Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I went down to Texas a number of times last year to help get my Dad situated with proper health care.  As a part of the clean-up of his home, I found the cap (called a kufi) for my Dad's dashiki outfit from my his illustrious "black empowerment" phase (that's another episode in my one-man show that'll be expanded on later this year).  I decided to bring it home as part of the "booty" I put aside during the cleaning process.  I just happened to run across it when I was looking for my black hat to wear to rehearsal.  I took it with me and sported it once I parked my car in Chicago.

I was in Old Town for a rehearsal and decided to test out the head gear.  The temperatures were low enough that having something to keep my dome warm is a good thing.  Since Old Town is right by the lake, it features even colder and more brutal winds that just suck the moisture out of your skin during  the winter.  I had to keep the moisture in, son!

I started walking down the street and noticed people looking at me "oddly".  Granted, I know my Malcolm X-ish good looks normally get people to look at me strangely; however, I was getting more "thoughtful" stares from people - as if people were a little disturbed by the look.

Cool!  I be scarin' the white people in Old Town!

I then noticed when sharing the sidewalk people would give me a little bit more room to make my way. YES!  I've got a persona going.  I underestimated just how powerful the kufi was.  Here I am figuring out whether or not I would be able to rock one of these on stage and little did I know that this piece by itself can move people! At this point, I felt empowered to strut as I walked down the street and purposely engage people in direct eye contact to see their reactions.  I got a lot of nervous smiles.

Once I got into the building, I took off my magical intimidation cap and became just a mere mortal again. I went to rehearsal and shared my experience with my colleagues.  We got a pretty big giggle out of it and saw the comedic gold behind the encounter.

We finished up rehearsal and I decided to sport it again to continue my guilty pleasure.  As we're walking out, I spot this other gentleman sporting a kufi!  He spotted me and for a moment he smiled, looked up as he was going to say something to me, and then backed off once he spotted more people coming.  It was as if he was about to say, "YES! THERE ARE MORE LIKE ME!"  I gave hima nod and said, "What up my brotha" and headed out of the training center.  The others were right behind me and kept their mouths shut until after we were in the lobby.  We then all started giggling and gossiping about just how cool that exchange was.  We couldn't have written it!  It looked like he was signing up his daughter that day for classes. Someone said, "I bet you he was like, 'It's cool.  You can go ahead and take classes here, sweetie.'" after seeing me walk through.

I don't plan on making this kufi a staple of my wardrobe but cot damn is it effective.  Can't wait to tell the story behind this powerful garment!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

All I Want From The Pumpkins... 2013...2013...2013?!

The Pumpkins recently tweeted:

Well, well!  Thanks for asking!  Here's the list:
  • Get back to TGBK and resume releasing music for free.  I'm not gonna whine about how Billy said it'd be 100% free but yet Oceania, which is considered part of the TGBK canon, had to be purchased.  It's not the first time he's "mispoken" with regards to a highly publicized project. I'd like some new music with the band as-is but release a few tracks for free.

    I know this request will most likely not be granted as-is as I also understand the implications that have arisen as a result of releasing music like this in the past.  The public still hasn't adjusted to this concept and they're quick to judge and close their minds to all future music based on a sampling of songs.  I also am aware that putting out an album for the band was important to allow them to "focus up" and make it a force to reckoned with.  Why mess that up with going back to releasing "singles"?

    As a compromise, how about releasing an EP for TGBK for free as a precursor to the actual record which will be for sale?
  • More epic guitar solos.  Yeah, I know, been there, done that.  I don't get sick of them.
  • I'd like to see some songs "co-written by" the other members.  Easier said than done however I will hold out hope.  This is Billy's band - got it.  However, I believe that he's relieved as well that he doesn't have to "do everything" in the guitar department anymore on recordings.  In order to distance and evolve from the past incarnations of SP, why not open up the formal songwriting to the other members.  Perhaps a "filter" system could be put in place where everyone rights and Billy executive produces them so that they retain a homogeneous SP sound.  It's already being done in a small way by allowing everyone to play their own parts on the record but why stop there?
  • Have the next formal effort (EP or LP) produced by Butch Vig.  I understand I just ranted about distancing from the past but cot damn Butch is on fire with producing some sonically awesome records (Wasting Light by Foo Fighters & Not Your Kind of People by Garbage).  Another producer I adore is Rick Rubin as well :)

    Again, having an outside producer may help the band continue it's journey in making the most current line-up just as relevant as the previous ones in the public mind (I personally like this line-up and hope to see it stay together for a long time).  Perhaps I'm being naive but if I saw the band working with either one of these guys I would think, "Hey, they're calling the shots ultimately and they want their vision to be even expanded on further."

    If it's too much/too scary for the band to commit to this idea, perhaps try a few TGBK singles with different producers to see how it goes :)
  • I want the band to be happy.  Just follow efforts that make you happy.  I can wrestle with the material irrespective of form however I want the band members to like what they're doing and enjoy the creation process.  It'll be reflected in the music.
Let me know if the band wants/needs anymore feedback :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Year In Review: 2012

I've seen a lot of Facebook posts from my peers highlighting what they did for the entire year of 2012.  It made me stop to reflect on my own accomplishments last year as well.  There should be enough Facebook posts, Tweets, and blog entries to go into depth on anyone of these so I'm going do a headline news version.

  • Got onto a Genesis League team and helped naming it Any Given Hyundai.  It was a good experience in meeting new people and practicing my improv skills in a semi-pro setting.
  • Took the Madskillz II class and learned some excellent games and technique when improvising scenic hip-hop.
  • Performed in the Improv Minions as well where I learned just how uncomfortable people are with dealing with race on stage they're not familiar with.
  • Started up and performed with Los Improviachis.  This was a labor of love and I am glad that it's left my brain and materialized this year.  I've been also adding improv team coaching/directing along with musical directing to my palette of marketable skills.

  • Formed and produced the Salsation Improv team.  I got to coach this team as well (and most recently house manage!  Gotta love venue mishaps)
  • Co-produced and co-direct Salsation's latest sketch comedy show Daylabor Dreamin' and am personally taking it to Sketchfest this month.
  • Had another successful fundraiser
  • Got us into a couple of comedy festivals - Chicago Women's Funny Festival, Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, and the North Carolina Comedy and Arts Festival (we're not going to the last one unfortunately but at least we got in!)

  • Helped get Word Up on its feet and even performed as a poet for the first time ever. 
  • Wrote, starred in, and produced my first HD video of the year "Only On Sunday".
  • Got published 4 times in the IBM Expert System Integrators Blog  with blogs pertaining to the PureSystem family of servers and software.
  • Got a few videos published as well from the IBM PureSystems Residency.

  • Worked on a ton of new projects and got a ton of experience on new systems and software technologies.
  • Kept my family fed, clothed, sheltered, and happy.  MORE OF THAT! 
  • Got my Dad the much needed help he needed in his old age.  It zapped my credit cards dry but at least he's in the place he needs to be in in order to get help.
  • Helped my wife launch her Jill V Photography Studio.
  • Got a new dog Rex (still getting used to him.  Argh!  Puppies!)
  • Got my condo rented for 2 years.  MUCH NEEDED!
  • Came to realize that many people are not on my level when it comes to personal ambition, drive, and professionalism.  I had an epiphany that I needed to stop wasting my time on people who are not on the same page as I am with regards to doing things to make themselves happy.  I must've thought I could change them in some way, shape, or form.  All it did was aggravate me.  I spent the last 4-6 months seeking and working with the people I see are invested in not only themselves but also in me by wanting to (not feeling obligated to) work with me.  I've been a lot happier in general with my work as a result.

    Anecdotally, I've heard second-hand from different people who got used to me working so hard on their behalf's in the past actually complaining about my new found attitude.  They felt excluded from activities they claimed they wanted to be a part of.  What they neglected to see in their logic that their own actions were the reasons why they didn't participate by either not answering the call to join me or ignoring any invitations to be a part of something.  However, somehow miraculously it was my fault.  Go figure.
2012 was amazing.  We didn't experience a Mexican Rapture, made a lot of personal gains, and have another year to surpass it!  Can't wait to continue growing and being happy.