Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reality (TV) Bites

This morning I saw a random tweet from Andy Cohen of Bravo TV, wherein he expressed his condolences to Taylor Armstrong and family.  Of course, because I had no immediate idea who Taylor Armstrong was, I did a Google search and discovered that I did know who she was because she had been a Beverly Hills Housewife.  Apparently, her estranged husband had committed suicide.

I am no expert, but wow...I think the show killed this guy.

Just last week, I read in People magazine that the RHOBH cast member had filed for divorce from her husband, alleging mental and physical abuse.  Now again, I am not an expert, but I think there is a precedent here for reality show divorces: Jon and Kate Gosselin; Hulk and Linda Hogan; Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston; Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson; Greg and NeNe Leakes (RHOA); Christopher (Peter Brady) Knight and Adrienne (Top Model season 1 winner) Curry; Kelsey and Camille Grammar; and a bunch of other folks whose names do not immediately come to mind.

And so umm, when will people get it?  Marriage is hard enough without the glare of a camera shining the light, recording and then broadcasting everything for the outside world to see.  The problem is that some TV executive, not the two married people, is in charge of the editing and gets to decide how your marriage will be seen by the rest of us.  No need to run through the list above to highlight the specific dysfunctional elements the camera captured, but in the case of the Armstrongs, there are judgmental comments being posted right now about how she drove this man to hang himself.  Diagnosis by a bunch of remote control marriage counselors...

I feel sorry for everyone who goes on one of these shows.  I feel sorry for their children.  I decided to stop watching the entire franchise this Spring after the big wedding fiasco on the RHOA...there were other contributing factors as well, but the fact that the bride's mother and sister conspired *on camera* to derail the ceremony, but then it very neatly got resolved...I was done.  If my real life was available for full episode recaps on Bravo...

I cannot begin to know what led Russell Armstrong to kill himself, but I am not surprised that someone finally fell off the cliff.  When humiliating info about us gets revealed, most of us can wait it out until the dust settles, but a reality TV personality cannot escape it.  The spotlight is unrelenting.  Hell, some of us in the real-real world cannot escape or endure the scrutiny--the public outing of Tyler Clementi by his college roommate led him to jump off the George Washington Bridge last year.  I can only guess that Armstrong finally arrived at the darkest place where the stress of his pending divorce and his money woes were just too much to bear.  And again, I am no expert, but I suspect Jani Lane and Jeff Conanway both found that same dark place...

The train wreck of someone else's life may provide an hour or so of entertainment, but imagine if those were your house drapes open for all the world to see inside.  Or in some cases, what happens when after living in front of the camera for so long, it gets too difficult to live without a million people watching?  Can we go back to the soap operas where the people on screen were just pretending to be dysfunctional?

God rest the souls of Russell Armstrong, Jani Lane, Jeff Conaway and every other tortured soul.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Little Calmer, but Still P*&%

I just read a simply outrageous article in the Huffington Post about forced sterilizations of women by the State of North Carolina in the last century.  In case anyone needed reminding, the last century ended just 11 years ago.

WTF?!??: North Carolina Eugenics Board Victims Fight for Justice

Of course, what pissed me off more were the ignorant comments of my fellow Americans who think that forced sterilizations might be a good idea for the future of this country.  And so the slippery slope just got a little slimier.

Look you a$$es, the choice to have children is really not up to any one of us.  The state does not get to decide, and believe it or not, neither do any of us.  The Good Lord decides who gets born into this world. 

And Lord help you unfeeling, all-I-care-about-is-ME-ME-ME whiners, because one day, one of these unnecessary, unfortunate, poor children whom you complain live off of your un-unionized tax dollars earned working as a greeter at the Wal-Mart...someone whom you would never deign to even look in the eye, will save your worthless life.  It might not be in a way that you think significant, but somehow, in some cosmic way, you will continue to live by the grace of God because the least of these will make some sacrifice or develop some skill set that will keep you on the mortal coil.

Don't believe me?  The story of Henrietta Lacks comes to mind, because she too was a poor woman that you probably could not have cared less for in her lifetime.  To you, the cancer that killed her was unfortunate, but a fact of life (because some people are just born unlucky)...except the cells taken from her have been used for decades to do medical research.  She was one of the least of these.  I could mention the men who were subjects of the Tuskegee Experiment, the people who are AIDS-research guinea pigs, the men who risk life and limb to mine coal so that your laptop has power , and every migrant farmworker who picks produce, because in your myopic view, these people have no worth and provide no monetary benefit to society. 

Well, God help you.  Because one day, you'll need Him to take pity on you.


I need a vacation before someone gets hurt.

I need a vacation before someone gets hurt.

I need a vacation before someone gets hurt.

So, I guess if you could not tell from the title or from the first three paragraphs, I am stressed out.  For real.  Sho nuff.  And today is the day that I am going to do something definitive about it.

I got stopped by a police officer for failing to use my turn signal when making a left-hand turn in an intersection (on the left turning green light, mind you).  I totally thought that he pulled me over to be an asshole, and then it just so happened that I did not have my updated registration or insurance card in the I normally would.  When he came back over to give me the ticket, I freaked out because again, I KNOW he was being an asshole, and refused to accept the first ticket.  So he wrote me a second ticket for my out of date insurance card.  And while I was prepared to have him haul me off to jail over a stupid moving violation, I signed the second ticket and drove home.

Now I have two tickets, and a very very very short fuse.  The next person who says or does anything to piss me off, and I don't care how minor, will get their head ripped off.  I am serious!!!

So clearly, I need a vacation.  I need time on the beach, time in the sun, drinks by the pool, a massage by a naked man named Sven, etc. except the husband wants to plan some elaborate get-away for some time in the future.  No I need to get out of here right NOW before I rip off someone's head. 

I need to leave today before I rip off someone's head.

I need to leave today before I rip off someone's head.

And again, as you can probably tell, I am serious. 

I am not having a very good year...and while I know that it could be worse and that it is silly to get all bent out of shape over a ticket I could have avoided (because if I had just turned on yellow a few minutes earlier, that asshole cop would not have been there at the intersection to stop me).  But I am not having a good year and after several years of not having a good year, I am about to lose it.  I just need a chance to think, without obligations, tasks, burdens or worries.  I need a retreat.  I need a break.  I know that everything will be here eagerly waiting my return, and that is exactly the point--

NONE OF THE SH&*% THAT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY AT THIS VERY MOMENT IS GOING ANYWHERE!!!  I will still need to pay a ticket for mouthing off to an asshole cop.  And that cop will still be an asshole.

OK, all done venting.  I'm going for a drive...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

No Help

This is just my opinion, and I don't mean no harm (to borrow a phrase from my grandma), but I am trying to understand why some smart black folks got all bent out of shape over the movie The Help.

Disclosures: I have not read the book, nor have I seen the movie.  In all likelihood, I probably will not read the book before I see the movie (and knowing me, I may not make it to see the movie until it comes out on cable).  Nevertheless, I detect a lot of knee-jerk hateration going on here, and that has me scratching my head. 

I read an open letter last week written by the National Director of the Association of Black Women Historians.  Two years ago when I was still teaching African American history, I may have looked into joining this austere group, despite the fact that I was just a lawyer teaching history as an adjunct at an online university.  If I were to go back into the classroom, there is a chance that I would still want to affiliate with these women because, well that is what one does--join academic/professional organizations in order to meet other academics and/or professionals.  I can only imagine that the letter now making the internet rounds was written after an especially intense meeting of these academic professionals.

Here is a link to their historically-grounded letter of protest.  And here is my response:
Le siiiiiiiiiggggggghhhhhhh.................................

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Men and Shoes

I was tempted to write this on the BBW blog, and I might post it there later if I think the topic warrants more debate...

It seems ironic to me that in the so-called post-racial Age of Obama, the more we try to avoid discussions of race, the more we discuss race.  The third rail of intra-racial discussions is inter-racial relationships, with the first rail currently being occupied by natural hair and the second rail dominated by homosexuality (gay marriage, the down-low, Bishop Eddie Long, etc).  I could probably swap one of those issues for the continued relevancy of hip hop, but that does not get debated endlessly anymore since we all know that hip hop is dead.

So, I stick with my original choices.  And on the subject of interracial relationships (IRR), these conversations are the most volatile and explosive because unlike discussions of homosexuality (which tend to boil down to old vs. young attitudes about tolerance) and natural hair (which tend to reflect personal preferences) the opinions of IRR are all over the map.  Even IR friendships between women can be polarizing.  At least gay couples are visible on TV and a black woman can rock a 'fro and not be regarded as crazy.  But just mention IR dating and everybody has an opinion.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal rehashes a lot of the same facts about the plight of single black women--over-educated, over-achieving and over-represented in the spinster pool.  The author's fix is for black women to diversify their dating portfolios as opposed to over-investing in one shrinking asset group of men.  The husband, who happens to be Puerto Rican, has been saying this to me for years, as if I have a platform from which to broadcast his advice to my single sistren...  Of course, I don't totally disagree that IR dating would at the very least, provide some women with more options.

But marriage is not really a numbers game.  It is about choices, and the problem is not just the number of options one has, but also the quality of the choices one makes.  Or put another way, there are a range of choices when buying shoes from Payless, Zappos, DSW and Lord & Taylor (or any upscale department store), but the best choice will depend on what you think you'll need.  Payless is good for shoes in a pinch (no long-term commitment); Zappos is good for unlimited on-demand options (internet dating); DSW is good for just looking and maybe finding a cute shoe or two (casual dating with benefits); and L&T is good for finding exactly what you need but at a higher price (long-term investment).  There is nothing wrong with shopping at Payless in a pinch, and it is not always practical to shop at the high-end department store.  You might find exactly what you wanted on Zappos or you might find an unexpected surprise at DSW.  Or you might not find anything...that day.

This is just my married woman advice...that women need to approach dating like shoe shopping.  Too bad my words of wisdom do not have the same traction in the real world as the advice offered by a thrice-married male comedian, a male college professor, and the disgruntled blue-collar brothers who vent in the comments sections of online articles.  In a sense, we are all saying the same thing--that women need to exercise more options.  Single women who want to increase the odds of finding Mr. Right need to shop at a variety of different stores to try on more shoes.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Rope-A-Dope

Dear President Obama,

My husband is worried, but I am not as worried, and overall, this worries me.  If you can make sense of that sentence, then you probably are a genius.

But the problem with genius sometimes is that it exists in rarified ivory towers where it is only recognized by people with similar gifts.  For the rest of us mere mortals, we can respect it from afar...but we never get close enough to it to really appreciate its beauty.

And this is where I think we are--at a moment where only those people who get to bask in the aura of your genius truly understand.  The rest of us are baffled.

It was your 50th birthday last week, and all you got was a debt ceiling increase wrapped in oily newspaper.  Then the nation's credit got downgraded and the stock market tanked.  Could those have been the worse presents since Homer's bowling ball?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Reassessing Spike Lee: Part II

It took me a week or so to return to this post, but picking up where I ended the last post, I wanted to weigh in on my reassessment of director Spike Lee and his early films.  The impetus for this was the rotation of Lee films that have been airing on cable lately, which has given me a chance to see them again with older, more mature eyes.

Some background: I was a teenager when Lee's first major films were released (1986-1992).  At first I just thought these were really good black movies.  In college when I chose to critique these films (adding She's Gotta Have It, but not including Malcolm X) for my Images of Women in the Media class, these films were my exhibit A of black male chauvinism in Hollywood.  My indictment of Lee's sexism was harsh--but I was a student at a women's college in the 90s...everybody was a sexist.  Now some 20 years later, I regard these films as heralds of a renaissance of black film and Lee is undeniably the most exalted figure in the pantheon of black directors.

Of course, I still think Spike Lee is sexist and 20 years later, his gratuitous sex scenes and two-dimensional female characters sadden me.  He should not shoulder the burden of uplifting black women on film, but he does deserve some blame for not creating a better model for subsequent filmmakers to emulate.  The only film that breaks this mold is Crooklyn (but that was written by his sister Joie). 

Spike Lee is also too outspoken for his own good, and in many ways, his off-screen arrogance over-shadows his nobler on-screen efforts.  He gets a lot of attention for his high-profile dust-ups: Clint Eastwood, Spike TV, Debbie Allen, Reggie Miller, Charlton Heston, and of course, any team that plays against the New York Knicks.  He came to the defense of Barry Bonds and has earned the ire of Jewish groups for some of his characters.  And then there is Tyler Perry...

But it must be said that Spike Lee is a genius. A flawed, sexist, and arrogant genius.