Friday, January 23, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different...and Geeky

I have to say that I was excited about the iPhone when it came out, although not excited enough to actually go and buy one. Even when the second version came out, no biting from this hard-core functionality girl-geek. I need my technology to not only be pretty, but be extremely functional. That said, I am also a dyed-in-the-wool (i don't know what that phrase really means but it somehow feels right to use it here) Mac-head, as the first real home computer I ever used was my uncle's old Macintosh with the black and beige-ish floppy disk drive that I used to play video games on when I was a kid. The biggest single purchase I've ever made was of the beautiful (yes, I said beautiful) and highly functional 15" aluminum Powerbook G4 that I'm typing on right now. And yes, my beautiful laptop has a name, but I'm not telling you what it is.

So my Mac credentials are firmly established. At the same time, I have been using a Palm handheld organizer device of some kind for the past four years or so. I find them extremely handy and useful, and practical, not to mention cheap. So despite my lust for the iPhones--which was tempered and cooled by the fact that AT&T's service plan for it cost a good $99 per month--I stuck with my handy-but-not-at-all-fancy Zire, with my handy-bu-even-less-fancy Samsung Sprint cell phone as my mobile communication tool.

But now, all bets are off. Because Palm has out-Mac'd Mac with the new Pre, a mobile device that seems to do everything I liked about the iPhone and then some. The iPhone is pretty and has some cool, interesting apps which are completely useless as time management or practical tools (yeah it's cool that you can find the name of a song just by putting your iPhone up to the stereo as it's played, but really, I'd rather have system-wide cut-and-paste functionality!), but the Pre is just a better work horse. Of course, this is a new gadget and there will most likely be many bugs to be worked out, but I have to say, I'm geekin' out over here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Would'ya READ something already?

I'm amused but starting to get a little irritated by all the anti-Reverend Lowery stuff out there right now, from white people mostly but also from some people of color that don't 'get' what the good Reverend was saying. As I don't have time to break this all down for folks with my perspective (which is just one perspective), and since there are plenty of other more articulate and learned people who have broken it down already, I offer the following links:

• A post from African-American blogger Tonya Jameson at the Charlotte

• A more in-depth collection of links to articles about Reverend Lowery's background, life and political/racial analysis, which informed his benediction speech, from a white blogger in Rhode Island.

• A really interesting break-down of different ways to interpret the 'Black will not be asked to get back', etc. part of the Reverend's benediction.

• And a brief post from blogger Doug LeMoine that has a subtly humorous closing line that I loved about white people.

So if you know people that are confused, offended, curious or angry about Reverend Lowery's speech, please direct them to the links above. It's a new day, folks, and race is not going to become a thing of the past--we're just now actually going to be able to deal with it in a more honesty way, I hope. But that means that some folks who have not had to think about race much in the past because of white privilege or class privilege or whatever, are going to have to get educated. They're going to have to read some stuff and struggle with some tough issues and some challenging emotions and learn how to grow through it all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ending, Beginning, Celebrating

What an amazing day! Yesterday (1/20/2009) felt more like New Year's Day to me than January 1st did--full of celebration, community, reflection, healing, music and good food. It was truly the end of an era--and lest we forget, in our giddy rush into the bright future that President Obama (God, it feels so good to say/type those words!) has asked us to build together, the suffering and misery that was created by the Bush administration, here are a couple things to remind us. I was with H. and our friend B. at the Oakland Coliseum to watch the historic inauguration of our 44th President, Barack Hussein Obama, with thousands of other Oaklanders. Black, White, Asian, Latino and other folks joined together in a mass gathering of joy, release, celebration and patriotism that I have never experienced before. Here are some pics of the event:

I also thought it showed how much class Obama had when he tried to give Chief Justice John Roberts the chance to correct himself when he screwed up the Oath of Office. Class act, this guy, all the way. Even if you disagree with his politics or don't like his proposals, you have to admit he has class and tact.

It was really cool that Reverend Lowery opened his benediction with the lyrics from 'Lift Every Voice and Sing', the Black National Anthem, and H. and I LOVED the Reverend Lowery's benediction (and I have to say, Yes on 8, anti-gay marriage activist Reverend Rick Warren's invocation was also rousing, but less inspiring for me). I thought it was interesting that the very black/brown but still multi-racial crowd at the Coliseum laughed and 'got' the joke, and it seemed clear that many Black folks in the stands understood that the good Reverend was flippin' the script on the old US race/caste system by changing up the words to this old anti-Jim Crow song, 'Get Back (Black, Brown and White)', while later on YouTube I saw people (I'm assuming White, call Rev. Lowery a 'racist' for saying things like 'that the White man can embrace what's right man'. And that our President was sittin' up there laughing and chuckling at the Reverend's words. This was an indication of things to come, and white folks are going to need to start gettin' educated about race, both the entrenched legacy of racism and the current-day racism that all people of color face on some level, if they want to 'get' what's going on in this country.

After the inauguration, I had the kind of chill Oakland day (thanks to having the day off from work) that I love. Finally got to go to the new Cathedral of Christ the Light next to beautiful Lake Merritt. I have to say it was much more impressive than I thought it would be.

Then, finally, after meditation class at the East Bay Meditation Center and a nice dinner (great salad but the main course of braised chicken was pretty tasteless) at the Franklin Square Wine Bar, H. and I first headed to the Bench and Bar, a gay bar that used to be predominantly Black and seemed to be pretty mixed last night. We ended up talking to a really drunk gay white dude who couldn't believe that we were married.

Then finally, we went down to Jack London Square to witness a block party outside Everett and Jones barbeque joint, where a pretty mellow, mostly Black crowd bopped and swayed to live R&B to celebrate the inauguration of the first African-American President of the United States. We ran into old Lefties Miriam Ching-Louie and Belvin Louie, which is always a nice surprise. But mostly it just felt good to know that hope was not some distant horizon any longer, that a new day was dawning and that we had been a part of making history.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Links and more on Oscar Grant protests

Added a few new links to the blogroll:

Seeking Avalon, where a recent, spirited debate on the representation of people of color characters by white writers of fantasy and sci-fi caught my eye.

K. Tempest Bradord's blog (can I have a middle name like 'Tempest', please?), whom I found via Claire Light's See Light blog--both these are women of color Speculative Fiction writers whom I hope to get to know better in the coming year.

And, no I haven't forgotten about the Oscar Grant tragedy and aftermath in Oakland. How could I with media and police helicopters swarming my office and home neighborhoods for nearly three days straight. But instead of writing more about it here, I'll point you to another new link in my blogroll: Richard Wright aka DJ Fflood's blog, as well as a couple interesting posts on Racialicious here and here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Was it a 'Riot'?

Thank God the mainstream media finally published something sensible about the Oscar Grant protest turned 'riot' last week. Dori Maynard, incidentally, is the widow of former Oakland Tribune publisher/editor Bob Maynard, whom I believe was the paper's first African-American publisher back in the 1970s.

And this comes the morning that another protest is planned at City Hall tonite. Also, the officer who shot Oscar Grant (because we all saw the video, right?), has finally been
arrested on murder charges after quitting the BART police force and skipping town to Nevada.

I only hope that, in this case, justice may be done for Oscar Grant. And that the community may be able to count a small victory, and an important one, at the end of the day.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Justice for Oscar Grant

There's a protest scheduled for today at Fruitvale BART in Oakland to address the police shooting there of Oscar Grant, a 22-year old man, on New Year's Eve. You can also find it on Facebook.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Rest in Peace: Oscar Grant

Oscar Grant was a 22-year-old African-American man, father of a four-year-old child and a butcher at a local Oakland supermarket that H. and I used to frequent. He was killed by a BART cop's bullet on New Year's Eve at the Fruitvale station in Oakland, only a few miles away from where I live. Although I didn't know Oscar, he could've been any number of young Black men walking the streets of Oakland, Hayward, Alameda, San Francisco, etc. Unfortunately, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Words can't really express what I'm feeling now. I know there are many other gun-related and other violent deaths that happen in Oakland and around the world everyday. Only some of these capture the attention of the media and, thus, the general public. I hope that this story results in some good being done, although this young man's untimely death could never be made up for. I hope and pray for justice and for a peaceful resolution to the violence that is rampant in our society.

Thanks to the Applied Research Center for posting this action alert on their blog, RaceWire.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Movie Review: Beyond a Shadow of a 'Doubt'

Couldn't help myself with the pun, there. I just saw the film 'Doubt', written and directed by the playwright, John Patrick Shanley (a good Irish-Catholic boy, no doubt), who won a Pulitzer Prize for his original play of the same name, and starring one of the tightest, most brilliant casts I think I've ever seen on screen: notably, the ever-formidable and ridiculously talented Meryl Streep, and the equally virtuosic chameleon Philip Seymour Hoffman. However, Viola Davis in particular deserves major acknowledgment, as her one speaking scene in the film, opposite Streep, showed how powerful an actor can be even with less than ten minutes on screen. Amy Adams was also terrific as a naive young nun who becomes sort of a human moral scale, weighing the accusations flying between Streep's Sister Aloysius and Hoffman's Father Flynn with a bewilderment that mirrors that of the audience as we grapple with the grave issues presented in the film.

The film can be summarized, or written off, depending on how you see it--the way that another amazing film, 'Brokeback Mountain', could be written off as the 'gay cowboy movie' when it's so much more than that--as the 'Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal movie'. And despite the injustice of that description to the film, I think if that kind of controversial summary makes people come to the theater to watch it, then great. I think every Catholic or recovering Catholic, at minimum, should see this film. I don't want to say too much more because this is the type of film that's best enjoyed through conversation with other viewers, because the director/writer leaves so much up to subjective interpretation. And I like that. He and the actors have set up a world that is totally believable (although H. could barely believe that even during my Catholic school experience in the 1980s I knew nuns like Sister Aloysius and was as terrified of them as the school kids in the film are of Streep's character), and with it, they pull you in irresistibly with universal and immortal themes of faith, redemption, the complexity of human nature, and, yes, doubt.

As a survivor of sexual abuse myself, I appreciated the nuances of morality and the lack of judgment of the characters that permeated the film. It offers a very humanizing portrait of what can be a very polarizing and dehumanizing (for all people involved, from perpetrator to victim) experience.

I will say that the film is far from perfect, with some heavy-handed symbolism getting in the way of even this ultra-ritualistic Catholic School-girl's enjoyment. But all in all, it's a tightly-crafted, important film and seeing it is well worth the price of admission.

If you need more encouraging, a couple reviews that I liked can be found on the Independent Critic web site (this one is written by a sexual abuse survivor, at Pajiba (which wins the award for best self-description of its site: Scathing Reviews for Bitchy People), and the New York Times.

Suffice it to say that beyond a shadow of a doubt (there I go again with the puns!), this is probably the best film I've seen this year. I hope Oscar will too.

Friday, January 02, 2009

List: 2008 Retrospective (and Resolutions), Part II

Yay! I actually made it around to posting a Part II to a Part I. (I've promised to do so for other posts in the past, without delivering. Maybe this is a good sign that I'll be able to achieve my new year's resolutions for 2009? I hope so).

Traveling to Belize on my honeymoon, which was a relaxing, satisfying and truly lovely experience, and not just because it was my honeymoon! It had been more than a year since I'd traveled out of the country, and more than two years since I'd had a 'vacation' trip abroad (to Europe with H. in 2006). Especially in this year of Obama-fication, it was important for me to see how folks in other countries were reacting to the U.S.'s sudden change of destiny. Some American ex-pats that we ran into in Placencia, Belize said that they had a huge party the night after the election, with free beer for all. I for one am glad that McCain didn't win so that I wouldn't have to explain to folks why Americans are so intent on destroying themselves and the rest of the world with us. And of course, Belize itself as a country, as a Caribbean-bound-land, was gorgeous and lush and friendly and down-to-earth and pristine and just the antidote for my work-weary body and mind. You can see some of our photos on Flickr.

Reconnecting with family and friends, mostly because of wedding planning and the wedding itself and, of course, because of the reality that now, as a formally married (read: now-formally-accepted as a real couple by most of society, even in the progressive bubble of the Bay Area), it seems that our friends and family sort of take more seriously our invitations to lunch, dinner or other social events. And we take theirs more seriously too. One of the most touching moments of our wedding for me, though, was looking at all of our friends and family gathered around us during the ceremony, and later at the reception, and just feeling an immense love welling up inside me, knowing that H. and I were supported in our decision to connect our lives and our communities.

Thinking about and planning my big next year (and this is where the New Year's resolutions come in). I am leaving my job in March 2009, and planning to launch my consulting business for real. Which means, hopefully, less actual hours of work, but hopefully more income, as consulting fees can pay a lot more than a full-time job at a small nonprofit. I'm also really looking forward to picking and choosing projects that I really want to work on (if I can, which everyone tells me should not be a problem, given the dearth of fundraisers of color in the world and the endless number of groups who need us). Lastly, I am planning to take on two major creative endeavors in 2009, which this extra time will allow me to do: 1) Have a baby (nope, not pregnant yet, but will be working on it), and 2) Get some serious writing time in. It's been several years since I've really delved into my writing, and I realized this past year that the main impediment to my progress is just TIME. Such a simple thing, but one of the toughest things to carve out for yourself in the midst of full-time employment, taking care of your own household, family obligations, life in general.

So my resolutions for 2009? Pretty simple: Do what I want to do, do what I love, live my life to the fullest. Spend time with people I care about and who nurture and support the best of who I am, and vice versa. Trust in the Spirit/God/Orishas/Universe/Creator/whatever-you-want-to-call-It to guide me and take care of me. Know that I have the talent, perseverence, courage, contacts, intelligence, determination and skill to not only survive in this harsh economic climate, but to THRIVE. If there is one word that I want to bring with me into 2009, and to cling to like my life depended on it (which in a way, it does) it's that one: thrive, thrive, THRIVE.