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29 May 2015 @ 01:14 am
-- Addy Walker, American Girl - Brit Bennett, The Paris Review Daily, May 28, 2015

"Addy is not a pickaninny doll. She is beautifully crafted, and her story portrays her as a girl who is smart and courageous. Generations of black girls before me would’ve loved to hold Addy in their arms. But she is still complicated, fraught with painful history. If a doll exists on the border between person and thing, what does it mean to own a doll that represents an enslaved child who once existed on that same border?"

-- The Secret History of Ultimate Marvel, the Experiment That Changed Superheroes Forever - Abraham Riesman, Vulture, May 25, 2015

"While Quesada was headhunting, Jemas struggled to find the right way to conceptualize his new initiative (at that time tentatively titled “Ground Zero,” a name that fortuitously was abandoned). Comics companies had tried to jettison decades of storytelling before, and it usually ended in failure. Do you create a story where some cosmic event resets the clock on 60 years of continuity? DC had done that with its “Zero Hour” event in 1994, and it only ended up making everything more confusing for readers. Would you send your best heroes into another dimension, where they were somehow rejuvenated? Marvel did that with its “Heroes Reborn” event in 1996, which drained the company's finances, received abysmal reviews, and soured relations between editors and creators."
Current Location: Home
Current Music: A$AP Rocky ft. Lil Wayne - M'$
28 May 2015 @ 07:43 pm
-- Action Bronson and Hip-Hop's Never-Ending Misogyny Debate - Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, May 28, 2015

"Still, it’s sort of bizarre that legal definitions, release dates, and close readings are the means by which it’s determined whether a rap lyric has gone “too far.” The conversation over sexism in rap can quickly become tedious because it’s hard to parse one rapper’s words without indicting the entire genre. Every so often, a public figure will snipe at rap for its lyrical content, starting a predictable cycle in which the person overstates their claims and hip hop’s defenders paint the critic as being clueless and, worse, using a double standard. Rock and roll is full of women-degrading, violent, and racist lyrics, too, and yet no one’s protesting outside Rolling Stones concerts."

-- A$AP Rocky and the Liquifying of Rap - Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, May 27, 2015

"Sure enough, the first description that comes to mind when listening to At.Long.Last.A$AP is “druggy.” The songs collage tempos, styles, and echo-caked sounds, with backing vocals pitchshifted very low and melodies that coalesce from murk. This isn’t totally new: In his short but influential career—which includes making the 2012 top-10 hit “Fuckin’ Problems”—A$AP Rocky’s choice of production styles has gotten him lumped in with the “cloud rap” subgenre, whose name is pretty self-explanatory. But the difference this time out is that the song structures themselves have been liquefied, and the results are often thrilling."
Current Location: Lucy Robbins Welles Library
Current Music: A$AP Rocky ft. Lil Wayne - M'$
23 May 2015 @ 03:22 pm
I'd meant to write on the eve of my departure from France, as it seemed appropriate to document how much it felt like the Third Act in a play or a movie. A culmination of things, victory achieved not simply in the domain of academics but elsewhere as well. Personal self-actualization through the activism in which I'd become involved, securing a job whose description fills me with incredible joy, a job I actually can't wait to begin in September, the amicable completion of relationships, the type towards which I'd figured myself a long time antagonistic, finishing the book, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I'd measured my time there by this metric: It was a joyous realization to discover just how many people I had to say goodbye to in preparation of my leavetaking. Amidst all of that ecstasy came the passing of a dear, dear law school friend of mine, an event to which I came to terms by seeking my earliest of refuges. The nature of the company I often keep has made me more familiar than most with the circumstances that likely attended his passing. That isn't to say that I was completely unsurprised; it is only to say the battle hardens one, prepares one, and proximity to that sort of thing makes it easier to deal with, if not understand. The most exacting challenge was to be support for those among us who did not have that shielding, that scar tissue, and were thus rendered that much more sensitive to the cutting.

What, perhaps more than most things, carried the flavor of Endings was the cessation of my time as a founding contributor at The Morningside Muckraker. Since December of 2013, when I was introduced to a classmate's dream and offered the chance to participate, my time at The Morningside Muckraker has been an odyssey, embodying some of the best elements of my law school experience, creating an opportunity for me to write and write and write, to speak and to nurture my habit/passion for the written word in a fashion that took full advantage of my position as a law student, to build a platform and discover what it felt like to use it for good. In that final issue, I was returned to many of the things I confronted 1L year, the things that terrified me, the things that enthralled me, the things that would proceed to change me in ways more profound than I could have ever expected. Nowhere is this spiritual ouroborus more evident than in the fact that the girl I wound up sitting next to in the Civ Pro exam I nearly missed ended up becoming one of my dearest friends and my editor for this piece.

Immediately upon my return, I spent time with my best friend, passing an afternoon at a new shisha spot in Little Egypt. From New York City, I proceeded to Wallingford for my 10-year high school reunion where I got to see just how much life had happened in the interval since our 5-year. Married, engaged, with one classmate expecting. Several in the middle of their careers, another on his third startup in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, here I was still in school (albeit, finishing up). What I realized most starkly this time around was how fitting an opportunity to network the whole weekend was. Earlier that week, I'd run many graduation-related and Bar Exam-related errands, and was walking around with my cap and gown, tapped on the shoulder occasionally with a word of congratulations from a stranger, and reminded in that moment, of what I was getting ready to do. Maybe it was the fading tendril of jetlag, but those moments always felt like the temporary parting of a curtain. Oh yeah, I'm graduating from law school.

Home for a day or two after the reunion to see the family and those who have already arrived from Nigeria, to watch Mad Max with the family (that incredible, kinetic, super feminist Slipknot music video), then back to New York for the two-day graduation ceremony.

On the day of the University Commencement, Michael Brown would have turned 19.

I passed Wednesday night with a good friend who treated me to a steak dinner and another curtain-parting moment. I felt more of the occasion that evening, wearing my #DecolonizeTheCanon shirt, than I had wearing that resplendent cap and gown.

At his apartment, his bookshelves were ripe for pillaging.

Then came Thursday and the (more important) law school graduation. It was a momentous occasion, or had become this for me by now, as I was a Class Marshal and charged with leading some of of the procession, guiding the pack of law students down the path and to their seats. That morning, I wore my robe and cap on the train from Brooklyn to Morningside Heights. Again, the well-wishes from strangers. Somewhere between 42nd and 72nd Street, a middle-aged brother in shades and a suit eyed me in my gown, stared off into the middle distance, then, on his way out, gave me a discreet fist bump. Later on, as we're lined up and proceeding down steps and a ramp to where the tents are set up, a group of kids--beauteous, diverse shades of black and brown--pop up by a small gate, practically climbing over themselves, waving at us and congratulating us on a job well done. (God bless whoever brought them.)

When I was younger, I figured these sorts of things only mattered to graduates and those in their immediate orbit. Family. Friends. Classmates. But now I know better. On a subway train, full regalia turns the graduate into a celestial body whose gravity pulls words of congratulations from strangers in circumgyration. We in those gowns, being seen, speaking at the podium, clapping furiously for each other, all of it matters. And to more people than we may ever know.

A good friend and very much a leader in our law school class, in introducing a professor to whom a prize was being awarded, spoke passionately and at length about injustice and social justice and the law and what it looks like as a student and as a professor to fight on behalf of people who cannot afford it. Every speech hit me to the quick. But perhaps my happiest moment was watching a friend to whom I'd become wondrously, impossibly close over the past few years walk across that stage, shake our Dean's hand and, doubling back around, whisper three words to me before heading back to her seat.

At the reception afterwards, on Ancel Plaza, I got to show her off to Mom, and our mothers met and we laughed loudly and looked lovingly at each other and this friend joked afterwards about the odds on how soon before our mothers were putting together our wedding arrangements. An uncle of mine, following me around the entire afternoon, got it all on camera, and I will be forever thankful to him for that. The rest of the afternoon was a whirlwind of Mom finally meeting some of the most important people in my life, almost all of them for the first time. My clinic director, several of my classmates in the clinic and best friends, the friend who had kept me sane while we were both stationed in Palestine, the mother of a friend and classmate with whom I'd attended middle school and high school, and so many others.

My Newsfeed is awash in photos of friends, loved ones, in their garb, surrounded by their team, their family, their friends, their lovers, their support network, their squad. It is all joy.

To cap it all, over pizza dinner, Mom asked me to wipe my fingers, then handed me an envelope containing insurance and a set of keys. My reaction is caught on camera, and will live on my hard drive for as long as I live. At one point, I think I murmured to myself 'this only happens on TV.'

The past few mornings have been spent gardening, preparing the front and back of our house for the swarm of guests that will invade our domicile on Sunday following the graduation of my baby sister from Amherst College.

Growing into adulthood (somewhat belatedly, perhaps) has been very much a piecemeal endeavor. But I feel, in the last few days, as though some of the largest of the bricks have been lain down. This time, the age I feel in my bones and in the deepness of my voice and in the occasional slowness of my gate strikes me as earned. It is attended by no small sense of accomplishment.

And though I was supposed to begin studying for the New York Bar Exam this past Wednesday, I have decided to give myself a week. I won't soil my sister's celebration by retreating to my work so swiftly.

Something has ended in me, for certain, with this most recent graduation. (There is certainly no more schooling in my immediate future, I hope) But they call it Commencement for a reason.

This time around, there is much less apprehension.

This time around, I can stare ahead at a somewhat unknown future and smile, grateful.
Current Location: Home
Current Music: Vitamin String Quartet - Let You Down (String Tribute to Three Days Grace)
22 May 2015 @ 08:03 pm
The Corrections - A ReviewCollapse )
Current Location: Home
Current Music: Quintino, Moti feat. Taylr Renee - Dynamite (Yellow Claw Remix)
17 May 2015 @ 02:51 pm
-- The Great War Novelist America Forgot - David Frum, The Atlantic, May 17, 2015

"Wouk doesn’t deny the horror of war, but he doesn’t look closely at it. There’s nothing here like the horrific description of the death of the bombardier Snowden in Heller’s Catch-22: the still-living intestines spilling out of a man’s gashed, bleeding body. Even the most painfully described death in the War novels (that of Pug’s aviator son Warren) is presented as somehow uplifting. Having heroically sunk a Japanese warship at the Battle of Midway, Warren’s plane is struck by Japanese anti-aircraft fire. Wouk describes the heat of burning gasoline roasting a human being alive; the flyer’s anguished awareness of imminent death and the loss of all future hopes. The plane tumbles into the ocean. The pain of the fire is soothed by the inrush of water, and the not altogether likable Warren’s final thoughts are brave and noble."

-- Where's the Great Novel About the War on Terror? - Matt Gallagher, The Atlantic Jun. 14, 2011

"Related to the much vaunted and oft-discussed civilian-military divide is the post-Draft effect: how will American wars fought by volunteers immersed in a warrior culture, distinct and separate from greater society, influence the literary output—and reactions by readers—detailing those wars? In an article published in 2010 by the Virginia Quarterly Review, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Vietnam veteran Robert Olen Butler said, "Most of the best writers in Vietnam did not go there voluntarily. They maintained that sense of distance from what they were doing because they weren't there from a natural personal impulse ... If you go there involuntarily the intensities of war make you doubt even more profoundly why you are there.""
Current Location: Home
Current Music: Drake feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR - Preach
-- Writing While Muslim: The Freedom to Be Offended - Rafia Zakaria, Los Angeles Review of Books, May 8, 2015

"Perceived under this lens, handing out an award for courage to Charlie Hebdo may not be a choice but closer to an imperative born of the operative deceptions of the recent past. On the American side of the Atlantic, it sustains the delusions by which Empire gathers the moral fuel to continue its excursions abroad under the guise of benevolent humanitarianism. For the French, valorization of Hebdo is required to maintain their deceptions at home and the vocal homage to freedom of expression and ideas covers up the silencing and “othering” of French Muslims — crucial to their construction as the irrational minority requiring discipline. It’s a happy, fruitful alliance, one that serves all of the powerful, all of the majorities, and all of the privileged."

-- Stayed | Freedom | Hallelujah - Ashon Crawley, Los Angeles Review of Books, May 10, 2015

"Everything living and dead, everything animate and immobile, vibrates. Vibration is the internal structuring logic of matter. Because everything vibrates, nothing escapes participating in choreographic encounters with the rest of the living world. It’s a reality of thermodynamics, of kinesthesia. Objects have a ground state kinesis that cannot be fully evacuated. If everything moves with its own velocity and force, everything sounds out, every object participates in the ceaseless pulse of noisemaking. This embodied refusal to be stilled will have been a gift, the gift of flesh, the gift of otherwise possibilities for thinking, for producing, for existing. This refusal of stilling has its discordant and harmonic registers, its choreographic-sonic force. And perhaps attention to sound is what Weheliye’s Habeas Viscus desires most emphatically, the sound of blackness, of black flesh."
Current Location: Paris
Current Music: Staind - It's Been a While
11 May 2015 @ 12:48 pm
Just put 7 kilos of books in the mail. I suddenly have space in my suitcase again.
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Current Location: Paris
Current Music: Eminem - Mockingbird
10 May 2015 @ 05:01 pm
This was one of those days. The bottle-up-in-a-time-capsule-and-preserve type days. Maybe it'll stick around as a memory for a while, maybe it'll fade, or maybe I'll remember it again some time later down the road when the sun and the breeze and a wave of golden hair get at just the right angle to bring it all back to life for me.

The night before had been spent late in conversation with a friend, after a movie, about the types of things one talks about with a close friend while the clock ticks towards my impending departure. But I don't say goodbye's anymore, just until-next-time's. This afternoon, I picnic'd with three activist friends I'd known since last fall, our bonds forged through the work we had done to try raising awareness of police violence and building coalitions between French and American activist networks. All women of color and all people I find myself immensely blessed to have in my life. I left them to be of service to another group of close friends, then split off with another to the nearby Café Madame for cigarettes and coffee served by a girl in a black top and red pants and a green apron gold wrapped like a bandanna around her scalp and falling down to her back in a ponytail. My friend and I ordered our coffees (she a cafe crème and I a café allongé), and the girl smiles and I'm frozen for an instant, realizing a moment later, that I'm smiling too and I ask for an ashtray once she brings our coffees and again with that smile and then when she came by again I asked her how her Sunday was treating her and she told me about the weather and the rhythm of business and the relatively fluid volume of patrons at the moment and ended with an "il fait beau, voilà" and my friend is smirking at me the whole time, and later on, my friend says something that has me laughing so hard I nearly fall out of my chair, then we finish our coffees after some time and my friend heads inside, leaving me alone outside, and the girl comes over to collect our change and apologizes for smiling at me while I laughed, then proceeded to say she did it because I laughed and I said something about her smiling and something about a virtuous cycle, then she went back in and my friend came out and we left and I've been smiling ever since.

I'd thought maybe to Skype with Mom later and tell her about the day, the girl, the picnic, to tell her how well Paris has been treating me in these last days what with all these goodbyes and whatnot, but she's working a double shift today at the hospital, so we were left with email and I with my imagination of what her expression might have been to open her inbox and see a new message from her son containing a declaration of love.

I can't wait to see her again.
Current Location: Paris
Current Music: Vitamin String Quartet - I Won't See You Tonight, Pt. 1 (String Tribute to Avenged Sevenfold)
The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood - A ReviewCollapse )
Current Location: Paris
Current Music: Deftones - Change - In the House of Flies Remastered Acoustic Version