Monthly Archives: February 2008

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Are Sonics fans losers? Nope, just Lost


Yesterday I traveled up to Seattle for a planning meeting for a conference that I’m involved in helping to put together called Feet to Faith. It’s designed to engage teenagers who follow Christ into many of the social justice issues that are typically under-emphasized (if not outright ignored) in the church. It’s in August at Seattle University, and I’ll have the privilege of helping to lead worship. At some point I’m probably going to blog about it, so stay tuned. I just had to throw in a quick plug while I was thinking about it.

Anyway, being in Seattle again got me in sort of a pensive mood. I love the city of Seattle, though mostly from a distance. My family lived in Seattle for about seven years before we eventually moved and settled in Portland, the city I consider to be my hometown. And I have a few relatives in Seattle, but far more in Portland so usually those relative travel south to see us, we don’t usually go up there. As a result, I enjoy a fondness for Seattle every time I’m there, but it’s less of a heartfelt connection and more of a vague sense of familiarity.

It’s probably a little like running into a wacky lady at IKEA who used to be married to your uncle when you were little. You remember enough to think she’s nice, but it’s not like you really know her.

Anyway, this trip happened to coincide with the posting of Bill Simmons latest Sports Guy mailbag, in which he gives voice to the legion of Seattle fans mourning the impending loss of their beloved NBA franchise, the SuperSonics. And as I read through this today, I couldn’t help wondering if there was some connection to the other phenomenon that’s been occupying my thoughts lately, the epic TV series “Lost.”

And now I’ve concluded… yes, there is.

But first, a quote.

Simmons runs this quote in his mailbag, from The New Yorker’s Roger Angell, in response to a famous home-run by Carlton Fisk in the 1975 World Series of baseball:

It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitive as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look — I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring — caring deeply and passionately, really caring — which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete — the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball — seems a small price to pay for such a gift.

I believe that the massive fandom that people often exhibit toward sports teams is rooted in humanity’s neverending search for significance and meaning. Simply stated, people want to care about such things, because that’s where they find hope and joy and excitement. For some, following their team is their only source of such fulfillment. Even in the face of free agency, naming-rights controversy, criminal misconduct, and other PR nightmares, their devotion to their teams is unflagging. Fans like these make easy targets for scorn, since the term “fan” is short for “fanatic” — but you don’t know what it’s like until you’re in the middle of it.

Which explains why sports programming is often called the original reality TV — because people respond to epic TV the same way. They love the recurring characters, the inherent drama, the people you love to watch and love to hate. And they can be fiercely possessive about it. My wife Holly used to watch soap operas in her younger days, and one day I asked her about it:

“How could you be so engrossed by other people’s relationships and problems when you don’t know them?”

“The same way you can follow the stats for bunch of men you don’t know who throw around a ball for a living.”

Ummm, yeah. Pretty similar when you put it like that.

So what happens to a fan base when it finds itself in the sports equivalent of The Twilight Zone? They become, in a word… lost.


Which brings us to the aforementioned runaway hit on ABC, one of the few bright spots of this strike-reduced television season, and my current favorite since “Journeyman” was canceled.

There are many reasons for the show’s success (Mo Ryan of the Chicago Tribune has blogged about it quite extensively) but I think a large part of the appeal stems from the uniqueness of the premise. Like its reality-TV counterpart Survivor, Lost is able to draw a diverse audience because of its large, diverse cast of characters. Through the consistent use of flashback, each character’s back story, with its own plot and emotional arc, becomes another thread.

As you watch whole seasons, these threads are woven into the tapestry of mythology that defines the show. By watching a group of diverse characters undergo such a cataclysmic experience together, the viewer is drawn into a matrix of epic themes — good vs. evil, known vs. unknown, faith vs. science, the natural vs. the supernatural, manifest destiny vs. mother earth… and so on.

This is what drives that quest for meaning, among both the characters themselves and the viewers who vicariously live out their own struggles through these characters. They ask questions like:

Why am I here?
How have my experiences in life before this prepare me for life here?
Am I being punished for something I did before?
Who am I when I’m on this island?
Am I still fundamentally the same person I was before, or am I different now?
If the normal laws of society are no longer enforceable, are they still valuable?
How should I respond to conflict and hardship?
When is it okay to use violence as a means to an end?

And so on.

In addition to all the churning introspect, you as a viewer are ALSO trying to make sense of a pretty convoluted plot, full of flashbacks, plot holes, and (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) many layers of evil corporate conspiracy.

So while you watch, you do your best to make sense of things. You trust the show runner and the writing staff to give you answers, answers that are satisfying and make sense. If you watch long enough, this will happen. Most of the time.

But sometimes not. Sometimes the answers just don’t make sense, and so you wait for another show to explain the latest plot twist that feels ridiculous and inexplicable. You do this because the show has built up this emotional reservoir of trust, and if you have to dip into it from time to time, you figure it’s worth it in the long haul.

Lost is a show that demands a lot from its viewers, but somehow we hang in there anyway, waiting for the big payoff. We want to believe that it will all make sense in the end.

The only problem is, there is no guarantee this will happen.

Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, talented as they are, are not omniscient. Even though I’m sure they have a rough outline of the entire series arc between them, people forget — they’re still essentially making it up as they go along. So for people like me, people who obsess about the tiniest details, mining every scene for potential nuggets of insight… not all of it’s going to make sense. It’s just not. There’s no guarantee that the big payoff will come, or that it will be all that we’ve come to expect.

And the same is true for Sonics fans, or Blazers fans, or fans of any sports team. There’s no guarantee that, given enough time, enough good personnel decisions, enough money, and enough community support, your team will ascend to the top and win a championship. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

(Cub fan, I’m talking to you here.)

Not only that, there’s no guarantee that your team will always be there for you. Times change, and teams move. It sucks when it happens, but it happens. (See: Charlotte Hornets, LA Rams, Hartford Whalers, and many, many others.)

So what’s the antidote? Is it all just a waste of time that we should do without? Should we just stop believing altogether?

Journey fans would say no…. and I agree. The answer is not to stop believing, not to stop looking for meaning, not to stop entrusting our faith.

It’s to make sure we’re investing and entrusting it in something worthwhile, something that will stand the test of time. Something that matters on an eternal scale.

This is why I choose to put my faith in God. Because I believe He is the only One that has the full truth, the only One who can help me make sense of things. What’s more, I choose to believe in Him even though I know that things don’t always make sense in the world. In the face of epic tragedy on a global scale, or festering disappointment on a personal level, I put my trust in God and what He says in His Word.

Edward Mote said it best:

My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

That old hymn is the truth that I cling to, because life is full of stuff that sucks, stuff that is inexplicably harrowing and cruel and nonsensical.

And don’t get me wrong.

If I sound all holier-than-thou, then forgive me, because that’s not how I’m trying to come off. Obviously, I like to watch Lost (otherwise I wouldn’t know so much about it) and I really dig NBA basketball (otherwise I wouldn’t write so much about it). But I choose to enjoy those things in a broader context of relying on God to satisfy my deepest needs for significance and meaning.

Some people go the other way. They choose not to trifle with unimportant things. Their time is consumed with Things That Really Matter. Feeding the hungry. Serving the poor. Fighting for justice. And sometimes people with this bent can be awfully smug toward us regular folks who enjoy sports and TV. Roger Angell called it “amused superiority and icy scorn.”

But those folks aren’t doing themselves any favors, because everyone goes through a crisis of faith at some point or another. Maybe it’s not because a heavily-favored team lost the Super Bowl, but because a heavily-funded federal agency failed to serve its most needy constituents during the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Or maybe it’s because the inspirational story of a persecuted Jewish girl who outsmarted the Nazi and roamed among wolves in the wilderness… turned out to be fake. Or because the Air Force stopped awarding its most coveted defense contract to the northwest’s storied airplane builder, instead choosing a rival firm.

Either way, it hurts when something you thought was a sure thing turns out to be anything but.

But if you’re connected to the Lord of the universe, the maker of heaven and earth, then that hurt is only temporary. Being connected to a God so much greater than yourself gives you the freedom to enjoy life, in all of its ephemeral frailty. It awakens you to a greater awareness of His kingdom, hidden from the natural mind but revealed in the spirit.

This is why I choose to enjoy great TV shows like Lost, because there’s something wonderful that happens when my imagination is engaged. I may lose myself in the moment, but I can always come back to the truth, that all is not Lost.

So that’s my advice to Sonics fans. Be passionate. Defend your team. Keep trying to keep your boys in Seattle where they belong.

But if it doesn’t work, remember that all is not lost.

Because even if you don’t have a connection to God, even if you don’t have any connections to Clay Bennett, or Howard Schultz, or Greg Nickels… you still have your memories.

And you’ll still have your WNBA team, right?

I’m Jelani Greenidge, thanks for mixin’ it up with me.

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Links to make ya think: Personality Edition


The Oracle said it best… “know thyself.”

With that Matrix quote in mind, I present a few links to get your personality juices flowing.

First, I recommend the Keirsey Temperament Sorter(registration required). It’s free, and it will group you into one of four main temperament groupings, each of which have four permutations of their own. It’s a hybrid of the Myers-Briggs type indicator analysis, which provides dichotomies on four variables: E or I (extraverted or introverted), N or S (intuitive or sensory), T or F (thinking or feeling) and P or J (perceiving or judging).

By the way, I’m just going to get this out of the way now: ENTP is by far the superior personality. (I’ll let you guess as to which one I am.)

Also, if you go to the front page of David Keirsey’s website, you’ll notice an article on Personality and Picking the President. Pretty heady stuff, until you get to their prediction for 2008, which wimps out by not picking an overall winner but the frontrunners for each party.
Gee, you think it’ll be either Obama or McCain? You don’t say…

For a much more thorough and interesting read on the candidates themselves and their personalities, check out this excellent Slate piece instead. For me, it was very enlightening — especially realizing that the qualities that are making people swoon over Barack Obama are the same qualities that made me fall madly in love with my wife Holly. For they are both ENFPs, the type known as The Champion.

Of course, if politics isn’t your thing, there’s still a lot you can learn about yourself.

Take this personality quiz from Channel One and you can figure out which element of hip-hop you most likely belong to (sorry bombers, graff is not included). Are you an emcee at heart? DJ? B-boy? Are you like a Too Big MC / Lil Jon / Mark Madsen hype man?

Okay, so I made that last one up, that option is not on the quiz. But they’re no less a part of hip-hop. Okaaaay!


On the other hand, this piece from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says one can tell a lot about your personality from the types of video games that you play.

And if any of the video games happen to be from the NBA Live (or the NBA 2K) series, then you might want to take this personality test, which will tell you which basketball player you would most likely be if you played in the Association.

However, it’s possible that you would like some confirmation on the true nature of your personality, but you don’t want to go through all this trouble of answering questions and whatnot. If that’s you, then I’ve got a simple test for you:

Go to bed.

Wake up in the morning. Write down whatever you can remember about your dream.

If this blog or any other blog made it into your dream, your diagnosis is clear:

You’re a nerd, simple as that.

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Mentors, Mentees, & Mentos … All Full of Surprises

So I’m smack in the middle of a mentorship triangle, and it’s starting to get downright unpredictable. I guess it serves me right for thinking that life would go down neat and tidy.

See, one of the principles that my Pops likes to espouse is the idea of “one-up, one-over, one-down.” This, aside from marriage, is the relational cornerstone that lays the foundation of any healthy man’s success. What is it? It’s mentorship and friendship. One up is someone you look up to as a role model and source of wisdom and guidance. One over is a peer relationship, someone who’s walking down the same path you are, generally speaking. And one down is someone who you are choosing to mentor, who is (if you’re doing it right) looking up to you.

And recently I added my last missing piece… a mentor for me. I have a father, and I have several uncles, but because of my fields of work (church ministry, music production, etc.) my relationships with them are a bit more complicated than usual. Plus it’s always nice to have someone outside the family dynamic to give you perspective.

Well I just met with this guy (who we’ll call Becker) for the first time on Saturday. And Becker is somebody that I’ve known for a little while, but mostly in passing. And I was shocked — SHOCKED — that he was able to so quickly and precisely point out what was missing in my life. I guess it was just good ol’ fashioned Holy Spirit discernment, because this cat was practically reading my mail, nah mean? I’m grateful for his presence in my life, but at the same time I thought that it would take longer for us to get into a rhythm and understanding of each other. I guess God must have really known what I needed because this dude didn’t waste any time. Yeah, I was surprised by that.

Surprised mostly because it puts pressure on me to get my ish together. Becker challenged me to begin to work on one or two things that I can immediately put into practice, things that will bless my wife and bring peace and order into my life. I’ve decided that those things will be exercise and avoiding procrastination. This is why I must be done with this post in the next 15 minutes, ’cause I got stuff to do around the house. And this wisdom was exactly why I sought Becker out in the first place, because sometimes I just need a foot in my behind in order to get moving. But when it comes… it’s still kinda surprising. I don’t know why, it just is.

Equally surprising (and more troubling) is my one-down, I guy I’ll refer to as Dave. This is someone that I got connected to through church, and he seems to be a good kid. I don’t think his dad is in the picture so he’s mostly raised by his mom and older brother, who’s a little closer to my age but still a little younger. I know both of them actually, but Dave has expressed a lot of interest in the some of the same things that I’m interested in, and so we kinda struck up a relationship. To tell you the truth, I tend to be pretty selective about who I spend my time with, but from the beginning I saw so much potential in Dave I thought for sure that he was someone that God had put in my path for me to mentor. Like I said before, he’s a good kid.

But now I can’t get a hold of him. He doesn’t seem to want to return my calls or emails. I finally just now got a hold of his mom, and she’s promised to have him call me. The thing is, I don’t have much money but I do have some important relational connections, and because of that I have several opportunities in mind for Dave that would really be great for him. But I can’t make him want them. I can’t make him follow through. And right now, I can’t hardly talk to him long enough to tell him about ’em. I don’t want to use his mom to get to him. I want to treat him like a man and deal with him directly. But it’s frustrating.

But it’s also forcing me to examine my motives. Am I trying to save this guy? Do I have some do-gooder complex I need to work out? Am I doing the right thing for the right reason? Or am I doing it because I’m subconsciously acting out the predefined role that I’m supposed to walk in (guy-in-his 30s taking time out to mentor fatherless teenager)? These are all important questions that I must answer if I’m going to be honest with myself.

The thing is, I need these kinds of snags to help conquer my perfectionism. Because people are messy and complicated and they don’t always do what you think they’re supposed to. Even when you have good reason to think they should go one way, they’ll just as quickly go the other way. They’re slow to understand sometimes. And slow to follow through sometimes. And to paraphrase a great Bill Cosby routine, if it was this way for God with Adam and Eve, what makes us think we’ll do it any better?

It’s not just in the Genesis story, either. You can also see it in the New Testament.

In Mark 8:14-26, Jesus is having a conversation with his disciples, and he can clearly see that they just … don’t … get it. He makes a comment about the Pharisees and their critical spirit, but uses the metaphor of yeast. His point is, avoid these cats [The Pharisees] because a little bit of them can change the whole mix. But all they hear is the word yeast and they’re like, he must be mad that we ran out of bread.

At which point you can just imagine Jesus, smacking his forehead in disgust. The whole scene is kinda comical, really. Like a mashup between Godspell and Dumb and Dumber.

And then the comedy continues.

Jesus goes to heal a blind man, and after he touches the man’s eyes, he asks him, do you see anything?

And the guy is all, yeah… I see people walking around… they look like trees.

Trees, the man says. He’s looking at people and seeing trees. He’s Haley Joel Osment, talkin’ about, “I see tree people!”

And Jesus is like uhhh… lets try this again. And he touches his eyes again, obviously looking for a better result. This time, it finally works. The guy is seeing Regular People this time. So Jesus sends him on his way… but just to be safe, he tells the guy:

You know what? Don’t tell anybody in the village about this. Lets just keep this between me and you.

I’m not a trained theologian, but I’m fairly sure that wasn’t the interaction Jesus had in mind when he first approached the blind man. But hey, that’s life… full of surprises.

Oh, and if you’re looking for deep profound reasons for the Mentos reference, I just like ’em. And if you go to their global front page, I’m sure you’ll be surprised.


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Links to make ya think: Crime and Punishment Edition

What is it about the hood and crime? On second thought, don’t answer that.

Still though, it’s getting to the point where the educated are outnumbered by gangstas and wannabes. And by the way, don’t think that just by becoming a successful pro athlete, and keeping a clean profile (hard to do these days) that trouble won’t find you where you live. Consider the story of Terrell Brandon, former NBA point guard, who lives in his hometown of Portland. He was just recently the victim of an extortion attempt. Remember that ridiculous spam I read to you? Well this was just like that, only not as funny. Good thing dude got caught, though. Kinda sad really… TB and his homie set a trap for him, and dude fell right for it. Okay, so I guess it is kinda funny after all. Still messed up, though. My people!

Not that I would endorse this, but should you decide that you could become a better titan of crime, it’s best to learn by observation. Which is exactly what Sudhir Venkatesh did when he, as a fresh-faced grad student at the U of Chicago, accidentally befriended a high-level gang mogul. Little did either of them know that it would be the start of a long, fruitful relationship, culminating in Venkatesh’ sociology memoir Gang Leader for a Day. I perused it for a few hours at Powell’s a couple nights ago. The best part so far is in the beginning, when, at gunpoint, he begins to survey his foot-soldier captors in the middle of a urine-soaked stairwell, asking them: “how does it feel to be black and poor? Very uncomfortable, somewhat uncomfortable, neither uncomfortable nor comfortable…”

Unbelievable.

Of course, I do take some small solace in the fact that people in other parts of the world have the propensity to act equally bad. I’m thinking of a duo of looting young women in Belgrade, who were captured on YouTube during a riot in the Serbian capital. The video is entitled (English translation), “Swapping Kosovo for a pair of sneakers.” Basically, you have people rioting over the terrible political situation, and these ladies are trying to grab designers shoes and handbags.

I’m guessing this would be the cultural equivalent of the hoodrats who looted South Central after the Rodney King verdict. More proof that ghetto behavior is a worldwide phenomenon. I don’t know if these ladies were prosecuted or not, but their behavior being broadcast for all the world to see was, I’m sure, punishment enough.

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Links to make ya think: A&E edition

So one of my favorite shows to scrounge for clips from on the internet (since I don’t have cable TV) is called Mythbusters. They’re basically science geeks having fun trying to prove (or disprove) whatever theory du jour is floating around. Everything from the mentos and Diet coke craze to whether or not bulls in a china shop would actually cause much damage.

Well now they’re goin’ back to the old school… they’re re-enacting classic scenes from MacGuyver. If you’ve ever wondered whether or not it’s possible to blow a hole through a wall with a vial of pure sodium… check it out.


I just finished Halo 3… and darn if I wasn’t getting a little choked up at the end. For a piece of escapist space-combat fantasy, the ending contained more than its fair share of poignant gravitas. Kudos to the Bungie crew. It made me feel glad to be an American. Or, rather, part of the UNSC, the United Nations Space Command. Apparently in 2552, it’s pretty much the same thing.

One interesting tidbit about Halo 3 if you’re in Chicago… the voice of Master Chief SPARTAN-117, the main character of the Halo franchise, is Steve Downes, a classic rock DJ at WDRV 97.1 The Drive.


And speaking of driving… my wife thinks my driving habits are a little too adventuresome, but check out this driving video. This isn’t even really driving, it’s more like ballet with cars.

My favorite part is a while one guy does the whole driving-on-two-wheels trick, the other guy actually changes one of the tires while the car is in motion. You have to see it to believe it. The only thing that would make this video better would be silence. (The late 80s new age music is a little annoying after awhile.)

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Eavesdropping over a rousing game of Oregon Trail on Facebook

You want some major low-attention-span theater? Do what I’m doing right now, which is sit and listen to Holly play the Oregon Trail game on Facebook.

“Dang.”

“Maybe if I had rested more.”

“Wait it started… how do I shoot?”

“Hmm. Explosive diarrhea.”

“Jackie’s dead? Oh, that’s horrendous.”

“How can I make some money here?”

“Fording.”

I cannot imagine a more random series of inane non-sequiturs.

My wife, ladies and gentlemen.

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If you must, lob your bombs with care

“Word to your moms, I’m here to drop bombs, I got more rhymes than the Bible’s got psalms.”

— Everlast, of the House of Pain, “Jump Around.”

So I’m noticing a disturbing trend.

(No, Kris Kross is not making a comeback. It’s not that disturbing.)

It’s become clear to me that in this media-saturated society in which we live, the fastest, easiest way to get attention (ratings, page-views, ad-clicks, sponsorships, whatever) is to go the route of the iconoclast, which is to attack the sacred cows of the establishment as often, loud, and outrageously as possible.

I call this phenomenon lobbin’ bombs.

Lobbin’ bombs is when you have something to say that contradicts some piece of conventional wisdom that other people hold dear. And rather than being tentative and hoping people take the right way, you just throw it on out there and see what happens. Which is usually an explosion of controversy. It doesn’t matter the issue you’re talking about. When you brashly throw out an opinion that you KNOW people will disagree with, and not only do you NOT care whether or they agree, but actually look forward to their hysterical reaction just for the fun of pissing people off… that’s lobbin’ bombs.

And I would be lying if I said I didn’t do it from time to time. In the right context, it’s loads of fun. But it must be done with care, because like any form of demolition, it’s dangerous if you’re not careful about it. if you have something to say that people aren’t looking forward to hearing, it’s possible to do it in a way that minimizes the carnage. But if you choose not to, then you bear some of the responsibility for whatever mass destruction ensues.

Case in point:

Out of Ur, the Leadership blog of Christianity Today, posted a review (and a follow-up post) of a book called Pagan Christianity. The controversy surrounding this book stems from an offshoot of its central thesis, that there are far too many facets of today’s organized-religion version of Christianity that have been appropriated from pagan rituals and practices… including the idea of having one person as the primary hub of teaching and spirituality being paid full-time as professional practitioner of ministry, a.k.a. “the pastor.”

Obviously as a PK I’m biased here, but that is a bomb if I’ve ever seen one. This cat is basically calling for the end of the pastorate as we know it. And the fact that he’s got the endorsement of (and shares co-author billing with) George Barna, one of the top names in religious market research, up til now a trusted name in evangelical circles… one would think they would’ve had the foresight to know this might make a few people upset.

Nevertheless, the tone of the book from the few excerpts that I’ve seen (and the Q&A from Viola’s website) lead me to believe that Viola is more concerned with deconstructing the established religious hierarchy and less with maintaining unity of the believers. Which is sad, to me, because it doesn’t have to be this way. If he had taken more of a conciliatory tone in an attempt to win over bloggers, emerging pastors and other cogent members of the Christian intelligentsia, then maybe his ideas would be received in a better light.

Of course, Viola’s defenders might say that this would be an ethical compromise tantamount to ideological treason, so maybe there’s some truth to that. I mean, bombs are bombs.

But obviously there are ways to lob bombs that are more destructive than others.

(I’m talking to you, Aaron McGruder.)

For those unfamiliar with his work, I’m thinking specifically of the first episode of The Boondocks’ animated series, where the lead character, Black nationalist ten-year-old Huey Freeman, walks into the middle of a nice, quiet garden luncheon and drops a few rhetorical bombs of his own. Intending to shock the people out of their bourgeois stupor, he says this:

“Excuse me. Everyone, I have a brief announcement to make. Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil, and the government is lying about 9-11. Thank you for your time and good night.”

The ironic thing about his episode (MILD SPOILER ALERT) is that Huey dreams up this very scenario in the beginning of the episode, and it ends in a riot bordering on anarchy. But when he actually gets the chance to try it out at the Wuncler’s garden party, it has the opposite effect. People just politely clap, quietly amused at such an articulate young boy.

This is actually a brilliant piece of writing, because not only does it show young Huey’s frustration about not being taken seriously, but it also shows the power of context. McGruder has proven with this show that it’s easier to digest the profanity and pointed leftist satire that The Boondocks is known for when it’s coming in the form of animation. By being drawn, it looks less real, even though the subject matter and dialogue is as real as anything this side of The Wire.

Now as I said before, bombs are bombs. They’re going to blow some stuff up. And to an extent, they’re going to hurt — regardless.

But sometimes there are nicer ways to do it.

I’m thinking now of one of the most popular web-based sportswriters of our time, Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy.

In a recent column, he pleads for people to come back to New Orleans, the site of the 2008 NBA All-Star festivities. It’s a great column, and according to Cosellout, one of Simmons finest moments as a writer. New Orleans is desperate for tourism to return, which is why it was such a great gesture for NBA commissioner David Stern to hold his flagship league event there, three years after Hurricane Katrina. And Simmons’ essential point is that people don’t want to return there because they don’t want their vacations interrupted with the emotional baggage of the worst national disaster in our history, but they should because the city needs our tourism dollars in order to continue the rebuilding process.

From there, Simmons launches into a discussion of the NBA’s perceived image problem:

As one NBA higher-up whispered to me last weekend, “People still think we have an image problem, I just don’t get it. Do they even watch us? Do they see the caliber of the guys we have now?”

That’s the issue gnawing at everyone working for the league right now. The NFL has considerably more thugs, Major League Baseball has a steroids scandal that basically has tainted the past 15 years of games, yet somehow the NBA is still perceived as the league with an image problem? For god’s sake, if the NBA can’t put that tag to rest this year, of all years, then it’s never happening, and we’ll have to accept there are deeper issues at work here.

(Well, one deeper issue. And you know what it is.)

If you’ve been paying attention to the NBA and to society in general, then you know exactly what he’s talking about: subconscious, institutionalized racism.

I can expand this discussion in a later post, because this is a huge issue that two or three sentences cannot adequately address. But many in the large cottage industry of sports related commentary punditry have been banging on the NBA for its “image problem” (a euphemism for being too Black, or too hip-hop) despite the fact that there have been way more documented instances of serious criminal behavior and drug abuse in the NFL and MLB, respectively.

Can something so understated still be called a bomb? When it comes to racism, I say yes. Racism is the third rail of polite discussion, something to be avoided at all costs. And many purveyors of ESPN content don’t want the reality of race relations injected into the fantasy and escapism involved with following professional sports. And so Bill Simmons has wisely found a way to bring race into the conversation, ever-so-briefly, yet without equivocation.

Nicely done, Sports Guy.

So all you folks railing against the man, eager to unleash your down-with-the-system soliloquies into the blogosphere… take note. There’s more than one way to drop a bomb.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for mixin’ it up with me.





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Wireless Web vs. Wireless Waste

Okay, so here’s a conundrum I’m finding myself having:

I’m a wireless web surfer. I was an early adopter of having wireless internet on my phone (since early 2002) and my virtually insatiable curiosity for information has increased along with the technology. Now that I can look at just about any web page on my Sprint Mogul PocketPC anytime I have a decent EV-DO signal, the question of “can I find a suitable answer for this question” has been answered: a resounding YES. So now the question is, how much is too much?

Notice I’m not just asking when is it proper versus improper (my take: recreational events — movies, basketball games, etc. — YES. Important rituals or civil ceremonies such as weddings, church services or court appearances — NO). That’s a matter of taste. But fundamentally, the question I’m having to ask myself in the moment is, “is this question worth the time it would take for me to find the answer?” Because it’s already a safe assumption I can find the answer.

I’m asking myself this more and more when I’m out in public, because I’ve already become known as the guy who’s always looking stuff up on his phone. At parties, when I get bored with small talk, I know I can always check the latest story on The Trail Blazers. And I’m constantly piping in conversations with random bits of entertaining minutia. My phone even made a cameo appearance at the family Christmas concert in 2006 when Uncle Tim asked me the definition of the word “upsot” during a rousing rendition of “Jingle Bells” onstage.

I’ve found, though, that finding the answers on my phone has a downside. It short-circuits the whole bar-room argument vibe that guys are so good at. I noticed this last Sunday after church, when my friend Ronn and I got into an argument about whether or not John Goodman played the renegade bounty hunter in Raising Arizona, or if it was some other former boxer guy. Three minutes later I was able to verify the truth — that we were both right. Which wasn’t nearly as fun or interesting as continuing to find ways to argue about it.

The other downside, of course, is that sometimes it just ends up being a waste of time. Like if I make a joke that refers to The Greatest American Hero, and someone doesn’t get it, but I think they’re old enough that they’ve probably seen the show but just don’t remember the title, and maybe if I sing the theme song they’ll remember but I can’t remember the words and humming it just isn’t the same so I start madly Googling for a wav or mp3 clip of the theme song to play through the tiny little speakers on my phone since I don’t have my headphones on me and theirs don’t have the right size jack to fit into my phone.

Thankfully this did not actually happen. But that’s the type of thing that I could easily obsess over for 20 or 30 minutes, easy.

So I ask all of you what I tend to ask myself… how much is too much?

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My spam is trying to kill me!

No, really. This is not some sort of weird hyperbole on my part. A particularly clever spammer managed to squeak this message past not one, but two spam filters (one through gmail, the other through MS Outlook), all for the purpose of trying to convince me that someone wants me dead:

HELLO:

I am very sorry for you XXxxxxx , is a pity that this is how your life is going to end as soon as you don’t comply. As you can see there is no need of introducing myself to you because I don’t have any business with you, my duty as I am mailing you now is just to KILL you and I have to do it as I have already been paid for that.

After I stopped laughing hysterically, I showed this one to Holly, who said, “I love how they were able to slip this past the spam filters but somehow were unable to even put your name on it.”

Way to sell this one, fellas.

I enjoyed this one so much, I decided to read it aloud so others could enjoy.

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A brief explanation of my return to blogging

Okay, so my pattern in life has been to get excited about things, do them for awhile, have my enthusiasm stall, get excited about something else, and then start doing that.

This is partially to explain for why I went almost a year without posting anything to this blog, because I started getting into other stuff. (Among them, other people’s blogs.)

But it’s not a particularly accurate explanation. The truth is that even before I ever started this blog, when I became enthralled at just the concept of blogging and I saw that Google had made their own free blogging software, I asked myself a critically important question:

Why, when there are thousands, yea millions of blogs out there in blogosphere (okay, I probably didn’t say blogosphere as that word hadn’t been popularized yet) would people want to read MY blog? What is going to cause this blog to stand out from all the others?

I decided the answer to that question would be: SUBSTANCE. Other blogs would be light and fluffy and consist mostly of links and funny quips, but MY blog would be deep, philosophical, fraught with the moral, ethical and theological quandaries of the day.

Naturally since I wasn’t getting paid for this I couldn’t do it every day or even every week. But I figured I could do it about twice a month. I came up with the concept of “Mixing It Up” as a way to congeal all my opinions and interests into one skein of continuity. And I think initially, it was a hit to all the people I forwarded links and emailed stories to.

But as I alluded to in my perfectionism post, I just couldn’t keep that up anymore. So since I couldn’t come up with an effective answer to the question in my mind of why people would want to read my blog, I stopped. It just stopped being important to me.

But now I have another answer, and I think it’s a more honest answer.

Why do I think people would want to read my blog?

Because dammit, it’s mine.

There are people who know me and like me, and for most of the people in that category, that’s reason enough to stop by. I know it sounds soft and most certainly not gangsta to say, but I’m secure enough to say that. Not like my name is Corban and I’m God’s gift to the blogosphere. But I do have a few things to say and I think folks who read my stuff will get to know me somewhat, and like what they see or here.

So there you have it.