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|Friday, May 20th, 2011|
|Shit Women Say To Me: Glad You Can Read My Subtext
Her: What's this "you're smarter than I expected," "I like you more than I expected" stuff? Makes me wonder what exactly you were expecting! Me: I thought you were dumb and that I'd hate you.Her: I appreciate your honesty. Speaking of dumb, can I peruse your book collection so that I can rectify my situation? Me: Sure. If by "peruse" you mean suck and by "book collection" you mean "cock."Her: I'm glad you can read my subtext.
|Tuesday, May 17th, 2011|
|Common Sense and the Southern Strategy
As a man who spent three years making a documentary about spoken word poetry, I’m thrilled whenever the term “poetry slam” is mentioned in the mainstream press, for good or for ill. As a lover of hip-hop who long ago grew tired of rappers talking about pimping hoes and shooting guns, I love Common. He’s one of my favorites along with Mos Def, Talib Kweli and The Coup. So I thought it was very cool that he was invited to the White House for a poetry reading.
But alas, the Southern Strategy is alive and well and living in America. With a black man in the White House, it’s pretty much like shooting fish in a barrel for right-wing pundits and politicians.
Step 1. Pick anyone Barack Obama associates with in any way, shape or form (all the better if they are black).
Step 2. Scour their resume for the single most radical thing they’ve ever said or done.
Step 3. Take that incident, even if it’s somewhat of an anomaly, and present it as if it is the most significant thing that person has ever
said or done in their entire career (and if the person has never said or done anything suitably radical, get Andrew Breitbart or James
O’Keefe to selectively edit a videotape to make it look that way and send it to Matt Drudge). See also: ACORN, Shirley Sherrod, Van Jones,
Jeremiah Wright and now Common.
I’ve been a fan of Common for years and I didn’t even know that he went to Cuba to visit Assata Shakur, until Bill O’Reilly told me. But then, I just listen to his music and watch his movies, I don’t go scouring the internet to cherry pick negative talking points about him. I’m willing to bet that Bill O’Reilly had almost no idea who Common was until he was invited to the White House. I own several of Common’s albums and I bet the staff of The O’Reilly Factor has spent more time on Common’s Wikipedia page than I have.
Here’s what I know about Common:
1. He makes great music.
2. He’s a surprisingly good actor.
3. He featured The Last Poets on his song, “The Corner.”
4. The last verse on his album, “Be” is performed by his father.
5. He’s a dead ringer for what Suge Knight would look like, one year after gastric bypass surgery.
Come on, how bad can the guy be? He let his dad read a poem on his album! In 1995, my dad suggested that we do a poetry video together, and I politely pretended to be suffering from a sudden bout of hysterical deafness (the way my dad pitched it, we’d be wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots and standing in front of a fireplace. I’m pretty sure one of us was to be smoking a pipe).
People who actually listen to hip-hop know that Common is one of the most non-violent, non-sexist artists in the game. So either Fox News is counting on the fact that their audience has no idea who Common is and therefore they can paint him any way they want, or Fox News has no idea who Common is and view him exclusively through the lens of the facts they can data mine about him that run the most counter to their political agenda.
So what’s the take away? The obvious one is that it’s easy for rightwing pundits to create black boogie men out of thin air to terrify a white audience. The less obvious one is to ask how often we on the left are introduced to someone on the right that we’ve never heard of and let the one or two talking points that we get about them from left leaning sources color our entire perception of them, to the point where we are suspicious of anyone who has anything good to say about them. I know it’s happened to me. It’s easy to demean the other side for being stupid, it’s harder to look in the mirror and ask if you’ve ever done it yourself.
Here's Jon Stewart ripping Bill O'Reilly a new one on the fake Common controversy.
|Wednesday, May 11th, 2011|
|Shit Women Say To Me: Did You Grow Up In A White Neighborhood?
Her: Did you grow up in a white neighborhood?
Me: Why would you even ask me a question like that?
Her: Because of the way you talk.
Me: We have established that I have an English degree, right?
Me: We have also established that I am a graduate student of English, correct?
Me: So, as an educated man, HOW THE FUCK DO YOU EXPECT ME TO TALK!
Note: The woman in question was white and we were having this conversation in bed.
|Thursday, January 6th, 2011|
|Strangest Thing Someone Has Said About Me on the Internet in 2011
And I thought my night wouldn't get any stranger. Then I saw this exchange on Formspring.me:
Q: Have you ever had sex with black men?
A: Actually, no... although I had a dream last week that I was having sex with @DavidWraith. What a surprise that was! LOL
Okay, two things... 1. This was written by someone I have actually never met. 2. I swear to God, I did not find this by Googling myself. I was checking out someone's Formspring.me page, and this was the last thing I expected to see. I laughed so hard, I thought I might pass out. Current Mood: amused
|Friday, November 12th, 2010|
|George Hickenlooper 1963 - 2010
George Hickenlooper, Venice Beach 2000
I’m not going to pretend that George Hickenlooper and I were friends. It’s a greater tribute to the man to say that he always treated me like a friend even though we were barely acquaintances. I was a friend of a friend of a friend. I first became aware of George, like so many other people, when he made the film Hearts of Darkness which Roger Ebert put at number two on his top ten films of 1991. I ran out, bought and read his book Reel Conversations while I was in high school.
I met George almost 20 years ago when I was still a teen-ager. A friend of mine had given me an advanced copy of The Grey Knight (or The Killing Box or Ghost Brigade, depending who you ask), but I still went to see it when it screened at the St. Louis Art Museum. Me and a bunch of my filmmaking buddies hung out after the screening and George was nice enough to talk to us. He lamented the current state of independent filmmaking and how it was all just movies about navel gazing white kids sitting around and talking. Meanwhile, he was trying to sell a vampire Civil War epic.
From that point on, I saw all of George’s feature films in the theater, often at festival screenings where he was present and I put myself in front of him every chance I got. Ten years ago, I had graduated from college; I was working as a copy writer for a record distributor and writing film reviews for some local papers and national websites. I sent George an email, explaining that I was an aspiring filmmaker and writer. I worked the St. Louis connection and the two degrees of separation between us, hoping to score a phone interview with him. Instead, he suggested I come out to Los Angeles and spend some time on the set of the movie he was working on, so I hopped on a plane and spent two days with George while he worked on The Man from Elysian Fields.
My second night in LA, I was having dinner on the set with Andy Garcia, a couple off duty LAPD officers who were working security and some extras dressed as transvestite prostitutes. It was surreal. The next night George took me and some of the crew out to dinner in Venice Beach. We talked about filmmaking, and things like the importance of lens choice. He spoke candidly about his strained relationship with Billy Bob Thornton and even predicted that Thornton’s marriage to Angelina Jolie wouldn’t last.
From that point on, whenever I reviewed one of George’s movies, he would send me a “thank you” email, which I thought was really classy.
The last time I spoke to George was three years ago, after the Edie Sedgwick biopic Factory Girl screening at The Tivoli. During the Q&A, he talked about how he despised Andy Warhol and everything that Warhol stood for. He also mentioned that he was a “George Bush Republican.” He got into it with a liberal woman in the audience over whether Sedgwick was destroyed by Andy Warhol and the crowd at The Factory, or if it was the abuse she suffered at the hands of her conservative father. If memory serves, I later found out that the women in question was George’s mother.
I got a chance to talk to him after the Q&A and thank him again for inviting me out to LA all those years prior. The last thing I said to him was, “I had no idea you were a Republican.”
I was really excited for George’s latest movie, Casino Jack. It seemed like the one that would break him to a wide audience. Just last the other night, the star, Kevin Spacey was talking about the film, and George, on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews.
I was really looking forward to seeing George when the movie screened in St. Louis this week and I was stunned that he died just days before.
|Sunday, October 24th, 2010|
|What the hell happened last night?
I was expecting it to be a typical morning. I’d make myself an omelet for breakfast and go to work.Then I woke in a strange bed having no idea how I got there, next to a naked white guy with a mohawk and back tattoos. I about jumped out of my skin, thinking “What the hell happened last night?” Then I remembered, I was on vacation…
|Nothing Could Be Further From The Truth
I love when politicians respond to reasonable if inaccurate accusations by saying, "Nothing could be further from the truth." Really? Nothing? Just once I want the interviewer to follow up with, "So I accused you of being a space alien hell bent of the annihilation of the human race, that would be closer to the truth?"
|Monday, October 11th, 2010|
|Thursday, September 30th, 2010|
|Friday, September 17th, 2010|
|Tea Party Math (or, Where Did All The Racists Go?)
I’ve been getting it from both sides about my attitude towards the Tea Party. I tried to ease my soul with humor by writing this Onionesque blog post, but the whole thing stayed on my mind, so I had to address the issue in a serious way.
For the record, I don’t agree with the Tea Party on just about anything, however, I don’t think they’re much more dangerous than MoveOn.org was. It’s seems like a millennia ago, but it was just a few years back that the Republicans were acting like Move On was threat to our nation, but miraculously our democracy has survived.
I should preface this by saying that race is my favorite topic. I’m one of those annoying black people who loves to go on and on about how racist everything is. I did it so much for free; they started paying me for it. When a bunch of white people invite you to tell them how racist they are, and then cut you a check, it’s pretty much the coolest thing ever. So, when I say I’m bored by a racial conversation, it means something. And I am bored to tears by the “is the Tea Party racist” debate.
First of all, pointing a finger at the Tea Party and shouting “racists,” is kind of like pointing at an NFL team and shouting “steroids and date rape.” I mean, yeah, you’re probably right, but so what?
Secondly, with the exception of some ill advised moves by the NAACP, the “is the Tea Party racist?” debate seems to be between white liberals and white conservatives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always happy to see our white allies standing up for us (lord knows I get tire of having to weigh in on every racial issue), but when I see a racial conversation between white people, I get suspicious. It’s like having a debate on feminism and not inviting any women. It seems as if two political agendas are clashing and the best interest of black folks is, at best, a secondary concern.
So, I guess the question is, “Is the Tea Party Racist?” Well, let’s do the math. In any given election, 90% of the black vote goes to the Democratic candidate, 10% of the black vote goes to the Republican. These are pre-Obama numbers. Now, some of you are surprised that 10% of the black population would vote Republican. But here’s the thing, black folks are very religious. How many black atheists do you know? I’m guessing not many. Black folks love us some God. The 10% of black voters who typically go Republican are among the most devout evangelical Christians. So think about it this way, as socially and religiously conservative as black people are, when given a choice between two rich, white guys, 90% of us still vote for the one most likely to be pro-choice and pro-gay rights. That’s how much we don’t trust Republicans.
Now, how often have you heard black politicians and contemporary civil rights leaders bragging about how they “marched with King in the 60s,” facing German Shepherds and fire hoses. Well, if these guys are still alive, then some of the white people on either side of the march who spat at them and threw rocks are still alive, too. Their kids would just be slightly older than I am. Now, I know each successive generation grows more tolerant, but if your parents threw Molotov cocktails at the Freedom Riders, then being “more tolerant” isn’t saying much. So, unless all these people found religion on race in the last few decades, then racism still exists in America, as much as Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity would like to pretend that it disappeared while nobody was looking.
So, if 90% of black voters regularly vote Democrat, the black percentage of the Republican base is miniscule, and racism still exists, the question is, who do the racists vote for? Well, it’s like the saying goes: Being a Republican doesn’t mean you’re a racist, but being a racist probably means you’re a Republican.
Imagine if you could gather every dyed-in-the-wool Republican in a single room. I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of the country’s actively voting racists would be in that room. Now imagine we have to kick half of the people out of the room, starting with the most moderate among them. Now, I’m going to go out on another limb and suggest that whether or not they’d admit to being racist, most of the racists in the room would not identify as moderate, so they would survive the cut. So now, we’ve just cut the population by half but we haven’t lost many racists. We have, in effect, doubled the per capita racism of the room. Now, add enough libertarians and independents to the mix to make the conversation interesting, but not enough to outnumber the Republicans, and you have what I imagine to be the Tea Party.
So, liberals, stop strutting around like you’re Woodward and Bernstein every time you discover someone in the Tea Party saying or doing something racist. It doesn’t make you an investigative reporter. It doesn’t even make to especially observant.
Conservatives, stop acting all shocked and insulted every time someone accuses the Tea Party of racism. If you just acknowledge that it would be impossible to screen out all the racists ahead of time, but that you will address them as they make themselves known, you’d seem credible. If you pretend that there’s no racism in the Tea Party, you just seem delusional.
Look, I sympathize. It’s hard starting a populist conservative movement without attracting any racists. It would be like starting a hip-hop record label and not hiring any convicted felons, or running a factory in the American southwest without using illegal immigrant labor. (You might not want to cite those examples, though.)
|Monday, September 13th, 2010|
|The Tea Party Is Not Racist Enough Say America’s Racists
Racists Angrily Disavow Connection With The Tea Party
by David Wraith
At a rally scheduled to coincide with 9/12 celebrations across the country, the nation’s largest pro-racist lobby, the American Racist Action Bureau (or ARAB) broke its long silence on allegations of official connections to the Tea Party Movement.
Appearing before a burning cross while holding a hangman’s noose in one hand and a copy of The Turner Diaries in the other, Hezekiah Jenkins, former member of the Harlan County, Mississippi Tea Party and current press liaison for ARAB, made a brief statement and then fielded questions from the press. “First, let me set the record straight. We severed all ties to the Tea Party months ago, due to the timidity with which they deployed racist tactics and their inability to attract more racists. Look at the numbers they draw to their events and compare that to the number of incidents of racial violence and the amount of shouted racial slurs. It’s disgraceful, if you ask me.”
Jenkins laughed off allegations that Tea Party protestors display racist signs, “Barack Obama as Hitler? Is that a joke? What self respecting racist would compare a Kenyan Muslim with such a revered historical figure and icon of the White Power movement? I was offended by that sign my damn self.” However, Jenkins swells with pride when questioned about signs depicting Obama as an African witch doctor. “Yeah, my cousin Jeb, he’s cracker-jack with that Photoshop CS4. He’s trying to launch a side business doing photo retouching. But this is my point; he was kicked out of his local Tea Party for making that sign. Think of all the freelance work that would be coming his way if the Tea Party was as racist as ya’ll accuse.”
Finally, when asked if there were any racists in the Tea Party, Jenkins became openly defiant, “Lookie here, I’m sick and tired of the Jew-run media trying to paint racists as a monolithic group in lockstep behind a single racist agenda. Racists are a diverse collection of individuals. Some of us want all blacks and Mexicans to go back where they came from, some of us are fine with them so long as they use separate drinking fountains, bathrooms and eating establishments. Some just don’t want their son or daughter to marry one and produce mongrel children. But we respect each other’s differences.”
He went on to say, “Of course a small percentage of us would allow the Tea Party’s stance on welfare and immigration to overshadow its pathetic track record on racism, but these are individuals, they do not represent all racists. I mean, come on now, I’m not gonna let one black guy not breaking into my car affect how I feel about all black people, right? That wouldn’t be fair.”
|Wednesday, August 25th, 2010|
|Tuesday, August 24th, 2010|
|Friday, August 20th, 2010|
Originally uploaded by davidwraith can't sleep
I've only recently come to realize how many women in my life have survived severe, intense, life threatening events. This is my friend, Christine. A year before this photo session, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. This picture was her idea and she was adamant that her scar be visible.
|Tuesday, July 20th, 2010|
|A List of Things (Grouped by My Ability to Do Them)
Things I Don’t Do Well At All:
Things I Do Reasonably Well:
Talk About Movies
Talk About Making Movies
Pronounce Foreign Names
Guess the National Origin of Asians
Things I Do Exceptionally Well:
|Tuesday, July 13th, 2010|
|My Strange Relationship with Lori Blue
Lori Blue, photo by Michael Draga
(This story is mostly true. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent, so if you see your name, that should tell you something about yourself.)
This month marks what would have been my late father’s birthday and the first anniversary of my mother’s death. I’m thinking a lot about the people I’ve lost. For reasons that are somewhat beyond me, today I’m thinking about Lori Blue.
I share a relationship with Lori Blue unlike any that I’ve had with anyone else. In all the years that I knew her (the last four of her life) I probably saw her less than a dozen times. In all those encounters, the number of words that passed between us wouldn’t add up to a single conversation. They way we came into each other’s lives was that, depending on who you ask, I was either friends with or dating a woman who (depending on who you ask) was either Lori’s ex-girlfriend or current girlfriend.
Lori Blue first came to my attention when I was flirting with a customer at the video store where I worked. I couldn’t tell if she was gay, straight or bi, single or taken. When she paid by check, I told myself that unless I saw someone else’s name on her checking account, it was game on. Then she handled me the check and there it was in black ink, Lori’s legal name just below hers. Both names were meaningless to me at the time and I had no reason to believe either would have any meaning for me in the future. ( Read more...Collapse )
|Monday, July 5th, 2010|
|Random Thoughts on the Fourth of July
Dr. Ishakamusa Barashango once said that black Americans are the only people in the world who celebrate their own oppression. He was speaking specifically about the Fourth of July. Personally, I don’t celebrate the Fourth of July. As an African American, the date is at best problematic for me and at worst meaningless. Before you get all bent out of shape, for the record, I don’t celebrate Juneteenth either. If you are offended by what I said about the Fourth of July, then I really hope you know what Juneteenth is (if not, Google that shit).
I’m reflecting on some of the bumper sticker wisdom that gets passed around a lot in this country, but particularly this time of year. People like to say that they are proud to be Americans. I however am not. I am neither proud nor ashamed to be an American for the simple fact that I did nothing to earn it. Being proud of being American would be like being proud of my good looks; both conditions have more to do with luck, chance and my parents than me. While it’s possible that I may have earned the right to be American retroactively with some of the things I’ve done since birth, the fact remains, there are those who have done exponentially more and those who’ve done exponentially less and so long as we were all born on this nation’s soil, legally none of us is any more or less American than the other.
A few years ago, I got to hear Mel Deng speak. He is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. He talked about starving, having to eat mud and drink his own urine not to die of dehydration and about witnessing his friends being attacked and eaten by animals. I look around the world and I see women getting their lips cut off, their genitals mutilated and being systematically gang raped at the behest of their governments. I see men whose arms and legs are hacked off due to vague accusations of theft or opposition to corrupt regimes. Little girls are sold in to sexual slavery and little boys are forced to become soldiers because their government’s cause is so morally bankrupt, no grown man will enlist in the military of his own free will. Some people compare America to places like this and feel pride. I feel intense humility. After all, it’s nothing that I’ve done that separates me from these people; only the grace of God and the accident of my birth.
People like to say that America is the greatest country in the world. Of course, none of these people has been to every country in the world, and I’m willing to bet that a surprising number of them have never been outside the United States. Suffice it to say, America is a great country. I’d probably want to live here more than anywhere else. But it’s a problematic country. Case in point, for the first time in my life, I’m in a romantic relationship with someone that I could not legally marry if I wanted to (I know, I know, way to bury the lead). Now, on the one hand, given my life up to this point, this might not change my worldview all that much. On the other hand, how could it not? This time it’s personal. And, it’s something to wrap ones head around at 36, born and raised in the freest, most awesomest country in the world. So yeah, America is a great country. Maybe even the greatest in the world. But that kind of absolutism isn’t very useful when we get down to the real issues of making it better.
There are memes that are written for us before we walk in the room, before we open our mouths to say a word. It’s assumed that black people are less patriotic that white people. That liberals are less patriotic than conservatives. That the urban are less patriotic than the rural. So, as a black liberal who was raised in the ghetto, I assume my patriotism will be called into question from the jump off. But, I’m gonna hit you with something. I think as minorities who love our country, we experience a patriotism that straight white men will never touch. It’s easy for straight white men to love America. It’s like loving a suit that was tailor made and meticulously altered to fit. As minorities, we buy America off the rack. It was not designed for us or by us (to paraphrase Sarah Silverman, it’s the opposite of FUBU). This is something I realized when I was canvassing for Barack Obama in some dicey neighborhoods in small town Indiana: I uncut, to the bone, raw-dog, love America. I love drug dealers and rednecks, atheists and fundamentalist, even some people who I could safely call racists, who aside from be racists are pretty good people. Therein lies the difference, I love America, even when America doesn’t love me.
|Thursday, May 20th, 2010|
|Three Ways You Can Respond to the Gulf Coast Oil Spill
1. Boycott British Petroleum in favor of other oil companies that have NOT been involved in an environmental, political or financial scandal in the last six months or so.
2. Refuse to kick in gas money to car owning friends who you routinely bum rides from.
3. Stop putting off that SUV-to-rickshaw conversion of your mobile meth lab.
|Monday, April 12th, 2010|
|Heath Aldrich of The Mansion Incident
My buddy, musician Heath Aldrich of The Mansion Incident. When my roommate, Andy Magee, first heard the demos for their first album, A Beautiful Day to Run Away, he said, "That's some rock 'n roll, right there!" I couln't agree more.
Strobist: Canon 430EX II, full power, into a Chinatown Special Beauty Dish above subject camera left. A silver reflector camera right. A Vivitar 285HV at half power behind subject on either side.