Thursday, August 28, 2014

The House I Want (Part One)

Planning for the Future Post #1

I may have told this story before, but when I first got to Atlanta many, many years ago, my brother used to do this thing to motivate himself. During his lunchtime, he'd go down to Lenox Mall, as his office was right there, and try on Rolex watches. The feel of it on his arm would encourage him to try harder, to think bigger. And although there were good times when things were unfolding as they should and he could have gone down and gotten one, he never did. I think it might have been our upbringing to some degree, in that we're not flashy people and though we dream about it we're really more substantive people.

So to motivate myself, get the old juices flowing as it were, I'm making my Rolex the idea of my dream home. It won't be my next home, which I hope to relocate to sometime in the next 24 months (God and the GA Bar Association willing), but it's coming. I will get there.
A template for a great home.
The kind of place where I'll have friends over to watch the game, dinner parties and drop-ins. A HQ from which I can jog, walk to the market for fresh fruit, or sit out on the deck with friends under a starlit sky and tell fantastic lies about how things used to be until we just can't stand it anymore. It's coming. I can feel it. I just have to keep going.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Odd Quotes

But when I get here! Oh boy, then....

Beware of Destination Addiction - a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is always somewhere else, it will never be where you are.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri 2014 (2)

This is a political post.

I don't really go to the movies, because a) I really don't want to go alone and b) I be broke. But I do take a few minutes every few weeks to read up on the reviews, so that eighteen months from now when it ends up on cable, I'll know what I'm getting into. By the way, why hasn't the Avengers made it to cable yet? Even FX which is where Thor ended up for some reason. But I digress, this isn't about those movies, it's about a movie I read the review for, or rather a premise from that movie that I think could have been used...and still might be used...for something other than YA romance...stuff. 

The film is If I Stay, which is based on the novel of the same name and is about a young shy cellist who has been in car accident, falls into a coma and has a series out of body experience/flashbacks. She reviews her life where she's found the perfect teenage boyfriend who just gets her and listens to  pleas for her to just wake up.

My idea is to adopt the premise, the flashback/out of body experience part to the story of a young black man who has just been in an incident with the police and now is in the hospital or dying. To me, and I say this without having read the original story or seen the movie, but to me I think that properly used by another filmmaker this premise has the opportunity to show a conflicted character on all sides and tell a much more socially relevant piece of fiction.

Here is my idea. Open with the scene of the incident. It's all flashing blue lights, bodies moving in the dark, before we focus on the body of the black man in the street. Then the title comes up.

At the hospital, we get the cliche race through to ER, and we see the main character's face, and the camera then pans up to the same face, as the character's spirit watches the activity surrounding his body. We see him flashback to his first day of high school then to maybe to Sunday morning with his parents at church.

His "spirit" visits his mother and father who have gotten the news, and their expressions of rage and anguish. We flashback to see him arguing with mother. His father making suggestions at odds with his own plans for the future. The flashback continues to show him doing silly, possibly illegal things with friends - smoking, underage drinking. His "spirit" listens to his mother tell his grandmother what has happened.

He flashes back goes to his childhood, where you see him interact with grandmother and extended family, children at play, adults socializing. This leads into a seen of him socializing with friends now, then plays back to him at the playground as a child.

His "spirit" visits his friends, some of whom lament his situation, others who feel he deserved it. He visits the neighborhood, hearing how people he didn't even know thought of him. He flashbacks again, but this time to the start of this day. To moments with his girlfriend, with his friends. We see him basically living the life of an ordinary teenager. 

I don't have the whole thing fleshed out, there would be a lot more flashbacks, his spirit hearing the police officer describe the scene, hearing his friend talk about the same scene, etc. The idea just struck me earlier today as how to expand the original premise, but give both sides of the story in a generally palatable dramatic format. The whole idea of the film is to show the main character, a young black male, not as a thug nor as a choir boy, but as a whole person. And to show that one person's version of events can differ from another person's version, and that those differences are important when a life hangs in the balance.

And yes, this idea was prompted by my thoughts on Ferguson, which I'm having trouble expressing. Next week, I'm going with light stuff, not because this isn't relevant, but because my mind needs to be somewhere else for a minute.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Odd Quotes

 “The main thing you got to remember is that everything in the world is a hustle.”
— Alex Haley from The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri 2014

This is a political post.

I don't quite know what to say. Too many stories not enough facts, but enough to know this isn't being handled properly. But then I saw this picture on Twitter/Tumblr. It struck me on a number of levels.

Ferguson, MO 2014
Has it come to this? Are black people not allowed to peacefully protest in America?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Go Gentle oh Ye Robin, Travel Well. You Will be Missed.

Drama is easy, comedy is hard. Very hard. A moving production of Shakespeare or Beckett are a walk in the park compared to making large groups of people howl with laughter. It's one of the reasons I've always found it hard to agree with the Oscars when riotous comedies aren't nominated. 

I remember hearing a story about Robin Williams years ago. That he'd once gone on stage and done two hours of stand-up comedy for the early show that had the audience in stitches. Then, for the second show less than an hour later he did another two hours of amazingly funny stuff, and NEVER DID THE SAME JOKE. That takes funny. Real funny.

Comedy is rare talent. Few have it. Robin Williams was one of them. His performances are right there at the top of the pantheon of comedic excellence. Good Morning Vietnam was falling down funny.  And I could watch him be funny in almost anything, even films I really had no intention of watching. I didn't think I would like The Birdcage, but because of Williams I watched it and was blown away. I really didn't plan to watch Hook, or Jumanji or Mrs. Doubtfire. Saw them all. His voice over work is legendary. He practically made the move Robots work. I saw Aladdin specifically for his performance as the Genie. I'm such a fan of his comedy I even thought he was good in Popeye.

The term "National Treasure" was once applied, and I actually got angry when someone questioned it.   

The world today is a little less funny. No, that's not accurate, its a lot less funny, than it was yesterday. He was just that damned good.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Notes for a Young Black Man from an Older Black Man

Ramblings Post #267
I've been gone for a minute, now I'm back with the jump-off. I've been working on some projects, looking at some options and trying to find a gig, but this here just hadn't been it for a moment. I just need to get my feet back on the ground and get moving. But as I was working to get my mind right, doing some reading, this came to me so I wrote it down. This is the expanded version, I put it up somewhere else first, but it needed polish. 

There is a saying, that one should take the thing that they love to do, and figure out how to make money at it, and thus they will never have to work a day in their life. And it's true, however, to make the adage work one has to broaden one's horizons and realize that there is more to life than music and basketball. This is not to say that talent in those areas will not beget success but talent will only take you so far, popularity is fleeting and knees eventually give out. Our immediate history is littered with many talented rappers who found no success, and legendary schoolyard basketball players who have to arrange the early shift at the factory so that they can play when the sun is out. A wise person does not make the MOST difficult path their only path.

What I am saying is that the world is bigger. There are lots doctors, accountants, pharmacists and others whose personal and professional lives are contain all those things the media parades in front of us as the trappings of success, only not so grandiose. But we have a tendency to have our eye only on the top pedestal and soothe our soul by calling it "focus." I think all young black men, really all young men, should step outside their comfort zone and experience something different, if only to get perspective, but mostly because we've straight jacketed ourselves into narrow definitions of blackness, manhood, and expectation. I suggest this because despite what people tell you, much of our success lies in prepared for the opportunities when the arise, and what we're doing now isn't preparing us for much.

Read. Travel. Explore. Do those things not considered "black" in the colloquial sense and you may find out that you are more than just black.

Now, as an older black man, my hobbies are reading, writing, PC computer games, Console video games, some sports (as I said I'm older, but I'm also out of shape) and good conversation. I've been meaning to take up golf and cycling, but I'm not in that spot right now. Some of it is not exactly what you'd expect. But why those? And how do they help me achieve success, both professional and personal?

Well read people tend to appear knowledgeable, which is usually viewed as favorable. Plus regular reading broadens your knowledge base if you browse several subjects. I enjoy history, politics, news and investigative journalism, satire, and good fiction. Things outside the section of the bookstore people might normally expect someone of African descent to inquire about. Yes, read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, but also read something else. Anything else. Harry Potter if you must, but something else. And when I'm not reading novels I read Vanity Fair, the Atlantic, Slate, and a host of other titles online and in print to keep my mind tuned. A five minute article here. A brief blurb there. Frequent reading helps comprehension in all aspects of life and helps you to recognize and understand situations faster than lesser read counterparts, as you've seen them before. Most of work is the solving of problems, whether it be an oil change or figuring out construction project schedules. And most people when they need help turn to people they think of as knowledgeable.

People who write regularly have a tendency to gain skill at it. And writing becomes valuable in professional communication, such as applying for jobs or writing emails. A professional looking email between colleagues makes people wonder how much more you really know. It can help in evaluating the wording in contracts you might have to sign and other agreements. Because you will have this familiarity you know when something reads wrong, which may help you avoid future issues.

PC computer gaming usually isn't "twitch based" how fast can you press a button, but most times require thinking, planning and strategy. Consider it exercise for the brain, just like pushups and sprints are exercises for the other muscles. And while creating a virtual airplane empire or building imaginary pizzas may seem silly on the surface, the training can translate into real world application where planning and strategy become second nature. This rudimentary development of critical thinking skills can assist with the practical improvement and advancement, both personal and professional.

Console games. Well, I just like console games. But, the use of the games, especially in this modern age helps develop social skills. Okay, not really, but something had to go there. Currently I use them as ways not to waste money. I can spend $20 on a used game from Gamestop and it will fill a month of evenings I might otherwise be out wasting money I don't have on drinks and expensive food. It's a small investment with a pretty good return. I'm even thinking about renewing my Playstation Plus membership.

And good conversation. When I say good conversation, I don't mean the gossip of the day, which can be fun and informative. No, instead I mean politics, beliefs, world views. If you're well read, in areas outside those that are expected of you, you can develop better relationships. Which lead to more opportunity. Consider this, you have what you think is a good opportunity, but you're unsure, so whom do you have evaluate it? Someone whom you consider knowledgeable. Which leads you back to my first point, being well read. And if you broaden your circle of conversation, you get more opportunity.

Plain and simple, taking those things we know how to do and expounding on them, means learning to more things. Things Black...and not Black. We make a big deal about being black and proud, or staying "real." But the truth is while we are Black men, we are more than just Black, and all the stereotypes that go with it. And while these tools I use seem simple and crude, there is a method to the madness, in that they are flexible and prepare the mind for the broad. Starting here doesn't mean you'll finish here. Reading mentally takes you places and lets you peek in on new experiences. Writing lets you express yourself. Strategy is always valuable. It's not the tools, its how they're used.

My suggestion to the young black man is be black. And then be more than just black.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Odd Quotes

Picture from the Internet. I've had it for a while. I forget.
 The reason you started something may ultimately turn out to not be what you imagined, but sometimes it was the journey that belief took you on, and what that journey prepared you for, that was what was truly important. 
~ Anonymous (i think)