Too Much to Say: Grammy’s 2014

I thought my awards show review days were over. But in the process of making a comment on FB, that became a paragraph…I decided I had something to say after all.

Now, I don’t care about the awards anymore, the results are seemingly random and weird. I only care about the performances. So here we go:

Bey opened the show with Drunk in Love, and it was a great performance – with Jay performing his part (including the non bleeped “eat the cake, Anna Mae” which still creeps me out). Bey was not singing the whole thing, and the spinning stage made it hard for her to always connect with the camera, but it was good.

Next up was Lorde, two good songs in a row, but this performance wasn’t so good. I’ll chalk it up to her age and poor guidance, but it was bad. The lipping was WAY off, and her seizure-like movements were unpleasant to watch.

Hunter Hayes (sp?) sang a song about being bullied? I could barely understand his words, but I got the point that it was supposed to be inspirational. And at least he was singing. The quotes on the screen were a nice touch.

I just have to take a moment to talk about Pharrell’s hat. He wore a RCMP hat that just looked strange. It did remind me of the minions a bit…maybe that’s what he was going for.

Katy Perry was up next, with a dark performance of “Dark Horse”. The song is pretty good, the performance? Spotty at best. Katy’s dancing was full-on terrible, to the point of distraction, but the vocals and the concept were cool.

I recognize that I’m old-ish because of my continuous incredulity at the show, but I’m not so old that I know the songs Robin Thicke and Chicago sang. Keith Urban is the only cute male country artist, and that helped me watch the boring half of his performance. Then Gary Clark, Jr., some guy I’ve never heard of before, joined him and I watched a little more. The energy amped up a little more, and it turned into an ok performance.

John Legend’s personal, minimalist performance with the piano was beautiful – facial expressions and all. His voice is like butter, and I didn’t even have to know the song he sang, because it was beautiful. Classy performance.

Taylor Swift also sang a song I didn’t know. It sounded like all her other slow breakup songs. What struck me was the feathered hair. She looked an awful lot like David Bowie – especially at the end as she stared into the camera. But the dress was beautiful, and the performance was ok. She stayed in her lane and it made sense. I’m surprised that her formula continues to work.

Pink’s performance began in the air, as have her last few. It was visually stunning, if a little familiar, and her tricks are simply amazing. The fact that she sings at all while she is swinging/spinning around is amazing. And that bit she did with the dancer balancing on her is just great. This moved us straight into the duet with FUN. He was slightly off sometimes, but her voice was on point every time. She has really come a long way from her debut.

Not being a Beatles fan, I’m even less a fan of Ringo Starr. But it appeared that Yoko Ono liked it.

Ooooh, Bey’s dress. It’s SO pretty. White lace. But I can’t even describe it.OK, back to the performances:

Kendrick Lamar & Imagine Dragons – this perfomace was better than I thought it would be. I’m into this. It reminds me of the vibe from Jay and Coldplay – did that ever happen? Or did I dream that? One thing I would love? Not to have cameras pan to Taylor Swift not-really-dancing at every awards show. Kendrick and Imagine Dragons have great chemistry, though, and this is so hype. It’s like being at a concert. Everyone was feeling this.

Kasey Musgrave’s song was fun. I’d never heard it, but the lyrics held my attention after the novelty of the light-up boots wore off. I don’t hate the traditional country sound, and it worked well in this song.

Beatles reunion. I don’t know this song. But it’s ok. A little long.

What’s cute, is that when they present pop awards, they show YouTube vids of people who covered the nominated songs. That’s fun.

Now there’s a big country hoedown. Willie Nelson still sounds like himself, Kris Kristofferson doesn’t. Merle Haggard sounds old, and Blake Shelton next to him sounds SO young. The performance was good, not too long, until they started another song. The idea of the song “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” is fun, the actual song is a little tired. Some things hold up better to time than others.

Daft Punk and Stevie Wonder and Pharell, Oh My! Slow start, it seems they have poorly mic’ed Stevie – but it’s a fun song. And Pharell switched his hat for a park ranger hat. What’s the deal with Daft Punk? They just do EDM on computers, right? I don’t think I really understand them. I get the reclusive thing, I just don’t get the way they make music.

Carole King Tribute! I love her! Sara Bareilles is just ok for me. But this performance feels like a fun musical conversation, you can tell they’re both just about the music, and they’re enjoying it. I would probably pee my pants being on the stage with a legend like Carole King.I think they should’ve done another song.

Lang Lang begins his collaboration with Metallica with fanfare, and the visuals are stark blacks and whites, with red laser punches. The song gets a little weighed down by a poorly mic’ed voice, and might actually be better purely instrumental – or maybe better volume on the mic? The melody is more easily heard from the instruments. The piano, OTOH, sounds great! After a bridge, we reach into pure metal territory, and they lose me, as metal usually does. After that, for me, it’s just chaotic to the end.

Steven Tyler just sang Smokey Robinson’s “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” and the audience sang along. I love that everyone still knows that song.

Queen Latifah introduces “Same Love” by Macklemore, Mary Lambert, and “Trombone Shorty” and I can’t help thinking about the rumors about her. I can’t imagine living with that kind of personal scrutiny and rumors. I’m not a fan of Macklemore, and I don’t think the lyrics are that great, but it’s his privilege that gives him the platform, so whatever. And, Queen La officiates 33 marriages as Madonna comes out singing “Open Your Heart”. That was bizarrely touching. It was a stunt, don’t get me wrong, but those couples are actually married, now. Wow.

Lang Lang kicked off the tribute to lost musicians. Quite a lot of losses this year. Miranda Lambert and Billy Joe Armstrong sound good together. They tribute the Everly Brothers, and close the segment.

I don’t know how much I missed when my DVR stopped, but now I see Dave Grohl and friends banging around. I’m not quite whelmed. Overall, I enjoyed the show. It seems apparent to the Academy that the awards themselves are losing their relevance among all but the industry, and the fans are mostly just here for the oddball collaborations and over-the-top performances. I’m going to say Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons were the best of the night. Highest energy, best delivery, most perfect pairing. I loved Beyonce’s opening, though, and I would actually watch both again, along with John Legend’s song. Otherwise, the show was hit or miss for me. Oh well, time for bed.

Conflicted

This evening I was yelled at, followed, and cursed at by a homeless man on the streets of Miami Beach. It wasn’t as fun as it sounds. But it wasn’t as scary as it could’ve been. I was with two guys, so I was pretty sure this guy wouldn’t actually attack us. We’re here for work, and had just left dinner when this guy asked us for money. One guy in my group said, “I’m sorry…” And we kept walking. Not an uncommon response, I would think.

Well, as we kept walking, this guy starts following us – yelling that we are obviously not Christians, that we don’t believe in God, that we are f$&king horrible and he hopes we f$&king die, and that he is going to steal something and he hopes he goes to jail. I never turned around, because I didn’t want to know how close he was to us. I was very surprised that he did this, as there were lots of people on the street, continuing to walk by him. I’m not sure what particularly set us apart from everyone else…but the fact that he kept following us was starting to make me nervous. Finally, he stopped.

But even after all of that, I can’t say I don’t feel a little guilty. I don’t really know what’s best in that situation. I am apprehensive about giving money directly to someone…should I not be? I don’t want to just ignore someone who needs help, but … I’m conflicted.

Why This Internet Thing Works – For Me

I first got online in 1995, when AOL was sending those CDs to your house like you had joined a Columbia House for the Internet. I never officially learned to type (since I didn’t get that in school), but I was 15 and bored, so I got into chat rooms, and learned my own way of keeping up with the conversation without writing in l33t speak, or similar. That skill is one I still use today.

When my parents got divorced 2 years later, the friends I made online served as my escape from the weirdness in my house. I even ended up meeting one. I soon moved on to things like LiveJournal and OpenDiary, and made more friends and wrote out the very corniest, angsty, teen diatribes in my various blogs. (I think MySpace was the worst – I had teenage angst beyond my teen years).

But it wasn’t until I moved to Podunk, SC, 8 years ago, that I really learned how valuable this whole internet community really is for me. I didn’t pay much attention to formal blogs until I read a piece in B*tch about Carmen Sognonvi and her blog Racialicious. It just so happened that earlier that week I had read in the local paper about 3 teenage boys who had been arrested for “lynching” someone in a nearby town. (The SC definition of lynching is any act of violence by two or more people against another, regardless of race. This was not the definition I was familiar with.) That story shocked me, and I knew that I needed to have some outlet to read and talk with people like myself, than those I encountered when I first moved here.

From there, I found SO many blogs and I learned SO much. I never took any critical feminist or race theory classes in college (in part because they weren’t offered), and a lot of the discussions I stumbled upon were completely new. In a new place, semi-friendly place, the internet became my link to the “outside world”.

I devoured Racialicious, and from there found zuky (who’s now on tumblr) and resistance and SepiaMutiny and brownfemipower and shakesville and nezua and a bunch of others, really. Too many to count – many no longer write. I learned about intersectionality, I found out that there were waves in feminism (and that I am somewhere around wave 2.5 with womanist leanings) – oh yeah – I found out there’s something called womanism and hip-hop feminism.

I witnessed lots of disagreements – this is the internet! There were all kinds (feminist ones, anti-racist ones, womanist ones, scandals centering around one person or another [Marcotte, Schwyzer <I&II>, DiFranco, the Walkers]. But I saw how people helped each other pick up the pieces and regroup, and turn out the lights or move on as the case was at different times.

In the mean time, my life changed. My sister went to law school and took critical theory classes and we discussed academic terminology I still wasn’t fully familiar with, but now I knew the concepts they referred to (more than just those I’d already lived through). I went through all kinds of weird stuff at work, and gained crazy responsibility with no training or experience, and I heard about a podcast that sounded interesting. I don’t even remember how Blacking It Up appeared on my radar, but it did.

I didn’t have the energy to maintain a blog anymore, but listening to a podcast was just my speed, and TWiBIU hit the spot. I never could listen live, so when Google+ came along, and the community from the chat room migrated there, I joined. It was my only connection to a huge group of folks that I understood on multiple levels. An online family. I began listening less regularly over the last year, but still connect with folks on G+ on a regular basis. But the Trayvon Martin verdict last year had me shook, and though they were on hiatus at the time, TWiB did several live weekend shows. I listened and cried for two days, along with the many who called in. And if I never listen to another show, if I never get on G+ again, the community I felt a part of those days were worth it.

Living where I live, people often make comments about “that gay marriage thing”, or how “they’re letting boys in the girls’ bathroom in California”, or how the country is going to hell because of Obamacare. I spend a lot of time actively ignoring the news when I am around other people because I don’t want to get pulled into discussions I know will quickly devolve. My diplomacy skills have grown by leaps and bounds, but it’s still a tightrope walk.

Even the brown people here are conservative. I work with a black guy who has some serious issues with gays, an Indian guy who has issues with the poor, and a Mexican guy who doesn’t understand why poor people have kids. They’re all in their early 50s, but this is common even for young people.

So the online community I have fashioned for myself, while it has changed and always will, is an enhancement of my home. My refuge. And my connection to the world. It challenges me, teaches me, makes me laugh, cry, think, and sometimes even change.

I am more aware, more accepting, and more educated than I was. I am better. Because of this internet thing.

tears in 2012

When folks started warning that this year was gonna be brutal, I figured they were being a little melodramatic.  I saw the signs: the GOP presidential race was heating up, the war on women shifted into high gear, the economy started looking up a bit.

I think it was the economy getting better that really springboarded a lot of people into action.  It carries a ring of ‘Obama got something right’ to it, and there’s no way the GOPers are going to let that fly in an election year.  And now, the Grand Old Party (and friends) has shifted from far-right to bizarro-right (outright asking brown people for papers, eliminating “ethnic studies”, asking Puerto Ricans to JUST SPEAK ENGLISH, ALREADY; and still saying the n-word [or the new substitute: ninja] whenever they can bring it into the conversation.)

I think I’ve become too old and jaded.  34 has done something to me.  Or rather – my 34th year.

I grew up pretty privileged.  Didn’t have it all by any means, but never worried about basics, never had to share a room, always felt safe…shoot – I didn’t even understand that the rules of life [as it is - not how it should be] applied to me.  I don’t even know if I truly know that now.  I’m still pretty doggone blessed.  But part of being a grown-up has been learning about how the real world works.  And the real world – the one my parents shielded me from, but tried from time-to-time to show me glimpses of – is no walk in the park.  Because I didn’t grow up seeing it like that, I still expect the best from people.  I still am a little surprised when people become their worst selves.

So seeing the talking heads and presidential candidates on the “Right” defend Rush Limbaugh (again), seeing them vilify the President for policies that they were in favor of 8 years ago, seeing them spout unadulterated foolishness about poor people, gays, people of color, and women – it brings my spirits low.  I don’t have a lot of hope about our situation.

It seems that the closer we get to the Brown Apocalypse [the moment when white people are no longer the majority in this country], the more desperate and overt white people [in general] become.  It’s trickling down into some day-to-day interactions with people.  I see the fear when some of these folks ponder their retirement years with The Brown Menace.

And then some vigilante had to go kill a child.

It’s too much.

I’ve been following Trayvon’s story for two weeks, and when I first read about it I was outraged.  Now I’m incredulous.  I know more about it and still I see no sense in it.  Because there is none.

This morning I was listening to Blacking It Up from yesterday, and they played the 911 calls in the upfront.  I ended up crying for about five minutes before I could put in my contacts.  And then some more in the shower.  When will it end?  When will people see?

I’ve seen a lot of great writing about this – different perspectives – different ideas – different experiences.  So here are some other places you should look for facts and commentary about the whole Trayvon Martin travesty. May his killer come to justice and his death bring positive change.

Things You Should Know – Think Progress
Being Good is Never Good Enough – Black Snob
Letter to an Unborn Son – Urban Cusp
Voices Roundup – Racialicious
Framing the Story – Shakesville
It Wasn’t the Hoodie that Made Him ‘Suspicious’ – Global Grind
Gun Laws and How Zimmerman Should Thank the NRA – Mother Jones
Last Words, Police Mishandling, and a Slur? – ABC News

Thanks for reading.  Spread the word.

put your war clothes on

After a basically funky month, I am tired.  Work has been busy and bananas, as I lost an employee today, after the most bizarre manner of resignation I have yet observed.  Not that I have the most experience.  Anyway, I had to travel for work, and ended up in New Orleans during the week before Mardi Gras.  That’s actually kinda fun.  And I got beads.

went for work - came home with beads.

Got sick on the plane ride home and it lasted through the beginning of the week.  Really, I’m still occasionally coughing now, so I suppose it’s lingering.  Anyway – because I needed so much sleep at the beginning of the week I was completely behind on my Blacking It Up/AfterBlack listening this week (I’m still not done).  So a lot of news got to me in a short period of time.

And apparently it broke me.

In fact, I’m not altogether sure I wasn’t already broken earlier this year when my idiot friend proclaimed on FB that she doesn’t believe in Civil Rights legislation.  But then there were 20 GOP debates, Newt dogwhistling everything, Santorum considered an actual real candidate, Arizona’s taking text books away from children, Texas wants to end affirmative action, and mother-effing Virginia literally wants to institute state-sanctioned rape in order to limit abortions.  Yeah.  Trans-vaginal ultrasounds involve the insertion of a wand into a woman’s vagina.  There is no medical requirement that this (by definition) invasive procedure be performed prior to abortion.  It is simply a law the VA state legislature wants to mandate for any woman planning to get an abortion in the state.  Regardless of whether the woman wants the intrusion.

Coerced vaginal insertions = rape.

Just so you know.

This war on women isn’t even underground anymore.  It’s freaking blatant as anything.

The racism hasn’t calmed down either, though.  Some doofus called Whitney a stupid n-word, and two different racist videos from doofus high school students have been in the news this week.  Not to mention the Linsanity business.

Newt’s moonbase is actually starting to sound good, right about now.  Cuz Earth has too much crazy to be sustainable.  Speaking of sustainable – I almost forgot about the Cult of the Green Dragon.  Sigh.

Thanks to TWIBIU for keeping me informed.  This was kind of a depressing news week, though…maybe next week I’ll eat candy and dream about unicorns or something.

silver spoon

 I am not rich and I am not poor.  (The silver bars on the left are not mine.)  I am blessed.  Those silver bars on the left allowed me to visit my sister last month after a business trip.

I’ve been watching the Occupy Wall Street protests with interest for the last month or so.  Watching, because one of the blessings I have is a job.  And also I live in Podunk, population 3 people who would be into OWS and 30,000 who would just go on about their day and call the OWSers dirty hippies.  (I know, I know – excuses, excuses, right? but seriously.  Podunk is GOP-land.)

My idiot friend believes that the OWSers are arbitrary in their anger against the 1%, considering that even the 99% here in the US still have more than 90% of the rest of the world.  I believe that argument is a derail of the flavor: “stuff is worse other places, so you should be happy you’re not there, and fix those things first before you complain about here.”

Meanwhile, a website called slaveryfootprint.org can tell you how much slave labor contributes to your normal daily life.  Take a quiz and find out “how many slaves work for you” (my # is 46).  Except there’s no tangible way to free them.  Apparently, you can download an app on your phone and then email companies that use slave labor to express your displeasure.  There’s really no easy answer on this one.  There is so much that we use here that at some point had human rights violations attached, it’s quite difficult to handle untainted material.

So even though it was a derail, my idiot friend has a bit of a point.  OWS isn’t wrong.  But we need a parallel, global OWS.  The haves are continually putting their humanity above that of the have-nots.  I do this myself.  How many times does my lazy behind not do something for someone/some group simply because I don’t want to get off my keister?  or come up off a couple dollars, a bit of time, and some elbow grease?

I’ll admit that because of my privilege, my favorite way to help out is to just throw money at a cause.  It’s something I can do with minimal effort, and it generally does make a difference.  Sometimes I find it to be the more sensible response, as the economy of my flight to some poverty stricken area for a week versus me donating the price of that plane ticket.  This is why I disagree with short mission trips to the Global South.  Sure, folks get a glimpse into life somewhere else, but they don’t get much done, and they spend a gajillion dollars to end up building a hut, when that money could’ve built a whole hospital, and given people jobs.

Anyway, the plight of others doesn’t eliminate the current situation in our own country: a growing dichotomy between the ruling 1% and the working 99%.  If you start looking at charts and graphs about when the disparity really took off, they all point to the early 80s – and Reagan.  And yet, we currently have GOP candidates who revere Reagan, but are actually much further to the right than he was.

I’d like to be a little more clear on what I can do to stop contributing to what I do not want to support, without losing my job.  I hope that’s the next phase.  Because what are you going to do with a bunch of guilty people?  Other than desensitize them to it so they can enjoy Thanksgiving whole-heartedly.

Because compared to some, I really was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.  And I should do what I can for those who have no spoons.