Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Katerina Graham

Interesting article on the burgeoning artist in this week's issue of Clutch.

Now go eat pizza and be merry.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

For the Twitter heads

I do have a Twitter account. But I update sparingly and when I do sign-in, a ridiculously-stupid-inordinate-insufferable amount of people are giving stories of their life through 20 words or less sentences. This would be comical, but my mind can't get past the fact that my child will grow up in a world where face-to-face interactions come secondary to cyberworld (and text messages, which I am massively guilty of...that's for another discussion). A superbly written piece in Clutch Magazine by Ganeka Gray underscores this point.

Enough to make 10 body organs cringe.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New fodder on deck

Clutch is weekly for the third straight week. Below is my latest offering:

Rebecca Walker: A Family Affair.

Read it. Laugh at it. Cry over it. Whatever. Anything short of printing it out and using it as toilet paper, I'm all for it. But before you indulge, I must share a few thoughts on the limits of profiles.

I have done a number of profiles on actors, billionaires, athletes, writers and what have you, and it is a task that comes wrought with my sharp edges, if you will. People in high places want their positions simonized, because the run at the top is, well, ephemeral at best. So every so often, a few of the profiled have a problem with something that I wrote. That's cool. And then a few readers take umbrage with the points raised in my pieces. OK. Comes with the territory. But I never ever, ever, ever, EVER assume that the profiles I write even covers a considerable fraction of the essence of the person being crystallized.

The best information about people come not from the person, but the people around the person. That's why I think purely psychological profiles are limited, and should be taken for what it's worth: a snapshot of a person in their ideal environment. When I interview people, 9.6 times out of 10, it is where they want to interviewed and when they are expecting the questions. They give the answers they want, and many times it's a rote recitation of something they told twenty other media outlets. I know this and it is important that others know I know this, so there is no perception of deception.

In an utopian existence, I would talk to 30 people in the subjects' life and write massive tomes masquerading as New Yorker pieces and receive all kind of kudos from the subjects in the articles (that's who I write for anyway). I'll have my day with that, but for now, my singular person, career and psychological profiles of notable contributors to society will have to do.

Having said that, my profiles do hold some semblance of relevance. It is a thread in a cloth that adds to the shirt; it could be the most prominent feature on the shirt or it could be meaningless. That's totally up to the reader. To put it in sports terms, think of them as moments in a football game, the first four drives of a half or a six minute segment in the third quarter. Those moments are important, may even determine the outcome of the game. But they aren't the whole game, nor are they always indicative of a permanent state.

Also, in almost all of my profiles, I tie in some sociological issue with it. In my column on Terri Vaughn, I discussed the television industry and African Americans. In my Saul Williams piece (though a Q&A), I discussed the artists behind the artists, and how we all have those who spur us that intentionally or unintentionally eludes the spotlight. Tanedra Howard, I talked about realizing a dream come true. I like to think that those ideals and motifs render my work stark against the backdrop of homogenization and whitewashing.

To me, that's what it's about: how does this person's plight or flight reflect the malaise or fluorescence of society at large? That's the only way to effectively judge my work when it comes to the world of personal profiles, because I presume to hold no other ambitions.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Crucible of AI

The phenomenon that has been known as the Answer since 1996 has slowed to halt, between the proverbial rock and a hard place. He came into the League as a six-foot wonder, a kid out of Georgetown with a penchant for street life, or at least the look of it. He wowed, physically befuddling arguably the greatest defender of his era and many others en route to a 23.5 ppg average and 7.5 apg average in his inaugural year. In fact, let's pause to commemorate said befuddlement:

Such moves acquired the eyes and hearts of basketball aficionados and pundits everywhere. Some would call the concentration of style over substance poisonous, others call it art. A few called it both. But Iverson is in the NBA. Style over substance is limited. He was one of a kind, but he was "common" at the same time in his ability to allow the defense to ignore the other four players on the floor. His early Philly teams were filled with fellow lottery picks (Jerry Stackhouse, Tim Thomas, Derrick Coleman, Larry Hughes), but were still unsuccessful.

His best season was 2000-2001, where he won the NBA MVP and led his talent-deprived team to the NBA Finals (while putting a scratch on LA's three-fo-fo-fo hopes.) In retrospect, it seems that that was the pinnacle of his career. His fifth year in the NBA and he had already reach his zenith. Doesn't seem right. In the ensuing years, his career has been a blur of highlight sublimity, awe-inspiring toughness and interminable postseason failures. When he was traded to Denver to be united with 'Melo, many wondered what that would produce. They did go to the playoffs for the two seasons AI was in the Rocky Mountains, but nobody was surprised when it ended in an early dismissal.

Then he was traded to the Pistons, and the results have been disastrous. Detroit decided to start A.I. and bring Richard Hamilton off the bench, and the results were abysmal, culminating in an eight-game losing streak. A.I. goes out, Hamilton comes back in and the Pistons win two on the road against the Celtics and Magic. Now everybody knows what should have been obvious in the first place. This doesn't preclude a partial account of his stature and dexterity; in fact, it spurs it.

He is a prisoner of his adroit zig-zags and grit. Those who criticize his self-centered game, the ball-controlling, the idle teammates standing around watching him do his thing fail to put together the fact that it is because of those hardwood peccadilloes that he is the individual marvel that he is. Fearless. Undaunted. Competitor. His minuses are his strengths run amok; the essence of diminishing marginal utility. The Pistons' two impressive road wins against the Magic and Celtics without Iverson in the lineup makes that ever clear. Placing him at point guard won't work for the same reasons that forcing an artist into dentistry won't work.

A man must know his role. As Tony Kornheiser said, he is a player that needs four lesser players around him. Sounds kinda shallow, huh? A man needing inferior talent around him to augment his own worth? This makes it much easier to bash him as a person, because as they say, the way one is on the basketball court is an extension of their personality.

But to embrace that mindset is to miss the bigger point and the enigma that is AI. He is illusion incarnate, the anti-efficiency while at the same time being a force that is inexplicable by the laws of orthodox thought. A HOF talent that doesn't lend himself to slowing down for the sake of an easier "shot" for himself or others, because he knows only one way: Go Hard. These past 13 years showed that he is the Exception, not the Answer. Historians will misconstrue his place in history because they will see his numbers, his body shape and his (formerly) trademark cornrows and say "he squeezed everything he could out of that frame," and they will be right. Partially. Because the truth is this: only a kamikaze Allen Iverson (flaws and all) could have survived the rigors of the NBA this long. Curb his game just a smidgen and you're left with a street-baller who may have succumbed to the perils of the urban jungle. Playing his way was his adjustment to nature; dealing with the cards he was dealt, if you will. Call him stubborn, but don't called him selfish, there's a subtle difference. It's who he is: why in the world would you forsake something that saved your life?

A captive of his own talents, yet freed from his own limitations.

So what does this mean to 2009 Detroit? You have an opportunity to do something special to salvage this season. Bring his butt off the bench.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Discriminatory Souls

And here we thought racism was the primary channel of discrimination. Nah man. Thieves are the most biased individuals. Who would have known that thieves could be so choosy in Boston, where a whooping 14% of the robberies involved the Sidekick?

Boston police reported more than 300 stolen Sidekicks in 2008, accounting for 14 percent of all robberies in the city. New York City saw a 59 percent surge in subway robberies in December compared with the previous year, driven largely by thieves targeting high-end cell phones, especially the Sidekick.

And Adrian Portlock, whose company Checkmend.com tracks stolen cell phones, ranks the phone among the most-taken worldwide, even though the Sidekick's primary market is the United States, where it is available for $100 after a rebate.

Thieves have long targeted trendy items, from Air Jordans and Starter jackets to iPods and GPS units. But the Sidekick is not ubiquitous — it has never cracked the list of the five top-selling cell phones since the consumer research firm NPD Group began the ranking in 2005. Instead, thieves target Sidekicks because of their urban hipness quotient, and because they're easy to resell.

So the psychology of the klepto is to target the most profitable items and abscond with it, while eschewing all items that are mundane and fruitless? A Blackberry Bold 9000 is a magnet for sticky fingers but an LG Envy will leave potential purloiners recoiling in horror. If that's the case, then this explains the simple yet complex motives for the "get-em boys" of the world. Why the necessary explanation? Because by understanding the predator's habits and tendencies, the prey is left more insulated from the dystopian reality of having your sh-- took. If profitability is the number one motivator for a group a thieves, then common sense dictates that the more austere one appears, the better off they are in the attention department. But what about the indiscriminate masterminds, the souls who just jack just to jack (unintentional alliteration)? They're scant.

This debunks the widely held notion that people are mere pawns in the vagaries of kleptomania, unable to deter an inexorable force known as the Get-Em Boys. I drive a Escort. I don't ever, EVER, have to worry about anybody scoping the ride. But I have cousins who were jacked multiple times and...let's just say that they drove the antithesis of the Escort. It's no surprise when its 1992 and you have to fear for your life if you have on a Starter's jacket, or in 2009 and a Sidekick is the crave. But it seems to be a surprise when the prevalent problem of banditry has such a simple solution.

They call him Flash

Three months ago, I posted a glowing tribute to a mesomorphic superstar guard from the Miami Heat. (Yes, a superstar. I don't dole that word out commonly or easily either. To wit, there are only three superstars in the league right now:


(That's it. Everybody else are stars and great players. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen...nope. They are the product of synergy. Together, they are superstars. Apart? Not so sure. Shaq, no mas. Amar'e, uh-uh. Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are on the cusp, but they are not there yet. I'm of the mind that a superstar has to lead his team to the finals at least once. What about Dirk then, you ask? My views on this have been stated before, but I'll just be curt: Puh-lease. Until Dwight does that, he's this generation's version of David Robinson.)

Saturday night was another one for the ages, as he slapped a 24-point fourth quarter (which is the second-most impressive quarter this season behind Melo's 33-point gem earlier this season.

Need I say anymore.