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Kashmere Stage Band

Kashmere Stage Band

A frequent conversation with the Mrs. is centered around the lack of R&B/Soul bands that are around these days. Besides Mint Condition or The Roots, who is there? Anybody? Anybody?

This article about the Kashmere Stage Band rocked me. A high school band that produced some of the best music of its day. HIGH SCHOOL! What I would not give to get my kid involved in a soul band. Where can I send him or her to a funk bass master to learn a groove. Or to work with a master R&B song arranger. Not in high school for sure.

I think most cities (Atlanta and Charlotte probably more than others) have a few house bands that make the local circuit. But where are the national bands? Not even national, but one that has at least the same level of recognition as a Eric Roberson or Dwele. Where are thee?

It truly is a shame that the knowledge of funk and soul that had it’s heyday in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s did not carryover into the 90’s and the aughts. Confunkshun, EWF, The Gap Band, Parliament, Cameo, The Commodores. Where are your children? Did they not follow in your footsteps?

Was it rap and hip hop? The drum machine? Cheap keyboards (although quite a few have worked wonders with them)? Where did the love go?

We need a revival! Everything that is old will be new again. I just wonder in what part of the country will it start. Probably in some out of the way place like Oklahoma or Seattle. I can’t wait for the day.

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Enough! An Open Letter To Rollertime Skating

"Lawd knows I'm tired" - Sofia, The Color Purple

"Lawd knows I'm tired" - Sofia, The Color Purple

Not really a nerd topic, but it’s my blog!

Yesterday, we took the family skating. Now, we have been to Rollertime before, but yesterday I was a little disturbed. The music selection was absolutely horrendous! More than 80% of the kids there were under the age of 11, but you would have thought this was adult skate.

Sure, they played the clean version, but we all know you can get the gist of a song. From Lil’ Wayne’s piranaha-biting-self on Keri Hilson’s “Turnin’ Me On” to Soulja Boy’s “Donk”, it was little kid freakfest up in there! Your girl Gina has WhatAboutOurDaughters, we need to expand this to WhatAboutOurKidsMinds…

Here is the text of a letter I dropped in the mail today. Makes me want to open my own place. There a lot of hands making money off of this ignorance!


Rollertime Management:

Yesterday, my family attended a skate session at Rollertime. Our family enjoys skating and we try to make it out to the skating rink at least once a month. While we did enjoy ourselves yesterday, my wife and I do have one complaint: the choice of some of the songs.

I am an African American in my 30’s. I enjoy the music of today as much as the music of yesterday (well I enjoy yesterday’s much more). However, with the number of kids that were present yesterday, there were quite a few songs played that were just not appropriate for that age group.

For example, Soulja Boy’s “Donk”. That song is just plain horrible. With lyrics like: I See Dat Apple Bottom Hangin Out Dat G-Strang.

You cannot go much lower to get into the gutter. There were very young children present yesterday; skating their hearts out, repeating Soulja Boy’s trashy lyrics over and over and over.

Yes, the song has catchy beat. Yes, the kids probably listen to that type of music at home already. But, my kids don’t. And when we come out to the skating rink to have a nice time, it is sad that we have to listen to songs that degrade women, have an overt focus on sex, or glorify thug life, all in the name of having a good time. The state of “popular” music today is one to be lamented, but it would be nice if Rollertime did not promote such destructive music to young kids.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not asking that the music selection go to a Disney format or that anyone should play songs from those atrocious KidsBop CDs. I love hip-hop; my kids love hip-hop. But there is more to hip-hop than what is in the Top 10 list on Billboard or iTunes. There are plenty of songs that are popular today that do not focus on such negative themes.

I would implore you and by extension through you, your DJs, to take a more active role in reviewing and understanding exactly what is played through your speakers during the afternoon hours of your Saturday sessions (12pm – 6pm). Read the lyrics. Think about what they are really saying. Please do not contribute to the desensitization of our young kids to mature material. I don’t believe that it does society any good to have a five year old belting out, “She gotta donk, watch it hit the floor.” Again, with today’s most popular artists and music, finding those songs will be difficult. But doing the right thing is not always easy.

You Must Have Balance

Balance

Balance

The main character in Ben Bova’s Mars books is Jamie Waterman. Jamie is Navajo and due to his grandfather’s influence, he has a healthy dose of Navajo mysticism flowing through him. One of the lessons Grandfather Al imparts on Jamie is the need to maintain balance. It seems as if our wonderful US space program is working towards the same goal.  On the wrong end of the scale!

On the eve of the launch of one of the greatest pieces of astronomical hardware ever and on the heels of a string of scientific and media successes with the Mars program, we get this juicy tidbit floating around the mainstream media (MSM):

9 big NASA projects over budget: Auditors cite projects such as asteroid explorer, Earth-like planet hunter

Precede that with the loss of the new climate orbiter last week and I can already here the cat calls:

Why are we spending money on that stuff?!

NASA is a waste!

Blah, blah, blah!

Let’s remind the public again: the entire NASA budget is about 1/2 of 1% of the federal bankroll! Crumbs compared to a lot of other programs! (BTW, I love this poster: http://www.wallstats.com/poster/)

Now would be a good time for the Obama team to announce the selection of a new administrator. Strike while the iron is hot and NASA is on the brains of the America public. Appointing a new and dynamic leader NOW will help to get the juices going within the organization. It will also let Americans know that someone has the definitive task of bringing our space program back on track. I know the President is busy and we have some big issues to tackle, but don’t let the space program fade from view.

P.S. Bonus points to those that can name the constellation in the graphic!

Africa Has Cities

Sonic saves Africa

Sonic saves Africa

When I started this blog, I made a promise to myself to not speak on racial politics too much. I wanted this to be a blog about technology, scifi, and overall nerdiness from my perspective; a young brotha with kids. There are many more people out there that have excellent blogs where great cultural and political discussions are held everyday. I tend to drop comments out there. But, my kids and I had a great exchange the other day and it prompted this “short” post.

A few weeks back we bought Sonic Unleashed. I had to get this game as Sonic holds a special place in my gamer’s heart as one of the first truly awesome games. My son thought that the werewolf transformation was cool! The premise of the game is that Sonic’s world breaks up and he has to travel to different places to help put it all back together. In each level in the game, Sonic visits different parts of the world and takes down Eggman with the quickness.

In the second level he visits “Africa”. Now in the game it is called Mazuri, but it’s Africa (most likely it’s supposed to be Mali, one of the buildings looks like the Great Mosque of Djenne). And to no one’s surprise, the people lived in a village. Mud huts with thatch roofs, traditional African clothing, barefeet; the works. Now, you noticed I said, “To no one’s surprise”. Even mine. But for some reason, this irked me on the day I played that level. Why are Africans always portrayed as living in dusty villages with with lions and elephants running around? I posed the question to my kids and we had a very good lengthy discussion on the topic.

Now do I think this game is racist? No. Do I think the developers purposefully intended to make the “Africans” seem less technologically mature than the other societies in the game? No. But, it just begs the question, Why? Maybe no one on the staff thought of it? Maybe it’s just an accepted idea, Africa = no shoes, grass huts, beads, and wraps.

I know that Africa as a whole is not the most developed place in the world (why is a whole ‘nother discussion). But, Africa does have cities. Rather nice ones. There are cities with suburbs. There are cities with malls. There are cities with modern infrastructure. But it’s hard to tell in today’s media (games, TV, movies). A suitable analogy is someone only showing people living in trailer parks when talking about Americans. Is that accurate?

A few weeks ago, there was a dustup about the upcoming Resident Evil 5 and its portrayal of African zombies jacking a white woman for some grey matter. I think the argument about this game in particular is bunk and stupid, but my larger question/issue remains. Why don’t we ever see African cities in games or in the movies? Everyone doesn’t live in the bush. Here are some pictures to help those that may not believe me.

Lagos, Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria

Nairobi, Kenya

Abidjan, Cote dIvoire

Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

Rock Band Has No Soul (or Funk or R&B)

rb2This Christmas, we picked up RockBand 2 for the kids. We already had Guitar Hero 3 for the Wii and with our addition of an XBox 360 this summer, we wanted to spread the love.

First off, the game is killer. We bought the special edition, so it came with a guitar, drum set, and microphone. We all thought that GH was fun, throw in the drums and the mic?! Killer! I think the band-as-a-game concept is just brilliant. It is interactive, challenging, and quick (most songs are 4 minutes or less). Invite a few friends over and you can literally party for hours.

Now to my gripe. I grew up in the 70’s, so there was that time when a lot of Black people listened to rock. This was the time of pre-MTV, let alone Yo! MTV Raps. So outside of Black radio, much of what you heard in public was what was popular for the main stream. And when MTV did come out, we were bombarded with rock in all its glory: David Bowie, Guns n Roses, Pat Benatar. So I can rock out with the best of ’em. I have a ball rockin’ to these songs in RB2.

But for what MTV did not play, Pops made up for it with LP collection. Dayton, EWF, Parliament, Con Funk Shun, Sly & The Family Stone. These were the bands we grooved to at parties that our parents had in the basement. The deep base riffs, guitar solos, and don’t mention the vocals. To me, just as killer as the rock bands featured in the game. If there were a group of bands that could be featured in RB2, then these would be it.

So it was more than disappointing to find so little soul (or funk or R&B) in RB2. There is a Beastie Boys song or two (does that classify?). But none of the greatness that defines 70’s an 80’s music for a large swath of America (and the buying public, I might add).

But wait! RB2 has downloadable content!

But NO! Even there, I can’t find anything.

I went out to the RB forums to see if there were any announcements about forthcoming DLC that may venture into the funk or soul world. Whoa! I know the internet is famous for enabling pissants to be bigger pissants with the wonderful world of anonymity, but dude we are talking about music in a game. There are some serious bigots on those boards. I found a few forum threads discussing diversity in RB2. Here is a nice gem:

If more country songs are offered for DLC, my rock band is going on ebay! and GHWT here i come. i wouldnt be so angry if they had release at least one or two rock songs as well. but come on guys this weeks DLC is pathetic.

So, this cat is saying that if Harmonix puts more country music out as DLC, he’s selling his game!? First, it is DLC, meaning you have to pay for it and download it. If you don’t want it on your system, don’t buy it! I would hate to see what he thinks about funk or soul music.

Hopefully, HMX has heard of The Long Tail. I think that adding these genres as DLC is a perfect example of how this concept can translate into additional revenue (and satisfaction for lot of people).

I want to be Verdine dammit!

Net neutrality under attack!

Many people don’t keep up with the latest tech news, unless it something awesome and amazing. But sometimes, it is the least hyped stories that have the potential for the most impact to society.

One issue that has been batted around for some time is Net Neutrality. The basic concept is that companies that provide access to the intertubes must not restrict said access (whether through complete blockage or speed reduction) to any web content. For example, SBC cannot degrade the download speed of your internet access, if you visit  the Apple iTunes site. The net must be neutral to all.

I read this earlier on Slashdot. FTFA (emphasis is mine):

AOL, Yahoo! and MSN subscribers will continue to have access to content but will no longer be able to access their e-mail through the third party Web site. Instead, Yahoo! and other third party e-mail will be accessed directly at the MyFairPoint.net portal.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty pissed if somone told me I could not just type in http://gmail.com and get to my email account. I would not want to look at Fairpoint’s stinkin ads!

I really feel for the people in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (where FairPoint is set to take over), if they have no other internet access option. I hope we see the one of the first “net lockdown” revolts in early February.

Fairpoint might be wise to learn a little history about pissing off those Northeasterners

Do you do hardcore sci-fi?

Ben Bova - TitanI’ve been a sci-fi fan since way back. And being a big tech-head, I’ve always been into hardcore sci-fi.  For the uninitiated, hardcore sci-fi are stories rooted in the real world (as in the currently understood physical laws of the known universe). They could possibly happen. For example, Aliens, Predator, and Star Trek (most episodes anyway) are hard-core. Most comics, Star Wars (gasp, the Force!), and anything to do with “portals” are another flavor. But as a kid, I would read and watch anything.

As I age into mid-adulthood, I’m finding myself becoming more antagonistic towards the semi-fantasy-sci-fi genre. There have been books that I just refuse to finish reading. I think part of the reason is that with our technology being so close to “making things happen”, I can envision a day when what I read becomes true in my lifetime. I WANT to see it happen dagnabit! I just don’t have the patience for anything less.

For example, I classify the techno-military genre as sci-fi. One of the leading, techno-military kings is Dale Brown (dude, get a web designer, no offense). The other day I picked up one of his latest, Shadow Command. I’d read Dale before (Flight of The Old Dog, Battleborn) and was pleasantly entertained. But this latest?! Oh sweet baby Jesus!

The novel was chock full of super-high-tech-ultra gadgets, planes, and military equipment. Most of it was plausible, but it was like genies came down to Area 51 and granted three wishes to Dreamland. Now, I could be way off base. Hell, who knows what the US has in its arsenal. But just the sheer pace of stuff Dale rolled out in this book, had my eyes glazing over and forgetting what the book was supposed to be about. I couldn’t even finish the book.

Now for some good hardcore sci-fi, here are some of my recommendations:

  • our solar system – anything by Ben Bova
  • this area of the galactic arm – Alex Benedict series from Jack McDevitt
  • near future – Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (good for older kids and teens too)
  • apocalyptic future – Dies the Fire series by S.M. Stirling (Sunrise Lands gets a little fantasyish)
  • techno military – the early Tom Clancy (especially Red Storm Rising)
  • honorable mention – okay, chances are zombies are not real, but you have to include World War Z by by Max Brooks (check out the kick ass video for the upcoming graphic novel sequel)