and I will have to grow used to a woman moaning the latest name I’ve assumed to stay incognito. Again something will happen to ruin it, and to deal with the pain my darker impulses will take over. Only my death will terminate the cycle, but I am nowhere near ready to die just yet.

I refuse to ponder further such morbid thoughts. Euphoria inducing spirits are swishing around delightfully in my head. The headache has faded as quickly as it arrived and I’m now feeling better than ever before in my life. After all, I am delighting in a beautiful stranger's sweet amaretto kisses. What more could a man ask for? What more could I possibly need?
~~~
~~~
THE END






Monday, August 9, 2010

Are You Ready For Some...Contract Renegotiating?




Those of you who follow this blog (yeah, both of you) know that while I may venture to the topic of sports somewhat frequently, when I do so it’s to comment on an issue that transcends the games themselves. I’m not a play-by-play guy, hold minimal interest in chronicling happenings that take place in every city on every team each and every season. I may follow the minutiae of football and basketball and boxing and tennis because of my passion for them, but this doesn’t mean I care to report on the daily grind that others already do quite adequately. I only raise my voice and pen if I feel there’s something unique and compelling about a situation. My two cents are always at the ready, but I try to use discretion with offering them.



There is very little one-of-a-kindness to Darrelle Revis holding out for a new contract from the New York Jets rather than fulfilling the obligations of the one he’s currently working under. Every year in each professional team sport there are a number of athletes who want to renegotiate their contracts. Rather than waiting until they become free agents, if they’re coming off a big year they opt to capitalize while the getting is good and their bargaining power is at its peak. If this sounds a tad unreasonable of them, I suppose we should keep in mind that they can be traded to undesirable locales at any point management decides more bang for their bucks can be obtained from someone else. Even in the case of coddled superstars, when they’re nearing the end of their careers and their talents are on the decline, they are suddenly seen as expendable when just a few years earlier they were treated like royalty. The modern day athlete has concluded it makes the most sense to be primarily loyal to self. Athletic careers are short, especially in a rock-em sock-em game like football, so players need to make as much as they can as fast as they can before their run is over. For every athlete with a post retirement plan (coaching, broadcasting, starting a business while flush with cash to put into it, or perhaps actually entering the career his college major was to prepare him for in case the sports thing didn’t work out), there are many more who come up with no better plan than to make as much as possible in their playing careers and hope it won’t run out before the ultimate retirement.

Since this scenario is so commonplace, why am I writing about Revis’ tussle with the holders of purse strings for the Jets? First, because this is my beloved Jets we’re talking about. Second, because Darrelle Revis is a phenomenal talent. Only so many of those come around, a pretty small percentage end up in green and white. Third, the Jets look as good coming into this season as ever, their future no less promising than it appeared back in 1999 when they were supposed to follow up a trip to the AFC championship game with one to the Super Bowl. Jets fans know all too well how that worked out and why things fell apart. Over a decade later and we find ourselves in the same situation, fresh off a trip to the AFC championship, poised to take the next big step so long as nothing goes wrong. Revis holding out for the season would definitely qualify as something going terribly wrong.



If only there was no pesky salary cap to consider, the Jets organization could simply follow the blueprint laid out by the Yankees and spend what needed to be spent to secure the best available talent. What does that get you? A championship about once every four years, that’s what. Yet even with a salary cap in place, dynasties are possible when talent is combined with smart decision making. Several NFL franchises have managed to field repeat champions, but the Jets sadly are not among them. They won it all in 1969, Super Bowl III, a mighty long time ago. If the long delayed trip down the road to glory is to finally be traveled upon once more, surely the Jets need to be at full strength. They can’t afford for the guy who is clearly their top player on either side of the ball to sit this dance out. But the longer negotiating drags, the more difficult it becomes to believe things will work themselves out for the best.



Most Jets fans aren’t rooting for Revis to get every last dime he’s asking for, nor are they pulling for ownership to put him in his place. They just want this dilemma to be worked out fast so that come opening day Gang Green will be operating at full capacity. Those who say different (no shortage of opinions being given on Twitter and Facebook) are either shell shocked from years of frustration and are now venting incoherently, or else they aren’t real Jets fans, or knowledgeable football fans for that matter. Anybody who has paid any attention to the sport knows how few and far between cornerbacks of Darrelle Revis’ caliber are, just as they know how difficult it is to put together a legitimate championship contender in the NFL. Sure, the Jets might still be fairly good without Revis. But with him they have the potential to be great, and nothing less than greatness will do this year for long suffering fans. Jets fans thinking about the situation at all rationally desperately want Revis’ services to be retained, but not at so high a cost that they can’t afford to place quality pieces around him going forward. If overpaying him means the team is not able to maintain sufficient talent where needed elsewhere, the future will not look exceptionally bright. The Jets may be screwed short term if they don’t make Revis happy, screwed long term if they give up too much to bring that happiness about. If you have a win now at all costs mindset (which the Jets themselves seemed to possess with acquisition of well past prime players such as Jason Taylor and LaDainian Tomlinson) then the answer is simple - pay the man what he wants. Compromise is necessary if a dynasty is the goal. If neither party is willing to bend, hope is lost before the season even begins. At least in 1999 Jets fans were able to make it to Week 1 filled with optimism before it was cruelly dashed.



My advice to Mr. Revis is to look at guys like Alex Rodriquez and LeBron James, superstars who invited scorn and ridicule from fans that once idolized them by attempting to make themselves bigger than the game rather than allowing the fans to inflate them the way they did with Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, and the Jets’ own Joe Namath. Let the people declare you king, don’t put the throne upon your own head. That might work out fine in individual sports such as boxing where a charismatic guy like Muhammad Ali could effectively proclaim himself to be the greatest, but part of what fans value in athletes who play team sports is an ability to be a team player. And in the defense of A-Rod and LeBron, they at least pulled off their shenanigans when free agents. The Mets did their best to make Rodriquez look like a jerk when he pulled his diva routine on them, perhaps recognizing he was merely using them to gain greater leverage with the Yankees, but A-Rod did most of the work. By the time it was his turn to be busted as a steroid abuser there was little sympathy to be found. And LeBron single handedly transformed from icon to punch line while taking himself out of NBA GOAT consideration with “The Decision”. Take my talents to Miami indeed. The lesson learned? Handle your business quietly and respectfully, and if others choose to make a lot of noise about it, so be it.



Revis should not foolishly alter his image from spectacularly talented yet impressively humble guy to yet another Me First Schumuck so long as the Jets are trying to do reasonably right by him. Brett Favre doesn’t need any more competition in the largest ego category. It’s still possible for Darelle to remain likeable, be highly compensated for what he does exceptionally well, and to possibly win one or more Super Bowl rings in the bargain. From this endorsement deals will flow and money will be the least of his problems. That is how sports legends are created. Revis deserves to get as much as he can get, but also needs to recognize when enough is enough, that it’s time to stop being a businessman attempting a hostile takeover and resume being a football player. And whatever he does from here on out, I’d highly advise staying far away from the Latrell Sprewell “I need to feed my family” card. It simply doesn't look so hot on a millionaire. If this hand is played right by the participants, everybody in Jetsdom can be a big winner. If played wrong then everybody involved loses yet again, and the chorus shouting SAME OLD JETS will grow louder. The thing Jets fans desire most is for their team to avoid finding yet another new way to screw things up.






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Thursday, July 29, 2010

First Steps




The journey of my novel Patches of Grey from concept to printed paperback has been interesting, enlightening and surreal. Perhaps I'll share the story with you here someday, but not now. At the moment I just wish to say that there's a great deal of difference between being a writer and being an author, and the difference is probably equally great between self published author, indie published author, author with a book put out quietly by a big publishing house, and author with major backing from that publishing house because they believe they have a Best Seller on their hands. I've been a writer for almost as far back as I can remember. My earliest publication credits go back quite a ways to when the submissions process had nothing to do with email attachments and promotion had nothing to do with posting a blog entry, updating my Facebook status, or scribbling a tweet. My short stories have been read and discussed and written about and even imitated in high schools and colleges. There are people I've never met and probably never will who have seen my name attached to pieces of fiction. People have paid hard earned money to read my words well before having the opportunity at long last to read my debut novel. To them I've been an author, but to myself I've just been a writer. I say this because being an author means doing book signings, readings, giving speeches at workshops, teaching writing courses, being interviewed for magazines/radio/TV, discussing strategy with my agent and editor and publicist. In short, being an author means living the dream. I'm not there yet, and this has been in large part a deliberate choice rather than circumstances I have no control over. Plenty of writers have transformed themselves into authors without needing the involvement of a major publishing house. If you're willing to put in the time, spend some money, hit the pavement and keep your feet moving and mouth running, we are living in an era when the author's life can be self-generated. Many have turned out to be naturals at being authors. As for me, while I'm not quite doing the eccentric recluse thing like Harper Lee or J.D. Salinger perfected, I'm not out there renting billboards either. My promotional efforts have been done just about exclusively on computer keyboard, putting out words that perhaps catch your eye and make you curious to learn a little more, perhaps not. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I wrote a novel. If you don't, chances are you have no idea who I am unless you know me personally. This situation in all likelihood is not radically changing anytime soon, but I am taking a first step tonight on the journey from writer to author. So if by chance you happen to be in Sparta, NJ this evening I hope to see you, tell you a little about my book or just shoot the breeze about whatever comes to mind. I'd rather be writing what I'm writing than talking about what I've written, but I don't believe that living exclusively within my comfort zone is truly living. Life is about taking chances, doing what frightens you a bit, maybe more than a bit. It's about grabbing hold of the reins, going faster than seems wise, doing your best to hold on, and when necessary, dusting yourself off and climbing back on after a fall. I love being a writer and have long dreamt about being an author. Tonight I'll get a little taste, and who knows, I might even like it and come back for more.
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Afterword: It went great! Think I'm about ready to step my game up a notch.






Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shirley Sherrod, You're Fired! No, Wait, Never Mind



Tweets by CNN’s Roland Martin first brought the Shirley Sherrod situation to my attention. It was apparent that he was being given a hard time by numerous people on Twitter for his stated opinion. I didn’t know what the subject matter was yet, but was in agreement with what he was saying in his defense about racism being a two-way street, that if you condemned it when flowing one way it would be hypocritical not to also do so when it went the opposite. If someone in position of authority abuses their power in the name of prejudice (or in the name of anything else for that matter), it’s plain wrong. I nodded my head along with this sentiment without knowing all the details of Shirley Sherrod’s case. As it would turn out, Roland Martin wasn’t fully informed either. Many people had been purposely duped, bamboozled, squashed by Plymouth Rock, including as I would eventually come to learn, the NAACP. Yet early on other people seemed to either know more than Roland Martin and the NAACP had been made aware of, or else they too were missing critical facts but nevertheless felt Shirley Sherrod did not deserve to be fired (technically, forced to resign) for a racist mindset that she had owned up to with a camera recording it. The video turns out to have been edited to make it seem that Shirley Sherrod was saying pretty much the opposite of what she meant to convey, which was that we need to protect the rights of poor hardworking people regardless of race, not cherry pick who to protect based on race. She briefly considered doing the wrong thing, then came to her senses and did the right thing. But the video only showed us the moment when she confessed that her thought process was unfair, leading us to believe she followed up with unfair conduct when in fact she did not. Basically Shirley Sherrod was taken out of context to the 1000th degree. Eventually the full video was produced, her supposed victims came to her defense, and she was exonerated in the court of public opinion. In the end, much more than learning a lesson in racism or repentance or politics in action, this incident revealed how easy it is to manipulate the media which in turn manipulates the populace. We live in an era where stories and non-stories alike are frequently doctored and spun to fit an agenda. It’s become nearly impossible to know the reality of “news” being reported to us because so much is slanted to form an opinion for you. We need to examine it all with healthy doses of skepticism, to think not only about what’s being told to us but about why it’s being reported as it is, what motivation someone may have for wanting us to believe what we’re hearing in the manner we're hearing it. People want to believe that the job of the news media is to deliver TRUTH, but truth can consist of many versions. Following are my thoughts as they unfolded one tweet at a time.






@rolandsmartin Some will NEVER get that racism doesn't only go in one direction & will ALWAYS feel roles of villain & victim r permanently set.

The goal is to END racism as much as is possible. Not reverse it, not justify it, not spin doctor it, not dress it up to change appearance.

Shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If that line goes in wrong direction one way, it's the wrong direction the other way too.

Changing minds may not be do-able, but opening some may be.

Question: If white person in control of $ denied aid to black farmer & specifically cited race as reason, what would we call that white person?

If white person in control of $ and black farmer end up mending fences & becoming good friends - Great! Story not about that, but still great.

Is it messed up to fire someone for something they said 24 years ago? Oh yeah. But I guess there's no statute of limitation on unwise comments.

It's safe to say I said some pretty dum *ish 24 years ago. Probably did 24 minutes ago. What you gonna do, unfollow? No, wait, don't go!!

Will Obama be asked about Shirley Sherrod resignation? Or will questions be limited to what Regie Bush thinks about LeBron's Decision?

If the "scapegoating" of Shirley Sherrod guaranteed Fox "News" folk would chill for a bit on the Obama is Hitler schtick, I'd say fair enough.

Bottom line: Political correctness is a terrible reason to base decisions on. Decision should be correct based on common decency & logic.

Let me get this straight now that I'm caught up fully on news. Some douche named @andrewbreitbart punk'd NAACP @ expense of Shirley Sherrod?!

Based on info on hand @ time NAACP & @rolandsmartin said nothing wrong in my opinion. They showed racism's unacceptable to them regardless of direction.

Good people are so much on defensive from constant attacks by conservatives that there was rush to judgment rather than careful weighing of facts.

I've said it about 1 million times here on twitter. Rushing to judgment serves no one any good. 1st glimpse of a case is simply its surface.

Whether the accused is a cop with blood on his hands, an athlete with finger of blame pointed at him, someone temporarily made infamous for alleged improper/illegal act, or whatever the case may be - Wait for facts, weigh them, then judge.

Our judicial system is based on examining evidence & pronouncing guilt if & only if proven beyond shadow of doubt. It's a good system.

Our media system is based on manipulating people to sell version of a story that generates the most attention, leading to increased ad revenue. Bad system.

Those who criticized NAACP reaction & firing of #Sherrod were correct to do so. Hopefully most were correct for the RIGHT reasons.



RT @BenJealous (who is head of NAACP if you don’t know) Watch the Shirley Sherrod video in full for the first time, and judge for yourself: http://bit.ly/9XMlK0



Reinstate Shirley Sherrod!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pete Rose too!!!



Breaking News: Shirley Sherrod has already accepted another job after fielding tons of offers. She says she is "taking my talents to Miami"



If President Obama can turn off the internet can't he turn off Fox News, or at least make it illegal for them to use "News" in name?



Fool me once, shame on you, shame me twice... #SherrodScam



Can video lie? It certainly can when doctored, and even in some cases when it isn't. Lesson hopefully learned.



I'm sickened that Tea Party folk are going “tee hee, we got the NAACP back for making us look bad”.



But I also believe that in the end, more good than harm will come from #SherrodScam, and that manufacturing false news for political gain will ultimately backfire.



Glad I'm not @rolandsmartin tonight. Sure, I'm wrong & piss people off sometimes, but only like about 4 people. #PerksOfNonCelebrity



NAACP & Roland Martin were duped but it wasn't their job to decide if #Sherrod should be fired and act on it if she did, so let’s not send majority of heat their way. This woman's boss (Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack) should have his management technique seriously evaluated. Truth be told though (and full version probably never will be), I'm guessing he received order to fire her from some behind the scenes big shot. Hard to believe his first instinct was to immediately get rid of a long time employee based on such slight, ancient evidence against her, without even being interested in hearing her side. Why would someone admit publicly that they had disobeyed guidelines of their job & laws of the land? It was automatically assumed that Shirely Sherrod was not merely racist, but an idiot. Why would this be assumed about someone who had done nothing but show herself to be intelligent and thoughtful up to that point?



@BenJealous jumped gun with Sharrod to prove NAACP is even handed after Tea Party accusation, but he was still great as Elvin on Cosby Show.



As for those who blame Obama for this mess, I simply can’t fathom why, although I would like to hear his take at some point in the near future much as he tossed his two cents into Professor Gates incident. Chants for another beer summit have already begun of course.



Being POTUS = damned if you do and damned if you don't and damned if you can be remotely connected to it. #ObamaShrug



It's only a matter of time before Fox "News" runs fabricated story on how Rosa Park liked to kick puppies, though just white ones.



As a wise man once said "Don't...Don't believe the hype!"



While we're passing blame around, why did Sherrod agree to resign when she did nothing wrong? I would have said “you'll have to fire me”, and then sued.



I'm about done with Shirley Sherrod indignation. She was wronged, is now a celebrity with book deal probably to come shortly. Meanwhile people are still dying unnecessarily. Keep eyes on places like Haiti and all that oil spilled in the Gulf.



RT @sinbadbad (as in Sinbad from TV, stand-up comedy, and hanging in warzone with Hillary Clinton fame) The shirley sherrod situation shows that we have to make sure we have all the info before we react...can't trust the news to give us the 411.



Once a topic has become so trendy that lightweight celebrities are chirping in to earn cool points while reminding public of their existence, I’m ready to move on to whatever comes NEXT.



Good re-cap of story that provides some of the nitty gritty details not covered in my tweets: RT @AlfredEdmondJr Reverse Racism, or Hatchet Job? http://nblo.gs/62fTR




Shirley Sherrod’s response to inconvenient untruth: http://bit.ly/aoECbg


* * * * *

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Update: Shirley Sherrod says Agriculture Secretary Vilsack has directly apologized http://on.cnn.com/bt3I22 Cue Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River.





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EPILOGUE

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I didn't know who Shirley Sherrod was before yesterday, felt she did kinda wrong for a couple hours, then felt strongly that she was railroaded & screwed.

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Today she's a beloved figure (at least by those who know what a good person should look like), her true admirable beliefs well known, her triumphant personal journey chronicled for posterity. It was only others on both sides of the divide & shouting from sidelines who made asses of themselves.

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She was out of work for a day. She'll be offered it back & either accept or else go on speaker tour, get book deal, really get paid. Not too bad a deal considering she doesn't appear to be far off from retirement age.

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I'm glad the Shirley Sherrod situation happened because it showed what Obama's opposition will stoop to & highlighted the worst possible way to react.

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Little to nothing can be learned from perfection but a royal screw up can be extremely informative. In end nobody was legitimately harmed.

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Politics is not a game for the faint of heart. It shouldn't be a GAME at all, but unfortunately it is, one with very high stakes.

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When next race themed drama arrives, & there's always another ready to pull into station, remember it will be unique & not an extension of prior situations.

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The most interesting thing about the Fox "News" propoganda team is that several of their hired guns may not even be racist. They simply prey on the fears of bigots who listen to them & tend to vote Republican because racists are stupid and stupid people are the easiest to manipulate and rile up. Fox primarily wants to get republicans elected and will attempt to do so by any means necessary. If warning people about Cookie Monster was more effective than telling tales about scary Black people, they'd focus their smear campaign on Sesame Street.

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@AndrewBreitbart I'd insult u but you'd probably get a perverse form of satisfaction. Just keep looking in mirror. IF LUCKY you'll feel shame one day.
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Just so we're all clear here, Shirley Sherrod did not prove black people cannot be racist. She just proved she personally isn't racist.
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No single case makes broad statement about mankind even if we translate it as such. Breibert is a jerk, Sherrod is not, that's basically it.
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Breibert couldn't find video of discrimination by black person against whites so edited one selectively. He isn't ALL whites; she isn't ALL blacks.
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Irony would be if lesson learned from Sherrod’s non-racist mindset is to be angry at all whites. If that’s what you take from it, Breibert wins.
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The enemy is not a race, a color, a creed. The enemy is the person who promotes division by any means necessary.
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No war will ever be as destructive as a Civil one. Look how long ours has lasted. Oh, you thought it ended ages ago. To some, yes. To others…
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If lesson gleaned from #Sherrod case is that THEY continue to oppress, WE continue to suffer, then you have selectively edited tale...same as Breibert.
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I'm not asking anyone to grab neighbor of another shade by the hand & start singing Kumbaya. Just asking for perspective rather than strictly biased emotion.

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RT @CornelWest (real smart guy) If you don't muster the courage to think critically about your situation, you'll end up living a life of conformity & complacency

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RT @CornelWest Morally, all racisms are the same. We must never allow black suffering to blind us to other people's suffering.







Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Reverend Who Cried Wolf
















Every day numerous examples of legitimate racism in action take place in this country. Yes we currently have a brown skin biracial President who most (including him) identify as African American. Yes, while certainly not in the fantasy land of post racial identity existence, this country has come a long way. Yes, no matter how far we’ve come, the legacy of racism by whites against blacks and the institution of slavery will never be fully lived down by this nation. It is an irremovable stain. A black President can’t remove it; Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson and Oprah Winfrey can’t erase it; reparations neither real nor symbolic can erase it. Racism rolls on, this cannot be denied. It takes place in an infinite numbers of ways, sometimes in manners splashy and violent enough to make headline news, but usually in personal exchanges and privately held thoughts. There are white people with undeserved notions of superiority in their heads, and black people who will never forgive and never forget the ugliest part of our history regardless of what the present holds and the future promises.


That said, the fact that racism still exists does not mean that racism is prevalent in EVERY interaction, particularly every negative one, between blacks and whites. My novel Patches of Grey tackles this subject head on. Earlier today I quoted a brief passage from it on Twitter, taken from a scene where a fight nearly breaks out between two groups of young men. Those on one side of the dispute are black and those on the other are white, but the subject matter of their disagreement (at least on its surface) is not racial. As often is the case with young men, the trouble is over a girl. “The respective skin colors of the near combatants could not be ignored. The fact that one of them was black and the other white could not be removed from the equation, rendering the specifics of the altercation inconsequential.”


I’m writing this blog posting, and the words quoted above came to mind, because of Jesse Jackson’s reaction to the infantile public letter written by Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert. Gilbert was quite upset that his cash cow LeBron James had just left the team as a free agent (emphasis on free) to ply his trade elsewhere, and by the particularly humiliating way James went about doing it. As LeBron’s former employer I don’t know how you could possibly sit through ESPN’s airing of The Decision and not be incensed. LeBron pissed off millions of people that he doesn’t know from a hole in the wall with his actions, so of course he angered his boss. Dan Gilbert hoped for exclusively selfish reasons that LeBron would be loyal to the state he was born and raised and grew up to be a legend in. Gilbert was hoping that LeBron would be loyal to the only organization he had ever worked for as a professional basketball player. Dan was praying that LeBron would be loyal TO HIM. But the young Mr. James for equally selfish reasons (not implying that selfish must = bad, by the way; thinking of your own interests first is the most human thing we do) opted to go another way. Much has been said (plenty of it by me) about the decision, about why it was made and how LeBron chose to declare it. Much was subsequently said about Dan Gilbert’s public rant of protest, with the consensus being that as the owner of a professional sports franchise, the letter was beneath him. He was fined a considerable amount of money for his immature response by the NBA’s commissioner, and that really should have been the only other chapter to this story.


But before David Stern could get around to weighing in on the issue (which is his job), none other than Jesse Jackson (who one might think could and should easily find far more troubling situations to address) inexplicably did. What did the esteemed Rev. Jackson have to say about an issue that seems like it would be of minimal concern to him? What was his take on the venting of a disgruntled boss about losing his most treasured employee? As you probably already know, Jesse accused Dan Gilbert of having a "slave owner mentality". Now expressing a vague feeling of unease about the motivation behind Gilbert's outrage is one thing, flat out accusing him of viewing LBJ as his own personal Chicken George is another. Jesse crossed the line of concerned speculation and came damn near close to placing a pointy hood over Gilbert's face. He apparently feels that a wealthy white man can’t possibly be upset about losing the paid services of a black man who was routinely employee of the month for any reason other than that he feels he owns not just a sports franchise, but the men who work for it. Or to be specific, the black men who work for his organization. Most of those black men are paid standard American wages and Dan Gilbert doesn’t know their names, nor would he recognize them if they stood before him. But in regards to the tallest of them who get to dress super casually at work and are paid obscene amounts of money since they're who the paying public comes to see, surely they are considered to be slave labor. Why else would Dan dare to get upset when one “escapes”? Apparently the good reverend believes if LeBron happened to be white but otherwise possessed the same skill set and sparkling personality, Mr. Gilbert would be happily throwing him a farewell and thanks for the memories party rather than typing up a manifesto of indignation.


Anyone who knows anything about slavery knows that Jackson's comparison could not be further from the truth, knows that it greatly diminishes the tremendous crippling impact of perhaps the most awful event ever to take place in the history of our planet. Just as it is buffoonish and demeaning whenever Glenn Beck compares every little thing President Obama does to Hitler and the Holocaust and socialism and so called reverse racism. I trust that I don’t actually need to enumerate the countless differences between a slave and a professional athlete to anyone reading these words, or the differences between a team owner and an owner/torturer of human beings. This should not need to be explained to anyone. Yet not only are the differences apparently not clear at all to Jesse Jackson, but a fair number of people actually nodded in agreement at his accusations. Even those willing to concede he may have gone a tad too far still felt it was not Dan Gilbert’s reaction that was within logical comprehension, but rather, Jesse Jackson’s reaction to that reaction. If you see a white man (particularly a rich, powerful one) get angry at a black man (particularly one employed by the white man), what other explanation could there be for the outrage? Gilbert lost some valuable personal property and it ticked him off, no?


Well, that certainly is one way of looking at it if you feel that a black person and a white one cannot be in disagreement about anything at all without race being the underlying cause. But if you believe that people are driven nuts by other people for innumerable reasons, and that just because people are of different races it doesn’t mean this is the only level upon which they can relate to each other, a different interpretation may be derived. You may conclude, may be capable of concluding, that sometimes a black person is angry at a white one, or a white person is angry at a black one, or the two of them are angry at each other, and neither race nor the atrocity of slavery has anything to do with the matter. If you can ignore the respective skin colors of combatants, if you can remove race as the root cause in such an equation and examine the actual specifics of the situation, then consider yourself a better man or woman than Jesse Jackson (who I just can't get too angry at because of what he’s done on behalf of civil rights, plus his fair resemblance to my dad) just showed himself to be. At the very least you’re probably way nicer to be around when you’re in a cranky mood than Mel Gibson.

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"He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers," the reverend said in a release from his Chicago-based civil rights group, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. "His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave. This is an owner employee relationship — between business partners — and LeBron honored his contract." – Jesse Jackson
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I strongly disagree with Rev. Jesse Jackson's recent comments and we are not going to engage in any related discussion on it. Going forward, we're very excited about the Cavaliers and the positive future of our region.” – Dan Gilbert





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