Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Must See Gay TV

Does it really matter if yet another American Idol contestant is gay?

Not to me. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I tend to assume that most young men vying for singing and modeling contracts on national television are suspect.

So it comes as no surprise that John Chiklis at has discovered Anwar Robinson's M4M ad on Blackplanet.

Apparently it's not fake; the photos are clearly identifiable and the acount history shows that the owner has not logged in since January 1, around the same time that I last checked my BP dating profile. That was long before Idol's fourth season contestants were announced, so it's highly unlikely the profile was doctored.

In television news we call stories like this ... non-stories. Okay, another cute, exuberant young man singing show tunes is gay. What is the surprise?

AI is today's Valley of the Dolls, complete with a bitchy has-been Simon Cowell Helen Lawson lashing out at any young upstart with more talent than her. So it comes as no surprise that Jim Ryan Justin Clay Mario Simon gays and gay-friendly personalities are attracted. The bigger story is that Anwar didn't try to santize his background. Maybe he's thought about it, maybe he figured it wasn't worth the effort.

In any event, my next question to John Chiklis: You've outed this young man. "And?"

You Deserve a Big Mac Record Deal Today

You've heard them plug everything from Phat Farm and Seagrams to Curvoisier and Versace. Now, prepare for the Return of the Mac ... the Big Mac. Fast food giant McDonald's has partnered with a hip hop marketing firm to buy their way into the lyrics by some of your favorite sellout MCs.

According to Advertising Age, the goal is to have several tracks hit the airwaves by the summer. Here's how it would work: the 'artists' have the freedom to create whatever derivate lame sellout lyrics that they wish, but must mention the Big Mac. McDonald's retains final approval on those lyrics. Basically, the song is an infommercial.

No money is paid up-front. In return for the placement, the fast food chain will pay rappers up to $5 every time a song mentioning the calorie and trans-fat laden burger is played. So it's all about developing a huge summer marketing campaign to ensure heavy rotation.

Would You Like Fries with Those Lyrics?
Allegedly, the multinational food service corporation will have no involvement in writing the rhymes. That's hard to believe: the company is the global fast food leader and a marketing juggernaut. One would be hard-pressed to imagine that producers won't bounce ideas by McDonald's award-winning creative team. Truth be told, Mickey Dee's ad managers can probably develop better lyrics than Kanye or Jay-Z.

Hova is paid to mention Bentley. Busta Rhymes fronts an infommercial for Curvoisier, and their sales soar. Kanye plugs at least 19 brands and cries because he wasn't awarded enough Grammys for his (ahem) creativity. Yawn. This product placement is ridiculous. Mainstream hip hop lost credibility years ago, and the Big Mac attack is just an evolution of that mediocrity.

Super Size Me, Son
The blatant commercialization of hip hop discounts any notions of creative license or legitimacy. In today's ghetto-fab culture, money equals validation. As long as you're getting paid for something it must be okay, right?

Wrong. The McDonald's plan is a shameless ploy to market Big Macs to children and teens. Children are not aware that their favorite artists have morphed into walking and talking billboards. The average 13 year old does not read Ad Age or the Wall Street Journal; most teens and many young adults do not read newspapers.

McDonald's and other fast food chains have faced mounting criticism that they've helped fuel an obesity epidemic, particularly among children. The problem is even more apparent among minorities and the poor. One-third of black- and low-income children are obese, and the numbers are trending higher--and this would be intended audience for the Big Mac pimpin'. Mickey Dees and other food companies are paying lip service to responsible marketing, but it's apparent that this is just the latest gimmick in deceptive advertsing.

Years ago, rap music was called the 'CNN of the streets.' That may have been true in the golden years of hip hop in the 80s and early to mid 90s. Now, the music is more like a Home Shopping Network ... the poor man's version.

McDonald's Buying Its Way Into Hip Hop Lyrics: Ad Age
Return of the Mac Coming Soon: BBC
Big Mac Pimpin': MTV

Johnny on the Spot

"I'm sort of the legal gunslinger, the celebrity lawyer."

That's how Johnny Cochran described himself in one of his two memoirs, A Lawyer's Life. The flashy, soundbite driven lawyer plead guilty to flamboyance and extravagance; nothing wrong with that, those are actually desirable traits for a defense attorney. Indeed, most knew him as the lawyer to the stars like P. Diddy, Michael Jackson, OJ.

But Cochran often took high-profile cases so that he could represent "the No J's ... those cases I've taken in which the chances for getting paid are actually pretty slim."

Like Geronimo Pratt.

Cochran defended the former Black Panther early in his career. In 1972, Pratt was convicted of a '68 Santa Monica homicide; many have maintained prosecutorial misconduct, entirely believable given the merits of the case and the time. For the next 25 years, the "celebrity lawyer" tirelessly worked to overturn this verdict. In 1997, Mr. Cochran was part of the legal team that won Pratt's release.

Those were the cases that Cochran said made him the most proud.

Monday, March 28, 2005

He's Just Not That Into You

More thought-provoking content from the fashionistas at D&G.

Last time, the same model was suspended on a sling hammock as the other male models ignored him to concentrate on a little boy and his chimp. MJ, maybe? Other recent events?

Here's another interesting image presented in the men's underwear campaign. Same model, this time in clever tighty whiteys, pants dropped and ready action. A disheveled young slacker walks by, oblivious to the Chelsea Boy. BTW, the other model's his hair isn't white; that was a pre-scan drop of water.

Obviously this is a hook up location, a la Fire Island, Rehoboth or Chicago's Montrose Harbor. Has the second model already had his fun? Or is he just not into circuit clones with bad QAF haircuts?

La Dolce Gabbana Lolita: brotha2Brotha

Good Hair

Good Hair
by Benilde Little

Reading a well-written novel is like sex.

First, the thrill of discovering the book on the shelves. The quick read on the train ride home is like foreplay, an appetizer for things to come. Once you’re home, you devour the book with all the intensity of intercourse—finding a comfortable position, bringing out “toys”—television, iPod, music and other accoutrements. The feeling of completion is exhilarating. Not as intense as orgasm, but definitely as satisfying.

This is the affect after re-reading Benilde Little's Good Hair. The novel has been read twice before; but like good sex, you often want to return to the scene of the crime. In this case, there was the need to re-sample her engaging characters and bittersweet reflections on skin complexion, status and relationships.

Benilde has written three books—Good Hair, The Itch and Acting Out. In May her latest—Who Does She Think She Is?—will hit the shelves. Each deals with the angst of the black upper middle class.

You know the the script: daddy is on the fast track at Goldman Sachs, mommy is a stay-at-home attorney, raising Courtney and Brooke with their playgroups and Jack and Jill activities. The parents and most of their friends are brown skinned or light; their families have vactioned on the Vineyard for two generations, and everyone knows each other from Howard or boarding school.

It's an inherently schizophrenic existence. Their African American credentials are dismissed by many other blacks, often accused of not keeping it real. Meanwhile, there's the added pressure of building the resume and fighting the new Jim Crow in the boardrooms.

Little's words are honest, searing and emotional. The dialogue is structured, and the characters studied and deliberate. The protagonist of Good Hair is Alice Andrews, a newspaper reporter and wanna-be BAP who has traded on her working class roots.

I had been living in Manhattan for five years, hanging out with a bunch of women who, in addition to sharing an alma matter, shared a 1950-ish goal of "marrying well." It was actually a phrase that we used to describe what we all wanted: a black Ward Cleaver, who made a million dollars a year and dressed in Armani. What these prized stallions would want in return from their wives-to-be seemed doable at the time: constant stroking, a happy disposition, and great hair--which meant long but requiring little artificial maintenance.

Basically, they were all Cosby girls.

Her writing is emotional, and evokes bittersweet memories of my own life. Growing up poor, attending to a top school, trying to fit in with the trust fund kids, the whole career thing. There are contradictions, too; certainly growing up, there were obvious social divisions between dark and light. It never made me want to become lighter, which would have been impossible. (Actually no, MJ has proved otherwise.) The division is evident when home in Chicago, and of course in the south. Out east, it doesn't play out so well. Definitely, being dark skinned has its advantages in NYC. Maybe that's what attracted me to the big city.

The author touches upon this her book. Alice meets a Jack Russworm, a light-bright bourgeois doctor. Like many great romances, it begins in first class ... on a Delta flight from ATL to LaGuardia. Alice is rebounding from a passionate, whirlwind romance with a playa, and Jack's studied demeanor and orderly life seems just what the doctor ordered. Literally.

There's the contradiction that the author expertly details. Jack is a young prince of the colored elite; his father was a doctor, as was his grandfather. Mother is a society grand dame on Striver's Row. Meanwhile, Alice is from across the river and light years away. She grew up lower middle class in Newark; dad is a mailman, mom is a seamstress. The family is not close, and she has been emotionally scarred by childhood incest.

The contradiction between Alice's shame and Jack's arrogance makes for fabulous reading. Against her better judgment, she falls for the prince. That's okay, no one can legislate the heart. Little exploits these contradictions to demonstrate how we carry our baggage from childhood. Alice must confront her fears—and aspirations—when mixing with Jack's landed gentry set, like when she attended a society wedding in the District.

I looked around the courtyard and there seemed to be a thousand light-skinned men with light brown wavy hair and blue or green eyes, escorting women who looked like their sisters, drinking Cooks' as if it were water, and debating whether Martha's Vineyard was better than Highland Beach.

Eventually, Alice makes peace with her inner demons and her agrees to marry Jack. But before they are hitched ... there's a hitch. It's a wonderful plot twist involving another woman, and Jack rises to the occasion and tries to do the right thing.

Benilde Little is one of our stronger African American writers; unfortuntaely, she's not as well known as some others, and doesn't seem obsessed with name-dropping celebs or pretending to be g-fab. That's not her world. The writing is personal and emotional, the plots are deliberate and the characters are painstakingly drawn. Let's look for her new title in May.

Good Hair

Also by Benilde Little:
Who Does She Think She Is? in May
The Itch
Acting Out

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Happy Birthday to Ya

We all know Perez Hilton as the uber-scenester at SixSixSix ... but seven is his lucky number. On the 27th he celebrates 27 years of fabulosity.

Drop by his page and leave seven comments ... make seven donations ... or send seven hot men his way. Better yet: all of the above.

Page SixSixSix

Friday, March 25, 2005

If Madonna Calls

Let’s say you're the marketing director for a haute couture designer who's best collections are gathering dust ... and now is pressed to sell blatantly over-priced accessories to the masses. Unfortunately, the label's titular head designer-slash-top spokesmodel is in rehab taking time off. What to do?

Start a new campaign—with an even bigger spokesperson! Versace is more than a designer; it's an icon. So who better to promote the spring/summer collezione than another legend—Madonna Louise Ciccone Penn Ritchie.

Madge is brilliant in the new print campaign for Versace occhiali (glasses) and accessorizi. Never been a fan of their eyewear collection—the frames were gaudy and too small, more suitable for shuffleboard queens in Key West. This new line is quite on the money.

The new ads are lensed by the celebrated Mario Testino, who also created the Material Girl's 1995 campaign for the same designer.

The color scheme is intriguing. The rust and orange perfectly complement Madonna's pale complexion. Factor in the near-platinum hair coloring ... the effect is surrealistic. She's model-perfect. Not too much makeup, uncertain expression. Rita Hayworth isn't the only one who gave good face.

iCandy: Daniel Pt3

You've seen Daniel before. Twice he's appeared on these pages, in February photo essays entitled Words Unnecessary Parts 1 and Deaux. Even though you may have seen other photos on the 'net, these two pictures are probably new to you. They were taken several years ago by San Francisco-based Kurt Brown, and display a sensitive, less developed model.

The series is candid and reflective. Compare the pictures on this page to these. Daniel is relaxed, tender and sensitive. He hasn't yet developed the cockiness that results from years in the gym—not to say that's a bad thing. Daniel also seems shy, like below where he avoids eye contact while the shadows bathe him in light. The oil's sheen is almost reflective across his model's skin.

Two weeks ago, we introduced the award-winning photography of Kurt Brown's Studio, where many beautiful images are available as prints, calendars, etc. He also has a fine selection of male and female nudes, and baby portraits. Look for Kurt's photography in the current #54 issue of Blue, p. 68-75.

Kurt Brown's Studio

Words Unnecessary Part 1 and Deaux: brotha2Brotha

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Let's Stay Together

The Reverend Al Green in Memphis
Photo: Al Green Music

Let's be honest: Al Green is the greatest soul artist alive today.

He was responsible for mainstreaming Memphis soul in the seventies by smoothing it around the edges. Al's smooth and raspy vocals were complemented by sensitive yet overtly sensual lyrics. Green's music has been embraced by all regardless of race, creed or color. Or generation.

The new Details runs an interview with the soul singer turned soul saver. By now, most have heard that the man who immortalized Love and Happiness and Let's Stay Together has become the Reverend Al Green. He's made some gospel cuts, but the lure of secular music has brought him back into the recording studio. Everything's Okay is the name of his latest CD ... and his message in the Details Q&A:

The music addresses our young people and our middle-aged people who've been married 10 or 15 years. It tells them, let's stay together. Any man married to his wife 40 years should be able to go into his house and say, "I'm still in love with you. You're 40 pounds overweight, I'm still in love with you."

Sounds good to me. Check out the interview for the real story behind the ex-girlfriend who tossed a pot of hot grits on the legendary artist.

Al Green: Official Website
Bio: BMI/Musisworld

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

La Dolce Gabbana Lolita

Dolce & Gabbana has always been considered a fashion leader. The duo's forward designs, impeccable Euro-centric tailoring and celebration of the male form have catapulted the designers and label into pop icons.

Over the years, yours truly has logged mucho overtime to sport those spaghetti strap tanks, bias-cut summer shirts and snug boxer briefs. Happily, D&G is one of the few couture labels that can accomodate growing gym boys. But their new ads feature fewer athletic- and traditional model-type men ... and more boys.

Sure, prepubescent models are routinely used in catalog and commercial advertising. But the new trend is frighteningly similar to the Brooke Shields/Calvin Klein fiasco in the 1980s. Question to advertising account supervisors: why is it necessary to employ a 12 or 13 year old boy to sell square cut swimming trunks to grown men?

Does this ad disturb anyone else? It's a curiously staged scene, and would not look out of place at several parties that come to mind. A handsome, muscular young man is lying in a sling hammock, looking spent and ignored by the freakshow around him. Notice the little boy "flexing" the muscles he has not yet developed. Obviously, the model in the 1970s porn star sunglasses does not see the kid-he's busy avoiding eye contact with anyone, except his dealer agent-but the deathly pale model standing opposite is riveted to the tyke.

But that's normal for many in our lifestyle: ignore the grown men, focus on the little boys.

iCandy: Mr. Panama Pt2

A week ago today, we brought you the first pictures from the Mr. Panama contest. The annual competition is held in Balboa, with a fashion show and (ahem) swimsuit competition, where these pictures are from.

Love those Latin American men, they are definitely not modest. The thighs on the black shorts are downright juicy: if it's not obvious, we love dark meat and legs and thighs! Mui caliente! Pictures from previous years are available at Cocoas.Net.

This image is from the runway competition, Daniel Machore, 23 anos. There is also an online version of the contest via Panamanian webportal

iCandy: Mr. Panama Pt1


Six and a Half Minutes

Goldfinger MGM/UA
Video Captures via Jimmy/Austin

Today Shirley Eaton isn't a household name, but she was in the swingin sixties. By 1964, the actress was already well-known in Britain and Europe before agreeing to take a small role that would launch her iconic orbit. Shirley had one of the shortest on-screen roles as a Bond Girl—about six and a half minutes in the beginning of 1964's Goldfinger. And like gold, her role continues to shine and luster. More than 40 years later, the image of her across the bed painted in gold remains part celluloid, part urban legend. To this day it's the best costume ever won by a Bond Girl.

All of this comes to mind two days ago while watching the movie for perhaps the fifth or sixth time in as many weeks. Goldfingerthe movie and the soundtrack—became a litmus test for every Bond film over the next forty years.

It introduced two seriously sexy and naughty girls: Eaton's Jill Masterson, and the unforgettable Honor Blackman as Pussy "I Must Be Dreaming" Galore. Then there's the sinister gangsters, over-the-top scenarios and even fiercer soundtrack. Sure, there have been some notable Bond Girls since then; some even had memorable roles like Maud Adams, Barbara Bach, Grace Jones or Halle Berry.

Masterson is Goldfinger's secretary
Bond has other plans

But here's the rub: Most of the Bond Girls became famous simply from appearing in the movie, or were already celebrities. But few have had memorable characters: Do you remember Kara Milovy? Or Magda? How about ... Christmas Jones or Elektra King? Of course not. Let's be honest, if Halle weren't Halle, her role in Die Another Day would be a mere footnote. Actually, it already it is, but that's another story.

Kissing Bond became the kiss of death

Shirley Eaton's six and a half minutes as Jill Masterson is just the oppposite. You may not remember her name, or her character's and that's okay. But the role has defined the genre. The golden girl is an icon, a haunting and legendary figure replete with urban lore; the gold paint did not kill her, as many have believed, and still do to this day. Only her character died, and the circumstances and imagery were incredible. That's why we'll always remember Shirley's six and a half minutes.

Austin City Un-limits

Just last week, this weblog was recognized for it's art content. The layout is very basic here, but we try to deliver strong content, and that includes pictures. But no man is an island; professionally, from having worked in media and television for a decade, I'm used to collaborating. Two or three heads are always better than one. No pun intended.

That's why people who help me are always credited, such as Jimmy at Austin City Un-limits. Many times you'll see video captures on this page. None are created by me, they're culled from various sources. Jimmy captured many of the Goldfinger images seen above, caps from 50 Cent's videos, the Oscars and other projects.

His blog is new and a work in progress, so please stop by and give him some luv. He has a keen sense of humor and a sharp eye.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

iCandy: Body Beautiful

Yay! Big congratulations are in order for my buddy Ryan. Over the weekend, he placed second in the lightweight division at NY Metropolitan Bodybuilding competition. It's a strong step on the road toward a pro card.

The runner-up showing didn't sit well with many in the audience. The judges were booed; many watching Saturday's show at BMCC expcted Ryan to finish first. His symetry, cuts and stage-presentation are nearly flawless.

Ryan is a fitness model and personal trainer. He's Colombian and Puerto Rican, a native New Yorker, and has the sexiest Long Island accent.

Architecture's Bad Boy

Caltrans Headquarters, Los Angeles
Photo: Roland Halbe

Everyone likes bad boys. Good girls, good boys, other bad boys, myself ... and architects.

On Monday the world's top design award-the 2005 Pritzker Architecture Prize-was awarded to LA-based Thom Mayne, a 1960s rebel who has been described as the 'bad boy' of architecture. A generation ago, his bold asymetrical designs were considered blasphemous; today they inspire awe and wonder. His projects often feature cantilevered wings that jut into air, sharp edges and high arching walls. Mayne's work is at peace with nature, exposing open space that is appreciated by winding walkways.

The award is considered the Nobel Prize of architecture, and the Los Angeles architect is the first American in 14 years to win the distinction. Previous recipents include Frank Gehry (who now sits on the award committee), I. M. Pei, Philip Johnson and Richard Meier.

Hypo Alpe Adria Bank, Austria
Photos: Christian Richters and Ferdinand Neumuller

Mayne is a founder of the Los Angeles design firm Morphosis. Over Mayne's three-decade career he has designed projects as far away as Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Taiwan. Mayne's work is non-traditional; expect feature sharp, angular construction, as evident above in 2002's Hypo Alpe Adria Center in Klagenfurt, Austria. The architect's concept was to integrate the exapanding city center with the outlying rural terrain. The bank building fuses function with form, at harmony with surrounding fields and open space.

Diamond Ranch High School, Pomona CA
Photo: Tim Hursley

Mayne says his designs seek to integrate society with its surroundings. To that end, many of his commissions are more than simply buildings: they seek balance and establish beautiful relationships with sky and space. Diamond Ranch High School blurs common distinctions between building and landscape. The stunning campus is in the foothills of the Pomona Valley, and the high school environment mimicks the surroundings. Two rows of fragmented forms are set on either side of a long “canyon” or sidewalk. The "canyon" bisects the hillside much like a geologic fault line.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize was established in 1979 by the Chicago-based family of the same name. They have long been known for their support of educational, social welfare, scientific, medical and cultural activities. Laureates of the Pritzker Architecture Prize receive a $100,000 grant, a formal citation certificate, and since 1987, a bronze medallion.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize: Online Press Kit
Great Buildings Online

Kahn's National Assembly: brotha2Brotha

Monday, March 21, 2005

What's Up Gorgeous P.I.M.P.

Video captures via Jimmy/Austin

By now we have all realized that the joke is on us. A few years ago, everyone thought 50 Cent was a flash in the pan, and that Curtis Jackson would become relegated to has-been rapper specials on VH1. Speaking of: someone say hello to Ja Rule if you see him working at a Wal Mart or appearing on a "reality show.

Not the case with Mr. Jackson: 50 Cent is now a bona-fide $50 bill. The wanna-be gangsta from Connecticut Queens is an undeniable pop icon. Unfortunately like most pop icon's, he is more style than substance: The Massacre is aptly titled, it'sderivative and over-hyped. Some great club songs, but not much more. Candy Shop is a catchy tune, but we're listening to the same beat as Magic Stick. Meanwhile, Disco Inferno unfortunately has no relation to the seventies disco classic of the same name by the Trammps. Instead, it's a retread of Lloyd Banks' mundane On Fire.

"Like my style?" Luv the spaghetti straps

But none of this should suggest that the product has poor value. Just recently, you'll recall my ongoing fascination with his marketing. He's an eye-full, and his videos are delicious. By production standpoints, it's hard not to fall in love with the packaging. From a homoerotic POV, why do I always want to stuff $100 dollar bills in his pants when he takes his shirt off? Sure, his beats are tights, but the aesthetics of the presentation are far more fascinating.

The production values on videos like Candy Shop and the P.I.M.P. remix exceedthose of many competitors. Expensive color treatments and multi-camera shoots are de riguer. The P.I.M.P. video boasted no fewer than three cameras per scene. Moreover, the principals and much of the set were white in color. It's a radical step to associate purty with an artist whose lyrics glorify guns and violence.

Get buff or die tryin'

Moreover, shooting in white is time-consuming and expensive-you rarely see it in television-so whoever can accomplish it has my respect. Shooting against white backgrounds takes extra equipment, much more lighting and extended post-prduction. Some directors use slower speed film, it makes the forgeround look "warmer" with the mono-chromatic background. That may be the case here, as in the shot above.

There's nothing random here, each frame here is deliberately chosen. Look at the composition above. The pale white walls are complemented by the whites worn by 50 and the models. The other color on the production designer's pallette is brown, which provides depth and mimicks skin color.

This is a great shot: the camera is angled very low, probably on the floor so that 50 dominates the frame. The angle and colors make him appear much larger than life, just like his marketing. He's iggin' his adoring fan and smiling at us. What up gangsta.

The Massacre
50 Cent Official Website
Interscope Records
Da DL Crib Yahoo Group
50 CentYahoo Group

Are You Down for Whatever?

Spring has indeed sprung. Now, young men's fancies turn to the perfect warm weather weekend: That action-packed baseball college hoops game, followed by dining al fresco with the boyfriend du jour or an even better dining companion ... a handsome, thick, strong book.

One new arrival that's piqued my fancy is Down For Whatever, by first-time novelist Frederick Smith. It's published by Kensington Books, which has quick become one of the leading providers of GLBT content. The Los Angeles-based author is a former journalist and educator; he's also black, so the book is required reading.

"Some of friends have described Down For Whatever as a black and latino Queer as Folk meets Waiting to Exhale meets Sex and the City," Fred says. "Those are pretty heavy shoes to fill, but I'll let you be the judge."

The official release date is July 5, and it's already creating a buzz. Go to Fred's site to download a chapter, check his tour schedule or pre-order a copy from Amazon. Expect to hear more about him on this site, and a review.

Frederick Smith.Net

Green Acres

Tickles, About One Year Old

My weekends are usually predictable, regardless of what city they happen to find me in. Gym, a movie, brunch, try to dine out at least once, a good college football or basketball game and reading. Lots of reading. In New York, there is much more dining out and going out. Back home in Chicago, there is more QT with old friends and family. Now, there is time with some new friends like Tickles (above and below).

Tickles is my sister's newest filly, a little over a year old. By now you're probably saying, "Hmm. Chicago's a huge metropolis, where does she keep the horse? Lincoln Park Zoo?"

Not at all. She owns some land about 90 minutes south of the city center, near Kankakee. It's not much, about 16 acres, mostly pasture, woods and a few ponds. In addition to the filly, there are six or seven quarter horses. Sis has bred and groomed horses for some years, so most weekends are spent "in the country." Just saying those three words sounds so Martha, right? But here's a surprise: there are a number of black farmers in Kankakee County, so it's not uncommon to see brothaz and sistaz with horses, cattle and crops.

Two Studs in Pasture

My first visit was last year. Remember Eva Gabor's bars from the Green Acres theme song? New York is where I'd rather stay/I get allergic smelling hay/I just adore a penthouse view/Darling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue." [Click here to hear the theme song in Real Audio.]

That was me. But times, circumstances and the relationship with my family has changed. Today I look forward to the trips. The change in lifestyle is like night and day; no TV, no laptop, sometimes you can't even get a signal on your cellular. The pasture is just that ... pasture. There is woods, fencing, ponds, and not much more. There's an intense connection with nature here because simple things that usually are taken for granted must be produced.

For instance: water for the horses. First, we have to bring a pump, and remember to fill it with gas before arriving, or else it's another 15 minute drive to the nearest town. Then, the pump must be rigged to the well. Next, heavy-duty water hoses are brought from the trailer and connected to the pump. The hoses are strung forty or fifty feet into the water troughs. If it’s a cold day—like it was over the weekend—the hoses may be frozen. The ice has to be broken by hand; if it's thick, we bring the hoses into the truck and blast the heater. Then there's getting the hay and feeding ...

You get the idea, right? Hard work, but a welcome change from the clubs, the remote control and usual weekend fare.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Unclutter: Cleanse Your Spirit, Claim Your Stuff

Kevin and Ms. Natalie Cole

Unclutter: Cleanse Your Spirit, Claim Your Stuff
by Kevin E. Taylor

Everyone has moments of clarity. Kevin Taylor's first was in 1975, as a little boy growing up in the projects of Washington DC. He chanced upon Natalie Cole on the Mike Douglas Show. She was singing what would later become a classic: This Will Be. [Listen]

I was feeling her, but wasn't smitten yet. She sat on the couch and talked about her dad for a minute. Mike asked her when did she begin singing. She said, 'Probably around my junior year of college.' College? Black people didn't go to college, or at least that's what I thought. Then they began to talk about her album. 'It's called Inseparable.' What? I never knew that we could go to college or use big words.

Fortunately, the boy from the projects went onto college and became of master of words and images. He was hired at Black Entertainment Television as a researcher, and later rose through the ranks to become an award winning producer. This is how fate works: In 1993, almost 20 years after first seeing his idol on television, Kevin was assigned to interview Natalie Cole for the network. That began a life-long business relationship and friendship; Kevin would later research and write the discography on Natalie's 2000 autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder.

After years of producing and working behind the scenes to create compelling television and other media, now it's Kevin's time to shine. Unclutter: Cleanse Your Spirit, Claim Your Stuff is his first book. It's a how-to on empowerment, "how to be more of yourself daily," he laughs.

Unclutter is a metaphor for all the STUFF that we carry that slows us. I say, claim your stuff. Deal with the junk and the gunk in your soul, so you can get what's yours! Many of us become the storehouse of all that negativity and junk and pain. We save it like it is who we are. But I contend that it's not, but rather the launching pad for who you are destined to be and what you can be. You're so much more than your past.

Kevin's book offers plans and examples to unluck the power within: His section on P.O.W.E.R. refers to the Position Over Whatever Enters Your Realm. For instance, he says "I found my job at BET because one day I was on the bus and said God, I wanted to work there as we drove by. Two years later, I had a key job there. God listens. We don't talk enough."

Kevin uses life lessons of family, faith and spirituality mixed with his behind-the-scenes career. He's worked with everyone from Nancy Wilson and Anita Baker to Brandy and B2k. His television legacy is bittersweet: many will remember him as the BET producer who was on location with Aaliyah in the Bahamas, and through divine intervention was not on that ill-fated flight. Kevin knew Aaliyah and all of the victims, and the pain is still there. "To know that there were 3 gay men of color who died with her, just hurt deeply, " he says.

I was booked on the plane with them coming back to the mainland. Before we left, a manager asked if I didn't mind taken a commercial flight, and not caring about it and knowing what privacy celebs get is taken, I just said okay.

Anita Baker and Kevin

Apparently, God had other plans for him; saying 'okay' saved his life. But he does not look back, only forward. Kevin has worn many hats: son, brother, producer, writer and now has a new one ... minister. The super-producer is now the Rev Kev. He still produces for BET, but not full-time. Kevin was baptized at age 10 and has always had a strong spiritual side; years ago, he realized that the jet set lifestyle, screenings and premieres were not addressing it.

In '97 I stated to lose the passion for the industry. A friend who was also my EP said that I was caught up in the trappings. If I took down my celebrity pics and Honey Hall of Fame—pics of various guys of all races and such—I would realize that I wasn't happy there anymore. Took everything down, pics, frames, flowers, trappings and went to lunch. I came back and couldn't sit still for 10 minutes. She was right.

It would be five more years until Unclutter would be published. During that time, Kevin became ordained, and managed to carve a successful niche for himself: producing entertainment and gospel programs, and minister to his New Brunswick NJ congregation. He says it is all compatible. "If I can preach How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore, people know the song from Prince or Alicia. Then I can break it down and talk about an active prayer life and talking to God all of the time, not just when you're in trouble. Then they get it."

Kevin's taking his book and life's lessons to heart: he's in the process of developing a talk show with one of the cable networks, so you may see him on a small screen near you. But this time, the veteran producer would be in front of the cameras. "Ask and ye shall receive. If you build it, they will come."

Unclutter: Cleanse Your Spirit, Claim Your Stuff

Stripe It Rich!

More summer fashion from yesterday's Adidas hottie. Yesterday he was bold in black and white track suits. Today, warm splashes of color in beach-inspired ensembles.

The Guess chest-striped polo is lightweight yet functional: sportswear, office casual or fun. At $49 it's a decent price, but you could probably get something very similar (but cheaper) at H&M, Target or Century 21. These are summer faves for me: this year, brown, beige and other earthtones are the hot colors.

The Nautica seersucker pants are summer favorites. Stripes are look brilliant if you're slim or toned, so they're not for everyone.

But funky kicks work for all, and these leather Helmut Lang sneakers are on my list. Haven't seen anyone sporting these yet but the model ...

His name is DIN. Thanks to David for the heads up.

New Kids on the Block

We're not talking about Jordan, Donnie, Joe and ... well, the other guys. What were their names? Doesn't matter: there are some new names added to our links at right. If you haven't yet navigated to them, please take the time ... now.

Point and click to Pip at UptempoOrpheus. His motto: Life is all perspective. This one is mine. His POV is fresh, irreverent, humorous and probing. Pip's destined for stardom, so be nice to him now—he’s a member of the Second City, so it's just a matter of time before we see him on SNL.

Do look up M!ke at Dark Affinity. Music lovers will enjoy his piece of the blogosphere—expect reviews, lyrics, poetry, musings and more. Right now I'm grooving in my seat while downloading Miss Nina Simone. Courtesy of M!ke. BTW, the art on his site is terrif.

Please visit them and each of our other links. C''s so e-z. Each opens in a new window, so you can have surf like it's Waikiki.

Dark Affinity

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Fun with Flickr

Amaze your coworkers!
Impress your boss!

Spell anything with this fun title generation program from Flickr. It grabs letters from random photostreams. Here's one way to spell my name:

Once you get your code, you can left click on the letters to change them. Thanks Andy T at Towleroad and Trunkguy.

The Award Goes To ...

Don't you love awards season? First the Golden Globes, then the Oscars and now .. the Big Rocka Awards.

The writer and online phenom honors the best of weblogs in his sophmore honor roll, Shine 2.0. Twenty sites are recognized for creativity, content and design ... and yours truly is among them.

Please visit Rocka for the full list, and send him some luv.

Thanks! You really love us ... you do!

Glossies: Black and White

Via Adidas

More advertising campaigns are being presented via black and white images. The effect is crisp and timeless. There's a certain risk that one assumes with B&W: the resolution is generally higher, that exposes more flaws but the shadows can be very forgiving.

Burberry and Prada currently have national campiagns featuring B&W photography. Adidas steps it up a notch, using black, white and multiracial models. It's a breath-taking advert: the stop-motion photography captures facial expressions that range from surprise to rapture. Above, in the first advert, both models have almost identical expressions. In the middle, the blonde's lip trembles in ecstatsy. Final, the stark photography intensifies the sistah's natural.

Go to Adidas for more adverts, wallpapers and downloads.

Hot Type: One Stop Fierceness

One Stop Hot is the newest creation by the fierce family that brought us Oh la la Paris and ManChic.

It's a slick and clever webzine, highlighting the buzz on fashion, culture, music, travel, movies, media ... everything you need to know to keep stay on top of things. Or however you like to be on them...

Point and click your way over to their new site, say hello to Monty and see what's hot .. before everyone else is talking about it. And it's all under one roof: one stop browsing, One Stop Hot.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Soundbytes: Candy B

Candice Bergen as Judge Amanda Aderlee
Law & Order: Trial by Jury via NBC Universal

Pastis is at the corner of Ninth Ave and Little West 12th, in the heart of the Meatpacking District. Conveniently it's just three blocks from the flat, so it's a good bet you could catch me there. It's also one of the better places to people watch and gawk at celebrities, especially while dining al fresco in the summer. On a cool evening, you see everyone here, from supermodels to Ethan Hawke, Lenny Kravitz ... or Candice Bergen.

An early afternoon in May or June 2003. Picture me walking by Pastis on my way home from the gym, looking very Brooklyn meets Chelsea: baggy engineered Levis and matching jacket, spaghetti strap D&G tanktop. Chatting away on the cellie oblivious to everyone (Its all about me) and almost stumble into Candice Bergen's table. She and a lunch companion are looking oh-so-chic with their salads and Evian in glass bottles. "Why hello there," she smiled, that unmistakable voice at once putting me at ease. "I'm sorry, we should have pushed this table back some..."

That's how we met. She apologized, I apologized, her friend apologized, we laughed and chatted and they invited me to sit down. That's one thing I love about the city, you can meet almost anyone and they'll speak to you as an equal. But this was unexpected: she has an Academy Award and is making small talk with me...sweaty and coming from the gym? But it turns out that we knew people in common: at the time I was assigned to one of the network morning shows, and of ourse she knew the host.

Candice—we've bumped into each other twice since then, both times dining out, so it's Candice—has Eurocentic mannerisms. She's not loud or brash, and is quite personable. Needless to say, she started as a swingin' sixties girl and today is quite the icon. Best Supporting Actress nomination for Starting Over. Five Emmys and two SAG Awards for Murphy Brown. The first female to host Saturday Night Live.

A whole new generation re-discovered the fabulous actress in Sex and the City where she had a recurring role. Bergen's character debuted in Season Four, A 'Vogue' Idea. Her patrician demeanor was perfect as icy Vogue editor Enid Frick. SATC fans will remember that episode: Carrie turns in her first article for Vogue and editor Enid Frick was not impressed—saying she wanted more punch, and "less Carrie Bradshaw." (Who didn't?) But it worked out and we saw more Enid Frick (and much more Carrie Bradshaw) through seasons four, five and six.

I'm lovin' the fact that Candice's career continues to trend north. We can see her not once, not twice but up to three times weekly on the small screen. Sunday nights she has a pivotal new role on Boston Legal, as Shirley Schmidt, the new managing partner. Wednesdays and Fridays catch her in a recurring role on Law & Order and the new spinoff Law & Order: Trial by Jury.

Candice began that crossover role at the beginning of this season in the original L&O, an episode titled The Brotherhood. In another ripped from the headlines plot, her Judge Anderlee character was targeted by white supremacists. The storyline was based on the tragic circumstances surrounding Chicago federal judge Joan Lefkow; white supremacist leader Matthew Hale targeted her for death, and apparently in unrelated circumstances, another man killed her husband and mother-in-law on February 28.

Bergen's presence is a natural for the role: serene, commanding yet charsimatic, exactly what you'd expect in a judge. Apparently, the producers at Dick Wolf Films had their eyes on her and it's been a match made in heaven.

Law & Order: Trial by Jury: Friday 10/9c (NBC)
Sex and the City: Sunday 8/7c (HBO)
Law & Order: Wednesday 10/9c (NBC)
Boston Legal: Sundays 10/9c (ABC)

iCandy: Mr. Panama

The Mr. Panama contest is held annually in Balboa. There is a fashion show and (ahem) swimsuit competition, where these pictures are from. Latin American men are definitely not modest. The zebra shorts look as if they were painted on, mui caliente! Pictures from previous years are available at Cocoas.Net.

There is also an online version of the contest via Panamanian webportal My vote went for Yaul Zapateiro, 24 anos. Unfortunately he is not leading, but lagging behind the others. Yaul es magnífico! Go to the site, please vote. For him. :p