Friday, November 28, 2008

I Love The New Pop

Photo: Tone

If you're not up yet, The New Pop is the future present of video and photography. Street level strike teams with their entire rig in a backpack are the new event bloggers. And I'm not talking about camera phone quality motion sickness vids and drunken snaps. This is quality production fit for broadcast and print, but usually done with no more than one video camera (TreVZ) and a photographer on the fly. URB talked up these kids in our "Next 100" issue this year and it's clear why. The outfit of Tone, TreVZ and Texas (the girl amongst the guys) paint New York City with not only tight, relevant mini documentaries (with embeddable code, hello!), but they capture it all with super tight nightlife and event photography (By Tone and Texas). This is the new multimedia guerrilla device, so smile, you're on.

This cool clip captures the crew searching high and low for the copy of URB they were in. It's funny but I'm also like, "Damn, is URB that hard to find?"

Five Stupid Reasons for my Recent Writer's Block

I'm only a few months into this blogging thing and I've already broken one of the cardinal rules: Never stop blogging. My friend (Ms.) Danielle reminds her readers to write even when you can't or don't want to. But if you stuck through this dry spell of mine, you'll notice that my last post was about two weeks ago. So what caused this disruption?

I'm sure it's a number of things, some of them substantive and some just personal hangups. So in the blog 101 rule of make everything into a list, here goes:

1) Ego: Let's be real: A blog is full-on ego> the bigger the blog, the larger the ego. I probably started to over think this whole process shortly after people actually tuned in. This may sound strange or even lame, but the more attention the blog got, the harder it was to write in some ways. And positive feedback could be just as debilitating as negative sometimes. As feedback and comments would pile on, I felt I really needed to provide a reason to keep showing up. Talk about psyching yourself out. Even after all my years in media, I still get sophomore jitters. I know, get over it.

2) Proposition 8: That damn Prop 8 debate wore me out. When I wrote my original piece on this for the Huffington Post, I had no idea what I was walking in to. My piece on the blame game and finger pointing based on race and exit polls elicited the most comments I've ever received on the HuffPo and my personal blog. Not only was a firestorm brewing, but it became one of the most important and enduring debates surrounding the issue of gay marriage. After a couple weeks of reading, responding and referring, my mind and my hands cramped up. This blogging thing is a contact sport, I found out.

3) Economic meltdown: Take a look around. We're in a major economic crisis. Most Americans don't truly get the gravity of this expanding disaster because it seems to be in slow motion and the evidence is hidden on corporate and small business balance sheets, personal credit card statements and individual crisis. But in the coming weeks and months, we'll really start to see what a tangled web we've weaved. My industry (media) is coming to grips with its own existential realities with a prognosis that's difficult and bloody at best. But even as I wrap my head around that, I'm reminded about other personal stakes, such as my friend Jonathan the comedic script writer who is hunkered down in his Brooklyn bunker while Hollywood decides if it's still even buying scripts. Or ask any of your friends in real estate—commercial or residential—if they're closing any deals these days. And what about the layoffs? Prepare for the year-end bloodbath to cap an already gory year. This is beyond anything we've ever come close to living through as a modern nation and we're so not prepared for it. I can't say this doom and gloom didn't distract me from the keyboard a bit.

4) Obama won: I know, I know. It ain't over, it's just beginning. We haven't even had the inauguration and there's plenty of politics happening. And it's not like I don't have things to say about the coming Obama presidency or his cabinet selections. I just have to cop to a sudden loss of urgency, even though I know I can't rest here. Time to jump into post election mode for real.

5) Facebook: When all else fails these days, blame Facebook. Your relationship tanks: Facebook. Job performance falters: Facebook. School starts to take a back seat: Facebook. You can't muster the energy to blog after a day of poking friends: Facebook. I'm waiting for Facebook to show up in court documents as a legal defense.

Ultimately, as true as everything is above, it's all even more reason to blog. Maybe i just cleared my first of many hurdles as a so-called blogger. A public writer's block, somewhat worse than lapsing on Facebook status updates. Or maybe I just need to write while flying. For the second time in two weeks, I'm on a transcontinental flight. This time, heading back to LA on an American flight with Wi-Fi. It's a gift to have something to say and the 21st Century technology to get it out to the world. I should remember that the next time my fingers can't seem to find their way to the keys.

Photo credit: Daniel Beltsazar/

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The New Yorker's Naked Campaign (Video)

A poignant offering by New Yorker cartoonist Steve Brodner.

More on Prop 8 Racial Scapegoating and Hypocrisy

It's been disheartening to read the commentary around the passing of Proposition 8, as it relates to how the so-called black vote pushed the anti-gay marriage law over the line. If you haven't caught wind of this unfortunate thread, start with sex columnist Dan Savage who put its passage squarely at the feet of black homophobes (Yes, they might actually represent as much as *3% of the California electorate--so watch out). Maybe not surprisingly, Savage pulled his original column, probably after he realized he was helping to spark a race riot between blacks and white gays. Nice, Dan.

For a glimpse of the fervor (on all sides), just read some of the nearly 1200 comments on my HuffPo editorial. The most hopeful thing I can take away from this conversation so far is that it's a teachable moment for all sides. Clearly there were some issues surrounding race ready to spring from the GLBT community. The post-8 hangover probably revealed more than gay liberals would have liked in terms of their own intolerance. And there is no doubt—just like many, many other groups, races and cultures—a festering bigotry and lack of acceptance of gays inside parts of the black community. But to dumb it all down to homophobia is not thinking critically, since this has got much more to do with religion and generational differences. And, more importantly, it's completely counterproductive given the ink spent on this type of fighting when the winning of hearts and minds is more effective.

I came across this excellent open letter on Racialicious (Thanks, Diana). In it, contributor Adele Carpenter laid out some of the failures of this type of racial voter profiling. Carpenter does a great job showing how those eagerly attacking blacks for voting en mass in favor of 8 fail to look at how that same argument can be used against them. Here is one such examination:

"Californians live in a state that has one of the highest incarceration rates in a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. Studies have estimated that at any time, 40 percent of black men in their 20’s in California are under the control of the correctional system. Criminalization affects many LGBT people, in particular, those that may be experiencing addiction or who, lacking familial support, move to expensive cities where they may have a hard time accessing affordable housing and legal or living-wage work. I write from San Francisco, where, in the months leading up the election, I saw a massive mobilization within the queer spaces in which I spend time to get people to vote no on 8, but I saw little or no public discourse among LGBT people about very important state propositions: 5, 6, and 9—all of which potentially impacted things like funding for prisons, drug crime sentencing, or the trying of minors as adults in this state."

The entire letter is here.

*For exit polling fun, here's where the race-baiting numbers began. But Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight dot com has a much better—and less blame-y—version of the numbers.

Lastly, I was recently on KPFK radio discussing the Prop 8 fallout.

Photo: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Saturday, November 15, 2008

No He Can't: Obama has to Ditch his Blackberry

From The New York Times/MSNBC — Sorry, Mr. President. Please surrender your BlackBerry.

Those are seven words President-elect Barack Obama is dreading but expecting to hear, friends and advisers say, when he takes office in 65 days.

But before he arrives at the White House, he will probably be forced to sign off. In addition to concerns about e-mail security, he faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. A decision has not been made on whether he could become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that seemed doubtful.

The full store is here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Real Mile High Club

I'm sitting here, on board an American Airlines 767 somewhere about two thirds of the way from Los Angeles to New York. It's 9:40 pm at my destination and I'm typing out a blog. Yeah, I'm on the plane, writing a blog entry. Live.

Be careful what you wish for, I guess. Want to never not be connected, and this might be one of the last safe zones to be spoiled (I'm sure NYC subways can't be far behind). I'm in a big first class seat (thanks, Citibank AAdvantage) and trying to keep my eyes open while I complete my third hour of Wi-Fi use. I'd heard about the modern wonder of in-flight wireless, but now I'm online in real time.

The company that provides American with this juice is Gogo. I have no idea if it's just a front-of-the-plane luxury, but for $12.95, it's coach affordable. It's definitely made me the biggest geek in first class. In my ears, pulsing from a new iPod Touch, is "N.A.S.A. Anthem", an infectious slice of Apache-themed cosmic breakbeat (you heard it here first). But I digress. In front of me is a bright 15-inch MacBook Pro ("Do those keys light up?" the flight attendant says, wide eyed), linked to the heavens, pushing and pulling real time Web snacks off the warm Internuts. This is so live.

When I first got online, I immediately IM'd our editor Josh. Next thing I know, and I'm on iChat with my assistant Jolie. Then I have email downloading to Apple Mail. There was only one logical next step: Facebook. I can status update from 30,000 feet? "Raymond is blogging somewhere above the Great Lakes." Wait, somebody in LA just pinged me on IM. Damn, this is so worth 12 bucks.

Gogo gadget

I've always done some of my best thinking during that five hour black hole of time and space between coasts. I never land with anything less than a 20 emails to self on my Blackberry. Notes on everything from mundane company to dos to lofty wish lists. We're less than an hour from JFK right now, and I have't even turned my Crackburied on. If I had a thought, I emailed or AIM'd it. If I needed to watch a Youtube clip, I could have. For the frequent flier, this may be better than seat back television by a mile. Post complete.

Inauguration Countdown "A to Z" (P is for President)

I have been staring at the photos of our new president-elect and something still doesn't seem right. As a citizen, who happens also to be brown-skinned, this is particularly unsettling. Something about the images of Barack Obama, as beautiful and gratifying as they are, is also stubbornly unique.

So why isn't it normal yet? After watching the video below, it's now obvious. Obama represents much more than the arrival of the first black president, he is a new physical identity on our collective consciousness. Another example of how our life experience, from the media we consume to the history we experience, controls our perceptions whether we like it or not.

Note: If it's not obvious by now, my "A-Z Election Countdown" needed some more time to germinate, so I'm giving myself until January 20th. By then, this will all be official, and I should be done by the alphabet, so help me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Live from New York on Election Night (Photos)

From URB.COM — After Grant Park, Chicago, probably the next best place to be in America on Election Night was New York City. I was in distant runner-up LA, but stumbled on these beautiful NYC shots while perusing Facebook. The photographer is Derrick Gomez, and I absolutely love his work.

A nice portfolio is here and jump to Derrick's blog for more work.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Gay and Gangsta in LA

From URB.COM — The club is obviously bumping when the sweat-stained stench of sex is think enough to fog the glasses of even the most cold-faced patrons. It’s not just the nearly naked dancers freaking on a shin-high stage surrounded by lustful stares or the overflowing crunch at the bar, but whatever it is, it’s almost tangible. Urban street-wear brands mark the night’s dress code, glasses are filled with Hynotiq, Hennessy and Grey Goose, and hyphy tunes from the Bay rhythmically further the frantic pace. “It’s like any other hip-hop booty club,” says the evening’s bartender, “except the girls are also played by guys.” . . . (Read the original story here.)

Illustration by Martha Rich

Friday, November 7, 2008

Stop Blaming California's Black Voters for Prop 8

This also appeared on the Huffington Post.

Excuse me? I voted against Proposition 8. I'm among the 30 percent of black Californians that did so. And as much as I can condemn the homophobia and intolerance that drove a portion of the 70 percent of blacks that voted in favor of Proposition 8's ban on gay marriage, it's an outrage to lay its passage at their feet. I've read several editorials already about how the ungrateful blacks betrayed gays right after America gave them their first president. I know there are some wounds and frayed nerves right now, but this type of condescending, divide and conquer isn't going to help at all. And it's a gross oversimplification of what happened.

According to the exit polling, there's enough blame to go around. Don't forget the 49 percent of Asians who voted for Prop 8. And the 53 percent of Latinos who fell in line for it too. And then there is the white vote in support of 8. Slightly under 50% percent of them, a group representing 63% percent of California voters, voted "Yes" on 8. Last I checked blacks held little sway over all of those groups.

So who did? For starters, the churches, religious leaders and advocacy groups in support of 8 were a very formidable force. Surveys showed religion played a major role in voter's decisions. Even No on 8 supporters have admitted that their camp was too complacent, arrogant and far too unorganized. I told a friend the day after the election, that I thought the arguments needed to be much stronger to answer the lingering questions Prop 8 boosters had leveled, disingenuously or not. Even I had some personal misgivings before casting my vote against.

Perhaps gay rights activists needed to better explain how a No vote wouldn't force churches to perform gay marriage ceremonies. And how a No vote wouldn't affect schools or teach children about gay marriage. Maybe deeper outreach in the black and brown communities could have changed some minds. What about fostering a stronger dialogue beyond the good side of town and in the neighborhoods where some of the unfortunate prejudice takes root?

No on 8 also needed a better defense against Obama's own stance on gay marriage. He is on record as wanting to allow the states to decide, even though he still supported full rights for same sex couples under civil unions. It's clear that anybody hoping to get elected this year needed a position that was generally acceptable to the red states. And Obama came out strongly against 8. But those nuances could have been much better explained to those who might be excused to follow suit with Obama's somewhat loose position. The anti-Prop 8 forces couldn't just rest on the hope that entrenched and arcane beliefs would be washed away without both a robust defense and offense.

In the coming weeks, those of us who are standing against Proposition 8--including, I'm sure, millions of blacks nationwide--are all going to need unity as we lobby, fight and advocate for either a reversal of this amendment or a new battle in 2010. There are very valid arguments against the presumptuous collapsing of Obama's win and the results of the Prop 8 vote, but we can table that for now. Regardless of your position, making scapegoats of blacks as a bunch of thankless homophobes is hardly playing the best hand.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama Newspaper Cover Slide Show

If this slide show is too annoying, here is a complete gallery of the covers.

Change Dot Gov Launches

This is what they don't get. Them. The old school government and political machinery—Democrats and Republicans alike. They don't understand the technology like they should. What comes as no surprise is how well Obama's team gets it. BHO was criticized as being too wet behind the ears, but he has the grasp of technology in an age when that matters most. McCain had a bus and Obama had the Web. Was it ever even a contest?

What I didn't expect was something this good, this fast. The launching of is like Facebook for the Obama presidency, a public site for citizen involvement. Among other facts and updates, the site takes job applications and your ideas for the Obama presidency. It's politics 2.0. And it seems to be softly launching without much fanfare, which is another sign of the genius of Obama's team. The viral nature of great online content has proven itself time and again during the campaign, so why force feed anything? This site already seems to have caught on. I heard it crashed a few times today under the weight of all the job applicants.

I can't wait for the next leap: The Live White House Cam!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Giant Step

We did it.

We fought. We hoped. We worked. We cried. We panicked. We debated. We held our breath. But after a 21 month campaign and eight years of sorry leadership and squandered opportunity, we did it. It's not hyperbolic to say that we helped shift the course of the world.

America has just elected a president who built his campaign out of millions of individual voices. Ours. You can almost say the country elected a movement. Barack Hussein Obama (Will they use his whole name at the inauguration?) inspired you, me and so many people we know, to get up, get involved and get into it.

So now what?

We will bask in the celebratory glow for a few days, maybe weeks. And then get excited again as we approach January 20th and the pomp and circumstance that consumes the moment. But I know that over the coming days and weeks, life will also go on, just as it did in the months leading up to the election. What we do individually, and collectively, will determine how radical a departure we make from the past. Obama can only successfully preside over a willing constituency. How committed we are to substantive change beyond blackening a circle in a ballot will define how great the next chapter in American history is.

There will be no vacuum in the National conversation. Somebody will step up to fill any vacancies in dialogue, or breaches in momentum. It could be an ally or a foe. Might be somebody with a shared vision, or an advocate for the polar opposite. If we're lucky, it will be a more unifying and collaborative faction. If history shows us anything, chances are it won't.

Any forward action will demand continued engagement by anybody who showed up to the polls to cast a vote. And even by those who—unbelievably—sat this one out. For them, and for all of us, the next chapter is as important as the first. It won't have nearly the ceremony or pageantry as this round, but it will be just as urgent. And it's where we will really see what we're made of.

Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/The New York Times

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Countdown "A to Z" (O is for Oil)

O is for Oil

For practically as long as any American has been alive, oil has been an issue that we have fought wars over and spent our nation's treasure on. Our escape from its clutches could mean the dawn of a new industrial revolution—a green one this time. And our slavery to it will mean our military is not leaving Iraq and the Middle East for another quarter century at least. Not to mention, our tumble towards global and irreversible climate change will continue.

Oil also continues to define our country's friendships (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Nigeria) and her adversaries (Russia, China, Venezuela). And regardless of which direction we're ready to take as a country, the next president will be instrumental in charting that course, for better (Obama) or worse (McCain).

Election Countdown "A to Z" (N is for No on Prop 8)

N is for "No" on Proposition 8

Vote "No" on California Proposition 8, the push to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. All over Facebook pages and the blogosphere, this has become the most advocated position outside of electing Barack Obama. And considering that California holds about 1/8 of the nation's population, the laws made in this state will probably/eventually effect you whether you live here or not.

Personally, I didn't have a strong opinion against Prop 8 until recently. It had nothing to do with my opinion that gay couples should have 100% equal protection and advocacy under the law. I have always been in favor of that, without a question. I just didn't feel it was the government's place to interfere with matters of the church, which I saw marriage as.

But then my view changed. First off, I recognized that the church had long since stopped confining their laws to religious institutions, and had benefited from state and federal laws. This made it a public policy issue. And as such, it became an issue for the voters. And if we live in a state where the majority of the population wants same-sex couples to be able to consider themselves officially married (without air quotes), then that's what it should be.

Secondly, I've learned to always look at the people behind the laws. From there, you can see whose agendas are mixing with politics. In the case of "Yes on Proposition 8" it's a pretty solid base of religious leaders, conservatives and historically anti-gay rights groups. The age-old tactic of using religious rhetoric to play on prejudices and otherwise create divisions isn't a surprise, but it also shouldn't be rewarded.

The supporters of Proposition 8 talk about gay marriage as the unraveling of families, while in truth it will actually give couples more familial structure. And by attempting to withhold the title of marriage from gay couples, they are seeking to relegate them to "otherness" and "outside" status. What does that teach the next generation—the kids they're utilizing for their commercials—about tolerance?

Vote "No" on Proposition 8.

Photo: Tony Avelar/Associated Press

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Election Countdown "A to Z" (M is for Mom)

M is for Mom
(A personal shout out)

Late last year, I was a Hillary Clinton supporter—or more accurately, I hadn't yet been swayed by the Obama movement. I had gone so far as to write an editorial on how Obama could be an amazing national community organizer. But president? Forget about it. This sentiment relied on the premise that Obama couldn't win. And I had yet to allow myself to hope and aspire like many of my peers were.

My 67-year-old mother, an ardent Democrat, was another story. Sometime last Fall, I had gotten her on a list for an Obama rally in LA. I couldn't be bothered to break away from work and attend. She didn't quite become an Obama supporter on the spot, but she emerged from the Universal Amphitheater well on her way. This sort of transformation was happening all over the country.

But my mom wasn't any doe-eyed kid or first time voter. I assumed she would have supported Hillary, the establishment candidate. And a woman. My mother was also a recently retired veteran public school teacher, long active in the union. She was what the Democratic party would call their base.

But a month later when she told me she intended to vote for Obama, I was as surprised to hear that as she was to hear I wasn't. How did she become the one to embrace the call for change and optimism before me? Obama was supposed to move my generation, not necessarily hers. And how was I the jaded one? I eventually came around sometime after the Iowa primary, but moms was solidly there first.

My mom's always been politically involved and she definitely planted that seed in me. Whether it was her decades of union activities, phone banking during the 1980 presidential race (with me at her side, supporting independent John B. Anderson), or her current role in her local neighborhood council, she's rarely been far from politics.

She called me the other day to say she'd booked a hotel room in Washington D.C. for the January 2009 inauguration. If Obama wins, she wants to be there for the ceremony. I told her I'd be there too, for sure. 28 years after she first put that political bug in me, I can't think of anybody I'd rather celebrate the moment with.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Wire's Wee-Bey Represents Obama and the West

Caught up with Hassan Johnson, aka Wee-Bey from HBO's The Wire, at a swank and sexy Halloween party in the Hollywood Hills, last night. Weebay says, "Go Vote for the kid, who's doing the bid," referring to Obama. Cool dude from the best show on television.

Yes, I know, not my best video quality. Dark, slightly drunk, late, but with my new Flip Video camera. I see good things for this little toy.