Art As Much As Comedy – A Review of Sticks and Stones by Dave Chappelle

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Dave Chappelle’s “Sticks and Stones” on Netflix.

When it comes to Hollywood people like Dave Chappelle, I learned about him just like many teens were introduced to him in the mid 90’s, by way of a jeering comedy all about the one taboo that mattered at that time: weed. Half-Baked, an instant cult-classic about cannabis culture lambasted joke after recklessly high joke. It’s all the guys seemed to care or talk about at school, so naturally it would become part of my library of reach when referring to Chappelle’s work. Fast forward nigh on twenty years, and the showman’s landscape has changed. Of course there is the “Cancel Culture,” which is relevant to many stars,  but there is so much more. The #metoo culture, the racist culture,  the PC police, and the phantoms of white supremacy, global warming, conspiring Russians, and Nazi Hitler. Regardless of all these sexy, racy (no pun intended) topics, there is no way an audience member does not feel even slightly awkward and uneasy as Chappelle traipses through the topic of pedophilia and Epstein. In fact the opening salvo just vomits Epstein all over the audience, forcing them to refamiliarize themselves with that faint memory of a name spoken once or twice on the cable news networks. And what now? This name is falling out of Dave’s mouth? What comedian starts a show talking about a serial child rapist that “committed suicide” while gleefully hopeful for a sentencing deal when finally faced with real justice. It makes no sense. Either way, Chappelle does not side with or incite anything by talking about Epstein. The punch line, a thought-full and particular narrative, rounds out to the stoic topic of convo in a quip so sardonic it had me loudly laughing!

Anyway, pedophilia, top of mind. He talks about Michael Jackson, Epstein, R. Kelly. Some of these jokes are quite controversial, and, yet, somehow it seems that there could be nothing more so controversial than talking about the “alphabet people.” The LGBTQ…. I’ve oft heard that there is some sort of Gay Mafia, you know that some one like Kevin Spacey may have been associated with. But, in the end, there seems to be a mafia for everyone. So whatever or whomever these individuals supposedly are, one has to wonder why the myth prevails. So much so Dave must retaliate. Some of the jokes he told about the dynamics and personalities of the “alphabet people” were nigh spot on from my personal experience, but the ones that didn’t land, I could understand where he’d get the idea. As a member of the “Alphabet People,” I didn’t find anything offensive or hurtful in his show. Perhaps the most controversial, though, was the way he laid into the “T”s, as we know: transexuals. Nevertheless, the most important thing that stands out about this comedy act, to me, is the way Chappelle takes his listless audience from topic-to-controversial-topic, in the most lewd, politically incorrect, rampage, ushering them from genuine laughter, to edge the of discomfort, through thought-provoking and fleeting enlightenment, to fits of applause.

I appreciate that Chappelle is able to take on such major topics in a way not many comedians can or do (a la George Carlin or Bill Hicks). Dave is, obviously, no stranger to controversary, and has stayed away from Hollywood for many years, most recently from what I understand, the second time he’d been away in as many years. Still, I can’t help but feel that Chappelle doesn’t just get in trouble with minority groups and descent people, he probably gets in trouble with producers, politicians and the likes. He ambles in and out of topics like racism, abortion, and even Trump all while jarring the subconscious. Speaking of haranguing the people in power,  in one of the epilogues to the show, where Dave lets audience members ask questions, he goes into this story about how Chris Tucker visited with him and brought his ‘friends’ over, namely: Kamala Harris, the then governor of California, and some important news anchor.  Barrack Obama was a focal character of this yarn, and again appeared later in the show to round out the punchlines. Albeit many of these individuals are now mixed up in some stuff in Washington, the Epstein case being among one of the primary leads. But even addressing a topic like gun control can go either way at the dinner table, and ultimately, leave a bad taste in ones mouth. And let’s face it, as funny as his solution to gun control is, it’s still controversial to the virtuously sensitive. Anyway, this is masterful art. I think one of the most brilliant comedic pieces ever written that addresses present societal conditions in a remarkable commentary the audience can’t believe it agrees.

 

Sticks and Stones by Dave Chappelle, an Netflix Comedy Event, is available for viewing now.

“Comedy As Much As Art: A Review of ‘Sticks and Stones’ by Dave Chappelle,” is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved. 

 

 

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“A Quiet Day at School” by Michael Aaron Casares, Austin, TX

I found this on the internet. It was written about 2010, and published in 2011. If I had to go back and re-write it, I would. I feels a bit sophomoric (pun intended) in retrospect. But, it manages to convey my message. Enjoy.

itacacontest

topic: 9/11 medium: TEXT

as submitted for the “9/11” Open Call

I was a sophomore.
It was after first period,
my second period class
was also homeroom
and lunch was next
so the T.V. was playing
in every classroom
from that point on.
As we all watched CNN,
FOX or MSNBC or local news
for updates and live minute-to-minute
coverage of the twin towers under attack
we wondered, Was it a bomb?
Did they shoot a missile into the building?
The reporter said it was a—
I saw on live television the second tower struck
by a winged entity shadowy and fast.
A brilliant plume of black dust and fire,
a chorus of gasps and murmurs.
People were afraid, because America
didn’t get attacked, and blood never spilled
on its soils. The fear ran deep.
Nobody had much to say that day,
we children more confused,
our teachers composed,
some…

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Resurrection Apollo

He glared sharply into the sky. Without a star or moon in sight, he was certain the sky glared back at him. He disapproved of it. At long last he’d become tired of it. It’s been dark for too long, he thought. He didn’t know where it came from, or why. He was perplexed at how deep the sky became. He seemed to remember a time like this before, and marveled how the shrouded moon seemed to veil the entire sky opaque. Still, there was a time when the single moon cast a silver sheen so luminous, it seemed the land and his surroundings glowed in that hazy white. There were times the moon was accompanied by a legion of stars, the multitude a shimmering carpet to the naked eye, ghostly yet familiar. Still, there was another. It changed the land all together. It brought a light so bright it made shadows hide in the crooks of their masters, and brought clarity and definition. This is what he wanted as the blackness surrounded his head. Daybreak was coming, he sensed as denser grew the shroud. The forces at work always worked their hardest before the sun’s return.

 

“Resurrection Apollo” is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved. 

 

 

Augmentation Laud

Piercing beyond the veil,
the line of sight sees through
the projected understanding
constrained with at birth.
What was once flat, was raised
to depth, then tangible, and now
new perspectives are pushing
through, and changing every
truth given, and changing every
mind that once understood.
The fireflies phasing in and out
of existence, leave residual energy,
their light eternal between dimensions,
their light eternal to separate the thickness
of the dark forest. Voices rise, confrontational
and loathsome, angry and expectant. The
insatiable hunger for lucidity has escaped
them and as the trees become the forest,
their resonance becomes shadows
that haunt that tormented land.
The shadows become sentient,
and lounge around the living room
opting for leather couch and faux
as the focal point of their nexus,
desperate if not thankful for the living.
And the corners will continue to lie
to the eyes, but only now the eyes see
the truth. It is understood the omissions
that have stripped humanity of half
its natural gifts, leaving the strong
to endure the lack of tolerance,
leaving the confused to wash away
in the seas of apathy, and leaving
the weak to conform to self-immolation,
shall be spoken, and a restoration return
as the shadows become space, and the
torn fabric of humanity’s mind become
the stars, projecting the light needed
to rise the weighted vessels, shackled
and heavy, to transcend the snares
of dual energies’ magnetic gravity,
to ascend higher in the depth of
understanding, a welcome to the
eyes of discernment and wisdom,
and to reconstitute identity,
a declaration of independence
from the mortal coil binding us,
and a return of the memory lost
to us as we breached the walls of
this dimension, fully well knowing
that to succeed all we had to do
was remember.

“Augmentation Laud” is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved.

Weighted Thinking

A black sun is rising in the east, a polarized field of white and green light. It is a total absence. It brings the land in its expanse to a deeper spectrum end to end. Why the cognizance of the relative dissonance has staggered the median. There is a darkness on the horizon. Through cracks and breaks, the whispers of strangers who want to be friends, those with desire thrown hazardly  aside. Reason comes to save one’s breath. It is the shadow in the corner that jumps out through the corner of the eye. It is the random clacking of old housing and fixture. It is the sullen memory that walks outside the door, repetitiously pacing the floor, its talons daintily scraping. Dimming roots flourish and expand. The necessity of weighed thinking transmuting itself into heavy breathing has fallen on this satellite. The broadcast that radiates through the air, pierces a sky that’s fallen short, looks on hopefully at the meandering dirigible down below. It knows fate has cast it into the heavens, given a chance to proceed at will, and it hopes as the heat expands, the voracious gasses will not soon ignite.

 

 

Weighted Thinking is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved.

 

 

Faery Hill – Part Five

I gazed at the skyline, hypnotized by its dim outline against the darkening gray-purple sky. The orange had faded near a horizon I could not see. I could make out the rough edges of each edifice, the precise architecture of each construction, but as I gazed at them, the buildings began to mesh into each other. They began to soften and their color deepen until eventually they were spires of verdant knolls. I’d never seen such a thing. The sky settled to a deep midnight cerulean, speckled with stars. The streets had changed, too. They’d become darkened dirt roads, compressed and chilled, mud lined with lush and thick grass, tailored  and groomed neatly. I could not see well in the dim night, but torches lined the street all the way to Faery Hill. I continued on, trying not to limp. I felt my strength leaving my legs and arms. The torches lit the way, but every few minutes, a glowing light would flutter by, sparkling whispers and luminescence casted around it. The lights flew by in pinks and greens, purples and blues and zipped into the air, climbing and dodging between the verdant knolls and hills. This profound hallucination was so immaculate, I felt myself short of breath, and I felt my heart start to race again. The drug had grabbed a hold of me. I stopped. I had to shake it off. I had never had a bad trip on the drug before, but I’d also never been so immersed in a delusion before. I rubbed my eyes and blinked repeatedly. The green spires and towering column knolls had vanished, and in their place, the same tired buildings that populated downtown. The fire torches were gone, too, and once again were street lights. There were no neon fire flies zipping by, only the somber darkness of a sky muted by dull city lights and reticence. Everything I’d seen before vanished to normalcy. I slouched my way up the road. A car or two passed by. I was already in downtown proper again, and on the streets of Faery Hill. The stores and restaurants were lit for the evening, and the bars had all come to life. Traffic would be substantially less on the highways now, a steady flow. Here on the streets, though, traffic was picking up again. The late dinner crowd was arriving for the bars and the restaurants. Some of the shops would close soon. The workers and the consumers of the world were changing guard for the night.

My proprietors lived off Fourth in a corner of Faery Hill not many traveled. It was dingy and dirty, and just beyond their complex was a construction site and dirt hills. It was not an attractive spot and only homeless, cruisers, and drug users occupied its shadows and corners. The complex rounded the street and was a literal dead end where thru traffic was concerned. My sellers were quiet, but cordial. Two guys were all I ever saw. I supposed they were lovers, but, to be honest, I didn’t even know if they were gay. They were both very attractive so I gathered, even if they weren’t gay, they were gay. I notified them of my arrival via text while I walked. They were cool with me stopping in. The entrance was to the left of the building, on the far side of the street from where I was coming. I had composed since leaving The Catalan, but I’d used all my paper towels and was afraid of what would happen if I started to bleed again. I guess if it were a drug related symptom, they would know.

As I approached their door, I felt another wave creeping up on me. It was like gravity was prickling the back of my skull, persuading me, coaxing me to reel back into a delusion. I stood in front of the door, wanting to knock, but also wanting this feeling to wash away. I steadied my eyes as I watched sparkling white lights slowly float from my peripherals forward. Then, a blue glowing spot fluttered by with a slight buzz. The door reflected the blue. I looked up, panicked. The door stood, the only remnant I recognized of my world. It was the entrance to the deep green, leafy mound that stood before me, and towering green spires surrounding it. The door opened and a hand seized my arm and pulled me forward. I gasped, uttering a brief shock. I was ushered in by a pair of hands that pulled and pushed at me urgently.

“Get in,” a voice said. I didn’t see anybody until the door was closed. A soft purple light turned on and I knew immediately I was in the anteroom of my proprietors.

“I—,” I began to speak, but I stammered instead.

“Don’t talk. It’s okay.” I felt his hands on my shoulders. His grasp had gentled, I supposed because I exhibited some sort of coherence. I wonder how bad I looked.

“You are much farther along than we’d expected.”

Wait. What?  We walked forward. The halls were nice, elegant with crown molding and carved wooden paneling that was bisected by stone white walls. The details were almost lost in the purple light. I still did not see my counterpart.

“You’ve been using haven’t you? We could tell the moment you walked up to the door. The energy was magnificent.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The Faery Dust. The drug you’ve been peddling for us.” My head began to spin. So this was the drug’s name. It made sense. I coulda’ figured that out myself, I guess. I was somewhat relieved my seller understood what was going on with me, because that meant that he could possibly help me, and at the same time, there was something that didn’t sit well with me. It was a strange energy. We continued down the hall, the light had begun to taper off, and color re-emerged as a torch lit the hall, casting shadows that fought with the already dim hues. At last I saw him. He was standing next to me, his hair long and fawnish; his jawline was strong but delicate; his lips regal, yet inviting, his body boyish, but firm. I couldn’t explain it.

“We’d like to thank you for the excellent job you’ve done. You were doing so well.” Finality was in his tone. I wondered where he was taking me as he ushered me through a door. This is where we usually did business. I had a moment of clarity as the drug receded. I could feel the marks on my face like ghost lines. My ears had started to hurt.

“You see, Alex. There is a certainty for those who enjoy partaking in Faery Dust. It changes you.”

“What are you talking about? You mean there’s side effects? What, what kind of damage does it do?”

“It changes you.” Before I’d realized it, there was some type of cuffs around my wrists. My heart jumped.

“Hey!” I screamed at him, but the effort only made me woozy. “What are you doing?”

“Faery Dust is a very important substance to us, Alex. And in order for us to keep it in production, certain actions must be taken. Its users, for instance eventually become its manufacturers.” My dealer walked forward, standing in front of me. There was something different about him. His skin seemed soft, his ears were like mine, long and pointed. He looked like a fairy from children’s books.

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

He walked forward, a ghost in the dim room. He looked me in the eyes, his gaze met mine and I saw a veneer of gloss that sparkled deep in his irises. His pupils were bottomless pits. He huffed acutely. Thin flaps of flesh, three on each cheek lifted on his face like gills, and flapped down. My heart sank as the marks reminded me of mine.

“The drug changes you, Alex.”

A giant luminescence expanded from his eyes. It began blue and purple and brightened to white, becoming a brilliant star that surrounded me. It was warm and blanketed my body. Shadows began to thin and disappear. The details of the room and my proprietor in front of me gone, everything vanished in the light.

 

“Faery Hill” is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved. Short fiction, part five of five. 

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