Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Captain Falcon could SKOOL Ronnie

Oh Video Game Music Remixes, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

I cannot tell you just how much of my playlist has been culled from this site...

Still, what I CAN tell you, is that this is probably the best Big Blue remix (from F-Zero) that I have ever heard, and it is not even on OCRemix! All hail DJ PLaYuHh! Now if I can just figure out a way to download it...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Read this message!

From my dude Keguro (that might be presumptuous, but whatever). Talks about Gay Marriage legislation in Kenya.

Yeah, 'Africa' has a myriad of problems, but so do a lot of other places. There is also a lot of hot stuff going on in a lot of countries that too many people do not know about, and even more importantly, are not invested in (for the love of GOD invest in various telecoms firms, like, right now because that stuff is gonna grow for a while). Basically I think the Afropessimism that a lot of people feel towards the continent is unwarranted and even destructive.

Having said that, one of the most painful issues to deal with is gay/homosexual/queer rights in many of the countries (not that the United States has got its crap together in this regard either, mind you). Keguro and his peeps have far better explanations than I can offer on this stuff, so I urge you to check it out and hopefully figure out a way to extend citizenship to a really marginalized group (out of many to be sure).

The Blackademy and its Discontents

First, I would like to thank the good people at Postbourgie for offering me this space to spout out my crazy ideas. Thank you all so much, especially G.D.

I recently was offered a chance to elaborate on my loathing of “the black academic left”, which, I am sure, is a strange position considering the overall tenor of this blog. I was both honored and delighted at the proposition, giving me a chance to crystallize my ideas and also present them to a knowledgeable audience.

I traffic in words, so let me shorten the black academic left to “blackademy”. my use of the phrase “blackademy” is basically a stand-in for well known black leftist intellectuals. I am making sweeping generalizations using a very limited sample-size, so make of that what you will. Perhaps even more damning is that I am coming from a very anti-essentialist/pseudo-post modern position (think Kwame Anthony Appiah, who is my dude). If that sort of stuff is not your bag then you may want to stop reading right here.

Let me begin by stating unequivocally that, while I personally cannot stand the blackademy, this is not because they are some sort of barrier to racial progress or reconciliation. I am not hearkening back to halcyon days when black people and white people had small misunderstandings that they were working through, until Black Studies departments started cropping up in the 1960s and made those Negroes so damn angry and screwed everything up. To quote myself (how arrogant!) in another discussion on the Chronicle of Higher Education: “…Breitbart’s belief that Black Studies Departments hold inordinate power over the mythical, singular Black Community is insane. What, there are crowds outside of bookstores in Detroit lining up to buy the latest work by Dyson and do his bidding? Everyone in Baltimore or DC has a well-thumbed copy of Race Matters by West?... Dyson is not sitting in Georgetown coiling his mustache, stroking his cat, and telling a whole lot of black people what to do.” Rather my own position comes from being force-fed to read and deal with many of the stars of the blackademy and not really being able to discuss my disagreements and frustrations with my peers. In the grand scheme of things, I find the prison-industrial complex enraging, nonwhite educational inequalities unacceptable, etc, while Michael Eric Dyson is simply very annoying. Hell I like a lot of the blackademy’s positions on gender and sexuality, so they are not all bad.

I have a lot of salt to throw at these people, including points that would draw much of the Postbourgie readership in a massive argument (my belief in salvaging the idea of colorblind-ness being but one example… and yes, I have read a lot on it, including Bonilla-Silva’s stuff which was good, I just do not agree with it). Instead of throwing a truckload of salt, I am going to split this piece into an attack on these people’s identities and then an attack on their conceptual methods. I think that we all want to live in a meritocratic society that allows everyone both dignity and fulfillment, so it is the means by which the disagreement comes into play.

What a long-ass preamble. In any case, here is the meat: My first complaint of the blackademy is their fixation on scholar/activism. Not content to be ‘mere’ professors stuck in the ivory tower, they straddle both the tower and the… untower (is that a word) in an attempt to stay grounded in ‘the community’ (i.e. the black community). Or so they claim. This is a position that I really do not buy. The last scholar activist was freaking Walter Rodney (who quit his teaching position in Dar es Salaam because of his frustrations with the Nyere government and his desire to give back to the West Indies, who was banned by the Jamaican government for being too radical, AND was assassinated in Guyana). I think his How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is dead wrong, but it’s a great text that really had a lot of impact on the field of African History and a lot of people still read. On top of that, he designed the book specifically for lay people, put it on cheap paper from a cheap press for a cheap price back in 72, and you CAN GET IT FREE ON MARXISTS.ORG. I wonder if Brother Neal will let us cop New Black Man on his website for free? Or at least sell it new for less than 20 bucks so as many people as possible can read it? If you are working for an American university, especially an elite university, (Princeton, Georgetown, Duke), which is steeped in government money and owes their rapid expansion to the Cold War, you are a shill. What, they are dismantling White Supremacy 20 middle-class undergrads at a time? There are two avenues by which to change anything; mass-mobilization or state power. While the blackademy may tag along for much larger mass-mobilizations, they will never create, lead, or inspire organizations like the NAACP, SNCC, the Nation of Islam, UNIA, etc (and those are just the famous black ones, outside of Jewish groups, womens groups, etc). Nor will they ever get elected for anything (and before saying that politics or the state are too dirty or mired in racial politics, try stepping foot in the academy). When they discuss Malcom and Martin as some of the only avenues for change, they seem to forget Marshall, and because I deal extensively with states and state history, I find this willful amnesia simply mind-boggling. You either get enough people to change the state, or you join the state and change it yourself. None of the books they have produced will ever have the resonance with Up From Slavery, Souls, the Autobiography, etc. Rather they are trafficking in feelings: making black folk feel good and white folk feel bad, while happily taking their money and living quite comfortably. Sure they give speaking tours, volunteer, etc. but they are not willing to give up their class privilege nor do they aim for actual change, only change on their terms. Let’s just call this ‘Negroes on the Porch’ Syndrome (which I use to address the specific racial dynamics in play, I much prefer Crotchety Old Man on the Porch J ): they talk a lot but every afternoon they are on the same damn porch. In order to either assuage their guilt, inflate their egos, or both they always identify as activists. Give me a Fanny Lou or Carl B. over a 1000 Cornel’s.

My second complaint, and final one for the purposes of this essay, comes from the blackademy’s mania for fixed group identity. Race is a social construct (no big surprise) but its effects are all too real (which is again no big surprise). Intellectually I am firmly against ideas that reify race, though when it comes to practical realities I can overlook them (affirmative action, for example). Still, nothing makes me cringe more than when I hear appeals to the royal “We” as black folk, asian folk, whatever folk. I have a small background in 18th and 19th century European intellectual history and the use of language in terms of appealing to racial solidarity, of a singular cultural block, is exactly the same. We invented this, we did that, they stole it, etc. I feel like I am reading Stirner or something. I do not want to imply that the lived experiences of racism will magically go away if we do not see race, but I find the lack of nuance in terms of identity frightening, as well as the total inability to see the end-game of raising racial consciousness. You cannot just turn off racial solidarity, just ask white people. While the blackademy understands issues of class and sex, I actually think they trip up when they discuss race. While they might pay lip-service to its complexities, in practice they both reify and celebrate it.

Of course, ending racism would stop such a need for perpetuating notions of race, which I see as a symptom of the disease of residual (or even current) White Supremecy. Yet once again I do not think the blackademy is committed to ending racism so much as getting rich while others do it for them. If racism is bigotry + (state) power, a variant of the standard definitions I come across, and the blackademy is neither changing bigot’s hearts and minds nor employing the tools of the state, then they are effectively useless. And I loathe them for it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Crazy-Ass Comment of the Day

Paid in Full is the greatest hip-hop album of all time.

Runs and hides.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What was worse?

I just returned from Pan-African Night as part of the African Students Union. Despite starting 15 minutes late and cutting out a performance, everything went swimmingly. Basically it was a big thing connecting the Continent to the Diaspora... something that I am philosophically and intellectually against, but they asked me to be in it, so whatever, principles be damned. When the director said she had a role that she just needed me to do, I was pensive. I knew what she wanted of me: to play a slave-master. With a little rape and whipping to boot. Huzzah. At least the script did not require me to drop any N-bombs. However, while rehearsing, in order to appear more aggressive and in character I completely grabbed the head of my fellow actress without asking her. In short, I broke sacred law #6 of Black Womanhood: Don't touch the hair, cracker! After I realized what I had done, I apologized profusely. How the hell did I forget to ask? My dear reader, what was worse? My (Tony-worthy) portrayal of a slave-master, or screwing with the hair?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Circles 10!!!

Ok, considering the amount of traffic on this blog is negligible, posting an advertisement for a breakdance/hip-hop competition in southwest VA is probably not going to do anything. Having said that, you simply HAVE to know about this:

April 4, 2009
Located in Godwin Gym at JMU

For the 10th year in a row, James Madison University's Breakdance Club will be hosting Circles. Circles has become one of the largest hip-hop charity events on the East Coast. With live DJs, a graffiti expo, MC battles, Bonnie and Clyde battles, and the most anticipated 4 vs. 4 crew battles, Circles strives to represent four of hip-hop cultures major elements.

Brought to you by Scion.

4 vs. 4 Crew Battles
Bonnie & Clyde Battles
Emcee Battles
Graff Expo

Every year ALL proceeds from Circles are donated to charities such as:
Multiple Sclerosis Society
Mercy House
Kids for World Health
and more

Doors will be open to spectators at 3:00 PM
Battles beginning around 4:00 PM
Circles 10 Emcee: A-Class
On the Decks: DP One -- Turntable Anihilists
Special Guest Judges: Puzzles-- Supernaturalz Crew
Abstrak -- Skillmethodz Crew

General Admission: $10.00
Student Admission: $7.00 (Bring any current College, Highschool, ... Student I.D.)
Circles 10 T-Shirt: $13.00
An additional fee of $5 will be charged for entry with a Video Camera.

To Register for Emcee, Crew or Bonnie & Clyde Battles please send an e-mail
to JMU.Circles@gmail.com with the following information:
Crew Name, Area Repping and BBoy/BGirl Names.
MC Name, Real Name, Crew Name and Area Repping.

To sign in for the graff expo, please email Bryan at bryan.ausink@gmail.com. Spaces are limited.

Final Registration Forms must be completed at Circles front desk.
Registered crews will have prefilled form available for them to sign before entering.
Crews who have not completed their Registration Form before 5:00 PM will not be allowed to battle.

Keep checking for updates on our website: orgs.jmu.edu/breakdance

Be sure to youtube Circles 4-9 to look at some of the best 4 on 4 action on the East Coast (why does that not sound kosher?). On top of that, check out some of the footage from our judges:

(Cat in the white on the right, not his best battle but his flow is sick and his crew beats out Hong10, The End, and Physicx)

(Ab on the left)

Show up dammit!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The DEFINITIVE Resident Evil 5 Post

Hide the children! I am finally going to give my many, many cents worth opinions on whether Resident Evil 5 is racist or not... and you should believe me because? Actually, you should not believe me. Not only have I not played the game (because God has, once again, conspired against me to put RE 5 out for the Wii as well as making sure I never have enough money lying around to buy one), but I am not quite an Africanist yet, and until I have that glorious paper degree in my hand all my knowledge counts for nothing. Having said that, allow me to lay out my credentials:

Not just played, but BEAT RE 1,2,4, Code Veronica, as well as kind of watched my friend play RE 0. As for Resident Evil 3 and that rails-shooter... meh. I at least have an associate’s degree in Resident Evilology.

I am, if not yet a West African historian, then someone who knows a whole heckuva lot about West African history, and because as far as perception goes one part of Africa is exactly like every other part, that makes me an expert on continental Africa! Oh, and I know a ton about Pan-Africanism and the Black Atlantic (from Argentina to the United States suckas). And I have read (though not agreed with) a lot of the stuff surrounding "Racism 101" as the Anti-racists like to bandy about. And the intersections between race, class, and gender. And Gramsci, and Foucault.

I am technically a Person of Color (a term I loathe, I prefer to just use 'Nonwhite' but no one will listen to me unless I use that damned PoC). Unfortunately I am straight, male, and able-bodied, but I am sure I have at least one lesbian amputee friend somewhere, so I got that covered!

I have been killing zombies for, like, four decades. I can headshot any shambling undead like picking my nose, and for those fast, feral ones I can find enough makeshift weapons in any mall, abandoned hosue with a basement, et al to slay them to my hearts content. Or at least until my black companion inevitably dies.

Alright, I admit, one of those things is patently false.

So onto the show!

"But wait, anonymous Monkey Steals the Peaches author," you might cry "why are you devoting an entire post to Resident Evil 5?"

Ahh, my dear friends, gather around so that I might tell you a story. First, before you even get into the meat of the matter, you should know a little history of the Resident Evil franchise. Now that you are all presumably squared away, time for the dirt: the first critique came from Black Looks (and please, dear reader, do not comment on Kym's post, this is a dead horse for them and Kym has gotten absolutely flamed by some moronic-ass people for her opinions, which I do not want to inadvertently contribute to), which is a website devoted to a combination of Diasporic Pan-Africanism and Feminism (Womanysm?). While I am not particularly down with their Pan-Africanism, their feminism ain't too bad, and... ok I am digressing. Anyways, a lot of sites picked up on this criticism and this started a... pretty weird and fractious discussion (Yelling match?) on race and gaming. Kym, who had not played the game back in 2007 as it was not even out, was commenting on the trailer. Actually discussions about Resident Evil 5 can be divided between the "game not out" period and "game out" period, with all the really hot stuff in the former. A lot of the comments devolved into accusations and counter accusations, with many gamers incensed at the very notion that games could be considered racist and... anti-racists (or something) telling the gamers that their games are murder simulators and they should check their privelage. There were some good and thoughtful comments to be sure, but man stuff got ugly. Anyhoo there were some later articles that often get quoted in the discussion, and hell there was a Feature in The Escapist that talked about gaming and race, gender, and other stuff. For further proof of the power of Resident Evil 5 to potentially make people write interesting stuff, IGN had two good pieces on it (and IGN is, shall we say, trash so the quality of these articles absolutely shocked me). Why am I not giving you some telling excerpts instead of making you read the whole damn thing? I have no idea how to quote stuff on this blog, my last attempt at it, as evidenced by my previous post, was a dismal failure, and I should probably commit seppuku. Oh, and you should always read the whole damn thing because excerpts tend to be quoted out of context.

Actually, I just gave a pretty good background on not only the franchise but the well-known points surrounding RE 5. Time to call it a day...

Oh wait, now I have to give MY opinion, which is presumably why you, my dear reader, have not stopped reading by now. First off, I cannot tell you if the game is racist or not (and, which is sure to annoy some readers, neither can you tell me) because, if the images in the trailer were offensive to you, then some snarky blogger is probably not going to change your mind. Were the images themselves racist? Possibly. The denial of dark people’s humanity through likening them to primitive and animal-like beings is pretty well established. As Croal says "these images have history". Though, unlike him, I draw the distinction between images possessing history (and, to be honest, a history we choose to remember or forget as it suits us) and images continuing historical evocations. Basically, if Capcom was sitting around watching Birth of a Nation and then thought "man, THIS SHOULD BE A GAME" then I would call it racist immediately. However, near as I can tell, that did not happen. "But" a Critical reader might say "you are obviously ignoring the structural issues surrounding race and racial imagery. Racism is not about personal feelings but about power and privilege." To which I would reply "that is an overdeterministic reading that results in fishing for outrages while at the same time alienating anybody that might listen to you and ultimately not changing anything while you wait around demanding ideological purity." Ok, actually both my mythical Critical reader and I can debate that forever, so lets not go there (Sure to make any Anti-racist reader's head explode: my upcoming post on Colorblind Anti-Racism. I am not kidding, I believe in it, but that is another discussion entirely). However, just because I do not believe RE 5 is racist does not mean it is not, and there should be space for people to critique it (without calling gamers a bunch of teenage white geeks who are closet school-shooters). My main issue with RE 5's depiction of the people of Kijuju (ahh, the fictional African country, although between 'Raccoon City' and the as-of-yet-to-be-determined Hispanophone country that RE 4 took place in, I admire Capcom's consistency) is my problem with RE 4: that they made the zombies keep a lot of their humanity. Ok, RE 4 did not technically have Zombies, but rather whatever-the-hell Capcom demanded us call them, but for all intents and purposes they were zombies. In having the zombies keep their language skills, communication skills, and decent motor skills, you are basically killing 'stupid bad guys' rather than zombies. While RE 4 was trying to have you recognize the echoes of humanity of those you were killing, and hopefully add to the gravitas to the situation (which was summed up in a fairly decent end of game prologue), this is Capcom here so they totally butchered it by having 99% of the game basically revolve around darker-skinned zombies who speak a foreign language rather than dwell on the fact that the village had been taken over by a fairly insidious plot. Delightful. Did I view RE 4 as racist? Well, considering my feelings towards RE 5, you should be happy to guess that no, I did not find it racist. Just ass insensitive. Basically, if you are going to go for smart, fast, talking and look human, you HAVE to make sure your story and writing are airtight (which will never happen with an RE game, which birthed the immortal phrase “you, the master of unlocking”). Otherwise, I would have preferred making the zombies look as alien as possible, so that the protagonist is killing the undeniably undead versus the possibly human. The RE franchise, since 4, has been trying to move away from zombies and the various viruses (T, G, whatev) which were engineered by Umbrella to create them (when will evil corporations ever learn?), by focusing on the origins of the viruses themselves (which evolved from, where else, Africa) and retooling the enemies to suit a more action-packed title, Capcom effed up. I would have preferred the X virus or whatever, which completely deformed their hosts so that, while perhaps you could surmise the skin color of the human who carried it, the virus itself was what was being killed, not the human who it corrupted. Rather Capcom, in opting to make the... organism, for lack of a better word, live deep inside its host while the host keeps their outward human shell (even if they look weird as hell, they are clearly human) Capcom totally walked right into this. Of course, my solution could be subject to an overly close reading, or even a standard reading, of the total denial of black humanity by making Africans into monsters. As Bart Simpson once said you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't. I can live with that. As for having a white male character (and an apparently tragic mullata partner) kill a lot of black Africans rather than have a local black African cop (possibly with a partner who is three months away from retirement before coming to an untimely end) kill a lot of black Africans, I would actually much rather see Chris because I want to know what happened to him. A new protaganist would be great for the next game (who will inevitably be a black man who talks like 50 Cent).

While Cornell West (or basically anyone on the cutting edge of academic race writing) might dissect my desire for zombies that happen to be black versus black zombies, that is how I roll. I will say though that I was thrilled at the prospect of having a game set anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Now, if you want to perhaps make a Bioware D&D game (and yes, I know that will never happen) set in West Africa and need to write a script, please call me (An Ile-Ife Icewind Dale, if you will).

Of course, some of the post-release articles on RE 5 have been, shall we say, less than stellar (throwing salt on a radical social anthropologist who deals with ethnicity and nationalism because there is "No mention of Africa, race, or racism" in his resume is kind of dumb. Oh and he is a white man, so what can he know about race *cough cough Time Wise*? Battle the argument, not the person. I mean, under that logic, I guess Fanon was only qualified to talk about colonial Algeria and Martinique, but christ I do not want to have a fight with Acid for Blood or Racalicious, so I will stop there) , but that is to be expected. Maybe when I get a PhD people will listen to me? Doubtful.

Oh, and to be fair, you might ask where was I during these discussions? Where was I when Kym was being attacked by the horde? How come I am not trying to have this discussion in gaming forums rather than in the relative safety of my blog? I was sitting back reading with detached bemusement, which was most certainly neither commendable nor noble, but at least honest.