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Archive for the ‘fireside chat’ Category

SKU-000034522_XLNot too long ago, a friend honestly-joked1 that I am a contrarian. And I have to admit, it was a brilliant set-up. Because guess how you deny being a contrarian. Exactly. “Am not” is oxygen to an open flame.2

I got to thinking; a hobby done best while whittling vanilla wafers into suggestive animal cracker couplings. And after eating a cookie shaped like a zebra chumbawamping a goat and one of a liger tubthumping a hippo, I reached a thought.

I think I might be a contrarian, am 100% sure that I’m sardonic and swear that like Panic! at the Disco writes sins and not tragedies, I write protest songs and not lullabies.

Since the title of this here blog is the Change I Wish to See, you’d think the archives would be stuffed full of Gandhi-inspired rhetoric, Care Bear rainbows and hunger strike pledges. Yet, so far, no dice on any of that. Instead, you’re more likely to read a post in which I wonder why Gandhi didn’t speak up for himself more or I coerce Funshine and Cheer Bear into hunger strikes to protest the bastardization of the lovable bear industry by companies like Vermont Teddy Bear Co.3

I can’t help it. It’s the change I want to see, not the change that happened a while ago and therefore makes this blog so 2000 and late. It’s about telling Houston we have a problem.

I thought that maybe I should write a post that would break my stride; something that detailed a few things I unabashedly love; to switch it up a little; to take off this Stormy Monday underwear I’ve been wearing for days and put on a fresh pair. Obviously, my love for animated movies came to mind. But then I remembered that I even wrote a post telling Little Foot to take his job and shove it. I told Little Foot, hero before time, that he was washed up.

[insert pause, while I pour one out for my homie Little Foot’s storied career]

Apparently, a long, long time ago, some obnoxious little kid’s mom said “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” and the little brat saw fit to take that personalized attempt to shut him and only him up, spread it like the pig flu (aka “the plu“) and now we’re stuck with it centuries later.

But I don’t believe in that.

Complaining is good for the soul. Like the best chicken soup, it’s homemade, salty and clears your chest of stuff that was in your head but sank lower and lower over time as you failed to blow it out.

I have made New Year’s resolution after resolution to complain less the next year. I have broken New Year’s resolution after resolution to complain less the next year. I think I am complaining about those broken resolutions right now.

But I’ve decided to let the circle be unbroken.

I like jokes. And ever since a 5 hour car trip with my dad 9 years ago when he popped in a tape of “jokes appropriate for the workplace” and replayed it when it finished and I tried to rip my drums from my ears, I decided humor a) shouldn’t suck nearly that hard and b) that the best jokes have a hint of bitterness to them.

So usually I have nothing nice to say. Thank god. Because if I did, I’d be Tony Robbins and would hate my life with the fury of a thousand blueballed virgins.

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1You know, a joke that starts out funny for the idea of it, then becomes humorous for its truth, then becomes a point of personal reflection.

2In retrospect, I should’ve dropped an “I’m rubber, you’re glue…” but hindsight is for assholes.4

3Though, Vermont Teddy Bear Co., I will gladly follow the latest FTC rules and admit you’ve sent me plush products to review if you so choose.

4FN 2 contains arguably the worst pun ever.

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I am neither lost nor at a loss.  I am not misled or misplaced.  I am not stranded with “S.O.S.” tattooed on my forehead.

Yet, there you are, at my front door, Bible in hand, with a duty to sell, ready to save my soul.  And here I am, wishing for the death of a salesmen.

The problem is not that you believe what I have made a decision not to accept.  The problem is that your system of beliefs seems to come with an aggressive marketing scheme and I learned at an early age to be wary of strangers with something to prove.

I don’t want your god.  I mean him, her, it or them no disrespect.  I’m sure they are wonderful conversationalists; I’ve heard nothing but great things about the miracle of prayer.  But I’m simply not in the market for religion right now.

I grew up in the church.  I understand the need god fills for you.  It’s a need we all have: to understand how/what/where/when/why we are.  I just have a different strategy for finding the answers and I would appreciate it if you found the humanity to respect that.

All ideas are goal-oriented.  We have them to move us somewhere, even if it’s only an inch.  And, to me, you are ordering your steps up a stairway to heaven.  I think you’re more concerned with where you’ll be than where you are.  You have a destination in mind and your travel agent says the travel package features endless days and infinite nights in paradise, but one of the catches is recruitment/referrals.

So you knock on my door, armed with a manual written by men you’ve never met and pamphlets I can keep just in case a cartoon of a sheep and a white, bearded man in draped cloth is the only thing that will get me through a rough day.

Well, you didn’t ask, but if I had your ear, here’s what I believe.

I believe that the only religion I need is an unabashedly human one.  I believe that we should be concerned first with whether our lives make the lives of those around us more fruitful and not whether we please a being with nothing at stake and with nothing to lose.  There is no personal reward system for this; no eye towards karma or open hand to receive a key to the pearly gates.  There is only balance.

But I haven’t told you any of this as you stand at my door.  And I won’t if you come back next weekend or the one after.  I won’t; not just because what I think about what you believe is irrelevant, but because faith, much like love, is best communicated by example.  So, rather than read you my rights, I’m forgiving you for the insult of coming uninvited to my home and telling me my soul was in danger of flaming damnation unless I started living my life more like yours.

I forgive you.  But you don’t even notice.  And the irony of that is your loss.  I hope your faith finds you well.

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twentysomething

Allegedly, I’m there.

You know, there, right?  That place on the American life’s timeline where engagements and real estate purchases make their appearances; the one where your parents do a stellar job of “subtly” remarking on the preciousness of grandchildren; the place where you either start watching Rogaine commercials more closely or start waxing your upper lip (you know, depending on whether you were born a bird or a bee)¹.

Allegedly, I’m there.  I’ll be 27 in less than two months and while that is still, in my opinion at least, really young, it’s also an age ripe for fielding expectations disguised as questions, like

What do you do?  Is she/he The One?  Where do you live?  Do they have good schools there?

Of course they’re fair questions; of course.  But if the questions are asked in rapid-fire succession or their answers are awaited by 24 curious eyes, it’s enough to make anyone other than the most secure with what’s to come unsure about what to say.

After I write this, we’re headed out to say goodbye to some friends who are moving because they are embracing being already there.  And, I admit, it’s pretty vain of me to be so consumed with what their leaving means for my timeline.  Not every object should be held up as a mirror.  It’s probably a lot like checking my reflection in the window of a car I walk past.

But, maybe, since these questions are all everyone seems concerned with lately, maybe it’s cool if all I can do is think about the answers.

_________

¹Still have no idea what an interspecies analogy has to do with the sexes.

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indebted

This post marks the third year of this blog. It’s my blogoversary.

Next year will be my tenth year in DC — a city known for transience. I have seen many people come with lofty local aspirations but go and others insist the grass is greener elsewhere but stay (*ahem* myself *ahem*).

I have never felt more at home than now.

I started this blog, back in August 2006 on Opera, because I thought I had something to say. I needed a way to remain expressive during law school which succeeds brilliantly at stifling you. Over the next two years, I moved to Blogger and on rare occasions I’d write some words no one would read.

That all changed last November. I learned that I’d failed the NY bar exam, after years of convincing myself I was destined to be the first lawyer in a black family whose patriarch was not allowed to go past the fifth grade. When I picked myself up off the floor, I found each of you.

It shouldn’t be a secret: I write in this space because you read it. Everyday, I try to find something to say that you’ll want to hear. I don’t get it right all of the time, obviously. Sometimes I post things that are so bad they embarrass me. But I hope that by the time this space goes still, whenever that is, that something here mattered to you. For me, it’s not exaggeration to say that this place has been life-changing. It’s an understatement. I have always hoped this blog would help me find people and I have found great ones.

I know this probably has a more reserved tone than it should. Where are the confetti, the dancing girls and poo-flinging monkeys? I don’t know; maybe on Monday. I’ve got the monkeys on lease from the National Zoo and they do have to go back next week, whether they’ve flung poo or not, so I might as well get my money’s worth… or at least not return 4 constipated monkeys.

But celebrating me isn’t really my style. So I’m celebrating you. And I’m doing a giveaway; the first I’ve ever done.

Anyone who comments today gets her/his name placed in a drawing (so if you normally lurk behind the curtain, today’s the day to say “hello”). And because you know I love Disney animated movies like a fat kid loves cake or a black kid loves orange drink (not juice; DRINK) and red Kool-Aid, the drawing is for an animated Disney DVD of your choice. That’s right: of your choice. This is a “name your prize” giveaway.

Anyway… It’s Friday and since this post has taken longer to get through than a stutterer reading an unabridged dictionary aloud,¹ I’ll wrap.

Happy Friday. And, as always, thanks for stopping by.

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¹What? I can be reflective and inappropriate.

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“Space may be the final frontier, but it’s made in a Hollywood basement.”

When Californication came up on shuffle yesterday, I was just so sure Anthony Kiedis was right — that a lot of things we believe really just have a production quality high enough to convince us they’re real.

And maybe he’s right.  I’ve never been to space.  I really only have seen it reproduced on screen.  And I guess almost 40 years ago that even Stevie once thought something really similar — that when you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.; that we have to be careful about to whom (and what) we pledge steadfast allegiance.

But sometimes we should believe carelessly in things we don’t understand.  Not recklessly; not irresponsibly.¹  But without concern for whether it fits someone else’s idea of mature or good for you or well-grounded…

So, here are nine things — some as farfetched as space is wide — I have “no right” to believe but believe anyway.²

I believe something was — existed, happened… — before the big bang, but no one has captured it or written about it accurately yet.

I believe I could win a songwriter Grammy.

I believe that passion is like salt: it makes everything better.

I believe that there is more than one person (romantically) for everyone, but that the trick may be meeting only one of these people in your lifetime.

I believe that laughter conquers all.

I believe that yesterday makes us yearn for a better tomorrow, that the fear of tomorrow makes us retreat to the comfort of yesterday and that today is too often lost in the shuffle.

I believe that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was an insult to my able-to-dress-self-like-big-boy intelligence.

I believe that Casablanca is wildly overrated.

I believe that there are sexual relationships and there is the law and that — absent abuse or the serious potential for it — never the two should meet.

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¹If all the evidence and your gut say “No,” ignoring it all is dangerous.
²If you’ve got any space on your blog, I’d love to hear yours.

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credit: Patrick Wymore/FOX

credit: Patrick Wymore/FOX

I’ve said it once before but it bears repeating: more parents should teach their sons and daughters that “curves” is not a dirty word.  No debating that today.  It’s a fact; like the fact that peanut butter and jelly are always better when they’re together

But back to curves.

Although it’s been said, many times, many ways — pretty, uh, explicitly by Lil Wayne feat. Young Money and classically by Sir Mix-a-Lot, for instance —  for some reason, we don’t seem convinced by the litany of examples of how body image dominates our interactions.

Now, Fox reality television has a new series, More to Love.

Quick breakdown: The Bachelor starring a guy and a fleet of women who Men’s Health and Cosmopolitan magazines have aggressively not featured as cover models.

The good:
This is easy — images on our TV screen that, when coupled with all the others we see, better reflect the American spectrum of body image.  Granted, better; not perfectly.

The weird:
It feels a little isolationist — maybe even a little disingenuous — because it’s so showy and maybe even the worst kind of pageantry.

I wonder why that is?  Could it be how the president of Fox’s alternative programming described his network’s approach?

“We aren’t going to thin these girls down so they can find love — that’s a backwards message.” Adds [Mike] Darnell, “For six years it’s been skinny-minis and good-looking bachelors, and that’s not what the dating world looks like.”

Yep, that’s it.

“Good-looking bachelors?”  Darnell tried; he did.  He started strong.  But by the end of his statement, he was expressing the exact awkward feeling I had when I first saw the trailer: that this show was going to try and equally fashion a relationship for people it considered separate from our idea of beauty.

For me, it would be much better if, just once, the Bachelor was not a white guy, or chose a black girl, or a Korean girl or the girl with curves, rather than having a network insist that the girl with curves has to be cast entirely separately.  It would be a brilliant social statement if the “good-looking bachelor” just chose the girl with curves from among a diverse group.  Instead, she’s paired with a more “realistic,” “unattractive” bachelor because, well, that’s the real world.

Maybe, on balance, just seeing the images on our screen is enough, though.  Maybe it isn’t absolutely counterproductive to paint the right picture so poorly.  As long as there are women with curves on TV, FOX says we should be happy.  Is it weird that I’m not?

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¹I don’t think Jack was singing about PBJs, but “Better Together” is just a good listen. So, go listen.

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in an honest moment

I first saw the startling pictures of the metro crash that rocked the DC metro area last night around 6pm.  And in an honest moment, I felt anger.

A few weeks ago, a lone gunmen walked into the Holocaust Museum and opened fire.  All of my thoughts were for the security guard who lost his life and for those who were witnesses and victims.  Anger at the shooter didn’t happen for days.

But last night, I guess I shamefully admit, I felt anger almost immediately.

The first thing I thought upon seeing the images was that someone had done something tragically wrong.  My first thought was that someone, or some system, had cost people their lives.  The rear train’s first car rested atop the last car of the train it hit.  In order for that to happen, it seemed, the rear train had to be traveling at a rate of speed that greatly exceeded that of the train it hit.  The front train probably would’ve had to have been stopped on the tracks.  Subsequent reports suggest that’s exactly what happened — that the first train had stopped and, for some reason, the second train barreled into it.

As of this morning, the preliminary evidence suggests there was no attack, no malice, no hate involved, just… mistake.  And I don’t know what you tell families when it’s an accident.  I don’t know what I’d have done if a friend didn’t make it home because of something that appears to have been avoidable.

I know this isn’t the time to point fingers.  I know there are statistics and probabilities that address the everpresent likelihood of accidents like this one.  I know that for each time we step outside our front door, someone, somewhere, has calculated an expectancy for our return later that evening and that that number is never 100%.  I know all of that.  I know about the variables, constants and the equations.  I just don’t feel comfortable with the sum of their parts.

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