Teachable Moment

teachable moments

On Wednesday I had one of my more diligent students stay to speak to me after class. He commented on my use of Pop Culture (Hip Hop, Entertainment, and such). He said he doesn’t really take interest in such things (his words exactly). He asked if I had interest in more international things. He was hoping that I was going to talk about ISIS (you should have seen my face).

See that day I was going over what I consider to be the foundation for an English course with me. This includes critical reading and critical reading approaches, writing strategy, and the steps of the writing process. I told them my job is to push their thinking to enhance their writing. As an activity, I took them through an exercise of analyzing a poster (the message, visual design, etc.). Then I talked about Mark Wahlberg offering advice to Justin Beiber and began comparing and contrasting the two. I knew they would find it amusing and mildly interesting to talk about. I knew they wouldn’t completely grasp the levels of things that were at play. I was just setting the table.

So today, with the request to talk about ISIS still on my mind, I decided to help my students and the class understand what was going on. Next up was for them to grasp that I setting them up for critical inquiry, critical discovery, and critical analysis. I started with the same Pop Culture reference (Mark and Justin) and showed how there were intersections of Patriarchy, Privilege (male, white, class), Capitalism, Race, and Gender present. Then after discussing those terms I proceeded to bounce from US soil across the globe and back briefly analyzing various events, issues, and happenings utilizing those terms. We talked Boku Haram, Marrion Barry, China and employment, perceptions of New Jersey and Detroit, Baltimore and “The Wire,” Arab Spring, Ferguson, and more. They shared what they knew, offered their insights, and I facilitated the journey. Good class, but it started with Mark Wahlberg and Justin Beiber.

I am a scholar who believes in the value of Pop Culture. I also know Pop Culture is global. That’s not my only reason for referencing it. It’s also an accessible way to begin to dissect other conceptually complex things. It’s a great training ground. For me, it helps me push past propaganda when discussing layered world issues. It’s also a way of showing how perception shapes both our understanding of and behavior towards things. If a students gets that, then I can show how propaganda and rhetoric shapes our understanding (especially here in the US) or foreign affairs and global concerns.

New book excerpt…

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So I am working on my next book of poetry. It is a book about dating and relationships. It follows my experiences starting in late 2007 when I had to face the end of a long term relationship and the horrors of returning to the dating world. I did what I often do when I am trying to make sense of emotions or thoughts, I wrote. So this is a collection of the poems I wrote along the way, edited of course (You don’t need to see the original versions of some of these). I decided to also include retellings of various experience in my own words and from my own perspective. Hey, it’s my book. So it will include tongue in cheek recollections and introspective reflections on my experiences. It will also include my hope to one day write a happy ending to this whole thing. But that will be another book.

This excerpt is what started it all. I posted an anectdote with one of the poems a long time ago. The response was good. One of my friends, a poet and writer named Mike Simms, told me he wanted to see more of that. The lightbulb went off then. Since then I have been planning this next project. This year I am determined to finish the manuscript.

I am not ready to announce the title of the book yet.

Here you go…

Book Excerpt (draft)

Love is a funny thing. We all know that, we’ve experienced it, and some of us have had the shit smacked outta us by it. The emotion is eternal and universal, but also subjective. It comes to us in various forms based on where we are in our lives. It is a chameleon, a shape shifter, Mystique from Xmen. Anybody notice that she’s called mystique, able to become anything, and she’s blue? Talk about subtle irony. Any one guy who has gotten the blues from a woman who appeared to be everything you imagined knows what I mean, but I digress. See, I was smacked by love in sunny Los Angeles, CA.

Poets…poets…poets. What more do I need to say? I became head over heels over one. Had seen her in New Mexico and 2 years later there she was in Texas. I, for the first time, put myself out there at one of these festival thingies I attend every year. Now I hadn’t done this before and probably won’t do it ever again (it’s like Hedonism at some of these thingies), but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. There was intrigue, watching eyes, secret rendezvouses (I don’t know the plural of this word), and suspense (wasn’t she dating him, are they chilling, what’s going on, I wanted some of that, etc.). We walked, talked, drank frappuccinos, and made plans for our future (actually just later that night…this isn’t a Hugh Grant movie). She confessed her quirks, insecurities, and hangups (to see if I’d run). I said no problem (cuz I’m crazy and L.A. issues aint got nuttin on NC issues) and fell even more into whatever that was I was inflicted with at the time (gas). It was like Romeo & Juliet, West Coast vs East Coast, a train vs Hancock…see a theme forming here? When I got back to NC after the festival thingie I was on cloud 9. We talked on the phone, emailed, and sent each other poems. I asked what she needed from me and the answer was a little challenging. She said, “bring your behind to L.A. so we can see if this thing is real.” Yeah, see the way my bank account work…Ugh, I guess I better start counting pennies and calling favors.

MESSAGE! Don’t fly across the country to see if something is real. Don’t relocate, sell organs, cause yourself physical harm, or harm puppies or small children to see if something is real. Somebody needs to confirm the realness before reservations are made. I should have asked for fax verification.

Instead I said ok. I booked a flight, packed my bags, and flew off for a semi secret week in L.A. (of course no poets were informed of this whole thing…EGADS that would be a catastrophe). I arrived at the airport and was welcomed by the cutest face, the most engaging eyes, and the charmingnest smile ever (no, I am not done making up words). The devil is the Tom Vila of temptation. I was the happiest most oblivious guy in the world.

vrvrhvyrwyrrrvyhrrwyrrrr (fast forward) to 2 days later and I was miserable. After having the fabric of my humanity tested and the whole of my being questioned, I was told I was too nice, too romantic, too understanding, and too damn good (mind you I flew across the country to find this out. Coulda brotha have gotten a Hallmark card instead?). I’ve never been tested like that ever (other than the GRE. That’s it! She was like the GRE. Breakthrough!). So I go from being attacked to being treated to a sightseeing adventure of L.A. (every place there were no poets). It was like a schizophrenic National Lampoon vacation. It was like MMA in the octagon…FIGHT, break for an excursion, FIGHT, break for an excursion. Ugh, but at least the excursions were fun.

I ate at a Vegan restaurant for the first time. I got to check out some community stuff. I was even taken to my first bonfire. I was scared at first I would burned at the stake, but that would have only compassionately ended my misery.

So there I am on the beach trying to find serenity and promising myself to never fall for this one again. We should be snuggled up on this beach. Nah, that would just be choke holds and arm bars. Alas, what is a man to do when the woman he is head over heels for is treating him like an exchange student she is hosting? I decided to try and make something good come out of it. I tuned out the chitchat behind me (what was she talking aboot?), pulled out pen and pad, and composed this poem.

Dear Sunset

Don’t close your eyes yet baby
I still believe in miracles
I find one each morning you wake
I aint ready to let this one go yet

Don’t take your last breath
Because the beauty of your horizon
Is why I still have faith
Why I still think I can escape
Find freedom as far away
As the hope I had
When you smiled

Don’t say goodbye
Leaving me standing alone
As in the dark as when you told me
I didn’t know you
Just familiar with
Like easy Saturday mornings
Lazy afternoons

Tears well like waves behind my eyes
The shores of my cheeks
Is where pride sits
Denial sits
Shallow confidence sits
I’m fighting the pain waiting
To tidal these sand bags
I stacked by not sleeping well without you

I call you at dawn
Find you now at dusk
As fed up with today as ever
But don’t make me say
Goodnight baby

I’m sorry
Beached here
With a whale of an attitude
Chest full of heartache
Wading through the tears
My vision of us surfs on
I’m trying to find the right thing to say to you
Set fire to my insecurities
Let love bonfire dance drunkenly
Around the blaze

Don’t leave me baby
You’re the reason I believe in possibly
Like it’s possible you get more amazing
Each time I see you

Take me with you
Let’s say good riddance
To everything that keeps us apart
Set our doubts sail
Christen it God’s work
Wave goodbye to hesitation
Let the sinking feeling we won’t work
Become a titanic thing of the past

I want to sky dive
Jump off the highest
Mountain of a molehill
To see if I fall to my demise
Of fall into the warmth of your embrace
But instead I’m on this shoreline
Trying to reach you

Whisper your wishes to me
I don’t want God to hear
I’ll fill him in
With my nighttime prayers
So he’ll know why I need you back again
Baby I’m listening even if I look far away
That’s because I know you’ll be there soon
I want to know where to find you

Be us baby
Because I can’t be us without u
Otherwise there’d be this consonant loneliness
I really couldn’t deal with

Dear sunset
I want to see your smile rise again
When I arrive
Let me bask in doing what makes you happy
Because it makes me feel alive

I don’t want you to go
Because all I’ll be left with
Is what I don’t know
Every truth I didn’t let go
Every emotion I didn’t let show

See without you
It’s face my fears of darkness
Or indulge in artificial light
Trying to convince me
That the shadows they cast
Is them helping me put the dark past
Behind me

I can’t do it
When I know you’re still there
You just found the other side of me
I fail to acknowledge
So I howl at the moon
Ravenous but resistant
To every temptation it tries to feed me
I want breakfast
In you eyes

I dream that you are waiting
For me to find my new day
Wishing for my willingness to fight for my morning
Ignore predictions of storm clouds
Or overcast baggage
I want to make your dreams come true
All I ask is that you
Be there baby
I’ll meet you in the morning

This…(breathe)…person told me if nothing else I would get some great poetry out of our experience (people who say that have 8 toes and eat lightning bugs, don’t trust them). Unfortunately she was right. I changed my flight to leave earlier, packed my bags, and embarked on one of the most embarrassing plane rides back to North Carolina. The flight attendant keep checking on me like she was tending to a wounded puppy. Did I look that pitiful? As I languished in my pain I wrote this poem.

Lost in L.A.

I can’t stand to love you
As fear and loathing rises like hair on skin
It scares and disgusts me to care for you
I’m horrified to fall and it sickens me to lose
So I hold and push you at the same time
This is a narcissistic nihilism
Where I don’t want to believe in anything but us
But I don’t believe we will exist
It’s tearing me apart and it’s holding me together
And I don’t know if I know what I don’t know anymore
Am I crazy?

I paint self-portraits on your eyelids
So I can see my reflection when your eyes are closed
So I stare at you when you sleep
And I imagine that your vision of me is why you’re so peaceful
I try to caress you till our hearts beat in syncopation
So it feels like we are one
Because each pace fits in each pause, a long steady rhythm
That I accent with kisses like high hats
As you snore Billie Holliday

Dammit I can’t stand to love you this much
To feel tame under your touch
To run wild from your influence
I say bestiality becomes you
Late at night trying to hold me under the full moons glow
When you realize I’ve spent many moons
Tearing apart the hearts of angels
A ravenous wolf happy to kiss a woman
With her tongue dipped in silver
I want you to slay me

Give me life
So that at midnight we can entomb ourselves between the sheets
And rise again in the morning
Let our nights be our Passover
Are you my Judas or my Peter?
Will you betray me or denounce me
I say you’re my John the Baptist
With me through and through
Your happiness scriptures my significance
And my commitment worships you faithfully
But my insecurities hide from your judgment
I don’t know why you’re here

I often joke that I am your two-way mirror
I see you and you see you
So of course I seem as wonderful as you actually are
My glorious rebel
I could die with you on the battlefield
But if I couldn’t have you in the meantime
I wouldn’t have the manifesto
That fuels my will to fight on the frontlines

They tell us to lay our burdens down
See graves are the only things
That never get tired of holding you
So I dig through the dirt I’ve done
And in my heart I want to bury you there
But it’s hard to hold this in
So as this rose grows through the concrete
I let my tears nurture your impact
I can’t take feeling this way
But I can’t help caring this much

So often relationships are similes
Ours is a metaphor
I find refuge here
But a sanctuary is a home for the heart hell has its sights on
So I pole dance for the devil
Trying to grapple a pillar of strength
I can’t live this way
But I can’t die not loving you

This is my dialectical diatribe
My ballad of balance
Where I blindly weight why I can’t wait to hold you
Against why I can’t hold the weight of having you
Why I can’t remember before you and I can’t picture after you
I can’t stand to love you this much
But I couldn’t stand to not love you at all

I have been kissing the nape of your neck
For a week now
Your touch hasn’t become softer
Your words haven’t become more understanding
I’m waiting to be committed
Proving my insanity with my dedication
Repeating the same affectionate ignorance
Expecting the result to change
Only it’s become monotonous
Instead of monogamous

I just want to hate you
Love the idea of forgetting you
Only I forget to hate you
Love the idea of holding you
This air guitar romance
Where I pretend
That we make beautiful music together
You are an apparition
Imagined when the devil slipped
A hallucinogen into my loneliness
I just want to come down off this high
Want this plane to touch down on NC ground
Want your voice to become an unfamiliar sound
How could I have fallen so deeply
For someone willing to watch me drown
Yet I hold you in my heart
Drip you from this pen
Writing memos to my heart
To never be this foolish again

L.A. sucks. Not really, but I held on to that belief until I was able to return to LA and regain my dignity. Now me and LA cool.

I knew going into this that she had just left a relationship that formed when I first met her in New Mexico and lasted until I saw her again in Texas. It was intense, encompassing, and challenging. She was in one of those places we find ourselves in where your mind is telling you that maybe you should try something different (Sound familiar?). I was the different, someone she would have never otherwise been involved with. I was someone she admittedly said she would eat alive. I was someone she hoped would be the balance of peace and turmoil.

I was struggling through a relationship that had been going on for years. We had moved into the break up and get back together later because it’s too comfortable, safe, easy, etc. phase (we did that twice) only to eventually give up. I was looking for that grand romance to whisk me away to happiness (I was tricked into believing dysfunction leads to happiness. You know, the plot of every romantic movie).

We artists, especially poets, seek to see so we can write. Often we see what we seek where it’s not. Hey, shit happens. It’s the lesson that moves us forward. So now I tip my glass of punch, take it to the head, and rejoice in the wisdom of my experiences.

I was taught that you will find what you’re looking for unless you change what you are looking for. Those looking for change will find the same (only in a different shell). Those who change the way they look will find out even more about themselves.

Yep, I’m that deep. That was bottom of the ocean right dere!

One piece of advice,  be careful of those festival thingies. They can get you in trouble!

But wait, there is more!

So a few years later I’m sitting at my computer on a Sunday afternoon perusing facebook…

The HeavyLight Experience

HeavyLight Experience pic

The HeavyLight Experience is a collective of artists that came together to create good music. The core of the collective is myself (emcee/poet/writer/actor/performance artist), Deejay CEO (DJ/emcee), Mic El (producer/emcee), and Tai Allen (producer/poet/vocalist/emcee/writer). Each of us has a passion for art, Hip Hop, performing, and music. We wanted to be able to have an space outside of our individual careers to have fun collaborating. It’s the most fun I’ve had making music in a long time. We weren’t rushing to create an album. We didn’t set a timeline on finishing songs. We let the ideas flow and built the compositions as we went along. Last year we released an EP of some of our initial songs. Here is the link.

The HeavyLight Experience EP “Ocean’s Eleven”

We got some good feedback on the music. We got some great coverage and press. We are still creating music. I am looking forward to what we have in store for 2015. Check out some of the press and stay tuned.

The HeavyLight: Renaissance Men

Ear to the Ground: Reaching Higher Heights with HeavyLight

Experience: The HeavyLight

Music: The HeavyLight Experience “Oceans Eleven”

The HeavyLight Experience

New Music: The HeavyLight Experience “Hyper”

Miracle Whip (a conversation on power)

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Miracle Whip: A Villainous Villanelle

Miracle Whip is polarizing
Undeterred by contrasting perceptions
The aim is to rally its base

Moderates vary in their condiments
Revolutionaries make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
See Miracle Whip is polarizing

They say po’ folks beg for cheese in blocs
Instead of working for white bread
The aim is to rally its base

Ketchup goes best with chalk outlines
Mayonnaise is all liberalism and no fight
But Miracle Whip is polarizing

Bipartisan delis seek extravagant expansion
Say menus should be geopolitical
The aim is to rally its base

Privilege packaged all red, white, and blue
Butter knives legislated, privatized, or militarized
Miracle Whip is polarizing
Its aim is to rally its base

Back on my blog again….

Takenbox

Hey, if they can find another reason to make a “Taken” movie, then I can keep coming back to my blog from sabbatical. This time I hope to maintain a steady stream of content. Facebook became my refuge for my thoughts, but here is where my thoughts should play. It is here that they should run free across fields of thought. Ha, you should have seen that one coming.

So I am back with the new year to bring more shenanigans and randomness. The blog will be getting some stylistic upgrades soon. I will be rolling out new branding and the blog will get some of that goodness. Stay tuned. I have a few things to tell you about. So lets have some fun!

I’m back

Again

Hi!