Thursday, January 21, 2016

Again Oscar?

Ramblings Post #310
Honestly, my only real Oscar interest is when Turner Classic Movies does its Thirty One Days of Oscar film fest. There are some nights on TCM that you find yourself watching something and you have to wonder how this got made...even in 1950! But during Oscar month, just about everything is gem. Old favorites come out, popcorn is popped and I don't even mind that it's cold outside.  

Once again the Oscars have been announced, and once again the majority white, pretty much all male, and mostly over 60 members have decided the best actors in the country for the past year pretty much look like themselves. Again. Gee that was unexpected.

When you consider the films that emerged this year that were well written and well acted, but that didn't star the same old same old or follow the same old formulas, and had actors that were minorities in prominent roles, this is a little disappointing. But not wholly  surprising. I know we've got a black president, but Hollywood is Hollywood and when you consider that it still thinks films with female or minority leads can't open big (*cough*Force Awakens) or aren't internationally marketable (see Exodus: Gods and Kings) the idea that they then, and probably without even thinking about it, omit certain films is...well, understandable.  It's kind of why some of the other award shows - The Image Awards, The BET awards, etc, - came into existence. Because nothing feels worse than knocking it out the park and not being recognized at all for it.

The one acting nomination that did emerge even connected to a minority led and minority lead picture garnered it's sole accolade for the acting of the White Male supporting actor. What surprised me even more is that somehow this was a shock to those who have worked in the industry for decades. 

Which brings me to Jada Pinkett-Smith, who suggested the Black Hollywood boycott Regular Hollywood.

I'm not saying it's because her husband was nominated, but I'm just saying the timing shole is funny. (By the way, my friends from Africa tell me his accent was wrong based on the character, so that's one point not in his favor.)

The term boycott to me is always interesting, because it is the go-to method of protest for upper class black outrage. Even when it's use won't actually help it's the first idea anyone bougie throws on the table. Boycott'em. Because it sounds historic and requires little effort. But to make a boycott efficient, it has to be something that depends on business with blacks to thrive, and where taking away that black trade would inflict heavy financial damages. That model won't work with Hollywood. Further, Pinkett-Smith is asking some black actors to risk their livelihood. Sure, Sam Jackson will find work, but a few of the actors on the cusp who just got their first invite can't really afford to bite the hand that feeds them. Not even nibble on it really.

My first suggestion is that instead of a boycott, everyone black who is invited should go. But they should coordinate, and everyone wear the same color outfit, one just offsetting enough to catch the eye but not enough to throw the whole night off. Say, all the men who support the diversity effort wear a yellow gold tuxedo jacket. And all the women wear matching gold dresses of various shades. This way you include non-minorities who support the cause. Imagine George Clooney and Sam Jackson showing up in the gold...and explaining what they're doing in a calm and patient manner, over and over again to the assembled press. A camera sweep of the room with heavily laid out against black would be a striking image you could probably put on posters. Why not that instead of boycott? Just a suggestion. 

My other suggestion for the "black elite" those whose talents and skills have blessed them with fortunes is why not establish their own "base." Long I have heard the stories of black people in Hollywood and the diminished, stereotypical roles they are offered. And the question I've often asked, much like you ask anyone else on any other job, if you're this dissatisfied, why not create your own future instead of waiting for the world to serve you what you need? Why hasn't Black Hollywood made it's own Hollywood?

Black athletes and actors should get together, pool their monies, and create their own production companies. Plural. Three or four. I realize that all actors aren't wealthy, most of them are living project to project, so some of this is old school asking those who got something to lookout for the rest of us. Will, Jada, looking at you. Those that can invest a few million need to do so, and if we can raise a few hundred million from a thousand or so folks that all would go into Film Trusts or Associations. Then we choose two or three old school black actors or directors to serve on the boards and select various projects. With a that little bit of money (comparatively speaking) we're talking about three or four medium budget ($5-10 million dollars) films per year, with a profit sharing plan that pays out to the investors but also pays back into the Trust.

This business model gives young minority directors a chance to flex their skills, young minority script writers a chance to put hone their skills and get a resume going, and minority crew members as chance to work as well. These need not be exclusively black projects, but all minorities, with shorts, television shows, animation, web shows and features that show that minority actors can be the any character in the spectrum, from sci-fi to prestige dramas.  

But these just a few ideas that I had. Not that I'm anyone important.

Barkeep. I need a glass of white. And drop three grapes into it. It's a class thing.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr.

If ever there was a need to build a time machine and to go back and pluck someone from the past because we need him today, it's Dr. King. A voice of calm in an ocean of outrage. A man who endured because he had to, because he knew that his people needed him to be more than just a man, but a symbol.

The most sad part about this idea is that he would recognize where we are now without any prompting...because I swear ain't that much changed.

1958 or 2015... ain't much changed.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Thank God SOMEBODY Won the Powerball...

Ramblings Post #309
I laugh at suggestions like Mark Cuban's who suggested that money can't buy happiness. Statements like that in my opinion mean the the man hasn't seen a bill he hasn't been able to pay for a while. Broke isn't what he thinks it is. The general idea might be that money might not buy happiness, but it will allow you to purchase a spot right next door to it and become good friends. At the bare minimum, moneys makes being miserable a whole lot more comfortable. 

As it has become clearly evident due to reporting in news and confirmed by my bank account, I did NOT win the Powerball. And most likely you didn't either. 


Not that we shouldn't believe in long shots or beating the odds, it's what makes American great, but like many of you, for the past few days my mind would wander to what I do if I won. It was a lot of money, you just kinda had to get in on taking a shot. I thought of who I would share the money with, what gifts I would hand out as college loan and mortgage payoffs, friends I would hook up and the like. And yes, I imagined either building a small town just outside Atlanta or buying one of the two or three super expensive mansions that I researched in the real estate listings. The coolness of it all consumed us as we dove into our fantasies. And now it's all over and we can go back to our regularly scheduled lives. Which may have accounted for all that surprising morning traffic the day after. Were folks all late this morning checking tickets? 

The lottery had become THE topic of conversation. Around the office there were the usual jokes and shared dreams. We talked about strategies for handling the money while we worked. I got into conversations with my father about it during phone calls. Bringing up the lottery became an icebreaker when talking to people I hadn't seen in a moment, with wishes of luck and promises to let them super-size the dinner I would buy them if I won. I think we all got a little too caught up. 

By my calculations the 44 states that participate in the education lottery should see a 30-plus million dollar bump in their allotments per participant for this little period, which is great. The idea that providing much needed funding for education gets lost in the shuffle when we talk about the lottery. On the occasions I participate, I ask the clerk if I can make my "donation" to the education fund. Since this is going for a good cause, we might need to get this hyped up about it twice a year. 

But I picked up a couple of tickets, sure, although I am well aware that statistically the second ticket had no real affect on my odds of winning anymore than say, the good luck dance I did in living room that night. And also I played with a group from work, this on the simple theory of "if you win, you're not leaving me here." I actually have that concept as a story idea, the person getting left behind after a group wins, as a screenplay treatment. But I in reality I made no huge investment of any kind, and I doubt I'll play again until it gets back up there and I happen to be in the store, with money, and don't want potato chips or something.  

Most of us had no business dreaming that hard on something that far outside the realm of the possible. We have skills and talents we let linger when we could be making those work, instead we focus on the 292 million to one shot. I thought about it way more than I should have, even after I admitted to a co-worker that I wouldn't even check to see if I won. The deluge of needy well wishers and sudden relatives would have turned my life upside down, but I think the total amount would have been hard to burn through. And keeping it under wraps would have been difficult. Although if it wasn't going to stay a secret, I'd have to shoot my own reality show so I could control the message. See, it thought of everything. 

But it's over now. And life returns to normal. The seemingly endless cycle of getting up, working and scrambling for something better. Oh, how I missed you. 

Barkeep. Let's start over at the beginning. Beer. No, not the good beer. Mass market American beer. Yes, I said it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Oregon: A Slightly Colored Opinion

This is a political post. 

I've heard a number of arguments as to why the outrage in Oregon is different than Baltimore or Ferguson, and I really don't think they hold much water. I'll get into that in a moment, but I seriously want to suggest a non-violent solution to that situation. 

1. Shut off the heat and water. 
2. Cordon off the area - allowing no one in, but allow them to peacefully depart - After getting fingerprints and pictures. 
3. Wait. 

Considering that the protesters didn't pack any supplies, and actually had to ask folks to bring by snacks on twitter, this is about as disorganized a protest as you can get. I think more than a little cold and quite a bit of hunger will weaken this wide eyed resolve and get this Federal land issue back into the courthouse or the statehouse where it belongs. I figure about ten to twelve days, three weeks at the outside.  

Now that I've saved the day (again) let's get to why we shouldn't listen to the weak arguments as why armed white protesters should be treated with kid gloves while unarmed black protesters merit a calling out of the National Guard.  Slate, I site actually like, proffered as a defense the  argument that the Oregon situation really doesn't lend itself to soundbites or instant reactions, and that the issues are hyper-regional. I'd like to remind it's author, Jamelle Bouie (black), that really nothing lends itself to soundbites or instant reactions, not this situation OR the what occurred in Baltimore or Ferguson. Although we live in the age of instant news, very little outside sports scores lend themselves to ten second sound bites or three hundred word articles to which we've reduced our awareness. Just as this is a very nuanced situation that could probably be discussed for hours, so to are the police brutality situations all across the country. Oregon isn't special.  

Bouie goes on to explain the situation's origin's are hyper-regional, concerning the use of federal lands in areas with huge national forests. But this is the same as the actual acts of police violence oppression in specific urban areas like Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, New York....etc,. Similar because of the participants dissatisfied with treatment by the government,  these also are hyper-regional in nature while being part of a larger national issue, but none of them gave rise to idea the armed takeover of government property and nor should this situation.  

And the idea that these are long standing issues is almost laughable, because unless I've got my history wrong black people have issues in this country since there was this country. By comparison, this outrage is mere thirty or forty years old. 

The only real difference between these matters  seems to be that this is a Federal matter, and the incidents of black protests are taking place more on the local level, which Bouie points out very, very late in his article. But just pointing out the debacles at Ruby Ridge and Waco, and the eventual horrible results they initiated, as the reason for restraint isn't the best argument either. Disgruntled readers can far too easily draw the misguided conclusion that more violence and not less is the answer if that violence leads to future restraint on the part of authorities. It won't. This more detached Federal approach to intervention doesn't need a testing to see if it's equal.  

And I believe the treatment is not racial. Or I really want to.   

Because that is hard to do once you get to the part where the sheriff pretty much just asked local folks to avoid the area and told the protesters to just "Go Home." No armored Humvees, no shock troops, nothing even remotely threatening. Okay, great but, for the last few days there hasn't even been as much as a single guard - local or federal - and the "protesters" come and go as they please. Really?  There is handling it and then there...nothing? Wow. 

Someone gets sent to jail for something they admit they did, and you can seize a federal building. But innocent unarmed black people are shot in the street and we aren't even supposed to even say anything. I'm just saying. 

As much as we don't want this to be about's still kinda about race. Sorry. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Oh them Holidays

Ramblings Post #308
When my defacto niece goes back to NYC, she's gonna need a vacation from her vacation. The hanging out all night to the wee hours, the sleeping all day, the constant imbibing. Sure it was fun when I did all that X number of years ago, but it can't still be fun today? Didn't they learn from our mistakes? Oh, right we don't consider those mistakes, more along the lines of a good time with friends. Right. Right. Let me get back to my old folks stuff. Sorry to bother ya'll. 

Back from the wilds of Cackalack, and boy am I old.

I have cousins that I grew up with who have children who have graduated from college. From college! And now those kids are asking to come live with me. Which is understandable as I live in Atlanta and have a house with spare bedrooms and they live in the aforementioned wilds of etc and so on. With their parents. So I feel for them, I really do. But I like my me time, my private hours. Drinking from the big glass, shoes off, video game blaring. Might even watch one of them R-rated movies. So I'm hesitant. No, that putting it wrong. I just don't want to do it. But it's family, and in my family you're not really allowed to be that much of an ass without you feuding with them. It didn't help that my cousin, the girl's mother, was jokingly trying to get me to hook her up with a Sugardaddy in the form of one of my middle aged friends. I was not amused.

While my tip end of the family lives in a more traditional nuclear family mode, that side of us is practically communal living. Because they all live relatively close, and all the adults are working the hours they can get which are kinda funny, the kids have to get in where they fit in, but everyone in the house/neighborhood is related to them some kinda way. If they've got diverse after school activities  - science club, social club, statistics for fun and profit - and your parents happen to work nights, you might sleep at your aunt's house two nights a week, another cousin's house three other nights and your parents house just on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It sounds chaotic, but if that's what you're used to, what are you gonna do?

So, back to the question before me. Let's do the math. I'm guessing she'll expect free rent, free food, and access to an actual night life? I know it's what I'd be asking for if I were in my twenties trying to figure out where I was headed. And in "Hotlanta" too? I'm fairly certain that the youth, as the youth tend to do, has designs of showing up and setting up shop for the long haul, perhaps even looking for her new "roommate" to dish out a few bucks from time to time, disappear when she 'needs some space' and to not rat-out her occasional very late night/all night out to her mother.

Just writing that makes me feel uncomfortable. Imagine if it happened. 

I told her I would think about letting her stay for job interview trips, which felt like a smart compromise. Maybe kinda. I just finally got a little money, maybe if I agreed to put her up in a hotel room for a day or two instead. I'm too young for this shit.

Barkeep. I need something nice and mellow. That will make me forget I was ever asked this question.

Friday, January 1, 2016

What I learned in 2015

Each year, instead of resolutions, I take a few moments to sit down and reflect on the lessons I've learned for that year. And I make an impassioned speech for those who have deigned to read this to go out and start living. Well, it's that time again. I know that life just happens and so we say next week, or next month or next year, or when we get some time, we'll start on the new us. But you make time for important things. So, aren't YOU important? Why not make time for you. It need not be a new overwhelming commitment, but fifteen minutes at the end of the day. An hour a week. A few hours on a Saturday. For you.

Last year, I asked you do something. Anything. To go forth and live. This year I quit a job that was eating at my soul. I got a Fibit and now keep careful track of my step count. I started yet another book, but this time I have deadline because I have to give it to someone, so I'm more motivated. I started making music on my computer. I changed my diet. I'm going to start painting this year and have already got the canvas. Small steps. And if I can do it then you can too. Start with a small thing and then keep it going.

Remember this:  You were put on this Earth to do more than work and pay bills. All I'm asking you to do is something, anything, and make it a little different to add some color to what can quickly become a routine of wake-up, go to work, come home, eat, TV and bed, repeat. Our comfort zones have gotten too comfortable. And now, this lovely artificial milestone that resets the clock, is the time because yesterday is over and today we can still squeeze it in. And once you get started, maybe you'll see the world from a new angle, which isn't always a bad thing. Maybe the act of doing will get you started on the path to where you really want to be. So, go the arts and crafts store and see what they got. Take a ball room dance class. A comedy class. Go for a hike. Read a book you normally wouldn't. Start a business on the side. Write a song. Create your own Youtube channel. Learn to cook a new food. Join a league. Learn to knit. Or if all that is too much, then twice a week just walk to the end of your street. 

"It won't be easy. Change never is. And what you choose might not even be worth it. But it will be something, and if you start with something, then getting your thing just becomes a matter of redirecting your focus."
~ Me

If you got what you wanted, but it's not what you thought it was, then keep it moving and get something else.

Learn from your successes as well as your failures.

The value of a home cooked meal can't be measured.

Hard work only counts as hard work. But still work hard.

Sugar is the devil.

Sometimes the best thing is just your imagination.

Every pain does not mean you're going to die.

Love endures.

Naps. How did I not like these as a child.

Work on a personal project everyday. Everyday.

Take the leap if it feels right. Even if it fails, don't be afraid to take the next one.

Pay attention to your gut reactions. You know you better than you think. Listen to you.

Bacon might be the perfect food.

There is no morally superior argument for selfishness. 

Appreciate your people. Be they family or friends, take the time with them. Support and care for them. We are all temporary.