Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: 100 Things That Happened this Year (part 2)

Continuing on from part 1, let's get right into it! Here's more about my year:

51) #BlackLivesMatter
52) Started to appreciate hummus!
53) Joined a group of fellow students to help plan TEDxMSU but had to drop out and felt really bad about it.
54) Briefly considered becoming a tour guide after being the navigator of Ma and I's trip to San Francisco.
55) Briefly considered becoming a professional dogwalker, for obvious reasons.
56) My dad and stepmom started the divorce process.
57) Finally tried this "green juice" that all the hipsters and pretentious healthnuts/trend-followers have been raving about lately. Wasn't half bad.
58) Lost weight then gained weight. Now I'm back at my square one from 10 years ago, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ashamed. BUT! I've been working on it since I got home for break (why wait 'til New Year's when all you need is today?)
59) Discovered travelnoire.com
60) Went to a slam poetry event for the first time and met bomb poets Natasha Miller (T. Miller) and Ebony Stewart.
61) Saw Chrisette Michele in concert for the first time and it was magical! The second concert I've ever been to in my whole life.
62) Had a stupid argument with my best friend since 2nd grade and now it doesn't seem that she wants to be my friend anymore....
63) Had some pretty curious recurring dreams.
64) Unwittingly became part of a community of basset hound owners/enthusiasts on Insta.
65) Senior. year. mannn. Had the most stressful and miserable semester ever, and closed myself off from the outside world because that's what I do when I feel anxious and under pressure. Senior year is no joke! Didn't have much of a life and lost touch with a lot of good people because of it. But like I said, I'm trying to ease my way back.
66) Reached one year of sessions with Sue
67) Read 23 books.
68) Madison turned 11 years old.
69) This email and this other email from Ms. Yvette
70) Still on my unintentional Kpop/Kdrama hiatus that started last year, but I was watching Superman is Back for a little while there.
71) Discovered the big-voiced, petite wonder that is Agnez Mo.
72) Ma got rid of all the themed magnets and plastic cups that I cherished as a kid.
73) Had my first (and let's hope last) encounter with the heartless, ignorant, shameful, pseudo-activist group the Genocide Awareness Project.
74) Skyped with my grandpa for the first time ever. It was hilarious!
75) Visited my great aunt Gladys for the first time in ages.
76) Was exposed to a bit of 'Attack on Titan' and was intrigued by what I saw. Still haven't sat down to watch it through yet. I thought I'd grown out of anime but this might be the one to bring me back.
77) I decided that I have absolutely NO intention of going to grad school in the near future, and I feel no qualms about said decision.
78) Succeeded as a member of Team #oneplate during Christmas festivities!
79) After years of having to put up with BET as if it were the only black channel on Earth/that black students deserved, MSU finally added all the black channels to their cable programming (Aspire, Centric, TV One, and even the Africa Channel). When I did watch TV, those were virtually all I watched the entire fall semester.
80) Ate Vietnamese food for the first time with a couple of friends.
81) Started drinking hot/warm water with my meals. I'd like to think it helps with digestion, but don't quote me on that.
82) Visited the KFC Yum! Center for the first time and went to my first UofL basketball game! My pride in my family's hometown just keeps growing and growing!
83) Visited UofL's campus for the first time!
84) Despite brief glimpses of light and release, continued yet another year of stifling what I hold most dear and sacred. Being a closet artist is equivalent to killing yourself slowly because artists aren't meant to be kept in closets. Always that gnawing feeling that you've got to let it out and show people...
85) My elementary school demolished all remaining remnants of the original playground that had been the site of much pre-pre-pubescent drama and recess merriment for me when I was a student there. Replaced it with a shiny new one. I guess it was bound to happen eventually.
86) Crystal Kay released her first US single and video!
87) Learned that someone in my family is gay but afraid to come out fully, and that a friend of mine had been the victim of rape. Social issues always seem to happen somewhere else, to someone else. But you'd be amazed to find out how much is happening right where you are, if you stay woke and pay attention long enough.
88) Started following Humans of New York/HONY (I know, who isn't by now?)
89) D'Angelo made a comeback! Had the chance to see him perform back when I was in Paris, for cheap! But I didn't go because I figured he was washed up. So. wrong. Dang.
90) In mid-November in Lansing, we went from fall to winter to fall within a span of one week. Snowed for three days straight, then rained for three days straight so all the snow melted away, then it warmed up and the weather was back where it started as if nothing had ever happened.
91) Term paper topics for spring and fall semesters included Black immigrant populations in England and France, reflection journals on my time in Paris (one in French, the other in English), Japanese victimhood in post-WW2 anime films, and Tibetan people as represented through HONY portraits.
92) My crush on YouTube entertainer David So continued. Going two and a half years strong now! Haha. But don't call me a fangirl!
93) Started and ended the year with J-dramas staring Ishihara Satomi, one of my favorite Japanese actresses. In January it was 'Shitsuren Chocolatier', and in December I it was 'Dear Sister'.
94) Sooo many people decided (and felt the need to declare) that they're introverts now, co-opting a hitherto uncool group's behaviors and personalities as accessories that now give you cool points. Like, really? What does that give you? Ultra hipster too-cool-for-life-and-all-people-in-it status?  What?
95) Continued my life-long streak of being single, and at this point in time I can't really be convinced that I'm missing out on anything!
96) Maintained contact with the first Japanese professor I ever had. It's been three years since I was her student and she's retired and moved back to Japan in that time, but we still exchange emails every so often.
97) My middle school arts camp buddy and longtime pen-pal released her first single!
98) Matcha became more and more trendy over here. Drank my first matcha latte ever, and was able to enjoy real-deal matcha ice cream for the first time since going to Japan.
99) Celebrated the first anniversary of this very blog, DeelaSees!
100) Never stopped writing. Whether it was songs or journal entries or blog posts; even if I wasn't sharing or singing as much as I would've liked, I never stopped writing.

And those were my 100 things! I hope you enjoyed reading my list of happenings. If you don't have time to come up with your own list for 2014, I encourage you to try for 2015. But jot stuff down as you go; that's what I'm going to try to do. Don't do like I did and wait until December, and then spend two weeks wracking your brain trying to come up with all that happened throughout the year. Haha. Make it easy for yourself.

Happy New Year's Eve to you and yours!

Outings: Go Cards!

Louisville (30 December)
  • University of Louisville Cardinals v. Long Beach State 49ers (...who??)
  • Wasn't gung-ho about going to a basketball game,  but glad I did!
  • First Louisville game and first time at the Yum! Center            
  • Got a late start and trying to find parking was a nightmare; made it to the game halfway through first half
  • Aunt Fay got us great seats! Not too high up, and just a couple dozen rows above the band!
  • Some kids were occupying our seats when we got there. They moved reluctantly but without argument
  • Not as big as the Palace (Deee-troit Basket-baaal!), but the Yum! Center is impressive!  It feels a little intimate almost
  • Appearance from Stephen Van Treese (player on the 2013 NCAA Championship team); he's playing pro in Japan right now (Albirex Niigata)!
  • Band playing "Still Fly" by the Big Tymers, out of nowhere!  I lived!
  • Aunt Fay told me that Cardinal fans have a bad habit of leaving games early. She wasn't lying; 4:19 left on the clock and the place was half-empty
  • Especially today, which also featured a UofL football game; as one man muttered on his way out, "Welp, it's football time"
  • 63-48 victory!
  • Had to drive the car around to get everybody; first time starting a car by pressing a button
  • Through downtown, back to my cousin's house for another round of sitting around the TV, all of us in our Cardinal gear, eating bad food while enjoying a good game
  • UofL v. UGA; Shoutout to #7  QB Reggie Bonnafon! His family's been going to church with ours for the longest
  • Aunt Fay and Aunt T discussing a wayward young girl they know who keeps running away from home;  how to set these kids straight; preventative programing; how to engage parents in a potential support group
  • The basketball game wasn't worth watching on TV because it was too easy, Long Beach State didn't have a chance; conversely, the football game wasn't worth watching because UGA came ready to play and we just couldn't get it together
  • Left good n' full n' sleepy though! It was a great evening!





Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014: 100 Things That Happened this Year (part 1)

It's that time of year again! I was inspired to do this last year to reflect on 2013 (check out part 1 / part 2), and I've decided to keep it going. For some reason I wasn't as excited to do this as I remember being last year. No lofty mission of trying to be deeply reflective or exceedingly grateful this time around (no energy to be virtuous right now), just trying to remember the most important things that happened. But I was determined to put this list together anyhow, so here it is. Here's a glimpse of what 2014 had in store for me:

1) I started doing Zumba and other dance workouts.
2) I learned how to use Prezi.
3) I found out that I passed the JLPT (N2).
4) My friend and I formed a band! It lasted for two months, haha. But we just might be coming back...
5) As said band, we performed at "the Grammys"
6) Ma and I went to San Francisco for a week.
7) I met Cyril Payen.
8) I did an interview that got featured on my school's honors college website.
9) After two years, returned to Tunnel of Oppression as a scriptwriter and sort-of-not-really acting coach.
10) I had a breakdown that lasted two months. Six months later I had another one. But during this month-long winter break I've been easing my way back.
11) "Type of Way", "My Hitta", "No Flex Zone", "About the Money" = songs that I'm embarrassed to admit I love. What can I say? Trap music grew on me, I couldn't fight it!
12) Celebrated my yoga-versary. My yoga practice became on-and-off throughout the year, but I'm on the "on" side of it now. :)
13) I went to Paris for two and a half months.
14) I did homestay for the first time, with a wonderful non-traditional, not-quite-nuclear family of kind and open-minded French people.
15) I went to London for two days with the help of a high school friend.
16) Being in France improved my tolerance for alcohol. I still prefer not to drink it, but when I do I no longer feel like I'm drinking acid.
17) Favorite song of the year: "Rather Be" by Clean Bandit. Watched it blow up in France, then watched it blow up all over again when I came back to the States. Same for "Waves" by Mr. Probz.
18) Interviewed for a job leading a help lab for advanced French classes for high school students. Didn't get the job but the interview went swimmingly!
19) Became the Communications and Events Intern for the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. My job: treasure-hunting for art.
20) Had a falling out with my dad. For the first time in my life I tried to be honest with him and it blew up in my face. We're no longer on speaking terms (read: I've chosen to cease communication for the time being). One of the worst yet best things that could've happened in my life right now.
21) Became an oatmeal addict.
22) Discovered soy/almond/rice milk, in that order.
23) I went to my first career fair.
24) I gave up Instagram for Lent. And I don't even celebrate Lent!
25) Dear White People, The Book of Life, Big Hero 6, and Beyond the Lights! Fall 2014 was a great movie season.
26) I turned 22 and wasn't happy about it. First case of birthday blues ever. But I'm cool with it now.
27) I rode a train by myself for the first time!
28) Did two internships.
29) My uncle had a heart attack, but was on the mend in no time thanks to medical attention, rest, the love of family and friends, and the grace of God.
30) I went to Chuck E. Cheese for the first time since 1st grade.
31) I went to ArtPrize for the first time!
32) Got profiled on ACGL's website for my work as an intern.
33) I applied for the JET program.
34) I had a conversation with my uncle about my dad for the first time ever. My dad's one of the few topics of discussion that can make my uncle angry, and so I'd always avoided mentioning him in his presence.
35) I applied for graduation!
36) Did my first successful twist-out!
37) Discovered the joy that is making YouTube playlists to collect music that I come across during significant periods in my life. Did one for my time in Paris and another for my internship this semester. They're like mixtapes, or musical time capsules, or something.
38) I wrote my 500th blog post!
39) After two years, I re-read La vie devant soi, the first French novel (first full-length French book) that I had ever read. Was amazed by how much easier it was the second time around.
40) I signed up for JLPT N1, then decided not to take it.
41) I found out that I'll be walking away with two bachelor's degrees when I graduate in May!
42) Decided I wasn't going to attend commencement but then learned I was getting two degrees and changed my mind.
43) Celebrated 1 year as a volunteer at the Capital Area Humane Society! Dogwalkers unite!
44) Got acquainted with my uncle's family dog, Cooper!
45) Continued my streak of not going to a single MSU sports game. Absolutely nothing against my school, just not into sports. No one can take my title of "Spartan" away from me, but then again no one will be able to attest for my school spirit, because I have very little. I'll wear apparel, but I'm just not here for the hype and the cult of sports fandom.
46) Avoided joining Twitter (and any other popular or newfangled social media sites) for another year! FB, YT, Insta, and Blogger are more than enough. Cheers to anyone out there trying to be connected but not consumed!
47) Two of my friends from school started their own inspiring, introspective, beautifully-written, truth-telling blogs!
48) Being one of those shining stars who graduate with a 4.0 would've been nice, but maybe that just wasn't supposed to happen for me and I've made peace with it. Hoping I can maintain my solid 3.9 through next semester (the last one!)...
49) Was fortunate to receive enough funds so that my second time studying abroad wasn't a burden. Going to France, we (and by we I mean Ma) didn't have to pay for anything other than the round-trip plane ticket.
50) During my final fall semester, I overloaded myself and went on a really unhealthy sleep schedule of 3-5 hours a night on the weekdays. But I'm happy to say that after 3 1/2 years of college, I still have yet to pull an all-nighter!

Click HERE for part 2!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

You are your own good thing!

More inspiration via Kim Katrin Milan. Props to anyone who knows which Toni Morrison novel I paraphrased the above line from.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Warning for Monopoly Players

Note to self,

Monopoly, while a classic, is not for the gentle, the honest, and those who don't care that much about money. Only the ruthless survive, which means this is not your game. You play this game and you. will. lose.

Signed,

The first person out of the game (a.k.a. the one who lost, a.k.a. you)
 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Buttermilk Pie with a Side of Wisdom

"Looking back, you know, if you didn't have people around you wouldn't be able to do what you needed to do... There's no telling what'll happen to you in life, just keep living." -Grandpa

BOOKS! (Songbook)

Finally, I'm writing about the last book that I read between the summer and the end of this semester! This is another used book section find. When I started reading it I almost gave up on it because... well, I'll explain that later. This probably isn't a book that I'd read again, but it's a decent read if you're into music and don't have much to do.

Songbook by Nick Hornby

Written by Nick Horby (About a Boy), this book is composed of essays about Nick Hornby's favorite songs, and five essays on albums/artists that he finds notable. I say his "favorite songs" but not all of them are all-time favorites. Some of them are songs that he liked or loved at the time of writing; some are songs that mark or remind him of important moments in his life; some reveal much about the music industry or the artistry of the people who perform them; and some just make him think a lot about art and life. So I should rather say that they're 31 songs that Hornby found noteworthy at the time.

The reason why I almost gave up on this book is because it was kind of a snoozer for me at first. Let me just put it like this. There are many different ways to be human. And if listening to and enjoying music are part of the human experience, then there are also many different ways to appreciate music. So I won't criticize Hornby's taste in music,  per say. But... let's just say we're of two different minds musically. Furthermore, he lumps a number of genres under the dreaded "pop music" umbrella that shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence with pop. Reggae? Not pop. Soul? Again sir, not pop. "Black music"? Our contributions to music in their original forms have always been an alternative, challenge, or antithesis to the mainstream, and therefore, again, NOT pop. I understand what he's saying when he argues that genres are fluid and often speak to each other, but there's a difference between that and labeling all music that a lot of people happen to like as "pop".

My issues with his taste and word usage aside,  it's obvious that Hornby loves music, knows a lot of it, and understands it beyond what the average listener does. He often writes as a music critic,  but in this book his approach to each song isn't exactly criticism. He talks about song structure, why a song is worth listening to, what songs do for people, what allows certain songs to survive, and how music transcends many things, including speech. In discussing each song he also draws many comparisons between different musical genres, between songs and literature, and between songwriting and poetry. As someone who is also a novice songwriter and a great fan of literature, I greatly appreciated the depth of his reflections when making these comparisons.

Additionally, I looked up and listened to each song as I went, and while most weren't my style, quite a few were pleasant surprises. These included "I'm Like a Bird" by Nelly Furtado (#3), "Samba Pa Ti" by Santana (#6), "Smoke" by Ben Folds Five (#16), "Caravan" by Van Morrison (#19), "Puff the Magic Dragon" by Gregory Isaacs (#22), "Hey Self Defeater" by Mark Mulcahy (#25), "Needle in a Haystack" by The Velvelettes (#26), "Let's Straighten it Out" by O. V. Wright (#27), "Röyksopp's Night Out" by Röyksopp (#28), "People Ain't No Good" by Nick Cave, and "Sabor a Mí" by Los Lobos.

Favorite quotes:
"But sometimes, very occasionally, songs and books and films and pictures express who you are, perfectly... I'm talking about understanding−or at least feeling like I understand−every artistic decision, every impulse, the soul of both the work and its creator. 'This is me... I'm not a character, I'm nothing like the author, I haven't had the experiences she writes about. But even so, this is what I feel like, inside. This is what I would sound like, if ever I were to find a voice.' And I did find a voice, eventually, and it was mine, not hers" (9).

"music, like color, or a cloud, is neither intelligent nor unintelligent−it just is. The chord, the simplest building block for even the tritest, silliest chart song, is a beautiful, perfect, mysterious thing, and when an ill-read, uneducated, uncultured, emotionally illiterate boor puts a couple of them together, he has every chance of creating something wonderful and powerful" (96).  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Who Would Imagine a King?

I was wrapping a present last night and this song from my childhood popped into my head. From my favorite Christmas movie, The Preacher's Wife.

Merry Christmas to you all. May you all experience love, gratitude, and peace of mind during this holiday season.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Grandpa 12

This evening we went to hear my cousin guest preach at a local church. During the testimony portion, a lady is testifying about how when she was ailing and could barely move around her house, her daughter stayed with her and helped her out.

Grandpa, Ma, and I are all sitting on the same pew. Grandpa turns to Ma and says, "When I call, I want you to come." Then he points down the pew at me, "But leave her at home."

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chicken Observations

These are only my personal observations, and there's no way I'd set my people back and play to stereotypes by claiming myself a chicken expert. But to anyone who thinks Kentucky=KFC, this is for you.

1) No, chicken is not all that people in Kentucky eat.

2) Contrary to popular belief, though Kentucky is the birthplace and Louisville hosts the headquarters of KFC, people don't really eat KFC like that. I mean people eat it, but not regularly or religiously (really, who could? you'd die). At least not the Ville residents that I know. Because...

3) There are so many other local/neighborhood/family/independent chicken joints in Louisville that people frequent more often. If you want chicken here, you have an incredible number of options at your disposal. Unlike franchises like KFC and Popeye's (which is few and far between here, for obvious reasons) these joints are less commercial, and the chicken's got more "love" in it. This is where people go more often than not when that cluck-cluck craving hits. At least the folks I know.

Monday, December 22, 2014

22, single, and NOT looking.

I've been here three days, and so far three of my family members have already asked me some variation of the question, "So, you think you'd like to get married in the future?" Wow. I know they're probably just curious or grasping for conversation fodder, but wow. Why is this a topic of discussion all of a sudden? Because I'm the oldest girl in the family? Because being 22 suddenly makes me "old" or "of marriageable age"? Marriage is a beautiful thing to aspire to, and I'd love to be married in the faaaaaaar off future. But I'm not thinking about any of that right now.

People are asking me about marriage now, but if tomorrow Deela did decide to get hitched at age 22, everyone would wonder whattheheck my problem is. So which way do they really want it? Let me hold hands with a guy for the first time and go on my first date before all that marriage talk, mmkay? Besides, I enjoy my alone time much too much to even know what to do with a boo. Being single (especially as long as I have, which has been my entire life) is a gift, and I'm not about to just throw that away!

Outings: Day with the Little-Big Cousins!

Louisville (22 December)
  • Little-big cousin K picked me up, we met with other little-big cousin J, and all three of us visited K's dorm at UofL.  These young'uns got it good, that's all I have to say!
  •  Rode around in K's car as she gave us a tour of UofL's campus. Also rode past Manual High School, Cardinal Stadium, and Churchill Downs. They're all in the same area. Been coming to this city 3-4 times a year my whole life and had never visited those historic places. I'm so much prouder of my family's city now!
  •  My little-big cousins clowning about going off on rude and bitter co-workers; relationship drama; and apparently one of our cousins is halfway out the closet
  • Dinner at Pizza Hut; we were going to split a pizza three ways but I was voted off the island because I like "that weird stuff" (and by "weird stuff" they meant vegetables)
  •  Breadsticks and marinara + cheese personal pan pizza they made by mistake + "Cherry Pepper Bombshell" personal pan + pink lemonade + water; all that for only $7.41 (cheap food = crap food, but a fun time eating/cheap thrill)
  •  Menu photo and description for "Cherry Pepper Bombshell" clearly indicate pastrami, cherry peppers, spinach, and balsamic sauce. I got pepperoni (instead of pastrami) and cherry peppers. Asked about the spinach and they just gave me a bag of spinach to eat the pizza with
  • Blew my calorie limit for today out of the water, but I was full and satisfied! And after craving pizza, I can gladly say that it's now out of my system. Let's see if i can go without for another 2-6 months
  •  Shoutout to our server Samantha and her wonderful service! The real MVP! Was in the Christmas spirit and appreciated her service so much that I gave her all the money in my wallet ($14). Should do that more often.
  •  Sitting in on (dozing through) K's dance practice at church
  •  Rushing back to K's house to watch L&HH (eww); "Do I got the right of way or do they do?"

    Sunday, December 21, 2014

    BOOKS! (The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency)

    I paid $1.06 for this book at a used book shop back in September, but they should've given it to me for free. I mean come on! The cover's bottom-right corner is ripped off, like it was chewed off by a dog or something. But eh well. I couldn't not have it. Ma used to really like the HBO/BBC television show that was based on this book (shout out to Jill Scott!). Plus, I'd never read a book about or set in Botswana before. So when I found this torn copy by chance I knew I just had to get it!

    The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

    After the passing of her father, Precious Ramotswe sells his cattle. But instead of opening a shop as most might do, she opens a detective agency, using her wit, knowledge of goings-on around her (read: keeping her nose in other people's business), and woman's intuition to solve whatever cases people bring to her. Rather than money, her goal is to help people with their problems, and prove to folks that women can be detectives too.

    Her cases range the gamut from missing husbands, to missing children, to dads spying on their teenage daughters, to philandering husbands, to imposters posing as family members, to workman's comp fraud, to seemingly two-faced doctors. Fortunate for readers like myself who aren't into mystery novels, these cases read more like short stories or anecdotes, as Precious's societal ideals and personal life/history are essential to how she goes about solving her cases. I mean how can we forget her mechanic friend Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, who while occasionally helping her with her cases desperately tries to ease his way out of the friend zone?

    Another selling point of this novel is the information it reveals about Zimbabwe. It touches on quite a bit concerning Botswana's history and contemporary society. Topics include colonization and liberation, mining in South Africa,  marriage rituals and marital relations, family structures, gender roles, ethno-linguistic diversity, modernity, politics and corruption, race relations, even topography and geography. Excuse my bias, but while I was impressed by all the novel had to show about Botswana, I was shocked to learn that it was written by a white man. Granted, Smith was born in nearby Zimbabwe and has spent a lot of time in Botswana over the years, so he undoubtedly knows more about the region than I do. But it always gives me pause when white authors write books that are about or voiced by black characters. Black and Afro experiences can't just be imagined; you really have to live them to know them. So I'm always initially suspicious when others attempt to speak for us. But again, Smith seems knowledgeable, and he does a remarkable job of at least introducing Botswana to his readers. Ladies ' No.1 Detective Agency is an engaging, often funny, sometimes serious, consistently thought-provoking read.

    Favorite quotes:
    "'We are the ones who first ploughed the earth when Modise (God) made it,' ran an old Setswana poem. 'We were the ones who made the food. We are the ones who look after the men when they are little boys, when they are young men, and when they are old and about to die. We are always there. But we are just women, and nobody sees us'" (34).
    "Mma Ramotswe did not want Africa to change. She did not want her people to become like everybody else, soulless, selfish, forgetful of what it means to be African, or, worse still, ashamed of Africa. She would not be anything but an African, never, even if somebody came up to her and said 'Here is a pill, the very latest thing. Take it and it will make you into an American.' She would say no. Never. No thank you" (215).

    Sunday before Christmas

    In Looavuhl. Sitting here waiting on food to be ready and I'm just looking around.

    Grandpa decked out in red and green, taking his usual post-church nap.

    And the tree, red and white like every year, with a bell ornament on top. (#gocards! #L1C4! But what happened to the star?)

    I'm hungry but enjoying the peace and quiet. Sunday chill.

    Saturday, December 20, 2014

    Break? No break?

    Maybe I have a problem? Even on my breaks I can't help but give myself assignments...

    Friday, December 19, 2014

    Gawgeous!

    Ok, last one. This is what Chrisette Michele's face looked like up-close. I was too far away to appreciate it in detail so I'm sharing it here. Bravo again, Chris!


    Outings (CHRISETTE MICHELE CONCERT!!!)

    Chrisette Michele @ Sound Board/Motor City Casino - Detroit (18 December)
    • My idea, Ma's money; been waiting for this since we bought our tickets on July 31st!
    • Been reveling in my solitude since last Tuesday and didn't want to leave the house; so glad I changed my mind!
    • The Lodge Diner (Citrus Salmon and Avocado Salad + toast and honey pilfered from Ma)
    • Best salad I've ever had! And free tootsie rolls!
    • Was worried that I wouldn't know the words to most of the songs, but I actually knew quite a few!
    • Was warned by the ticket checker and a cleaning lady that Chrisette Michele is BAD! (they'd heard her in sound check) As if I didn't already know!
    • Floor seats (good job, me!) 
    • Opening act: Ani (meh.)
    • Set list (neither conclusive nor in sequential order)
      •  Epiphany, Aston Martin (interlude), Blame it on Me, Supa, Charades, On and On (Erykah Badu), Golden, Goodbye Game, If I Have My Way, The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole), What You Do, Better, Total Praise (Richard Smallwood), Be Okay, Couple of Forevers
    • "If you're sexy and you know it, make some noise for yourself!"
    • Money notes (Chris ensures you get what you made for; you pay for your ticket and she sings dem "money notes")
    • "If you're the most incredible person you've ever met in your whole entire life, make some noise for yourself!"
    • Introduced each musician and gave him a chance to play; What does love sound like on (insert instrument)?
    • If I Have My Way = duet with BGV Ashleigh Smith (shoutout to other BGV Brittany B.)
      •  scatting competition; Chris: frisky and classy/opera, Ash: shy and soul
    • "If you say you love you and you know you love you, make some noise for you right now!"
    • Ad-libbing on Better, "Is there something wrong with making me smile as often as possible, baby?"
    • #RichHipster (richhipster.biz, Rich in Heart and in Art)
    • We don't deserve how we're being treated; Speak out in peace and love #HandsUp
    • Encore
      • "I hate leaving the stage, it's dumb."
      • Songs from Lyricist's Opus EP: Super Chris (being your best self), Together (shoutout to Chris's secret-but-not-really guitar player boyfriend Justin)
      • Summertime (Porgy and Bess)- we've got a Father in Heaven who's rich; we're living this life just to live again; so things may hurt for a while but they cannot harm us
      • Love, self esteem, and insecurities (what Chris says all her songs are about) 

    Chrisette Michele's been one of my favorites for years, but I wasn't familiar with all of her work. So I didn't know that she had it like that! But she truly does. She's got "it" and all! The things she's able to do with her voice, and all the different styles she can sing... and her stage presence! Absolutely unbelievable, just unreal. Now she's THE favorite. That concert just changed my life. Thanks #superchris. From one #richhipster to another!






    Thursday, December 18, 2014

    Dear Chrisette Michele.

    Chris. 

    You raspy, jazzy, tattoo-wearing, Betty Boop-boop-be-doop skiddle-dee-dee scattin', sometime opera-singin', throat-slayin', fast-talkin', truth-tellin', musical and vocal beast. You ma'am, are by far the most beautiful and phenomenal being that I've ever witnessed. Thank you for giving your all in your performance tonight,  Thursday December 18, 2014 at Sound Board (Motor City Casino) in Detroit Michigan. My heart is so full right now, and I am so awed and inspired. God has truly blessed you, and now you have blessed me. Thank you and keep shining. 

    Signed,

    Someone who is honored to call you her favorite singer. #richhipster #superchris

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014

    BOOKS! (Naomi)

    Back in senior year of high school, I took a Greek mythology class in which I read the story of Pygmalion, the sculptor who fell in love with a statue of a woman that he'd carved. I read up more on the story later, and I remember reading somewhere a comparison made between Pygmalion and Junichirō Tanizaki's Naomi. Apparently Naomi is one of the most important works written by this pioneer of modern Japanese literature. The only other book I'd read by Tanizaki was The Makioka Sisters, and since I'd thoroughly enjoyed that one I figured I'd give Naomi a try. Took me four years, but I finally got around to it.

    Naomi  by Junichirō Tanizaki
    (originally 痴人の愛/Chijin no Ai/ A Fool's Love)

    Set in the 1920s, this novel is the story of how a man tries to make a plaything out of a young girl and then gets played. 28-year-old Jōji is an engineer who despite his elite background, doesn't want to be confined to a traditional Japanese marriage. Jōji also has an affinity for modernity and all things Western. He's already been taken with a Eurasian-looking Japanese girl of 15 who works at cafe he frequents, closely observing her every time he goes. And he chooses her (Naomi) to be his perfect wife, figuring that he can groom her into a  modern Westernized woman and that they can have an unconventional, less stringent, and happy marriage together. He is obsessed with her beauty and her body. She's like his little bird, or doll, or puppet, and he worships her. Sometimes she's even his model, as he often snaps and collects photos of her physical features. He dresses her up in fabulous and expensive outfits, he takes her dancing, he teaches her English, and he gives her everything she wants.

    It's not clear (or at least it wasn't clear to me), when their sexual relations actually start. From what I gathered they don't become "intimate" until after they have been married for a little while. But no matter. Whatever the nature of their sexual relationship, Jōji soon finds out that he's not the only one, as Naomi has been sneaking around. The extremely quiet, naive, shy girl transforms into a cunning young woman who has no qualms about using her feminine wiles to manipulate men, both Japanese and Western. She has discovered the power she has and uses her beauty and sex appeal like weapons, remaining well-kept and well-dressed along the way.

    Furthermore Naomi turns out to be a disappointment in other ways. She pronounces English words perfectly, but she can hardly put together a coherent sentence. She takes to modern fashions, but begins dressing herself daringly in a manner that Jōji finds tawdry and classless. And while she's certainly not a traditional or typical Japanese woman, she takes her independence and runs with it, doing whatever/wherever/with whomever she wants. She values her marriage only for the security that Jōji provides, and she refuses to be questioned or  made to explain herself.

    At first Jōji confronts Naomi and tries to get her to behave the way he wants, but it's too late. He's created his own monster, so to speak. In the end he acquiesces, continuing to provide for Naomi while she entertains other men and dispenses money like it's water.  He knows he's being used but just can't bear to live without his goddess, and accepts being dominated by her. Though we are positioned to feel bad for Joji (the novel is narrated from his first-person point of view) I, for one, say that's what you get for trying to turn a woman into a toy. Naomi turns out to be mad spoiled, selfish and disloyal, but what do you expect?

    Favorite quotes:
    "If there's such a thing as animal electricity, Naomi's eyes had it in abundance. It seemed beyond belief that they were a woman's eyes. Glittering, sharp, and frightful, they still brimmed with a certain mysterious allure. And sometimes when she shot her angry glance at me, I felt a shudder pass through my body" (47).

    "It's often said that 'women deceive men.' But from my experience, I'd say that it doesn't start with the woman deceiving the man. Rather, the man, without any prompting, rejoices in being deceived... He plays along, like someone trying to make a small child happy. He has no intention of being misled by here. On the contrary, he laughs to himself that he's deceiving her" (51).

    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    "Mahalia"

    Was just on the phone with my aunt and she recommended I look up this song. Very timely considering what's been going on in this country this year, especially in the past couple of months. So many of us are weary. Props to Naturally 7 for interpreting the sadness of the soul in a way that honors Mahalia Jackson so well.


    BOOKS! (A Day Late and a Dollar Short)

    Oddly enough, I have Lifetime to thank for inspiring me to read this book. Yes, this long-running channel for women, which unfortunately is also one of many bastions of horrible TV movies, inspired somebody. Back in April, Lifetime aired its film adaptation of Terry McMillan's A Day Late and a Dollar Short, and I was impressed! I mean when you bring some of the finest black film and theater actors together to reproduce a novel written by one of the most successful black authors, you want to be excited and hope that nothing can go wrong... But with Lifetime's track record, you never now. Fortunately, I was very much pleased.  Never have I ever been satisfied or impressed with Lifetime movies, but this time I was! So much so that when it was over, I was like, I've got to read this book! So eventually I did.

    A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

    Most of this story is told by a woman named Viola Price. Her family is the definition of dysfunctional, and is spread out between California, Las Vegas, and Chicago.
    While Viola is at the center of this novel as the matriarch and the person holding the family together, each chapter of the book is alternately narrated by her husband and adult children as well.

    These include Cecil, her estranged, philandering husband who's having a mid-life crisis. There's Lewis, the youngest child, only son, and a divorced father of one who's been in and out of jail. He's extremely intelligent, but never managed to make something of himself due to alcoholism and lack of focus. Then there's Janelle, a stay-at-home mom who married well but is still equally as directionless as her brother, dealing with a moody teenaged daughter and a police officer husband who don't get along. There's also Charlotte, a married mother of three and postal worker who has an anger problem, is suspicious of her husband, and has intense beef with her mother and her sister Paris. Which brings us to Paris, the oldest child who from the outside appears to have fared the best in life, working as a highly-paid caterer and event planner. However, the divorced mother of one is also terribly stressed out and lonely, and starts abusing prescription tranquilizers to keep her anxiety in check.

    Nobody in the family seems to get along; they might love each other, but they don't really like each other. Rather, they tolerate each other and pretend to get along because they're family. Everyone has their own baggage, deep problems, and broken dreams. Even Viola has her hang-ups and bouts of anger/pettiness, even as she shakes her head and tsk-tsks at everyone else's behavior. Yet and still, she loves her family. And before (*spoiler alert*) succumbing to her severe asthma and leaving her family for good, she arranges a plan to get them to confront their demons and each other, so that everyone can move  forward with love and a clean slate.

    McMillan does a fantastic job of placing us in the psyches of six people, so that we understand each person but are still made to be aligned with Viola. We know what everybody has to say about each other, but we also get to hear what each character has to say for herself/himself. I love this book because when reading Viola's dialogue and the sections that she narrates, at various moments I could hear the voices of my mom, or my aunts, or even my great Aunt Jessie in my head. My family isn't nearly as dysfunctional as Viola's, and none of the women on my mom's side yell or cuss like she does as far as I know. But there's something about a mama holdin' it down amidst the calamity (even from the grave!) that is just so real and relatable. And of course, who doesn't love to sit in on a little family drama?

    Favorite quote:
    "It's embarrassing, really, to be lonely. It makes you feel inadequate in some way. Like you don't measure up in this area of your life. It doesn't even seem to matter that I'm successful, because I feel like a failure as a woman, and I hate feeling like this. I know it doesn't make any sense, and I've tried to trick myself into believing that it's okay to be lonely, that it's not the end of the world, that I'll survive, but it still makes me feel like I'm lacking in something. Missing out on what other people have. In some ways, it even seems like a form of punishment, except I can't figure out what crimes I've committed" (243).

    Monday, December 15, 2014

    BOOKS! (Symphony of the Soul)

    After a class at Red Lotus back in August, I was perusing the selection of books that the studio was selling when I came across this one. I picked it up, thumbed through it, and decided to buy it. My class's instructor noticed my choice and told me that I'd made a very good decision; the book's author was very deep, insightful, and particularly observant of the workings of nature. Up until then she'd been happily chatting with an Indian man who'd also been in the class, and he smiled and agreed with her interjection. She then asked me if I would like my copy autographed. Autographed?  "Yeah, he wrote it!", she giggled and indicated the aforementioned Indian man. That man turned out to be Bhupinder Singh. I'd been in the midst of an author/poet and I didn't even know! "Really? Would you mind?" I asked him. He smiled again and assured me, "Not at all." Then he took my copy and signed it (before I'd even paid for it yet), writing:
    Dear Danielle, 

    I hope this book will inspired you on your journey.
    Blessings.
    Bhupinder
    Aug 08, 2014 
    And there you have it. The story of the first time that I ever got a book personally signed by its author.


    Symphony of the Soul: Melodies for a soulful life by Bhupinder Singh

    Many writers and enthusiasts take poetry and music to be similar, if not one and the same. Singh takes this approach in treating all of his poems as songs, and all of the lines as melodies. Furthermore the vast majority of these "songs" are about love and intense connection. Rather than romantic love, however, this love is
    indicative of oneness with God. And since this is a book by a yogi, there are also poems about freedom, openness, feeling more than thinking, releasing attachments, forgiveness, peace, quiet and stillness, self-discovery, and do on. He even muses on music itself. But love and the Creator are undoubtedly the most consistent threads in this work. And how fitting, seeing as how this book of poetry concerns itself with matters of the soul?

    I also appreciate how Bhupinder recognizes that while writing is a profound experience, you never really grasp what it is you mean to say. You get superbly close, but you aren't actually able to get there. A natural response to this would be, Well then, why write at all? However, rather than the futility of writing, I think Bhupinder speaks to a beautifully humbling duality in which poetry conveys with so much depth, and yet experience and emotions are still too vast and multidimensional to be fully encapsulated by words. A poet who recognizes his limits, but writes anyway. I can dig that.

    There are too many poems in this book (just under 160) for me to pick a favorite, so as usual here are a couple favorite quotes instead:

    "All that is not love evaporates in no time
    All that is not love evaporates in no time" (Cup of Love, p. 15)

    "We see 
    the world
    as we know it
    And 
    We miss
    what is true

    We look for
    God
    as we know him
    And 
    We miss 
    God 
    right in front
    of our open eyes" (God, p. 155)

    Song Nº 25

    Currently I'm reading a book in which the author talks about his favorite songs, and yesterday I read his chapter on this song. "Hey Self Defeater" by Mark Mulcahy. This is basically the story of my life, since I'm always doubting and second-guessing myself. So to all the unsure people and self-defeaters out there, here's a song of encouragement for you. It's a process, but we don't have to be this way forever. "Look up..."


    Saturday, December 13, 2014

    No Coleslaw, No Problem.

    Yesterday Ma, Ms. Yvette and I spent some time eating and chatting at Joe's Crab Shack before going to see Top Five. I was sure that I wanted the jumbo coconut shrimp but didn't want all the stuff that came with it (fries, hush puppies, and coleslaw). I was able to substitute broccoli for the fries, but the waitress wouldn't let me get rid of the hush puppies or the cole slaw. And I was just going to go along with that. But before she walked away Ma cut in, "Hey, you know you can just leave the coleslaw out, 'stead of wasting food. She's not gonna eat it anyway. "


    That caught me so off guard! Like daaang,  Ma. I could've sworn I turned 22 two weeks ago. Why are you explaining my food preferences to waitstaff as if I'm some stubborn and picky child? I mean sure,  I probably wasn't going to eat it. But for all you know I might've been willing to give coleslaw another chance! Mama Miriam just came out of nowhere and shut it down, haha! I guess people never stop being children in their parents' eyes.

    Tell you what, though. There was definitely no coleslaw on my plate after that!

    Friday, December 12, 2014

    What's Your Top Five?

    As I did with the last movie I watched, I'm starting with what I don't like about this one so that I can emphasize some of its better qualities rather than its shortcomings.

    Seen Friday October 12th: Top Five

    Chris Rock plays Andre Allen, a washed-up comedian and recovering alcoholic. He wants to take his career in a new direction but no one takes him seriously. On the opening day of his newest film, a beautiful, sharp, yet enigmatic journalist/critic named Chelsea (Rosario Dawson) follows him around for a day. Their interaction forces both of them to reflect on themselves and their pasts with "rigorous honesty".


    What I don't like about this film: It's not that funny. At least not funny in the way I thought it would be. It's marketed as being a side-splitter and gutt-buster, and with Chris Rock and the army of comedians he's got with him, you have no reason to expect otherwise. Sure Top Five offers some chuckles, but it isn't hilarious. And that was disappointing. But I think it was only disappointing because I walked in thinking it was going to be a certain kind of film, when it was never that to begin with. Top Five is about comedy, the industry, and the art of being a comedian. But it's not really a comedic film, or a "comedy". What I mean is that it's not a film meant strictly for laughs. It's also meant to make you think. And that can be a let down if you come into it only expecting to sit down and laugh.


    What I really like about this film: This film is so smart! It might not be the funniest thing ever, but yet and still the writing is clever and Chris Rock made a lot of smart decisions in it. All that black and comedic excellence in one film? Gold. That scene where the old man from the hood busting Andre's (Chris Rock's) balls about gettin' all "Hollywood" and forgetting the little people turns out to be his father? Gold. That group of black comedians sitting around clowning Andre and talking about their top five rappers? Gold.  Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Sandler, and Jerry Seinfeld sitting around a table in a strip club talking about marriage? Four of the greatest flippin' comics of all time in one scene together? Gold. DMX growling and singing Nat King Cole's "Smile" in a jail cell? Gold. I was dying. so. hard! Who else can accomplish all that in one film? No one but Chris Rock. Few people have the genius, body of work, connections, and respect amongst his fellows in the industry like he does, and Top Five is proof.

    Plus, the film's message is powerful once you catch onto it. Andre is struggling with the reality that people love the character he's played more than the man himself. They like him better when he's broken (drunk and lost). He has more to offer, but is almost ready to give up on himself because he's afraid he might not be funny anymore sober. And of course, in true Hollywood movie fashion, Andre and Chelsea (Rosario Dawson) fall for each other. But he tells her he loves her in an unconventional way ("Hey, what's your Top Five?"). And the film leaves the story open-ended. Does he go back to get the girl? Does he go through with the sham wedding to his reality star fiancee? Does he stay in character and continue to play the Hollywood game? Does he go back to doing standup comedy? Who knows.


    Lastly, Top Five reminds us that even after three years, "Ni**as in Paris" by Jay-Z and Kanye West still bangs. Since the film was co-produced by the two rapper moguls, I'm sure that this isn't a coincidence.

    Would I recommend it?: Yeah, sure. I wouldn't pay to see it again, but it's worth seeing at least once.

    Thursday, December 11, 2014

    BOOKS! (The Spirit Stills the Storms)

    This here is a Costco find. I used to know someone whose dad and aunt were smuggled out of Vietnam as children, two of thousands of "boat people" who fled Vietnam under repressive Communist rule after the war. So when I came across this book and saw that it had a similar story, I was intrigued. Plus I'd never read anything written by a Vietnamese person before (especially not in regard to Vietnam or the war), so this was a first that I was glad to add to my list.

    The Spirit Stills the Storms: A Vietnamese refugee's bold journey to freedom by "Sam" Lien Le

    As the title indicates, Le's spirituality is very important to him. From Vietnam, to the Philippines, to the States, he chalks much of his survival and successes up to pure luck (providence) and his faith, which allowed him to believe in his own abilities and hope that something better was always ahead.

    Something curious I noticed when I added this book to Goodreads was that the original subtitle was From Tyranny to the American Dream. But for the second edition (which is what I have), it was changed to A Vietnamese refugee's bold journey to freedom. I'm not sure what the reason was for this change. Perhaps talk of "refugees" is trendy-er than talk of "the American dream"? But I believe it was for the better. The first subtitle reeks too much of the typical immigrant story that most Americans expect to hear in order to deem an immigrant worthy of their recognition and respect. And that story is beyond tired, narrow, and false. (Immigrant experiences are as varied as the stars in the sky, and America is awesome but it's no dreamland.) Plus I think the second subtitle better reflects the content of this book. It's not so much about the regimes that Le has lived under, but about him as a person and how he dealt with all the difficult and unusual circumstances he went through as a son, a family man, a prisoner, an escapee, a refugee, an immigrant, a business owner, and a citizen.

    Though not the most well-written (kudos to Le for writing this whole thing in his second or third language all by himself!), his story is absolutely remarkable! Le is a great storyteller, and some of the things he recounts are unbelievable. I'd recommend this to anyone who's interested in what an actual Vietnamese person has to say about his homeland, the war, Communist rule, how the U.S. government handled the boat people, and his own survival and triumph.

    Favorite quotes:
    "How can you trust a government that robs you and makes you sign an agreement that you are offering to them what they have stolen from you?" (29).

    "In serving them, I was somehow reminded and inspired by what Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet, says in his poems:
    I slept and dreamed that life was joy,
    When I awoke, I saw life was service,
    And when I acted, behold! Service was joy" (120).