Belief in our Guardian Devil

My latest for The NOC crew: http://thenerdsofcolor.org/2015/03/20/belief-in-our-guardian-devil/

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To the old and especially the new on the streets I say:

Thank you. To everyone that marched and continues to march or walk out from coast to coast, especially in my home base of Minneapolis, thank you. To those that sing, chant, and scream in anger and pain of the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner (and Trayvon Martin, and the list that goes on for centuries), thank you. To those that have put themselves at risk and have been beaten, injured, or arrested pointing out that police brutality is only the tip of this historical iceberg and that black lives matter at the hands of a fascist police and justice system, thank you.

I am a man of color. I am sickened by the events that have happened over the past weeks and over the past decades of my life. Fortunately, I have not had the experiences of many men of color with the cops. I am, however, filled with pride at the nationwide response. A friend and I were discussing events and he mentioned the number of protests. I challenged him to think of these as more than just protests. When direct actions cross-country happen daily as they have been, it becomes a movement, or perhaps, a rebellion. Whatever it is, it has been brewing since the first Europeans decided to stay. All I can say to those involved is thank you.

My fatherly duties as a stay-at-home parent also working and doing other things in the evenings has made scheduling to get out on the street somewhat harder. That said, when I read the call for the convergence of the $15 dollars an hour fast food protest with the Garner non-indictment protest, I was thinking that after I picked up my oldest from school, we (my youngest also) could swing to where they were, not too far from home in greater South Mpls, and join for a bit. I was filled with awe and pride when I read via Twitter that they had moved on and were doing a die-in and blocking I 35 W. The Interstate. That is some hardcore action. The next thought was, “Well, not really family friendly anymore.” I’ve been known to be front and center at many acts of civil disobedience. I have my memories; I have a scar or two. But this isn’t about me; it’s about all of you.

Gratitude and thanks. The next generation can take lots of shit. I get it, we sure did. But to know that with my hands full with children, you all are not only leading the charge, but perhaps doing it better than we ever did (I’m new to Twitter, and damn is it powerful), is such a comfort. Indignities, injustices, atrocities, and other horrible things will continue to happen and be pushed as long as capitalism and the protecting (and serving) of capital remains. I hate being more of an armchair activist these days. That said, just look at all of this! The nation is a-fucking-wake! You all are holding it down

I recently had family from Brazil in town. You’ll recall Brazil’s enormous nationwide protests during the Confederations Cup last year in the name of “FIFA quality schools, healthcare, etc.” as politicians let billions go to white elephant stadiums for the World Cup. They had left before the Garner result, but they wondered if anyone outside of Ferguson would rise up to Michael Brown’s murder? Would people actually start talking about race (Brazil may be different, but has its own serious racial issues too)? They didn’t think the collective U.S. “we” had it in us. We would go back to Reality TV or sports and forget. Who could blame them? I also had my doubts. My cousin wrote me recently and basically said: “Wow. Touché. Nicely done.” Indeed.

“And tha riot be tha rhyme of tha unheard.” Fist in the air, punho no ar.

Constantine: Blazing Hell with NBC

thenerdsofcolor

I’m not going to pretend I’m a huge Constantine fanboy. I do remember hearing about the character as a teen. I saw the Keanu Reeves movie version and thought, “So Neo takes out demons too? Whoa. Bogus.” Ah method acting by Professor Reeves. Somebody that knows the comics and is really into it would call me out quickly if I tried to get into it all. I just wanted to briefly mention why the new NBC series starring Matt Ryan is working for me.

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FU2 TC Sports Media

I’ll make this one quick, cause for one I don’t have a lot of time, and secondly, it really upsets me. I attack the media all the time. Local Twin Cities sports media, however, never have you epically failed like this.

I’ve been a fan of the local Twin Cities football (feet on ball) club for over a decade and have seen many lows and some highs. As the NSC Stars, we partied in the stands when they won the 2011 NASL (2nd Division behind MLS) Championship on my birthday weekend with my cousin, brother-in-law, closest friends, and fellow hooligan Dark Cloud (supporters group) pirate mates.

This year’s team is miles ahead of that 2011 team and have been a joy to watch on the pitch. It’s amazing how far they’ve come in so short a time, especially considering not more than five years ago there was a real possibility the team was bankrupt and done. The Loons, as we call our beloved Minnesota United FC (the latest and best incarnation of the same team), have already won the Spring season and may also win the Fall. They have already clinched a play-off berth. Another championship is in sight and MLS rumors abound as millionaires are now fighting over the future of the team. But more than that, historic is the word, the footy community nationwide has been a buzz about the news that broke earlier this week regarding star midfielder Miguel Ibarra (also former USMNT player and ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas’ take).

A winning team, an amazing moment where a second division player is jumping European based players and MLS players to potentially wear the National Team jersey, and not a single fucking local sports person reports it on TV because everyone is on NFL, MLB, and NCAA crack. All of these MN teams, by the way, are shit. The corruption and scandals in the NFL are sickening and touched stateside with Adrian Peterson’s despicable mess. It was Teddy Bridgewater fever over and over to forget Peterson ever existed. Does anyone even watch baseball anymore? The Gophers beat Michigan and brought back a jug nobody has seen in decades, and the MN media’s heart stopped. People forgot they already have one brutal loss in five games.

All of this for days and the biggest Twin Cities sports story of 2014 was brushed under the rug. I went especially hard after our local NBC affiliate Kare 11, who pre-NFL, covered most home games and even went to some for live coverage. That is, they did their fucking jobs (this applies to the Lynx and other “smaller” teams too, I should add). As the yarn unravels on these teams, their owners, commissioners, and so on, people will look to alternatives. It’s already happening. I’m not going to pretend futebol is perfect, FIFA is a nightmare of corruption, but lately the NFL is nipping at its heels. Money in politics, money in sports. Apparently it’s too much to ask for a smaller team in a smaller league that is winning and making athletic history to get a two minute spot on the news at 10.

LP’s NFL Cell Block

I don’t have a lot to add to things DZ , Jon Stewart, and others have already said about the recent NFL scandals. However, seeing all of these scandals play out and the media reacting like it’s breaking news, never before seen, it made me reminisce. You see, I grew up in Nebraska. In Nebraska, for those that don’t know, the Holy Trinity goes something like: the Father, the Son, and Cornhusker Football. The latter always beating the others when it comes down to it. The three National Championships in four years was, even I’ll admit, a special time. 1994 was one of those years I’ll never forget. Every team I cared about from our high school football team, to the Huskers, to Brasil in the World Cup, won it all. How often does that shit happen? 1995’s team is considered by many to be the greatest college football team to ever take the field. In those back-to-back years, the Huskers also fielded my reference point to the tragic athlete: a brilliant running back on game day, sexist psychopath by night, named Lawrence Phillips.

“LP”, as he was known, broke out in 1994 as a sophomore and scored in the National Championship game too. He racked up 1,722 yards his sophomore year, which is still a record at Nebraska. The following year started huge too with him putting up 206 yards and four touchdowns against Michigan State. Then, I guess as Dexter would call it, the “dark passenger” started to take over. Phillips was arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, also a Nebraska athlete, and was suspended by legendary coach, and our hometown Lord of Lords, Tom Osborne. Suspended. Not booted off the team. Now at the time, I was a teenager, I didn’t think much of it. But I remember one of my teachers making a comment like: “If this was anybody else, he’d be locked up. But because he’s a Husker star, he’ll get away with it.” That was essentially like screaming “I’m an atheist!” in the middle of mass.

Tom Osborne could get a separate article, including everything in my hometown that is named after him, but the point I want to make, is that good or bad, he’s one of the few coaches in the history of coaching that actually has a Ph.D. It happens to be in Educational Psychology. This is somewhat speculation, but I’ve read a couple pieces where they talk about “Dr. Tom” personally taking up Phillips as kind of a psychological challenge to try to see if he could personally rehabilitate him. I don’t know how much of that is true, but it makes sense. What also makes sense, is that Phillips was under Osborne’s wing, which meant no lawyer, judge, jury, mayor, or governor was going to touch him. At the end of the season, whether it was Osborne playing Henry Higgins saying, “Look at my masterpiece!”, or just injuries, he let Phillips start in his second National Championship game.

It may be possible that Dr. Tom did something to help a troubled young Phillips. What is certain, is that once he was in the NFL, it was dark passenger time to the extreme. While at St. Louis, he did some time for minor crimes. Once he got to Miami though, he pleaded no contest to assaulting a woman at a club. Fast forwarding some, he moved around the league, played in Canada, and all through it there were behavioral issues. This is where it gets really fucking dark and, I mentioned Dexter before, if he were real, the following would likely have put Phillips on Dexter’s radar. In 2005 in LA, after playing a pick-up football game with teens and getting pissed at them, he decided to hop in his car and try to run them over. Yeah. He was arrested on multiple assault charges. In San Diego, at about the same time, he was wanted on domestic abuse charges of a different ex-girlfriend. And there was yet another LA domestic abuse allegation. Phillips stood trial for the car mess, and got 10 years. While serving his first sentence, he was also convicted in the San Diego incident that included great bodily injury, criminal threats, and auto theft. He was sentenced to an additional 25 years and has a combined term now of 31 years. This is my lens people.

After protesting the billion dollar Vikings stadium construction and the Bond villain kicked off the island, Zygi Wilf, I was done with the NFL three years ago now. Of course, I should have been done with it years before for the violence against women, children, and all humans mentioned here. Gladiators of old, gladiators of today, empires of old, empires of today, what has changed? Speaking of gladiators, those that know me know I enjoy MMA and I (infrequently and lightly) train in aspects of it and I’m aware there are abuse issues there as well. It may seem hypocritical with the violent sports-violent people card, but it still feels different with concussion ball because of the power of the NFL and NCAA. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it felt like a weight was lifted. It has been harder, but this is my first attempt at cutting the cord of the NCAA and the Cornhuskers. For many years in Minnesota, it was a big identity thing. Now, I’m more conscious of how corrupt that league is too and I simply don’t have the time for so many long games.

Domestic/child abuse is a national issue, a national disease linked to capitalism’s toll on humanity. Dave added something like, what the NFL has is not an abuse issue, but a cover-up issue. He’s right of course, but with a man like Phillips, there was no NFL rug big enough to hide all of his crimes. What I’m interested in is whether Rice, Peterson, the big fish Goodell, or the never-ending list, will ever join LP in his cell block. Swap out a few thousand non-violent drug offenders, and he’d probably enjoy the company. Hell, maybe that’s where concussion ball truly belongs.

Days of Future Ferguson

I finally saw X-Men: Days of Future Past at our local close-to-DVD-release cheap theater that we South Minneapolitans all love, The Riverview. I loved it. I knew a few of the main comics discrepancies beforehand, but they didn’t bother me. It was gripping, the effects were sick, and I for me personally, I’m not sure there’s a limit to great acting performances once Lawrence and Fassbender hit the screen in damn near everything they do. All of that said, once I was waiting for the credits and the usual Marvel post-flick teaser, I started thinking about something else: Ferguson, MO.

I was glad, in a way, that I waited and saw it when I did. With all of the tragedy revolving around Ferguson, it reminded me why I got into the X-Men as a kid in the first place: the fight for equality and the celebration of diversity in a dogmatically intolerant world. Stan Lee knew exactly what he was doing when he created these characters surrounded by the Civil Rights Movement. The impact was also powerful and instantaneous on a brown multilingual transnational kid trying to make sense of shit in a white Midwestern town in the 90s. In addition, I had a science teacher that said I had a genetic mutation in my tendons in my wrist, so you know, that didn’t set me off fantasizing or anything. No tendon powers so far.

On one hand, I cry and get enraged with events like this as a person of color and a parent of children of color. On the other hand, having studied capitalism and it’s most refined evolutionary state, fascism, it’s sadly no surprise these terrible things keep happening. Mumia Abu Jamal said something like, while good people can be cops, nobody should be surprised that hateful racist arrests, beatings, and murders by police continue to happen because the entire historical system of policing is forever tied to the protection of capitalists’ capital. We all know how things break down around ethnicity and skin color along these lines. The point is, while perhaps it has gotten better, we are talking about a systemic disease. Changes to policing can happen for centuries, and have, but as long as capitalism exists, there is only so much progress that can happen and Michael Browns, Trayvon Martins, and the daily deaths of unarmed black and brown people will continually happen.

I’ll try not to spoil, but towards the end of the movie, Mystique makes her choice. A future world of war, intolerance, and genocide disappears to be replaced by something beautiful and ideal where mutants and humans coexist. We have a lot to learn from these fictional characters. How many one step forward, two steps back situations must we stupid and stubborn animals endure? Whether in policing, in military aggression, in politics, in religion, and so on, when will we start talking about the system at the root of it all? And when will we realize we’re all connected and sink or swim together? I was inspired by the  Holocaust survivors’ words and actions between Gaza and Ferguson where the woman actually rocked her Franti Stay Human shirt. I realize the “one race: human” ideal seems too much for the world as it is, but we have to set a bar and dream. Someone once had a dream. We have many real life X-Men, past and present, you readers may be among them. May they save us from a future like the one shown in the film that I don’t even want to think about. Punho no ar, fist in the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Way of the Dragon: The Career of Cung Le

Cung Le!

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Just to get the obvious out of the way: Cung Le is no Bruce Lee. Nobody ever will be. That said, I don’t think anyone else currently walks in the shadow of The Dragon quite like Dragon Eyes. As he trains for his next UFC headlining Fight Night in Macau on August 23 against Michael Bisping, I thought it would be fun to point out some similarities between Lee and Le and why, whether you’re into Mixed Martials Arts (MMA) or not, it will be worth getting up early on a Saturday morning to watch the fight.

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Enter the Soya: A Nerd Origin

My “nerd origin piece” for NOC. Enjoy!

thenerdsofcolor

Two mysterious lands far away from one another — yet linked by seas of soybeans — birthed a child born of melody, harmony, rhythm, and the smell of soy sauce. The child was destined to become a musician… and a tofu-loving pescetarian. But first, between musical gifts, came dreams of Jedi knighthood, ninjas, and flying with a cape.

My dad says he took me to Return of the Jedi when I was 3. I don’t remember it, but judging from the reaction my mom gives when this is mentioned, it happened. What I do remember very well from childhood is becoming obsessed with Superman in the early 80s. It seemed about right being surrounded by farms in a Nebraska town 60 miles from Smallville (okay, the Kansas border). Superman links farmland Nebraska with farmland Goiás (Brazil). My dad and my tio Laurinho took me to Superman III a year later…

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