5.12.17

Dear You Want Some

Dear You Want Some,

Fuck you! I didn't.

I did not want some. And yet, you chased me down, slammed me up against the wall and gave me some anyway.

You kicked the shit out of me. Literally.

I had never shit myself before. I mean of course as a baby but at the time of the jumping I was ten and shit-pants-less.

I remember walking home slowly and waddling up the stairs and crying because I had gotten beat up and all I wanted to do was change clothes.

But I couldn't because Big Tee was there. Big Tee was desperate to prove to my lesbian mother that he the man that was going to keep her straight so he was like over-man.

Big Tee saw me crying and demanded to know what happened and when I told him he inquired,

"Where these motherfuckers at?" and when I said the school yard, he grabbed my hand and lead me back to the school yard.

You weren't there. Big Tee was not satisfied. With Big Tee leading, I walked around the neighborhood for forty-five minutes looking for you...with shit in my drawls.

The crazy thing is I have never been mad at you. I mean I curse you every time I see my disfigured rib in the mirror but no anger.

Maybe because The Town was rough. Maybe because there's the jumper and the jumpee and I just happened to be the latter. Maybe after spending a total of seventy-nine minutes with my own feces I just don't care about you anymore.

I hope you are still alive. I hope your beating up on others thing didn't become a lifestyle and now you are dead or in jail for it. What I hope most is that your son doesn't ever experience his dad the way I did. It sucked.

Take care.

Bye!

29.10.17

Associate well spoken with something that makes sense

I am not a racist. I don't believe a particular race is superior. I am not a bigot. I don't hold prejudice against racial or religious groups. I am associative. I associate people with things. Tall men...basketball. Short women...shoes. People of Asian descent...Asia. I admit it. I do it. I think others do it. And I don't mind when they do. Except when the association is "speaking well" and White. Or Gay. Then I mind.

These associations seem ridiculous. Yet, I have come face-to-face with both. From the same man. This man, whom I associate with one of the twelve tribes of Egypt, first asked if I was mixed, then asked if I was gay. Upon receiving two no's, he exclaimed, "but you speak so well."


"Speaking well" or being well-spoken - according to thefreedictionary.com - is having a clear, articulate and socially acceptable accent and way of speaking. There is nothing racial or sexual about this definition. But for some reason my way of speaking made this man believe that I have a White parent or that I romantically love men.


I can kind of see the White part. Dr. John Baugh, the researcher who coined the term "linguistic profiling," said in the PBS special Do You Speak American, "It is often assumed by Blacks as well as Whites that African-Americans speak bad or lazy English." If my guy holds this same assumption, then my good and active English must have meant a heavy White influence.


Dr. Baugh went on to say, "Black English has roots as deep and a grammar as consistent as Scottish, Irish or any of the other Englishes spoken around the world." I associate this statement with the opening number of the musical My Fair Lady. Professor Higgins sings, "Oh, why can't the English learn to set a good example to people whose English is painful to your ears? The Scotch and the Irish leave you close to tears. There are places where English completely disappears. In America, they haven't used it for years." It would seem bad English is a nondiscriminatory equal opportunity practice.


I don't get the gay association at all. I don't even know how to begin to connect those dots. I chalk that association up to the unfortunate fact that we live in a society where anything and everything can be labeled gay. I'm sure someone will associate me with gay for referencing a musical in the previous paragraph. The association between well-spoken and gay is ignorant. And I'm willing to bet that there are thousands of homosexual men and women nationwide brutalizing English.


I am an American and I embrace English because it is the language of my home. I practice pronunciation and articulation because verbal communication is a large part of my daily life. I have found that life is more enjoyable when I'm understood. And I believe the same is true for everyone. Life is better when you are understood.


So, associate on, good people. It's natural. Just do me a solid and associate well-spoken with things that make sense like reading, dictionaries or Pappy the Cat. Just not race or orientation.


1.10.17

Dear Crazy Pants

Dear Crazy Pants,

How are you? How's life? I think about you sometimes. I think I owe you $500.

Being a believer was hard for me. Not hard in the practice was hard or the discipline was hard. Hard in the sense that I am an American, Crazy Pants and if I am going to be a believer I am going to be an American one.

I can keep my head covered with a baseball cap. I can be modest in jeans and a button down. Why must I wear a throbe? By the way, throbes are hot as fuck. And I don't hot like oh he's so sexy going to prayer hot I mean hot like heat. Like why is there so much wool in The Way? Isn't it a desert religion?

I love The Way. I really do. I still read The Quran - I have a version that took all the transliteration out so I can read it without seeing Arabic words. I like that.

I prolly won't ever go back, Crazy Pants. I am so far away from being right. I feel like Hades awaits me and I'm just delaying the inevitable by living. And I don't think The Way can save me.

Plus, fuck throbes. Seriously, The Way needs a serious fashion makeover. Stat.

Take care, Crazy Pants.

Bye!

25.9.17

Dear Dude I did the Bud Select CrowntownTv thing with that I just saw on an Law & Order rerun

Dear Dude I did the Bud Select CrowntownTv thing with that I just saw on a Law & Order rerun,

Fuck you!

We had a sweet fucking deal. After getting paid $5000 plus hotel, travel and per diem to improvise - that's right  improvise - they came back and asked us to do it again for $7000.

Sweet fucking deal.

But you. You signed a pilot deal. You were big time now and so now you wanted $11,000. To improvise.

I get it. I am all about know your worth. I preach get paid. Make money. Fuck being broke. And your The Office but in an ad agency pilot was good. I know you showed it to us. All.

But asking for $11,000 to improvise for an animated web series was too much. Especially knowing the game. Agents talk. As soon as you asked, we all asked and the budget went from $35,000 to $55,000 plus hotel and travel and per diem...to improvise.

And if believe the narrative that we got dropped because the couldn't afford it you're an idiot. The very next Bud Select campaign was Jay-Z and I know damn well he didn't do that shit for $55,000.
We got dropped because you asked for too much to improvise. I am not shitting on improv. Love it. Teach it. But it is the sex of theater. Everyone can do it.

And there are humans of every race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and Creed literally blowing trolls for a chance to improvise and we got offered $7,000 to do it. You take that.

I forgive you. I am no longer angry. Looking back I am glad we didn't do that gig. I was really into partying then and I can only imagine how much blow I would have bought after making $7000 to improvise.

And you taught me something. You taught me we are not alone. Your choice affected four other actors, four agents, a director, an editor and web designer and countless other humans who worked the project. I am always mindful of how my choices in this biz affect more than just me.

I hope you are somewhere living your best life. I hope every know and then you go on YouTube and you search CrowntownTv and you watch a video - Hot Tub is still my favorite and you remember that time you got paid $5000 to improvise.

Cheers.

30.6.17

Five essential Dixie Chicks songs not on The Essential Dixie Chicks Album

My random Dixie Chicks googling lead me to a link for the compilation entitled The Essential Dixie Chicks album. I did not buy this album as there is no need to buy a greatest hits collection when one owns every album - including the three without Natalie. So, I was shocked when I saw the track list and realized five essential songs were missing from this "essential" list.

I will assume that Natalie, Martie and Emily made this list and they would know what's more essential than I. However, as a diehard fan, I cannot look at this track list and not wonder why these five songs are not there. So here are the five essential songs that I think should be on The Essential Dixie Chicks album.

Thin Line

Thin Line - which is a bonus track on Taking The Long Way - is in my opinion one of the best songs on the album. The groove is fantastic and the lyrics are right on. "Some days rock and some days roll and some seem to last forever Some days it's all you want and some days it's never never." That's pretty much life right there. Taking The Long Way is over represented on The Essentials - eight songs - and I think Thin Line is way better than Lubbuck or Leave It and Everybody Knows





If I Fall You're Going Down With Me

If I Fall You're Going Down With Me is my jam. Another song with a solid groove and great lyrics. The great thing about this song is the arrangement allows for all three Chicks to exploit their talents which they do fantastically. Fly has the most songs on The Essential Dixie Chicks album with nine and while all of them are good songs, I'd trade If I Fall You're Going Down With Me for Some Days You Gotta Dance.




Once You've Loved Somebody

Once You've Loved Somebody is one of the best songs ever to capture that defeated feeling after a relationship. It's the kind of song that reaches into your chest, touches your heart and strokes it gently while whispering "I totally get you right now." That's what the Dixie Chicks to best and this is one of their best examples of that ability. It is definitely an essential.



Cold Day in July

I actually had to copy The Essentials track list, paste it into Word and then print it on paper so I could use a pen and my glasses to make sure Cold Day in July was not on the album. WTF! Like seriously. W. T. F.! One of the more prominent memories I have from seeing The Dixie Chicks at the United Center back in 2000 was them performing Cold Day in July and fake snow raining down on the crowd. Sure this song is attached to a memory and that's why I think it's so amazing. However, the song is outstanding. I am willing to bet that if you asked every Dixie Chicks fan to jot down their top 30 DCX songs, Cold Day in July would make eighty-five percent of those lists.




Am I the Only One (Who's Ever Felt This Way) 

Remember when I said the Dixie Chicks have the ability to reach into your chest, touch your heart and stroke it gently while whispering "I totally get you right now? Well, no song does that better than Am I the Only One (Who's Ever Felt This Way). At one point or another in our lives, we have all found ourselves sitting in dimly lit room, alone, clutching a glass of something stronger than soda, completely smothered by the emptiness screaming - internally or externally, "God help me" wondering "Am I the only one who's ever felt this way." This song is as essential as it gets and could easily replace Easy Silence, White Trash Wedding or Bitter End on the album.





There it is. The five essential Dixie Chicks songs that are not on The Essential Dixie Chicks album that I think should be on the album. Do you have a song or five that you think should be on The Essentials album that is not? Hit me up on Twitter - @usanegro - and let me know what those songs are.

Cheers!

27.3.17

I Am Seth Thomas

I am Seth Thomas. I am an American Negro and I don't talk about myself in the third person.

The Nutshell

I was raised by a single, black, militant, lesbian, Buddhist, stand-up comedian from the Bronx, in Berkeley during the 1980's. The rest is just random information.

The Nut

I was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut and spent the first few years of my life in Stratford, Connecticut home of my father and grandmother. After the divorce of my parents, Mother and I moved to Santa Monica, California where we lived with my grandfather and became Buddhists.
The Buddhist organization of which we were a part had a brass band for the young men and it was in that band that my love for music was cultivated. With the brass band I traveled to New York, Seattle and Hawaii all before the age of 13. I was also in Southern California so naturally, I began acting as well.

In 1980, Mother and I moved to the Bay Area. We lived all over Oakland until finally settling in Berkeley where I attended high school. I continued to do theater and marching band and at Berkeley High School, I discovered my affection for storytelling.
After high school - and four years of exploration that included discovering Christianity, Islam and guns - I moved to Georgia to attend college.

I studied Speech Communication at a private university called Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta. I marched with the band; pledged the band fraternity; pledged a National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternity;  served as student government undergraduate president; wrote for the school paper (once - an interview with Jay-Z though so yeah, I'm claiming that); and acted with the school's theater group. It was also during this time that I began making hip hop music and became Seth Thomas.
(At my core I am an MC and Seth Thomas is my stage name. I was born Yusef. Because of humans' affection for monosyllabic monikers, I have always been called Sef and when I started rapping, I used the name Sef when I referred to myself. S-E-F never looked good on paper to me and shortly after I decided I needed a stage name, I was in the studio and the engineer said, "man, you have great timing. You're like a clock." I looked up and the clock in the studio was a Seth Thomas. I have been Seth Thomas ever since.)

After college, I moved to Compton, California to be with my newly found older brother and after a year there I took a bus to Chicago, Illinois to visit my best friend. I have been here ever since.
I discovered The Second City and my life changed forever. I graduated from the conservatory at The Second City, Chicago and met Paul Thomas and formed the comedy duo The Defiant Thomas Brothers. We broke up and then got back together and we are better than ever.

As of this post, I am still in Chicago, Illinois. I still make rap music, I still perform and travel with The Defiant Thomas Brothers and I have the honor to teach at The Second City, Chicago. I have also begun to write. I write the stories I am so used to telling and other random stuff that I don't know how to categorize except as writings. (Visit the writing post if you want to read some "writings".)
I think that's it for now. I mean, there are like plays and albums and stories and children and all that good stuff and you'll have to meet me or read the book to get that stuff.

Love More.

Seth

4.1.17

A Trombone Got Me Into College

I attended my daughter's Winter Concert the other night and it made me think of all my young years as a band kid. She plays trombone like her Pop.

I loved my trombone. That trombone got me to New York, Seattle, Hawaii. I was twelve years old, in Hawaii, without my mother all because I played trombone in a band.


That trombone even got me into college.


Back in 1994, about two weeks before school was scheduled to start I received two letters in the mail from Clark Atlanta University.


The first letter was from the band director inviting me to audition for the CAU Marching Panthers band. While the idea of a "full or partial scholarship" was alluring, the idea of marching in a band again was not. I had not marched in a band since my departure from Buddhism like five years prior and I had no plans of returning.


Besides, my financial aid was fine. I tossed the letter to the side and moved on to the second letter.


The second letter was from the financial aid office. This letter was sent to me to inform me that based upon my grandmother's income (I was twenty-two when I arrived at CAU. Thought I had been on my own for like five years at the time, I could not apply for financial aid as an independent. I was not twenty-four, I was not in the military and I was not a ward of the state. I was my Grandmother's baby trying to go to college so Grandmother claimed me on her taxes so I could use her info for financial aid.), I did not qualify for one of the grants for which I applied and as a result I was twelve hundred dollars short for the year.


I returned to the band letter.


The letter gave a basic overview of the program, a contact number, audition dates and the date of the first day of band camp. I guess the proper thing to have done was call the number, set up an audition, audition and, if selected, show up on the first day of band camp. A date for which was provided in the letter.


I was not auditioning. I didn't own a trombone. I had not touched a trombone in over five years. I haven't even looked at one. While I could still read music and I was halfway familiar with the slide positions, there was absolutely no way I was going to survive an audition for a college band. I didn't have the chops.


What I did have was band experience.


Mother was a Buddhist and an active member of an organization which I think is called SGI-USA now but was NSA back then. Anyway, the organization had programs for the youth members, and as I was raised as a youth member, I was a part of one of those programs. The Brass Band.


I joined The Brass Band when I was four and spent the first six years of my membership carrying stuff. I never performed. I never marched. I just watched.


When I was ten, I decided that I wanted to be in the drum section and I told the band director. He laughed and sent me over to a group of other teens and preteens that play drums and trumpet that also wanted to be in the band. I spent two years in this group.


My faith in my ability as a drummer was created by my being in the school band. I was a drummer and I was advancing every year, seat wise, and I imagined this was the natural order of all bands including The Brass Band.


What I failed to realize then was that my steady progress in the school band had less to do with my talent and more to do with school band members graduating from middle school. Brass band members don't graduate from Buddhism. This was their way of life. They would be in the band forever.


When I was twelve, I approached the band director again about marching.


"I have enough drummers," said my band director. "too many drums over power the band. I have enough drums, enough trumpets and more than enough saxophones."


Then he said the words that would change my life forever.


"It's too bad you don't play trombone. You can never have enough trombones."


The Great Trombone rule. You can never have enough trombones.


The next semester in school, I quit the drums and took the beginner's low brass class. Next semester I was in the school band as a trombone player and that summer I was marching in The Brass Band.


I marched with The Brass Band until I left home. When I left Mother, I left her Buddhism and it's band with her.


I was done with the trombone. I never even considered playing it again until I got the letter from the financial aid office. But now it was clear that my ability to play trombone was my way into college.


I devised a plan. I was going to show up on the first day of band camp and get in the band on the hopes that the CAU Marching Band director was also a believer in The Great Trombone rule.


The next day, after hours of random calls, I found a pawn shop with a "dried up horn" for "cheap". I took a hundred bucks from my rent money and bought the dried up horn, slide grease, slide oil and trombone Christmas carol sheet music.


I remembered "whole step, whole step, half, whole step, whole step, whole step, half" so I was able to practice my major scales. My road back to the band was a regiment of major scales and Christmas songs. I practiced every day until the first day of band camp.


I arrived at the grassy area next to CAU's gym with no idea where to go or what to do. A random flute player guided me towards a trailer where another band member was checking in new and returning members. When I entered the trailer, I was greeted by a girl sitting at a table with a list of names.


"Name."


"Yusef."


She checks the list. "You are not on the list, Yusef."


"I know."


"Maybe they forgot to add you name. When did you audition?"


"I didn't."


"I don't understand, Yusef."


"Listen," I said, "I didn't audition because if I had auditioned I wouldn't get into the band and I really need to be in the band. So, can you just do me a huge favor and go tell the band director there's a guy trying to get into the band. Just tell him I need to talk to him. Please."


The girl looked at me for a minute and then smiled. I know now that the smile was because she knew how verbally abusive the band director was and she was already reveling in the tongue lashing I was about to receive.


She got up, disappeared into an office then returned with a tall, older man who looked bothered. I caught my self chanting a Buddhist phrase of prayer under my breath.


"May I help you, young man," barked the Band Director. The girl was standing behind him smiling.


"I'm here to join the band."


"You're not already in the band?"


"No, sir."


"So, you auditioned and we did not accept you?"


"No, sir. I never auditioned."


At this point, the girl laughed out loud. The Band Director spun around, shot the girl a look (she got quiet) then spun back to me.


"Young man..."


(I need to note here that my band director stuttered. To try to write it out would be ridiculous but know that all that follows came out in pieces)


"...this is a university and this is a university band. The majority of the band members are music majors and minors who take playing music seriously. They take band seriously. I take band seriously. And I...what makes you think you can skip my auditions and just walk up and join my band?"


"I play trombone. Sir."


The Band Director closed his eyes and shook his head and I knew he was a believer in The Great Trombone rule.


"I only need six hundred dollars a semester."


"That's it?" he asked.


"That's it," I said. "Oh, and a trombone. Mine is a piece of crap."


"Don't make me regret this."


"I won't."


He turned to the girl and told her to sign me up then returned to his office.


"You're lucky," the girl said.


I was. I was lucky and I knew how to play trombone.


I love that trombone.