Thursday, June 29, 2006

Review of my book: Big Black Penis

Things We Don’t
By Listen & Be Heard
by kara hartz

In the book Big Black Penis: Misadventures in Race and Masculinity, Shawn Taylor manages to analyze a variety of serious social issues with due respect, yet infuses them with humor at every turn. The combination produces a hysterical and entertaining read that also leaves thought provoking ideas behind.

Primarily using examples from his own life to make his arguments, Shawn shares glimpses of his childhood through the present with blunt honesty. Very few happy moments are discussed, yet there is no room for pity in his scathing self-evaluation. Neither does he make apologies for his behavior, or opinions. He shares his past openly to explore how we all should evaluate our own behavior and motives. He is so often the butt of his own jokes that he becomes endearing, and any flaws of character he is brave enough to display become just another part of the big picture as the book flows on. With no lack of theories about his own experiences, the behavior of others, and of society, he stops short of passing judgment in most cases. All that remains is to follow the arguments, and laugh through the telling. While using such personal and specific events from his own life for the basis of his comments, there is a tendency to over generalize these hypotheses. However, pushing the borders seems to be just another way of forcing the reader to think. This book does not shy away from strong opinion, and gives the impression of welcoming disagreement. So committed to increasing thought and awareness, Taylor goes so far as to offer his e-mail address in a post-script, inviting those with questions or opposing opinions to contact him.

If the title doesn’t make it clear: this book is not for the easily offended. Full of very harsh language and raw theories, it covers subjects like fatherhood, poverty, crime, sexuality, and race. Theories are presented for how all of this, and more, contributes to self-image, the image society creates for us, and the way we see others. There is no attempt to soften either the comedic elements or the harsh tales of life growing up poor, fatherless, and confused. The well woven humor takes some of the sting away from the constant tragedy, yet it is the sort of humor that manages to strike a tender nerve from time to time. Big Black Penis reads a bit like a roller coaster ride, moving quickly from laugh-out-loud wit, to insights and sometimes uncomfortable observations.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Blade: The not too bad TV Series

And the swag has started to arrive. Now granted, it’s the blade T.V. show, but you know, it’s not a bad start at all. This thing is totally better than Blade 3. They made a Marc spector reference, you know Moon knight. Somebody behind the show is an obvious comic fan. I’m telling you, we’re everywhere these days. Underground. But back to Blade.

Set design makes it look like M.A.N.T.I.S. from the nineties. Sticky Fingaz plays Blade and he does have the voice but moves don’t match Wesley’s at all. Luckily he does have the attitude. The girl’s not hot. Sorry, but crazy ass hardcore white chicks are my least favorite trope. Like the bimbette from Blade three listening to her IPod as she shot bows and arrows in a combat situation. I know it’s a comic book movie but you gotta have some bases in reality. I mean come on!

Ok but the bad ass part of the whole show is that we get more vampire culture. They spent time thinking about what vampire culture would be, and as I’ve written before, that can be a total analogy for black identities as well as any other “subculture”. It also seems to be a trademark of Black geekhood. It’s also what made the first two blade movies ‘Hot like fia!’ Ok that and mother fuckers just throwing people around. That’s cute as well. Oh yeah and Blade be killing fools. I’m saying though, Aside from Wolverine (Who is really black by the way. I mean how can you be that angry about shit and not be just a little black? Like maybe if mom ws an octoroon or something :) what other superheroes are allowed to running around slicing fools throats with daggers and shit?

Funny Balde story. I was at the videostore in my pre Netflix, pre DVR phase and I saw this black man picking up a copy of Blade 2. I was hella on the casual “That’s a tight movie man.” Homie came back giving mad love on how deep Blade was. So I dropped about half of my previous post about how Blade is an allegory for the mixed race child and he started going off on how his Blatino kid was all about Blade and got in trouble at school for trying to stake all the Latino vampires. Times like that, I just love being a black geek.

I mean to me Blade was sort of the Lyfe Jennings of this whole black superhero thing (Yo, If I was better at HTML I’d be linking “I’m a stick up kid” to that last sentence but for now, just start humming in a soul tone “I be robbing these niggas”) He doesn’t just kill vampires, he straight jacks their chains and watches and wallets. I mean is he a super-hero or an extra on “The Wire”? That’s the best part of the character to me, and its been preserved on the T.V show. So yeah, if I have any say over what you TIVO, I say give Blade the tv show a shot.

Oh yeah…

I’m a moron. You know what black Emo is? I’ll tell you. It’s the Blues! Its Son house and Charlie Patton, and Howling Wolf, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. It’s deep and dirty black men who ain’t got no money and even less control over themselves after a few drinks talking about how their women do them wrong all the time. Now if only I can get some electroshit behind those old Alan Lomax recordings. That’s what I’d pay money to hear, The Alan Lomax Prison recordings remixed by fools like King Britt, Dj Spooky, and Dr. Israel. Shit, Let me hook up my tracks right now and see what I can pull off.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mixed race archetypes in Black sci-fi

Here's a little of the old academic blah blah I laid down some five years ago. Fuckers still ain't matching this, making it still relevant. Write in if you want to see more. Yo Shawn of the dead, Let's swtich this over to some web based shit. I'm learning Flash. I got ideas!

Much of this essay may seem like conspiracy theory if one does not take into account that racial purity is a myth. By myth I do not mean a fallacy but rather a truth that gains its power more from its communally agreed upon definition than any empirical evidence. A simple thought exercise of
defining the characteristics of Whiteness and Blackness will reveal the
mythic value of racial categories when such an exercise is directed towards the "Mixed race individual". Just as the Bi-sexual or, in a more embodied sense, the transsexual, distorts the fictive God given privileges of male superiority, so too does the Mixed race individual shatter our essentialized notions of race.
This is a very disconcerting process for most people. The race politicians
of the United States have long ignored the concept of the Mixed Race
individual when it comes to black and White relations. Luckily the science
fiction/horror genre has not. The notion of the cyborg has long been a
receptacle for the questions that arise from identity formation "Who am I?"
"Which 'parent' shall I remain true to?" Mary Shelly's Frankenstein
classically displays the central dilemma to most cyborg drama, To whom does
one show their loyalty? The human side, or the Technological side". The
basis of such a binary way of thinking is generated from a place of fear
about mixity in any form. We see this played out with the Character data,
from Star trek whose lifelong goal is to experience human emotions, no
matter what the cost. We see this also in the terminator movies. Though
cloaked in human skin, the Terminator, the bad cyborg, has no allegiance to
humanity in the first movie. It is only through the aid of a human boy in
the second movie that he is able to experience emotions. The underlying
assumption in both these works is a threat to humanity either via a lack of
empathy or through outright war. It should also be pointed out that the
humanity merged with the technological concept is a white humanity. Note
the fear of a lack of empathy towards the human race by the technological
"other". Though many situate such phobia to a fear of technology, I would
challenge that assumption and assert in its stead, a fundamental "White"
fear of not being accepted by those whoa re subjugated.
The notion of inter-species breeding shares similarities with technological
"cross breeding" in that it represents fundamental dangers to the notion of
"Humanity" as presented in the Sci-fi horror genre. While some authors of
color have challenged such constructions of the Other interfacing with
"Humanity", Nalo Hopkinson, Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Cinematic sci-fi and horror still use such fears as a fundamental launching point for many tales. The Alien series, in many ways, can be viewed as a warning against the dangers of interbreeding with the unknown. My location as a black male allows me to see some of the radicalized dynamics of this interplay between interbreeding and Sex. The Movie Blade also speaks volumes about the dangers and privileges of Mixity. The fact that such a project is presented on the black body of Wesley Snipes allows for a race conscious analysis that reveals dominant cultures views towards the subject of the mixed race individual.
Beginning with Alien, it should be noted that there has never been a black
person, "infected" by an Alien in any of the films. This is of relevance
due to the hostile nature in which the Alien removes itself from its host.
Basically, it presents itself as the inappropriate phallus. The host body
contorts, screams, bleeds, and cries in pain. The Alien then pushes itself
out of the chest of the Host with its rounded head and sharp teeth. The
host is killed and in the first movie, the Alien runs away to grow into
something bigger, deadlier, and Blacker.
It has been argued by those more academically inclined than myself that the
construction of the Other in the United States will always be radicalized in
some way. I believe this to be true as well. I find it hard to find
evidence of a popular cultural other that does not have a racial element
attached to it. Johnny 5, of Short Circuit had the "Ethnic voice" of the
model minority, Mongolian culture has played a strong role in the creation of the Klingon race in the Star Trek series, and the lichpin for the famous Bar scene in the first star wars movie was the mélange of different
languages, dress, foods and drinks, available. Taking this theory as a
hypothesis, then the question arises, what is the radicalized dynamic of the
Alien films.
The first element, which I find worthy of mention is that the host body, the
white body, never survives the experience. The alien, darker than its host,
more aggressive and more hostile to life in general, kills its "Parent" upon
birth. What's more, the child is a product of rape. The alien Breeding
cycle works in such a way that in order to be infested; the first parent
attaches itself to the host face and shoves a tube down the White person's
throat. The white person is the only unwilling agent in the entire birthing
process. And this is a source of fear.
The Alien, designed by H.R Giger, should also be recognized as a sexual
entity. Commencing its life as a Phallus, the alien goes on to develop a
mouth within a mouth that ejaculates into its victims in order to slay them.
The Alien also has a sharp, long pointy tail, which at times is used to wrap
seductively around its victim's legs to entrap them into unknown fates worst
than death (read: rape). These Sexual motifs are not merely the product of
my Black gaze. A sexual motif surrounds the entire film. When the Synthoid in the movie attacks Ripley, the main white woman character, he takes a rolled up pornographic magazine and attempts to symbolically rape her by
shoving it down her throat. As the scene progresses one can see
pornographic videotape lying behind Ripley's head. Even the Robots death is
filled sexual imagery. When the only Black male character in the first
movie, played by Yaphet Koto attacks the Synthoid by literally knocking its head off, a fountain of white Semen like liquid ejaculates form the head
leaving a spent limp Synthoid in its wake. How Yaphet Koto's character dies in the movie should also be taken into account. He is one of the last
survivors and he actually has an opportunity to slay the Alien, if not for
the White woman with him who is too scared by the Giant Alien Phallus to move out of his way to fire. In more base terms, the Alien was
cock-blocking Yaphet Koto the only black man on the Ship and the only one who had many any sexual comments before the threat began to unfold.
These constructed images should not be glossed over in the name of
entertainment but rather examined crucially from a racial standpoint. It
seems that the entire subject of the first Alien movie is about a fear of a
Giant Phallus and the tension that it creates. Conscious or not, the movie
projects certain fears about sexuality, "Interbreeding", and by extension,
race. Blackness, as both a color and a signifier has been fetishized.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Best Expression

Hey Folkers,

Looking for some serious feedback on this one.

The question is: Who do you think is/was the most well-rounded (fully realized) Black character in any medium, whether it be film, video games, role-playing games, comic books, television, etc? Let’s keep it to the realms of science fiction, horror, fantasy, etc.

Off the top of my head, I'd have to say Captain Benjamin Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

My top five points that bolster my position:

1. He was a leader (even though it was the only Trek series that started the lead out as a commander). He was good to his people, but pushed them and held them accountable.

2. He had a love life with Captain Cassidy Yates. While you didn't actually see them, it was more than heavily implied.

3. He had a decent home life, but the whole alien planting seeds so that he could became the Emissary was a bit much. He was a loving father and doting son. And, as seen in flashback, a decent husband.

4. He came out his "negro bag" every so often and got ill on folks. The way that he stepped to Capt. Picard in the first episode was sort of nasty. He put that bass in his voice and Picard had to...reflect.

5. He adhered to elements of his Black heritage. There were Shona stone sculptures in his quarters, he made gumbo, he wore African-inspired clothing and the most amazing thing--to my knowledge--he never went off with a white girl.

This isn't to say that I'm against trans-racial/cultural relationships, but the character did not have to legitimize himself by falling in love with a Caucasian woman.

Please contest this because if this is the most well-rounded/fully realized character in genre entertainment, we're in trouble.

Shawn Taylor

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Uncle Tom's apartment

Support the folks ya'll

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


As I'm prepping for my write-up on Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, my brother from another mother calls me and lets me know I've posted the wrong e-mail. If you've tried to e-mail me sorry. The correct e-mail is Sorry for the screw up.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Black Emo

Black Emo

So I’m working on this mix for a homie, lover, friend of that straight up emotional no bullshit I’m feeling like crap on a cracker type shit. I’m talking about 70’s British gay boys killing themselves, and Patron Saints of empty promises and bottles. You know, that shit that white boys be killing. I got a friend that only listens to whiny white boys with guitars and I admit to being a sometimes aficionado. I mean I’m still searching out all those Van Morrison tracks that sound like “It stoned me”. I think there’s something to be learned from these whiny white boys. It’s like they have totally lost the notion of giving a fuck. Not in that screw society way, but more like they’re not caring what people think about them. They’re the kids that skin their knees on the playground and instead of laughing it off, or at least having the common deny to go into the bathroom to hide their pain, they howl for hours on end I the middle of the playground of popular culture going “Look, I’m in fucking pain! Help me!”

Anyway, so I’m working on this mix and I just have to go to those uncomfortable places and I ask “Where is the black Emo music?” Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the Incredible Moses Leroy, and that Cee-Lo Danger Mouse “Crazy” shit is off the chain, though for those of you that have only heard the single, you need to be hitting up the cd. “Just a thought” is really what motivated this post. I’m asking about a cultural space of black emoticons that don’t worry about being savvy. True, we have soul. But one thing I both love and hate about soul, neo-soul, classic soul, whatever the fuck has the soul moniker on it, is its refinement. I don’t trust the spell checked love letter, but that might just be me. Sometimes I like hearing the rough edges between the instrument and the singers voice. Like that Lauryn Hill unplugged album. I mean if the sun is shining and I’m happy, then there is no way I’m putting that album on. But if I’ve got a cold, just came home from work, and just realized a baby could’ve born since the last time I got some play, then that album is exactly what I need. I know it kind of sounds like a diss, but its not, really. I’m not afraid to admit I’ve got a range of emotions, and sometimes I’m depressed as all hell and need music that corresponds to that. If it can come from black people then I feel a little less alone. I mean for real are love and lost the only emotions we get to sing about? Seems like the black soul got pigeon holed into a Freudian bowl filled with Thanatos and Eros, gotta be more than what the Euros are putting out, ya feel me? Sorry had to go to rhyme for a second.

So I’m looking for black Emo Music. That unstylized, uncomfortable musical non-genre generated by those of negrodial descent that laments itself. Give a link and you’ll get a thanks. You want a cd, send an e-mail to and I’ll send you an address. In return you’ll get a gang of our lovely stickers. More soon

P.S. Here’s what made it to the Emo cd

1.Cypress ave.- Van Morrison

2. I don’t think I’ll ever get over you- Colin Hay

3. Mad World- Jules verne (I know that’s not his name but I don’t feel like looking it up)

4. Nobody’s fault but mine-Nina Simone

5.Driving (Acoustic mix)-Everything but the girl

6. Rags and old iron-Nina Simone

7. Country robot/letter to Dorothy-Incredible Moses Leroy

8. Just a thought-Gnarles barkley

9. Things behind the sun- Nick Drake

10. Maybe Not-Cat Power

11. Song cry-Jay-z and the roots

12. The Chain-Fleetwood mac

13 Christmas card from a hooker in Minneapolis-Tom Waits

14. Trouble Me-10000 maniacs

15. Girls room-Liz Phair

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I'm not a Christian but...

Son of Man is one of the dopest movies I've seen in the past five years. With a Master’s in Divinity I'm usually pretty critical of Gospel stories. They usually lack the political edge that makes the historical Jesus a compelling character for me. The idea of wearing the crucifix, for example, comes from the Zealots who wished to be martyred as a political protest against roman occupation. They also went around with short daggers stabbing collaborators who stood in crowds. Think OZ. You’re not going to find references like that in The last temptation of Christ or that Mel Gibson horror flick (remind me to blog about seeing that with a predominantly black audience. Talk about crowd participation)

Son of Man puts Jesus into a modern political African environment. Yeah, re-read that last sentence so that it seeps in. Black Jesus? Big deal. Black political Jesus? Shoot the negro! Being filmed in South Africa and using theatrically trained actors, what you get is a visually arresting sonically soothing mélange of entertainment and motivation. You know how good art is supposed to prompt you to make your own art? I walked out of the flick angry that my novel isn’t done. Angry I say.

Brief note about the costuming seeing as to how every place else you look to read about this film will talk about the singing and a black Jesus, both of which I appreciate. But you know how people say things like “Men are the new women” and “Pink is the new black?” Well I never understood the former statement until I started working out and saw us, as men groom ourselves like petite ponies, mostly for the affection of women. But I was stuck on the Pink being the New Black thing until I saw the devil in “The son of Man” strutting through some sand dunes carrying a walking stick that had a fawn’s leg as a handle, sporting a long black coat, black baggy pants and, you guessed it, a pink shirt. Pink is the new black. Got it. The other costuming choice that I loved had to do with the special effects in the movie. There were none. Jesus casting demons out of a little girl was done solely through the acting of the girl and Jesus and one of several murals done throughout the township done to accentuate the miracles of the Big J. So how do you have angels with no special effects? Simple, paste some feathers on little African kids and have them all speak in unison. Have a two chord audio cue whenever they come on camera and, oh yeah, believe that little African children can be angels. It did my heart good to see African children portrayed not as Romanized romantic cherubs, but as African angels, big bellies, angry eyes, knobby knees, the whole nine.

The San Francisco Black film festival is still going on, so if you’re in the bay you to no excuse not to check this flick out. Honestly, I don’t see it getting major distribution. It religious, political, and black. America ain’t ready ya’ll. But if you get the chance, peep it. I’m off to be the new woman.

Oh yeah, And Mary ain’t no joke in the flick.

That’s actually two sixs and a nine

Stolen from one of the funniest men ever to grace God’s green earth, Bill Hicks. In this case its applied to the new Omen. For real, it was cool as all hell. But the hell with Liev Schreiber, Mia Farrow stole the show. I don’t even understand how she could’ve been in all those Woody Allen flicks and never given such a performance. If you like scary that’s the flick. Ok, but how come in the preview I had to sit through the longest freaking ad for “The devil wears Prada”? Like I give a fuck? To be real, I went to the movies to see crazy white people trying to kill a crazy white child, not crazy fashion bitches at each other’s throats. I mean come on.

Anyway, off to check out Son of Man at the San Francisco Black Film Festival. Of course inbetween both films I’ve come home, turned on the T.V to see All in the family. It’s one of my favorite episodes, when Archie is in Blackface for the birth of the grandchild. Its hilarious, in that “Oh my God this shit was still going on in 1975” type way. Then, of course, we had White chicks going on in 2004 so what do I know?