Friday, June 30, 2006
The Devil Wears Prada. Another book with a lot of hype that I haven't read. This time, however, the film looks good to me and I'll be in line to watch. Unlike The Duh Vinci Code from a few weeks ago. Loving that silver hair Meryl Streep's wearing in the film trailers.
Loving the Paris Hilton song and video, Stars Are Blind. Heard a dance version out and about on Wednesday. The boys love it here in L.A. If you're on your way to L.A., get ready for some hot Paris dancefloor action. Uh. For reals.
The Peanuts. We all grew up on them. And I think we all have those dance moves from the Charlie Brown Christmas special -- the Christmas pageant scene -- down pat. Now, the dance moves get put to a different groove. Via You Tube, OutKast's Hey Ya, featuring The Peanuts. So darn cute.
Finally, the great director Pedro Almodovar has a new film coming this fall. Volver. Starring Penelope Cruz, and the small cast of regulars Almodovar tends to work with in his films. Trailer of Volver, via You Tube. It's in Spanish, and without the subtitles that'll accompany it when released, but you can get the gist whether you speak Spanish fluently or not.
But today, June 30, Lena Horne is 89. A living legend who broke down doors and endured much to pave the way for the performer/singers/actors of today. And who still has new projects released in the past few years. I've never met nor seen her perform live, but she's always seemed really classy and elegant. So, it's nice to see someone like her still alive and celebrating a birthday.
Transcript of 80th birthday PBS interview.
Eight "google" pages of her albums.
Kennedy Center Honors biography.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Her critically-acclaimed novels/short story collections, Blackberries, Blackberries and Water Street, have made an impact on the literary scene. And given a region thought to not be very diverse a new light.
Born in Hamilton, Ohio, Wilkinson was raised in Indian Creek, Kentucky by her grandparents, and describes herself as a country girl who takes great pride in her Appalachian roots.
In Blackberries, Blackberries, the eighteen stories follow black, rural women in Kentucky who struggle with poverty, raising families, looking for love, and the spoken and unspoken rules of race and ethnicity in the South.
Water Street follows the fiction and interconnected lives of middle and working class black people in rural Kentucky -- lives which are often invisible in Appalachia -- and who happen to live on the same street, Water Street.
Crystal Wilkinson has been nominated for and received numerous awards for her writing. She's a professor and writing instructor.
And she's someone whose work I thought you might want to know about as you gear up for the mountains, beaches, lakefronts, or cabins for the weekend. Have a good one!
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Fiona Zedde's novel, A Taste of Sin, will be out next week officially, though if you go on Amazon or visit your local bookstore you can probably get a copy right now.
Fiona is not only a friend, but a labelmate, whose work is published by Kensington as well. She, like me, lucked out our first time out being picked up by an agent and a major publisher. Fiona's first novel, Bliss, released in July 2005. Fiona's a very productive author. Both her novels delve into the lives of black women who like women and men, and take place in domestic and international locations.
I met Fiona last year at Atlanta's Black Pride, during the L-O-N-G literary event where writers and authors should have honored the 5-minute reading rule, but many seemed to go a lot longer than that. She and Rashid Darden and I often laugh about that multi-hour experience. It was our first book touring and pride season. We were gracious and grateful for the experience for sure... and wouldn't trade a thing.
Fiona's about to start a MFA program in fiction/creative writing in Southern California, and will be relocating from Atlanta. Now, we'll be neighbors. There's no place like SoCali. Yay.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Oops, my bad. This guy has nothing to do with couture paper. He's in a photo I found at the Les Ombres blog that I just discovered. Nice.
OK. Now paper. Designer paper.
Yesterday, I had to buy a few graduation gifts for some college grads. So I stopped by the stationery store at Vroman's in Pasadena to look at journals, pens, thank you cards, all that good stuff.
And I guess I've been out of the loop for a while, but I found the greatest fine papers by Vera Wang and Kate Spade. Yeah. The designers. How about that. Couture paper. So to speak.
I gotta tell you. Their fine paper lines are nice. The designs. Excellent. Quality of the paper. Excellent. Found myself spending beyond the graduation gift budget for some nice new paper and stationery for myself.
Now. I just need someone special to write a note to. Hmmmm. A special someone. Maybe some lounging in or around a pool. Hmmmm. Nah, let me get back to creating such stories in novels.
Have a good day!
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
My friend Reyna Grande is celebrating the release of her first novel, Across A Hundred Mountains, today. She's excited. I'm excited for her. We're from writers' groups from back in the day... well, two or three years ago.
Great novel. Great reviews. Pick up a copy. Mine came in the mail last week.
One of the questions I ask people when they interview to join our organization is: What would a community be like that is inclusive of social justice and cultural issues?
I want people to just imagine what that would feel and be like -- to imagine that the issues, cultural backgrounds, and ways of life mattered all the time and influenced the process in which decisions are made and ways of being... and not just during a convenient month or on office diversity day.
Since we have very few examples of communities where these things do matter and are valued, I want my candidates to imagine... and be creative... and maybe think about what their role could be in creating such a community. Whether it's in my organization or their own when they leave my space.
For just a few, I get a blank stare. I imagine they're thinking, "What the eff is he asking? That's impossible."
For most, I get a nice smile, a sigh of relief, and the most wonderfully creative and ideal answers.
Some talk about they'd never feel un-safe around the men in their lives. Others talk about they'd feel affirmed and secure all the time. Some talk about that different opinions would be seen as adding to conversation, and not as something to be taken personally. Others talk about how everyone would want to add to, rather than take from, each other and that there'd be no need for competition.
I love the question. I love the responses. I love for people to imagine. And to walk away from the interview knowing that I ask because this is the type of space our organization thinks is important. Especially on a college campus. Teaching people different ways of leading might produce different types of leaders and results in the world.
The late author Octavia Butler talked a lot about imagining a world where hierarchies and competition around ethnicity and gender didn't exist. Great interview with Octavia Butler here.
I like reading Pearl Cleage's novels because her characters embrace many values of social justice and work to challenge current ways of being and doing. She has a great quote about "Imagining" at the top of Pearl Cleage website.
There are many others who inspire us to imagine. Who has influenced you to imagine? What do you imagine a world would be like that is inclusive of social justice and cultural issues?
Monday, June 19, 2006
Listened to some great stuff on NPR this weekend, including this story about the whole "tired black man/why I chose a white woman" film that's buzzing around the U.S. and the Internet. I'm not a big fan of pathologizing black women, their historical struggles, or present-day drive to take care of business. But I don't know the politics of the folks involved with the film to determine their cultural intentions or agenda, if any. But NPR is great radio... so take a listen and decide for yourself.
Also, a great story about Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez and the process of creating pride in Venezuelan culture in his country in an effort to break the U.S. monopoly in setting/shaping cultural and artistic trends around the world.
If you don't know, Hugo Chavez and a host of other South American countries' leaders are showing their muscle in terms of challenging U.S. domination and setting forth their own agendas. Chile and its single-mother president, Michelle Bachelete. Bolivia's president, Evo Morales. The whole redistribution of wealth and resources, creating cultural pride, thumbing your nose at your bossy/bully neighbor... is kinda inspiring... maybe idealistic, but definitely inspiring.
And, they've got the oil and resources to make their positions credible, or at least carry some weight. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the Americas. And these leaders embrace the labels that many would use against them in the U.S. -- woman, feminist, indigenous, black, progressive. Hmmm, imagine if we celebrated those labels as a culture in the U.S. Now, I haven't lived anywhere where my "wealth, so to speak" was redistributed, so I don't know how that would feel. But, I know historically poor and working people don't have much of a chance to have their lives changed without major systemic change on their behalf.
I mean, a leader is only as good as the way s/he helps the poor and less fortunate of their people, right? Are black men that tired, as the film suggests? Why haven't we in the U.S. embraced the indigenous feminist within and among our leaders?
Imagine how different styles of leadership might produce different results in our relationships... and our communities.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Hope you're enjoying the weekend... the kickoff to a long, hot summer.
Me thinks I've gone a little buck wild this week, enjoying a little down time from a busy schedule. Nothing like "vacationing" in your own town. That's the best.
If you're coming to L.A. anytime soon, one overlooked gem -- in terms of clubs and dance places for boys -- is Circus. The place has been around since forEVER and still packs them in on Tuesday and Friday nights.
A lot of folks are not into the WEHO thing, if you know what I mean, and love the fact that Circus is muy flavaful! Hip hop, reggaeton, dancehall, musica en espanol, blah blah blah. My friends and I were like, all the tourists love to visit The Abbey, which is cool and a must see. Any day of the week. But Circus is such an undiscovered gem... and value.
So speaking of music, heard the new Janet Jackson and Nelly, CALL ON ME, last night driving into town. We love it!
Then got a troika of my other new favorites. Please don't laugh when I tell you the new Paris Hilton, STARS ARE BLIND, has grown to become one of my new faves. So is the new Beyonce and Jay-Z... DEJA VU. And totally loving the Nelly Furtado, PROMISCUOUS.
Friday, June 16, 2006
But anyway, just listened to this story on NPR: Tale of Two Boys. You can listen right now on your computer. It's workplace safe.
Thanks to Tayari Jones for alerting us to this story on her blog.
The boys/young men in the story remind me so much of students I encounter in my day job and through my church mentoring program, who want to make something of their lives and who face heartwrenching odds realizing their dreams.
Life can be easy if you have support and safety nets like I did. But it can also be challenging, even if you have those supports. And most definitely difficult without support and safety nets.
But even with the questions we have about our lives and why it's so unfair to some, one constant remains: it's indeed a gift to be alive, to have the ability to dream and sometimes to make those dreams come true.
Oh, and that young people need mentors and role models to look up to... whether they tell anyone or not.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Found a cool website about the pop culture representation of ethnically mixed people, and other subjects related to ethnicity. Wanted to share the site and repeat this entry. Mixed Media Watch,
A Hawaiian slang term meaning half and/or mixed. In the case of ethnicity, it means being of an Asian ethnicity and something else. And the word has become more mainstream and used in day-to-day conversation.
Such as in Kip Fulbeck's The Hapa Project that he's been working on and is making its way around the U.S.
Kip is a scholar, writer, artist, and surfer from Southern California. Lots of empowering and educational stories and photos of people who consider themselves Hapa. Lots based on his own personal life history growing up Hapa in SoCali.
And a way to help empower those folks who get tired of being asked, "What are you?" Something I'm sure the folks listed in the photos here... Amerie, Johnnie Morton, and Keanu Reeves and others have been asked more than a jillion times in their lives.
Whether you're Hapa or not, how do you feel when people ask "What are you?" or "You don't look/act ______?" How do you respond?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
We LOVED Sue Ellen Ewing as a youngster.
Oh, and though it looks glamorous, and makes for good TV drama, we don't recommend drinking WHILE driving, as Sue Ellen often did! :-) Or drinking and driving at all...
You know... the TV show, Dallas. Friday nights. What else was there to do on a Friday night as a youngster? Oh, yeah. Falcon Crest. Anyhoo.
Back to Sue Ellen. The long-suffering heroine who put up with multiple mistresses. The drunk binges. The custody battles. The multiple marriages and divorces from J.R. The major fights with her in-laws. The furs... in 120 degree Texas heat. The "thing" with Cliff, Clayton, Dusty, Ray, and Peter, her son's camp counselor. And that was just the first season of the show.
Anyway, Sue Ellen was the epitome of a television heroine we loved, cried for, and eventually wanted to get her ultimate revenge on J.R. and the Ewings. We loved the long hair, the short hair, the blonde hair, the brown hair. She was played wonderfully by actress Linda Gray.
Move ahead 15 years or so, and now Sue Ellen will get a makeover. So will Dallas.
It's coming to the big screen. A feature-length film. And Sue Ellen will now be portrayed by none other than Jennifer Lopez.
Sooooo looking forward to the magic. Here's a former blog entry I did on Dallas. You got any Dallas memories? (And for those not around when Dallas was around, it was kinda like The O.C. today, but the drama took place in Texas and not Orange County).
Monday, June 12, 2006
Found some of them.
Juston Jones turned up through Keith Boykin. Juston is a journalist in NYC; Keith and he collaborated on a story. Connection made. Thanks Keith.
Sean Spence "googled" himself and found my entry. He responded. He's in politics now. Kinda like in college.
Lynnette Tyndall "googled" herself as well, found my entry, and then a whole host of college friends turned up through her. Fun. I wouldn't have searched for them if I didn't like and miss them.
They say it's always a good idea to "google" yourself -- your name, your phone number, and your e-mail address -- just to see where or how your web presence is. You never know what people are posting about you.
And you all know my day job is in higher education, and we're having major discussions about how students should or shouldn't worry about their web presence and content on sites such as MySpace, Downelink, Facebook, or any other free website/communication service.
And the question is always about freedom of expression (which I believe in) while balancing future professional and/or academic goals. I've heard some employers and school will "google" prospectives to glance at their web presence and content. (For the record, I don't keep a MySpace, but someone -- some reader -- apparently made a MySpace page about me... it's accurate -- for the most part -- and positive, so I'm not tripping on it... I just don't recognize (m)any of the "friends" on it.)
Is there a balance? Is it okay for employers or schools to use your web content in admissions/hiring decisions? And how often do you search for yourself online?
Anyway, I'll keep you guys posted on my search for old friends. In the meantime, looks like a lot of folks are looking for Dana and Laurie Flowers. I get hit a jillion times with their names. Dana? Laurie? Where are you? :-)
Saturday, June 10, 2006
I'm sure you folks have already planned your summer trips and, if you're into them, your Pride Celebrations. Don't forget about L.A. At The Beach, the official Black Pride of L.A. Or Sunday afternoons/evenings at The Abbey! L.A. does have some great opportunities to offer.
June, by the way, is official LGBT Pride month (though for some of us in the community, accepting the "B" and "T" or even those who are questioning or choose not to label is a challenge... that's further discussion). So whether you're part of the community or an ally, it's always cool to stop on by and show support for those who celebrate their lives openly and without shame.
Hope your weekend is all you want it to be... and that you're making this the summer you'll tell lots of stories about come winter! Oh, and were ARE you planning to travel or do this summer?fs
Friday, June 09, 2006
And as always I reflect a bit on my undergrad and grad years. Thank God I had the chance to go and finish two universities. Thank God that there are many more students getting that chance as well.
One regret, if you can call it that, is that I would have loved going to one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the U.S. for undergrad. Or any private school for undergrad. And then the large public for grad school. Not the way I did it -- large public first, then small Catholic private for grad. Yeah. Silly. I can't change the clock now. But I often wonder, what if?
I personally think small privates or HBCUs are a wise investment of time and money. Even some of the large weekly newsmagazines have called campuses such as Spelman or Morehouse or other HBCUs a wise investment for students and parents.
Culturally, you get in touch with yourself, your history. Academically, you're in smaller classes which is always a good thing. Care-ethic wise, smaller campuses give you more attention and that ethic of care and being cared for. Connection-wise, I hear and see so many positive stories of people who've met the folks they continue to network and do business with... all due to their HBCU experience.
Last week I listened to Johnetta Cole and others talk about the strengths and challenges facing our HBCU institutions.
The scholars were very proud of the fact that HBCUs overwhelmingly graduate the students who become black doctors, lawyers, dentists, and government officials. They graduate black leaders, not just people who are leading blacks (a nice phrase I picked up from a Jesse Jackson talk a while back.) As well, proud that these institutions continue to survive in the midst of budget cuts, lower enrollments, and competition for the best and brightest with other institutions.
On the other hand, they're not bringing in the money like their larger, historically whiter campus counterparts. One statistic shared was that Harvard has an endowment (investments and cash reserves for scholarships, buildings, etc...) of around $30 billion, while the combined endowments of ALL the HBCUs is around $1.8 billion.
The enrollment numbers vary from campus to campus, but we're not sending our kids to HBCUs like we used to. And, faced with lower black student enrollments, many HBCUs are actively recruiting Latina/o and Asian American students to help fill the gap. That new recruitment strategy put some black academics and student affairs types in some serious cognitive dissonance. Other communties are starting to see the dollar and educational value of HBCUs.
Anyway, what's your take on HBCUs? You attend one? Or thinking of it? What's your take on the new recruitment strategies some HBCUs are utilizing? All that... Have a good weekend!
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I got my very first royalty statement from my publisher this week. Confusing little report. Think I figured it out. (Learn more about royalty statements here or here or here if you're so inclined.) I was pleasantly surprised with the number of units shipped, sold, and returned from July 2005 - December 2005. (Yes, they tell you how many units got shipped back to publisher... ALL books have units shipped back.) I didn't break any records or make "lists," but I'm not disappointed at all. It was my first book. Ever. One day, I will make lists. No doubt.
I give myself kudos for a lot of firsts, because I didn't know ANYTHING about the publishing industry. Firsts like... writing AND finishing a novel, the art of querying agents, developing good relations with your agent and publisher/editor, planning much of my first book events schedule, learning how writers really need to develop an eye for business, marketing, and branding, etc... pretty much on my own. No biggie. Being first-born child in a family makes you a curious pioneer type.
Learned a lot for the second novel, Right Side of the Wrong Bed, which comes out Summer 2007. Like the art of planning early. Thinking of what you'd do differently. Also knowing to keep high expectations, but at same time knowing in a world of stores/readers where Nora Roberts and James Patterson rule, your expectations should not be the same as it might be for them.
Once cool thing. The publisher/editor, agent, and I are talking about cover ideas. I think we're on same page about a general concept -- something more photographic, rather than an illustrated drawing, and using live model or models. That would be nice! And knowing that I'm so into chocolate brown and ANY color combo, we might work that in as well.
But aspiring authors... get this. No one, unless they're Nora Roberts or James Patterson or self-published types, gets final cover approval. You get to share some thoughts and ideas, and that's pretty much where the consulting ends. Not a bad thing. Just a publishing reality thing. Sometimes the bookstore chains have final say on the cover... if they like the design the publisher came up with, they'll order more copies. If they don't like it, they'll suggest changes with the offer to order more copies with suggested changes done.
Bottom line. It's all business. And that's the first thing writers and those aspiring to be published by mainstream publishers need to understand. First. What are some other things you aspiring authors wanna learn more about?
Check out Marcela Landres site for some more book business information.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Monday, June 05, 2006
I heard Patrick read from a very funny section of the novel a few weeks ago in Miami. A scene about a not-so-nice co-worker who outs one of the main characters' age in an office birthday party setting. Fun scene. We were laughing out loud. Tight is on my summer reading list.
Tight. What we'd all be like if we kept those lifestyle change promises we made back in January. How you doing on your fitness plans? For motivation, check out Keith Boykin's fitness journal on his site. For more motivation, check out Hood2Big site, with some tight boy models. (Both sites are workplace-safe for browsing, for those of you lunchtime browsers).
Hope it's a fab Monday for you all!
Another case of the Desperate Republicans, trying to do anything to continue "dividing and conquering" the U.S. and keeping us embroiled in "smoke and mirrors" about what's really not right with the country -- illegal spying, a "war" that's gone desperately wrong, sky-high gas prices.
Remember... this is an election year. People have to strategize to win. Enough said.
But, you can also contact your U.S. Senator to voice your opinion on how he or she should vote on the desperate and dividing issues on the agenda this week. You can also register to vote... for NEXT time.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
My first job, actually, was being a peer teen sex educator for a Catholic Social Services program in Detroit. Communicating Around Sexuality Issues.
I was 16. Needed parental consent to be trained to educate teens about sex, teen pregnancy, and goal setting. It was fun work and important work. Taught me a lot. I don't think the program exists anymore. And now looking back, there are definite connections between my current work and that job. The social justice aspect and helping others.
I never had the burger flipping experience. Or college cafeteria experience. The closest was working in a record store while in high school and home for college breaks. Ross Music. Northland Mall. Southfield, MI.
Anyhoo. What was your first job? And are there connections between what you're doing now... and what you did back then?
Friday, June 02, 2006
But... we're talking cities. Not relationships. Though... what's that term we learned in English grammar. A simile. A metaphor. Anyway.
I hate that I gotta get up and leave Chicago later this weekend. I've had such a ball and though my life now is in L.A., I have always said if I moved again I'd come back to Chicago. Oh, I said that about Atlanta, New York City, Seattle, and Miami too. Hmmm. See, shameful travel whore that I am.
Why I love Chicago?
1. Serious appreciation for good food. Like real food, not appetizer plates masquerading as entrees as in L.A. Whether it's ribs, deep dish pizza at Giordano's, Mario's Italian Ice, beef sandwiches, Harold's, Chicago style hot dogs, chicken, the kettle caramel popcorn (just forgot the place), whatever... people here really love food. When I was in grad school here, I loved food too. And you can't forget Taste of Chicago.
2. Serious appreciation for good drink. Whether it's to celebrate, wind down at the end of the day, or to watch a game, Chicago loves its bars... and beer. Big clubs. Dive hole-in-the-wall bars where the locals hang. Too many bad-yet-fun grad school memories. But you know the deal.
3. Serious appreciation for sports. Cubs, Sox, Da Bears, The Bulls with Tyson Chandler. The lakefront biking, volleyball by Fullerton, and not to mention the upcoming Gay Games. This town stays fit. Even if it's just walking to and from the "El" train.
4. Speaking of the "El", I love, LOVE, LOVE the fact that you don't have to own a car or drive here. I'd forgotten the luxury of leaving home whenever you want, stumbling home whenever you want... and knowing that you can leave the driving to the friendly taxi driver or the "El."
5. Cuteness. Whether it's Boystown, the South Side, or West Side, and no matter your taste, there is a natural cuteness and fineness (is that a word???) of the boys here. Not liposucked, not exfoliated, not starved to size negative zero... just natural, good looking men everywhere. And there's something about that working-blue-flava collar look you see all around that's just kinda... yum.
I'm talking myself into something. Let me stop. I'm sure some of you are shameful travel whores too. Where have you wanted to move after visiting?
Happy Weekend! I'm off to the gym in the Loop to work off some of the food and beer I've consumed this week. :-)
Thursday, June 01, 2006
On a quick break from conference duties. Stuffing my face with some Harold's Fried Chicken -- wings -- and digesting some of the deep DEEP things we've been discussing at NCORE this week. My presentation, by the way, went really well.
But yesterday had the opportunity to hear Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, president of Bennett College for Women in North Carolina, and former president of Spelman College in Atlanta. She's great. Smart. Motivating. Sharing some of her wisdom on being an effective leader in whatever you do. A few of the 12 points she shared:
1) Surround yourself with folks good as or better than you could be;
2) Have passion in your work, but know when it's time to move on -- in other words, you've got to leave when people want you to stay;
3) Integrity at all times;
4) You must engage in the discussion about diversity and inclusion. Of course there's more contextual stuff, but I have a session to make in a few minutes.
Today. Tim Wise. If you don't know, Tim Wise speaks out and challenges white people to take responsibility for the systemic role they play in perpetuating white privilege and racism. Today, he spoke the gospel on the Hurricane Katrina situation, and four points he'll be making in his upcoming book on the disaster are:
1) White America is incapable of seeing black/brown realities and are in a perpetual state of denial;
2) New Orleans was not a systematic failure-- the system did what it intended to do;
3) White corporate media is incapable of and incompetent when presenting issues of race and class in the U.S.;
4) Our commitment to charity (i.e. giving after a disaster) is inversely proportional to our commitment to proactive measures to prevent social crises.
More context, but gotta run. Thoughts?
NCORE 2007 will take place in San Francisco.