I know Obama is in a tough spot, but this whole thing is turning me off. I don't believe that his beliefs are much different than Rev. Wright's. Giving the politically correct answers, he's being safe, but it's coming across as disingenuous. I'll admit, some of my feelings may stem from not being used to hearing a black man be so overtly patriotic in the face of a racial debate. Wright however, is on some level exhibiting 'crabs in a barrel' behavior by timing his public appearances at such a crucial time in the primary. Watching these two men go at each other now, is a bit of a disappointment.
I just had a chance to watch Jeremiah Wright speaking to the National Press Club. He's pretty damn sharp...and funny. I have yet to hear the entire "God damn America" sermon, so I can't say how I really feel about what was said. I have been a bit put off by the way Obama has distanced himself from Mr. Wright. As I've said before, I totally understand that he has to do it to win votes, but I've also wondered how The Rev. felt about Obama's public scolding. I guess I don't have to wonder anymore.
I understand Reverend Wright's desire to speak up. I think his choice to NOT wait until the nomination was decided, says a bit about how he feels about Mr. Obama. Jeremiah knows this can't be good for Barack.
If you didn't watch the Bill Moyers interview, check it out. It gives a little more perspective about Reverend Wright's background and philosophy. Having only seen the bombastic soundbites that the media's had on continuous loop, he almost seemed like a completely different person. Judging by the soundbites, I also wouldn't have expected that his church would have LGBT outreach.
First of all...I didn't know Miley Cyrus existed until about 18 minutes ago. I was going to totally ignore this whole Vanity Fair photo mess, but the media won't shut up about it.
The picture isn't that bad, but she works for Disney. She's learning a lesson that most of us learn when we get older...don't mess with your day job!
The funny thing about it to me is that the whole mess resembles the uproar over another 15 year old being sexualized for commerce...
It's funny how Raven-Symone was almost totally ignored during her years as a Disney star. She acted like she had sense, has good body image and managed her money well. Her parents should be behavior consultants for other Disney star parents.
So, Gary Coleman is going to be on "Divorce Court" this week.
I will not make any jokes though. I actually feel bad for Gary. He made a lot of people very rich and now he has to resort to this to pay the rent. When I moved here to L.A., he was working in an arcade. I think he owned it. As I'm typing this, I'm wondering if this was some dream I had, or if I really saw Gary dispensing tokens.
Hopefully VH1 comes a'knockin'. Hell if they gave Peter Brady and Flavor Flav a show, Gary should get one.
I've watched a lot of television. There was a time when I could tell you the entire line-up of most networks. Not so much anymore. Tonight my pickings were slim..."Paradise Hotel," "Dancing with the Stars," "Deal, or no Deal," "Men are Stupid" ("Men are Stupid" isn't an actual show, but the premise of 97% of sitcoms).
I chose "Seinfeld."
I admit, I didn't watch "Seinfeld" initially. It was on against "New York Undercover." Back in those days, Fox was UPN. Thursday night was all about "Martin," "Living Single," and "NY Undercover."
"Seinfeld" is genius. The one where Elaine flips out because she's annoyed by too many cake parties at work was on tonight. It's funny on it's own. It's funnier, because it's true. When I worked at Rogers & Cowan PR, we had conference room parties about three times a week. It was insane. R&C is a fairly big agency with several departments. Each department would have their own cake party, or lunch for someone's birthday, promotion, anniversary, or whatever celebratory event. Then H.R. would hold the official V.I.P. party with a large sheet cake in the conference room.
There is nothing more joyless and entertaining as a group of stressed, underpaid and overwhelmed virtual strangers singing happy birthday. The best part is the lingering after the song. No one knows when it's okay to leave the conference room. It's usually a V.P. who bolts first. The assistant always follows. The last people left are usually the guest of honor and the lowest ranking H.R. exec who has to clean up.
In the episode, Elaine has had enough of the cake. Her co-workers bust in her office after she had taken a sick day singing, "Get well, get well soon, we wish you to get well!" Classic.
By the way...R&C eventually stopped reimbursing V.P.'s for the cake parties and mandated that departments cease having separate events. I wish I'd kept that email. We were then forced to celebrate all the birthdays for the month at one large shindig. The first monthly celebration was great. We had ice cream cake. Too bad the party planner forgot to let the cake defrost. I hope my memory of people trying to saw through an oversized frozen cake never fades.
Morgan Freeman, look out! There's a new Magical Negro in town. Romany Malco is looking to claim that top spot. On "Weeds" his character masterfully manages to take care of and lust after the show's damsel in distress. Just as any good Magical Negro would, his character ignores his own needs in order to make sure everyone else around him is okay. He even rejects his own family to make sure that his damsel's needs are met. (Note: He does break conventional Magical rules, by getting to have sex with the distressed damsel in "Weeds.")
This week we get to see Romany in "Baby Mama." From the moment we meet him in the film as the doorman, wearing an iPod, rapping, I knew that Tina and Amy's characters would be in good hands...even though his character doesn't appear to take care of his own responsibilities.
Don't get me wrong. Romany is talented, funny, handsome and probably a smart guy. He's made good choices in terms of the projects he chooses. "Weeds" is good, even if I find the idea of it being cute to sell drugs as long as it's in the suburbs, slightly arrogant. "Baby Mama" was good too. It's just that, well...I see at least one limo driving role in his future. It's not a bad thing, Morgan drove all the way to the Oscars.
Digging through old boxes and I found some cassettes. For those of you born in the '90's, wikipedia explains what cassettes are. Most of the music I found, still gets play - Boyz II Men, Lenny Kravitz, MC Lyte, Anita Baker, Soul II Soul etc. But then, there's Schooly D. Schooly D? The songs include, "Get off Your ass and Get Involved," " Black Jesus," and "Don't Call me Ni**er." I don't remember any of them, but the cover is red black and green, so I'm sure that's all it took for me to pick it up. Listening to the title track, "Am I Black Enough for You?" he has that old Public Enemy vibe.
After my black power moment with Schoolly D, I found a tape by a group called Deja. They had this one song I loved, "That's Where You'll Find Me." I can't remember any of the other songs.
High school never ends. Even in adulthood, you have the jocks, greeks, freaks, hippies, stoners etc. It can be a bitch. Thank God I'm cute, smart and funny. I kid.
I couldn't help but think about high school dynamics as I watch Saturday Night Live's Amy Poehler get crowned the new "It Girl." It's kind of embarrassing to watch entertainment reporters fawning over her like she just fell out of the sky yesterday. In a way, in terms of what matters in Hollywood, she did just fall out of the sky. Her Hillary Clinton impersonation put her at the center of pop culture zeitgeist.
It didn't hurt that Tina Fey, her friend and creative partner was the "It Girl" of '07. I like their story. They've been friends for years, writing and performing. That's cool and all, but what about Debbie Downer? I mean, Amy is pretty and Tina, the former Geek Chic queen is starting to sex it up a bit; but what about Rachel Dratch? Debbie Downer is a classic. She was just as talented and funny on SNL. How did Amy and Tina become cheerleaders, with Rachel landing in the Science Club? Can't Tina hook a sista up?
If it sucked looking at the Vanity Fair article, watching the trailers for Tina and Amy's new movie "Baby Mama" must make her sick. They even did a shot with SNL ladies Tina, Maya Rudolph (love her) and Kristen Wiig in a limo. You can't tell me that they didn't have room to scoot Rachel in. Forget the fact that she was replaced on "30 Rock" by Jane Krakowski - yeah, that character was originally supposed to be Rachel.
Wait. Let's talk about the title "Baby Mama" for a second. As my friend Lisa says, "Can't we have anything?" Seriously, first jazz and now 'baby mama'.
Back to Rachel...I know we all have an inner outcast in us and can relate to her. In the spirit of Oprah's "Big Give," I left a comment on Rachel's blog message board. I paid it forward. Everyone could use a nice word, or two every once in a while. Besides, I met her once at a friend's cookout. We bonded for like 30 seconds singing "Funky Cold Medina" during the DJ's Old School medley. How could I not root for her?
I participated in this program last year and it was great. The workshops were good and there was an amazing group of Fellows. If you are interested in producing, you should take a look. Below is a note from the program:
I hope you are well. I just wanted to let you know that we are now accepting applications for the 2008 Diversity Fellowship Program. As fellows, I am sure you must know some great candidates, and we encourage you to please let them know about the great program. We would appreciate your help in spreading the word! We look forward to receiving their submissions.
Ran across this picture and it made me smile. It was taken August 23rd 1998 at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim. The Velvet Rope Tour. Ahhh...the memories. Standing off-camera is my buddy Teresa Baker. I probably paid $20 for this Polaroid and I'm so happy that I did. If you know me well, you know I've been mildly obsessed with Miss Jackson since the "Young Love" days. Yeah, I was on the Janet train before Control. I remember all of the Solid Gold, Dance Fever and Bandstand performances.
I'd actually already seen the concert three nights before at the Forum in L.A. Shout out to Jamiah for the hook-up. We were right up on the stage. I swear Janet looked right at me. The Forum is now a church. I'd gone there one night to see New Edition and Keith Sweat and then like two weeks later, I was in there for Easter services. I had better seats for New Edition.
The Rhythm Nation show was my first concert. I was young and very excited about hopping the train from Newark Penn Station to Madison Square Garden with my two buddies Will & Yusef. We felt so grown. The Garden is still my favorite place to see a show. Well, it's my favorite place to see a big show. I love the House of Blues on Sunset for something a little more intimate.
I can't call a favorite show at the House of Blues. You can't choose between the Fugees, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Eric Benet (it was empty, but he still did his thing), Rahsaan Patterson, the list goes on. I will say that seeing The Roots one night about ten years ago was almost a religious experience. There was a cloud of smoke so thick by the end of the night that everyone was feeling very nice. They went overtime and were supposed to get off-stage. The lights came on, but they kept playing old school TV theme songs that we sang along with like our lives depended on it. A thousand high ass people singing "The Jeffersons". Priceless.
The best show I've seen in years, maybe the best show ever, was Prince at the Staples Center. Musicology. Again, I was with Teresa. Floor seats. Row 4. Center. The way the stage was set up, I could almost touch him. I've never seen that many people totally lose their minds. Listening to "Purple Rain" live, I can't even tell you.
Too bad shows cost an arm and a leg now. The Prince show was like $75 and he gave you a free CD. That's totally reasonable. George Michael...$250. That's not happening.
Lawrence Fishburne was on the "Late, Late, Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson" tonight. It's been a minute since I've seen him and it was kind of jarring. He's turning into James Earl Jones. That's not a bad thing. They're both fine actors. Now that I think about it...a remake of "Claudine" with Lawrence and Angela Bassett starring could be interesting.
I meant to post this yesterday...Robin Roberts decided to shed the wig she's worn since going through chemo. I don't normally watch GMA, but I happened to flip to it yesterday and saw this stunning woman sitting on the couch. She looks AMAZING! I won't even slip into the easy trap of calling her 'brave,' or 'heroic'...she just looks damn good!!!
As I continued to flip channels on my way to "Good Day LA" and "KTLA Morning news", I stopped on the Today Show to watch the beautiful and talented Alicia Keys screeching her way through "No One". I wonder how it feels to reach the level of success where people totally ignore your shortcomings. I like Alicia more than I actually like her music. She seems to be grounded, charitable, and a genuine artist. Her CD's haven't done it for me yet. I think she's yet to have a cohesive piece, like a "Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." I love that she can play instruments. I love that she writes, but her music often feels like basic R&B with the illusion of outstanding artistry...but back to the screeching, how does she get away with that continuously????
I meant for this to be a positive post. Well, um...Robin really, really looks good.
During my spring cleaning today, I thought about how nice it was to exchange letters. I've hung on to quite a few old letters. To be honest, I don't remember being as close to some people as I apparently was. In some cases, I have no idea of who the letter writer is. Time.
I noticed tonight that I made a habit of writing letters that I did not send. A couple are sealed and I am going to leave them that way, a time capsule of sorts. Most are just handwritten pieces of paper that have now become an accidental time and place record of my life. Most of the letters were written in the first couple years out of college. Back then, unlimited long distance did not exist. I remember $500 phone bills from my first year in L.A. Most of my friends were still back east.
The interesting thing about reading a couple of the letters that I'd written is that I had many of the same issues I have now, but with a much different perspective on them. In most of the letters I'm talking about how exciting the City of Angels is and how I don't mind the struggle of making it here. I came out to a couple people...well not really since I didn't mail the letters. I talk about my first boyfriend, my job at Tannery West, meeting Heather Locklear, being poor, being blessed, career opportunities, hope, despair, gossip etc.
One letter however, I did mail. It was typed. There's actually white-out on it. I'm sure I copied it on to some good Kinko's paper and sent it off. It was a letter to the students at my alma mater's Mass Media department. I'd been asked to write something that could be posted on the bulletin board for students to read. It's actually pretty funny to read now. I'd only been out of school for a couple months. I was a baby, but I was living in the big city, so I felt very grown-up. It's cute.
One thing in the letter struck me though. I'm surprised I had that sort of insight at that time. Too bad I haven't always followed what I apparently have always known. I wrote:
"If you want to direct movies, direct one. If you want to produce commercials, produce one. If you want to be a writer, then write. Nobody's going to care about the Radio Club, Delta Delta Delta, or Alpha Kappa Xi. All people are going to care about is whether you really want it and whether you're willing to do what it takes; and then when your break comes, you'll have product. If you don't, how can they determine if you are ready, or not. My point, is quite simply, do it now!!" I'm glad that I found that tonight. I'll be taking some of my own advice.
Eleven years ago, flipping through 4Front, a free magazine that I picked up strolling the streets of LA, I ran across what was purported to be a MIT graduation speech given by Kurt Vonnegut. I was only a couple years out of school then, so the advice felt relevant.
I ripped the page out and have held on to it all these years. I've looked at the speech a couple times since then, but as the "speech" says, "you'll never understand the power and beauty of youth until they are faded." So true.
I'm doing a little cleaning and sorting. I'm a pack rat. I keep a lot of things. Some of it is junk. Most of the things I've hung on to tell some sort of story. I haven't been faithful at keeping a journal, but I can open a box and recall very specific events and feelings in my life. I ran across this speech tonight while cleaning. It was significant to me tonight because well, I'm not so young anymore. I read it with much different eyes than I had in 1997. It was also striking because in its simplicity, it's very insightful.
As it turns out, the speech was not given at MIT and was not written by Kurt Vonnegut. It was written by a Chicago Tribune columnist who I assume is very pissed that her most noted piece is attributed to someone else. The most certain piece of advice given in the 'speech' is that you have to wear sunscreen. I just started wearing it a couple months ago. I guess it's better late than never. There are other things in the "speech" that I've done all along and a few that I'd still like to do. What I got from the "speech" then and what I still get now is that you have to:
Be easy on yourself
Accept certain truths
Nurture important relationships
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.
Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.
Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.
Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.
Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.
Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.
Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.
Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.
Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
Read the directions, even if you don't follow them. Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out. Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.
Did anyone watch the debate tonight? I'm over it. Is it just me?? I just feel like it's gone on way too long.
UPDATE: So I ended up watching most of the debate...a friend DVR'd. If Mrs. Clinton does get the nomination, it will be with much hesitation that I pull the lever for her. Her suit was nice today though.
Went to the ballet tonight (Thanx Evette!). To be exact, it was Complexions Contemporary Ballet. It was an extremely warm spring day today. By the time that Evette and I made our way down to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, it had cooled a bit and we were able to sit and enjoy some people watching in the courtyard. We saw Denise Nicholas ("Room 222"), Marianne Jean Baptiste ("Without a Trace") and the guy who played Whoopi's brother on her short-lived NBC sitcom. L.A. is pop culture heaven.
While star-gazing, Evette and I had a conversation about some of our more interesting trips to the theater. I mentioned to her that a few years back, I'd gone to see a David Talbert negroidian spectacular at the Wilshire Music Hall in Beverly Hills. I believe it was called "Fabric of a Man." It starred Shemar Moore and Cheryl Pepsi Riley. It was a birthday gift, for someone else. They chose the play...not me.
I knew the evening at "Fabric..." was going to be colorful when upon entering the lobby, there was a cardboard cut out of the cast that people were paying to take Polaroids in front of. Ugh. I knew that the only way that I was going to make it through the evening was with a few Jack rocks in my system. I threw a couple back in the upstairs lobby. As I was downing my drinks, I noticed that people were taking their snacks and cocktails into the house as if it was an AMC theater. I was confused.
I finally took my seat and I swear, I seriously contemplated just losing the money on the tickets and bouncing. The balcony was only about half full, which I thought was odd. I'd heard that these shows always sold out. Even with a half full balcony, it felt less like a theater and more like being at the Detroit Hair Show. The lights go down, the play begins, but the people in the audience DON'T STOP TALKING. I totally wanted to "shhhh" people, but I wasn't ready to fight. I had on my good shoes.
Then, about fifteen minutes into the show, the real fun began...the other half of people who purchased tickets began to show up. C.P. Time was in full effect. I could not make out the first 30 minutes of the play. I had to keep standing up to let people slide into their seats. Once the talking stopped, the snacking began. The collective sound of about 100 snack sized bags of Cheetos filled my ears. Just when I thought it couldn't get worse, the woman sitting front of me, got moved by one of Shemar's lines and felt that she had to let him know. She yelled, from the balcony, "All right now!" Shemar heard her; stopped talking and smiled. The audience applauded as if any of that was appropriate. It had been such a mess, by the time the shower scene took place and Shemar began to disrobe, I was totally unfazed by the hundreds of flashes that went off from women's cameras.
Tonight at the ballet, we thought we were safe from that type of behavior. W-R-O-N-G!!! The crowd seemed okay, but looks can be deceiving. Folks must've said, "To hell with my seat number." People were just sitting where ever they felt and had attitude when the proper ticket holders wanted their seats. After watching several rounds of musical chairs, the lights went down and the show began. The dancing was amazing. They looked beautiful onstage. So beautiful in fact, that a woman sitting behind us decided to snap a picture. What?!?
This can't be happening. It's ballet. Then I noticed another flash. This time it wasn't a camera. It was somebody who was apparently expecting a very important call. Her bluetooth, hanging in her right ear, was flashing in my peripheral. That blue light was on my nerves. I'm easily distracted. Then, like a scene from any local Magic Johnson Theater, a man sitting behind me yells, "Dance Now!" Stop it. Am I at the f*ckin' Apollo?!? Womp! Womp!
The shenanigans wouldn't stop...more flashing, more photos, more shouting at the stage. I hate people. This is why I sit at home with my cats. Hate is a strong word, I just, well...would rather not be around strangers most of the time. The kicker was a group of people coming down from the balcony during intermission and sitting in people's seats. The seats had programs and jackets in them...an indicator that someone was siting there. When the folks came back to their seats after intermission, the rude balcony people handed them there belongings as if they paid for those seats. I mighta had to fight them if that was me getting booted from my paid for seats, even if I had on my good shoes.
It was a wonderful evening. Seriously, it was. We had a great time. The performance was fantastic and I highly recommend seeing a Complexions show if you have the chance. Just make sure you get there early enough to claim your seat.
I'm losing weight. It hasn't been intentional, but I'm slowly shedding pounds. I never used to really weigh myself much. It didn't really matter to me. I was skinny. Skinny, is skinny whether its 115lbs, or 130. It wasn't until I'd gone to the doctor because of recurring back pain, that I realized that I wasn't quite that skinny anymore. I discovered that the pain was due to an additional 40lbs that my back wasn't used to. I didn't lose the weight immediately. I just learned how to carry it.
I've pretty much carried it since then. I lost much of it at one point. It cost me. Literally. I was in the gym twice a day. I hate gyms. They're germ laden night clubs to me. In order for me to commit, I had to find one that fit my personality, a smooth jazz gym, if you will. I found one, but smooth jazz costs more than the nightclub. I decided it was worth the price. I also began to eat differently. The Subway commercials are right, "fat is cheap." I started to to eat healthy. I discovered something I never really knew...fresh food is expensive. I took the hit though, I figured a few extra dollars was worth my getting back into shape. During this time I began to weigh myself twice a day. It's insane to do that and it never makes you feel good, but I needed to know that the expensive, organic turkey bacon was worth it.
That all worked for a while and then, well, life just sort of happened. I gained it all back. But now, it's starting to go away. I hadn't noticed because I've stopped weighing myself daily. My weight has been the least of my worries lately. I've been going through a bit of a transition. I can't fully explain what triggered the transition, but I do know that it's been both wonderful and painful at the same time.
I've come to some clarity. I'm more aware of what my needs are and less uncertain about how to meet them. I know some things for sure that I didn't know before. I am more aware than ever about how happiness is choice. The thing about getting clarity is that it usually turns a lot of long held beliefs upside down. There is an amazing amount of guilt, frustration and depression you can have after you realize that you may have been paralyzing yourself.
There are quite a few things I've come to in the last couple months, but one thing in particular has given me an entirely new perspective. I was treating my happiness and my future, like it was the lottery. I had all of these great things I wanted to do and achieve once I became a successful writer, producer & film director. I wanted to be creative and have a life here and L.A., while having homes in other cities. I wanted the freedom to travel when I felt like it, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. I want to spend time with my family and somewhere in between teach a few college courses, get married and have kids. Simple.
The possibility of doing all of those things always hinged on the hope that I'd not just become a working writer, but essentially a mogul. No pressure. If you live in L.A. and you've been part of the entertainment industry rat race, you know that it is a bit like a lottery. Some people's numbers get called immediately. Some people have to buy a hell of a lot more lottery tickets before they hit. The unspoken truth is that most people's tickets never get called.
You know what, I can pinpoint what started the transition, the Writer's Strike. I wasn't writing on a show, but I was doing some marketing work on several. They all, for the most part, shut down, so I wasn't able to earn a living doing my 'day job.' It hit me. I realized that I'd only been doing marketing to get by until I won the "life lottery." I didn't really enjoy it, though it can be fun and sexy at times. All of a sudden, my dream wasn't making me money and neither was my practical gig. Without anything, I was forced to think about what really mattered.
I'd often justified my 'day job' work, because well, I had to eat. I've come to realize that it wasn't just about eating, it was about being a 'real person' in the eyes of my family and social circle while I continued to work on my writing. You see, you can't go home and say you're a writer, without saying where someone may have read you're work. I've had countless accomplishments since I've been working out here in L.A., but the ones that I am most proud of - a good essay, a great performance, a finished script, mean very little to most of the people I love who live anywhere east of California.
So instead of being grounded in my wants and needs, I created a "second life." My "second life" was that of a marketing executive doing major deals with corporate brands and studios. This life was encouraged. This life allowed me to hand out business cards at Homecoming. This life made sense to my family. I could hide there in that "second life," while I stayed up until three a.m. writing. Somehow though, my "second life" became my first life and I just sat there waiting for my lottery ticket to save me.
Coming out of that haze recently, I realized that I wasn't writing, as much as I was waiting. I realized that that most of the things I'd dreamed of, were things I could do today if I chose to. I didn't need a lottery ticket. I just needed a plane ticket.
After making this discovery, I realized that most of the people I knew were waiting to hit the lottery. Everybody's making plans about 10 years from now, to do things they could do today. I was so excited to be able to share this revelation with my friends. I thought it would free them from the stillness of their expectations. Instead, I got confused silence. "What do you mean?" I heard over and over again. I realized that what I'd learned wasn't something I could tell. I just had to live it.
Life is happening right now. You'd think that would be a simple revelation, but it isn't. The weight has just dropped off. I'm lighter. I don't mean just figuratively, but physically as well. You see that in order for me to get here amongst the living, I went through a thorough stripping. I'm lighter spiritually, because I've taken some time to deal with myself in an honest way. I'm lighter physically, a whole six pounds, because I'm too broke to fill up the fridge.
About a year ago, one of my best friends encouraged me to do a fast. I listened to her as she explained what fasting did for her spiritually and physically, but I made jokes. I joked about not being able to give up food. I joked about how if I skipped lunch, could I consider it a fast. At the time, my "second life," the one that I didn't even really want, made me gluttonous. Of course, I couldn't stop eating long enough to fast, I was rolling around in excess. Waste. Arrogance. How ironic, a year later, I find myself having the same clarity my friend had, accompanied by a fast that I didn't opt for. Turns out God has a sense of humor too.
Either way, it feels good to be lighter. It still isn't easy, I mean, I do eventually want to eat a real meal again. I have to figure out how that's going to happen, but in the mean time the joy of being able to sustain on just what I need and not what I want has been a pretty humbling and fulfilling experience. Who knew there were so many things you could do with hot dogs, frozen vegetables and brown rice?
Now, I have to get ready for the next phase...action. Once you really know something, you can't do things the same way you were doing them before. Now that I think about it, maybe the strike was my lottery ticket. I really do feel now that my dreams are reality.
I know many of you have banned TBS because of "House of Payne," but if you can bring yourself to turn back to that network, check out "10 Items or Less." It's sort of like "The Office," minus the trying too hard to be different thing. It's funny. Most sitcoms aren't nowadays and I give it bonus points for shooting in an actual supermarket (Jon's in Reseda, CA) during business hours. It's a good show so it probably has low ratings and will be cancelled soon (ie: Freaks & Geeks, Rags to Riches, Watching Ellie, Generations, The Comeback - Valerie Cherish was the best! )
Have you ever wanted something to the point that you could taste it? Back in the day, the early '90's to be exact, I wanted a Honda Accord like nobody's business. I used to dream about them and secretly hated on those who owned one (except for you Alison, it was always love for you and your sea foam beauty).
I've had a couple other mild cases car obsessions like the Jetta (as seen in late '80's MC Lyte's "Paper Thin").
So, here I am now with a new obsession and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it because, well...it's a Buick. A Buick? I don't know, that just sounds crazy to me, like I've never heard anyone say, "I gotta have that Buick Skylark."
I went to the L.A. car show w/my boo this past fall and there it was...a vision in cocoa mettalic, the 2008 Buick Enclave.
I wish I could say that it was some sort of patriotic reason, like buying American that attracted me to the Enclave. I don't even know cars well enough to get into the specifications. It's just cute. Obsessing over a Buick changes everything for me. Who knows? Maybe next week, I'll go shopping at JcPenney.
Brother to Brother. Brother to Brother. Brother to Brother. Brother to Brother. These words were recited in a pulsating rhythm in the opening Marlon T. Riggs' signature work "Tongues Untied." I was sixteen, a senior in high school. I was in love with a girl named Dana. She was the captain of the of the cheerleaders squad. I was excited about graduating high school. I was living the life. I was happy. I was cool. I was also confused as hell.
Marlon Riggs "Tongues Untied" was a performance art film hidden under the guise of a documentary. It was a poetic look at black gay men's struggle to love themselves while being suppressed by both the white and black dominant heterosexual culture. I don't know how I even knew this film existed at sixteen. I must've just been flipping channels. Who knows, maybe I was aware that it was coming on. I watched PBS regularly growing up. All I know is that I'd never been more frightened at being caught doing something in my life.
I sat directly in front of the TV so I could turn the channel immediately if someone walked into my room. I didn't know how I'd explain watching this film, about black men, loving black men. To be honest, I couldn't really fully absorb what I was seeing. It was all too much, but I couldn't turn away. There was a sense of power that I'd never seen associated with being "that way." To make matters worse, Dana called. She always called at the same time every night.
So, I sat there, on the phone with my girlfriend, watching "Tongues Untied", with one hand on the dial (there was no remote action on my bedroom TV) and my heart palpitating from both fear and excitement. Until that point, "Caligula" was probably the most sexual film that I'd seen. Actually, I'd seen some porn before, but "Tongues Untied" was different. It had an urgency and a passion that my sixteen year old brain could not fully consume. I didn't know whether to masturbate, or cry as I listened to the poetry and stories of sex, prejudice and AIDS.
All the while, I'm on the phone with Dana and I knew something had changed. I wasn't on the DL, or any of that foolishness. I was young. I was still figuring out what's what. I do remember feeling in that moment that I was going to have to make some choices. I couldn't ignore the doubt and questioning anymore.
Brother to Brother. Brother to Brother. Brother to Brother. Brother to Brother.
That chant taunted me. It felt like a challenge and maybe to some degree a call to move forward into some self-discovery. Dana asked what I was watching and I told her. I'm not sure why I decided to be honest. She turned to the show and reacted sharply, "Why are you watching this?" I did the only thing I could think to do at that time, I made fun of it. She laughed at my snide homophobic comments and I pretended to turn the channel. Instead, I just turned it down and sat there feeling exposed and full of shame.
We hung up after several "I love you's" and I sat there transfixed on the final moments of the film, uncertain of what any of it meant. All I knew for sure, was that I wasn't alone.
"Tongues Untied" has just been released on DVD. If you haven't seen it, check it out. What's interesting is how you can see that the hip-hop culture has not only changed black America in general, but also subsets of the community. "Tongues Untied" is reminiscent of a time when it would have been uncommon for one black men to discriminate against another. Today that seems to be the norm in the fragmented, image conscious, internet socializing world we live in today.
By the time I was old enough to go out, I expected to find a unified community. Instead I found clubs where the queens were on the first floor twirling to dance music and thugs were on the second floor holding their crotches listening to hip-hop. This world didn't look like what I'd seen sitting on the floor in my room watching "Tongues Untied." I sort of feel like I missed a golden era, much like I do for black America in general; a time where we all seemed to be connected to a tangible community.
Director Marlon Riggs was awarded a full scholarship to Harvard University and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in history in 1978. In 1981, he earned his M.A. in journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. He began making films at Berkeley and his graduate thesis on the role of blues music in African-African culture, "Long Train Running" won an American Film Institute award in 1982.
"Tongues Untied" earned Riggs several awards, including Best Documentary at the Berlin International Film Festival, Best Independent/Experimental work by the L.A. Film Critics Association, First Prize at the San Francisco International Film Festival, a blue ribbon at the American Film Institute, and an award from the National Black Programming Consortium. The awards, however, did not mean much to PBS affiliates when the film was scheduled to be broadcast. 174 of the 284 affiliates chose not to air the film.
Riggs other works include, "Black is, Black Ain't", "Color Adjustment" and "Ethnic Notions." If you're looking for something other than "Madea's Family Reunion" to pop in your DVD player this weekend, check your local library and see if they have any of these flicks.
So, I was watching SNL a few weeks back. Mariah stepped in to pinch hit for Janet, who was too sick to perform that night. I like Mariah. She's like one your crazy cousins who you can have fun with every now and then. But as I was watching SNL, I swore I could hear here sing lyrics that included the words "Shawnte," "Youtube" and "Patron". Here are some sample lyrics from one of the songs she sang, "Migrate".
Keep it movin... Bounce
Once again nothin' jumpin' up in yo place,
Sick of your berry buzzin' all in my face,
Way too much to tolerate,Time to roll,
Y'all know I gots to migrate.
Speed dial connecting me to Rae-Rae (Hey)
Click in Shawntae and Mae-Mae (Hey)
Treat it as a holiday,Cause he's a wrap,
Y'all know I had to migrate.
Fellas be grabbin' at us like yo,
Tryin' to get us going off the Patron,
We sippin' Grigio... slow.
If your neck and your wrist coordinate, Hair braided or faded okay,
We can move this back to my place,
It's time to migrate.
Seriously? How do we get there, from here:
"My All" (1997)
I am thinking of you
In my sleepless solitude tonight
If its wrong to love you
Then my heart just wont let me be right
cause Ive drowned in you
And I wont pull through
Without you by my side
"My All" was Mariah 13th #1 song and it put her at #1 among female artists with the most #1 songs, topping Diana Ross & the Supremes. This week, "Touch My Body," her latest single puts Mariah ahead of Elvis Presley as the act with the most #1 songs. She only trails The Beatles by two # 1's.
I mean, I guess she's doing something right. Has anyone seen Toni Braxton on a chart lately? But c'mon..."I gots to migrate"??? Stop it. Somebody find Babyface to write her some songs. Stat!
Mariah, as I like to remember her - "Love Takes Time"
As you go about doing your daily activities this on April 4th, take a moment to remember Dr. Martin Luther King. This year marks the 40th anniversary of his assassination. He was, as you all know, just 39 years old. Just thinking about that makes me wonder if I've done much of anything.
I can't help but to think about how many children participated in the civil rights movement. It's incredible when you think about how many kids, felt so much passion and organized to help move society in a better direction. I think that not enough time is spent celebrating the enormous advancements we've made in this country. We tend to focus of what we don't have, or all of the wrongs that still exist. Take a moment to respect what we've been able to do. And then when that moment's over...go find a way to have an impact in your community.
The sad fact is that many kids couldn't tell you much about Dr. Martin Luther King today. I watched the Los Angeles King Day Parade a few years back and cringed as this child being interviewed on live TV did not know who Martin was. I blame his parents. Although, chances are, his mom didn't know much about Martin either.
If you need a reason, or some shock therapy to get you motivated to become active in your community, go on You Tube. It's frightening. In the 60's the larger need was social change for racial equality. Now, I think instead of marches and protests against Don Imus and Kramer, we need to focus on the next challenge - raising our children. No one's stopping us from doing that in the same way we weren't allowed to vote. So, what's the excuse?
Watch the clips...there's some talent, somewhere, down deep. Just think of what these kids could do if they had an actual dance class, or parents. If any Terps from the Pirate Roundup are reading this, maybe you can help. Of course, these kids need an ass whuppin' first, but then they can go to a dance class.
I've worked as journalist, marketing executive, essayist, producer and flunkie. Former publications include Black Meetings & Tourism, Sister 2 Sister and most notably the National Enquirer. Yes, I went through trash, crashed weddings and on occasion, spotted UFO's.
Deciding to not permanently damage any chance of having the career that I moved to Los Angeles for, I left the tabloid for creative pursuits. We all know that you can't eat off of dreams; "Fame costs." So, while writing and attending American Film Institute, I held various positions from the mundane - answering phones; to the ridiculous - being Sheryl Lee Ralph's personal assistant.
I did the executive thing and ran an agency. It killed my creative spirit.
I decided to change my life. I packed up, sold my my excess junk on craigslist and drove back east to spend time with my father who has been ailing and to just take a breath.
Now, I am an English/Cinema studies professor. I'm getting to do something I love, at a place I love.
Life is good.
When I'm not working, writing and performing, I sleep.