Monday, January 28, 2008

OK, Let's talk about it.

The Wire. Best. TV. Show. Ever.

Those who I talk to every day can't get it out of the heads. That's because I insist that they watch it immediately. Of course, the bludgeoning method rarely works. In fact, it only turns people away (think of the parent cramming into the child's head what not to do, and the child doing it). People would rather become addicted to something organically, without verbal coercion.

But I digress.

This show, set in Baltimore, MD profiles life. Not buttered up, sensationalized, dramatized, made for TV life. Real life. There isn't a element of life that isn't showcased in this show.

Drug dealers, you got it.

A look into the life of a drug addict, yep.

Politics, uh-huh.

Clandestine trysts. Flawed school systems. Reformed criminals. Police department agendas. Gentrification. Corrupt journalists. Corrupt politicians (a tautologous phrase, huh?). Comedic scenes with the fellas. The ubiquitous sex scenes. All there.

Shoot, there's even lesbian love-making and two guys kissing in the show.

Pause...this is where I draw the line and ruin the spoiler. That's how I know the show is great: two of my favorite characters are gay thugs, one being a woman and the other a guy. And this doesn't affect my affinity for the show one iota.

But yet, this show boasts a declining viewership. HBO has picked this up for the fifth and final season (currently it is on episode five). Many question how, being that this is no Entourage, Sopranos, or even Sex and the City in terms of fan base. In retrospect, I shouldn't be surprised though, given the length of time it took for me to become attuned to this creation.

The Wire, Season One, began in 2002. I didn't start watching Episode One until late December 2007. I tried it out after persistent prodding by the uncle - and his putting up the dollars for the rentals. How good can it be? I shouldn't have asked myself that question. I watched four seasons in under two weeks. That's fifty plus episodes. That's complete addiction.

That's the start of many hour-long conversations discussing the unpredictability and volatility of it all.

That's a lot of time allocated towards my world education (yes, I consider this show a documentary. Nobody can convince me otherwise) that I could spend towards something else, like playing NBA 2K8 or reading some autobiographical novel or hang gliding or lifting up some mope on facebook.

That's one more fanatic for the depleted spectator-ship this show claims.

That's the reason that I have updated this blog.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A New Year's Salutation

I must admit that there is no unifying theme to this piece. This is a medley of thoughts and ideas that are in my mental list going into the new year.

January, for many, represents the primo time of the year. A chance to start over, get it right, set new goals, sustain prior successes, etc., etc. For others, January is just another day in the life. Regardless of your perspective, posterity has established January as the kickoff for all things financial, political, educational and vocational.

A war in Iraq continues. The presidential primaries commence this month. NFL playoffs begin this month. A gazillion bowl games will take place. Many of you will return to work, resume school or start that diet you promised to get on. But we know, that as much as we would like to boost January as a “new start,” some things will remain the same. No date can change that bad relationship that we are in, or that unemployment is hovering at its highest since 2001, or that there is a severe mortgage crisis.

With that said, below is a condensed list of things to keep in mind:

Barack vs. Hilary: There are the other candidates in the Democratic Party, as well as the GOP. But let’s be serious, the juice— to me anyway—is in this race. Three months ago, it was one-sided all the way: Mrs. Clinton held a resounding lead in the polls. Not that the polls are totally indicative (for they were unofficial polls), but they are quite indicative. But now, the man from Hawaii is surging, with a campaign ran on transparency and new ideals that suddenly make this Iowa caucus a must-see segue into a new leadership that will begin in November.

A personal aside: Launching two books before his presidential campaign (one a memoir of his life and the other a look into his political paradigm) has proven to be an excellent strategic move. Though he has caught heat for his drug use admissions and his Muslim background (his father was one), his books have given America a glimpse and a tour of Barack Obama, the person. This is something that Hilary nor John Edwards (another Democratic nominee) can claim. Whether or not this will help Barry in the election process remains to be seen.

What will uncrisis the mortgage crisis? Foreclosures are at an all-time high, and real-estate investors are suffering for it. How can this be? You would think that more people would be gobbling up homes, providing they have the money to do so. Faulty loans, increased interest rates and consumer uncertainty in the market have placed a lot of property being priced at 20 cents on the dollar. So what does this exactly mean for us?

The philosophy of our use of houses comes into question here: house as a wealth-generating asset or as a place of living and refuge? It’s reported that African Americans have the lowest home ownership rate out of any ethnic group in the nation. So if we aren’t buying homes, renting will become, (if it is not already), the de facto choice of sheltering for blacks.

The consumers most affected by this crossroads are those who took loans with little or no credit history, many of which who couldn’t afford a down payment. Mortgages are increasing everywhere, leaving those who recently bought their homes more in limbo because they don’t have much equity built up. Over half of the blacks that bought their homes in the last two years, acquired high-cost loans.

Translation: More blacks being put out of their homes, meaning that the home ownership rate among our race will continue to sleep with the fishes. Higher income people, this doesn’t affect as much, thus increasing the class and income gap between blacks and whites.

An ode to the stars and victims of 2007: Tony Dungy, Jordan Sparks, Lewis Hamilton, Saleisha Stowers all burst onto the national scene in a major way last year. Barack Obama started off with “60 percent of the world knowing me” to becoming one of the biggest stories of the year.

Despite the ignominy caused by a few black celebrities, there were plenty who made their marks in more favorable ways. Forest Whitaker won the Oscar for Best Actor, an award that until 2001, was privy to white actors. Last year was also a year that Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor also came into their own as the black actors to be reckoned with. Black college enrollment—contrary to many reports—continues to grow in a lot of areas, especially among black females. There is a new wave of black professionals making their marks that are not being reported on. Soon, these people will come to light.

But our prayers still go out to the families of the victims of the Valentine’s Day massacre in Utah, Virginia Tech massacre, and the Omaha, Nebraska massacre. 2007 wasn’t so kind to those victim’s families. It’s with heavy hearts and humility that we remember these people and others like them, because incidents like this remind us that life can be capriciously taken away. All of which makes our situations eminently enjoyable, because we are indeed blessed to be here.

So here is a toast to prosperity, wealth, sound decisions, family health, spiritual growth and overall goodwill for the year of 2008. May God bless your families, and may He bless you.

-Zettler Clay IV