Category: arts/culture


The latest issue of Playboy magazine includes an interview with John Mayer that has caused a lot of controversy among some African-Americans. In the interview he responded to interview questions about dating Black women and having a “hood pass.” In his responses he utilized terminology that was deemed offensive, including the n-word and a reference to white supremacy. Out of context, the immediate response is He said what??? Who does he think he is?” But what about within context?

Musically, I can take or leave Mayer. I have only one of his cds on my iPod, and generally don’t think about him much. I certainly don’t care about who he’s dating or any of the other tabloid nonsense. I became more interested in him after following him on Twitter. His tweets tend to be funny, unusual and, yes, sometimes a little off color. I like it when people aren’t afraid to say things that may not be PC or that people may not “get.” Apparently this tendency to say whatever comes to mind has now gotten Mayer in some trouble.

When asked about being given a “hood pass” (a term which in itself can be offensive IMO,) he said that if he really had a “hood pass” he could call it a “n***** pass.” Now we ALL know that use of that word by white folks is inflammatory to say the least. Should he have said it? Probably not. Did I get his point? Yes. Was I mad? No. Am I Black? Yes. I happen to believe that saying the word “n*****” is different than calling someone a “n*****.” The word itself doesn’t offend me, but if you call me (or anyone else) one, we have a problem. Of course I realize that it’s like two sides of the same coin, but that’s just how I feel about it. He also said that he doesn’t date Black women in a statement that compared his man parts to a white supremacist. Do I care? No. Am I offended? No.

To give you a little background, I see racism and racist undertones in most things, because, well, let’s face it, it exists in most things when it comes to how things are done in this country. That being said, I was surprised by the reactions by other Black folks to Mayer’s statements. Especially women. I completely understand the anger at his use of the n-word. Even though I get the point he was making, I can think of very few, if any, circumstances in which use of this word by a White person is acceptable. Michael Richards learned that the hard way. Do I think John Mayer is a racist? No. Of course his statement was racially charged and provocative, but in reading it, I did not get a sense of a racist undertone. Same thing with the statement about not dating Black women. I read an article (or was it a blog post? I forget) in which a woman said something to the effect of “millions of Black women’s legs are now closed to John Mayer.” Um, were they all open to him in the first place? If so, why? Now, of course, he didn’t have to and probably should not have referenced white supremacy and David Duke when discussing his preference in selecting females with whom to have sex. His response was over the top and not clearly thought out. But what is there to be mad about unless you were trying to have sex with him? Guess what – I don’t care if someone that I don’t want doesn’t want me. So, if any Black woman reading this cares that John Mayer is not sexually attracted to you, please enlighten me as to why.

John Mayer made some bad judgment calls in this interview, for sure. He has apologized for using the n-word (and btw, I’m not printing it because I know that some people find it offensive no matter the context and I’m not here to offend anyone) but I’m not sure if he has apologized for the other comments. Either way, it’s whatever. I’d much rather people say what they really think/feel than to censor themselves for public acceptance. I don’t believe in apologies brought on by backlash from the public. If you are truly sorry, then by all means apologize, but please apologize because, for whatever reason, you no longer believe in what you said/did, not just because people are upset. Perfect example: the Kanye West/Taylor Swift debacle. I hated that he launched Apologalooza after the VMAs because we all know that he genuinely meant what he said. So why are you sorry? Because people were in an uproar over it? Ok, he didn’t have to jump up on stage with her, but it’s just an awards show, man. They aren’t saving lives. (I think there were racial motivations behind the Kanye backlash as well. Yeah, he’s a bit arrogant, etc. but he always has been. He wasn’t even talking about himself. People went way over the top with Kanye hate after that event. If it had been Justin Bieber or a Jonas brother, people would have just laughed.) Mayer is known for talking out the side of his neck. His words don’t bother me, nor do his thoughts. Now if we get into racist actions, again we have an issue. John Mayer is not a politician, he’s just a musician. Meaning 1) I have no expectation of political correctness and 2) he has no impact on my life – he doesn’t shape laws, he can’t deny me housing or a job, etc. Since his apology, Mayer’s been quiet on Twitter which is too bad because his tweets were primarily witty or at least good for a giggle. By the way, if I’m completely off base and John Mayer IS a racist, at least now the cat’s out of the bag.

Be who you want to be today.

…TMR…

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I’ve always been fascinated with how people make the most out of small living spaces. Probably because I’ve always lived in relatively small spaces myself. I live in a house now and I’m not even sure of the square footage – I guess it’s enough. Still, I find myself intrigued by small space design.

I recently purchased and read, Living Large in Small Spaces. I read it while I was home from work during the Mid-Atlantic region’s recent Snowpocalypse 2010. What I like the most about this book are the images – very colorful. Most of the people profiled in the book were interior designers or architects or had friends who were, so they had knowledge of spatial relativity in design and access to resources that the average joe or jane may find more difficult to obtain. That withstanding, I recommend this book to anyone who wants to look at pretty pictures of interior spaces ranging from 100 to 1000 square feet.

Be who you want to be today.

…TMR…

{I originally posted this on my HR blog, but thought it would be appropriate  to post on this one as well.}

This picture is of my left forearm. As you can see, I have a tattoo. This is not my only one, but it’s by far the largest one. For now anyway. I love tattoos. I think they’re beautiful (most of them) and am always intrigued when I see someone with a full sleeve or other extraordinary body art.  I do; however, always find myself wondering what type of job the person has.

As the name of this blog denotes, I work in HR – your typical buttoned-down, PC, office type job.  I consider myself to be fairly conservative (not in the political sense) however, I have a healthy anti-authority streak and I’m far from PC.  This is a running joke between myself and one of my colleagues.  I’m something of a rebel with a cause.

I’ve had two recent experiences that have gotten me thinking about image in the workplace, especially as it relates to tattoos.  An intern that worked in our main office asked me about my tattoo. He said that he wanted to get one in the same location but was fearful of how it may affect his job prospects and asked me if it had affected mine.  I had to be real with him – it had never been a concern of mine. My feeling is that a job is just what I do during the day; I have to be ME 24/7. I wanted this tattoo so I got it. Quite frankly, any employer or client who chooses not to work with me because of it is not someone I want to work with anyway. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. It has no effect on how I do my job.

A few weeks ago, I co-presented an HR 101 seminar and one of the attendees asked about the risk of setting policies surrounding appearance, to include ‘no (visible) tattoos or piercings.’  My question to that person was “how is this job related?” The response: “Well, people with tattoos and piercings can be perceived negatively by customers.” Wow. Really? Of course, at the time I was wearing a suit, so the person did not realize that I have a tattoo.

Now, I’m no dummy – I realize that a lot of people associate body art with a (sub) counter-culture, but should people have to live their lives repressing their true nature because of that? Should someone be deemed unemployable because they want to express whatever it is they’re expressing on their bodies? I say a resounding “NO, NO, NO!”  There are so many much bigger things in the world to deal with; and when it comes to the business world, people should always and only be judged for their ability to perform.

I’m sure some people reading this will believe that I am biased on this issue because I have tattoos (and maybe also because I have bright red hair) but that is not the case at all. I just believe in a person’s right to exercise a freedom of personal appearance and not have it hinder his/her ability to make a living as he/she so desires.

Now, hygiene, that’s a different story- poor hygiene is just plain unacceptable!

Update: December 14, 2009- Last week the Washington Post ran an article about the acceptance, or lack thereof, of tattoos in the workplace in DC. A co-worker emailed it to all staff and a few of them (including the Pres/CEO) made comments basically agreeing with the mindset that people should cover up their tattoos at work.  I honestly took their response as a slap in the face b/c I DO NOT cover my tattoo at work, so everyone knows about it. I will continue to not hide it. I will wear it proudly and I will get more. It annoys me that people can be so small-minded on some issues.

Be who you want to be today.

…TMR…

book: posing beauty

I’ve been on a serious “African-American images” kick lately.  I’m super intrigued by the work of such seminal artists as Carl Van Vechten, Gordon Parks and James Vanderzee. To that end, I recently ordered the book “Posing Beauty: African-American Images from 1890 to the Present” by Deborah Willis.  This book contains gorgeous images of both famous and everyday African-Americans. Anyone with an interest in photography and/or African-American history should check out this book.

Be who you want to be today.

…TMR…

This-is-it-mjs-this-is-it-8705441-500-500Last Saturday I went to see ‘This Is It.’ For those who don’t know, this is the movie made about Michael Jackson’s preparation for what was to be his final tour.

The movie brought out so many emotions/feelings/thoughts – happiness, sadness, joy, pain, understanding, inspiration, anger…

Michael was obviously a true professional, a perfectionist and a genius. Some members of the tour were brought to tears when discussing how they felt about having the opportunity to perform with him. I can only imagine how that must have felt to a dancer or singer – being able to perform with Michael Jackson. !!!! Just watching him made my heart jump.

I can’t say this enough – Michael was magical. Just watching him perform on that screen was so moving. Michael was peace. Michael was joy. Michael was love incarnate.  Even when he had to “fuss” at someone, he ended it with “with love.” How beautiful is that? He will forever be missed.  Not just for his talent, but also for his spirit.

Be who you want to be today.

…TMR…

michael jackson…

mjphotoThis year has seen the untimely demise of many celebrities, but none touched my heart like the death of Michael Joseph Jackson aka “The King of Pop.” Any true MJ fan knows that he was so much more than the “King of Pop.” In fact, I never used that term for him and hated hearing it. Michael Jackson was gifted and he touched millions through his art and philanthropy. I was not in blogging mode at the time of his death, but now that I’m back, I would be remiss if I didn’t say something in honor of someone who brought joy to my life and so many others.

I felt hurt as if I had lost someone that I knew personally when I heard the news. I’m not saying I felt the same sense of deep grief that I felt when I lost my parents, or even close, but it definitely shook me to my core, as if he was someone with whom I had grown up. Then it struck me – he WAS someone with whom I had grown up! Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad– those were the soundtracks to my childhood. To this day I still remember watching Michael on Motown 25 (when it came on tv, not on YouTube,) moonwalking his way into history. I still remember thinking he was just TOO cute (swoon) in the Thriller pics. I mean, who didn’t have the poster of him in the yellow sweater vest? I had Michael Jackson books, posters, magazines, etc. I drew the line at the ‘Beat It’ and ‘Thriller’ jackets though. I can love someone without needing to dress like them.

Over the years, Michael went through changes and had his share of ups & downs, but who among us hasn’t? I was unwavering in my love and adoration for him. I grew to hate music awards shows, but if MJ was going to be on, I’d surely watch. So yes, the news of his passing hurt me. I hurt for his fans, for his family, and for myself. Friends told me I was taking it too hard, which sounded ridiculous to me. For the first time in my life, I am living in a world without Michael Jackson in it and it doesn’t feel right. No, I never met him and I’m sure I never would have. He never knew I existed, yet I feel different and like the world is different, without him in it. Of course, as with any death, I take comfort in knowing that he is no longer in pain; no longer dealing with the demons that kept him up at night; the physical and mental torment he must have endured during his 50 years on earth. We may hurt, but he is finally at peace. He was special. He was magical. He was Michael Jackson. He was gifted and he shared his gift with the world. There will never be another like him. REST IN PEACE.

P.S. – Hated, hated, hated that Domino magazine folded (another great with an untimely demise) and my subscription was replaced with <gag> Architectural Digest. I mean, am I 80 years old? However, AD gets mad props for having MJ on the cover of the November 2009 issue and having a story on his home and interior design aesthetic.

Be who you want to be today.

…TMR…

facebook….

fbimagesI’m not a joiner or a follower.  Never have been, never will be.  For better or worse, I follow my own lead. Or at least that’s what I thought.  But lately, I have been falling into the joining trap.  First MySpace, then LinkedIn, and now Facebook! 

Of course I’ve heard of Facebook, but I’ve never had any interest in joining it.  Why bother? I have enough to do and there are way too many social networking sites.  Who has time for them all?   But…..yesterday I got into a conversation about it with a friend, so I decided to check it out while we were on the phone.  That was all all it took!  All of a sudden I just had to try to see how many people I could find.  Former classmates and colleagues, ex-boyfriends, relatives… it seems like EVERYONE is on Facebook.  And now, so am I. 

tarajipicWith Oscar buzz abound following her role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, actress Taraji P. Henson is set to be one to watch in 2009.

Born in Washington, DC, Ms. Henson’s first professional acting role was in 1997 on the sitcom, ‘Sister, Sister.’ It would be an understatement to say that “she’s come a long way, baby!” Her first major motion picture role was 2001’s Baby Boy, directed by John Singleton and also starring singer/actor Tyrese Gibson. This was when I first became aware of her, although to this day, I’ve never seen Baby Boy all the way through. I primarily took notice of Ms. Henson because she, like myself, is a native of Washington, DC.

Over the years, Taraji P. Henson has taken on a variety of television and movie roles, including a regular role on the Lifetime network series, The Division, and a breakout role in 2005’s ode to the life of a Southern pimp and wannabe rapper, Hustle & Flow.

Ms. Henson is currently starring in the film, Not Easily Broken,  based on a book by T.D. Jakes. I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more to come from this talented performer in 2009 and beyond.

Will Smith has come a loooooong way since the days of telling us that “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”  He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper (his classic album, yes – album, with partner, DJ Jazzy Jeff) produced some of my favorite songs of all time (and, yes, I still have the album,) but Mr. Smith is no longer the Fresh Prince.  He’s matured into a King.  Husband. Father. Movie Star. Philanthropist. World Citizen.   Will Smith has become all that and more – and it hasn’t been by accident.  Below is an article from USA Today which offers us some insight into how and why this transformation occurred.  I believe that these seven points can be applied to any one, in some variation.  It’s a quick read but nonetheless inspirational. Take from it what you will.

                                                                                    

willsmithx‘Seven Pounds,’ Seven Keys to Will Smith’s Success

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Will Smith, photographed at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, plays an IRS agent on a quest for redemption in Seven Pounds, opening Friday.

By Donna Freydkin, USA TODAY
NEW YORK — Spend seven seconds sitting across from Will Smith, and you’ll never wonder why he’s a superstar.

He’s charming and attentive, observant and clever — without ever seeming to try. When he talks, he makes eye contact; when he laughs, it takes over his whole body.

“You gonna put that in the article, that you’re playing footsie?” cracks Smith after feet collide under a table at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Though he seems happy-go-lucky, the former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air didn’t end up where he is by accident. Like Ben Thomas, the painfully orderly and painstakingly wary IRS agent he plays in Seven Pounds, opening Friday, Smith, 40, is consistently in charge, on point and thinking ahead.

“That’s one of the elements that attracted me to this idea — how much control you can have over your life, but how much you don’t have once you relinquish it,” he says. “I make choices in my life after working on this film. I found myself walking down the stairs and it’s raining, and I found myself grabbing extra-hard on the railing. Just think, one slip — and that’s it. You have to be conscious. You don’t have control after you’ve set these dominoes in motion. Your control point is before you make this crucial mistake.”

Seven Pounds may have made him think consciously about navigating slippery steps with care, but he has nurtured his career with nary a misstep, amassing $2.45 billion in box office in North America alone. Here’s how he does it:

1. Think globally

Any film Smith makes, as a star or through his Overbrook production company, “has to be extraordinary, it has to be entertainment, it has to be art.” And be “delivered to all people of the world.”

Not every film fits neatly into that mold, including Seven Pounds, a non-linear story about his character making amends that has a shocking ending. It’s “a bit of a stretch for us. The extraordinary entertainment art is easy, but because you can’t actually talk about the movie, the delivery to all people of the world is slightly more difficult,” Smith says.

He thinks about pitching everywhere from Peoria to Paris from the start. “If we don’t know how to sell it, we’re not going to begin — no matter how extraordinary I think the entertainment art is going to be. All I need is one visual, and I can sell that anywhere on Earth.”

2. Talent at the top

Smith handpicks his directors. For Seven Pounds, he’s re-teaming with Gabriele Muccino, who directed him to an Oscar nomination for 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness. The holiday hit starred Smith as a homeless man who breaks into the elite world of finance.

“He takes me to places that I’d never choose myself,” Smith says. “It will be the biggest departures from who I am when I work with Gabriele. He sees me similarly as Michael Mann (Ali) does. He knows all my tricks. They erase all the Will Smith-ness.”

Muccino, for instance, went so far as to alter the way Smith naturally makes eye contact. Smith’s Ben Thomas never looks away, almost glares.

“He’s trying to look under people’s masks,” says Smith. “I’m physically trying to look under people’s masks. For me, it’s a common courtesy to look away for a second when you’re talking and you let people have their privacy for a second. This character never breaks eye contact. It’s uncomfortable for me.”

3. Mix it up, to a point

For every bombastic audience pleaser like Hancock, Smith tries also to release a more thought-provoking film like Seven Pounds.

“I have to challenge myself and push myself,” Smith says. “My only job is to make sure I don’t leave anything on the table, that I maximize what a young dude from Philly can do in the world of cinema. There’s no telling what I can create at this point.”

Two scripts he’d love to star in that Overbrook is developing are the stories of Nelson Mandela and Marvin Gaye.

“I’m not certain I’m actor enough yet,” Smith admits. “I love both of those, and I need to make sure I’m man enough.”

4. Preserve the Smith brand

Smith doesn’t get busted for DUIs or punch or scream at paparazzi. “Not any more, not any more,” he jokes.

His parents and grandmother instilled in him the belief that with privileges comes responsibility. Smith doesn’t moan about the attention he gets, kvetch about the lack of privacy or lash out at reporters for asking personal questions.

“By being famous, you’re afforded rights that other people who aren’t famous aren’t afforded,” he says. “If I’m going to walk to the front of the line (at the restaurant) because I’m Will Smith, then I have to sign all the autographs. If I don’t want to sign any autographs, I don’t walk to the front of the line. It’s that simple. Stand in the line with everybody else.”

His image remains one of the most unblemished in Hollywood. The only question that surfaces is whether, because of his close friendship with outspoken Scientologist Tom Cruise, he, too, is a member of the controversial church. Smith repeatedly has denied it, saying he’s a student of all religions.

Hitch co-star Eva Mendes says that off-screen, Smith is a bit racier than the clean-cut guy most people see. “He’s funnier in person because his jokes get a little more daring. To this day, he doesn’t call me Eva. He calls me Reva Melendez. He has this character he does named Redondo, an interviewer who never gets anyone’s names right.”

5. Cross color lines

With the exception of 2001’s Ali (his other Oscar nomination), most of Smith’s roles could have been played by him or Brad Pitt or Robert Downey Jr. The IRS agent he plays in Seven Pounds could have very easily been Caucasian, as could the bitter superhero in Hancock.

And that has been by design. Growing up in Philadelphia, Smith attended a mostly white Catholic elementary school and a mostly African-American high school. He lived in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, attended a Baptist church and admired the Muslim girls who lived one street over.

Along the way, Smith learned that laughter is collective and unifying. “Those universal elements became really clear in my experiences growing up.”

Race is not something Smith dwells on in interviews, and it’s not something often addressed in his films. “Being an American, this is the only place on Earth I’m even possible. My life is not possible anywhere else,” he says.

It’s a sentiment often echoed by President-elect Barack Obama, with whom Smith identifies.

On Election Day, Smith says, he didn’t even have a beer. “I wanted to be totally sober. I wanted to see and feel and remember everything. The whole family was there. It was really fantastic — either way I knew it would be a historical evening. I wanted to be there and be aware,” he says.

6. Be master of your domain

Eighteen years ago, Smith charmed audiences as the fast-talking, appealingly glib Fresh Prince. Today, his films gross an average $136 million. And Smith says he finally feels he’s starting to own his profession.

“I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and he talks about the concept of 10,000 hours. That you don’t really settle into any level of mastery until 10,000 hours, and I feel like I’ve just completed my 10,000 hours of story structure and filmmaking.

“Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist, which is my favorite book, he talks about the whole of the universe, and it’s contained in one grain of sand. For years I’ve been saying that, and now it’s really starting to expose itself to me. My own grain of sand has been story. The next 10 years will be my peak of innovation in filmmaking and just as a human being.”

Since 1996’s blockbuster Independence Day, Smith has generated a movie a year, sometimes two. When he signs on, he’s fully committed.

“He’s very firm with his own ideas and considerations about things,” Muccino says. “He doesn’t change his mind easily. If he says no, it’s no. If he says yes, it’s yes. He’s a man of his word. In Italy we call them men of honor.”

7. Leave nothing to chance

That includes his 11-year marriage to Jada Pinkett, with whom he has two kids: son Jaden, 10, and daughter Willow, 8. Smith also has son Trey, 16, from his first marriage.

“We did a business plan,” Smith says. “Listen, everyone should do a marriage business plan. Why are you together? What’s the point? Because he’s cute? That’s not going to hold up. It can’t just be sex and somebody can cook. That’s a really good purpose, but not for 40 years. Jada and I have connected to the purpose of our relationship, to teach and to continually learn about human interaction. Our marriage will have purpose for other married people.”

Smith always wants to know the conclusion. Because if you know the end, you know precisely where you’re going and how you’re getting there.

“Jada and I sat down and asked, ‘Where do we see ourselves?’ We went to 40 years from now. We see ourselves some place where there are seasons. That’s a big thing for Jada. We think there’s mountains. We think we live on a golf course. We don’t have more children — we have grandchildren.

“We are the greatest philanthropists that America has ever seen. We’re going to try and get up there with Bill and Melinda Gates. We talked through all the elements of where we want to be so we can start, in this moment, designing our life toward that.”

Yes, Will Smith has a plan for everything. But for people like Mendes, his success is the result of something that doesn’t need so much preparation.

“Of course he’s talented, of course he’s sexy, of course he’s got a body to die for, but who cares?” she says. “He’s so full of light. We all want to be next to him and root for him. People want to be around it. He’s a light force.”

Three Degrees of Separation

linkedin I have become slightly obsessed with the professional networking site, Linkedin.  I created my profile on there a while ago, but just recently began to really use it.  It is absolutely addictive.  The Q & A section alone makes it worthwhile.  Being able to reach out to so many people in your same field, worldwide, to ask and answer questions is amazing.   There is a Group for almost everything which allows you to connect with people with shared interests and the Applications help to make your profile more interesting and give the people on your network more insight about you (i.e. your blog, books you’re reading, etc.)

I have found it especially interesting to realize the connections that I have in common with my connections – ” I didn’t know that my colleague Steve Banks knows my former co-worker Tonya Smith.”   

My new-found obsession begs the question – can you be TOO connected? Can you be TOO networked? Can you be TOO “on the grid”?  TOO easy to find?  I’m still undecided on that.  I am still surprised when I meet someone who doesn’t come up in a Google search.  I’m also a little envious.  I’ve been Google-able for a while now.  Not necessarily by choice, but it is what it is. Typically it’s not a bad thing, but the worldwide web is just that – worldwide.  Sometimes you don’t want certain people to find you and not because you are doing anything wrong, but simply because you have no control over it.  It’s too easy to find out too much about people these days.  That being said, Linkedin has set certain safeguards to try to prevent misuse and it’s much more of a professional networking site than a social one, which makes it much more appealing to me.  It’s also very easy to use. 

The old saying goes “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know” and these days that’s probably more true than ever with the abundance of qualified candidates (abundance in relation to the number of jobs for them to fill.)  So whatever your view on networking, it’s necessary and Linkedin is certainly one of my preferred methods of connecting.  Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think: Linkedin

Also of interest: Linked Intelligence, 100+ Smart Ways to Use Linkedin.