Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What I Learned from Going to the Movies

In case there's anyone reading this . . . .
I know it's been a month of Sundays since I've released an idea into the blog-sphere. I've been--I don't know--groggy. But I had a burst of brain activity today.

I rewarded myself with a trip to the movies. I submitted my grades, on time, and without waiting on and coddling students who didn't turn in work even after second and third chances. And I don't feel all sad about giving them the bad grades they earned, even though I really like some of them. What's really nice, though, is that I saw "The Best Man Holiday" for the second time. I love it! It's just an enjoyable, entertaining, fun film. AND it has Taye Diggs' perfect teeth and Morris Chesnutt's dark chocolate goodness. And the female actresses are stylish and Nia Long should still totally play me in the movie of my life. It's a wonderful rhythm of tear-jerking sadness and laugh-out-loud humor. I think that rhythm reflects the way life seems to me these days. It's a gut-wrenching mix of highs and lows.

Sitting in the dark, thinking about how nicely styled the characters are, I also thought about how the story underscores how vital friendship is. Our friends really are the family we choose. They help us mark the moments that matter as we are living our lives. They provide context and meaning. Those relationships are intimate in a very particular way. We need them. I'm glad I have good friends.

And I'm just going to say this, too: I like seeing black folk on screen doing the darn thing. These characters are people I'd like to know, not because they're perfect, but because they are emotional and have fears and desires and they fail and they do the wrong thing and then sometimes do the right thing. And they look good. There's something to be said about the politics of pleasure (Joan Morgan said it) and it's just pleasurable to view this world get lost. It does still have this weird, generic Christianity that I can do without, but I can forgive that. It makes me happy. It feels good to watch.

Finally, an unrelated side note: I gave in and "adopted" an Elf on the Shelf for our family. My children begged for one for the second year in a row, but realized that he's as creepy as I think he is. And yet, they say good morning to him as soon as they wake, and tell him good night before bed. It's rather fun to see where he's going to end up every morning. I'm glad he's here. This could be the last Christmas when both of my children fully believe the magic.

I like to re-read posts from the last few holiday seasons this time of year. I don't think I can do that this year, but I'm reminded that I've had some good ones.

So, all in all, I think I still believe the magic just a little.

Monday, July 8, 2013

What's the Matter Mary Jane?

BET just aired a shockingly thoughtful and engaging beginning to a dramatic/comedic series. Being Mary Jane stars Gabrielle Union (who I've loved for years) and bears the markers of Mara Brock Akil (who worked behind the scenes of Girlfriends, among other shows). It's witty and energized.

But . . .

I really wish that it didn't begin with that squirly (and dubiously conceived) statistic about black women and marriage.

Still . . .

Being Mary Jane is really enjoyable.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Not Very Tempting, Tyler Perry

I gave myself an end-of-semester, before my children are out of school treat today and went to the movies. I really wanted to see 42 but decided to wait until I can see it with my hubby (which really means that I'm waiting for it to come on HBO or Showtime and the children to go to sleep). I had read a couple of commentaries on it, and knew from the get-go that I was probably not the ideal demographic. I don't get along well with Tyler Perry movies. Or Kim Kardashian. But I had just watched the Grey's Anatomy episode with Jurnee Smollett and remembered that I like her. And Vanessa Williams. Perhaps most importantly, seeing it would get me out of the house and out of my head.

Not long into it, I decided that I needed to blog about it. Watching the scene from the teaser, in which Judith (Smollett) and her lover first have "sex" on his private plane was intensely disturbing to me. The clip presented this as passion-filled and sexy. But I just found it creepy and violent. If I had read Carolyn Edgar's discussion I wouldn't have been so filled with ick, but I didn't, so I was left to make confused faces in the dark with the four other people in the theater. This character, Judith, says no--repeatedly and firmly, while clawing and hitting this man. Is it just me, or is that rape? She never actually says, "yes"; she just stops actively resisting. Um, that's not the same thing, folks.

I have lots of other problems with this story, including the bland way that marriage is portrayed, and the fact that Judith complains that her husband Bryce takes her for granted while, in my estimation, she also takes him for granted. She never fully discusses her needs or desires with him--he forgot her birthday the year before, but she doesn't even mention it for the current birthday and then is in despair that he forgot again. I can't remember any scene that depicts them even getting close to sex (except for when she gets all hot and bothered by her lover's innuendos and rushes home to attack her thoroughly confused husband). Of course, when I think about it, people who have sex in this movie get punished, so maybe that's why he doesn't. Then, there is the ever-present problem with overblown, jacked-up religious silliness. I know this is some people's version of Christianity, but it's not mine. I can't even unpack all of that right now. Seriously.

And then, there is there weirdness of Judith at the end of the movie, old, alone, and limping along with her HIV and unresolved Daddy issues. I'm not sure why she needed to be barely mobile. Or why Smollett couldn't play her at the end of the film. It's all so confusing.

This probably could have been an interesting plot, but it falls flat as a pancake.

I did, at least, get out of the house, though. So I guess it was good for something!

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Couple of Random Things

  • I seriously love television. If I had any sense it would have been my subject of choice for every academic pursuit. But it's really getting on my parental nerves lately. Condom commercials pop up in every time slot, during every type of programming, even in the middle of the afternoon. And the other day a "Dateline" promo forced me to define "prostitute" for my seven-year-old. Arrrgggghhh.
  • The grading. Oh. My. Goodness. It's mountainous. And not all good.
I think that's all.

Friday, May 3, 2013

An Appropriate Dress

I'm still in a haze. Random thoughts keep forcing their way into my head. It's hard to stay focused, despite the mountains and mountains of end of term and catch-up grading that forces me out of bed. I keep thinking of the very strange phenomenon of buying a dress for my father's service. I generally don't like shopping, but this had to be the worse shopping experience ever; it was even worse than when I had buy a dress for my girlfriend's wedding four weeks after I had my son (leaking breast milk, newborn in tow, lumpy post-baby body--good times). I thought I could buy something quickly and never wear it again. I kept thinking of the Langston Hughes poem that says something like tell all my mourners to mourn in red 'cause there ain't no sense in me being dead. (Don't know exactly what to do with that thought . . . ) Mostly, though, I was hearing his side-bar comments, which made me laugh and cry at the same time.

I'd pick up one dress and hear, "Too short." Another, "Waaayyy too tight."  or "That looks nice." I'd see another and hear, "You do know that you have to wear that to church, right?"

Was I supposed to be looking for something cute? appropriately sad? reflective of his joy of life? It was all just so weird.

In the end, I was entirely over shopping altogether. I tried on a few dresses that looked too hideous, even for mourning. I bought one that didn't make me look like a potato. I don't know. It got the job done.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Crisis is Over

The Crisis that showed up a few years ago is finally over. My loving and beloved father went to be with the God he worships. He was ill and in pain, and now I believe he's healed. We had four days to love on him and pray for him and sing the songs he sang. I am grateful. Sad. Devastated. But grateful.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Briefly . . .

In all the reporting on the horror of Rick Warren's son taking his life, this was the most salient slip I heard, taken from one of Warren's sermons:

"God never wastes a hurt."

I so need that to be true. Can I get an "Amen"?

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Periodically, I engage in this little exercise with my children. Tonight, I played with my daughter.

"Does your mommy love you?" I ask.

"Yes," The Babydoll replied.

"Well, how do you know?"

"Because you take care of me. And keep me alive. And protect me."

That's all I ever wanted to hear, especially that last thing. Reflecting today on the immeasurable love of Christ, I'm hoping that I (and Hubby) reflect that love for our children. Yay for (at least one day of) getting the mommy thing right.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


So . . . I've been gone awhile, and I thought that the season of resurrection is as good a time as any to renew, revive, and revisit my blogging self. I've been in a weird headspace, searching for pleasure in my life. My children are so clear about which activities bring them happiness. They swim and play sports and dabble in music, and the raw joy seeps out of their pores. They are so expressive that it's never hard to know what the giggles and happy dances mean. I had a conversation with a colleague, and we concluded that men also make no bones about what brings them pleasure. Whatever else is going on in the world, men make time and space for what they want to do. But for me--maybe it's that mom thing--I feel like a personal assistant, facilitating the lives around me and serving, serving, serving. When I thought about what I wanted to do and considered my options--learn a new skill? try a sport? join a group?--I could hardly even give a name to the kinds of things I like to do. And then I started to feel really pathetic.

As I've discussed to death, my career is on life support. I've been thinking about the 18 year old girl I used to be, and wondering if she'd be disappointed that I'm not all fabulous in the ways that she expected. After all, she imagined that at this point, we'd have a couple of books somewhere, and we'd be vacationing in cool, exciting places, and we'd have an impressive title. The Diva told me not to listen to her--she's young and knows nothing! All I can say is, "Sorry girl! I tried." It's just not turning out like we thought. And so, we probably--no, definitely--need to come up with an alternative plan to the bill of goods somebody sold us in graduate school about how this was going to work. We need to make some new connections and try some new projects so that we can travel a different road. One that might get us closer to that impressive title. And perhaps a vacation in Paris (hey--dreams are free, right?!) But more importantly, we need to feel pleasure. We need to be creative and focused in ways that have nothing to do with being someone's mommy or wife or instructor. A colleague suggested that blogging does that for her, so I'm making that my first step to a less depressed me.

I'm reading a devotional centered around the Lenten season. It's from the perspective of depression (the author is a scholar and minister who lives with bipolar disorder). One of the last entries I read was about how, for her, cycling helps her feel more human and full of life. How she knows that sadness rises up to suck her into an abyss, so she needs to be intentional about participating in her life. I don't have a diagnosed mental illness, but the cycle she mentions has been sapping me, too, in a way. It's been hard lately to keep myself from thinking about how much I suck, to remind myself that I've done some things that other people think are pretty great. I need to be intentional about meditating on the good, even while disappointment and fear and calamity threaten all around me. Otherwise . . . it's just too much.

So, returning to the blog is the first step. Another is to make some moves toward something tangibly good. I think I'm going to take a sewing class. I've been wanting to do that for years. And maybe I can go from there to learning to quilt, something else I always thought would be cool. And I think I'm going to take another swim class this summer, now that I've moved past my suspicion that my body won't float. I'll let you know how it goes!