Sunday, September 21, 2008

Roots...




Last night, I went to see a musical called Fela! off-broadway at the 37 arts theater. Whittled down to its simplest essence, the play is about Fela Kuti, a beloved African musician who used his music to rally his people against governmental oppression. While it actually goes much further than that, I'll leave it to you to research and discover, as it is actually an amazing story and a truly electric piece of theater. The piece moved me more than anything I've ever seen onstage, but not for reasons of dramatic power or great acting, although it had both in spades. Fela! was important to me because I finally got it. I am more than someone who has just descended from slaves, I am descended from strong, smart, resilient Africans whose continent was raped and pillaged by greedy newcomers.

As I was talking with my boyfriend on the way back, I finally realized how media messages and corporate America have conspired to make Blacks feel inferior when in reality most of what we see as "American" culture comes from African-Americans and Africa itself, from dance to art to music and everything in-between. As I walked back from this amazing show and had my mind blown from a connection to Africa I'd never really felt before, I felt extremely lucky to live the life I lead, to have the luxury to see a piece of incendiary theater like Fela!, and to have the education and intellectual curiosity to learn more about my roots. It saddens me that most Black people in America aren't able to have this experience, that if the "talented tenth" theory is true and I am indeed a member of that tenth, I have no real way to get the message out to those who need it the most.



On Nas' Untitled CD, one of my favorite songs is N*****: The Slave and the Master, because he breaks down a lot of the crap that is slung at us by society, capping it all with the line: We were scholars long before colleges. Even though I've been an advocate and strong believer in multiculturalism for a while now, one of the hardest lessons to learn during my college years is that not everyone shares that need to learn and grow from that kind of interaction. The Asian, Latino, White, and Black kids that I hung out with all seemed more interested in their own cultures than discovering others. Perhaps they had already had the lesson that I'm in the process of learning: you've got to get to know yourself before you can know anyone else.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rob Smith Presents...The Mocha Lounge Video Blog




The Mocha Lounge Video Blog will make its debut exclusively on Afterelton.com on Monday, September 15th. Hosted by "I Want to Work for Diddy" star and writer/blogger Rob Smith, the Mocha Lounge Video Blog will cover politics, pop culture, music, and the media through the lens of LGBT people of color. The show will also be highly interactive, allowing viewers to submit their comments on the "Question of the Week", as well as any other topics that they would like to see. The MLVB will run biweekly exclusively on Afterelton.com, a subsidiary of the LOGO Gay&Lesbian television network.

The Mocha Lounge

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Iraq Thing



Over the weekend, I got a chance to catch Stop Loss, a drama about Iraq war veterans being called back to duty right before separation. It's a terrific flick, anchored with strong and realistic performances form Ryan Philippe (!) and Abbie Cornish, and what I enjoyed the most was that it was refreshingly non-partisan. I'm not the type of person to scream "Too Soon!" at the top of my lungs when people decide to make movies about 9/11 or the Iraq War, but it is beyond irritating when filmmakers try to teach a lesson rather than tell a story. The interesting thing about Stop Loss was that the most partisan Democrat or Republican you could find could each take something from it, and it occurred to me that it works because the story is uniquely American. I was also the victim of the stop-loss policy, but thankfully I was only extended 90 days and allowed to return to the states from Iraq to exit the military.

These movies always seem to have a strange effect on me. I wouldn't say that I enjoy them, but I'm always left in a weird state after I watch them. I don't enjoy the war sequences that are choreographed like action movies, but I do realize their necessity. I was there. I made it through the storm, and the only thing I can think of when I watch these movies is why I made it when others didn't. Why do others suffer post-traumatic stress disorder when I don't? Why was my most severe injury a fractured toe when so many others have lost limbs? Why am I still here? Perhaps that will end up being one of the great unanswered questions of my life. I want a lot out of life. I'm driven to succeed because I was given a second chance, and when the big guy gives you another chance you don't waste it. I promise not to waste it.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mocha Lounge Video Blog (Test Pilot)

Hey everybody! I know I've been talking a lot about my video blog that's going up at AfterElton. Well, I finally met and brainstormed with my co-host Aundra and we put together a little test pilot for my editor to look over and critique. However, I'm gonna give you guys a first look! Mind you, we'll eventually film on better video, have more structure (this was an off the cuff thing to test chemistry and camera presence), and an intro, but this is a good idea of the feeling that we want to come from the Mocha Lounge Video Blog. Enjoy!

Pt. 1

video


Pt. 2

video

Thursday, September 4, 2008

America's Next Top Model?

Hello all, here are some pictures from my red carpet/runway debut last night. I'm recapping the whole situation for afterelton.com, so I'll be sure to update with a link to that once it gets published. Tyra better watch her back...






A larger gallery can be found here

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

No Shade....




So last Friday night, my friend Aundra and I went to the "No Shade" party at the Mocca Lounge in SoHo. The party was hosted by Maurice Ruinea, Dwight Allen O'Neal, and Adam Benjamin Irby, all minor black gay celebs here in NYC in their own right, and I thought it would be a great way to try to become more social here in New York. I'm a notorious homebody, but if I'm going to be successful in all of these new endeavors, I really need to be putting my face out there a bit more, so that's what I was going for. Also, I had gone to the Mocca Lounge once before for Adam's birthday party and had a blast. I had also met him before at Fire Island Black Out and randomly on the 3 train before either one of us knew who the other one was.

As for the crowd, I guess it could've been better (more on that here), but I personally enjoy a smaller, cute crowd instead of having to elbow my way through crowds of people so I can get my drink on. It was also my first time in VIP anything, so I was enjoying drinking my champagne and looking down over the crowd and such. I also got to meet the soon-to-be-superstar Isis, who makes Top Model history tonight as the show's first transgender contestant. She was humble and lovely, and I regret not getting a pic with her, because she's about to BLOW UP (you know, the way that most reality show stars do when they're on a show that gets promotion and ratings...*cough* *cough*).


When it was all said and done, me and Aundra headed out, only to be accosted by an actor who wanted #1 - To talk to Aundra, who is admittedly a good-looking guy , #2 - To promote is website or blog or myspace or something or other, and #3 - To debate politics in the rain at 3AM on a Saturday morning. Seeing as how I had to get up in 4 hours to go to the shore with my boyfriend, I wasn't having it, and Aundra and I politely excused ourselves to the horrors of the NYC subway system at 3AM.

So that's it, my first night in VIP and it went OK. I'm going to try my hardest not to make my life (and this blog) into lifestyles of a Z-List NYC celeb, but there is a bunch of cool stuff happening right now, and I wanted to keep all 10 of you filled in!

Next up.... I'm walking in a FASHION SHOW! More on that soon...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What's it all About?

So right about now, I'm closing in on the 6-month point of writing this blog, and it's been a really great experience that has actually opened up a lot of doors for me as a writer. I'm currently having a great time blogging for afterelton.com, and that whole opportunity came very randomly via a ham-handed PR email requesting an interview/feature before the Diddy show dropped. The editor came here, liked my stuff, and all of a sudden I was a published writer on a major website. Funny how that works, huh?

Right about now, I'm really trying to pinpoint the direction of this whole thing. Initially, it was meant as a kind of a forum for my own political leanings and opinions, but I'm starting to see it as more of a blog about myself, life, and, well, Rob in the City. I definitely want to continue posting about politics and pop culture, but I've also kind of developed a group of people (fan base? is that arrogant?) through this whole reality show thing that I really want to be able to reach out to and keep informed of everything that's going on with me. I'm definitely making some moves right now and would like to continue to be a voice for people like me, especially those who felt good about seeing a Black Gay Man on TV. I've gotten those myspace messages/emails/etc., and it feels great.

In the future, expect to see the same politics and pop culture postings that I've done in the past, but with a little something extra to spice it up a bit, starting with more about my life, my experiences, and what I'm doing. The first in the line of those postings will be a little blurb about my AMAZING first-timer experience at Fire Island last weekend, as well as something a little more personal about the mixed feelings that come with failure on a very LARGE scale (and anyone who watched the Diddy show this week knows exactly what I'm talking about.

I'm looking forward to this new direction, and I hope you all keep reading!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Who's That Girl?




Now I know that this is an image that has been making its way around the internet lately and if Loreal is guilty of lightening her skin for this ad (which I'm pretty sure they are), then what exactly does that say about the artist in question? I remain a huge Beyonce fan, and of course she gets the mainstream benefits of being a very fair-skinned black girl, but I would like to think that such an obviously savvy businesswoman would exert more control over her image. I am under no delusions that having more money than God makes you necessarily smart about these types of things, but this suggests a certain ignorance about historic standards of beauty (and perhaps those who don't meet those rigid standards) that's more than a little off-putting. Perhaps her and Lebron "King Kong" James should try to read up a little on history and think for a second about the messages they're sending to fans before they cash the checks. People who present themselves as role models (and they do) should be held to the standards of such. Just a thought.

P.S. - What in the holy hell is Beyonce doing in a Loreal ad anyways? Is this a new lacefront wig coloring line? I'm confused, because underneath all of that, Beyonce's hair looks like this, and I happen to think that beats the lacefronts any day of the week.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Friendship




One of my fraternity brothers once told me that everybody wants to have good friends, but nobody wants to be a good friend. While I'm not sure whether or not that's true, I know that last night was one of those nights where I really appreciate the friends that I do have. Friends are more important to me than they are to most people because I went through my teenage years and my early 20's as a total loner. For most of my life, I've been either too gay, too black, not black enough, etc., etc. to connect with different people, but it seems like now that I'm comfortable with exactly who I am, more people are noticing and want to be around me. It's a great feeling.

Last night I looked around the room and saw friends who had gathered to support me on one of the biggest nights of my life, and I felt unbelievably humbled and blessed. The premiere party for my silly little reality show was no red-carpet shindig at some fancy club, but I've always been the type to keep things small and intimate. It's crazy to think that only 5 years ago I was barely surviving in a war zone and now I'm on national TV. Life is really something else. I don't know where I'll be 5 years from now or what I'll be doing, but I can only hope that it's something fulfilling and exciting. Things will change now and I'm sure opportunities will come, but if it's not about anything real I couldn't care less. Some people would sell themselves down the river for a taste at fame or for the chance to live a life of luxury that they think leads to happiness, but not me. I prefer to sit here and marvel at the blessings I have in life, starting with each and every person in that picture above.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Race Card



What they're going to try to do is make you scared of me...you know, 'He doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills'. - Barack Obama

Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. - John McCain campaign

You know, I’ve always hated the phrase “the race card”. I’ve always thought that the fact that a person would even let this phrase cross their lips tells me all I need to know about their views and opinions on race. Once I participated in a wrap-up session for an internship program I did in the ad industry, and an offhand mention of the dreaded “race card” was directed at me when I dared to mention feeling a little discomfort at being the only black male intern at my agency. In our society, which remains too undereducated and afraid to engage in frank talk about race, the “race card” phrase functions as a way to suppress any conversation or real examination of how race affects our world and to take a shortcut through the pearly gates into that “post-racial” society that is easier for those with smaller minds to pretend we’re in. In my case, it was used to deny my feelings because they made others in the room uncomfortable.

To use the phrase assumes that “the race card” is a trump card that black and brown people just have at our disposal to use at our will, as if our race does not exist until we mention it, and as if this card hasn’t (in the words of Whoopi Goldberg) “been pinned to us” in every situation that we find ourselves in. Now, we find ourselves at the place in the campaign where we all feared we’d end up eventually, the place in which Barack Obama begins to acknowledge the root of some of the more unfair (“I just don’t know who he is!”) accusations against him and the place in which the republicans do their best “Who, me?” posturing and attempt to turn themselves (and by extension their base of working-class white voters) into the victims of yet another black man playing the “race card”.

Old man McCain has been on a negative streak lately (a recent CNN poll found that 1/3 of McCain’s ads refer to Obama negatively while 90% of Obama’s ads don’t even mention McCain), and while some of us are tired of the same old game, this stuff is apparently doing a good job of shoring up McCain’s base against Obama (and certainly not for McCain, because I haven’t heard anything about his own plans out of the man’s mouth in weeks). I’m inclined to agree that the only chance McGhoul has is to whip up his supporters, the republican base (suckers or millionaires or both), and perhaps a few skittish independents to become vehemently, virulently opposed to the other guy, that elitist liberal with the ungrateful, angry wife. You know, the one who plays the race card.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

An Open Letter to Bravo




Dear Bravo, even though you are responsible for inflicting Christian Siriano on an unwitting public, I must say that you've offered quite the run of entertainment these past few years. Project Runway introduced the genre of reality shows with contestants who actually have a talent to contribute to society, and for that welcome respite from the boozy sexcapades of The Real World and the celebration of treachery that is Survivor, the American public will have you to thank for classing up Reality TV just a bit. However, the visceral reaction of disgust that welled up in me once I saw the promos for Date My Ex pretty much confirmed to me that it's time for us to have a talk. I don't know whether it was the heat, my hunger, my contempt for Jo De La Rosa and the transition to pop princess that she's trying to make about 18 years too late, or all of the above, but when I saw the poster in the subway and actually entertained the thought of setting fire to it, I knew that it was time to talk. Simply put, your programming slate sucks. It is dismal, awful, mortifying, and frightening, and I'm not just talking about Jeff Lewis' lips. You have managed to re-brand your network into a showcase for unappealing reality "stars" who have achieved little more than marrying rich (The Real Housewives), having great abs (Work Out), or having appeared on other Bravo reality shows (the aforementioned Date My Ex and most likely some awful concept that is close to getting greenlit as we speak).

Now, I do realize that outlining problems without any solutions is nothing but bitching (although the bitching is fun), so I have a few suggestions:

1. ENOUGH WITH THE GODDAMN SCRIPTING!

Because, honestly, I'm waiting for one of these fools to look off camera and ask for a line half the time.

2. A Large Bank Account Does Not an Inherently Interesting Person Make

Pick a Housewife, ANY Housewife, and I challenge you to find a more boring person on television. And yes, that includes Brian Williams.

3. Get Off of The Horse, Already...

Project Runway was great, then Top Chef was ok, and then Shear Genius was kinda boring, and boy did Top Design suck, and, man, even Nomi Malone herself couldn't save Step It Up and Dance, and she was working her ass off. Who even won that show anyways? Exactly.


4. Rich Assholes Aren't Entertaining When They're Real

In America, we LOVE rich assholes, and we love shows and movies about rich assholes, and I think we all secretly want to be rich assholes, but we don't really like to watch real rich assholes be rich assholes in reality shows because they remind us of the rich assholes that most of us have to deal with in real life, and, besides, most of the rich assholes in real life are devoid of the depth that writers can give them in scripted shows, and while (as per suggestion #1) we know that your producers are working overtime to give your rich assholes personalities and snappy dialogue, it's not really working, and the rich assholes that populate most of your shows lack the self-awareness required to pull any of this stuff off. So, perhaps maybe you could, you know, build a few shows around people who aren't rich assholes.

5. Awards Shows Aren't Your Thing

Even putting aside the irony that your A-List Awards weren't attended by anyone who could be EVER be mistaken for such, the show was a disaster. When your own reality stars look embarrassed to be there and the award itself looks like something that may be rejected from use at the Gay Porn Awards for being a bit too tacky, you may want to heed the signs that the universe is sending you and reconsider making this an annual thing, although I must admit it was kinda funny seeing the guy who won for having a great ass in the Sex and the City movie accepting the award as if it were a Nobel Peace Prize.

So there they are, 5 suggestions that, if heeded, may put you on the right track, although I suspect that you don't see the brick wall in front of the train, and in that case you may be beyond helping. But please, if you hear nothing else, hear this: don't never, EVER pick up The Millionaire Matchmaker for another season and we'll call it even. Pretty please?

P.S. - Bonus credit will be given if and when you finally release this on DVD, because having the ability to see Whitney Houston telling Bobby Brown to kiss her ass anytime I want to would forgive a multitude of sins. Even Million Dollar Listing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Z-List Ascendancy is Now Complete

I give you...

Me on Perez Hilton

The only thing that would've made this more complete is if they had ran a picture of me and scribbled a dick on my mouth or something, but I must say it's still pretty cool. Perhaps I should get a DUI or flash my balls getting out of a limo now?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Color of Patriotism



Right now, the big story in the media is Barack Obama‘s trip overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. You know, he’s brushing up on the foreign policy credentials, looking presidential, and basically doing everything that the next president of the United States should do. On the dying political party and half-dead political candidate front, John McCain is presumably somewhere figuring out where Iraq and Pakistan are on a map before he makes yet another huge gaffe that his pals in the media will ignore. Anyways, while doing a little internet surfing, I came across some pictures of Obama in Afghanistan, and while the pictures were with service members that were predominantly of color, I must admit that I was shocked by some of the online reaction to this. I’m a bit of a political junkie, and since the majority of my friends are inline with my own views, I lurk on different political websites to see what people are really thinking. For better or for worse, nothing brings out the truth quite like the anonymity of the internet, but even with that said I was actually pretty fucking disgusted at just how shocked people seemed to be that, you know, there are actually black and Latino service members in the United States military.

In all honesty, the U.S. military is one of the most diverse places I’ve ever worked. While it isn’t without its racial and class issues, it is a place where it is not entirely uncommon for whites to be below blacks and Latinos in rank. Place that little nugget in contrast with the civilian population in which people can go their entire careers without ever having a boss of color, and you’ll see how progressive the military actually is in this respect. This whole situation also got me thinking about how patriotism is framed in this country and exactly who has ownership of patriotic principles. You see, when the right-wing attacks Michelle Obama for her perceived “ungratefulness” and questions Senator Obama’s love for his country, they are continuing a time-honored tradition of portraying blacks as somehow less than patriotic, one that was further ingrained in American culture with the “Welfare Queen“ hysteria brought about by Reagan in the ‘80s.

The image of the American soldier that you see when you close your eyes is probably that of a fresh-faced white male, his piercing blue eyes positively shimmering with love for his country and noble restraint. I mean, isn’t that what we’re shown by Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers and the rest of the assorted Army propaganda that we’re subjected to? Of course, that is a perfectly valid image, but is it more valid than the immigrant who actually serves his country to gain citizenship, or the black girl who joins the military to help pay for college because her parents can‘t afford it? Or what about me? I’m the black gay guy, the double-minority who should feel more put-upon by this big, bad country than anyone else, right? Well, not so much. I love my country because I believe that it is a place where anything can happen for anybody, and I have been known to engage in heated discussions in defense of it. People like myself, those soldiers, and, yes, Senator Obama, scare the shit out of smaller-minded people in this country because we are examples of people of color taking ownership of this country in a way that we have almost never been allowed to before. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I believe that more people haven’t seen those pictures for a good reason, and that is because they defy the narrative about patriotism that has been subtly embedded into our society and forms the image of that soldier that you see in your head. Obama’s presence means that the color of patriotism is becoming a little more broad, and I think that what an Obama presidency will be able to inspire in terms of patriotism among those who have never been thought to be patriotic will be great for the country. For our country.

Monday, July 21, 2008

This is it....



So it's damn near midnight, I'm getting up at 6:30 to hit the gym, and before I go to bed I stumble upon this video on youtube. I watch it at least 5 times before stopping and taking a breath. There is a part of me that can't believe all this is really happening, that a simple guy from Akron, Ohio is about to be on national television and got the opportunity to even compete for something so huge. The part of me that will in some ways always be that overweight little gay boy in high school feels very proud, like I've actually achieved something that most people only dream about. It's a great feeling, and it gives me power, purpose. The feeling in my gut is telling me that things are really about to change. For whatever happens during the course on the show, that guy in the blue shirt is me, and he's a winner. Now that is something to hold onto....

Friday, July 18, 2008

*Click!*

So, I had the day off of work (Thank God, 'cause it was a looooooong week) and I figured it would be a good time to finally book an appointment for headshots. If you're not in "the biz" (and, you know, I'm not), headshots are basically your calling card. I figured that with the Diddy show premiering in a few weeks (and that can of worms is opening up in about 24 hours with the debut of a flashy new trailer that I'm simultaneously dreading and absurdly excited about), I should have some sort of professional pictures of myself taken just in case someone wants to contact me or whatever, fine. People need to know what you look like and need promotional pictures, and I also didn't want to be the only one with some grainy and badly lit facebook picture on the famous VH1 friends website they're setting up for the show. So I get hooked up with a photographer and I go to the studio on West 38th (a grimy, smelly, loud part of the city that I really hate), pony up the $100 and spend about 90 minutes taking pictures. Now, here's the thing with me and pictures. I'm not photogenic. I'm just...not. I have these big eyes, a lantern-shaped head, and summertime in NYC sometimes gives me the distinct appearance of someone who has replaced their facial moisturizer with a bucket of Crisco. Anyway, I have this theory about goodlooking vs. sexy. You can be either sexy or good looking, but very few can be both. On my good days, I can possibly be sexy, but never really good-looking. In my younger and more, shall we say, blunt days, I told a friend that he was good-looking but not really sexy and was honestly confused that he got offended by it. Either way, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

Anyways, this guy was so damn good, I managed to get about 35 good pictures out of 120. Percentage wise, that's around 25%, so if this were a test I'm pretty damn sure that's an F on my part. Maybe I should take modeling school or something. I swear, I kept hearing the voice of Tyra Banks in my head, coaching those hungry little girls on America's Next Top Model ("Smile with your EYES." "Don't do this, do THIS"). Who knows, maybe she knows something I don't, 'cause that girl will give FACE all day. I must admit though, it was fun, and I may or may not have had visions in my head of that Carrie Bradshaw scene in the Sex and the City movie where she gets her pictures taken for Vogue and the Ciara song is playing in the background (You know exactly which one I'm talking about). So now I've got my pictures and I'm hoping they serve their phantom purpose fine, and with the overhaul of my myspace page, I'm ready for the sure to be A-list fame that will come from being on a VH1 reality show. Right.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008



There is a certain image on the cover of a certain magazine named for my great city that is getting a lot of attention right now. Apparently, some magazine editors and cartoonists thought that it would work as satire, and decided to place an incendiary image with racist undertones on the cover of their once respected periodical. I won't feature it here. I won't go on a rant about how offensive the image is. I won't highlight and dissect the racial imagery in the picture. I won't even write a thoughtful piece about the lack of people of color in the newsroom, a problem which greatly contributes to colossal and insensitive blunders like the image in question. No, I won't do that. What I will do is take the lead of a man I greatly admire and rise gracefully above the mess that has been created, and privately continue with the hope that our country is slowly but surely getting over its final real bout with intolerance before we ascend to the greatness we're capable of...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Trifling Negro Of The Week.....



So, apparently this fool (some rapper named Yung Berg who nobody will remember 5 years from now) is "kinda racist" and doesn't like dating dark-skinned women (story here, and God forgive me for linking to Media Take Out). *sigh* I don't even know where to go with this one. Unfortunately, colorism still runs rampant in our community. A long time ago I dealt with this issue in an African-American studies class when it dawned on me that dark-skinned black girls have virtually no chocolate sisters to look to in the media (Gabby Union, Kelly Rowland, and diva deluxe Naomi Campbell are the only ones I can think of), and I realized that dark-skinned black men like myself simply have more positive images of us floating around. I've been told many times in a complimentary way that I favor both Chris Tucker and Wesley Snipes, both men whom I find incredibly attractive. Hell, even Out magazine, the whitest of the white gay rags, has a chocolate-skinned black model grace the cover or its layouts from time to time. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the last time I saw a black woman any darker than Alicia Keys grace the cover of a mainstream fashion magazine.

As for Yung Berg (and no, that's not a typo, just how this fool spells his stage name), I'm sure the irony that he is further perpetuating memes of white supremacy that have been disseminated throughout our society for generations would be lost on him. In fact, I'm sure that he would probably need a dictionary to deconstruct that last sentence. As a dark-skinned black man myself (and don't get it twisted by that well-lit profile pic, this chocolate is dark), it is an issue that used to follow me around a great deal. Knowing the phrase "black is beautiful" and learning how to believe it are two different things, and perhaps that is something that starts with the parents (who never taught me that specific lesson, but thankfully didn't teach me the opposite, either). I'm extremely critical of what the media is trying to portray as "beautiful", mainly because more likely than not that is something that I can physically never be, and also because many people have a lot to gain by maintaining whiteness as a standard bearer of physical attractiveness.

Anyway, what this boils down to is that black people are beautiful in all of our colors, from creamy caramel (Boris Kodjoe, Beyonce) to dark chocolate (Tyson Beckford, Serena Williams. Mmmmmmm, Tyson Beckford. *sorry*), and Yung Berg is this blog's inagural Trifling Negro of the Week for failing to realize that. *sigh* Hip hop, we have GOT to do better than this.

P.S. Grillz were over after Brooke Hogan rocked them in that wack-ass video with Paul Wall. Do you really want to look like this?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sisters are Doing it For Themselves....



One thing to do when you're the lesser-known albeit talented sibling of the biggest pop star in the world is to so thoroughly separate yourself from her that there is no denying the differences between the two. Like many of you, I was just not checking for Solange Knowles. I mean, who cares? *crickets chirping* Sure, I liked that cute little song she did with Lil' Romeo a few years back, but I never really put much thought into her as an artist. Well, when I heard the song and saw this video, she pretty much demands attention.

First off, the video is the most interesting thing I've seen in the format in quite some time. The colors pop, and the visual style is something a bit different from the ever so boring "beaches, rims, and clubs" themes that make so many videos today virtually interchangeable. She's really doing something different here, and it shows. I'm a big fan of the song as well. Unlike some singers who hollowly imitate the soul-sounds of the '60s (note to Ms. Winehouse, your black background singers no longer lend authenticity to your "soul" singing after you've been caught on video smoking crack and singing racist children's songs), she really seems to be feeling it, and I like the visual homage to the different eras.

I've gotten more interested in her stuff the more I hear of it, and since (let's be real) this is an artist who's going to need all the support she can get, I fully plan on buying her CD and even checking her out in concert. Maybe you guys should, too...

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Buck Stops Here

You know when you really want to do something, but you don't really do it, you just tell people that you want to do it? Well, that's me with this damn book. At some point within at least the past 2 years, I've been kicking around the idea of writing memoirs in my head. You know, you get some good feedback from a few professors, and all of a sudden, you're a writer, right? Well maybe not, but have you read some of the shit that's being smeared on pages and sold for $25 these days? The Vixen Diaries and On the DL and that crap? That was some 9th grade reading-level stuff right there, and you know it's true. I mean, I'm a black gay guy who served 4 1/2 years in the U.S. Army including 6 months in Kuwait and close to a year in Iraq. There's gotta be some good stuff in there, right? Well, there is, and it's juicy, but the hard part is trying to structure it in my mind.

Was it hard? Well, yeah, but it was also funny, sad, terrifying, thrilling, and life-changing. What is the tone? I certainly don't want to write some sad-sack earnest memoir about a band of brothers or some shit, because that doesn't exist outside of, well, Band of Brothers (that HBO miniseries that is supposed to be superb but I refuse to watch). The Iraq war isn't The Great War. It isn't even a good war, and isn't even being fought for a good reason. It's just some bullshit that a lot of innocent soldiers like myself got caught up in inadvertently, like when a gang leader sends his gang to jump some asshole for smudging his shoes. But it did happen, and there are a lot of things I need to own up to and deal with, and this is the best way to do it. For now though, I think I'm finally about to take this journey. I don't know how long it's going to be or what it's going to be like, but I know I'll have a sense of closure once it's done.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Fabulous Brunch

Okay, okay, I've heard that my evisceration of Rue B in the East Village below was a bit harsh, so to balance it out, I had an AMAZING brunch at a restaurant on 8th and Avenue A yesterday. Poached eggs and salmon on top of mixed greens with a slightly sweet balsamic dressing and a Mimosa. Divine. Absolutely divine. Maybe there is good food to be had in this city that doesn't come from my kitchen after all...

....On Broadway




So on Thursday, I was called back by the VH1 People to shoot some more stuff for the show, and I found out that the location of the shoot was right by the theater where Passing Strange, a show I've literally been dying to see for months, was playing. I figured I could use the opportunity to try to get $25 tickets, and, lo and behold, they weren't sold out! (A note to all the broke people in NYC who still love theater, most shows sell rush tickets for around $25. It's still not cheap, but compared to the $110 that Broadway tickets usually go for, it's a steal. Try here for more info)

What more can I say about this play that hasn't already been said? It is a masterpiece, honest and true, and it speaks more to the middle-class black experience than any work of art I've ever seen. This show is about that entire gray area of the African-American experience in between poor folks and Huxtables, about a young man who is trying to figure out who he is and is having trouble connecting to the more bourgeois trappings of his middle-class lifestyle (writer Stew, who won a Tony Award for this show's book, takes a few pointed satirical jabs at the black church, in particular). On a whim, he decides to take a trip overseas, and the play is a chronicle of this journey, complete with new sexual and life experiences, and ultimately an appreciation of where he came from, narrated and guided by a future version of himself. Yeah, it all sounds like a bit much, but it is staged and performed brilliantly, and isn't hard to follow at all.

Personally, I am more than used to being the pepper spot in the crowd of mostly older, white theatergoers, and furthermore, used to seeing the middle-class white experience portrayed onstage (recently and most brilliantly in August: Osage County). I was thrilled, however, to finally be able to see a story that I identified with so intimately. This show is very current, very fresh, and very honest, and for once I felt like I was on the inside of what the writer was trying to say because I feel like I have lived so much of this story. Passing Strange is literally about "passing", whether it be the lead's grandmother who passed for white in the Jim Crow days, or the fact that I am able to "pass" as a straight man until I decide to make my sexuality known. It is also about the complicated emotions behind such passing, and the reasoning behind the attempts in the first place. There is a point in which the lead character becomes famous in Berlin for adopting the persona of a ghetto youth from the inner cities of America and passing it off in his music. His over the top performance is played for laughs, but there is some deep, uncomfortable truth to be found in this instance. What middle-class black person hasn't adopted a little 'hood speech from time to time to fit in against the accusations of "acting white"? Who must we be to survive in the real world and still maintain a sense of self? What is real and what is fake? When are you "passing", and when are you being yourself?

Aside from the intriguing questions that the show brings, there is always this exuberance I feel when I see black actors on a Broadway stage. Whether it's great (this show) or not-so-great (the recent Cat On a Hot Tin Roof revival), it is always great to see people like me in an art form where Blacks are so thoroughly underrepresented. From the looks of the audience, I would guess that Passing Strange isn't long for this world, but the fact that it exists is revolutionary. What is exciting about this play and others, like Thurgood and In The Heights, is that it seems like the Broadway paradigm is shifting to become more inclusive for its artists and theatergoers of color, and that there are more options for all of us. That, in and of itself, is almost enough to get me to pay $110 for a Broadway ticket. Almost :P

Passing Strange is playing at the Belasco Theatre at 111 West 44th St

Monday, June 23, 2008

Obama Opts Out of Public Financing



Who cares? The right-wing gasbags that make their living trotting out talking points and feigning moral outrage while masquerading their grandstanding indulgences as "news". Obama's playing this game to win, and it drives them INSANE. I say more power to him. Hell, I might even make a contribution this month.

Feminists for Michelle O?



I like Michelle Obama. I always have. I can't pinpoint one exact reason why, but maybe part of her appeal lies in the fact that it can't be whittled down to one specific reason. I like the way she dresses. I like the way she presents herself. She is a very, very smart person who can talk to many different types of people without making them feel stupid. That is some hard shit to pull off.

She is a black woman in America, which is (I'm sure) a very hard thing to be, regardless of how many degrees she has, how much money she has, and how many bedrooms are in her house. Many people can't remember this far back, but there was a time before all of the race-bating and smears of the later primary season when people wondered if Barack Obama was "black enough" to connect with African-Americans due to his differences in experience and upbringing. Michelle is the one that was able to assuage these concerns and to help Barack connect with blacks on a real level. She is real, she is honest, she is, well, a Strong Black Woman.

I have heard and read the sentiment from black females that Michelle is "one of us", and yes indeed she is. She was "one of us" in a way that most blacks didn't see Barack before the Clinton campaign tried to put him in a racial box (ironically failing at doing so with most whites and simultaneously endearing him to blacks who were apprehensive of his candidacy before). I have so much respect for (and maybe a little hetero-crush on) this woman that it makes me nervous to think about what the GOP will try to do to her. In a country where a disturbing percentage of people still believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 and Faux Noise (Fox News) generates some of the highest basic-cable ratings for cable news, there will be rampant opportunities to try to paint the eloquent, classy, and intelligent and, yes, articulate Mrs. Obama as angry, out of touch, and elitist.

The question I have is that will the old-school feminists that were such die-hard Hillary Clinton supporters in the primary election stick up for Michelle Obama? In some strange way, Mrs. Clinton's campaign strategy seemed to anoint her as the new face of feminism when, in reality she acted as anything but (more on that another time). In Michelle Obama, we have the real thing, and the attacks have been, ironically, similar to those leveled at Mrs. Clinton so many years ago. The difference here is that Obama will be hit with the double-whammy of sexism and racism (Obama's Baby Mama? Really, Fox News?) and she will need all the support she can get. I suspect that the generational divide between the old-school (read: heterosexual white middle-class) feminists and the new wave of feminism that is more inclusive of different races and sexualities will only get larger, and nowhere will that divide be more pronounced than in their defense of Michelle Obama, or the lack thereof. I'll be watching this one with bated breath, but I certainly won't hold it waiting for statements of outrage from the likes of Geraldine Ferraro. That's okay. I'm sure the new kids will have Obama's back.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

.....and the food isn't much better


Earlier today, I had the fabulous displeasure of having brunch with my boyfriend in Rue B, a low-key restaurant in the faux-hipster dwelling East Village (ooooh, don't even GET me started on the East Village and how a place which may or may not have been interesting at some point in time has definitely turned into the destination du jour for manorexics in skinny jeans and girls who treat Sex and the City like a how-to life manual).

After 6 months in New York City, I'm starting to wonder why I've been having so many shitty meals in what is allegedly one of the "food capitals of the world" (feel free to add the name of your favorite travel mag rag here). Is it me? Do I give off the vibe of someone who doesn't enjoy every morsel of tasty, tasty food that I shovel into my mouth? You would think that even the most cursory glance at how my tree-trunk legs fill out a pair of jeans would alert the wait staff to the fact that I know my way around a good meal, yet I find myself surrounded again and again by bad food.

This week's offender is Rue B, another in a seemingly endless line of "cute and hip" (honestly, who the fuck says "hip"?) NYC restaurants that somehow survive and thrive on ambiance while offering actual food that would probably inspire a walkout from Mom's Diner in Pigs Gullet, West Virginia. Dining out to me is an experience, a treat, and I try to order a little differently at these NYC restaurants because #1 I'll probably never go there again, and #2 the chances of it still being there in a year are right about in line with Carnie Wilson really losing that weight this time.

Of course, it's father's day and the place is fairly busy. While there appeared to be a booth open in a corner, it was in the direct sight line of some 5th ave. Stepford family and their weird silver-eyed spawn and I didn't feel like having my brunch discussion relegated to one of those strange close-quarters restaurant conversations where you try to sound smart and shit because someone's within earshot. So, while sitting at the desolate bar with my boyfriend debating the difference between slasher flicks and zombie movies, the cute redhead waitress came, and I decided to be bold and order the Eggs Corleone, finding the delectable mixture of "poached eggs, prosciutto, and a special hollandaise sauce" irresistible. Imagine my surprise 20 minutes later when my food comes, and there appears to be poached eggs and proscuitto over some old-looking rye bread trying to escape from under a gravy-brown mess of nearly congealed sauce that has been rather unappealingly splattered over it.

So, after spending a few moments being a bit transfixed at this strange mixture of Jackson Pollock and Julia Child that sits before me and cursing the brunch menu for offering Mamosas instead of jello-shots, the thought occurs to me that I have to actually eat this. And eat it I do, but I don't like it. In fact, I hate it. The poached eggs and prosciutto taste like, well, poached eggs and proscuitto, but the sauce has an awful gravy-sweet taste that somehow seems influenced by the grease-traps that undoubtedly surround the grill in the kitchen, as if whatever this sauce was supposed to be was mixed with a healthy spoonful of grease fat runoff from the hundreds of omlettes and bacon strips that were made in the same area. As for the bed of Rye Bread that this monstrosity sits on? It is so hard that my poor butterknife can't even cut it and I give up on it, but perhaps it is for the better.

After all is said and done, after the awful sauce is sequestered to a corner of the plate like an unruly child, after I have finished the poached eggs and proscuitto and vowed to only eat in in this city whenever I can help it, I have only 6 words to say to the other poor soul next to me who has wandered into the wrong place looking for a meal who leans over me conspiritorially and comments: "The service here is awful". Those words, my friends, comprise the title of this post, delivered in real life with as much acid as I could muster while summoning for the check and the end to yet another awful meal in this great city.

Friday, June 13, 2008

*Breaking* in Trifling Negro News (TNN): R. Kelly is NOT GUILTY
















You see what that smile says, kids? It says that you too can, as a grown-ass man, manipulate a teenager into performing sexual acts on video, degrade and defile her at the end of it, have said video leaked in the interest of bringing you to justice, use your money and power to delay your trial for 6 years, sell millions of albums in the meantime, and then get off scot-free after a month when the trial finally DOES commence.

If there's some kind of celebration for this motherfucker a la Mike Tyson, I just might scream.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Our Next President



This is really happening. I'm alive. I am watching this happen in my lifetime. I can do anything at all. I now officially have no more excuses as to why I can't do anything in my life. There is no way that it can be even half as hard as what this man had to go through to get here, and what he will have to go through to win. I hope every young black man in this country can feel exactly what I feel and run with it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Awful Ad of the Month


Get Carried Away? GET CARRIED AWAY??!!?? So New Line Cinema and HBO secure a multi-million dollar marketing budget, partner with their overpaid, slovenly mouthbreather creatives and come up with fucking "Get Carried Away" as the tagline for one of the most anticipated movies of the summer? Something that an 8th grader from Oregon who dreams of being a copywriter would probably deem a bit too simple. God, no wonder New Line folded. The KKK ad below was bad, but this is just offensive.

P.S. Yes, I'm still seeing it. I'm sure when the numbers come in Monday morning the lead douchebag on the marketing team will be buying himself a new condo in Miami.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why We Need Diversity in the Ad Industry


Back when I was under the delusion of being a creative, I sat in my portfolio class and watched a reel of different agencies' work. I noticed a great many things that were vaguely racist, sexist, and/or homophobic, but I noticed that nobody else in the room was exhibiting any kind of discomfort with these things. Did I mention that I was the only black person in the class? Now I don't doubt that some young creative thought they were being "hip and edgy" with this ad, but there are just so many things wrong with it. Did they not think that the KKK might not be the best organization to associate the brand with? Did they want to make the black guy "extra" black by putting an afro on him? Seriously, nobody black or otherwise has worn an afro since 1979 without irony. The sad thing is that this piece literally went through dozens of people before it made its way to print, without one of them taking the time to step back and really think about what they were doing. How many black people were involved in the creative process of this? I'm taking bets. I'd be willing to bet that it's at or less than the number that sat in my Portfolio 1 Class at Syracuse University.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Is Main Street Ready for Gay PDA? Is ABC Ready to Engage in Real Journalism?

I got a tip to this story from a messageboard that I frequent. Apparently, ABC is doing another one of their "What Would You Do?" stories, this time focusing on reactions to two different gay couples engaging in PDA on a park bench in two different locations, once in Alabama and once in
New Jersey. It was very clear to me even while watching the piece that it was biased in many ways, and calling it amateurish would be a compliment, but I'll let you make your own decisions before I get to mine. You can view the video here

Once upon a time, I was a young, idealistic kid who wanted nothing more than to be in front of the camera on an anchor desk, and while perhaps there's still a part of me that wants that dream, I watch pieces like this and they reinforce why I got the hell out of broadcast journalism and pursued an honest and fulfilling career in Advertising (please note the sarcasm that should be dripping from your computer screen at this point). There is so much wrong with this piece, and the most damning thing about it is that they were all so very obvious upon my first viewing of it.

#1 - Both of the gay couples and all of the media examples of gay kisses presented were all of Whites, reinforcing the stereotype that gay = white, and once again ignoring queers of color.

#2 - The women who were opposed to the Lesbians kissing were bible-quoting rural stereotypes with country accents, complete with the banjo music playing in the background as they spoke.

#3 - The men highlighted with a negative reaction to the behavior were both Black, thus continuing with the black = homophobic stereotype, and once again ensuring the liberal types that are already watching this show that "see, the real homophobes are those other people, not you!".

My critical thinking skills tell me that this "experiment" is a big pile of horseshit designed to make rich white liberals feel better about themselves. The people at ABC didn't want to honestly examine reactions, they just wanted to prove what they already thought. This shit is what's wrong with our news media today. I'll pass. I've already brought enough undeserved attention to this "story" by writing about it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

This Just In: Black Lives Not Worth Anything


The verdict to the Sean Bell shooting trial came in about 30 minutes ago. The officers involved were completely acquitted on all counts, and I feel sick to my stomach. Granted, I always expected this verdict, but there was some small part of me that thought these officers would've been found guilty for something, ANYTHING, that had to do with the tragic shooting of this young black man in New York City. These police officers in UNMARKED CARS shot an UNARMED man to death on the eve of his wedding, and they are not guilty of even the most minuscule counts that are being leveraged against them? I am all for personal responsibility in the black community, but those talking points just don't apply here. This man and his friends were assumed to be armed and dangerous because they were partying while black in a certain area late at night, and the officers acted on their assumptions, which were in no way proven to be true. Now, as in the past, police officers will walk the streets freely after killing yet another young black man. Will I ever find myself in this sort of situation?

There is a part of me that has to believe that my life, at least in the eyes of the law, is worth just as much as anyone else's in this society, but situations like this make me seriously doubt that. Being a young black man in this society means that my intelligence is doubted, that my life is worth less than others, and that one wrong move could send me into a jail cell or a casket at a rate that is vastly greater than that of my White, Latino, and Asian peers. The Sean Bell case isn't about Racist White Cops, because at least one of the officers involved is a Black man. Instead, it is about a culture that sees every black man as a potential threat and a thug, and how this culture feeds into the one dominant societal institution that is supposed to protect us all. I have always believed that police officers are our friends, that they exist to protect us from the bad apples in society. I believe in America, and I believe in equal justice for all. Incidents like this verdict serve only to slowly chip away at that belief, and at the love that I have for a country I have once worn the uniform of.

Is my life worth anything today, tomorrow, or the day after? The answer from the New York State Judicial System is a resounding NO, with the underlying fury of an angry stepfather that dares me to even think about asking the question again.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Welcome to Rob In The City

Welcome to Rob In The City. It's about me, Rob, in New York City. Clever title, huh?

Anyways, I'll be posting about a great many different things that I'm interested in. Politics, Gossip, Music, Media, Race Relations, etc. will all be covered through my lens as a Black Gay professional working in the media/advertising industry, and maybe every once in a while I'll share a personal story or two. I fancy myself a bit of a writer, but I haven't been exercising the muscle, so that's what this is. I hope you have fun reading this blog, I've got a lot to say, so listen. This shit is IMPORTANT, man.