NaBloPoMo 2016 – Day 2 (Blunt Force Politics)

I get it. The media is selling us an election as much as they’re covering one. It’s not as much that they’re putting time and energy into covering something in the public interest as they’re engaged in a race and a fight themselves for eyeballs and advertisers. That’s the news game and between the uncertainty of print and online, I get the push to make the most money, the quality of the information being disseminated — not always the most important consideration. It’s feed for the growing fetishization of politics in America.

Perhaps if the majority of information I see coming at me were about policy as much as pussy and who’s saying it and who’s grabbing it; if it were as much about ideas as ideology and not the same staid politics and talking points, it might not be as loathsome. It might not feel like I’m being constantly beaten over the head with the same talking points over and over.

My mentor emailed me the other day talking about the election and his thought that Trump might win. I replied because I’ve always enjoyed talking about a wide range of subjects with him, including politics, but a wave of gladness and gratitude washed over me when, after a while, it came to me he probably wasn’t going to reply about it. I’m just tired of it all. I was tired months ago when he’d come to my desk to offer his latest prognostication.

Next Tuesday can’t come soon enough. At least then, the commercials will be gone, even if the fallout from the election will be just starting, whatever form it takes. My mentor and I can get back to mostly discussing ideas, which are far more satisfying.

I’m looking forward to local elections, specifically the mayoral election in Baltimore. Sheila Dixon, still convinced she does or will have a mandate, regardless of the outcome of the Democratic primary, is mounting a write-in campaign against Catherine Pugh (D), Joshua Harris (G), and Alan Walden (R). (I saw a huge setup for her over at Northern Parkway and Park Heights).

The next Mayor will be the first to deal with the long-term ramifications of Freddie Gray, the loss of the Red Line, and the acceptance of the Port Covington TIF, among many other issues facing the City. I know personality will enter into the election, but ultimately, the choices that we have aren’t being tainted and tarred by scandals and soundbites, but solely about which direction the City should move in. But here at the local level, there’s no large scale advertising to be sold, no race to the bottom for TV ratings. It’s truly a relief.

National Book Lovers Day

National Book Lovers Day. Going to answer some questions I saw on Twitter earlier.

The Fire Next Time.

I always find myself talking about this book. Each time I’m asked what my favorite book is or if someone asks for a book I think they should read, for whatever reason, I always come back to it. Specifically the Letter from a Region of My Mind.

I think it’s one of the best essays ever written, if I may humbly say so. Baldwin not only sketches a broad picture of Black life in the early 1960’s, he places himself and his particular life and pains and joys in this world, creating a more complete and vibrant image of it was like to be Black back then. One that is still relevant today.

But the policemen were doing nothing now. Obviously, this was not because they had become more human but because they were under orders and because they were afraid. And indeed they were, and I was delighted to see it. There they stood, in twos and threes and fours, in their Cub Scout uniforms and with their Cub Scout faces, totally unprepared, as is the way with American he-men, for anything that could not be settled with a club or a fist or a gun. I might have pitied them if I had not found myself in their hands so often and discovered, through ugly experience, what they were like when they held the power and what they were like when you held the power.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1962/11/17/letter-from-a-region-in-my-mind

My favorite part, and probably my most favorite sections of any book, ever, is when he has dinner at the home of Elijah Muhammad. I was going to talk about why I love it so much, but you have to go read it, if you haven’t. Perhaps, you’ll like it to.

The last book I read cover to cover? Probably a play. I can’t think of one right now, since my books are scattered between here and home. I often read a book, jump to another book, come back, go back and read previous chapters. So I haven’t really read one in a long time. Even on my “Now” page, I’m not reading the books whose titles I post there, cover to cover.

I should read a book cover to cover.

Genre is one of those things that’s more suited for the bookstore than for the bookshelf at home, but I will say Essay. If that’s not acceptable to you, consider it to be Creative Nonfiction, even though that encompasses several genres. Otherwise, put me down for drama. Then poetry.

It’s like recommending a way to prepare chicken, but I’ll give it a try just the same — Reality Hunger by David Shields. Ask me another time of day and I’ll give another title. How about Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones? Book of Days by Lanford Wilson? (I did a scene from that in an acting class. Had a ball).

I think I’ll do some reading tonight. Perhaps Baldwin’s Letter.

Five Things – 16 June 2016

1.

With iOS 10, Apple has made the phone carrier less necessary than ever

Apple desperately wants to wrest as much control of the iPhone from the phone carriers, and with iOS 10 it has taken another important step to making those network providers into dumb pipes.

Source: www.imore.com/apple-ios-10-goodbye-carriers?utm_medium=slider

 

Caught this after the initial news about WWDC. The way it’s going to function, I really like. I hope this functionality reaches the iPad, since I often use mine to make and receive calls.

But I moreso like the statement that this new functionality makes. Apple is turning their iPhone into a phone for all voice services, not just calls made over your provider’s “voice” network. If you want to use Facebook Messenger or perhaps, Viber, or some other 3rd party VoIP service, you can do that more or less the way you do now with “regular” calls over your provider’s “voice” network. Those services work now, but they’ll be more integrated into the usual ways calls are made and received.

VoIP used over data-only plans is the future. In a world where you’re Tweeting and Facebooking, watching video on YouTube or Vimeo, and perhaps FaceTiming or Duo-ing (I really am stopping here, I promise), privileging voice “minutes” will be a ridiculous and unacceptable way to pay for the usage of a smartphone (or tablet). Voice will be just another type of data that you’re consuming, not a separate and more important usage of your device.

I don’t expect the carriers to change overnight, but change they must. I imagine quite a few people my age and older (and perhaps some younger) consider the idea of paying for talking minutes to be perfectly reasonable, probably because we’ve done it for a long time and we’re used to it. Remember how we used to pay for long-distance calling? Do cell phone payment plans remind you of something?

However, much younger people (and older folks who have adapted) who have grown up on first, unlimited calling to cell phones (remember that, too?) and then, pretty much unlimited minutes to any phone, and then on top of that, all manner of video and voice chat over both cell phone data and Wi-Fi, don’t have any fond memories of opening up their telephone bill and flipping to the long distance section. Or of buying calling cards. They’ll probably consider the idea of buying a certain amount of voice minutes as ridiculous as I do now because they’re not spending most of their time talking on the phone as such. The data they use to post status updates and Snapchat is what they’ll be interested in. Cell carriers will have to adjust accordingly.

What Apple is doing now in iOS 10 is portending this future. Cell carriers will become data pipes, just like ISPs, which is probably why we see so many of them now jumping into the content generation business because soon, the real money and power will be in driving you towards their content, not just giving you the means to get online.

Even the idea of having a telephone number is becoming anachronistic to me. I was talking to a loved one a few weeks ago about giving up telephone numbers entirely. I don’t think telephone numbers will fully go away anytime soon. How will you be able to dial 9-1-1 and how will your older relatives who know dialing telephone but not using Hangouts get in contact with you? But folks of a certain age, who may or may not even use SMS, won’t give it much importance at some point. I hardly do. I just can’t get everybody to message me on Hangouts or iMessage. Which brings me to …

2.

Seems I’m not the only one who wants iMessage on Android.

An Apple exec explains why it won’t happen. And not everyone else thinks it’s a good idea.

Apple makes a ton of money selling you hardware. And they make money selling you music subscriptions, but you can get that on Android (not that I want it, regardless of platform). The Wired article makes a business case for Apple to bring iMessage over to Android. Part of the argument is using iMessage as an enticement to come fully over to Apple. I’m not sure it would work that way –I hope it would– but I’m not sure.

I do have an alternate thought. Apple keeps iMessage inside of their walled garden. I’m sure they’d love for me to ditch my Android devices, Chromebook, and Windows laptop and gear out with a Macbook and iPhone. I might get a Macbook, but I’m never getting an iPhone as I hate them (for whatever reason). But I’m also not giving up my iPad. I’m a sort of inbetweener, platform agnostic.

I like to think of myself as a good case for iMessage on Android. Yes, I have an iPad and I would like to have one for the foreseeable future. I regularly communicate with folks in iMessage. But I don’t want to carry my iPad around everywhere. So it would be nice to be able to stay in communication in iMessage, regardless of which device I’m using. I know others who have just iPods and use those to iMessage and FaceTime their iPhone user friends and relatives, instead of being able to just pick up their Android phones. It seems like most of the people I know who don’t have iPhones or Macs but use iMessage still have some gateway device that’s brought them inside of Apple’s walled garden. Could Apple use iMessage on Android to keep you buying at least one Apple device even if you don’t want others? I don’t know. I just know they’re not thinking that way. They want you all the way in. And they’ve made billions doing that, so I don’t expect them to necessarily change.

Besides, with them now giving 3rd party apps the same sort of privileges of the phone dialer, I have to wonder how much longer messaging will be important to them in any way. Even as the messenger wars heat up. It’s hard to tell right now. But if Facebook can make the kind of money some think they might make being cross-platform, maybe that’s something that will change Apple’s mind.

3.

I had to look up how to format a form/block letter. Might have been a brain fart, but I was drawing a blank. I should format email that way just to stay in practice. Writing formal letters might also be a fun writing exercise.

4.

Tough news coming out of Flushing.

I’m still thinking about it and trying not to think that this is the end. If so, it makes losing last year’s World Series that much more painful. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on it later.

Ravens cut Eugene Monroe. Really welcome to Baltimore, Ronnie Stanley. You’re definitely starting.

Up off exit 16W (see, Jersey folks, I can speak your language a bit) in the swamp, Jerry Reese couldn’t see fit to do business with Ozzie and trade someone to get Monroe, so he just waited for the inevitable cut to go in and try to make a move. And that’s good for them. Their offensive line’s been trash, even if some of their fans take everything out on Eli. Two titles haven’t bought him the benefit of the doubt, unfortunately.

And the Giants are cool with Monroe’s weed advocacy. That’s always a plus. In New Jersey.

Back at Birdland, the O’s are still mashing dingers (baseball lingo). AJ had one tonight in Boston. It’s a good season to be an O’s fan again. My birthday gift to myself may be another O’s hat. Or perhaps this fine hat that also happens to have my initials as the logo.

5.

Off to a writing conference next week. My regular blog topics, aside from Five Things, are on hold until I get back, but I will be blogging from there. I have to get up everyday at like 6:30AM, so there will definitely be something to write about.

Bonus:

It’s been a tough stretch of days in Orlando. Even if you’re not a praying person, please continue keeping a good thought out for that area. Same for the family of this little girl killed earlier, run over by a stolen car.

In Love With TIF

In middle school, some of my classmates insisted I had a crush on a girl named Tiffany. Though this Tiffany was indeed cute, I did not have a crush on her. One could say I was in the initial throws of falling in love –as much as someone 13 years old or younger can– with someone else.

Some twenty-five or more years later, someone has indeed fallen in love with Tiff. Or rather, TIFs. That someone is the very City of Baltimore.

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Tax increment financing. What is a TIF? How do TIFs work?

Back in the Land of Pleasant Living, the most recent TIF, as I alluded to in my last post, has gone to Michael Beatty’s Harbor Point development. In a nutshell, the City floated $107M in bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements at Harbor Point, which, among other things, is the new home for Exelon, the owner of the local electrical utility.

Beatty himself bought a bunch of the bonds, therefore he’s benefiting from the interest paid on said bonds. So the City is, in a sense, taking out a loan to pay for infrastructure from his project, and by purchasing some of the bonds, Beatty has become one of the loaners of this money. Baltimore will be paying him back with interest for infrastructure the City has paid and will be paying for, on this project.

Well, not all. Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Brew are reporting that there have been even more payments made from the City to this project. $29M worth of cost overruns. And the talk among those in charge is that the City will have to dip into General Funds, or in other words, straight up taxpayer dollars, to cover shortfalls in the TIF.

I say straight up taxpayer dollars because ultimately, the property taxes generated by the Harbor Point development are supposed to cover the principal and interest payments on the bonds themselves. But until and unless enough property taxes are generated, somebody has to be on the hook to bondholders and it is the issuer of the bonds. The City of Baltimore. Or, more bluntly, the taxpayers of the City of Baltimore.

And again, Beatty is a bondholder.

Imagine that Baltimore is instead playing stocks or options. It’s low on cash (or so it says). So, it buys some stock or options on margin, betting that sometime in the future (in the case of this TIF, by 20 years out) the value of the stock or options will go up and they’ll make money for the whole city.

That’s the expectation. They’re borrowing now with the belief that the future ship will come and cover the floated bonds and eventually, contribute money to the City for the usual other things that the City pays for. But if they’re wrong; if they don’t take in as much as they’re expecting, they still owe the brokers, the bondholders. And in this case, Beatty is one of the brokers.

They also baked in some language to demand that the project pay for some general civic improvements that don’t necessarily benefit the project, but we’ll see how that goes.

Still, the project was sold on the premise and promise that no taxpayer dollars would be used. That’s certainly true, if the future property tax projections pan out.

That was, until the cost overruns and while it’s appalling (yet not surprising) that they’re talking about dipping into general funds, they’ve now assumed so much risk that they can’t turn back. They’re in too deep. The City needs the project to work because it has an expectation that somehow, dollars will come in to cover the initial outlay paid for by the bond generation. In a sense, the City has become a partner with no equity, just a need for everything to work out and hopefully go as smoothly as it can in the future with minimal additional cost overruns.

We’ll see about that.

Here’s the crazy bit. They want to do it again.

The Port Covington TIF. Just like the Harbor Point TIF, but on the proverbial steroids, because this one weighs in at a hefty $535M. As the Sun reported, with interest, all told, it could cost over $2B. And in this case, Sagamore Development, the development arm of Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, would buy some of the bonds itself and thereby benefit from the interest on said bonds.

The vote is up to City Council at this point. The Mayor supports it. The quasi-governmental Baltimore Development Corporation supports it. Of course BDC would certainly put its stamp of approval on the TIF. They’re not elected, so they’re not responsible to the taxpayers and voters of Baltimore. If things don’t pan out with the property taxes on Port Covington and the City is on the hook and has to cover parts of bond repayments (because who else is supposed to? The state? That’s funny), nobody at BDC has to go into districts and neighborhoods one day and explain why there’s no money for parks or rec centers.

Again, they plan to bake language into the TIF so that there will be public benefit. And yes, the renderings look amazing, but looking at recent history with Harbor Point, it looks like the City is going in way over its head. It looks like the City is about to partner again with no equity. And if cost overruns occur this time, will the City have to dip back into general funds to cover?

Plank has sold this project on, among other things, the number of jobs it’ll bring to Baltimore (and specifically to Baltimore residents) as well as on improving Baltimore’s image. The price tag on Baltimore’s image is listed above.

To put it into perspective, in 2014 dollars, the City and Baltimore County pledged $280M ($230 and $50 respectively) towards the building of the since-cancelled Red Line light rail project (with Maryland and the Feds picking up the rest of the nearly $3B project). So the City is willing is thus-far willing to float bonds in excess of double that amount for a project in one section of the city.

Sure, Sagamore is floating jobs projections now, but other cities like Denver are realizing actual development gains from the increased mobility. I’m not saying the Red Line was cancelled because of Port Covington (or Harbor Point) because it wasn’t, but if the City is interested in borrowing money they think they’ll be able to pay off with future property taxes, wouldn’t projects like light rail that have had the effect of creating new development and raising the value of pre-existing property, especially in places like Minneapolis, be more preferable to ones like the ones they’re financing?

(It’s also not Beatty or Plank’s fault that such an idea would never get off the ground because of the classism and racism through which public transit is viewed in the Baltimore area, making new projects hard to support. Look at the amount the County was willing to contribute to the Red Line. Shows exactly the degree to which their citizens value mass transit. Also Google “baltimore loot rail” if you really don’t believe me.)

People around the City government like to throw around the name Freddie Gray, but when will the economic conditions that created the overall situation he lived and died in, be reasonably addressed? When will the people of Freddie Gray’s neighborhood see the benefits from Harbor Point or Port Covington? 20, 40 years from now? Ever?

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It’s not all doom and gloom, though.

I enjoyed the article in City Paper concerning the idea of developing a City-owned retirement fund for people, using interest paid on some of the Port Covington bonds. Start a special benefits corporation, buy the bonds, collect the interest.

I like the idea.

I like the idea of regular Baltimoreans who can afford to do so, buying the bonds. If the City is going to float them regardless of the will of the citizens, the only thing left is to buy them and receive whatever benefits you can. Which, even though they’re running ads everywhere, seems like it’s going to be the case.

Relatively not that many would be able to take part, but what else is there, if you’re not an “insider”?

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I was 14 when I really first fell in love. I didn’t get the girl, but I got the lessons. Those were free. I loved again, several times over.

I hope Baltimore gets their proverbial girl in the form of property taxes sometime 20-40 years from now. I’ll be nearly 80 towards the end of the Port Covington TIF, so hopefully they’ll put some old folks stuff up with the money.

If the City doesn’t, the lessons will be infinitely more painful. A much lowered bond rating. The City on the hook for whatever amounts of money. And the things that were supposed to be paid for, not there. Maybe they’re thinking they’ll do some development in Sandtown with the money one day. Will they be able to? (And we won’t even talk about the supposed “game-changer,” the Horseshoe Casino and the money that was supposed to contribute to Baltimore. I’ll admit to not doing my part, since I haven’t gone there and played video poker, yet. They have that in there, right?)

If it doesn’t work out, what will the City do to recover? What lessons will it learn? What do they say when the next developer wanting a TIF shows up to 100 North Holliday? Will it fall in love with someone other than TIF if TIF doesn’t work out?

Well, someone other than PILOT . Been there, done that.

Five Things (About Google I/O) – 19 May 2016

1.

Google Home

Won’t be running out to get one of these. I didn’t rush out to get an Amazon Echo and I’ll probably sit this one out, too. With all Google’s Assistant functions presumably also coming to the app I can interact with on my phone, I don’t have any real reason to buy one of these, should I decide to start talking to my phone (I don’t talk to Google or to Siri on my iPad.)

Besides, I enjoy interacting with my Chromecast the way I do now. I just queue up a bunch of videos and watch. Lots of train videos. And water slide videos.

2.

Google Daydream VR

Didn’t care at first, but when they showed just the logo of MLB.tv in the demo, I became interested. I’ll want more reason to shell out money when this is released in the fall, but being able to watch baseball games in a VR environment is definitely a strong enticement for me. Your mileage may vary.

3.

Android N Updates

I decided against cobbling up some pennies to buy a Galaxy Gear S2 and that decision may hold up even as the next generation of watches come out (I’m definitely not buying an Apple Watch.)

I did like the security and performance updates coming to Android N. But I do have Samsung hardware, so I might see these improvements. And I might not.

4.

Allo and Duo

So exactly how many Google messaging apps do I need? I’ve been using GChat/Hangouts since it first came out. I got Google Voice when it first came out. I survived the aborted marriage of the two, thankfully unscathed.

Now, Google has two more chat apps coming out. The only feature from Allo that I can say I like is the encryption. I really don’t care about the other stuff, even the search. Plus, it’s tied to mobile and I use my Chromebook a lot.

Duo is the Facetime-for-Android app that I never wanted because I never wanted Facetime on Android. I was perfectly happy with Hangouts and its ability to handle both one-on-one and group video calls. In fact, I still am. Again, best feature is the encryption.

I do admit that some folks will be happier using these new apps instead of their predecessors as these apps will be tied to telephone numbers, making them easier for some to use than the friend-list/invite based Hangouts.

However, some folks brought up a good point about Duo’s screening feature being possibly abused.

5.

Android and ChromeOS convergence

Google Play and Android apps are coming to Chromebooks. Just not my Chromebook. My HP Chromebook 14 isn’t on the list of supported hardware. It is an older machine, but I already do run the previously supported Android versions of Evernote and one or two other apps. So while the announcement is really cool, it’s personally disappointing. My book runs really well and I don’t have much interest in upgrading right now, the new functionality notwithstanding.

I did flirt with the idea of upgrading, but that was because the screen wasn’t working properly. Well, the third one. Once I fixed that, the idea of going to a different Chromebook went completely away. They may be forcing the hands of those who may really want Android functionality on their Chromebooks, but they’re not necessarily forcing mine. As of now, it’s a want, but not a must have.

The irony, though, is I may wait until fall and get a Chromebox that run Android apps, if this functionality ends up being too appealing. In the meantime, I’m not going anywhere unless something happens to my current machine.

On a less personal note, I think this is a win for Google. They may not have been totally right about the web browser being all one needed outside of the phone and tablet form factor spaces, but I think they’re still right that you don’t necessarily need a full-blown operating system, (i.e. Windows or MacOS) all the time, for every case. Today’s announcement feels like a compromise and a step forward for ChromeOS.

Time will tell, but if once Android Instant Apps reach circulation, and Chromebooks have the ability to run said apps the way phones and tablets can, well, and in ways that satisfy enough use cases, Google will still have been ultimately right overall. In 5-10 years, we may think that the Chromebook was ahead of its time now, and for a world with a mix of fully downloadable and on-demand apps, the right tech for those times when you really need a keyboard and mouse. We’ll see.

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In the more now space, I was excited by the announcement of the nComputing Chromebook CX100. As my employer has used nComputing devices to deliver (oh, God, I’m getting into tech marketing babble) a full Windows desktop for students at the alternative high school it operates, I’m familiar with nComputing’s thin clients and software, which have been pretty rock solid. That they were putting out a Chromebook was really exciting because one of the complaints that has been raised in recent times is students being tethered to the thin clients in the computer labs to get work done.

My employer had tried Windows laptops, which ended up being a disaster for reasons I won’t go into now. Since then, they’ve thrown around the idea of using iPads or other laptops to fill this need of mobility around the school, but haven’t settled on anything.

But when I saw the CX100, I thought all their problems had been solved — the school could have the mobility they wanted along with access to Windows without all the extra maintenance (blood pressure rising) a set of Windows laptops would require. (And yes, I know there are a ton of tools out there for managing Windows machines and if you’d like to donate to my employer to pay for that, I may make a link available).

And when I saw the nComputing app that makes it all possible in the Chrome store and compatible with my own Chromebook, I got happy (blood pressure lowering). The school might not have to specifically use the nComputing hardware, but could probably get any Chromebook (serotonin release).

Now with the announcement of Google Play and Android apps coming to ChromeOS, I’m fighting to think of any reason why, for use in the school environment that I have to support, a Windows laptop or an iPad would be necessarily better than a Chromebook with access to both Android and Windows apps via nComputing software. I just can’t. And that’s what the future could be.

It may take some time for Android app developers to standardize their work for Chromebooks, but with a combination of Chrome web apps, Android apps, and Windows apps available at the expense of only lower-cost Chromebooks, I can’t think of a better situation to be in. My employer could continue to leverage the investment (more tech marketing babble, oh no) it’s made in Windows and still get mobility (I promise to write a poem to make up for all this talk) and a wider selection of apps with Chrome and Android.

A few years ago, my employer purchased a good number of HP thin clients for employees to use to connect to remote Windows virtual machines. I’m struggling to come up with a reason why, as those need to be replaced, they can’t be with Chromeboxes, should they decide to use nComputing software on the corporate remote end like it’s done for the school.

It’s a very interesting time for tech, especially on the educational side.

A Genius of Prince

I didn’t understand Prince when I was 7-8 years old when Purple Rain came out. All I knew was most of the talk I heard surrounding Prince was that with all the frilly, purple clothes, blouses, and such, he was too effeminate to be straight. Too effeminate for the real men I’d hear talking about him. Same for the boys talking about it at school and other places.

Didn’t matter how many women around adored him and wanted to be with him and whether or not he got the girl in the movie and whether that was his girl in real life –because the rumors were always there– Prince had to be gay and gay == bad.

Even if you liked the music, which by the way, wasn’t necessarily for us, it was said around me a lot, because it was laden with rock guitar.

Let’s go crazy. Let’s get nuts.

I didn’t know enough not to join in.

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I wasn’t quite there in my teenage years, either.

Even if songs like “Adore” and “Diamonds and Pearls” weren’t just fun to sing, they told the stories of my growing infatuations with the girls I’d have feelings for or outright fell in love with.

Love is to weak to define
Just what you mean to me

Even if “Scandalous” and “Insatiable” and often mirrored the puberty-driven thoughts I would have in the later hours.

I got a jones, Martha.

Prince was still supposed to be too weird. And that weirdness, with the dress and the symbol and all of that, was still supposed to be too much. Especially with all the other reasons added in. Especially with a more religious-based homophobia that I’d added..

I still wouldn’t listen to my own conscience about the man.

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At some point, once I became interested in my own art; and quite frankly, when I developed enough confidence in myself to not follow the pack and try to fit into what others did or thought, is when I discovered what I think is one of his greatest geniuses.

It wasn’t the fact of his musical virtuosity. Playing 27 instruments on an album says enough, but it wasn’t that.

It wasn’t even the blend of sexuality and sensuality and spirituality in his music. Historians and musical historians will probably write volumes about the introspection and investigation of sexual identity in all the various forms that it manifested in his music and where it crosses with his notions of spirituality and love. Prince is one of the only artists who could merge the vulgar and the sacred to the point where you had to question for yourself where, if anywhere, the line of demarcation was.

But that’s not even, for me, his greatest genius.

As I think back to all of us talking about him, making jokes about him, mocking him and what we thought about his sexuality, there he was, not just making great music, not just beginning to change the world, but he was doing something that none of those people back then, I think can say they were doing — Prince was living life on his own terms.

As folks went back to their crap jobs and their crap coworkers and hated the whole thing, Prince was living his life by his own rules.

Yeah, look at the frilly blouses. Where was Prince’s supervisor or employee handbook that told him he could or couldn’t dress that way? Where was his compliance officer or HR director to ensure his pants were tight or purple enough?

Nowhere. That was just him. No bullshit. Sure, in a sense, he performed off-stage as well as on, but that was how he decided to live. Prince wasn’t being told when he could get off or go on vacation. How to dress. How to keep his hair. None of the same bullshit people had to do to get by. Looking back, that looks like it was always his plan.

Hell, he changed his name to a symbol to be able to continue to do his work the way he wanted to. Up until he died, he was working to get control of his masters.

He even redecorated Carlos Boozer’s house to suit himself and when he was finished renting it, he changed it all back the way it was. Regular people might ask why Prince would spend the money to do something like that, but he had a vision for himself and his life and compromise wasn’t part of it. How many compromises do many of us make before noon on any given weekday?

I wish I could go back and tell my child self to look closely — there was someone who knew who he was, knew his worth and value to the world, and lived that. He didn’t follow others and he didn’t try to fit in. He was who he was and anybody that didn’t like it, too bad. My child self could have used that lesson. Many of us now could use that same lesson.

Do I believe in god? Do I believe in me?
Some people want to die so they can be free
I said life is just a game, we’re all just the same, do you want to play?
Yeah, oh yeah

Vote Deray?

Perhaps the biggest news story coming out of Baltimore in the last 24 hours is the last-minute entry of human rights activist Deray Mckesson into the race for Mayor of Baltimore. Deray joins an already crowded race of nearly 30 candidates (it’s a high number, but most of them never had any shot anyway) seeking to succeed Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is not running for re-election. The Baltimore Sun quickly reported his filing and reaction came in just as quickly.

The tone of response online was generally positive, especially from people outside of Baltimore. Among locals, sentiments ranged from surprise and increased interest in what’s now a much more fascinating campaign, to some less positive feelings, particularly as I understand it, among those who have been active locally as Deray has been active more on the national stage.

Also, quite a few folks were questioning whether Deray actually had fulfilled the residency requirement for running. The news generally shows him working and demonstrating in one place or another at any given time. The Baltimore Sun reported today, though, that he’s been living in North Baltimore for the last several months.

Regardless of any criticism, the race now will find itself under a larger national lens with Deray’s entry.

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Hit The Ground Running

Anybody living in or from Baltimore knows that with so many voters registered Democrat in the City, that party’s primary usually determines the winner of the November general election. Deray is running as a Democrat, which puts him against the other dozen or so hopefuls, including former Mayor Sheila Dixon. That election is April 26, 81 days from now.

Eighty one days to overcome Sheila Dixon’s comfortable lead in the polls.

To put it in perspective, local businessman David Warnock is trailing badly, even as he’s loaned his campaign close to a million dollars. Whatever money Deray may be able to bring in to compliment his sizable online following, his chances will rest on convincing the probable 21% of current undecideds as well as a probably unknown number of unregistered voters to sign up, the latter before the April 5 deadline. As it stands right now, Ms. Dixon is leading in the key demo of older black women voters, people who are probably much more familiar with her than Mr. Mckesson, regardless of his larger national following.

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Who’s on the Team?

Another interesting issue I saw being discussed is who’s on his team. The Sun and Guardian have both reported that fellow activist Johnetta Elzie (a powerhouse herself) is moving to Baltimore to work on his campaign. I can’t help but think the local activists I hear already weren’t happy, weren’t thrilled with another high profile activist —one who is definitely not from Baltimore— coming into their turf.

Don’t count out our provincial attitudes. Deray, who even mentioned growing up listening to Miss Tony on 92Q in his statement, has been a powerhouse nationally. But I’m sure he’ll still be painted as a carpetbagger, especially by people who have been working on issues locally, if his campaign starts with much more out-of-town support than local support.

For the record, I grew up listening to V-103 and then 92Q. Frank Ski.

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Where is the Downtown money going?

People who know Baltimore solely from watching on TV or reading poverty porn might not get that Baltimore isn’t entirely poor. The segregated parts of Baltimore certainly are, but that doesn’t go for the City as a whole. The City is base to quite a few rich people. Outside folks have probably watched Peter Angelos’ Baltimore Orioles or worn clothing made by Kevin Plank’s Under Armour. But it’s the people most outsiders have never heard of who have the deep pockets that make things move in the Harbor City.

Or in other words: real estate developers exert a lot of influence in Baltimore.

Last election cycle, a bunch of those sweet developer campaign dollars went to Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Regardless of how much he brings to the table (and so far, it’s a bunch), Deray’s running where there’s a huge machine in place. He’s not going to get far without fealty to, detente with, or a fight from Downtown developers (then again, neither would any of the other candidates). If they feel they’ll lose money or power from his being elected, expect a mess, regardless of how the elections turn out.

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It’s going to be an interesting 81 days until the primary.

Can the local guy who made good outside really come back and be given a chance to lead? Or will his candidacy ultimately be about raising issues and pushing the next person in the job to make the changes the real Baltimore (outside of the Harbor) needs?

Has Baltimore really forgiven the former Mayor?

Will we see the real emergence of a new political family dynasty?

Will this family’s legacy of public service continue at 100 North Holliday?

Where will Downtown’s elite continue to throw their support?