Brain Food Reviews West of Sunset

And in a special edition of Brain Food, Triple J gives a very awesome and hilarious review of my latest title, West of Sunset.

Have a gander.

 

 

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Next Gen Publishing

So I had the distinct pleasure of being on Next Gen Publishing panel with some very fine gents during Norwescon recently.

Thanks to Triple J who was gracious enough to film this and thanks to my buddy Kurt who was coming in from out of town and I wasn’t able to answer the phone.

And thanks to Starbucks for keeping me wired during a whirlwind of a weekend.

 

 

Norwescon Interview

So at Norwescon, Triple J and I had just finished lunch and I was in between panels so we decided to do an impromptu interview. I was uber-wired not only because of hanging out with one of my favorite peeps, but I was also consuming a ridiculous amount of caffeine that weekend.  A really fun interview that I immensely enjoyed.

We Are Legion

And the celebration of being a Black Geek for Black History Month continues as I discuss one of my all-time favorite series and one of my favorite genres of music.

Random Fact # 28: The first concert I ever attended was Run DMC & Aerosmith.

Hip hop culture is a long lost love of mine.

This usually shocks people when they learn that I used to be huge fan of vintage hip hop. It’s understandable given my cerebral and uptight demeanor ie: the huge stick up my diamond crushing ass.

As a kid, hip hop culture was starting to gain traction and even then I knew it was something special. It was from the streets, it was humble, it was pure. It was by the people for the people. It was inclusive. Hip hop/rap was for everyone: male, female, black, Asian, Latino, and white.

Growing up I enjoyed Run DMC, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Will Smith aka the Fresh Prince and his boy Jazzy Jeff, Queen Latifah, Salt & Pepa, Heavy D, Hammer and a host of others.

If you don’t know about Krush Groove, you can’t talk to me. If you don’t know about Beat Street, beat it, because you can’t tell me anything.

Hip hop was socially relevant and it continuously found creative means to discuss the challenges that the poor, disenfrannchized, POCs and other minorities had to contend with. We were underground, we were pure and we were fun.

We also danced. I danced. Yes I danced. And if you catch me at a con or a party, I can showcase a few breakdance moves old and new.

Dance was crucial to the culture. It was how men and women showcased their prowess and superiority. It was also how we sometimes settled grievances if you had beef with someone.

Yes, if you had beef, you took it to the parking lot and you battled. Break out the boombox, play the latest jam and you showcased the freshest moves. You better be up to snuff on all of Michael’s moves at a bare minimum.

And don’t get it twisted. When I say hip hop, I’m not just referring to simply rap music. You see hip hop as a culture transcends, race, culture and musical genre, it’s universal. Whether it’s Run DMC and Aerosmith performing Walk This Way, Deborah Harry and Blondie teaming up with Fab Five Freddy, it’s musicals. Yes musicals, case in point: Jay-Z. You know you’re a badass when you can win a grammy off of an Annie track and no one dares question your gangsta. It’s martial arts. It’s Romeo Must Die, it’s Justified and Ancient. Hip hop is classical music, it’s jazz, it’s R&B, it’s rock music, it’s country. Juxtapose a Johnny Cash album with Common’s. You have two different men of two different eras from two different cultures and walks of life and the issues they discuss and the oppressions they call out are almost identical. Hip hop pulls from everything because it’s by the people for the people.

Sadly, hip hop lost its way. As it became more commercial and more profitable, and blood suckers found a means of exploiting it, we saw hip hop lose its voice and give way to a bastardized version that glorified blacks murdering each other, drug-dealing, abusing women. Seeing the irrevocable harm it was doing to my race, my culture and my day to day, I began to distance myself from this love of mine.

And you can’t even call it gangsta rap because that’s neither fair or true. Real gangsta rap even in its rawest form has something profound to say and when it discusses thug life or life on the streets. It tells it all. The good, the bad, the glamorous, the ugly, and the harsh realities.Violent imagery and harsh language may be used but true gangsta rap has a message worth telling.

When it comes to hip hop, a buddy of mine said it best.

Here’s the thing: most of the stuff you see on BET, MTV or the radio is not rap. A lot of the “gangsta rap” is commercialized and pushed by white executives to make a buck.

To hear real hip hop and old school rap, you have to go underground. You have to track down all those unsigned rappers who quote scholars and philosophers and discuss social issues in their rhymes. Unlike many mainstream rappers, they’re often college-educated, have little to no criminal background, and are regularly engaged in community service.

You will almost NEVER see them in popular media because they are a more accurate depiction of black people in America. Moreover, they represent us positively, and white America doesn’t want to show people that. They don’t want non-black (or even black) people to [see black people] that way. They want everyone to see us as “ghetto”, illiterate, promiscuous, and self-destructive so that they don’t have to take responsibility for – or even mention – the glaring inequality in our society.

It appears my friend and I aren’t alone. In recent years, I’ve noticed a lot more discussions and a movement to reclaim hip hop and to return it to its purest form. Whether it’s Def Poetry and open mic, conscious rap and other media. Even a web series that has become a cultural and global phenomenon

Which brings us to the LXD: The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers.

From visionary writer/director Jon M. Chu (STEP UP 3D), The LXD chronicles the journey of seemingly ordinary people who discover they have extraordinary powers and must choose their place in an epic war between good and evil.

There’s high school outcast Trevor Drift (Bboy Luigi) uncovering his family’s dangerous secret, fallen soldier Sp3cimen (Madd Chadd) running from his dark past, and unassuming hero Elliot Hoo (Glee’s Harry Shum Jr.) haunted by newly discovered supernatural gifts. All of whom are called to fulfill their destiny and join The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. Each of their stories showcases the unbelievable flips, spins and twists that have already made The LXD a pop cultural phenomenon and one of the most highly anticipated films ever released.

The LXD is hip hop in its purest form. It’s an online adventure. It’s a live action comic book series that bends genre like whoa. It’s dance: be it ballet, jazz, tap, B-boy, it’s acrobatics, it’s extaordinary. You can see influences of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Gregory Hines in some of the performances. However most of the dancers have stated that their biggest influence and inspiration was Michael Jackson.

Not only was I floored by the series but the story behind the series itself. A web series about a group of gifted characters who discover they have amazing abilities through energy known as the Ra. Think a high quality, epic, operatic Heroes, only with an excellent plot, without the fail. The Justice League of dance might be a better description.

The plot evolves with each episode and Chu and company get more artistic and creative with the cinematography themes, composition, etc.

As I mentioned earlier, it went from internet sensation to global phenomenon, primarily through word of mouth. People believed in the project, people want to see our stories and talents shared, they have also proven that diversity = success. All of the choreography and stunts are real; no special effects, no wire work, no green screens. I’m also proud to support this series because 50 percent of the sales of the official LXD t-shirt supports the work of the Invisible Children, a cause that’s personally dear to me.

The LXD is also proof of two things: Web series are the way of the future and that diversity when done right garners success.

The LXD, has a multi-ethnic cast and has consistently dominated as the most watched series on Hulu. Paramount executives have pointed to creator Jon Chu’s use of Web 2.0 and social networking (not to mention a quality product) as setting the standard and being a game changer in reaching a mass audience, execs can only dream about.

Funny how while Hollywood is hemorraging money and trying to figure out ways gain audiences, web series like the LXD, KTown Cowboys and Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl have fans breaking their necks to donate to their crowdfunding and kickstarter efforts. Funny how these have all been POC media as well.

I could go on and on about how incredible this series is, but I know all too well that seeing is believing. With that in mind:

Seasons 1&2 are available on DVD as well as iTunes.

thelxd.com
http://www.hulu.com/the-lxd

LXD: The online adventure begins right now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to reconnect with a long lost love.

Happy iPhone 5 Day

And in honor of football season (and bookmark this because this is one of the rare times you’ll see me honor sports, lol), I thought I’d post this gem here. Talk about a tight-end, damn.

And on this most glorious day, I just want to say, HAPPY APPLE IPHONE 5 DAY!!!!!!!!

Who run the world? MAC!!!!!!!

 

Enter The Mountain Lion

 

For many reasons I no longer believe in coincidence. I think that most things happen for a purpose.

As most of you are aware, I’m a hardcore Apple fan. While I owned iPods for years prior, in August of 2009, I was happy to purchase my very first Macbook Pro. A year later I would purchase an iPhone and some time after that I got the iPad.

I don’t say this often about products but Apple has improved my life immeasurably with its value from its products. Be it writing, art, other business endeavors, personal use or entertainment, Apple. More than that, I’ve always been impressed with the fact that the company doesn’t rest on its laurels but continues to evolve and improve.

Since 2009 I’ve operated on the Leopard operating system. Four years = 4 decades in computer years. Which is a testament to the awesome that is the Mac because it shows that I haven’t had the need to update or upgrade my system because it’s so awesome.

However I noticed certain programs was no longer compatible because I was on an outdated platform. So this weekend I’ve been upgrading up to the latest platform: Mountain Lion.

For you non Mac people, jumping from Leopard to Mountain Lion would be like going from Windows 2000 to Windows 7. I’m skipping Snow Leopard and Lion altogether.

What’s with the cat theme? You would think the Thundercats owned Apple or something.

The verdict?

I swear it’s like buying a brand new computer. The existing features have improved dramatically, the computer is faster and the newer features are slick and impressive.

I also find it provident that of all the times I could’ve updated my computer it would be the weekend of the anniversary in which I first purchased it.

Updating my Macbook has been one of the most exciting weekends of my life.

God I need a life in the worst kind of way.

In any event, Mountain Lion rocks. And to celebrate I’ve been rocking out to this video. I may or may not have been doing some of the dance sequences:

The Great Gatsby Game

You can thank and/or blame my boy Jackson for this one. As many of you are aware, The Great Gatsby was one of the major inspirations for my novel Hollowstone. The first half of the novel especially serves as a modern retelling/homage to the Fitzgerald classic.

So imagine my surprise when I learned of this:

http://greatgatsbygame.com/

Jackson said it best: “It captures perfectly that moment in the book when Nick starts smacking butlers with his boomerang porkchop, doesn’t it?”

And I also learned yesterday that there’s going to be a new Great Gatsby film:

 

I think this film can go either way. On the one hand it has DiCaprio and Maguire whch is awesome but on the other, they’re trying to glam it up and make it too slick. I’ll check it out just to see how they handle the material.

Black Panther: Review

Deep in the heart of Africa lies Wakanda, an advanced and unconquerable civilization. A family of warrior-kings possessing superior speed, strength and agility has governed this mysterious nation as long as time itself. The latest in this famed line is young King T’Challa, the great hero known worldwide as the Black Panther.

Now outsiders once again threaten to invade and plunder Wakanda. Leading this brutal assault is Klaw, a deadly assassin with the blood of T’Challa’s murdered father on his hands, who brings with him a strong army of superpowered mercenaries. Even with Wakanda’s might and his own superhuman skills, can the Black Panther prevail against this deadly invading force?
How this film rocked, let me count the ways.

Before I go any further, I should state that apologies are in order. Years ago, there was a trailer for this series and I was less than impressed to put it mildly. It was a motion comic that was being pushed as an animated film and I was outraged that the film featuring the black superhero got the short end of the stick.

What I didn’t know was that the trailer was actually originally done by one animator who presented it to film executive producer Reginald Hudlin who penned the series and the film is based on his story arc. Hudlin presented it to Marvel and they greenlit it.

But you wouldn’t know that though the way Marvel threw this film/six part animated minseries under the bus. While lesser films such as Ultimate Avengers, Iron Man and Doctor Strange were pushed and heavily promoted, Black Panther was on iTunes and then removed and the DVD has to be ordered through Amazon and its primary advertising has been through word of mouth.

The most twisted part, this was some of Marvel’s finest work.

First and foremost, the star power alone should’ve made this a fully funded feature film in theaters or at the very least on DVD: We’re talking Djimon Hounsou as the titular protagonist, Alfre Woodard, Kerry Washington, Jill Scott, and Stan Lee.

The lack of support this film has gotten is proof how the Black Panther is one of the most overlooked superheroes ever. A gifted prodigy, a world class warrior whose skills are second to none, T’Challa is arguably Marvel’s answer to Batman as Bruce Wayne and T’Challa share more than a few parallels.

The film also reminded me why I sorely miss Hudlin’s writing on the Black Panther series. He has the perfect blend of escapism, social commentary, political intrigue, satire, and fantasy escapism that is second to none. This is a story that has political intrigue, explores the bonds of family, is part revenge saga, and is action packed with more than a few laughs. Not surprising considering this is the man that gave us Birth of A Nation along with Aaron McGruder. Hudlin’s writing of the Black Panther came under fire. The primary reason, in his world, black folks don’t play second string to white characters. They are just as accomplished as their caucasian peers and for a lot of white comic book fans, that’s far more far-fetched than super-powered beings. But for those of us who have been waiting for a film that features a black superhero with RESPECT, this film has been long overdue.

While the film sticks pretty faithfully to the graphic novel, Who Is The Black Panther, there are a few changes and in my opinion for the better. Most notably, a cameo from the X-Men and Storm is brought in as a major player. While I wasn’t a fan of the execution of the Storm/T’Challa relationship, I’m always happy to see the Goddess in any series. After all, she is the First Lady of Marvel as far as I’m concerned. Mad props to Jill Scott who flawlessly delivers a beautiful African accent in her portrayal of Storm.

And if you’re not a comic book person, that’s totally okay too. This film is very self-contained and you’ll get the full story without feeling lost.

What I was really happy to hear is that the film has done immensely well. Last I heard, the Black Panther has outsold comparable X-Men and Iron Man films, both of which have had the backings of live-action films.

Of course I’m left with only one question to Marvel: WHAT THE FRAK IS WRONG WITH YOU? WHY AREN’T YOU PUSHING MORE FILMS LIKE THIS? DON’T YOU WANNA MAKE MONEY? I LIKES TO MAKE MONEY. I WANNA HELP YOU MAKE MONEY!!!!!!

Minority superheroes when handled with respect do equal financial success: Cassandra Cain run on Batgirl, Kevin Keller, Batwoman, this film here.

I implore you to check out Counting Colored Cash for further proof.

In the meantime, I’ll be Waiting For Wakanda.

And if this video here doesn’t get you hyped enough to go buy the DVD off of Amazon or get the episodes off of Youtube, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. I really don’t.

Black Panther is available now on Youtube, Amazon and wherever DVDs of AWESOME are sold.