Happy In Bag

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Yo Chuck!

Chuck D can talk. And talk. And talk.

The rap icon and provocative activist lectured for over two hours on "Race, Rap and Reality" at Penn Valley Community College on Wednesday night.

I only learned of the event Wednesday evening via a mention on KPRS. I immediately dropped all of my plans- Chuck D is serious business. It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back changed my world view twenty years ago, and Chuck has continued to inspire me ever since. Public Enemy's "Harder Than You Think" was my second-favorite song of 2007.

The introduction provided by the college's president indicated that the event was specifically designed for black men enrolled at the institution. Yet the majority of the 100 or so people in attendance were old-school PE fans.

I disagreed with over half of Chuck's assertions last night. Even so, I wholeheartedly embrace the sensibility behind his beliefs. Besides, Chuck isn't just one of the smartest guys in hip hop; his is one of the most valuable intellects in America.

While he often came across as a crank, sort of like Bill Cosby's cantankerous nephew, Chuck was never less than fully engaging.

Here are a few of his choice quotes:

*On why he'd rather see Barack Obama serve as vice president under Hillary Clinton than win the election: "Barack Obama is the perfect person for the job, but it's just the wrong job for the time."

*On how an Obama presidency would change perceptions: "If Obama gets to be President, that ghetto pass will be revoked."

*On Kansas City: "Kansas City has been the heartbeat of black America."

*On the lack of arts eduction in schools: "The curriculum is twisted... when you got people in Japan and Russia who know Kansas City's music history and kids here have no idea."

*On the state of the music industry: "Record companies are over... The world is digital- it's all evened out."

*On J-Lee of Kansas City's Heet Mob: "He changes the temperature of the room." (Chuck added that J-Lee and KRS-One are his two favorite MCs.)

*On music by the likes of Soulja Boy: "When music just hangs at a 12-year-old level, it doesn't have the intelligence to set you free."

*On his lengthy career: "I'm the Satchel Page of rap- by the time you heard me I was past my prime."

*On the importance of independent thinking: "Hold on to your own minds, because minds are the real estate of the new millenium."

*His wacky conspiracy theory involving prison labor: "The only thing that's going to bring the economy back up is slavery again."

*On the way power brokers perceive black America: "It's mind over matter- they don't mind because we don't matter."

*About Flavor Flav's status as a clown: "You know us black families- there's always one."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Inspired by a wonderful feature in Sunday's Star, I explored Quindaro earlier this week. I was shocked by the historic area's condition. Read about my adventure here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Pants-Off Pity Party

The horror! I tried on every pair of pants I own Saturday morning. About four pair fit perfectly. Another set can be worn as long as I don't tuck in my shirt. But most of my slacks will require me to lose ten to fifteen pounds if I'm to ever wear them again. No beer or burritos? I'm not sure that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Aiding and Abetting

Maintaining my birdfeeders is perhaps my most whimsical activity. It's embarrassing to confess that I'm emotionally attached to the members of my outdoor aviary. Helping them survive the winter months brings me cheer. So I'm torn when hawks swoop in for a kill. I'm complicit in each brutal murder. Still, it's an unbelievably cool thing to witness.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sunday Sunday Sunday

Avoiding politics and religion is a Happy In Bag tradition. Yet I'm tired of waiting in vain for a pundit to articulate an observation I've made about the Barack Obama phenomenon. So here I go breaking my self-imposed rules.

I've been baffled by people who express awe and wonder at Obama's skill as an orator. I consider him just another good speaker.

I now realize why so many people are enchanted by this politician's speeches while I'm left indifferent. I hear extended monologues that are superior to Obama's stump speech almost every time I attend church. My house of worship features a regular rotation of exceptional speakers from a wide variety of denominations and backgrounds. Almost by definition, their message is infused with hope, optimism and promise.

A large percentage of Obama disciples- the ones who cite his inspirational delivery as his primary appeal- don't attend religious services. Unaccustomed to hearing gifted orators preach from a pulpit, they find Obama's approach disarmingly fresh and innovative. This is definitely the case among the most ardent Obama supporters in my immediate circle of friends, family and co-workers.

These converts fail to realize that the Senator's impassioned cadence and ambitious concepts- including the "audacity of hope"- are standard contemporary Christian precepts.

In no way do I intend to slight Obama's speaking style or principles. In fact, given my faith, I'm very comfortable with his format. But even Obama must sometimes shake his head at the ease by which he's winning over an incognizant electorate.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Best Defense

I'm surrounded. Sick people are unavoidable this winter. Their hacking, sneezing and sniffing can seem like a deliberate plot to infect me. Yet I've managed to avoid contracting the revolting plague. My secret? I guzzle this Airborne product whenever I detect a slight scratch in my throat. And even though I don't care for the inferior produce available in this wintry area, I choke down as much citrus as my stomach allows.

Monday, February 18, 2008


It's a Happy In Bag first- I'm suffering from blogger exhaustion. After pouring my guts out about societal elitism here and playing with Google's new toy over here, I have nothing left to offer. I'm going to work on real life for the next day or two.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Pronounced Limp

I reckon that I've been recovering from my injury at the rate of one percent a day. That puts me at somewhere around seventy-five percent. I walk with a pronounced limp. But I am walking- that's progress. So is the fact that I haven't popped a pill- not even an Aleve- in several days. Sure it hurts. But it's no longer the kind of dehabilitating pain that caused me to numb myself to the point where I pointlessly played with photo effects, as I did in early January. This is my brain on Vicodin.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dashboard Confessional

It's a kinky habit. I feel compelled to study the contents of vehicles in parking lots. It's disappointing when I park next to a car that's free of debris. So stashes like this are goldmines. Why is that article taped to the dashboard? Mr. Pibb! Hmm- a devoted reader of the Pitch. What does the driver plan to do with that milk bottle tab? And is that a Ron Paul pamphlet?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tried and True

Although it was the first establishment in Kansas City to serve dim sum, Bo Lings has never inspired me to sing its praises. I consider the local chain a safe- albeit somewhat pricey- choice. My first visit to their relatively new City Market location clarified my opinion. I now understand that the primary difference between Bo Lings and its countless competitors isn't unique recipes or the kitchen staff's preparation skills. It's Bo Lings' reliance on fresher, higher quality ingredients that makes all the difference.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The One That Got Away

Although I knew that the most intriguing jazz artist in Kansas City picked up a weekend gig at the Golden Ox's lounge, until last weekend I hadn't darkened the door of the steak house since I left my West Bottoms job a couple years ago. The profoundly masculine room is an ideal setting for Loren Pickford's trio. Even as he's shackled to a cocktail jazz format Pickford can't restrain himself from occasionally wailing like this. He also covers Tom Waits' skid row saga "The One That Got Away" with weary authority. It's the real deal.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Right Under the Platte City Water Tower

While it looks little different than similar structures, the Platte City water tower enjoys semi-legendary status among long-time Kansas City residents. It's possibly the area's most overlooked landmark. Television viewers of a certain age will never forget the affected hillbilly screech of Sonny Hill, who proclaimed that his now defunct car dealership was "right under the Platte City water tower."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Nerds Like Me

I was sold even before the music started. DJ Shadow offered a lengthy spoken introduction that included a heartfelt shout-out to the Music Exchange. A few minutes later he and collaborator Cut Chemist tossed Kansas City, Kansas, resident Marva Whitney into the mix. The celebrated DJs could have stopped there and I would have been content. It was reassuring to discover that the artists on stage at the VooDoo were even bigger music nerds than me. I shot this footage to share with friends who couldn't be there on the snowy Tuesday night.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dribble Penetration Dot Com

It's an odd compulsion for a guy who can't design a decent web page. I buy web domains. I often add the words "dot com" to interesting phrases to test their viability. Last night, for example, I witnessed Missouri's excellent dribble penetration against Kansas' porous defense. Rather than obsessing over the score, I considered the merits of acquiring www.dribblepenetration.com. It's available, and would be an ideal title for an edgy examination of March Madness. But I'd already hit my weekly spending limit, so I didn't grab it. Consider this idea a gift to Happy In Bag readers. I don't want to think about what you'll do with it.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Revelator

One of the few benefits of aging is the breathtakingly fresh perspectives provided by the passage of time. It can take decades to fully comprehend that nothing is permanent.

The evolution of my relationship with Corky serves as an example. As a clueless teenager I was awed by his gruff demeanor when I bought albums from him at Caper's Corner record store. He was in his twenties, but from a fifteen-year-old's vantage point, he resembled Methuselah. He went on to live my dream when he opened an eponymous retail shop. The dynamics changed again when I worked as a sales rep and Corky was one of my clients.

Now our relationship is free of financial considerations and the difference in our ages is negligible. One of his hobbies is photography. One of mine is promoting and commenting on Kansas City's jazz scene. Accordingly, I suggested he check out a group of old-timers Friday evening. The results are amazing.

That fifteen-year-old punk never could have imagined it.

Friday, February 01, 2008


One of the simple delights offered by Chinese eateries is the traditional meal-end fortune cookie. The cardboard cookie taste isn't the attraction; it's all about the fortune. So imagine the consternation of my companion when he recently received this message: "A carrot a day, may keep cancer away." Bummer. What happened to meeting an attractive stranger? Or a warning about an unexpected visitor? He might even have settled for a lousy lucky number.