Urban haps of a grrrl on a mission to be a better writer, a new music master-blaster and a wonderfully brilliant razor-packing, MAC LipGlass wearing feminista...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

5 Things To Do This Weekend & Beyond

Yikes! Summer is quickly coming to an end. It just hit me like a ton of bricks this past weekend and I immediately got the blues. I love the summer and it always just seems so short. It made me want to analyze why I really, really loved the summer so much. Yes, I love that the weather is great but that wasn’t the only reason. When I pondered the situation I thought that the summer time, unlike the fall and spring when the weather is still nice enough, the summer is the only time I feel like I can use my Get Outta Jail Card. It’s a time where I can frolic in flip flops and be fancy free. In high school we would earn something called an excused cut and as you advanced you would earn more cuts –from one for the entire year as a freshman to like three a semester for seniors. It was great because of the obvious—we could cut class without any repercussions or stress of avoiding being caught. It was also a lovely system because of the greater, less obvious benefits. By giving us the choice to go to class or to hang out made us valuate our leisure time and become better managers of our fun time. (Don't you think so Kysha, Tahana and Chris?) Yes we often sat around completing papers for other classes during those breaks but me and my grrrls would also go to Orva’s, or go to Central Park, catch a flick or grab a burger a Rambo’s and talk about boys, college, music and other classmates. It was summer break for an afternoon. Now that I’m older I think my mind has been conditioned to see summer as my only chance to use my excused cut. Even though the Whitney, Lincoln Center, and the Public are open year round, it seems like it's only in the summer that I make time to check them out. And how wrong is that? Talk about mind games. It’s crazy how after Labor Day I, and a number of my peeps, get into this back to school grind, which has become synonymous with this crazy work ethic that is devoid of culture and fun. So with this realization comes change, no? In my attempt to consistently invest in Leisure, here are five things I hope to do even after I retire my white capris.

1. Have a drink and/ or break bread with a friend or two or five every week (especially with my grrrls!): Yesterday I had drinks with a compadre I used to work with and we had so much fun just laughing about old times in the office and our new career plans. As we licked the tequila from our lips we both declared-- almost at the same time-- how we should do this more often. Yeah, yeah I say this all the time but from now on I am going to make more time for cocktails and calamari even if only for an hour. Last month my four friends and I had a Grrrls Night Out and I know all them will back me up when I say it was Gnarls Barkley crazy fun! They dang near had to kick us out of Ocean Grill or did they? We are surely not going to wait until next summer for Part 2.

- See Heading South with the ladies this weekend.
- Schedule our next Grrrls Night Out around the premiere of Dreamgirls in December (I LOVE Dreamgirls-- saw it on Bway and like a real groupie waited to meet Lilias White afterwards who took pity of my wannabe-an-actress booty and treated me to dinner; then there's Cathy & I playing "And I Am Telling You" over and over in our dorm rooms like we were on Effie crack; singing "I Am Changing" as my audition song for gospel choir-- that was funny now that I look back and consider the lyrics I was singing to be an alto for a Christian chorus--LOL!)
- Tracee Ellis Ross hurt that Jill Marie Jones didn't say goodbye to her Girlfriends in person (Bittervibes)

2. Go to a new place you’ve never been before – Last night I went out with my new hanging bud-- KB. Our plan was to hit Lotus to check out Questlove on the ones but by the time we got there the door was bananas and the line was not moving. As soon as KB said, “I don’t do lines,” I knew we could roll anywhere anytime. Being that we were already on 14th Street and looking quite cute, we weren’t about to head home. At first we were going to get a drink at Hotel Gansevoort but then at the last minute I said what’s up with Buddah Bar. Just like that we decided to roll there instead. KB had been to the one in Paris and I had two of their cd’s so we were familiar with the double-B. It was a mad cool experience to enjoy a new place in an old town. The drinks were good especially the Wings of Fire with rum, ginger syrup and limes. Yummy! Other new places I’ve been to this summer and liked: Sapa, Hotel Gansevoort & Kelley & Ping (east side outpost-- their duck is slammin!).

- I should check out Baton Rouge in Harlem, Kemia in midtown & this place I always pass on 23rd street (cause I love me some shrimp dumplings!)

3. Go to a concert, museum or theater. This summer I didn’t go to too many concerts, which is quite odd for me (but also just reflective of how dull the music scene is here lately), but I did see The Lion King and The Color Purple. I enjoyed them both (for very different reasons) and came away both times feeling lifted. In terms of art gazing, I only went to the Studio Museum, but I will use this autumn to venture to the Whitney, MOMA and MET.

- Saturday August 19 - 1st Annual Hamptons HipHop Festival
- Sunday, August 20 - Imagenation's FREE screening of Favela Rising in Harlem at 8pm in St.Nicholas Park
- Monday, August 21 - Meshell at the Annex (Okayplayer)
- Wednesday, August 23 - Skye of Morcheeba at Irving Plaza
- Saturday August 26 - Imani Uzuri at Lincoln Center Out of Doors.
- And if you are in Tokyo, you need to get your genki on and run to see Africa Remixed

4. Get a hobby, play a sport or explore whatever creative mojo you’re blessed with and have fun with it: For me that can be anything from fishing, writing, sewing clothes, painting or making cd’s. It’s just a great outlet for stress and a way to get those artistic, athletic juices flowin. It really takes me back to the days when I used to focus on my love for dirt by making mud pies or later it was jumping double dutch, in high school it was crocheting and in college it was deejaying and playing squash.

- Time to buy myself an Uglystick (the first person to post what this is wins a FREE Hotness T-Shirt—post your answer in the Comments Section)

5. Travel – Physically discover a new destination or revisit an old one. I can’t tell you how cathartic it is for me to get out of NYC. And sometimes I just don’t have the time or money to travel far but even my weekend jaunts to the Hamptons adds so much energy and calm to my life. Emotionally it’s also the bomb when we can get out of our comfort zones and do something or deal with someone that probably gives us a sure fire challenge. I got the former down pat although by the time November rolls around, I’m always on the ropes in need of a hit—some ocean, some sunshine, something organically inspiring. The latter, which is equivalent to using my excused cut to meet with my Guidance Counselor is harder for me. Granted it’s not as fun as going to St. Maarteen or Brazil, but it does help to get that stank from outta your mind and spirit. On my to do list: Go to London for this and to Williamstown to see the amazing fall foliage, clean out my walk-in junk closet and maybe have a talk with someone from my not so distant past.

- Turks & Caicos Film Festival; Bermuda Music Festival & The Container Store and their free 'Plan a Space' process

Saturday, August 12, 2006

You are African?

If it's not Bono, it's George Clooney, or it's Angelina and her man all doing whatever they can for Africa in Africa-- adopting children, having babies, feeding families, building wells, and slowly becoming synonymous with Africa and it's albeit small step toward revitalization. It's crazy on a number of levels because although I am delighted by their charitable work in DarFur, Namibia, Ethiopia, Capetown, et. al., (where the hell is Beyonce and Jay-Z when there is a politico-cultural crisis in the Motherland?), I am seeing a strange trend whereas these charitable efforts are slowly becoming trendy, like Hermes bags trendy and I can't help but wonder how long will it be before these celebrities end up replacing the (Black) face of African strife with one of White happiness and fulfillment. Well, I didn't have to wait that long. Have you seen the Gwyneth ad for AIDS awareness in Africa? Beads and violet and aqua tribal markings and all! You gotta love the spoof someone did of the ad featuring an African woman that says:
Help us stop the shameless fame whores from using the suffering of those dying from AIDS in Africa to bolster their pathetic careers now that they are no longer dating Brad Pitt and no one gives a sh*t about them. Just kiss my Black a$s to help.
No doubt there is something a simmering over in Africa. Even today's NY Times is highlighting the buzzworthiness of African humanitarianism. I'm just wondering where's the hiphop cognescenti? Puff, Mary, Jay (yeah I know he's busy banning Cristal within all bling ciphers), Kanye and the rest of them cats. It's so ill to me when all I see is Clef and Oprah volunteering their time and money for global (read Afrian) causes. It seems as if my generation of folk are too busy chilling in St. Tropez or Capri (or too busy dreaming about vacationing there) to give a goat's tail about the crisis of AIDS in South Africa. And it's not just them.

Last month I was having dinner at Aquavit with a friend who was born in Mozambique, but currently lives in Johannesburg and also with some of his friends who live here. When they spoke of their travels and adventures in Africa thay talked about how wonderful the beaches were in Namibia and how amazing the dunes are in S. Africa. I haven't been to Africa yet so I listened as my homey from Joburg took everyone's love for the African high-life and raised them one by declaring how he was going to build a resort... in Zimbabwe, I believe. We all toasted him with glasses of Vergelegen--aka "V" (the wine was off the chain, I can't lie, but I thought it was a tad ironic that De Beers, the scandalized diamond corporation, owned the winery that produced it). Anyway there was no talk of crisis, genocide or famine. Especially not while we munched on Marcus Samuelsson's Foie Gras Ganache and Yellowtail Tartar. I must admit, it was every bit as nauseating and self-absorbed.

I don't care how corny, cliche or naive I may sound, but when I go to Africa I'm going for the culture and for the people. I want to go to the shanty towns and hear some music and eat homecooked food. I want to go fishing and hang with young women my age and talk about politics, art, entrepreneurship and relationships. I wanna get drrrty while there and not play Hollywood or PG County to be more to the point. Yes I want to see the beaches, go on a safari and sip some V, but I also want to experience the grime and chaos. I'm a Black Grrrl from the BX. I can't help but keep it real African. That's just who I am.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Blow-Up Men and Overweight Ladies

As if us grrrls don't get slighted or marginalized enough, some idiots here and across the pond are trying to get their sexist rocks off.

In London some genius wanker created a blow-up 'buddy' to make us timid, fearful lady drivers feel safe and secure. Gimme a fricking break and stick to soccer and fish and chips.

Over here, the NY Times felt a need to devote an entire article to analyzing the social ramifications of featuring Black, "sassy" overweight women in mainstream ads that promote brands like PineSol and Dairy Queen. The article begins:
Her onscreen presence takes on many variations, but she is easily recognizable by a few defining traits. Other than her size, she is almost always black. She typically finds herself in an exchange that is either confrontational or embarrassing. And her best line is often little more than a sassy "Mmmm hmmm."
This paragraph is where the writer-- Jeremy Peters, starts to get into a snag with theHotness grrrl:
But despite the popularity of such characters among blacks, the use of the image of big black women as the target of so many jokes is troublesome to some marketers and media scholars. "It is perpetuating a stereotype that black females are strong, aggressive, controlling people," said Tommy E. Whittler, a marketing professor at DePaul University. "I don’t think you want to do that." To be sure, sassy overweight black women appear to represent only a small fraction of the African-American actresses who appear in commercials.
Troublesome to marketers and media scholars? C'mon Jeremy if you really wanted to know if this issue was really an ISSUE then you would have interviewed at least one of those so-called confrontational Black actresses cast in these commercials you are referencing (albeit they 'appear to represent only a small fraction', but they are here and they can speak-- my godmother is one of those actresses [she's the Sudafed, Quilted Northern and Campbell's soup lady] and believe me when she read this article she was aghast-- not sassy)

And to conclude his insightful article, Jeremy makes the following observation:
As is typically the case with racial stereotypes, who is laughing and why is complex and potentially inflammatory. Black actors and comedians have profited handsomely from creating bumptious female characters on TV and in movies, raising the issue of whether they, too, are perpetuating the stereotypes that many find offensive. Tyler Perry, the filmmaker and actor, created a series of plays and movies, including the huge hit "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," in which the main character Mable (Madea) Simmons is a no-nonsense overweight matriarch.
NewsFlash! Madea is a Black man dressed in drag and that my dear is part of the charm of Tyler Perry's comedies. He is drawing from the historical context of Flip Wilson not Hattie McDaniel. And damn if you are going to mention advertising power and Black overweight women how do you mention Mo'Nique and not Oprah. Read the story and please post your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Word On The Street - Alice, D'Angelo, Gary Harris & Every Girl A Different Night

Even though it's Hades hot, I'm hangin. Went to the SummerStage show this past Saturday to catch Goapele, Alice Smith & The Ubiquita Grrrl dj's. Ironically it seemed like most folks were there to see Alice even though she was the opener. Cute as always rocking a pair of cream and green hotpants (this must be the hip ish to wear if you are going to be performing in front of mad people (think J*Davey at Radio City, Beyonce @BET Awards & Amerie at damn near all of her live shows), Alice belted out her joints and showed-off what I hope is her brand new permanent band. As my girl Karen noted, they were straight holding her down! Still as good as I thought she was, it seemed as if her performance just evaporated into the sultry hot atmosphere. She didn't really take a hold of the crowd and rock us they way I'm just fiending for her too. Maybe it's nerves. It does take skill to create this type of electricity that just knocks out your audience. Just ask Prince, Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Sade, Tamarkali, Beyonce, Maxwell... yeah Maxwell is my favorite for knowing how to do this. Because he gets very little radio play, it's great seeing how he knows how to maneuver the stage to usually give his audience theHotness resulting in his always sold out tours. Alice can definitely be that next star and so I hope she gets some help with her stage performance so she can move the crowd as well. Actually I hear Cope has taken her under his wing and is working with her so there is hope yet! Goapele was nice too, beautiful even but again she lacked that wow factor. Granted it was 95 degrees outside and folks were tired and lacked that over the top energy that performers crave, but I was expecting to feel the fire. I mean if I'm gonna sweat, let me at least feel the burn.

On Monday night I went to this old school jam at the Adidas store in Soho. Kool Herc and Jazzy Jay were spinning, Chuck D was hosting and white boys were doing windmills and backflips. I felt like I was in a cinematic mash-up of Wild Style and that new flick Step Up. As long as I've been in the game it still leaves me shook to see nothing but white and Asian boys breaking and pop locking and bigging-up the old school heads. I spoke to Chuck D for a minute and really enjoyed his vibe and he, like Herc, seemed used to the mostly white audience that had gathered in the tony boutique store. As I was leaving I bumped into Gary Harris which totally affirmed this night as a cold classic old school moment. If you don't know Gary's been around for awhile--Sugarhill Records and Def Jam's first days. I met him in '94 when he was working with Michael Archer (nee D'Angelo). So much has happened since then between those two collectively and as individuals. But I was actually very happy to hear that Gary is back managing D'Angelo. There is something about their connection that was electric. Back then it had a negative charge and I think both of them had to get their respective behinds together. Now D is out of rehab-- clear and ready to make music and so we shall see. Gary has also been through the storm and back again. Having witnessed, first hand, their partnership as they put his first album together, I'm so anxious to see what kinda magic these two will create. From the folks they met with (Irving Azoff & Jermaine Dupri) while in NYC, it's definitely going down BIG!

Word on the street is that MeShell's new band A Different Girl Every Night is one of her best collaborations ever. Supposedly her guitarist is the illest and her new material is fiya. For me the name of the band alone is a sure shot winner.

On the other hand, Danity Kane (pronounced like Vanity)-- Puff's new girl group (aka the Making of the Band Girls) has the worst name in music history. I mean I thought 3 Little Women was bad (and they hurried and changed that crap to 3LW), but this ish cannot even be pronounced correctly and it is totally forgettable. Hopefully the music will be better. Yeah I know, don't hold my breath!