The Bridge

Constituting distinctions between rappers is a tall order for someone who possesses minimal knowledge regarding the genre, and exceptionally thus when that order is to name two of the most creative within that artistic endeavor. While reading a scholarly work recently, I stumbled upon an amazing citation by Jacqueline Jones Royster who writes, “What we choose to showcase depends materially on where on the landscape we stand and what we have in mind.” , from where we landscape anew introspectively from the frame of our own journey. This being said, the subjective point of reference would be on the two firmly and presently planted in my terrestrial view as the most creative, namely: Michael Santiago Render and Jaime Meline, aka Killer Mike and El-P respectively, of Run the Jewels, and Dominique Armani Jones, aka Lil Baby. Run the Jewels demonstrates their creative prowess by capturing the evolution of raw emotion and powerful sentiment into that of savage gorilla warfare in their work “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” featuring Zack De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine where they write, ” ‘Bout to turn this mothafucka up like Riker’s Island, bruh / Where my thuggers and my crippers and my blooders and my brothers? / When you niggas goin’ unite and kill the police motherfuckers? / … / We killin’ them for freedom ’cause they tortured us for boredom / And even if some good ones die, fuck it, the Lord’ll sort ’em.” The message is further creatively tempered by a brilliant and highly acclaimed video of the same title directed by A. G. Rojas, which depicts a white police officer embroiled in a physical struggle with a black young man over seemingly nothing but the struggle itself; the struggle of the police officer to win by apprehension juxtaposed against the black young man’s strife to remain free. The release of this song and the video in October of 2014 were against the backdrop of the recent deaths of Eric Garner (July 17, 2014), Michael Brown (August 9, 2014), and Tamir Rice (November 22, 2014) at the hands of police in conjunction with the growing influence and amplified message of the Black Lives Matter movement. Years later, Lil Baby has become another voice of creative genius in his powerful song and video “The Bigger Picture”, which shows the strife between police and African Americans and other voices in their outcry for justice and change in the actual footage of riots in the streets, interlaced with images of the human side of the movement and those men, women, and children behind those voices invoking change. Already establishing himself as a creative and powerful rapper, he presses and states that he wants to use this power to effect positive change pointing to the fact that he understands there is reflection and change needed in both worlds, but that “It’s bigger than black and white / It’s a problem with the whole way of life / It can’t change overnight / But we gotta start somewhere / Might as well gon’ ‘head start here.” Both Run the Jewels and Lil Baby have established themselves as powerful and creative voices within the industry and both have used their voice to promote justice and change regarding the policing of society. It’s a difficult but necessary endeavor to stand on the same landscape with the in mind that bridges will need to be built over what seem to be impossible impasses at times therefore, these two get my vote as most creative for being willing to — jump into the fray / in a very productive way.

Rowlett Police – Youth Activities League

As a final project, I chose to address an issue near and dear to my heart. After years of experience working with church youth groups, volunteering for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, being an assistant boxing coach, and even being a camp director for children with various disabilities; serving young people and exhorting them towards greater character and higher success has always been a part of who I am. Starting just such a program in Rowlett, Texas has been a evolving idea in my mind and growing passion in my heart. So here is the beginning of it…

Below are some links to different media I have created to better promote this idea to my command staff, and to the community. Any feedback is always appreciated, so please feel free to drop me a note and let me know what you think!

https://rowlettpoliceyal.wixsite.com/website

https://www.facebook.com/RowlettPoliceYAL

I had a pretty short deadline, so there were a few technical difficulties with posting the YouTube video, primarily that it cut my video about 2 or 3 minutes short. But for now it works. I will be continuing to update, edit and create more content regarding this program, so stay tuned! – Officer Mike Davison #1182, Rowlett Police Department

Fiction to Faction

The young man, only barely past his fourteenth birthday, wanders the dirt path between small homes in varying degrees of disrepair.  The small enclave of homes with their stained and off-white colored walls, pierced intermittently with sun-aged timber crossing each other vertically and horizontally as support for squared sections of waddle and daub; borders his hometown’s small open market. 

The tremble and pain of his empty stomach hazards his presence in this place only for the serendipity of finding a few rancid scraps of Harte Eyer or Gut Lembratten, which he happened upon three days prior, serving as his most recent meal.  The wound on his right hand, still swollen and drumming with pain, was from the fresh bite of an emaciated and ravenous dog from which he had wrestled this last meal.  The tremendous discomfort of the wound, strained already from the chapped and splitting skin of his hands and feet, was precipitated by what seemed to be endless nights exposed to the unbearable cold of the barn where he would secret his restless slumber.

Often overshadowing the pangs within his abdomen, is the grief from the loss of his father to a gangrenous leg only four months earlier; the boy quietly weeps again at the memory of his mother and three younger siblings leaving only weeks hence with her new husband.  “A marriage of necessity.”, she had whispered to him during their last embrace.  His father had been a lowly shoemaker, skillfully and diligently working his craft to provide for his family.  The very shoes that adorned Peter’s feet now were his father’s craftsmanship that he had pieced together from scraps and bits he cautiously secreted from Herr Wittig’s shop.

The shame that Peter forced back, often evoked anger, even rage at the public diminishing of his father to a common thief.  The unfortunate happenstance of Frau Wittig’s discovery of the theft of mere oddments had caused his father’s incarceration.  Though the theft was petty, Peter’s father had suffered injury while jailed, and without treatment, the laceration to his leg had come to infection, ultimately causing his untimely demise.  Peter loved him dearly, and the sheer thought of his father’s sojourn in purgatory would rupture his soul into uncontrollable sobs.

French Painter Portrait of a Monk in Prayer, Oil on wood; Overall 13 1/4 x 9 1/2 in. (33.7 x 24.1 cm); painted surface 13 1/8 x 9 1/2 in. (33.3 x 24.1 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fletcher Fund, 1937 (37.155) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/436337

Peter abandoned his search for sustenance as he rounded the corner into the open market and noticed a small crowd gathered around a particularly tall man at their center.  Unmistakably, he recognized the man as a Christian monk, wearing a brown, woolen tunic with a scapular cowl.  The contrast of the man’s severe and hardened countenance conflicted with what he believed a monk should look like, but his desire for a message of hope, or even more the mercy of a meal, compelled him to approach and listen closely to what this man had to say.  

As he tilted his ear intently, he indeed found hopeful words.  Words that instantly lifted his spirits higher than his spirits had been, long since the warm embrace of his father, comforting him after a fall.  His skin flushed with new life at the memory of his father, and goose pimples adorned his arms and neck as he listened to the message of this seemingly kind-hearted monk. 

Quickly, he ran from the gathering to the other end of the market where he was able to gain the German marks he required.  Firmly in his hand, he ran with naked feet back through the market to where the monk was preparing to leave.  Peter’s heart raced as he fell at the monk’s feet.  His head bowed to the dirt and his eyes stinging with sweat, Peter raised his arm and extended his open palm to the monk.  Peter flinched in surprise as he felt the marks being taken from his hand, and his heart leapt with joy when he felt the parchment that had taken its place.  The elation and joy that he felt was more filling than the finest foods; and was more comforting than the most intricately crafted shoes — even those by his father’s hands.

A While Ago…

Although this is a fictional story I penned for affect, it must be at least somewhat representative of what Martin Luther must have seen regularly, and occurrences that must have been fundamental to his driving passion to reject several teachings and practices within the Roman Catholic Church at the time.  Luther, an Augustinian monk, and among many other titles, a theology professor at the University of Wittenburg refused to renounce his teachings and writings as demanded by Pope Leo X by posting the Ninety-Five Theses, or Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, when he nailed them to the door of the castle church of Wittenburg in 1517.  His primary purpose at the time was to initiate academic discussion, but instead challenged the Pope which ultimately led to his ex-communication from the church and to being condemned as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.  

At odds with the church he had loved, he was further inspired to translate the Bible to the German language, thereby making it more accessible to all – an event that had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture, and influenced the writing of an English translation of Bible called the Tyndale Bible.

I’m No Theologian

An exhaustive analysis of Martin Luther and his work will not be forthcoming, but his impact in history and the movements his work birthed, serve as a key example of how making truth and information available to society as a whole is more than important. 

The merge of the Catholic Church with the Roman Empire long before his time turned the church into a very powerful entity that is still wide-reaching in its influence today.  As with any entity with power, the pursuit to expand and maintain that power often involves quashing antagonists and dissenters.  But with this breach, Luther forever changed the Christian church, forever changed the world, and seemingly pathed the way for how society at large views the freedom of access to information.

The democratization, or freedom, of information and its availability, has been and will continue to be the primary mechanism by which we, as a people, initiate the academic discussions necessary to cultivate social justice, combat systemic racism, and propagate the pathways to equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout society.  As the journey of freed truth and information continues to rise and expand, so adversely will the weapons and powers against it.  No longer by direct means or force, such as the burning of books and condemnation of heretics, but by the written swords and spoken battle-axes of labeling, and the effective withdrawal of affection and sponsorship.

There is no argument garnered here that gatekeepers aren’t essential and appropriate, but gates are designed to be opened.   Furthermore, this essay is not an exhaustive or scholarly work that holds excessive amounts of water when put to the test.  However, I think it conclusory that the proverbial bathwater with any of my points as a layperson, is this:  I would not have even been able to complete this short essay within the short deadline given if the primary premise was contrary to the availability of a plethora of free (democratic) information available on the internet — resources most notably found on Wikipedia itself.


 

Convert to Converse and Salute to Solitude

As a police officer of 12 years, the number of disturbance calls I answer have seemingly grown exponentially and in direct correlation to society’s growing love affair with their phones, especially as it relates to the use of social media. Many disturbance calls are rooted in breakdowns of communication; fragmentations that were years in the making, and that frequently carry the expectation of mediation or resolution within a single 30 minute interaction with a police officer. While this supposition is unrealistic, its worthwhile to discuss a couple points that were presented in a TED talk Connected, but alone?, by Sherry Turkle, an MIT sociologist and New York Times bestselling author.

Are we in trouble?

The hypothesis that Turkle presents is that technology has evolved into devices that are so psychologically powerful that they no longer just change what we do, they change who we are. That although we are more connected then ever, the connections that are typically made through social media and other technologies short change our ability to have actual conversations with each other.

We have all been to restaurants or other public areas where only minimal observation skills are necessary to find a family or other group of people sharing company, but who have their eyes firmly fixed in a death grip with their phones. This speaks to the reality that we can be connected, and yet disconnected at the same time.

The Problem Is…

According to Turkle, one of the core issues with our new connectedness, yet diminishing skills at in-depth conversations, is that it comes arm in arm with the deprivation of solitude and self-reflection. This rings true in light of the ever-increasing market of books, courses, and yes — apps geared towards self-awareness and self-reflection.

Empathy is a fundamental need in a viable community and is beneficial to the entire world of global citizens. Granting that self-awareness and self-reflection are not the only exigencies for the development of empathy, but they are certainly foundational building blocks.

That being said, I believe that any effort to improve communication, or in the least, to control or set boundaries for it’s impediments; will be boundless toward improving all types of relationships. My guess is it should also have an impact on the number of disputes and domestic disturbances that police are called on for solutions, which can at times be insufficient and depend heavily on the empathy and communication skills of the responding officer.

Give Me Some Skin

A

The creation of art, or the exercise of any craft, often positions an artist’s finished work near and dear to their heart.   Where the motivation of artists can vary widely, it is arguable whether their initial motivation is invariably rooted in billowing lucre – albeit, the crowns of affluence and notoriety are definitively potent motivators.  Specifically, the emerging issue of tattoo artwork as intellectual property (IP) has gained steam as tattoos have increasingly become a part of the mainstream American culture, and as the practitioners thereof accrete remunerative careers within and without their original craft.  On April 28th of 2011, plaintiff S. Victor Whitmill filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Warner Bros. regarding the use of his artwork in the popular movie, The Hangover 2, hence posing the question of whether an artist should be paid multitudinously for the display and reproduction of their original artwork, including any derivative thereof.    

In a note published in the Southern California Law Review [Vol. 85:1137 – 1176] Who Owns Your Skin:  Intellectual Property Law and Norms Among Tatoo Artists, Matthew Beasley, the owner of Beasley Law Group PC, wrote that the purpose of copyright law is intended to protect an artist and their work by giving them control over the copying and dissemination of their work.  Beasley points out that the United States Constitution grants “limited monopoly power” with the intent to incentivize the continued creation of art, by balancing the underproduction of art with this limited power with the copyright and patent clause. 

I’d Rather Have Dinars

From this perspective, what should be said about Mr. Whitmill’s irreparable injuries and demand for monetary damages, and a share of Warner Bros.’s “unjust gains”, as he asserts in the Whitmill v. Warner Brothers lawsuit?  On one hand, the tattoo on Mike Tyson’s face is a finished work of art consistent with a work for hire, much like hiring an independent contractor to complete a specific job. The contractor doesn’t usually expect to be paid twice, even when the value of their finished work increases in value. 

On the other hand, Warner Bros.’s derivative replication of a famous tattoo with no regard to the original artist or canvas was careless in ways that boggle the mind.  Surely, Warner Bros. has a lawyer or two on staff who could have given proper advice, irregardless of existing legal precedent.  Any large tattoo on the character’s face would seem to have held similar value under the circumstances.

While an in-depth analysis of copyright law goes well beyond the scope of this post, a conclusory argument that Whitmill was entitled to some sort of compensation goes without saying.  And this is exactly what Whitmill and Warner Bros. did when they settled the suit for an undisclosed amount.  Based on the carelessness of Warner Bros. in this case,  a summary amount of five times the normal compensation of other hired artists for The Hangover 2 would seem fair, but I’m guessing that I am in the minority among litigators.

Marital Landmines of the Otherwise Well-to-Do

Whether deep in the rapture of dawning nuptials or on the back nine of matrimonial bliss, it is not a far stretch of the imagination to visualize marriage as a terrain to be navigated with careful cognizance.  This terrain can ofttimes be characterized as a dangerous one; full of snares, traps, and yes, even landmines.  In light of memorable stories in the media, like Ben Affleck’s beyond coital relations with his nanny, Christine Ouzuonian, or Gavin Rossdale’s nanny-romance causing the effectual dissolution of his marriage to Gwen Stefani; it begs the question of whether the attractiveness of various home helpers are landmine decisions — scattered about the connubial terra firma. 

Bringing Sand to the Beach

Tamika Frye, a contributor for MadameNoire, has taken up the gauntlet of informing families towards the creation of processes intended to establish pertinent boundaries, and thereby more intentionally defining what everyone’s role is within the home. 

In an interview on CBS2 Los Angeles, she stated, “If you do hire a hot nanny, just know that you’re bringing ‘sand to the beach ‘ so to speak.” Later in the interview, she added, “You’re bringing your competition into your house and she’s gonna take the place of where you’re not, and that’s very appealing to a lot of men.” 

Nannies are not the only home help to be suspect; there are also the hot gardeners and sexy “pool boys”, and impressionable babysitter narratives that are played out in everything from sitcoms to steamy porn skits.  Circumspect consideration would seem par for the course when making decisions to employ anyone who is intended to roam the innermost circles of your life.  

To Be or Not to Be

Many articles have been written entertaining the premise that the world is tilted in favor of those who are easy on the eyes, both professionally and otherwise.  Even the less than prudent can grasp that unnecessary temptation and/or the obstinate construction of obstacles in life are not conducive to long-lasting relationships.  Nevertheless,  it hardly seems fair to eliminate a candidate on appearance alone. 

Where insecurity or lack of self-government are extant obstructions in a marriage, a proper conclusion would be to avoid hiring attractive home help, but not with inexorable finality.  Appropriate communication of standards and criteria should be part of the interviewing and deliberations process when considering domestic help.  And, with an ever-increasing amount of searchable advice on the internet, developing a good process merits promise and hope — if indeed your choice is beauty over beast.  At least for those who are well-to-do.

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