Dancing Chaz & Other Gender Rants

Chaz Bono has gotten on my nerves for quite a while now.  I’ve been tired of seeing his face on TV.  He comes off to me like an attention whore.  Not to further the cause of transgendered persons, but to exercise personal demons and cry “Me Me Me!”

The last straw for me was his comments following his demise on Dancing with the Stars. (DWTS) Instead of focusing on his reprehensible performance he’s once again whining about how he is perceived.  Apparently Chaz doesn’t like the criticism and thinks his weight is being used against him from a ‘man’s’ perspective.

Bruno Tonioli (one of the judges) commented on his latest performance with dancer Lacey Schwimmer said, “It was like watching a cute little penguin try to be a big, menacing bird of prey.  It has to be menacing, dark, dangerous, hypnotic … like a panther stalking.”

Chaz complained:

“I’ve been called an Ewok, a cute and cuddly bear, now tonight a penguin.  It’s disrespectful to me. ” 

He continued:

If you’re an overweight woman in this competition losing weight they love you. But if you’re a overweight guy trying to do this competition and getting in shape, they penalize you for it and call you a penguin.”

Memo to Chaz:

1) One could argue that you ARE an overweight woman.  Regardless you don’t get to have it both ways.  Nobody put a gun to your head and told you to get on DWTS!

2) You don’t enter a dance competition to ‘get into shape’.  You show up in shape so you have a better chance of winning the damn thing.  These judges are professionals!  This ain’t the family reunion talent show where you get points for just ‘doing your best.”

3) Since you knew you were fat when you got on the show, what did you think the public’s reaction would be especially if you already knew you couldn’t dance?  If you don’t want to look cute and cuddly, hit the gym and push away from the Chinese buffet!  We don’t feel sorry for you!

4) If you want to be a man, then be a man!  If you want to be a revolutionary figure, you don’t get to whine!  And momma sticking up for you on Twitter doesn’t help either.  That just removes MORE man points from your rep!  Men get ripped on every day in this country whether it’s in sports or entertainment.  I don’t see Rick Ross complaining cause he has man tits.  Everyone knows it.  He goes on about his business producing horrible songs.  Heavy D called himself, “The Overweight Lover.”  When Ron Artest lost DWTS, he didn’t complain that they hated him because he receives mental counseling? You Chaz are not exempt from public scrutiny when you desire the public stage.  Charge it to the game and get over yourself!  I repeat, ‘We don’t feel sorry for you!’

5) Until you get yourself together and either grown some or get some implanted, get off my TV.  Don’t get on Piers, The View, or any other show complaining about your plight!  You are a horrible example for the transgender community!

They Named Them Girl Scouts for a Reason

What is up with the parents of Bobby Montoya who are advocating that their son be a member of the Girl Scouts?

His mother tried to get him into the Girl Scouts in Colorado but they rejected the application.  Why? Because he’s a BOY!  Duhhhh!

His mother Felisha Archuleta wonder’s what the big deal is.

I’ll tell her what the big deal is…. He’s a boy!

It doesn’t matter if he’s gay or if you throw a dress on him everyday.   If he plays sports for instance he won’t be able to play on the girl’s basketball team in Jr. high or high school.  If he plays golf he won’t be able to compete in the LGPA.  If he get’s a sex change operation… then that will up to those organizations to decide how to interpret that.  As of now, he is a boy at least by biological standards.  There are many other ways he can express his individuality other than trying to force a girl’s organization to ignore his body parts.

One thing I have learned from various of civil rights warriors and icons; One has to learn to pick battles and be strategic.  This isn’t the way.

If she thinks I’m wrong then start letting the child go to women’s restrooms in public places and see how that works out!

Come on people!  I’m just saying!

Jay Leno Rocks!

The Jay Leno Show

I was not a big Tonight Show fan at all.  I wasn’t when Carson did it either.  Late night television shows were never was my thing except when Arsenio was on, or if there was a really special guest like Prince musically.  But as I flipped the channels between Monday Night Football commercials I came across the much anticipated new Jay Leno Show that will be on 5 days a week.

The first show was flat out hilarious.  I started with the tail end of the interview with Jerry Seinfeld.  I never thought the cat was that funny in the first place.  I wondered was why was he wearing a tux.  But as I said I was late in the interview so it could have really been funny.

One thing is for sure.  The ‘interview’ he did with the president was flat out hilarious.  Please go to YouTube and check it out as it has to be up by now.  When Leno went Sen. Joe Wilson on Obama I almost spit my Widmere on the floor.  He also covered ‘tort’ reform and ‘stimulous’ too in ways you have to see for yourself.

The Kanye West interview before the performance with Jay-Z and Rhianna was surreal.  They rocked their number though.  Rhianna’s outfit was off the hook!  I know somewhere Chris Brown was saying, “Damn! I F’d up!”

My schedule is far too busy to get caught up on a weekday television show every evening.  But I will be keeping an eye out here and there on Jay’s show.  I know this idea is not something easy to pull off.

Jay-Z vs. The Game, Music, & Foreign Policy Power Tactics

I came across this story recently, and thought it quite clever and interesting.  In addition to the original post by the author Marc Lynch, there is a feature on the story from today’s Morning Edition page on NPR.org.  Basically he compares foreign policy conflicts to rap feuds.  He has a compelling argument too.

After reading the story below, you can have a little more fun with it by listening to this older commentary by music critic Steven Ivory.  This clip is from 2004 but it’s relevant he touches on Kim Jong Il and how to avoid a nuclear war with North Korea if our president takes him out for a good time.


Jay-Z vs the Game: Lessons for the American Primacy Debate

by, Marc Lynch of ForeignPolicy.com

Late last week, the Los Angeles rapper the Game launched a blistering attack against the legendary New York blogger rapper :>) Jay-Z.   At a series of European shows, the Game led crowds in cheers of “F*** Jay-Z” and “Old Ass N*****”, and at one point went into an obsenity laced (but rather wickedly funny) rampage against Jay-Z’s fiance’ (wife?) Beyonce.  Over the weekend, he released “I’m So Wavy [Too Hardcore to be a Jay-Z]” an inconsistent but catchy attack on Jay-Z (note: all links are to songs which are almost certainly NSFW and which you might find offensive; you’ve been warned).  When I started feeding this stuff to my friend Spencer Ackerman last week, his first take was that “the countdown to the end of the Game’s career starts today.” Mine, me being a professor of international relations, was to start thinking about how this could be turned into a story about the nature of hegemony and the debate over the exercise of American power.  (That, and how I could waste time that I should be spending on real work.)

See, Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) is the closest thing to a hegemon which the rap world has known for a long time.  He’s #1 on the Forbes list of the top earning rappers.  He has an unimpeachable reputation, both artistic and commercial, and has produced some of the all-time best (and best-selling) hip hop albums including standouts Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint and the Black Album.  He spent several successful years as the CEO of Def Jam Records before buying out his contract a few months ago to release his new album on his own label.  And he’s got Beyonce.  Nobody, but nobody, in the hip hop world has his combination of hard power and soft power.  If there be hegemony, then this is it.  Heck, when he tried to retire after the Black Album, he found himself dragged back into the game (shades of America’s inward turn during the Clinton years?). 

 But the limits on his ability to use this power recalls the debates about U.S. primacy.  Should he use this power to its fullest extent, as neo-conservatives would advise, imposing his will to reshape the world, forcing others to adapt to his values and leadership?  Or should he fear a backlash against the unilateral use of power, as realists such as my colleague Steve Walt or liberals such as John Ikenberry would warn, and instead exercise self-restraint?  

 The changes in Jay-Z’s approach over the years suggest that he recognizes the realist and liberal logic… but is sorely tempted by the neo-conservative impulse. Back when he was younger, Jay-Z was a merciless, ruthless killer in the “beefs” which define hip hop politics.  He never would have gotten to the top without that.  But since then he’s changed his style and has instead largely chosen to stand above the fray.   As Jay-Z got older and more powerful, the marginal benefits of such battles declined and the costs increased even as the number of would-be rivals escalated.  Just as the U.S. attracts resentment and rhetorical anti-Americanism simply by virtue of being on top, so did Jay-Z attract a disproportionate number of attackers.   “I got beefs with like a hundred children” he bragged/complained on one track. 

His ability to respond actually declined as his power and enemies list grew, though. As a young 50 Cent spat at him (twisting one of Jay’s own famous lines), “if I shoot you I’m famous, if you shoot me you’re brainless.”  He’s generally avoided getting embroiled in beefs since reaching the top, only occasionally and briefly hitting back at provocations from rising contenders like 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, and others.  Responding to every challenge does not become a hegemon. Indeed, it would be counter-productive and exhausting, and would likely trigger even greater resentment among other rising rappers.  Better as hegemon to rise above the fray and accept the sniping of the less powerful while reaping the rewards of a status quo which he dominates and profits from excessively. And that’s what happened:  his wealth, status, and structural power rose inexorably despite the potshots and abuse and unmet challenges — indeed, the only real hit he’s taken was self-inflicted, the critical shrug given to the middling “Kingdom Come” album.

 When he learnt this lesson might also offer insights into how great powers in IR learn.  He changed his style after his most famous beef, and the only one which he lost:  his battle with the Queensbridge legend Nas.   The reasons for his loss are instructive.  Jay-Z launched what Nas later described as a “sneak attack” at a time when the latter’s mother was ailing. Why?  Because Nas was at the time recognized widely as the king of NYC rap, and Jay-Z (the rising power) saw that only by knocking off the king could he seize the crown for himself.   A few brief skirmishes — a Jay-Z freestyle mentioning Nas, the first “Stillmatic” response from Nas — then led to the full blast of “The Takeover”.   Rather than fold, Nas hit back with the instant legend “Ether”.  It went back and forth, and then, crucially, Jay-Z misplayed his hand. In “Super Ugly”, about 2 minutes in to a pretty good track, he escalated to a crude personal revelation about his sexual exploits with the mother of Nas’s child — prompting Jay’s mother to call in to a radio station to complain and forcing Jay to apologize.  The lesson:  just because you’ve got an ace card doesn’t mean you should play it… better to keep it in reserve, for fear of triggering a backlash. 

 But what happened next is even more interesting.  The beef actually helped both:  it lit a fire under Nas, who renewed his career, while Jay-Z continued to ascend to his current position (with the Black Album probably still standing as the pinnacle). Jay-Z acknowledged his defeat (on Blueprint 2) and learned lessons from it (while taking a few last shots, and claiming credit for reviging his rival’s career (“I gave you life when n**** had forgotten you MC’d”).  Nas opted to settle the beef, reconcile, and sign on with Def Jam Records — where he became one of Jay’s leading and most valuable artists.   In a world of unipolarity, both win through co-optation, reconciliation between enemies, and the demonstration that the gains of cooperation outweigh the gains of resistance.  

 Which brings us back to the Game.  The Game (Jayceon Taylor) is a wildly erratic, brilliantly talented L.A. gangsta rapper, a protege of Dr. Dre who started off with 50 Cent and G-Unit.  After an ugly break with them, he unleashed a barrage of brutal attacks on G-Unit and 50 Cent culminating in an epic 300 bars freestyle.  The Game clearly won the battle on its merits, but 50 Cent’s career continued relatively unharmed (he was #1 on last year’s Forbes list before being displaced by Jay-Z this year, though his reputation as a rapper has declined significantly after some mediocre albums and a humiliating defeat in a public showdown over album sales at the hands of Kanye West, of all people).  Meanwhile, the Game established himself as a solid solo act.  In that  war between a rising power and a upper-echelon middle power, both ultimately benefited.   

 Jay-Z is a bit different, given his hegemonic status and the absence of a prior relationship. The Game has always had a particularly odd, passive-aggressive relationship with Jay-Z.  His first hit “Westside Story” contained a line about not driving Maybachs (Jay’s signature car) which everyone took as a diss.  The Game panicked, and spliced into the title track of his debut album “The Documentary” a radio interview explaining that he had meant it as a shot against Ja Rule (everyone’s favorite hip hop punching bag) and that he “never takes shots at legends, that’s just not something I do.” Yeah, right.  Over the next few years, he would routinely go out of his way to say that he was not dissing Jay-Z even when it sounded like he was (“before you call this a diss, and you make Hova pissed, why would I do that, when I’m just the new cat, that was taught if a n****take shots to shoot back, defending his yard, yeah standing his ground, I’m sayin if you gonna retire then hand me the crown.”)  Think of him as a rising middle power (#13 on the Forbes list, down there with Young Jeezy, he helpfully explains on I’m So Wavy) eyeing the king, ambitious and a bit resentful, and looking for an opening.  

 So what prompted him to finally cross the line and attack Jay-Z?  There doesn’t seem to be anything in the public record to speak of — the proximate cause was a throwaway line in a Jay-Z freestyle which didn’t even attack him (“I ain’t talkin’ about THE GAME”).  His ego has always been there, and the Jay-Z obsession (in “360” earlier this year, he memorably rapped over Jay’s Million and One beat “I’m the king and you better respect it, all I need is Beyonce and a Roc-a-Fella necklace”).  Maybe he really just wants to test himself (he says on his Twitter feed “I ALWAYS FELT I WAS GOOD ENUFF 2 GO BAR 4 BAR @ JAY IN A “LYRICAL BEEF”), the way rising powers do.  Or maybe he just is hoping for publicity… wouldn’t be the first. But none of that explains the timing, even if it might account for the attack itself.  So let’s go with the IR analogies for a moment.

 The Game’s own account suggests that he saw vulnerability in Jay-Z’s over-extension.  First, supposedly Jay-Z got Chris Brown blackballed from the BET Video Awards by threatening to stay home if he performed.  Second, D.O.A., the first single off of Blueprint 3, attacked a whole generation of rappers using the Autotune program to sing (including such great powers as Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, and Kanye West as well as the hapless T-Pain). Taken together, that might add up to a growing resentment which could be exploited. Maybe he calculated that now was the moment to strike, and that the rest of the middle powers will ally with him to topple the tyrant.  

 But still, the timing is odd for a “power transition” narrative, given that Jay-Z is set to release his new Blueprint 3 album in September and has done a whole series of verses with other leading rappers in recent years (including Nas, Lil Wayne, and T.I.) which is to hip hop as “alliances” are to International Relations.  He may be old, but hardly looks like a declining power…. although perhaps Game simply detects weakness in Jay-Z’s age.  After all, he tweeted at one point that he “really don’t hate jay’s old music, but this new sh!t is convalescent home elevator music.” He clearly understands the extent of Jay-Z’s structural power, daring a long list of influential DJs to play I’m So Wavy.  

 So what does Jay-Z do?  If he hits back hard in public, the Game will gain in publicity even if he loses… the classic problem of a great power confronted by a smaller annoying challenger.   And given his demonstrated skills and talent, and his track record against G-Unit, the Game may well score some points.  At the least, it would bring Jay-Z down to his level — bogging him down in an asymmetric war negating the hegemon’s primary advantages.   If Jay-Z tries to use his structural power to kill Game’s career (block him from releasing albums or booking tour dates or appearing at the Grammy Awards), it could be seen as a wimpy and pathetic operation — especially since it would be exposed on Twitter and the hip hop blogs. 

 The Realist advice?  His best hope is probably to sit back and let the Game self-destruct, something of which he’s quite capable  (he’s already backing away from the hit on Beyonce) — while working behind the scenes to maintain his own alliance structure and to prevent any defections over to the Game’s camp.  And it seems that thus far, that’s exactly what he’s doing. We’ll see if that’s a winning strategy…. or if he’s just biding his time getting ready for a counter-attack.   Either way, I’ve succeeded in wasting a lot of time so… mission accomplished!