Separating the Artist(e) from his Art

Just a few hours after I wondered out loud (via twitter) what had happened to @cucumberjuice, she sent up a smoke signal via her latest blog post. In her heartfelt, sincere letter to Jamaican dancehall luminary Bounty Killer, she struggled to reconcile his badman persona with his self-proclaimed role as the poor people’s governor and his inexplicable addiction to battering females :-/

I don’t fancy myself a Bounty Killer fan, never have been. I remember the early 90’s when everybody in Jamaica was taking sides between Bounty and Beenie Man. At that time, I was busy listening to Whitney Houston & Celine Dion (don’t act like you don’t know all the words to It’s All Coming Back to Me Now !) But if pressed, I would have picked Beenie. Why? In retrospect, it was probably because Bounty always seemed like a very angry man. So when he announced his ‘Cross, Angry, Miserable‘ catchphrase in the mid-00’s, it was very fitting. (Pause: Are we about to start a new decade? Wasn’t the Y2K scare just yesterday?!) But I have no problem admitting that he is unmatched in his ability to deliver socially conscious messages over dancehall beats, so there are several songs in his arsenal that I consider classic and do in fact, love. (See: Look, Anytime, Fed Up).

Now despite the well-known juxtaposition between Rodney – the son who loves his mother, and Killer – the artiste well known for his domestic violence; I was still surprised to hear that he [allegedly] attacked one of his concubines girlfriends with a hammer and mosquito zapper 0_o . I was shocked for two reasons:

1. A mosquito zapper!!! Who the heck attacks someone with a mosquito zapper?
2. Just months ago he was facing charges for attacking his then partner, and one would think he would wait a while before resuming his usual ways.

That being said, unlike my twitren @cucumberjuice, I felt largely unaffected by this. I keep up with entertainment news as much as the rest of my generation but I’m one of the few that was unmoved when Michael Jackson died and never saw the need to engage in extended discourse over the Chris Brown and Rihanna debacle. While music is universally acknowledged as a way to express and evaluate our emotions, if we don’t separate our feelings for the art from those we have for the artist, we’ll never be able to listen to anything. I don’t mean to exonerate artists from all culpability for their actions, but with all the craziness going on in Hollyweird, I’ve given up on holding artists to anything more than the most base moral standard.

I came to that conclusion once R. Kelly’s golden showers w/ the kiddies came to light. R. Kelly remains one of the most prolific songwriter/producers of my generation (MJ’s You Are Not Alone, Whitney’s I Look to You, Toni Braxton’s I Don’t Want To, Ruben Studdard’s I Need an Angel, not to mention his own catalogue of hits). When that story broke, I had friends who vowed never to listen to R. Kelly again. My thought process was quite different: Why should I lose the pleasure of listening to good music because the musician is crazy (or corrupt … or criminal?)

I also pondered the double standard when the clarion calls were sounded to boycott Chris Brown. You mean to tell me all y’all really believed MJ was innocent? O_0 Or did people not care because he was the King of Pop? Hmmm…

Anyway, the only way for me to enjoy music (and by the same standard: films, books, plays, art etc.) is to separate the artist from the art. Until next time, I’mma Run it and Beat It cuz I Believe I Can Fly, even though I’m a Sufferer! 🙂

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Funny of the day

NYU Business School Professor Has Mastered The Art Of Email Flaming

A student at NYU’s Stern School of Business sent a complaint email to a hard-headed professor about his class’s lateness policy. The professor emailed back, eviscerated the student David Mamet-style, and now it’s gone viral. Welcome to internet immorality.

Professor Scott Galloway — founder of redenvelope.com — has a reputation for being a self-important “jackass” and appears to have adopted the phrase “get your shit together” as his personal carpe diem. He was also on the New York Times board of directors before resigning last week. He also has a little William Wallace in him.

Regardless, I’m quite impressed with his craftsmanship in taking this budding, entitled entrepreneur down a few notches. I emailed Galloway for comment, but he’s a little confused about “what email you’re referring to.” So I get the sense that he’s done this sort of thing before. According to one friend-of-a-friend of an NYU student who received the email, Galloway initiated the forwarding: “To give a little background, Scott Galloway is a professor at NYU Stern School of Business. He was also the founder of RedEnvelope.com. He teaches a Brand Management class at the school. Anyway, the student below sent him an e-mail to which Prof. Galloway responded. Galloway then proceeded to send it to his TA and instructed him to XXXX out the student’s name and then forward it to the rest of the class. The e-mail now appears to be making the rounds.”

Galloway has yet to confirm if he sent it to his TA who then forwarded it to his class. Either way, enjoy the BOOM BITCH-iness of this thing in its proper context. It has a very “Always Wear Sunscreen”-type appeal to it, if you choose to forget that Professor Galloway might be kind of a dick .

Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 7:15:11 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Brand Strategy Feedback

Prof. Galloway,

I would like to discuss a matter with you that bothered me. Yesterday evening I entered your 6pm Brand Strategy class approximately 1 hour late. As I entered the room, you quickly dismissed me, saying that I would need to leave and come back to the next class. After speaking with several students who are taking your class, they explained that you have a policy stating that students who arrive more than 15 minutes late will not be admitted to class.

As of yesterday evening, I was interested in three different Monday night classes that all occurred simultaneously. In order to decide which class to select, my plan for the evening was to sample all three and see which one I like most. Since I had never taken your class, I was unaware of your class policy. I was disappointed that you dismissed me from class considering (1) there is no way I could have been aware of your policy and (2) considering that it was the first day of evening classes and I arrived 1 hour late (not a few minutes), it was more probable that my tardiness was due to my desire to sample different classes rather than sheer complacency.

I have already registered for another class but I just wanted to be open and provide my opinion on the matter.

Regards,
xxxx


xxxx
MBA 2010 Candidate
NYU Stern School of Business
xxxx.nyu.edu
xxx-xxx-xxxx

The Reply:

—— Forwarded Message ——-
From: scott@stern.nyu.edu
To: “xxxx”
Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 9:34:02 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Re: Brand Strategy Feedback

xxxx:

Thanks for the feedback. I, too, would like to offer some feedback.

Just so I’ve got this straight…you started in one class, left 15-20 minutes into it (stood up, walked out mid-lecture), went to another class (walked in 20 minutes late), left that class (again, presumably, in the middle of the lecture), and then came to my class. At that point (walking in an hour late) I asked you to come to the next class which “bothered” you.

Correct?

You state that, having not taken my class, it would be impossible to know our policy of not allowing people to walk in an hour late. Most risk analysis offers that in the face of substantial uncertainty, you opt for the more conservative path or hedge your bet (e.g., do not show up an hour late until you know the professor has an explicit policy for tolerating disrespectful behavior, check with the TA before class, etc.). I hope the lottery winner that is your recently crowned Monday evening Professor is teaching Judgement and Decision Making or Critical Thinking.

In addition, your logic effectively means you cannot be held accountable for any code of conduct before taking a class. For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow’s business leaders.

xxxx, let me be more serious for a moment. I do not know you, will not know you and have no real affinity or animosity for you. You are an anonymous student who is now regretting the send button on his laptop. It’s with this context I hope you register pause…REAL pause xxxx and take to heart what I am about to tell you:

xxxx, get your shit together.

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance…these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility…these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential which, by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades. It’s not too late xxxx…

Again, thanks for the feedback.

Professor Galloway

Seen over at Deadspin

Rising Above Mediocrity

We’re finally getting to do something, we’ve been denied the right to DO SOMETHING, to have anything for so long that we’re all so happy that somebody’s finally doing something. There was a time to celebrate that but now is the time to step up and say, okay you’re doing something, now do it BETTER – Mychal Smith on HBO’s ‘The Black List’ 2009

Belle over at A Belle in Brooklyn tweeted about HBO’s ‘The Black List’ a couple times and it got me interested in the series. So I went to Youtube (where else?) to find out what exactly this show is about. After combing through several posts including Chris Rock’s insightful take on the black experience and the video that made me realize Slash was black!!!, I came to the one that includes the quote above.

I don’t know who Mychal Smith is, but he hit the nail on the head with how I feel about many of the people I encounter on a daily basis, even about the attitude of entitlement that I see slowly trying to leech itself onto my soul sometimes. I read Belle’s post asking who we’re inspired by and it’s sad that in 2010, most black kids still have to say Marcus, Martin, Malcolm or Mandela…throw in Oprah and the Obamas and your momma and that’s pretty much it. We have such a ‘crab in a barrel’ mentality as people that we fight to keep each other down rather than build each other up. And the FEW of us that reach out and try to do something great are often lauded for mediocrity rather than pushed towards perfection.

For example, I read an article the other day where a popular entertainer was being praised for taking care of his daughter. Come again? We are now at the stage where we have to be grateful when a black man takes care of his child? Well give me an award for breathing! Or my Jamaicans can relate to the mothers in the ghetto who spend thousands they don’t have to get dressed for graduations in May then can’t buy books for the child to start a new school in September. Why are we paying for excessive graduation gifts like these kids have any other job but to do well in school? I’m not saying people should not be applauded for good work but we need to get our priorities in order.

We could blame any number of sources for our inability to DO BETTER…media, slavery, post-colonialism, the dangerous facade of a post-racial culture …bleh. The problems were always there. The problems will always be there. Why does it feel like my generation has failed to meet them the way our forefathers did? Maybe I’m just having a bad night but I look around and I don’t feel inspired by anyone alive really. There are some wonderful people around; people who are doing great things but I cannot tell the last time I’ve been truly inspired by someone. When’s the last time you looked at someone that made you think ‘I wanna be like him/her some day’? No, your mom/dad/family member doesn’t count. It hasn’t been that recent for me. (Can’t lie, I wanted to be Oprah when I was little though).

So why aren’t there more positive examples in our community? Because somewhere along the line we failed as a people. I didn’t mentor enough kids from my neighborhood, our parents didn’t stress the importance of community because they were so busy just trying to make it, you didn’t counsel the young’ns you left behind in undergrad how to deal with being an even smaller minority in grad school :-/ It’s time for us to stop looking to be inspired and start inspiring our own selves. I’m tired of hearing about the same people every Black History Month. We keep reviving ghosts of Black culture past, trying to make the struggle of the 60’s relevant to a present generation, but they see none of this fight in us…we don’t see it in ourselves. And so they say, “n*gga isn’t a bad word to use in 2010”, and “we’re living in post-racial America” and the lives we lead validate these untruths.

When I look around, I see my generation doing a whole lot of nothing…settling for less than what’s best and that unsettles me. We forget that every time we win or lose, it’s not just for us. We’ve got a whole legacy to keep building on and toddlers coming behind us who need us to be our best so their paths can be easier. So who’s my inspiration? Today, I am inspired by those who have none. Those who look around their communities and see no black doctors, lawyers, engineers or professors; those who believe that because they were born poor they have to die poor; those who can’t see past their block to the wider world that’s there’s for the taking. Those are the people that need us to succeed. ‘Us’ being the fortunate ones who are rising above our circumstances. We’re getting our degrees and our 6 figure jobs and making mom and pops proud but if we don’t help others to come up then what are we really doing? That’s why mentorship is so important to me. It’s important for us to tell these inner city kids that they CAN DO BETTER, even when their relatives, teachers, friends and even parents tell them otherwise.

Instead of re-hashing the same stories this BHM, maybe we can go out and MAKE history.

– Trying to stay inspired,
D

Song of the Day: Fiona Apple – Why try to change me now?

I’m sentimental
So I walk in the rain
I’ve got some habits
That I can’t explain
Could start for the corner
Turn up in Spain
Why try to change me now

I sit and daydream
I’ve got daydreams galore
Cigarette ashes
There they go on the floor
I go away weekends
And leave my keys in the door
But why try to change me now

Why can’t I be more conventional
People talk
People stare
So I try
But that’s not for me
Cause I can’t see
My kind of crazy world
Go passing me by

So let people wonder
Let ’em laugh
Let ’em frown
You know I’ll love you
Till the moon’s upside down
Don’t you remember
I was always your clown
Why try to change me now

Don’t you remember
I was always your clown
Why try to change me
Why try to change me now

~Frank Sinatra original~

Living life on the hamster wheel

In a recent fit of over-analysis, I realized that most of us live a scripted life. From our childhood we are forced to go to school. We spend 2-3 decades of our life in school so we can prepare to get a respectable job. At no point did anyone ask me if I ever actually wanted to be educated or have a job for that matter. Honestly, how many of us would be pursuing degrees and careers if we felt that we didn’t have to? How many of us would have picked a more ‘fun’ discipline that medicine or law if we hadn’t been programmed all our lives that this is what we should do?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed many aspects of my education schooling.  Most of the highlights of my life are linked to extracurricular activities, community service or leadership positions all connected to school. I LOVED my elementary and high school days. But as I find myself surrounded by law students who generally hate law school and converse with my friends in other grad programs who generally dislike those programs as well, I wonder how many of us made the decision to pursue graduate school or even undergraduate studies because of freewill as opposed to societal programming.

I love the feeling of being educated. I love spending hours on end talking about politics, society, sports, history…  and the list goes on. I’m a sucker for intellectual discourse (natural result of having a mom who’s a teacher). And while I look forward to a fulfilling career in the law, I  prefer reading Zadie Smith and Jamaica Kincaid to any Scalia opinion. For those of us who’ve spent our whole lives in school, it seems that we have been on society’s hamster wheel for an eternity. In retrospect, it can seem like my entire life has been a means to an end: Go to kindergarten, so I can go to elementary/primary school, so I can go to high school, so I can go to college, so I can go to law school, so I can get a job, so I can finally start living at 25? Pretty bleak existence if you look at it that way.

The only way to dig oneself out of the drudgery is to make every day count. Our day to to day living has to be about more than just completing the to-do list and making steps towards “the goal”. Everyday we’ve got to do something that we want to do just for ourselves [which ideally aligns with the plan God has for us].  I know the conventional wisdom is that “you do what you have to do now so you can do what you want to do later” but the reality is that some us will NEVER get to where we want to be.

PAUSE. Take that in.

So if you never get to where you’ve always wanted to be, if it turns out that you’re not meant to be or do what you thought you were, would your entire life thus far have been wasted? If so, it’s time to make each day worth living. We all may be hamsters, but we can at least get off the wheel sometimes…

Jamaican girl, gone global.