Monthly Archives: September 2008

Uncategorized

Did you know Bruce Lee loved Soul Train?


Jeff Yang did.

In his column for the San Francisco Chronicle, he interviews Dan Kwong, who wrote a play called “Be Like Water,” in which the ghost of Bruce Lee befriends a young girl. Fascinating read, this article.

I’d love to see the play if it came to Portland. In case you think I’m exaggerating in the title of this post, check the money quote:

Like his ghostly namesake, Lee shows the virtue of being soft and flexible, of going with the flow-in this case, to a syncopated, four-on-the-floor inner rhythm. Which is another characteristic the two Bruce Lees share. “Uncle Bruce loved disco,” says Inosanto laughing. “He loved the moves, the clothing, the attitude-he was a ‘Soul Train’ fanatic. Don’t forget, before he became a martial arts legend, he was the cha-cha champion of Hong Kong!”

Uncategorized

Apparently Change Takes Longer in Rural Universities, Even Christian Ones


Just when you think that White people have finally come to terms with an African-American candidate — dare I still say, front-runner — for the presidency, you see stuff like this.

Hot off the Oregonlive newsfeed: Obama likeness found hanging at George Fox University.

Considering that I know many George Fox alums (I’m related to one, good friends with another) and a few GF students (also related to one)… and, considering I came **this close** to landing a job there as campus liaison for the students in the Act Six program, I can honestly say that this story disturbed me pretty deeply. (Especially the tidbit that the effigy of Obama was labeled with the words ‘Act Six reject.’)

I will admit, however, that although it took awhile for the sting of losing out on that position to heal (as I am very passionate about reconciliation in academic and faith communities), from the outside looking in, I’m quite thankful not to be either Robin Baker or Joel Perez, who now have the unenviable task of sorting through this mess and leading the campus toward a greater sense of community and responsibility.

I’ve just now I’ve become aware of the departure of Burel Ford, the former multicultural director, which apparently happened just a few weeks ago. There’s probably no direct correlation between what happened today and his departure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the current working environment that precipitated this prank is part of what made it desirable for him to leave.

And, if that were the case, I wouldn’t entirely blame him for that choice.

It seems like only yesterday that I was removing posters with provocative imagery from the sign in front of my church.

Ah, the good old days, when racial tension only flared up in the city.

Lord, help us.

(No, that’s not just an expression. Seriously, Lord… help us.)

EDIT (9/30):

Four GFox students have since confessed. I might be wrong, but according to everything I’ve read, there goes the left-wingers-did-it-for-attention theory.

Uncategorized

REVIEW: G1C Sequel Party Music for ‘Dreamers’


Group 1 Crew
Ordinary Dreamers
Fervent Records
2008

So here’s the thing.

Astute readers of this blog know that I don’t do many reviews, and there are many reasons for that — lack of time, lack of interest, and reviewing other people’s junk takes away from time I could be investing in creating my own.

But every once in awhile I hear something that strikes my fancy, and I wanna tell people about it. And the sophomore release from Group 1 Crew, Ordinary Dreamers, falls into that category.

But first, a few disclaimers.

No matter what the marketing people may tell you, this is not a hip-hop album.

It is an album of urbanized pop music with rapped verses sprinkled liberally throughout. Fans of backpacker style, gritty, grimy boom-bip flavored hip-hop should probably run away in horror because this album is probably going to annoy them to no end.

But for those folks who like to dip their toes in the pool of urban culture from time to time, this album is right up their alley.

Also, while G1C does have a Christian message wrapped neatly into their hooks and chants, most of the lyrics aren’t particularly deep, meaningful, or profound. Lyrically speaking, they’re not saying anything you haven’t heard from other Christian pop artists tons of times before, even faux hip-pop artists (think tobyMac, Fresh Digress, or to a lesser extent, John Reuben). As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that even though what they’re saying is generally good (as opposed to many of the morally dubious messages in much of today’s pop music) the lyrics are not really what this music is about.

I think the lyrics are, more or less, just an excuse to hang some vocals around the sound. But the sound… ohhhh, the sound.

Group 1 Crew debuted with a very polished sound to begin with (hence their award nominations). The second time around, they kept the urban base that was working for them before, but broadened their sound even more. The results are impressive. The whole project has the aural gloss that one would expect from a major label pop release likes this (pitch correction and all), but with a lot of surprises. Taking their foundation of hip-hop and R&B, G1C dabbles with euro-pop (“iContact”), alt-rapcore (“Keys to the Kingdom”), and even jazzy pop (“I See You”), all infused with heaping servings of funk (“Bring the Party to Life,” and “Gimme That Funk”).

People love to compare Group 1 Crew to all kinds of other groups, and most of those comparisons fail, in my opinion. I compared them to 4th Avenue Jones for awhile (probably because both of their debuts were called No Plan B), but that quickly wore off. 4th Avenue is much grittier, and lyrically much meatier. Lazy music critics will compare them either to the Black Eyed Peas (somewhat comparable) or the Fugees (not even close).

Frankly, I think G1C’s closest competitors are a group that started with a meteoric rise, like them, but now finds theirselves on the outside looking in.

I’m speaking of the Washington Projects, formerly known as Souljahz. The siblings in this group (they started with three, now down to two) are also Latino, started off young, and were quickly the darlings of the Christian pop scene, mixing sunny, sassy vocals with brash rap braggadocio.

Sound familiar?

Well, I’m hoping that Manwell, Blanca and Pablo can stay humble, hungry, and keep progressing as artists. If they’re smart, they’ll try to team up with the WP’s, or at least reach out with a few phone calls or emails. There is wisdom in speaking to those who have traveled the road before you.

Nevertheless, even if this is the height of Group 1 Crew’s success, it just goes to show you that creativity mixed with a relentless drive for success can take you a long way. If nothing else, Ordinary Dreamers can be a blueprint for such a journey.

Uncategorized

Help, My Church Has Been “Vandalized”…


… by shadowy organization of neo-reconciliatory Christians.

That’s just the term that I’ve given to the four guys pictured on the poster that was seen mysteriously taped to the sign of my church (and to the wall of one of our buildings).

On the one hand, I agree with the overall sentiment of the poster. As Christians, we believe that our identity in Christ is the ultimate common denominator, and that by first being reconciled to God, we can minister grace and be reconciled to each other, and then extend that grace out to a world in desperate need of it.

On the other hand… the iconography of the sign is deliberately provocative, which is great if you’re the type of organization that is seeking out controversy, but most churches are not in that category because, sadly, controversy usually does not put butts in seats. (As a matter of fact, it usually removes them.)

Which is why my fear with those signs, the reason why I removed them, is that I wouldn’t want anyone to be confused. If all you see are the “stars and bars” design and you don’t read the words, it looks like white supremacist propaganda. And I don’t trust many churchgoers to be discerning enough to give it a thorough enough look to understand the meaning. I do, however, trust many of them to go flying off the handle and start complaining, loudly, to anyone within the vicinity. And that, our church does not need more of.

So they came down.

Still, I’m so intrigued…

Who did post this? Are there any more at other churches in our neighborhood? Are these four guys pictured even involved, or were they just victims of a rogue Photoshop session? And what was this poster supposed to accomplish? Was it just to stir up some thought and discussion among those of us who think there is no race issue in the church or in America? And considering everything that’s gone on with this presidential campaign, is there anyone left who still thinks this is not an issue?

As Arsenio used to say, these are things that make you go ‘hmm.’

(or, if you prefer, C+C Music Factory also said it.)

Uncategorized

More Links to Keep Making You Think (About the Campaign)


So much goodness, so little time. I tried to let go of this campaign stuff, but I can’t help it. There’s just so much worth reading and discussing. So in no particular order, I give you:

  • Gina Dalfonzo, one of my new favorite bloggers, holds it down at The Point. (And I’m not just saying that because I made her daily roundup.) Of her manifold posts, my current favorite is the one where, in one deft sentence, she refutes a hot mess of vaguely xenophobic misanthropy coming out of the LA Times. Apparently off-the-wall names are not exactly indicators of cultural degeneration… especially when other U.S. presidents have done it (not just VP nominees like Sarah Palin).
  • If you really like to read, and you’re not intimidated by academic publications, you ought to check out this thorough examination of why people tend to vote Republican, by Jonathan Haidt. In a nutshell, this UVa prof of psychology was able to, by spending time as an anthropologist in India, shed his liberal biases and come to a clearer understanding of the underlying girders of middle-American morality. In an offhand sort of way, this is like that old SNL bit when Eddie Murphy puts on white makeup to see what it would be like living as a White person in NYC … only without the dancing ladies serving drinks on the bus.
  • Joe Klein at Time magazine has put together a compelling portrait of the myth of Sarah Palin’s America. And while it examines many of Palin’s strengths, it points out the places where her ideology doesn’t exactly match up with reality. For example, small towns are still full of salt-of-the-earth type folks, but they are no longer our nation’s economic backbone. And the truth is, even in small towns, things are changing rapidly. (Case in point: I traveled a few days ago to Royal City, Wa. (population: 1950) to do an educational presentation for Making It Count at the local high school. What surprised me was that my audience of about 150 kids was mostly brown, and not white like I expected.)

  • Over at Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog, there has been plenty of lively discussion about both candidates and politics in general. In this thread, Scot lays out his summation of what he would consider an Obama presidency to look like. (A few days prior, he did the same for McCain.) If you want honest, passionate dialogue by and for Christians that doesn’t descend into the usual name-calling flamefest, you should check it out.

  • Also, I don’t know if this was intended to be a joke or not, but apparently John McCain’s Senate oversight was directly responsible for bringing us the BlackBerry.

  • Ryan Quinn at The Root shows his Wasillan pride by explaining all the reasons why people in his hometown are proud of Sarah Palin — and why she would make a terrible VP.

  • Over at Ed Gilbreath’s Reconciliation Blog, there’s some lively discussion surrounding the fallout of the infamous Obama waffles at the Values Voters Summit in Washington (including a healthy number of comments from yours truly). One thing I wonder… if waffle mix seller Bob DeMoss is related to Nancy Leigh DeMoss of “Revive Our Hearts,” and Nancy subscribes to the idea promoted by some of her contemporaries in the Christian life/marriage scene that men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti, does that mean that Obama should be a considered a man’s man now? Or does it mean that Chicagoans, leftists, and Obama supporters should eschew waffles for French toast as an act of solidarity? (And if they do… would they have the stomach to call it “freedom toast“?)

  • By the way, FRC Action, the people behind the Values Voters Summit, has apologized for allowing the waffle mix to be sold. Whether that’s an act of contrition or damage control is probably in the eye of the beholder, but either way, I’m glad.
Uncategorized

An Open Letter to A Young Republican

(By the way, this isn’t just one of those generic open letters aimed at anyone who fits the description. There is an actual young Republican that I tried to engage recently in conversation surrounding these issues, but his lack of response to my questions and continued rhetoric on his blog afterward have caused me to believe that he is not interested in dealing seriously with these particular issues. This saddens me. Yet it is my hope that there are others who share some of his convictions who might wrestle with these questions, and in so doing, enrich the current wasteland of political commentary with honesty and sensitivity, two facets in short supply in the blogosphere.)

(Also, I realize that I’m going to throw around some generalizations. I’ll qualify them here and there, but my sentences are already long to begin with, so just bear with me. I try not to get too bogged down in politics, but I just couldn’t keep silent any longer. This post has been a long time coming.)



To A Young Republican,

Congratulations.

Your political party, left for dead by many pundits even before the primary season started because of its affiliation with our once-popular current President, has managed to get back into the game, big time.

The addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket has re-energized the red-state faithful, many of whom wouldn’t have ridden the bandwagon for John McCain alone. I’m quite sure that you, like me, have more than a few misgivings about the candidate you’re standing behind, but the competitive nature of politics has a way of causing us to suppress those misgivings for awhile. As the thinking goes, if my guy is going to be attacked left and right by the opposition anyway, there’s no point in me piling on and doing their work for them.

This, along with many other tenets of conventional political wisdom, scares me to no end.

Not because it means that more people have rallied under the banner of McCain/Palin and that means the GOP might win the race, though that would sadden me somewhat.

No, the thing that most distresses me about the current political landscape as I see it expressed by people in your shoes, is that I feel like I should hate your guts when the truth is that I hardly know you.

You might be wondering what I mean.

Allow me to explain.

Lately, I’ve seen a boldness come over you and your peers. It’s a boldness that borders on belligerance. It seems to come from a collective sigh of relief that finally you have a candidate (or co-candidate, as it were) that can steal some headlines from the celebrity of Obama, which is no small feat. And in one sense, I find this behavior to be mostly harmless. If more young people are getting excited and engaged in the political process, I generally see that as a net plus, regardless of which side they land on ideologically.

And even though I’ve seen several high-profile Republicans (including Rudy Giuliani, and Sarah Palin herself) take some cheap shots, that doesn’t bother me that much. I mean, we are still talking about politics. And as any good Chicagoan will tell you, politics ain’t beanbag.

Most well-meaning baby boomers have already seen how divisive and ugly political races become, so it has become social custom for them to simply avoid talking about it in polite conversation. If you don’t bring it up, they won’t either. Not belonging to that generation, though, you and I tend to play by a different set of rules.

Generations X and Y tend to, according to my anecdotal evidence, wear their politics on their sleeves. In some cases, it’s a logical and systematic expression of their core beliefs about life and humanity. But for many of us, it’s more fundamental than that… on both the left and right, we younger adults often ride our respective political bandwagons as a statement of identity. More than just believing in certain ideals, we belong to groups of people who are passionate about the same things we’re passionate about.

So we dig into politics with the same zeal and passion that we give in other areas of our life, if not more so. It becomes a part of our identity, like the brands that we consume or the sports teams that we follow. (It’s no wonder the whole Democrats-are-Macs, Republicans-are-PCs meme is still popular.)

And realizing this helps me to understand why so many of you absolutely despise Barack Obama.

It’s because his political ascendance happened so quickly and so dramatically that even before he declared any official candidacy, his media coverage far exceeded the substance of his overall political achievement. Riding mostly on the strength of his ideas, his charismatic personality, and the cultural and historical significance of his biracial heritage, he managed to parlay a few lucky breaks into a seat in the U.S. Senate, and now he’s poised as the frontrunner to become President.

Is it jealousy? Yeah, there’s probably a little of that.

But I think it’s mostly disdain for the culture of celebrity that has surrounded his candidacy for so long. The Hollywood endorsements, the will.i.am tribute song, the endless parade of T-shirts and trinkets with his name plastered all over them. I’m sure by now someone somewhere is selling Barack Obama waffle irons, where you can pour your syrup over waffles stenciled with his high-wattage smile, and melt little pats of butter that spell out ‘YES WE CAN.’

It’s a little much, I agree.

So combining that with his stances on abortion and gay marriage, his opposition to the Iraq war, and other hot-button issues… it all equals a candidate that you love to hate, even more so than Hillary.

And like I said before, if this only had to do with politics, it wouldn’t bother me that much.

The problem is that many of you, dare I say, most of you, are Christians. And many of you are Bible-believing, sanctified, blood-bought evangelical Christians, which means you’re not shy about making your beliefs heard in the public square.

And those beliefs, specifically the theological ones that differentiate Christian faith from all the other faiths out there, are beliefs that I share. So I think it’s great that you want to advocate for a candidate that you interpret as representing Christianity as you know and understand it. In your mind, you’re doing your part to advance God’s kingdom.

And trust me, I’m all about advancing God’s kingdom.

But it seems to me that, in your zeal to elect the guy you want in office (McCain), it’s not enough to argue that your guy is better. No, you’ve got to tear down the other guy in the process.

Which, again, is not that big a deal if all we’re talking about is politics. Laker fans don’t care if I call Kobe Bryant a diva or a Jordan wannabe… they know that’s what opposing fans do. So I don’t mind that you want to tear Obama down in the public square. As American citizens, you have a right to do that.

As Christians, however, you have a responsibility to hold a higher standard of conduct. Name-calling, spreading false rumors, and fear mongering may be standard behavior for political strategists, but Jesus told us to, you know, love our enemies. Even our political enemies.

So the fact that you don’t seem to be doing that particularly well makes people take notice, especially people who don’t know God like you do. And no disrespect to all the Dallas Mavericks fans, but if even Mark Cuban thinks that politics have gotten a little out of control, then something is very wrong.

Now I know I’m risking looking like a hypocrite here, because many of you might be wondering why I never took the time to defend George W. for the merciless pounding he’s been taking from the left. Where was the call to civility then, you might be asking.

Well, you’re right. I’ve been guilty of the same offense. I’ve chosen to selectively follow God’s will and leading based on the convenience of my politics. And since Bush is easy to make fun of, I didn’t stand up for him at times when I could have. I chose to ignore that whole passage of Romans 13 that talks about how God has ordained certain authorities to be over us.

But… and no offense, fellow Democrats, but uh… it’s a little different when Republicans do it, because the GOP is supposed to be the party that upholds Christian values.

I mean, I know Barack said that whole bit about how “we serve an awesome God in the blue states” during his coming out party in 2004, but I don’t think most of America was really picking up what he was laying down. Liberal Democrats already have the reputation of being secular, immoral, and Godless.

And frankly, even though it saddens me to see liberal bloggers, pundits, and journalists engaging in the same name-calling and fear-mongering, it doesn’t surprise me that much. The prophet Jeremiah (no, not that Jeremiah) told us the heart of man is deceitfully wicked. So when you have a population of people that is, by and large, without the truth of God as we understand it, what should one expect?

But you, on the hand… you guys are supposed to know better.

And I think that if you really understood how much some of your actions help push people away from God instead of drawing them back to God, you would do things differently.

Now as we watch the rest of the drama unfold in this march toward November, I honestly don’t know who is going to win. At this point, I could see it going either way.

But do me a favor, okay?

Regardless of who wins, lets cut out all the vitriol. Lets do our best to keep it about policies and principles.

And lets agree to respect the office of the President, regardless of who actually occupies the Oval Office.

And lets not view the President simply as an extension of the party to which he (or she) belongs, but as a three-dimensional human being with flaws and hopes and bad hair days just like the rest of us. Because it’s a lot harder to demonize someone you can identify with.

And if we can all identify with a figure as polarizing and controversial as the President of the United States, then maybe we’re not as far apart as it seems.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.

Uncategorized

Links to make you think: Campaign Edition


I try not to let this blog get too political because I don’t want to be known as a stooge for either the left or right (masthead notwithstanding).

Mostly, I just like to get people thinking.

So here are a bunch of pieces I’ve read lately that have really got me thinking.

Uncategorized

Sarah Palin: The New Chuck Norris


For those of you, like me, who couldn’t get enough “investigative reporting” about the growing legend of Carlos Ray Norris, the phenomenon is repeating itself with the latest femme fatale, VP candidate (and McCain running mate) Sarah Palin. I give you: Sarah Palin Facts. My favorites:

  • Sarah Palin begins every day with a moment of silence for the political enemies buried in her yard.
  • Sarah Palin can win a game of Connect Four in only three moves
  • Sarah Palin is what Willis was talkin’ ’bout
  • Scientists discovered mysterious watermarks on Sarah Palin’s ultrasound images. Translated from Inuit, they read: “ALASKA GIRLS KICK @SS.”
  • Fox is starting a new reality show … “When Sarah Palin Attacks”
  • Death once had a near-Sarah-Palin experience
  • In the original version, He-Man had the power of Sarah Palin, but the writers felt this would make him way too powerful
  • Jesus has a bracelet that says “WWSPD”

By the way, one of those I made up just now. Astute Mixin’ It Up readers should be able to guess which one. enjoy.