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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Value Meal?

In 6th grade, at Lanier Middle school, (go Purple Pups) I took Home Economics. I don't remember the decision making that planted me firmly in that class for an entire semester, and at this point, it probably doesn't matter. What resounds and sustains is this. I know how to make chicken nuggets, french fries and icecream. One day in that same year, I made this meal with my family. Dad, Mom, Big Bro and myself in the kitchen, breading, cutting 'taters and cranking an ancient machine provided by my grandma. Our nuggets and fries didn't drown in oil, our icecream lacked preservatives and artificial dyes and there was no soda. We drank water.
Do chicken nuggets really cost 4.99 for 10?!!! No. The entire meal set us back...less than $10
for a family of four.

Daily, I hear about how expensive it is to eat "healthy". Lies...pure, uncut and simple. Eating healthy cost the "quality time" that we like to say we allocate to our children, family and friends. My early caveat: If you find yourself in an occupation that does not allow a single day're in the wrong profession. Having said that, let's really examine the cost (financial, emotional, physical) that "fast food" demands.

The True Cost Of Value Meals...
Financially...This is some pretty simple math. Ground beef (if you're into that kind of thing), potatoes, oil, a sprig of lettuce, tomato and pickles.
Emotionally...The value of making a meal as a family. Priceless
Physical health...You do realize this is stuff has a playdoh like ingredients and is constructed to last through several nuclear explosions, right?!!! (I'm exaggerating...but only a bit.) To be cost effective, fast food has to have an extended shelf life. Natural foods decompose, whereas preservatives infused "fast foods" withstand long periods of exposure without much change to their consistency and nutritional value.
Is eating healthy really that much more expensive? isn't.
And that's just the carnivore breakdown. Vegetarians and raw diets can be less expensive financially. But these things require a time investment that our culture doesn't support. Consider this: working a 10 hour day negates the ability/opportunity to buy and utilize fresh fruits and vegetables, but it can be done with proper planning. A quick trip to your local farmer's market and breakfast, lunch and dinner can become a tool of refueling the body, not just another busy, rushed part of your already overwhelming day.
As always, I'm not content to just point out the problem.  I offer solutions...(I'm so considerate!).  Below, are some recipes to whet your appetite (and challenge you to invest in your physical and financial health through food).
Bon Apetit!

Stone Sushi
1/4 bell pepper (not green), julienned
1/2 teaspoon fresh jalepeno, julienned
1/2 avocado cut into thin strips/wedges
a few sprigs cilantro
3 marinated sun-dried tomatoes cut into strips
1 sheet nori (dried seaweed)
a bit of pickled ginger cut into small strips
2 tablespoons nama shoyu (cold processed organic soy sauce)
rice vinegar (optional)

CUT the nori with scissors into 1" wide strips and then cut them in half so you have a bunch of 1"x4" strips. Keep them dry until you're ready to use them.
Place one (shiny side down) on a dry surface and place a piece of bell pepper across it near the bottom so it forms an upside-down crucifix then pile on the avocado, sun-dried tomato, pickled ginger, or what-have-you in the same fashion. Stick a SMALL chunk of jalepeno in there somewhere. Place a small sprig of cilantro (this is VERY important) so that it may stick out once it's rolled up. Now just tightly roll it up away from you and seal it with a nama shoyu moistened finger and place on a platter seam down. After you use up all the nori, you might have some scraps left over which you can make into a good little side salad sprinkled with rice vinegar. Pour the nama shoyu into a small, shallow cup or bowl and you're all set.
*Substitute slices of plum, apple, dill, or bear as you see fit.*

Raw Spaghetti
2 medium green zuccini, as thick (fat) and straight as possible.
“Spiralize” or shredded zucchini
Arrange on plate similar to pasta.
Pasta Sauce
10-12 “sundried” tomatoes, allow to soak for several minutes in warm water to soften.
1 large fresh tomato
1 large red pepper
1-2 stalks of celery
1 clove garlic
(4-5 fresh basil leaves)
Blend all of the sauce ingredients in a blender or Food Processor. Add the soaked sundried tomatoes last, a few at a time.
Pour nicely over the zucchini “pasta”. Some fresh curly parsley sprinkled over the top adds a nice touch!

Carrot Fruit Cake
1 cup dried figs, soaked
1 cup raisins, soaked
1/2 cup pitted dates
4 cups shredded carrots
3 cups soaked nuts (almonds, walnut, or cashews)
1/2 teaspoon each: ginger, cloves, cardamom

1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup soaking water

Soak figs, raisins and dates in 3 1/2 cups of water for one hour, reserving liquid. Soak nuts in 5 cups of water for 8-12 hours.
Drain, rinse and drain nuts again. Place nut in food processor and chop finely, place in large bowl. Add figs, raisins, dates and spices to processor and process until smooth. Pour mixture into bowl with the nuts. Mix well.
Add carrots mix thoroughly. Form mixture into desired shape.
Process dates, cashews and soaking water until smooth. Spread on top of the cake.

Many thanks to the following websites, my kitchen and my official food taster ;^)

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Past: A Nice Place To Visit...But I Don't Want To Live There

One of the things about living a full life filled with friends, co~workers, acquaintances, passers~by and hangers on is that at some point, it becomes necessary to say a final goodbye. Ideally, we want some precise severing of ties, parting of ways complete with the reassurance that we'll never have to see the person, place or thing for as long as the earth revolves. But life seldom ties such a neat and finishing bow. Typically, people are driven to this act through a traumaticd  dramatic, life altering situation that causes intense self reflection and the inability to avoid making drastic changes. It needed be that way. The point is to utilize "grown up moments" to prevent dragging a situation out to a cataclysmic end.
Despite Boys II Men protestations to the contrary, saying "goodbye" isn't as hard as we make it out to be. One of the biggest impediments to moving on is simply not knowing when to say "when". A person who lacks barriers exhibits tendencies that allow, if not encourage, all kinds of foolishness. So the first step is always identifying your "finishing line". What's the line that family, business associates, friends, loved ones, that one guy/girl with the smile that stops you heart, strangers can't cross? If you don't have one (or several...) you've identified the lynchpin of your problem. There's no nice way to say this bit. Establish some boundaries...or live in the past, present and future of doormat~dom.

The illustrious "them/they" have cross your oft~spoken of line of impropriety. Arriving at your home unannounced, eating the big piece of chicken, sitting on your bedroom pillows...I can guarantee that the breech was not as insignificant as this, but lets play with a couple of nonlife threatening scenarios. You're tired of repeating the perpetrated infractions, they are tired of hearing them. What steps do we take? A monstrous, INEFFECTIVE, blow up designed to make them remember the moment they trampled your threshold of civility? Truth told, it means little to them. It's like holding a are the bearer of the burden.

Step one is always realizing that this (insert yo stuff here) is your perception. Honestly, I'm disrespected by the most random things. Don't play dumb around me, don't fail to offer a hand/shoulder as I walk (despite the fact that I may not use it), don't track your shoes further than my living room...but they'd better be in a closet by nightfall. Weigh it out. If the world doesn't explode and your name is still good in all your favorite ain't that serious. Agreed?
And so the "egregious" occurs...and the doors to communication have closed, bolted, welded, locked themselves. The "move on" stick is in your hand and you're confused about how that's to be done...

Know your role. The key portion of "relationship" is relate. This takes two people. If you're all talk, or I'm all talk, rest assured, we've missed a vital component of understanding. Explain in clear, concise non~emotional language the problem. I can admit that as a woman, I've had problems with this, but thank ya Buddah for email/text/smoke signals/crop circles. (Avoid exclamation points and caps...just a hint). Frequently, I have a great point, but I'm quick to lose it in EXCLAMATION POINTS AND CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! because nobody wants to hear or see that. In your attempts to put the past behind you, acknowledge your contribution, acknowledge what you needed and acknowledge that it wasn't met. (And if you never articulated the importance of said need, go play in traffic.)

Honor the hurt. My best friend and I fall out/fight/argue/throw molotav cocktails at least once a year. And at no time during the battle do we feel like "this is the straw that broke the junior high camel's back"...because it isn't.  However, I've experienced friends (no cutesy quotes, which I'll explain in a bit...), who were not as long lasting.  I can still call them friend without negating their relevance because at the time...they were a friend, in the way that they understood.  Trust, they gave their own warnings, and sometimes,I chose to ignore them.  This doesn't mean, I won't miss the ability to laugh at the one random song that we swore we'd never sing in public. But when my "stuff", business, life,  is trampled, he's gone despite abstract and actual pain.  You aren't supposed to move on from friends without some tearing flesh. (Sorry).

Identify what will improve in their absence. Look, I've dated poets, bankers, physical trainers (smile), entertainers, postal workers, computer techs, doctors, real estate agents, perpetual students, cops...(ummm...yeah, there's a difference between date and a smash)...and it boils down to this, if they don't fit...they don't fit. And more importantly when I don't fit...I should move on. It's not a slight against myself or those involved, but my deal breakers require some homogenous mixture of all of the above and in realizing this, I can let go. (Anthony Hamilton). Currently, I enjoy a combined energies and all our debates that compare the composition of methane gas and the factual statistics of 2 + 2 ...and most importantly I how we collapse into each other's arms at the end of a long, stupid, Texas hot day, glad for each other. Our time spent apart isn't the goal, but it's fun. Conversely, I've been subjected to people whose very inhalations I wish to stop. It's not the same. Minor irritation is not betrayal, it's life.
They've trampled your ideals, Guess what. You don't need them. Okay, this sounds MEAN, but look at it this way, swimming downstream is MORE difficult than swimming upstream in a dry gulch of oil laced sand. Sweetie...they don't mean, want, desire, love, tolerate, expect, enjoy, strive for, smile at, build with, breath, celebrate, dance about your sucess. The secret of properly disposing of your past is realizing that it is not only the past, but understanding that in it's capacity as your blocks your future.
And your future is bright...

Wave goodbye.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rules of Engagement

He's standing across the room, standing 6ft forever, wearing your favorite fragrance, smiling with all his teeth intact. Mid-laugh, he pauses noticing you, noticing him and your exhale is caught somewhere between your chest and your throat. Yep, he's the definition of breathtaking. A quick lowering of the eyelids and a return to your conversation is just the distraction needed to casually glance over your shoulder. Yep, he's still watching.   Quick...walk 6 steps to your right, twelve to your left and look again. Yep...following you like a diehard Twitter fiend. There's mutual interest, so what do you do with it? Ever found yourself in the scenario above and spent the night doing the "long thoughtful look" across the room, only to go home phone number, facebook friendless and wondering what went wrong? I've watched friends from 8 to 80, blind, deaf and crazy blow this scenario like Monica Lewinsky. Rarely returning for the re~gaze, forgetting that holding in the stomach shouldn't keep them from smiling, failure to launch the "sly~shy nod and wink" maneuver. So tonight, I'm keeping it light, with a few quick rules of engagement.
Men will be the first to admit, (in a really quiet voice that only takes place in their hearts, in the dark on a stormy night), that they appreciate being the pursuer. But, we've got to empathize with that long, heart pounding walk across the room and possible rejection in the most public of forums. I can only imagine the internal conversation dude must be having in his head as he knee wobbles his way into your circle of friends.

"She probably has a man..."
"I hope she's not the type to loud talk a brother..."
"Do I have enough cash on me to buy all her friends drinks?"
"Damn it, why did I think this Ed Hardy shirt was a good idea?!!!"
"Why is the one with the wart on her chin waving that huge flag with her number on it?"

See, while you're sitting there, safely flanked on each side by your homegirls, and her homegirls, wondering if you've sweated off all your eyeshadow and hoping your pedi is being shown off in the best possible light, he's having the same anxiety attack...the difference is, he's decided to approach YOU. (Which should be clue number one that he's at least somewhat interested). When he approaches...let the man off the hook with some sort of encouragement. True indeed, you don't have to immediately disrobe and begin doing the sissy bounce when he asks your name, but at the very least, tell your insecurities to shut up for five minutes and engage this brave man.

We have a way of meeting, dating, breaking up with, getting back together, becoming engaged and getting married all before finding out a brother's middle name. So far, he's only said "Hi", but somehow we've heard, "Hi...I'm going to marry you in 3 years time, make you forget everytime you've been hurt by every man from your father to Tiger Woods, give you pretty babies and personally make your sun rise every morning for the next 80 years."  That's a bit much for any single human to take on within the first 20 minutes of meeting. Imagine him telling you he's expecting you to be his mama, nurse, secretary, maid, homeboy and concubine who doesn't mind unreturned phone calls, at that first meeting and you're getting an inkling of the expectations being thrown about like shirts after a soccer win. Slow the hell down! You'll find out all kinds of amazing factoids by actually listening to what he's saying, instead of reinterpreting it to fit your needs. I continue to firmly believe that it's difficult to hide a wife, child, drug habit or unemployment for an extended period of time. Whether you've gained access to this information through conversation, asking around or the huge, engraved wedding band on his ring finger, taking things slowly can help you save face and avoid confusion. (Unless you're into that kind of thing...)

If you've made the mistake ...decision to be out with a gaggle of female friends, introduce him and beat a hasty retreat to chat him up one on one. This sounds bad, so allow me to explain. He's not auditioning for American Idol or Showtime At The Apollo and he's not there to finance a night of drunken debauchery and lady drinks for your homegirls. He just happened to be out, followed the shining spotlight of your brilliant smile and decided to approach you. This is not the moment to begin "Testing" know how we do, ladies. "If he's willing to...then he's a keeper".  (There'll be plenty of time for that later! I keed, I keed). Let him get to know you without a chorus of backup singers. I guarantee you'll hear him more clearly if you're not attempting to quiet your best friend and keep her from telling the story about that one time involving you, the amputee and the Greyhound bus station.
(Good times...)

In a short conversation, you've gained his name, number, facebook information, twitter name, and a general idea of where, when and how he lays his head for the night. (Save Googling him until you're at home...). The chat was intriguing, witty and filled with enough pop culture references to let you know he was born within the same millenia as you and he hasn't spent time trying to buy, sell or trade you. What next? Leave him alone!
"It was nice chatting with you and I look forward to hearing from you next week."
That's called, "closing the deal". It works this way. You've given him the heads up that you approve his approach. You gave him the green light on his communicative abilities and the let him know that you want MORE of the same give and take. Now come here...closer...just a bit closer to the screen. Paying attention, because I'm going to whisper this next little bit. You've given him (and yourself) an expiration date. The ball is now in his court with a "best if used by" date.

This whole mutual attraction thing is not rocket science. Obviously, I'm scratching the bare surface on the potential of this situation. Hey, I never claimed to be a guru...

Add your two cents and tell me what I'm missing.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maybe This Is Why We Can't All Just "Get Along"...

From the files of "I Wish I Were Making This Up"...
I was drifting through Google images the other day on an unrelated story looking for stock images and discovered something pretty disturbing. Black people are the recipients of charity, every person in Africa is starving, destitute and half naked, black love involves ONLY the intertwining of half naked, muscular drawings of Black men and women (and quite a bit of porn). I was amazed to find out these things about myself just by typing in a handful of innocuous words. Sure, I've read the articles and engaged in brief chuckles about when Google's "fill in the blank" feature goes wrong, but I didn't realize how a simple word can trigger such varied images. (By the way, this isn't my attempt at Google bashing...I'm a bit addicted to it as a means of answering the random questions that flip, flower and roll through my head.)

When I'm overemphasizing my best qualities in my head, one of my favorite images is of myself as a boulder, planted firmly in the middle of a rushing torrent of water. And from this rock erupts my voice, sounding strangely like Antoine Fisher, yelling, "I'm still standin'! I'm still strong!". (Pauses to allow the mental image...) You see, I pride myself on not letting every little thing buffet and toss me for a loop. I'm a boulder, not a pebble, so this should have drifted by my shoulders and passed on it's merry way to become an oily part of someone else's subconscious. But things don't always work out that way. So, allow me to admit, that I became a tad obsessed. For the next several hours ...minutes, I typed random words and marvelled at the images that popped up.

I typed "thief", and found zombies. I typed "masculinity", and found random androgynous women. I typed "cute" and was visually assaulted by doe eyed babies and animals of all types, except Black, until page 22. Look, it's no mystery that we are all somewhat concerned about how we are perceived. Short of psychopaths, most of us have engaged in hair, nose, breath checking behaviors to ensure that we put our best foot forward. At the same time, it's impossible to ignore a reaction to our physical presence amongst strangers. Think about it. You enter a room of people in the same general socio~economic bracket as yourself, and the unspoken ideal is to blend and mix well, not be perceived as "different" or alien. If you challenge this concept, dig deeply within yourself and ask why is it that you've never actually gone to a bookstore and screamed "I WANT PICKLED CHEESECAKE!" at the top of your lungs. (Exactly...) So what am I to take from a society that must cycle through 22 mental pages to associate me (or someone who looks like me) with the word "cute"?

A recent CNN report detailed how this phenomena plays out with young children offered the choice to play with a black doll or a white doll. In the African American community, the results came as no real surprise. Black children predominantly chose to play with the white doll, citing her has "prettier" and attributing more negative reactions to the black doll. In my own interactions with children, most notably a recent Wish Board project, designed to identify values, likes and dislikes, I found myself head shakingly familiar with boards filled with images of White celebrities, despite utilizing magazines targeted towards the "urban" community. The disparity is disheartening, when we also consider how little is being done to encourage a wider more receptive world view.

This is a color issue.
This is an ethnicity issue.
This is a gender issue.
This is an economic issue.
This is a religious issue.
Because a human issue.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Responsible Giving Responsible Living

On Tuesday, January 12, 2010 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake's epicenter hit near the town of Léogâne, approximately 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. Over a 12 day period, 52 aftershocks registering 4.5 or greater were recorded and an estimated 3 million people found themselves negatively impacted by one of Haiti's most damaging natural disaster's to date. The statistics of the dead, injured, missing and homeless was earth shattering and many answered the clarion call to give aid and assistance to this devastated community. Charitable organizations set records employing mobile phone technology, online social media sites, telethons and word of mouth fundraisers designed to render aid.

Fast forward 6 months and reports from Haiti lament more of the same poverty, poor conditions, a sharp increase in orphaned children, starvation, homelessness and physically dangerous conditions continue to exist. Much has been made of the inability to maneuver and render aid throughout Haiti. News reports detailed planes filled with supplies being turned away based on red tape and bureaucratic minutiae. Additionally, hospitals, morgues, jails and orphanages were left decimated, hampering relief efforts, however, many agencies continue to report a lack of funding reaching the ground level. Frustrations continue to run high and this is a dangerous threat to charitable organizations throughout the world, especially in the United States.
The US boasts 1.6 million non profit organizations, but we are inundated with constant news of a recession, weakened economic standing and a failing dollar, which tends shows itself in how we contribute to charitable organizations. Considering this, follow up stories such as those illustrated by the Haiti disaster's inability to effect noticeable change will only serve to justify an individual's decision to withold discretionary funds.  Despite being confronted with the significant struggle and strife resulting from this natural disaster, pockets began to close and apathy set in. 

The plight of those we see everyday without the sensationalism of a soundtrack, graphic image fades and 24 hour a day news coverage can get lost in the shuffle. Combined this with a general distrust of some nonprofit organizations and we find ourselves turning a blind eye to the disenfranchised among us.  With this in mind, the following is a detailed list of the top 5 charitable organizations located in Texas that give the majority of their donated resources to those in need.

1.AIDS Foundation Houston (AFH) was founded in 1982 as Texas' first organization dedicated to HIV prevention education and services. Our mission is to create positive social impact through the innovative management of HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases. AFH values and respects each person's uniqueness and embraces the philosophy of equality in serving individuals and families in a non-discriminatory manner, in collaboration with clients, organizations, and funding partners. AFH endeavors to meet the needs of its clients through the design, implementation, and evaluation of globally significant programs. With innovative programs in education, disease prevention, and client services, AFH strives to eradicate HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses.

2. The Children's Assessment Center Foundation is a functionally integrated supporting organization for the Children's Assessment Center (CAC). The CAC provides a safe haven to sexually abused children and their families - a place where they can receive the kind of care and treatment they so richly deserve. The CAC employs an extraordinarily effective, multi-disciplinary team approach in the prevention, assessment, investigation, referral for prosecution and treatment of child sexual abuse. The goal of the CAC is to promote the complete healing of child victims of sexual abuse and their families.

3. The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-partisan research institute guided by the core principles of individual liberty, personal responsibility, private property rights, free markets and limited government. The Foundation's mission is to improve Texas by generating academically sound research and data on state issues, and by recommending the findings to opinion leaders, policymakers, the media and general public. The public is demanding a different direction for their government, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation is providing the ideas that enable policymakers to chart that new course.

4. Founded in 1977, Family Violence Prevention Services, Inc. (FVPS) is dedicated to breaking the cycle of family violence and strengthening families by providing the necessary tools for self-sufficiency through delivery of emergency shelter, transitional housing, education, effective parenting and early intervention with children and youth. The Battered Women and Children's Shelter is a program of FVPS, and works to provide victims of family violence with a place of safety; transition to self-sufficiency; counseling and support for women, children and families who are victims of family violence and in need of service, but not shelter; and education for the public about family violence.

5. The Greater Houston Community Foundation's (GHCF) mission is growing effective philanthropy by connecting donors to the causes they care about, providing excellent stewardship of assets entrusted to us, and convening resources to address important community needs. The Greater Houston Community Foundation began operations in 1995 and ended 2007 with almost $270 million in assets in more than 600 funds. The GHCF has three objectives: to seek funds from private sources to build a pool of permanent capital for philanthropic purposes; to allocate and distribute the income from such capital for a variety of public needs by anticipating emerging community needs; and to provide leadership for community philanthropic initiatives.

Many thanks to The Charity Navigator for assisting with the culmination of information for this article and additional insights about charitable institutions. "Your Guide To Intelligent Giving"

There are also smaller nonprofit charitable institutions in need of your assistance. The following are welcome to my time and money:
The Mission:
Andrea’s Hope was birthed to promote awareness and provide resources that would not only feed the body but also provide emotional, mental and spiritual nourishment. We seek to inspire hope to the hopeless as they transition into independent living. mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of underprivileged school children by providing the support necessary to achieve their highest potential. 

If there are any additional organizations that you're familiar with, please feel free to email or comment.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Friends...How Many Of Us...

Somebody has been working overtime on the new Friendship Meme that states, "I don't trust a girl with no girlfriends". And while I can agree with this concept in theory, I gotta admit. I at a loss in this department. Don't misunderstand, I have female friends, I just don't have a gaggle of high heel wearing, thong showing, flirty faced, Glee watching, Sex In The City mimicking magpies with which to wile away the "Free Before Midnight~Freak'Um Dress~Lady's Night" contingency that women are commonly thought to have. (Nor do I want that...but that's another bucket of fish to fry for another day...let's stick to the point for once!)
The worse place I can be is on a comfy couch, watching my 26th episode of Iron Chef and Family Guy (I'm a natural multi~tasker), lap top located lap adjacent, when my phone rings. It is the truest fact of my years, that I am an immovable object destined for perpetual rest when I'm comfortable...think Steve Harvey's flat top, set in concrete. So, when my phone rang and I hear the cheery voice of my rebirthed childhood friend, I looked at the phone for a full two rings before deciding to answer. Allow me to explain (and change the names to protect the innocent... culpable...integrity of the story...). Pandora, is bubbly, effusive, expressive and excitable, unless she's not. And when she's not, she has the common decency not to call. This explains why we're great friends. It also explains why I gave the phone such a sideways glance. I knew she was feeling "social" in direct competition to my "anti~social", but I answered anyway...variety is the spice of life and whatnot!

"Hey, whatchoo doin'?"
"Sitting on the couch, brooding, being sedentary, listening to my hair grow."
"Let's go for sushi!"

See how cool she is?!!!
Which brings me to point number one: I ain't gotta explain SHIGGITY to nobody I'm not in a congressional relationship with! This is how I know that Pandora is lifelong friendship material as opposed to somebody who complimented me on my hair in the bathroom at the grocery store. (Yes, women form friendships just that quickly!). The fact that I didn't have to go into my song and dance about, "I'm just tired, I don't feel like putting all this in a bra and balancing it on high heels, my nose feels old MJ wide..." I could just say no and the world didn't end, no hissy fit was thrown, the validity of our friendship was unthreatened and the butterflies kept right on flitting along.

"Hey, long are you in town, anyway...maybe we can go next week."
"I'll be here for a while...whenever you're ready mayne, I'm down like senior citizen boobs!"
(Sidenote 1.0: Yes, we talk like intellectual hood frat boys. It's part of the charm!)

A quick trip to the fridge, a consult of the TV Guide and the side eye I'd been giving my Significant Other all morning led to a couple of quick epiphanies. The couch would always be there...

"You know what? Gimme 20 minutes...let's GO!"

45 minutes later...we're blazing down the freeway talking and laughing...and internally, I know this is going to turn into an all day affair! (And I'm giddy about it!). Driving, riding, singing and playing catch up leads me to point number two: One of the things I've yet to mention, is that with the exception of the occasional Facebook comments...Pandy and I hadn't seen, talked, texted each other in months. And we both like it that way. She travels because of work, but before this was her way of was generally the same. (Except that one year in 2007 when we lived in the same apartment complex, much to the chagrin of both of our livers.) We don't have the kind of relationship that requires an umbilical cord. Years ago, we developed a complex series of codes and flailing hand gestures that signal significant emotional unrest, so all that constant checking in is absolutely annoying ...archaic and unnecessary. I've never understood the importance of calling me to tell me you "parted your hair on the left side, thereby realizing that your right eye sports a larger pupil than the other one, which led to the amazing coincidence that you walk sideways when you wear the turquoise bra with white daisies, which your boyfriend hates, but your lover thinks is cute and why doesn't he answer your text message..."
SHUT THE HELL UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I digress and you get my point. Life is full of doesn't require narration.

I'll begin the fast forward wrap up about now, because at this point, we began to engage in sippage, prophesy and the intellectual root canals that we're famous for all over Houston. But I will give a shout out to what I'll lovingly think of as Road Tour 2010.
First stop: Miyako's for sushi and plumtini's where we began to slowly dissect our general funk and malaise over a beautifully marinated mushroom salad. The conclusion: (from her) "Get more consistent with the blog dammnit!" (from me) "Move ya arse to New York...they need you!" Next stop: Houston's own Beaucoup Bar and Grill (3102 Old Spanish Trail) which involved something I lovingly call "a double shot", insightful conversation, and a chance for some tag team inspiration (we hope) to a new addition to my blog and friend's list. (Oh yeah...and a HILARIOUS revelation about the things we hide from ourselves.) Next: A trip to Xpozher (3005 West Loop South Freeway) to satisfy some ring envy and prompt new ideas. On to tea at Andre Thierry (2515 River Oaks Blvd), which I should pause to anoint as my new favorite place to crack the shell on the smoothest, most emotionally satifying creme brulee I've had in quite a while. At which point, we decided that a late lunch wasn't sufficient to punctuate the potential hilarity of our warm personalities. So I say, "We gotta make this a DAY and NIGHT...lemme holla at HunnyBunny and..." Without letting me finish, she said, "Let's drive back to your place, check in and change clothes!"
Point number three: Ms. Pandora Q. Perfection is currently single...(I'll be passing her number around later...). Said that to say this, despite being all I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T, strong and grown, I value my relationship. And so does she. Had this descended into some combination of eye/neck/shoulder rolling about me being a "grown arsed woman who ain't got to answer to/check in with nobody"...I would have kindly shown my friend the back of my head as I beat a hasty retreat. In fact, the majority of the scant "chick friends" I have, ended in just this way. It's not the commonly thought, "that heffa was after my man so I had to cancel her like Nino" mindset that I run into. It's an inability to value what I value. And I value we checked in, I pecked his cute big ol' head and we continued the tour.

Pandy can sing. Scratch that, Pandy SANGS like nobody breathing has a right to. (No Randy Watson). I sing about as well as Stevie Wonder sees. We decided on karaoke at MacLounge (11322 Westheimer), for some late night bellowing. Did I mention that she's also an unrepentant ham actress and when properly motivated (cough: Hennessy Black) can put on a show that leaves strangers and friends alike screaming with laughter? I, on the other hand, can be kinda reserved around strangers and prefer talking mad, crazy noise in the back of my head (while it's being read on my face). She can, and does often, compel absolute strangers to bear their souls, psyches and dance through their most embarrassing moments in front of a spotlighted camera. I, on the other hand could care less about whether Tommy Twinkle and the Raylettes are having a good time. I don't know them! Opposites attract...and more importantly, they let each other be. We all know it's not the quantity, but the quality of a thing that matters, but when you find this in the flesh of a real friend. Other's pale in comparison.
Thanks, comment and shout out to real friends!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Perchance To Dream...

Inception ~ Your mind is the scene of the crime...

To reduce the movie Inception to a simple crime drama ignores grand concepts of dream analysis, cathartic release, grief resolution and some pretty significant aspects of id, ego and superego.  But, before you begin to think of this as a cerebral romp through the subconscious, believe me, there is plenty to invoke "wow" moments through special effects.  I'd recommend this movie for as yet another of Leonardo DiCaprio's wild ride to redemption. 

The plot is simple enough.  Dom Cobb (Leo) is a master thief, skilled at extracting information from the dreamscapes of his victims.  Following a failed job, Cobb assembles a team of dream specialists to assist him in doing the one thing he's most unsure about.  Implanting information, known as inception.  In the vein of "one last heists" movies, Cobb has to complete this job successfully to achieve his ultimate goal of being reunited with his children. 

Inception wins through its plot points and twist, not to mention some pretty clever writing designed to disguise a bit of a morality play about the importance of forgiving yourself and releasing the past.  Writer/director Christopher Nolan, who's last work was The Dark Knight, relied on similar dark imagery and sweeping sets ranging from America to Tokyo to carry his story and showcase the special effects, including folding a city block upon itself and very impressive gravity defying fight scenes.

The problem with reviewing a film as intricate and multilayered as Inception, is one tends to give away too much in the retelling, which I won't do here.  (No spoiler alerts).  I will say this for the movie.  It's one that can work as a "date flick" or just something to view as visually stunning beyond the story.

Seen it yet?
What did you think?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Passion Of The Creep...

A short trip into misogynistic behavior gives us plenty to deride. Mike Vike, Isaiah Washington, Chris Brown, Tiger Woods, "Kramer" from Seinfeld...In a society quick to finger point, assign blame and extract sacrificial accomodations, I'm left wondering, "Where is the public outcry for an apology from Mel Gibson?" And before this descends into a debate about the differences between public life and private life, allow me to say this. When I'm trolling the internet, flipping television stations and listening to the news on an ancient contraption called "the radio", I'm not asking to be inundated with "celebrity news". I'm looking for the tofu & potatoes media coverage that affects my day to day life. Generally, I gloss over celebrity moments, but Mel and Oksana brought their fight to my front door, so I'm going to sit on the porch, pour a glass of tea, and comment like everyone else.

Let's hear excerpts from "the tape".
And another...

And another...
And another...

Wowser's Mel...angry much? This doesn't sound like the first time Mad Max has emphasized his feelings of powerlessness in this manner. Typically rants of this magnitude run along a trajectory. A whispered frustration during a public dinner...a mention of grievances before going to bed...a jokey meltdown amongst friends and family...a full blown argument, and finally detonation. Our sneak peak was obviously detonation. Were it in my immediate power, I'd lower the voice, remove the heavy breathing, ignore the fact that the woman he's addressing is the mother of his child...and STILL find his words reprehensible. Consider one of the transcripts:
Oksana Grigorieva: Yes?
Mel Gibson: Stay on this phone and don't hang up on me. I have plenty of energy to drive over there. You understand me? AND I WILL! SO JUST F------ LISTEN TO ME. LISTEN TO MY F------ RANTING. LISTEN TO WHAT YOU DO TO ME.
OG: I didn't do anything to you.
MG: A pain in the ass!
OG: You are ruining my life!
MG: You make my life so f------ difficult!
OG: Well you know what, it's so --
MG: Why can't you be a woman who f------ supports me instead of a woman that sucks off me. And just f------ sucks me dry. And wants, and wants. Go through this relationship if you're a good woman and you love me. I don't believe you anymore. I'm sick of your bulls---! Has any relationship ever worked with you? NO!
OG: Listen to me. You don't love me because somebody who loves does not behave this way.
MG: Shut the f--- up. I know I'm behaving like this because I know absolutely that you do not love me and you treat me with no consideration.
OG: One second please. Can I please speak?
MG: I love you because I've treated you with every kindness, every consideration. You rejected … you will never be happy. F--- you! Get the f--- away from me! But my daughter is important! All right? Now, you have one more chance. And I mean it. Now f------ go if you want, but I will give you one more chance. (huffing with anger) You make me wanna smoke. You f----- my day up. You care about yourself.
OG: You're so selfish.
MG: When I've been so f------ good to you. You f------ try to destroy me.
OG: I didn't do anything. I did not do anything. This is your selfish imagination. That's bull!
MG: Shut the f--- up! You should just f------ smile and blow me! 'Cause I deserve it.
OG: I'm sleeping with the baby. I'm waking up every two hours. I fell asleep because I was waiting for you because you weren't ready to go to the jacuzzi as we agreed.
MG: Who the f--- cares? We agreed nothing. You agreed. You just f------ expect s---. Go to the g--damn jacuzzi yourself, go down to the f------ jacuzzi. You have no f------ soul! My soul is screaming because you don't have one to join mine. You have no f------ soul. I left my wife because we had no spiritual common ground. You and I have none. Zero. You won't even f------ try. (huffing again) You don't care. You don't care.
OG: You just enjoy insulting me. That's all.
MG: F--- you, I so f------ do. Because you've hurt me so bad. You insult me with every look, every breath, every heartbeat.
OG: I did not do anything. I apologize for nothing.
MG: What? What? You apologize for nothing? Well then you're a dishonest c---! Because you need to apologize for a reason.
OG: I wanted to have peace. You are unbalanced.
MG: Instinctively, I feel that. And I will not be patronized by you.
OG: You're unbalanced. You need medication.
MG: If you will not f------ admit that, then get the f--- out. I will make your g--damn life miserable. Alright?
OG: You need medication.
MG: What? What?
OG: You need medication.
MG: I need a woman, not a f------ little girl with a f----- dysfunctional c---. I need a f------ woman. I don't need medication. You need a f------ bat to the side of the head. All right? How about that? You need a f------ doctor. You need a f------ brain transplant. You need a f------ … you need a f-------- soul.I need medication? I need someone who f------ treats me like a man, like a human being. With kindness, who understands what gratitude is because  I f----- bend over backwards with my balls in a knot. and she gives me s--- with a f------ sour look and says I'm mean. What the f--- is that? This is mean! Get it! You get it now? What mean is? Get it? (huffing). You f------ don't care about me. I'm having a hard time and you f------ yank the rug, you bitch. You f------, selfish bitch. Don't you dare hang up on me.
OG: I can't listen to this anymore.
MG: You hang up, I'm coming over there.
OG: I'll call the police.
MG: What?
OG: I'll call the police.
MG: You f------ c---. I'm coming to my house. You're in my house, honey.
OG: Yes, but you … don't call me honey.
MG: You're in my house, so I'll call the police and tell them there's someone in my house. How about that?
OG: You can do that. That's fine.
MG: F--- you! I don't involve the police in anything because I stand up for myself. You, you weak c---, you call the f------ cops.
OG: Then I will go to Alicia's right now.
MG: Why don't you f--- off to that c--- bitch Alicia's. She was f------ making eyes at me. She'd have s----- me in 5 seconds. Take that one up with her. I was trying to spare your g--damn feelings. She'd have b---- me in 5 seconds! She's not your friend. You don't have any f------ friends except me. And you treat me like s---. So that's why I'm so f------ angry. Because I don't have any friends. And I try to make one from you and you treat me like s--- and you f------ use me. The career is over! And boy, when I said that, you lit out of here faster than I've ever seen you before. And now you'll be at Alicia's place. You just showed me what you are. Absolutely. Unequivocally.
OG: I don't care if you don't spend another penny. Listen to me, Mel, I don't give a damn if you don't spend another penny on me.
MG: Oh yes you do!
OG: I'm just fearing for the life of my daughter.
MG: You'll find some other f----- to pay for you.
OG: Listen to me…
MG: You're a c--- and a whore! That's what you are and you have just proved it. You got out of here in record time.
OG: Because I'm saving my life and my daughter's life. That's what I'm doing. I don't give a damn about my music. And I don't give a damn about you spending another penny. I'm saving her life. You almost killed us, did you forget?
MG: The last three years have been a f------ gravy train for you.
OG: You were hitting a woman with a child in her hands. You! What kind of a man is that, hitting a woman when she's holding a child in her hands? Breaking her teeth, twice, in the face. What kind of man is that?
MG: Oooh, you're all angry now! You know what, you f------ deserved it.
OG: You're gonna answer, one day, boy, you're gonna answer.
MG: Huh? What? Are you threatening me?
OG: Nothing, nothing. I'm not the one to threaten.
MG: I'm threatening you? I'll put you in a f------ rose garden, you c---. You understand that? Because I'm capable of it. You understand that? Get a f------ restraining order. For what? What are you gonna get a restraining order for? For me being drunk and disorderly? For hitting you? For what?
I intentionally utilized one of the transcripts that didn't include the homophobic, anti~semetic, racist rhetoric of an allegedly inebriated individual, and we're still left with this:

Mel saying,
Stay on this phone and don't hang up on me. I have plenty of energy to drive over there. You understand me? AND I WILL! SO JUST F------ LISTEN TO ME.  LISTEN TO MY F------ RANTING.
You need a f------ bat to the side of the head. All right? How about that? You know what, you f------ deserved it. You don't have any f------ friends except me. I'm threatening you? I'll put you in a f------ rose garden, you c---. You understand that? Because I'm capable of it.

Bullying threats, pure and simple combined with alleged actions. And yet, there's been no public outcry for an apology a la Chris Brown, Tiger Woods, Isiah Washington. This represents a handful of men who've received and public trial and been found guilty in the eyes of the public and sponsors. Where were their collective slaps on the wrist and quick absolution? Or the inevitable, "naughty, naughty...boys will be boys" head shaking received by Marv Albert and Pat O'Brien?

Something tells me, Mel will receive the socially acceptable rinse/spin cycle of anger management/rehab and come out pristine in his next blockbuster film. Maybe, he can take a page from Chris Brown, shed a tear for yet another confusing entertainer during a soul stirring tribute and gain our sympathy.
Maybe I'm being to anyone else (besides Oksana) expecting an apology from The Passion Of The Creep?
Talk to me...