Lupe Fiasco ft Matthew Santos: Superstar


Tomorrow this song turns ten years old: it came out on September 25th 2007. It went to #1 on the British R&B chart but only to #19 on its counterpart in his native US. I liked it more in 2007 than I do now, but it is still good.

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[Crowd cheering]

[Chorus: Matthew Santos]
If you are what you say you are, a superstar
Then have no fear, the camera is here
And the microphones
And they wanna know oh oh oh oh (the return)
If you are what you say you are, a superstar
Then have no fear, the crowd is here
And the lights are on
And they wanna show oh oh oh oh, yeah

[Verse 1: Lupe Fiasco]
Yeah, uh
A fresh cool young Lu’
Tryna catch his microphone check 2, 1, 2
Wanna believe my own hype but it’s too untrue
The world brought me to my knees, what have you brung you?
Did you improve on the design? Did you do somethin’ new?
Well your name ain’t on the guest list, who brung you?
You! The more famous person you come through
And the sexy lady next to you, you cum too
And then it hit me
Standin’ outside of heaven waitin’ for God to come and get me
I’m too uncool
Unschooled to the rules and too gum shoe
Too much of a new comer and too un-cool
Like Shadow and Lavelle, I battle with it well
Tho I need holiday like lady who sung “Blue”
Go back, whatever you did you undo
Heavy as heaven
The devil on me, two ton’s too

[Chorus: Matthew Santos]
If you are what you say you are, a superstar
Then have no fear, the camera is here
And the microphones
And they wanna’ know oh oh oh oh, yeah

[Verse 2: Lupe Fiasco]
And you better wear your shades
The spotlights here can burn holes through the stage
Down to the basement pass the Indian graves
Where the dinosaurs laid
Then out through China, nearly miss the airliners
Magnified times five, ‘less it’s pointed at the rhymer
Ricochets off the moon and sets the forest ablaze
Now that’s important to say
‘Cause even with all that most of us don’t want it to fade
We want it to braid, meaning we want it to grow
Meaning we want it to stay
Like the Governor called and he told him to Wait
Un-strap him from the chair and put him back in his Cage
The audience ain’t fazed
And they ain’t gonna clap and they ain’t gonna praise
They want everything back that they’ve paid
‘Cause they’ve been waitin’ since ten to see the lights get dim

[Chorus: Matthew Santos]
If you are what you say you are, a superstar
Then have no fear, the crowd is here
And the lights are on
And they wanna show oh oh oh oh, yeah

[Verse 3: Lupe Fiasco]
So chauffeur chauffeur come and take me away
‘Cause I’ve been standin’ in this line for like five whole days
Me and security ain’t getting’ along
And when I got to the front, they told me all of the tickets were gone
So just take me home where the mood is mellow
And the roses are grown, M&M’s are yellow
And the light bulbs around my mirror don’t flicker
Everybody gets a nice autograph picture
One for you and one for your sister
Who had to work tonight but is an avid listener
Every songs her favorite song and mics don’t feedback
All the reviewers say “You need to go and see that”
And everybody claps ’cause everybody is pleased
And then they all take the stage and start performin’ for me
Like, ha ha ha ha ha
Ha ha ha ha ha, ha

[Chorus: Matthew Santos]
If you are what you say you are, a superstar
Then have no fear, the camera’s is here
And the microphone’s
And they wanna know oh oh oh oh
If you are what you say you are, a superstar
Then have no fear, the crowd is here
And the lights are on
And they wanna show oh oh oh oh, yeah

If you are, what you say you are
Then have no fear

Source: AZ Lyrics.

Seeing China

I saw China for two weeks in August 1992. Here is some of what I remember 25 years later (the pictures are from Google Images but are like what I saw):

Hong Kong viewed from Victoria Peak.

Hong Kong – I saw people walking down the street talking on mobile phones like it was no big deal, a thing not yet common in the US. Hong Kong had people from all over. My girlfriend and I met a family from Mali, for example. It was the most crowded city I have ever seen. Even the harbour was more crowded than New York’s. We went to the top of Victoria Peak at night and got a wonderful view of the city.

Macau – all I remember is seeing some big old church built by the Portuguese hundreds of years ago (São Paulo Cathedral, built in 1602) and, on its steps, talking to a Black man who lived in Macau.

Crossing into Red China – the customs officials seemed stern, but not nearly as suspicious of me as in communist East Berlin in 1985. Or in Sydney, Australia when returning to the US in 2007. Or as suspicious of me as the police in the US.

Guangzhou (Canton) – We did not see much of it. We were there to catch the night train to Shanghai. No bullet trains back then! The train we were on could have been built in the 1950s for all I knew.

Shanghai in 1990 and 2010.

Shanghai – bigger than Hong Kong but not as rich or cosmopolitan. There did not seem to be any Black people there. Sometimes if you stood in one place for too long you started to draw a crowd. Black people were that rare. They did have a McDonald’s. The style of women’s hair and dress was markedly plainer than in Hong Kong. Even as a foreigner I could tell the language was different too. Everywhere people were riding bicycles. The habit of spitting was common. Even rich women did it. Maybe a tenth knew English. I went to my first karaoke bar. The best part of seeing Shanghai was walking down the boardwalk along the river. Shanghai has changed hugely since then: what I remember as warehouses are now skyscrapers!

Tiananmen Square, and the emperor’s palace in the background.

Beijing – seemed like the Emerald City of China, if that makes sense. Beijing has wide streets and the police did not seem as arrogant as American police, though there were more of them. We saw a Chinese opera, Mao’s body, Tiananmen Square, and the old red palace of the emperors. We took a bus and saw the Summer Palace, a donkey pulling a cart (I was surprised to see something like that so close to a big city) and:

The Great Wall of China. The thing they do not show you in all the pictures of the Great Wall is that when you get to the top there are souvenir sellers everywhere! I bought a Great Wall hoodie.

In general China was way less glitzy than what you see of it now in Google Images:

NOT the Guangzhou I remember!

– Abagond 2017.

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Actual Dreamers, circa 2013. Via ABC News.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (2012- ), better known as DACA, is an executive order President Obama signed that allows Dreamers (those who entered the US illegally as children) to get temporary papers so that they can legally work, drive a car, open a bank account, get student loans, etc. Most of all, it means they do not live in constant fear of the government deporting them, sending them back to countries many of them barely know.

Dreamers: They are called Dreamers because they were the object of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act for short. When after 11 years the Senate failed to pass the DREAM Act – Republicans, led by Jeff Sessions, opposed it – President Obama put as much of it into effect as he could with his presidential powers in an executive order known as DACA.

The president cannot make anyone citizen or give them a green card (permanent residency). But since he carries out the actual deportations, he can in effect promise not to deport you for a set time under certain conditions. Republicans say that DACA is unconstitutional, a case of presidential overreach, but it has withstood court challenges.

An executive order, though, is not a law. It can be overturned by the next president with the stroke of a pen. President Trump has threatened to do just that with DACA as early as March 5th 2018. To stop him, Congress would have to make DACA protections law in the next six month. It seems unlikely with Republicans in control of Congress.

Southern Strategy: Since the late 1960s Republicans have used appeals to White racism – naked appeals in the case of Trump – to get the White vote. Since most immigrants these days come from Asia and Latin America, that has made Republicans the anti-immigrant party. Not just as a matter of (racist) philosophy, but to maintain the White voting majority as long as possible. In the 2020s the number of White people will start to shrink.

To qualify for DACA you must:

  • be born on or after June 15th 1981, arriving in the US before age 16;
  • have lived in the US since June 15th 2007;
  • be in school or have a high school degree or have served in the US military;
  • not have committed a serious crime;
  • give the government your address and fingerprints (information the government promises not to use against you, though that promise may already be crumbling).

And sign up before September 5th 2017 – when Jeff Sessions, now the head of the Justice Department, said the government would no longer accept applications.

Of the estimate 1.3 million Dreamers, some 800,000 have signed up for DACA.

The “deferred action” (of not deporting you) lasts for two years, but you can renew it if you remain in good standing. Sessions says that starting October 5th you will no longer be able to renew.

Which means the 800,000 Dreamers who “came out of the shadows” could all be deported before 2020.

A protest in New York against Trump’s immigration policies, November 16th 2016. Via PFAW.

Thanks to Mary Burrell for suggesting this post.

– Abagond, 2017.

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The fried chicken stereotype

1905 postcard

1905 postcard

1906 book

1906 stereoview – for that 3-D effect!

postcard, 1900s.

Black lawmaker eating chicken in “The Birth of a Nation” (1915).

Black chicken thief toy, 1930s.

Coon Chicken Inn postcard, 1930s or 1940s.

“Yo’ next range” – General Electric ad, maybe 1930, looks like 1940s or 1950s.

Do-Nut Diner ad, 1953.

Internet meme, 2007

Obama Bucks, 2008: This was made by a Democrat to mock how Republicans think. At least some Republicans missed the parody and used it to mock Obama.

The three essential food groups, apparently.

2008 Internet meme.

This appeared on the Republican National Committee (RNC) Facebook fan page in 2009.

NBC celebrates Black History Month in 2010.

From Google Images, 2017.

From Google Images, 2017.

From Google Images, 2017.

Searches suggested by Google, 2017.

The fried chicken stereotype (by 1905) is the idea that Black people like chicken, particularly fried chicken, way more than anyone else. It is common in the US and has spread to at least Britain. It seems it had an uglier edge to it in Jim Crow times (1877-1967), but in the 2010s it is still used as a racist joke.

The US National Chicken Council asked 1,019 people in June 2015 if they had eaten chicken in the past two weeks. Of those who said yes, 13% were Black. But Blacks make up 13% of the US. Their love of chicken is completely average for an American.

The most popular fast-food chain in each state, 2016.

Chick-fil-A in 2016 was the most popular fast-food restaurant in the Blackest states of the US. But that was also true of such famously White states like Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota.

Countries with KFCs in 2014.

KFC: China has more Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants than the US. The only Black-majority nation to make the top ten is South Africa – the rest are majority White or Asian.

So there is no truth to it – as with most stereotypes.

But even if Blacks did like chicken more, so what?

A student from Zimbabwe noticed that his innocent love of fried chicken took on a dark meaning when he came to the US for his studies:

“The reality is that America adds a whole dimension to it. Everything has a meaning, albeit a different one for each person. That is why fried chicken stereotypes may be simple observation to some people; but those same stereotypes may have dark, racist connotations for some people. It is all in the context.”

In Jim Crow times eating watermelon and chicken were used to put down Black people. Watermelon and chickens have two things in common: you eat them with your hands and it is easy to picture them them being stolen.

Blacks as thieves was a part of these stereotypes in the early 1900s.

Eating with your hands: Claire Schmidt, a professor at the University of Missouri who studies race and folklore, says of chicken:

“It’s a food you eat with your hands, and therefore it’s dirty. Table manners are a way of determining who is worthy of respect or not.”

It made Blacks seem less civilized. That point was burned into White American culture by “The Birth of a Nation” (1915), the biggest film of its time. In the part of the film during Reconstruction (1865-77), when Blacks get the vote and rise to public office, Schmidt notes that:

“Some of the [Black] legislators are shown drinking. Others had their feet kicked up on their desks. And one of them was very ostentatiously eating fried chicken.

“That image really solidified the way white people thought of black people and fried chicken.”

That picture of Reconstruction was also used to deny Blacks the right to vote.

In the 2010s that background is forgotten, but the need of many Whites to put down Blacks has not not disappeared, so the stereotype lives on even though it is supported by neither fact nor reason.

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: mainly History on the Net (2012), NPR (2013), eZimbabwe (2014), MTV News (2015), National Chicken Council (2015), Business Insider (2016), Google Images (2017).

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Rosetta Stone

Click to enlarge.

The Rosetta Stone compared to the original monument.

The Rosetta Stone (written in -196, discovered in 1799) contains the same piece of writing in hieroglyphics, demotic (a simpler, handwritten form of hieroglyphics) and Ancient Greek. It became the key to reading hieroglyphics for the first time in 1400 years.

It is what remains of a decree written in stone that said King Ptolemy V should be worshipped as a god.

The last line of the Greek is the most interesting part:

“This decree shall be inscribed on a stela of hard stone in sacred [hieroglyphic] and native [demotic] and Greek characters and set up in each of the first, second, and third [rank] temples beside the image of the ever-living king.”

That meant the hieroglyphics were a translation of the Greek – and that other copies might be found! Two more were, in 1848 and 1887, the last one nearly complete. The Rosetta Stone itself is missing more than half of the hieroglyphics, but it had enough to get started.

For nearly 400 years Western scholars had been trying to read hieroglyphics, but were held back by two false assumptions:

  1. Hieroglyphics were mostly mystical, religious symbols, not a written form of Ancient Egyptian.
  2. Hieroglyphics were a form of picture writing.

It took Thomas Young to break through the first assumption, Jean-Francois Champollion to break through the second.

Part of the hieroglyphics on the Rosetta Stone. Notice how some words are circled. Those are cartouches, which have royal names.

The name Ptolemy in hieroglyphics, demotic and Greek.

The names of Ptolemy and Cleopatra compared. Notice how the signs repeat according to the sounds. Also notice how the T’s are different. That is because in Egyptian, Cleopatra was said with a D. Also notice that Cleopatra has extra signs that do not seem to stand for sounds.

Cartouches: wherever the Greek brought up King Ptolemy, the hieroglyphics circled some signs in a cartouche, a sort of rounded rectangle. By looking at cartouches, Young worked out the sounds of 13 signs (six of them he got right). But he could make no further progress because he still assumed #2: that hieroglyphics were mostly picture writing.

Champollion returning from Egypt, circa 1828.

Champollion corrected Young’s work and built on it. He noticed two things:

  1. There were more words in the Greek than there were different signs in the hieroglyphics. So it could not be straight picture writing.
  2. The sound signs he worked out based on the names of Greek kings and queens worked on Egyptian ones too. In other words, the sound signs were not just for foreign words, but for Egyptian itself!

But neither were all the signs simply sounds: even Cleopatra’s name has signs left over after you account for all the sounds.

By 1822 Champollion had worked out the basics of hieroglyphics. It helps that he knew the Coptic language, which is to Ancient Egyptian what French is to Latin.

The Rosetta Stone was found near Rashid, which the French called Rosette. It is up the coast from Al Iskandariyah (Alexandria).

Rosetta Stone, circa 1799, in the sands of Egypt, an artist’s impression.

The Rosetta Stone was found by Napoleon’s army when building a fort at a mouth of the Nile near the town of Rashid, called Rosette in French. After they were defeated by the British, the French were forced to turn over the Rosetta Stone. That is why it is at the British Museum. Egypt wants it back, but Britain will not even loan it to them.

Rosetta Stone, circa 2017, at the British Museum.

Joseph Fourier, who later became a famous scientist, had gone to Egypt with Napoleon and got a paper copy of the Rosetta Stone. In 1801, when he was back in France inspecting a school, he showed it to an 11-year-old schoolboy: Jean-Francois Champollion.

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: mainly Google Images; “The Hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt” (2003) by Aidan Dodson; “The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone” (1990) by James Cross Giblin; “Cosmos” (1980) by Carl Sagan. 

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Romeo Santos: Propuesta Indecente


This is the most successful Spanish-language song in the US of the past 30 years, according to Billboard magazine. It came out in 2013, going to #1 in Mexico, Venezuela and on Billboard’s US Hot Latin Songs chart.

On YouTube it has 1.2 billion views, comparable to Drake’s “Hot Line Bling” (2015), making it one of the 40 most watched music videos there.

Santos was born in the Bronx to Dominican and Puerto Rican parents. His style of music is bachata, which comes from the Dominican Republic.

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Hola, me llaman, Romeo
Es un placer conocerlaQué bien te ves
Te adelanto no me importa quién sea él
Dígame usted si ha hecho algo travieso alguna vez
Una aventura es más divertida si huele a peligroSi te invito una copa y me acerco a tu boca
Si te robo un besito
A ver, ¿te enojas conmigo?
Qué dirías si esta noche te seduzco en mi coche
Que se empañen los vidrios
Y la regla es que goces
Si te falto el respeto y luego culpo al alcohol
Si levanto tu falda me darías el derecho
A medir tu sensatez
Poner en juego tu cuerpo
Si te parece prudente esta propuesta indecenteA ver, a ver
Permíteme apreciar tu desnudez
(Take it off…)
Relájate que este Martini calmará tu timidez (Don’t be shy…)
Y una aventura es más divertida si huele a peligro

Si te invito una copa y me acerco a tu boca
Si te robo un besito
A ver, ¿te enojas conmigo?
Que dirías si esta noche te seduze con mi coche
Que se empañen los vidrios
Y la regla es que goces
Si te falto el respeto y luego culpo al alcohol
Si levanto tu falda me darías el derecho
A medir tu sensatez
Poner en juego tu cuerpo
Si te parece prudente esta propuesta indecente

I’m back, it feels good to be king
(Hey, listen, I know what you like…)
How about if you and I
Me and you
Bailamos bachata
Y luego
You and I
Me and you
Terminamo en la cama (Qué rico…)

How about if you and I
Me and you
Bailamos bachata
(Ayy bailamos bachata…)
Y luego
You and I
Me and you
Terminamo en la cama (Terminamo en la cama)
How about if you and I (You and I…)
Me and you (Me and you…)
You and I (You and I…)
Me and you (You…)
You and I (You and I…)
Me and you
(I’m a bad boy)
Me and you (You…)
(Ayyy chi chi…)
(Llora guitarra…)

Source: A-Z Lyrics


Jason Stockley

Jason Stockley (1980- ), a former White American police officer, shot dead a Black man, Anthony Lamar Smith, in 2011 in St Louis. On Friday September 15th 2017 Judge Timothy Wilson found him not guilty of first-degree murder – even though Stockley, just one minute before the shooting, had said:

“We’re killing this motherfucker, don’t you know?”

The gun found/planted at the scene had Stockley’s DNA on it, even under the screws, but not Smith’s, not even his fingerprints.

The judge discounted all of that, saying:

“an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly.”

And as to the “motherfucker” comment – Stockley’s lawyers said that just proved how fearful he was! Heads I win, tails you lose.

Protests lasted deep into the night, sometimes becoming violent, throwing stones and water bottles at police, injuring ten officers. A thousand people came to the mayor’s house, breaking her windows and throwing red paint.

All of this was just miles away from Ferguson, where protests turned violent in 2014 when Darren Wilson, another White police officer, got away with killing Michael Brown, also Black.

Jason Stockley was a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point. He fought in the Iraq War and then became a St Louis police officer in about 2007. He brought his AK-47 to work – and to the Smith shooting – despite police policy. He said it made him feel safer.

After the 2011 shooting the police investigated themselves and found no evidence of a crime.

In 2013 the police settled with the family for $900,000 and suspended Stockley for 30 days for the AK-47 thing. Stockley quit and went to work for an oil company in Houston, Texas.

In 2016, one day in May, while Stockley was watching television with his wife, the power went out. When he went outside he saw that only his house was affected – and that Houston police officers had their guns drawn on him.

New evidence – no one says what – had been brought forward in 2016. Stockley was wanted for first-degree murder.

Video: There was video from the police car, from Church’s Fried Chicken and from someone looking out a window.

The crime: Stockley and his partner, Brian Bianchi, saw Smith go into Church’s twice and yet come out with no food. They suspected it was a drug deal. When Smith saw the police, he took off in his car and they gave chase, sirens blaring. Three minutes later they caught up with Smith and rammed the back of his car to stop him.

For 15 seconds Stockley ordered Smith to show his hands – and then shot him five times at point blank range.

Later Stockley goes back to the police car and gets something out of a bag. He said it was to get Quick Clot to stop the bleeding. But instead of helping Smith, he goes into Smith’s car and then comes out with a gun and a bag of heroin. The heroin had Smith’s DNA on it, the gun did not.

– Abagond, 2017.

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