Archive for December, 2006

So Close and Yet So Far

Sports franchises are often the face of the city, which is why it is so important that Indianapolis teams have quality character guys on their teams (memo to the Pacers). A lot of a city’s self-esteem is wrapped up in its sports franchises. We look good on Monday night television, but the Colts need to make it to the Super Bowl.

Do you know what you don’t come to my blog to read? Cogent sports analysis.

Yet here I am, thinking about the Colts and their chances of finally making it to the Promised Land. Do the Colts have a chance to win a Super Bowl this season? Nope, not unless they get some defense. You can make the playoffs with an over-powering offense, but it’s not consistently potent enough to overcome the defense deficiencies come play-off time. Defense wins championships. However, the Super Bowl is the only stage left, big enough, for them. Getting to the Super Bowl certainly matters to Peyton Manning. He needs the big game, not only that, but to play well in that game. Ghosts of Dan Marino will haunt him until he does.

A Super Bowl appearance should certainly matter to Indianapolis. Sports franchises are the public face of a city. It’s one reason why New Orleans is America’s second favorite team right now. We’re rooting for New Orleans vicariously through their team. Some folks make the argument that the teams take on the personalities of the cities, I don’t know if I would go that far. Whether we want them to be or not, they do tend to represent us. They are ambassadors of what we value and how we compete.

This speaks to the importance of having character guys on our teams. Yes, we want to win, but we don’t want to win at all costs. Haywood Hale Broun is noted for saying, “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” While sports should be teaching lessons about stronger teamwork or greater self-discipline, instead we get a “me, me, me” attitude, a culture of accommodation, and win at all costs mentality – all driven by money. Rarely is there anything to be appreciated as a “role model” among the athletes.

We want attention for the right reasons as we try to escape the “what the hell were you doing out at 3 a.m at a strip club anyway?” shadow of the Pacers. The Pacers had a preseason publicity campaign because they knew they were facing a disenfranchised fan base (and worse, possible empty seats). Why? Because we want character guys as well as quality product. So we should appreciate good character guys when we have them, like Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, when we see them. Especially when watching them is watching sports history unfold before us as they are among the best of all time.

I’m strictly a casual sports fan. I don’t live and die by a team (or else the Pacers and Colts would have caused me to slit my wrists years ago). We have a good team, an exciting team to watch. Will it be good enough to make it to the Super Bowl? Nope. Though I’d love to be wrong.

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Kwanzaa Day 6 – Kuumba

December 31st – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Kuumba (koo-oom-bah), which means Creativity.

To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. Makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.

Today, the red candle is lit.

Creativity is where our family lives and breathes. It’s more than a cultural mindset; it’s a spiritual mindset for us. How we live, how we worship, how we relate to one another all revolves around the joys of art and imagination. As “eikons”, formed in the image of God, we can’t help but be creators in our own right. In fact, we are tasked with joining Him in being co-creators, in participating in His act of creating.

The boys were tasked with making a drawing representing what Kwanzaa means to them. My oldest worked on drawing a kinara while my youngest, well, I’m happy if he can pronounce “Kwanzaa”. And now we begin the preparations for our “Food-y New Year”. Just some family over for dinner with each hour bringing a new entree/dish for us to try.

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee*

*Swahili for “Let’s all pull together” – We use the track from the Sounds of Blackness’ The Evolution of Gospel.

My Top Ten Blogs of 2006

Once again it’s that time when we think back over the previous year and come up with yet another self-indulgent list. It’s basically an excuse for me to list some of my favorite blogs, some of which you may have missed.

10. Theology of Horror Part II and Part III – This topic has continued to evolve after my initial forays in trying to explain how I’m a Christian horror writer and later as I started to think about a theology of horror in preparation for my panel discussion at the Hollywood Jesus Annual Gathering. I was asked to speak on the topic of “Horror as a Genre” to a primarily Christian audience. The panel was videotaped and will be available for download soon, in the meantime, I thought that I would post my notes on my blog.

9. Dear Nobody Writer. Writing the Other Redux. Writers Finish Things. – I was torn on my various ramblings about writing.

8. Black Horror Writers – So I thought why bother with more of my ramblings on the topic. Why not get some of my friends to talk about what they think? The joke has been that there are enough of us (black horror writers) now that we can actually do panels on the topic.

7. Dark Night of the Soul Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV – It is the feeling that God is not at work, that He has abandoned us, and all of our cries are going unanswered that causes us the greatest pain. Now, what do we do about it?

6. Friday Night Date Place – Let me summarize all you need to know about any dating book, seminar, or workshop that you get sucked into: THERE IS NO FORMULA! THERE IS NO PROVEN METHOD! IT’S AS MYSTERIOUS AND ADVENTUROUS (AND TREACHEROUS) AS THE REST OF LIFE! There you go. The doctor is in. (By the way, Miss Independent is a personal favorite.)

5. The Story of Blackness – If there are any themes that tend to resurface in my life and work they are the issues of faith and race. I wasn’t aware that I was doing a series until a friend of mine pointed out that I seemed to be leading to something in my posts. Here are the threads of the discussion including: Ontological Blackness Part I, Part II, and Part III, The Theology of Slavery Part I and Part II.

4. Racism in Publishing II – a follow up on the Millenia Black situation.

3. Brown People Scare Us – Oh no! Immigrants are everywhere! What shall we do?!?

2. Break Glass in Case of Emergency – just a friendly reminder to those I love and those who need to be reminded that they are loved.

1. Ghetto Ass Weddings – This is my lasting contribution to the InternetI could never blog again and I know that my blog could sustain its traffic on the backs of two blog entries. White Trash Weddings and this one are my lasting testaments to the Internet.

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If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Kwanzaa Day 5 – Nia

December 30th – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Nia (nee-yah), which means Purpose.

To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. Encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.

Today, the green candle is lit.

We discussed our purpose and what it means to be missional; how we incorporate Nia into the fabric of our faith. Another family drum circle broke out tonight. The boys wanted to drum dramatically as I read from their collection of stories, “Jackal’s Favorite Game.” Today we also opened another gift. This year’s Kwanzaa gift theme is books, with the boys receiving the book “If You Lived When There was Slavery in America.”

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee*

*Swahili for “Let’s all pull together” – We use the track from the Sounds of Blackness’ The Evolution of Gospel.

Kwanzaa Day 4 – Ujamaa

December 29th – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Ujamaa (oo-jah-mah), which means Cooperative Economics.

To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. Emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.

Today, the red candle is lit.

All of which we discussed over take out from Marble’s Café, a local Black-owned business. Hmm, my boys have developed a dance that they like to perform during our singing of Harambee. It is both disturbing and hypnotic.

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee*

*Swahili for “Let’s all pull together” – We use the track from the Sounds of Blackness’ The Evolution of Gospel.

Friday Night Date Place – Break Ups Part III: Heart-Broken

I’m not the best person to take advice from on how to deal with break ups. I once interrupted a woman who was breaking up with me, who was doing her level best to spare my feelings, with “if you speed this up, I can still catch the new episode of Homicide: Life on the Streets.” (Although I did have a friend who ended things with the line “it’s not me, it’s you. Can I have your best friend’s phone number?”)*

I’m not even talking about the little-noted peril of cohabitation: the potentially negative financial consequences of breaking up. [When unmarried couples who have been living together part company, women are substantially worse off economically than men, according to a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family. Men’s household income drops by 10%, while women lose 33%. The percentage of women living in poverty increases from 20% to 30%, while men’s poverty level remains relatively unchanged at about 20%.]**

I’m talking about the part of the break up that leaves us under the covers, not wanting to leave the bed for a while. Waiting out the fever that has your brain working overtime as you re-run memories, cast aloft on a sea of special songs, moments, and conversations (actually, going over the mental transcript of every conversation you ever had). I’m talking about the heart ache of break ups.

Pain is real. Pain is also personal. The stuff that makes you wince might not phase me, so each person’s pain is, nonetheless, very real to them and not something to be dismissed. (Read memo to would be consolers: don’t minimize another’s pain). Breaking up, even from an unhealthy relationship, is heart-wrenching. You had come to depend on the relationship and having it suddenly crumble underneath you can make you suddenly unsure of your footing.

As we talked about last week, the general movements of the break up are learn from the situation, give yourself time to heal, and move on. Don’t insist on being just friends, at least not right away. This can be hard on one/both of you, if you’re serious about re-establishing a friendship (as opposed to “let’s be friends” = “let’s part amicably and never see each other again.”). You need time to get to a place where this can happen.

Don’t lie to yourself hoping for reconciliation. On the real, you may get back together. That’s understandable: the things that drew you to each other in the first place are still there (chemistry, looks, etc.) Time and distance have a way of making us forget that the things that drove you two apart are still there too. Know when to just walk away, and stay away, from a destructive situation.

Break ups should be as clean as possible as you accept it and come to terms with the rejection. That means:

-no stalking
-no blackmailing them into staying without you
-no keeping photos of them on your wall, lit by candles
-no becoming obsessed with winning them back
-no constant calling
-no going to their new Significant Other’s place
-no checking their blogs or tracking their movements online
-no haunting their usual hangouts

Keep your dignity. Humiliation and/or desperation is cute on no one.

*Okay, I need to hear your best break up stories.

**Get your stuff back/return their stuff. Take this with a grain of salt since 1) I’m a pack rat and I like to treasure things/memories, even bad ones; and 2) I fully believe I should get refunds for money spent on relationships that didn’t work out. Believe that.

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If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Kwanzaa Day 3 – Ujima

December 28th – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Ujima (oo-gee-mah), which means Collective Work and Responsibility.

To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together. Reminds us of our obligation to the past, present, and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and the world.

Today, the innermost green candle is lit.

After discussing ways we put this into practice, through church and helping our friends, we read from a collection of African-American children’s stories, a story entitled “Two Ways to Count to Ten.” We continued to read from their book on Kwanzaa (“The Story of Kwanzaa”).

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee*

*Swahili for “Let’s all pull together” – We use the track from the Sounds of Blackness’ The Evolution of Gospel.

Kwanzaa Day 2 – Kujichagulia

December 27th – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Kujichagulia (koo-gee-cha-goo-lee-yah), which means Self-Determination.

To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves. Requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.

Today, the innermost red candle is lit.

After an impromptu completely rhythmless family drum circle (we were enjoying the gifts from last year’s music themed Kwanzaa and the boys were still wound up from yesterday’s drummers and dancers), we discussed today’s principle. The importance of education, of having a plan, and supporting one another.

We read from a collection of African-American children’s stories, a story entitled “The Gift and the Giver” and opened our gift, a children’s book on Kwanzaa (“The Story of Kwanzaa”).

Kwanzaa question of the day: What do some of the terms mean?
Answer: Kwanzaa means “first fruits of harvest” in Swahili. The Ngozu Saba are the Seven Principles developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga when he came up with Kwanzaa. The candles (the mishumaa saba) are the colors of Kwanzaa: black (for the people), red (for the blood shed during their struggle), and green (for the land and the future hope that comes from the struggle). The candleholder is called a kinara, which sits on a straw mat called a mkeka. Beside them rests ears of corn for each child in the household (the vibunzi or muhindi). A basket filled with fruits (the matunda or mazao) represents the gathering in of the crops/harvests. The gifts given during Kwanzaa, which should be hand made or culturally centered, are called the zawadi. The unity cup (the kikombe cha umoja), from which the libation (tambiko) is taken, also sits on the mkeka.

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee*

*Swahili for “Let’s all pull together” – We use the track from the Sounds of Blackness’ The Evolution of Gospel.

Spam-A-Lot

I’ve had a huge increase in spam in the last month. So much so that it has caused my mailbox to sometimes register as full (to those who have had bounce back e-mails to me). I was forced to ask can spam be seasonal? I mean, it’s December, I must REALLY want a larger penis now. And Russian women REALLY want to talk to me badly?

Speaking of spam, in case you missed it, last week’s Intake column is up. With a focus on The Dwelling Place. This week’s column relates to a play I recently went to see, “I have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady from Rwanda.”

Over on Blogging in Black, I have a new post up called “Be Professional”.

Also, I was interviewed by The Studio Upstairs podcast about the reviews I do for Hollywood Jesus. You can find the podcast here.

Oh, and the new Hollywood Jesus Reviews 2005-2006 is now available. My reviews of ATL, Final Destination 3, Glory Road, Slither, Superman Returns, Take the Lead, X-Men: The Last Stand made the cut. It’s a best of from the past year, that is, an additional resource.

*suddenly possessed by the spirit of someone unaware of how publishing works*

Wait. Quit pointing out that these reviews are available online free. Allow me to have my publishing career. Let me enjoy my sales. What do you mean stories available online are considered published? Quit providing links to them and e-pirating my reviews.

*sigh*

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If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Kwanzaa Day 1 – Umoja

December 26th – the Nguzo Saba principle of the day is Umoja (oo-mo-jah), which means Unity.

To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race. Stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community, which is reflected in the African saying, “I am We” or “I am because We are.”

Today, the black candle is lit.

In honor of Umoja, we met up with family at the Umoja Village Kwanzaa Festival, which will be the subject of an upcoming Intake column.

Kwanzaa question of the day: doesn’t celebrating Kwanzaa conflict with your Christian beliefs?

Answer: No. I’ve heard the argument before that Black Christians shouldn’t celebrate Kwanzaa for a variety of reasons. It isn’t a religious holiday and is as “pagan” a ritual as a birthday or an anniversary. Actually, much like those occasions, Kwanzaa is a time of remembrance, a cultural celebration.

One of the reasons I wanted to celebrate Kwanzaa as a family tradition was out of respect to both my multi-cultural heritage and that of my children. Few things answer questions as well as experience and this is a good reminder, reinforcing their story, appreciating this part of our heritage.

Libation Statement:
For the Motherland, cradle of civilization.
For the ancestors and their indomitable spirit.
For the elders, from whom we can learn much.
For our youth, who represent the promise of tomorrow.
For our people, the original people.
For our struggle and in remembrance of those who have struggled on our behalf.
For Umoja, the principle of unity which should guide us in all that we do.
For the Creator, who provides all things great and small.

Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee, Harambee.*

*(Swahili for “Let’s all pull together”)