Category Archives: culture

New website (News, publishing, biz, entertainment…& they interviewed SPB!)

The Barker Center at Harvard: Where We Am Civvers Be Based At

Today is the launch of Felicia Pride’s newly-revised, and she asked me to talk about making the transition from working journalist and writer to PhD student. It turned into a great interview/conversation.

Please go see it here, and bookmark…it’s a good place to be!

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Filed under Academia, advice, books, business, culture, entertainment, PhD, writing

Links & Hijinks: Fat Men Do It Better; No Facebook for Harrisburg, etc…

Just some links to stuff I’ve found interesting over the past few days…Readers, you say?

  • Not Asking, Not Telling: Riverside judge declares “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” unconstitutional…policy not only violates the 1st Amendment rights of lesbians and gay men but has a “direct and deleterious effect’’ on the military…Los Angeles Times reports the story here…
  • Crazy, Sexy, Fat: According to today’s Daily Beast, fat men last longest at having sex. YES! I’ve known it all along. What we lack in quantity of partners, we more than make up for in quality of love! Read the story and get all kinds of other sex-based factoids here at The Daily Beast
  • Friend Me, Fail U?: Harrisburg University offers extra-credit for no Facebook, and basically “blacks out” social media: You can read all about it at the Chronicle of Higher Education here…
  • Children of the Manor Born: So, Jay-Z’s signing Jada and Will’s daughter to a record deal. She’s 9. Jay-Z calls her the “next Michael Jackson” or some other such ridiculousness. Check it out here at (including Ryan Seacrest interview with Willow; she hates math.)

If you haven’t heard her new song, here’s a video. It’s called “Whip My Hair” and it sounds like Rihanna. Not great “Umbrella” Rihanna. But that’s just me.

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Filed under culture, gay, music, Rihanna, video

Links and Hijinks: Ellen, Anne Rice, Dexter, Potboilers and More…

  • The Baby and the Bathwater: Anyone who saw the 4th season of Dexter knows how much the game changed—horribly so. The trailer for the new season looks fantastic…and way different than any other season of the great Showtime show about a serial killer and the masks we all wear. Nikki Finke’s Deadline has the trailer here.
  • Pulp F(r)ictions: As someone (and a soon-to-be-academic) who really wanted his novel (coming out next year, haha) to be page-turning thrill ride, who really wanted to create an accessible, fun book that appealed to many peeps and (potentially) not just the other PhDs that I know, I was fascinated by this academic’s interestingly defensive defense of the fun and pleasures of what she calls “trashy paperbacks.” Of course, one woman’s trash is another woman’s flash. And as I’ve said before, trash, obviously, is in the taste of the beholder…but I love a good high/low culture debate with my morning coffee, don’t you?
  • Brotherly Love: And finally, I just had to post this news link. It intrigues me on so many levels: thinking about how rape shield laws operate in different geographical locations; how some news orgs cover stories in interesting ways–in this case, the Alabama network obviously re-cut a second version (see vids below); that age-old  race, gender, sexuality and class “intersection” that arises when we think about public representations of black folks; and finally, why do some vids “go viral” and others don’t? Antoine Dodson, step up for your close-up:

{Thank you to Crystal Durant, teacher/blogger/dope DJ, for pointing out the above vids…you can catch her funny  bi-weekly pop culture rants at}

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Filed under books, culture, gay, theater, TV, Uncategorized

Links and Hijinks: Mad Men “origins”, “new” James Baldwin, True Blood’s Lafayette, & More Mel…

{Just a few tidbits til tomorrow…}

  • Mad Mad Mad Mad (Men) World: Next Sunday’s the day we find out what’s up with Don Draper and the gang on Mad Men…I certainly cannot wait to see what’s up a year after last year’s stunning finale. So, in honor of that return, here’s a question: is the hit show based on a 60s comic strip that no one remembers? Vanity Fair seems, jokingly,  to think so
  • New Blood: Does Nelsan Ellis, the great young, Julliard-trained actor who plays the incredible and ground-breaking character Lafayette on the terribly retrogressive (yet oddly compelling) True Blood, suffer from the typical “scared-to-play-gay” syndrome? Sure seems that way in this otherwise cute conversation between him and the crazy hot Kevin Alejandro (who I’m sorta, um, gaga for—you see what I did there?) on the set of the HBO show:

  • Sweet Baby James: And last but TRULY not least: At coffee with the calm, crazy-cool Tufts professor Christina Sharpe the other day, we agreed on the greatness that is Mr James Baldwin, chatting about his famous response to Norman Mailer with the brilliant essay “The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy”—read it YESTERDAY if you’ve never done so; you can find it in this book or this one. I walked away from that coffee date not even knowing that there’s a new collection of James’ uncollected writings, The Cross of Redemption, edited and with an intro by author Randall Kenan, being published in August! (I won’t tell you about the cartwheels I was doing about this when the guys showed up to put in my air conditioner the other day; but it was more fun than embarrassing.) If you’re a Baldwin compleatist like me, this is like Manna from wherever Heaven is, and I can’t wait to get my copy. It’ll go on the shelf next to the French import of Harlem Quartet, the final Baldwin “novel” Professor Gates gave me (which has only been published in France—hopefully that’ll see the light of an American day soon…more on that in a later post…)

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Filed under books, culture, Lady Gaga, True Blood, TV

The SCOTT TOPICS™ Mail Bag: Writing Advice, VIBE, & What I’m reading these days…

{I get a lot of email from readers—of VIBE, of HUNG, of the blog—and many of the questions I get in them overlap. I do try to get back to everyone who writes, but sometimes things, as you kn0w, get crazy—doesn’t help that I’m a full-time grad student now! So I decided to just answer a bunch of the questions I’ve gotten right here at SCOTT TOPICS™, that way I answer my mail, but also provide answers to questions others might have but haven’t gotten around to writing. Hope these answer some of your questions…!}

“Can you recommend a really good book on learning to write?” ~ T.K., Seattle

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever read any “how-to write” books! I used to love to read Writer’s Digest magazine, but that was mainly to read the interviews with writers and the invaluable business-y stuff that they publish. Oh, I did really like Stephen King’s On Writing, but that might be because I was his biggest fan from around 1979 til about 1993. He makes some good points about style and the writer’s life, but I don’t know what “lessons” I got from it per se.

That said, if I was forced to name the books that “taught” me how to write, I’d probably say these:

Anything by Joan Didion or James Baldwin or Truman Capote (for both journalistic and creative style and clarity)

Anything by Judy Blume or John Irving (for emotional truth)

Anything by Jackie Collins or Stephen King or Ross McDonald (for ace plotting and storytelling acumen)

Anything by Toni Morrison or Charles Chesnutt (for ambition)

In other words, I guess what I’m saying is, to be a good writer, I had to be a good reader. I had to pay close attention to the things that made me want to re-read them, to the books and writers who made me want to put them down and go straight to the pen or typewriter or computer. I also learned to listen to the written voice of writers,  to the rhythm of their prose, and how that rhythm informed the language to create something wonderful on the page.

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The Secret Life of Marketing?

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about “audience.” By which I mean, who buys what, and why do they buy it? Where do they buy it, and what gives them the idea to buy? I thought about this a few years ago when my book HUNG came out: it got a good amount of placement in bookstores, my publisher bought an ad in the New York Times, I got a great review in the New York Times Book Review a coupla Sundays after it came out. And though it sold decently,  it wasn’t the “HUGE” seller (no pun intended!) that my publisher expected. AND I got emails from people–mainly guys–saying that even though they found the subject matter interesting, they’d never buy my book because there was a naked guy’s torso on the cover. Wow. I was also fascinated by the fact that on Amazon, for instance, HUNG always came up in searches for gay literature. Even though there wasn’t a ton of “gay” stuff in the book. Rarely did I find it coming up in searches I did for African-American lit. Was this because of the naked guy’s torso on the cover? Who knows. All that said, I’ve been curious then, not only about “audience,” but also about marketing in general: why do certain books (or movies or TV shows or records) get funneled toward certain audiences and not others? When do—HOW do—the decisions get made to point interest in certain pop culture projects in certain directions? When does race or sexuality become the be-all and end-all of how companies decide to promote a book or movie or CD? Maybe HUNG didn’t sell as well as expected because of the cover? Because some perceived it as a “gay” book? Because white audiences weren’t interested in a book “about” the cultural ramifications of the black penis? Because it wasn’t written all that well? Because it was “too intelligent,” as one of my Amazon reviewers commented? Who can say?

Of course I’d like to think we live in a world where everything’s culturally equal—of course we do: I recall how “crossover” became a touchstone word back in the 80s, particularly around music. I’ve seen plays with black themes succeed wonderfully on Broadway, and Toni Morrison sell well AND win both the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes (and, saleswise, I remember a week in the 90s, I think, when Morrison, Alice Walker, and Terry McMillan were all on the NY Times bestseller list in the same week). I’ve seen Will Smith become the biggest movie star in the world, and hiphop become the soundtrack of suburbia. Yet for all this cultural “equality” there’s still a process of “ghettoization” that goes on in the pop culture sphere (just like in real life, one supposes), and I can’t help but think some of it has to do with who’s getting hired (still) to do the marketing for some projects. I remember when HUNG came out and I had my first meeting at Doubleday, the only black folks in the room were my editor, me, and my agent.  But there’s also apparently this sense out there that black folk like a certain kind of cultural project—and I guess, when Tyler Perry sells the tickets he sells and the street lit sells the books it sells on street corner tables everywhere, that attitude is re-confirmed. Not that there’s anything wrong with Tyler Perry or street-lit; if that’s your thing, roll on. But it’s not everyone’s thing—definitely not every black person’s thing…Aaron McGruder definitely made that point clear a coupla weeks ago…

I don’t know what the answer is. Some black work breaks on through to the other side, finding a wide audience; some black work does well catering solely to black folks; a lot of black work languishes when similar “white” work goes on to wide success. Then there’s the age-old debate as to, not only, whether black folks read or not, but also whether white folks will read a book or see a movie or play with a specifically “black” theme. I was fascinated to find that two articles in major dailies are grappling with this issue in different ways. Author Bernice McFadden wrote a stirring editorial in the Washington Post this weekend about the “ghettoization” of black literature by publishers and in bookstores, and the New York Times pubbed a piece today about how Broadway plays with black themes get marketed to black audiences.  It’s interesting how the concepts overlap, yet diverge in very telling ways.

Bernice McFadden’s essay, click here.

New York Times piece, click here.

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Filed under books, culture, Race, theater

Bigotry Begins At Home

Over at the website Queerty, the editors investigated the ways in which many businesses and their owners discriminate against their gay employees by not allowing partner’s benefits or supporting anti-gay legislation. They think you should know who the worst offenders are so you don’t accidently give your hard-earned cash to one of them. It’s an interesting mix. And a few surprises. 

What do you think? Click here to see the list.

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