Dec 31, 2015

Book Looks: What I Read In 2015

I've been a bad girl this year.

Reading and me...well, we had a tumultuous year.

Aside from the fact that I have become the slowest reader in the world nowadays (and an even slower writer...), this year was a year where I became busty trying to figure out what the fuck I'm doing with my life, and begin making some serious choices and plans. Some of those plans included my other blog Audio Diva, which I spent a lot of time refurbishing and "re-branding" this year (I really hate that word, but it is the only way I can describe it). While other plans dealt from a financial standpoint (finding a job, getting a job, losing a job...the cycle continues). Of course I could have whipped out a book or my Kindle in-between all that planning and reassessing, but for the first time, reading and keeping up with books was the last thing on my mind.

Cue the gasps.

Reading has always been an integral part of my life --- I know I'd break out in hives if I didn't read something throughout the day ---  so it was painful to admit a year where I simply didn't read books the way I wanted to. I was feeling like Burgess Meredith in that famous Twilight Zone episode where he is desperately wishing to have 'time enough at last' to read everything he desires, and then gets screwed when his wish does come true (and if that ever happened in real life, I can read without my glasses --- so jokes on you Rod Serling!). So hopefully in 2016 I will have 'time enough at last' to read and review (and especially blog her!) the way I truly wanted to this year.

Well, I shouldn't be so down on myself as I did manage to read a few books and articles this year, and though I read one of the worst books I've ever read in my life this year, there were some good, life changing ones that made it into the pot and kept me afloat all year.

Without further ado...

Oct 21, 2015

Book Looks: 'Joy In The Morning', A Book So Cute You'll Wanna Pinch Its Cheeks

Nothing explodes. There aren't any vampires. The setting isn't some dystopian underworld. Joy In The Morning doesn't possess any of those flashy literary embellishments. It is is what it is --- A sweet, gentle, and honest story about a young couple named Carl and Annie who fall in love, and against both of their parent's wishes, get married and move to the Mid-West where Carl is attending college, studying to become a lawyer.

I was curious about what Betty Smith wrote outside of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, which is one of my favorite books, and while Joy In The Morning has a similar charm, it's not as epic in scope nor rich in lyrical flow. It appears to be the last book Betty Smith wrote, and it took her awhile to get it going and completed due to her failing health. Health aside, Smith always was a genius about characterization, she truly makes you become attached to her characters when you may not want to be, drawing you into the worlds they embody and for Joy In The Morning she places us square into a 1928 college town, allows us to roam up and down the sidewalks, wander into stores, get acquainted with with folksy characters and become embroiled in bite-sized small-town shenanigans.

The honeymoon phase of Annie and Carl's marriage unfolds slow and nice, we get to feel all the awkwardness, financial strains, and stomach growls that come from a young couple who has thrown caution to the wind for whirlwind romance. The best parts are when Annie comes out of her shell and begins to attend college classes, sparking her interest and talent for writing. Though she's quite naive, her wholesome ways do charm after awhile as her earnest curiosity shines a new light on everyday things, allowing the reader to take a second glance at her observations, and she seems to be the more aware and down-to-earth partner in the relationship.

Carl is, um, kind of an ass. He talks down to Annie a lot, and get jealous and upset over the friends she makes within the town. I also sensed some homophobia from him with Annie's endearing relationship with the town florist, but I had to remind myself this was 1928, and Carl is a stiff collared "good ol' boy", hence his ambivalence towards people who he believes aren't on his 'level'. From the looks of things, Carl probably needs Annie more than she needs him, she brings the spice to his life, as she made friends with common law couples and found employment with flapper-styled prostitutes. Never a dull moment is to be had with Annie. Baby Carlton will be so lucky to have Annie for a mama!

Problems do resolve themselves too quickly, and a lot of Carl and Annie's disputes are quelled by the magic of Annie sitting on Carl's lap. Still that didn't bother me too much because like the title, derived from one of my favorite Bible quotes (Psalm 30:5 "weeping may endure for the night but joy cometh in the morning"), sometimes problems do have a way of working themselves out when we step back and let a little morning light into them. Okay. Sorry for sounding like a frilly and glitter-crusted Hallmark card, but Betty Smith always does that to me, she makes you appreciate the little surprises in life, makes you see that setbacks are merely part of the growth experience.

The edition I had a few little essays in the back --- two written by Smith's granddaughters --- that explained about the book and Smith's writing life. Annie and Carl were really fictional stand-ins for Smith and her first husband, and once I understood that Joy In The Morning was sort of in memory tome towards the relationship she shared with her late ex-husband, then the story took an even more sentimental turn.

Joy In The Morning is the kind of book that you'd want to pinch it's cheeks because it just so gosh darn cute, but also snuggle up next to and sip a warm drink with because it has a story to tell, and you'll want to listen to every word.

+ Previously reviewed and posted on GoodReads

Oct 20, 2015

Muse: Separation Of Huxtable & Cosby

So Ebony Magazine went there. Went all the way there with the cover of their November issue. 


As in life, there is opposition, and people are polarized, polarized and down-right enraged over the decision of this particular cover. Polarized and angry on why the cast of The Cosby Show have their faces marred by broken glass, next to a headline that reads "The Family Issue(s)" when The Cosby Show is a fictional situation comedy show that follows a fictional family called the Huxtables. Why put them in the same breath as the Obamas? Whatever "blended situation" the Real Housewives of Atlanta Kandi and Todd are in? They aren't real. Why punish fictional characters?

Simply because of that --- they aren't real, but viewers of The Cosby Show made it real, especially Black Americans made the Huxtable family into walking and talking members of our own family, or who we wished was in our own families. Even Bill Cosby himself made it real, so real that today we have a hard time separating Bill Cosby from the character he played on a television screen. Have a hard time understanding that the man who played Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable is in fact a serial rapist.

Bill Cosby is low-key the greatest actor in the world because of this. He pretty much fooled people into the art of his fictional character. He made people believe he was Cliff Huxtable. When he got up on the podium in front of an audience or lounged back in a chair on a late night talk show, we didn't see Bill Cosby, we were seeing Cliff, Dr. Cliff Huxtable rattling off jokes about domestic life, social commentary, every bullet point of respectability politics, telling Black people that they needed to stop embarrassing themselves, etc.. 

The lie of the thespian. A beaut isn't it?

Sep 21, 2015

What I ❤ Today: Lessons In Sisterhood, Starring Viola Davis

Felt some megawatt sisterhood feelings after watching Viola Davis make history at the 67th Emmy Awards last night, where she won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, the first time an Black actress has won that award.

Yes...the first time. Just... *sucks teeth*

What makes up for that disgraceful gaffe is Davis waltzing up to the podium to accept her award to spill out this gem of a quote:
"In my mind, I see a line. And over that line I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can't seem to get there no how. I can't seem to get over that line. That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something. The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there"
After thinking it over, I'm actually glad Davis was the one to close that gap, because she's one of few Black celebrities that isn't afraid to speak out against Hollywood's notorious need to marginalize and rub out POC's (she's done it before...). Nobody could've quoted Harriet Tubman and brought up Hollywood hypocrisy in one string of word pearls, but Viola Davis, so standing ovation for that. Also great was that Davis shared her winning moment as she exclusively made the speech for and about Black women, recognizing her fellow actresses, and pointing out that Black women can achieve much greatness if we'd only get the opportunities to do so. [Note to self: Begin writing kick ass detective-meets-Southern-Gothic-mystery novel with Viola Davis in mind...] So about that diversity gap, Matt Damon...?

Of course she made some White people uncomfortable with her words --- she got a soap star wading in her feelings --- but she wasn't race baiting, or trying to derail the glitzy glamorous night into a March on Selma moment, no, she was telling the unvarnished truth, utilizing her position as the voice of the voiceless to express universal truth and break that barrier, and still being damn gracious about her win to boot.

Prior to the speech there was also a oh so perfect moment between Davis and Taraji P. Henson: 

The two of them both up for the same award, but hugging it out and showing good sistersportsmanship --- now that's how we win and that's how we grow as a sisterhood.

Take notes, folks. 

Sep 8, 2015

Book Looks: 'Dietland' Throws A Grenade On Diets, Fatness & Feminism

Growing up my mother was sort of the empress of dieting. Every drink, pill, powder, supplement ---what have you --- she either knew about it, had tried it, or was tempted to pop it in, or stir it up. My mother wanted to revive the slimmer image of her younger days, rid herself of the Winnie The Pooh pooch she had, and she believed that if she found the right 'cure', her body was going to 'snap back'. Ultimately I got drawn into this weird world of miracle pills, mixed powdered drinks that resembled bubbling bayou bile and health literature that promised that if you squint and read between the lines you could shed the pounds in 7 days or less!!!!!!!, and while I still had my Funfetti cake and ate it too, my mother was the one who made me aware that even just a thin slice of it would cause my cute little waist to expand. Note this is before I even was influenced by glossy magazines and pop stars; my mother was on the pedestal then.

All of these dieting tricks and gaffes were really code words for starvation. I can attest to this, as one such diet experiment that my mother believed to be the ultimate belly shrinking cure had both of us hallucinating and shaking like addicts trying to kick the habit. We were back to cheeseburgers and chocolate milkshakes after enduring a concoction of blended carrot juice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and not much else) for four days. Looking back, we almost killed ourselves trying to obtain some unattainable size, and that to me was the wake up call out of my mother's dieting madness.

Diet culture makes everyone play the fool...sometime. Behind every line of "be yourself" and "you’re beautiful the way you are" there is a diet plan, cackling and whispering, "…that is if you do this one small neat weight-loss trick" and we fall for it every time, because 'thinness' is key, 'smallness' is desirable. Nowhere did I mention "healthy diet". Nowhere did I mention "whole foods" or "exercise". Dieting and its programs give the impression that your health and their 'good clean' eating is at the core of their agenda, but it usually opposite. Dieting has a glamorous and quick flavor to it, it doesn't regard sweating it out on a treadmill, or shelling out money for oh so pricey whole foods, thus we flock to it.

Still all the dieting my mother did throughout the Snackwells and Jenny Craig culture of the 1980s and 1990s didn’t stop her from contracting diabetes (she has Type 1 --- genetics are a bitch…) or having high blood pressure, but lessons are never learned because even though she keeps on a steady diabetic diet, she still gets hyped when a new "miracle cure" pops up, her finger itching to strike the key or press the button to purchase. It's a cycle, a vicious obsessive one, and one a lot of people, especially women like my mother, tend to never get out of.

In that regard, my mother and Dietland's Plum Kettle have a lot in common. Plum Kettle flocks towards the same thought, the thought that if you take part in diet programs that offer short-cuts and quick solutions that that thin person will leap right out of you in a snap!, in an instant.

In Sarai Walker's debut novel, Plum Kettle’s got 99 problems and a pre-made plate of low calorie puke is just one.

Jun 29, 2015

Lady Who Rocks: Bree Newsome

Well-behaved women seldom make history --- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich didn't lie about that some 30-odd years ago, and her statement rang with much ferocity this past Saturday when activist and all-around Renaissance woman Bree Newsome added her name to the long list of women who have caused a little mischief in the name of progress after she climbed up the flagpole outside of the South Carolina statehouse and removed its Confederate flag. In an instant she became a social media goddess, liken to social justice warriors like Fannie Lou Hammer and Wonder Woman, and immortalized in photos and artwork for her courageous and bold act that needed to have been done, well, decades ago.

Jun 24, 2015

Impressions: Anita Hill, The Power Of Speaking Up For Yourself & Owning Your Darkest Hour

When Anita Hill sat before an all-white, all-male Senate judiciary committee to accuse Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991, I was a mere babe of 4.

As I became older, Anita Hill's name grew leverage, her name tossed around the dinner table at family gatherings as if it was apart of our family's oral history. Still the details attached to her name were still vague to me. My inquiring mind, though, was quelled as the grown-ups around me instead of making attempts to explain who she was clamped their mouths shut, giving that "I really don't want to talk about this" grimace and promptly changing the subject. In school the scandal was lightly touched upon (or really not at all), at times written off as an "oddity" or a marring blip in the country's judicial's track record.

When it came time for me to work in professional arenas, I came face-to-face not only with racial bias but also gender division, and thus, Hill's story, the one so many people around me tried to say I was 'too young' to understand, crept back into my conscious. When Anita: Speaking Truth To Power, a documentary by Academy-Award winning director Freida Mock was released in 2013, I was eager to view it simply because I wanted to fill in the blanks of all that had thinly been taught about the scandal, and understand with more context, more clarity why Hill became almost a 'folk hero' in the feminism canon.

Within just a few minutes of watching the film I began to understand why the grown-ups around me curbed their appetite for conversation about it, why it was so abhorred in political circles, and muzzled in the sociopolitical text. I also re-learned a few things as well, reassessing how sex, race, media influence, and politics collided into a mangled traffic jam of fail that October day in '91, while in turn, gained deeper insight to an ordinary but resilient woman who revitalized a movement just by speaking her unvarished truth.

Jun 17, 2015

Muse: Learning How To Chop Down & Embrace The Hairy Trees On My Face

Excuse my flush, but I have facial hair.

Well, just about every occupant of the female population has facial hair, so special snowflake I am not, but let me speak my truth: Facial hair --- I have lots of it --- and for awhile now, I've been struggling to keep it at bay. No, it's not some cute little peach fuzz, I'm describing a thicket of foliage that rivals the forests of Middle Earth, and all of it resides on my chin, upper lip, and jawline.

There isn't any way I can be polite about f-u-c-k-i-n-g sucks.

My journey with the frustrations of facial hair actually began with someone else's facial hair frustration facial.

Dig the elements: I'm about nine or ten, it's summer time and I'm visiting my Granny, and she needs help tweezing the hairs on her chinny-chin-chin as her fingers aren't nimble and quick anymore due to her arthritis. Since I am her lovely granddaughter, she entrusts me to get the tweezers and pull, pull, pull. So there I go, learning how to tweeze coarse black hair, thinking in my mind, "This will NEVER EVER happen to me. You hear me Dude Upstairs? NEVER EVER!" 

Genetics (and polycystic ovary syndrome) are a salty wicked witch because flash to a decade later, a bumper crop of hair flourishes along my jawline, upper lip, and chin welcoming me to the jungle of womanhood. A flimsy eyebrow shaper will not do --- I need a got damn weed whacker to combat the follicle forest. After years and years of painful waxes (from the pricey salon ones to the microwave sugar kinds), stinky Nair burns, and running battery-operated razors and epilators over my face, I threw money at an at-home-laser unit, and haven't looked back. Two months into the treatment and the pulsed light is...working. The forest is actually being cleared, slowly, but surely.

Still, I refrain from going full tilt Hallelujah! at this point, as the scars of an internal emotional battle over my excessive facial hair remains visible.

Jun 13, 2015

Book Looks: The Quiet Storm That Brews In 'Everything I Never Told You'

The way Everything I Never Told You unfolds is beautiful.

Strange to say considering the novel is about a family that is coming to grips with the death of their teen-aged daughter, but Celeste Ng writes with such eloquent fluidity, with such shivering and minute intimacy that it reads poetic even when the subject matter is filled with anything but.

In her debut novel, Ng introduces us to the Lee family, a Chinese/Caucasian brood of five who live in what is supposed to be a perfect picture-postcard suburban area in Ohio during the 1970s. While on the outset things appear to be calm and orderly, underneath the family is a ticking time bomb as tension simmers and unspoken words are bound and gagged, egging to come out. When Lydia, the middle child, is found dead, floating in the middle of a lake, all that is suppressed finally comes to the surface.

The tone is set from the first page --- really the first sentence --- as Lydia is confirmed dead, her family unaware. From there we work and get swept up in the ebb and flow of death’s aftermath and the hidden lives and thoughts of the “left behind”, the ones who orbited Lydia --- her siblings, Nathan and Hannah, her parents, James and Marilyn, and her neighborhood friend, Jack. Instead of going for the straight sap trap of a Hallmark Movie, Everything I Never Told You places you into the claustrophobic chamber of a deep character study, with each individual given space to unravel, all of their emotions and mental states compressing and inching on you gradually.

Jun 12, 2015

Rant & Rave: No, Rachel Dolezal Is Not Black & Never Will Be No Matter How Much She "Feels It"

Michael Jackson sang, "It doesn't matter if you're Black or White", but somewhere down the line Rachel Dolezal decided that being Black was all that she wanted to be. The prominent Washington civil rights leader and NAACP president has claimed for 17 years that she is a 'sista', but her parents have recently come out to say the opposite, unveiling via photos that Dolezal is actually a White woman who is passing herself off as a Black woman.

Oh, dear...

Jun 3, 2015

Beautification: Hot Lip Color Fun In The Summertime

Summer doesn't officially start for another few weeks, but in South Texas it's been summer since February and THE HEAT IS ON! (*makes a sassy '80s saxophone sound*). While I break out the shorts and stock up on pints of Chunky Monkey ice cream, it's time to take my bright summer lipsticks and glosses out of hibernation. 

I have such a die-hard attachment to bright lipstick that it took all my strength not to wear them in the winter time, when I'm supposed to be piling on the 'elegant, reflective, and cerebral' look of my wine colored lipsticks. This year I decided to treat myself and buy some new bright colors just because sometimes you have to pamper yourself to get yourself out of bed in the morning, ya know?

Rise and shine to these colors. 

May 21, 2015

Muse: Falling In & Out & Back In Love With Blogging

The blogger's daily lament...
When this new year began I put some loose goals in mind. Now with some months into 2015, I can happily say that some of those goals are being met or are in the process of being met. Yay! Go me! Still I also set some private goals, and a lot of those goals dealt with my writing career, and how to stop frolicking around trying to 'find myself' and actually put the little coupon degree I got in journalism to some feasible use. After getting through the battlefield of rejection slips and e-mails for five years, I took took a brave? idiotic? leap to pursue freelancing full-time. I didn't want to give up. At eight, I wanted to be a writer, and at 28, I'm still going to be one, gawddammit, so I bucked up and decided to make plans.

Part of my plans included refreshing my blogs. I outright pressed the reset button on my baby, Audio Diva, and decided that this space, Jen On The Rocks, was going to be my 'fun space' where I also would expand upon several ideas I've been playing around with. All of this had me excited, as I scribbled down ideas, my draft numbers swelling, yet I wasn't this way for most of 2014, back when I had climbed too much into my head and felt myself falling out of love with one of the stable constants in my life.

May 15, 2015

Muse: How Harriet Tubman On The $20 Bill Could Laugh New Blackness To The Underground

The other day I went to the bank to do a few transactions and smiled at the $20 bills that were counted and placed before me after I did my withdrawal. Smiling not because it was some money going towards some cute kitten heels I've been eyeing on ModCloth, but because the roosterheaded former President Andrew Jackson face looked up at me, wonky eyed and all, and I thought, "You're time is up, dead presidential dude." I say this because the Women on 20s campaign announced this week that after several voting rounds, that their winner to replace Andrew "Trail Of Tears" Jackson on the $20 bill is none other than abolitionist and humanitarian, Harriet Tubman.

It's a surprising bit of news considering that the faces on our currency haven't been altered since they were first drafted in earliest decades of the 20th century, but more so that after all these years, a woman, and a Black woman at that, is seriously being taken into consideration as a replacement. Stiff competition abounded as the pool of names included such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but Tubman won out with over 11,000 votes, a surprise victory after Roosevelt had been in the lead during the grassroots campaign's first round of voting.

Backed by US Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the Women on the 20s campaign hopes to make the currency change by 2020, which will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment issuing women's right to vote. At the moment, things aren't final yet as there is still a process to enacting this historic change, but the idea is out there and I can't hide that I co-sign the heck out of it, but with the idea of change comes disagreement, as others aren't as enamored with this changing of the greenback guard and some for reasons that truly escape me.

May 14, 2015

Rant & Rave: Jem & The Holograms Film Is Far From Being Truly Outrageous

(Photo Source)
Heard about the new Jem & The Holograms movie?

Did you notice that absent from it is glamour, glitter, fashion, feisty feminism, and THE MISFITS?!

Oh, and there is more foolery at hand, and you bet your 'Showtime Synergy' that I am bothered and bewildered about it all as the new trailer for the upcoming film fails to impress and leaves my childhood in glittery ashes.

You can read my rage manifesto at sister blog, Audio Diva.

Apr 30, 2015

Levity: Wake Up An Hour Earlier, So You Can Make Yourself Girlier

You know that one Drake song...the one where he says with a straight face: "sweat pants, hair tied, chilling with no make-up on, that's when you're the prettiest, I hope you don't take that wrong"

Yeah, I kind of take it wrong, Wheelchair Jimmy. 

Maybe I get all in my lady feelings about this sort of thing, but I always find when dudes say this they are full of bunk, because what they really mean is they want you to look like you "woke up like this". Where the sweatpants don't have Doritos Nacho Cheese stains on them, where your face is free of foundation and eye corner crud, but is showing off that ~natural beauty~ of mascara, nude lipstick, and blush. Where you look like you jumped off the pages of the sleepwear and lingerie section in a Victoria Secret catalog. Okay, maybe I'm being harsh, because women do it each other too, as I remember this one flake of an acquaintance telling me once that I looked "strange and different" when I rocked make-up, and then when she saw me without make-up she told me I looked like "myself" but "sick"? 

So gila monster with make-up, and gila monster without make-up? Gotcha.

For unexplained reasons I have been lukewarm towards comedienne Amy Schumer. I noticed her and well, that was it. Well, she's got my undivided attention now as her One Direction parody, "Girl, You Don't Need Make-Up" is a stupendous and hilarious examination of the strange passive-aggressive behavior some people fall into whenever they try to tell a woman how she should (or shouldn't) fix her face. I love how in this one video she jabs hard at the subtext of boy band songs of my youth that paraded this sort of "you look good just they way you are, but..." diatribe, while making an astute observation of how women feel under the male gaze. Just fantasmical. And to top it, it's a damn catchy little ditty too that tosses out hilarious lines like "wake up an hour earlier, so you can make yourself girlier" and "think of a clown and work your way back". I also love how they have a Justin Timberlake/Justin Guarani-look alike wedged in there...just so perfect.

And remember ladies and gents...people wear make-up for a lot of different reasons, and a majority of us wear it not because we're trying to impress our beaus and bosses --- we wear it because we LIKE IT.

Apr 29, 2015

Muse: On Getting Over Procrastination...Later

Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule. Showoff.
There is a quote that I've been seeing a lot of on the 'net that has given me a slight twitch. It reads: "You have as many hours as Beyonce."

Um, yeah, about that....

It's easy to be flippant about time when you're talking about a person who has gobs of money and a team of minions working to make things go as fanciful and fabricated for them as possible. Though I'm in the minority that is convinced that Beyonce is like that android in Men In Black --- you know the one, where they open its face and inside there is a little alien operating the controls --- I still dislike that quote. It maybe harmless and petty (and maybe my aversion towards Beyonce is showing...) but it just sounds...arrogant, superior in its tone because you don't know my life, and you don't know my struggle with time management.

As I'm at the jagged edge of my '20s, time management is something I thought I'd get the hang of by now. I should know that when my phone alarm sounds at 8:00 in the morning, that I need to get my ass up and run the list of to-do's in my brain while I brush my teeth. Yet, I roll over and it's 9:00...9:30...10:00, and then I'm up and rushing, and putting off projects and responsibilities, being just way behind on everything. Being on a fine-tuned schedule is something that I wish I could be on. It's actually something I'm supposed to be on considering that I have things to write, errands to run, social media to engage in, and Bubble Witch Saga 2 to dominate. Every start to a new month, I tell myself to get on some sort of routine. I rattle off in my head, "Okay, Jen, this upcoming month you're going to go to bed before 2am. You're going to have all your posts for the week completed and ready to be queued. You're going to write one full chapter and be done with these so-called "novels" before the end of the year." Yet by midnight, I'm like "screw it, let's just Pinterest and Netflix the night away! Weeeee!" and I'm further off-balance.

I hurt myself.

Apr 17, 2015

Muse: What If We Love Black People As Much As We Love Black Culture?

Sometimes when I come across cultural appropriating issues whether it be fashion editorial spreads gone wrong or anyone with the code name of Igloo Australia, I admit to finding the situation hopeless to explain especially when said issues come up in mixed company. Some aren't listening. Some take defense. Some believe that it's a personal diss towards the individual, and not what the individual is actively doing that is inappropriate. Some just roll their eyes and believe you're overreacting. All of it just becomes too exhausting to contend to after awhile and thus, I tap out and keep the thoughts to myself. Still mum I shouldn't be as cultural appropriating is an issue, a B-I-G one, and if undetected it becomes easier for us all to pass it off as "normal" behavior when it's far from that.

Maybe next time whenever I find myself combating with small-minded folk, I'll directed them to actress Amandla Stenberg's nuanced breakdown of culture appropriation and the historical and sociological context behind it.

Apr 8, 2015

Trinkets: Golden Girl

For the longest time I used to be a silver girl. Silver jewelry girl that is. All through high school I wore nothing but silver hoops, necklaces, rings --- even my watch had to be drenched in chrome. You'd think I was allergic to gold by the way I avoided wearing jewelry of that kind, but for some odd reason, I just kept turning my nose up to anything that shimmered 14 karat.

Oookay. Actually I'm telling a teeny-weeny fib --- I did have some gold jewelry growing up. It was mostly gifted, heirloom stuff from my grandmothers that made me look like a baby Liberace whenever I wore it. Gaudy sparkly stuff that was too potent, even for me. Also attached to this jewelry was the stern responsibility of owning and wearing something that was ~*sacred*~ to the family. You know the whole "Great Aunt Millie sweated over cotton and took 50 lashes from massa to get this! So you better keep it you ungrateful git!" type of guilt trip.

Gold jewelry = guilt trip jewelry = me being scared off of even wearing it :-(

But then...something happened...I began buying gold jewelry, gathering up a nice little cache of it. I should say it's majorly "gold" jewelry, as it is costume, but better costume fare as none of the pieces that I own have made my neck look I was getting hickies from the Jolly Green Giant (well...yet).
Now it seems that I buy more gold jewelry than ever before, with my beloved silver now taking a backseat, and well, it just goes to show that we all go through phases as we get older and our tastes change.

In these last couple of months I've collected a substantial amount of gold "medals" and figured I'd share, and with summer on the come up and knowing that gold jewelry makes even the sweatiest drenched tank top look fabulous, taking a gander at some of my current favorite pieces might spark some inspiration for you to get your gold rush on this season.

Apr 7, 2015

Dream Wardrobe: The Blazing Style Of Esther Quek

As I near my 30s (*gulp*) I feel that I'm failing at having a signature "look". The "look" that when I walk by DeBarge's "You Wear It Well" plays and everybody knows that it is Jennifer Time© and to soak it in. Okay...lemme step out of my own private movie montage for a sec...maybe I do have a "look" and I just don't realize it, because one sweep into my closet you'll see lots of stripes, dark blue skinny jeans, flats in all colors and styles, and --- to some degree --- a collection of scarves that are almost too pretty to don and almost impractical considering southern Texas' penchant for heat, heat, and more heat.

Most women I know from my mother to the besties have that one signature article of clothing, bauble, or even a distinctive fragrance that let's everybody know that when they walk into a room they have arrived. Fashion "rules" dictate that you're supposed to have a handful of basic and essential items in your closet to complete or enhance any look, and one such item is a blazer. Still, no "rules" could have told me that blazers were essential, as I've been drawn to them since high school back when I got a little obsessed with the '80s blazer style in films like Pretty In Pink and Working GirlAside from '80s film romps, if I want massive blazer/two-piece suit game inspiration for these modern times, I look no further than towards Esther Quek, who slays executive realness each and every time you see her.

Mar 4, 2015

What I ♥ Today: Cooking With Peg Bundy

Peg Bundy cooking with an egg and some M&M's

I'd follow the blog.
I'd watch the show on Food Network.
I'd petition for her to be a guest chef on The Chew.
I'd probably eat the omelette. It's got chocolate in it.

Stop looking at me like that...

Feb 19, 2015

Rant & Rave: Nobody Puts Jessica Williams In A Corner -- On Feminism & The Possession Of Personal Choice

When it was announced that Jon Stewart was leaving his post at The Daily Show, chatter of who would become his replacement became instant and rampant. Still one name was on the tip of tongues and minds on who should be his worthy successor, and that name was none other than the show's whip smart correspondent, Jessica Williams.

While it's a bit of brilliant fantasy casting, Williams had other thoughts as she pretty much held up her hands and said, 'thanks but no thanks', opting to disclose that she felt she wasn't qualified for the position, and truly had no interest in it. That should have been the end of that, but people got way too deep into their feelings via Twitter, jumped the gun, and began to literally badger Williams for a choice that really was well, her own. Things got screwy when one blogger even went as far to 'diagnose' Williams with 'Impostor Syndrome', attempting at vigorous lengths to bend their argument like Beckham in order to shame Williams for her personal choice, and literally forcing her to 'lean in' and 'man up'.

So much for feminism, right?

Feb 13, 2015

Muse: In Praise Of Solitude

Marilyn Monroe, photographed by Sam Shaw (1954)
"I restore myself when I'm alone" - Marilyn Monroe*
Being a singular soul is nothing new for me, after all, I am an only child. Contrary to some lopsided belief, only children grow accustomed to entertaining and relying on themselves. We know what it's like to look to the left and right of us, and see nobody there, and we're sort of forced to be content with that.

Some have pitied me for a lack of siblings, pitied my mother for her "paltry" breeding, others have believed I was a tan-colored Veruca Salt, constantly begging my poor father for golden tickets, a bean feast, and an Oompa Loompa to take home with me. Either way, my fate to be the focal point, my aloneness, my singularity, has bothered people.

When my body became a series of parenthesis and I became of "marrying age", all of a sudden it became oh so crucial for me to lock hands with another.

Relationship-bound friends, and even some overzealous family members, tried (and woefully failed) to set me up on dates with the men they thought I'd be compatible with (A common line was: "He's alone, you're alone, it's perrrfect!" No no, it's not). Strangers have asked me outright if I'm married and have kids, and their eyebrows raise, fall and then they fumble to further conversation when they find out otherwise (Just because I wear jeggings I'm a Mom? Just because I'm not a Mom you can't talk to me?). It's also assumed that I am a lesbian simply because insane logic says that if you're single by my age (late-late 20s) you absolutely must be into the same sex because gayness equates that you're playing a woeful hand of solitaire.

My eyes...they roll right out of their sockets.

Jan 21, 2015

Lady Who Rocks: Maysoon Zayid

Maysoon Zayid in 'You Don't Mess With The Zohan' (2008)

We all have things against us. Minuscule and major. We cry, moan, and FML about them, and then we either let those things make us feel like sh*t, or we turn the sh*t into shiitake mushrooms and make a delicious pasta meal out of them. Maysoon Zayid chooses the latter. Like us all, she has her own "strikes" against her. She's Palestinian. She's a Muslim. She's a woman, and...oh, yeah she's from New Jersey. Yeppers, she's got it rough alright. She's also just so happens to have cerebral palsy, and a set-back it is not, as Maysoon Zayid is a comedian and actress who is embracing her so-called flaws in the best ways possible.

Jan 15, 2015

What I ♥ Today: Of Course The Only Issue Of Vogue I Ever Bought Had The Spice Girls On It...

17 years ago the Spice Girls were featured on the front cover of  "the fashion Bible" in support of their campy-fun flick, Spice World, and upcoming world tour, and it was all around stylish n' spicy.

Black nail polish on short nails, highlights, and a grumpy looking Posh are things that will always give me the warm and fuzzies about the late '90s, and it's all on this one cover. Oh, and smiles, natural smiles and looks! People didn't go overboard with the photoshopping back then, and it's why the ladies Spice are glowing and looking like your best gal pals on this cover. They just look approachable, their looks look achievable...if that makes any sense.

To burst the bubble some, Vogue editor Anna Wintour regretted doing this cover because the Spice Girls are like plastic feminism blah blah blah. Still, I wonder will the ol' helmet head grouse about the much lambasted Kim Kardashian and Kanye West cover 15 years from now, or look back and wonder why the vanilla blandness of Blake Lively and Kate Bosworth were so cover-worthy....

Jan 14, 2015

Impressions: 6 Ways 'Broad City' Captures Your Twenties (Almost) Perfectly

When I heard about Comedy Central's show, Broad City, the first thought I had was: "Not another show about girls in New York City". No offense to those who live and bite into the Big Apple, but it seems that if you're not from the greater New York City area, and are in your twenties or thirties, single and struggling, you just don't exist, and your story is just not worth telling. It's always a narrow storyline whittled down to one city and often one racial demographic, and yep, it bugs me.

Still I was curious....

Comedians and real life best buds, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer created the show from their web seires, and you know I'm ALL for sistas doin' it for themselves. Amy Poehler producing the show was also some catnip, plus the multiple reviews that I came across that were waving hands in the air to exasperatedly say it was better and much more relatable than the unbalanced act that is HBO's Girls. Okay. Okay. Fiiiiine. You got me.

So I watched the premiere episode via the web, and was...a little 'meh' about it. Yet, because it's a comedy show about women in their twenties, and since I don't bail on shows until I've given them the 'three episodes or you're out' test, I decided to give it another go. So when the full season popped up on Amazon Prime, I dove into it again, and was happy to find that the rest of the season flowed so much better! I fell hard in love with how feminist funny, cringe inducing, and quote-worthy each episode was as they all unfolded like a Gen Y's nod to the zany madcap adventures of Absolutely Fabulous (just substitute the booze with blunts and you're good to go). Plus the show features a rainbow of characters without being forceful or pandering to a demographic ("see look we included you!!"), and that is a huge plus in my book.

Still what captured me more was how even in the swell of crazy, Broad City mirrors some aspects of my roaring and wandering 20s. While it's always difficult to find a show that speaks to you on some selfish level, I feel that Abbi and Ilana are my people, as not an episode goes by without me nodding my head and closing my eyes going, "Yep, I've been there...".

So how does Broad City hit (almost) everything on the nail about my twenties? Allow me to count the six ways...

Jan 13, 2015

Impressions: 'Selma' Evokes & Echoes An Era

Selma is an outstanding and powerful movie.

Directed by Ava DuVernay, Selma with lucid intimacy has you walk right alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he fights for equal rights, combating all the social and political obstacles and bloodshed that come his way, all while still upholding a sense of self. These attempts in the end lead up to the historic 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery that ultimately led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Selma first and foremost roars with violence and hardship that is astoundingly effective, but it's brilliant how the film begins with a tranquil and regarded interaction between King (played excellently by David Oyelowo) and his wife, Coretta Scott-King (played by Carmen Ejogo) moments before King accepts the Noble Peace Prize that honors his efforts during the Civil Rights Movement. This somewhat sterile, docile moment is the calm before the typhoon, as peace and the nobility to uphold morality are contested in the soon-to-be unfolding months as King and countless of loyal supporters and activists work tirelessly towards equality that is still not yet obtained.

Jan 6, 2015

Book Looks: On 'Bad Feminist', Its Contradictions And Its Triumphs

In the case of feminism, we far too often argue and worry about who is doing feminism the right way, or who's setting women back thousands of years. The definitions of  feminism are too vast and laborious for all that boxing in, as it's seasoned with a mélange of thoughts and experiences to where every woman (and man --- because men can be feminist too!) possesses their own unique definition to what it means and how it applies to their lives. This is why I always find it silly that feminism gets tacked with such petty criteria, that people have the actual gall to formulate rules on how to do feminism the "correct" way, when it truly isn't a one-size-fits-all deal.

Roxane Gay is a personable, vivacious, and talented writer and raconteur --- and with those strong attributes it's super hard to have dissenting recoil about what unfolds in the pages of Bad Feminist. It's why I had trouble writing this review, as while I enjoy Gay's online writings and persona for the most part, her writings in this oddly assembled collection have me dueling in the middle as while reading I was enthralled as well as aggravated.

Jan 5, 2015

Life & Times: 15 Ways To Better Myself For 2015

Bad ass Anna May Wong drinking in the new year circa 1920s
'New year, new me', that line disagrees with me. Immensely.

I guess I want to be more like Anaïs Nin who quoted: "I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me."

Yes. Yes. This so much.

When the clock struck midnight on January 1st I didn't morph into 'All-New Jen!', I was still ol' boring Jen, a little buzzed, loudly laughing at the dumb nut newscasters on our local New Years broadcast, and stuffed with cocktail shrimp Jen.

I will say there is nothing wrong with having a game plan for what you want in life, and there is absolutely positively tooting nothing wrong with using the new year to start that game plan. All I'm just saying is that you don't become shiny and new with a new year, so stop that bullshiggity. There is a process to change and it's ongoing, and quite arduous, but still it's doable.

In my always earnest attempt to be on top of things, I decided to write out my process, coming up with 15 ways to better myself for 2015 and beyond. Not all of the things are going to get done this year, maybe all of them won't, but I'm going to at least try and roll with the 2015 punches, see what molds.