Thursday, April 24, 2014

Throw Back Thursday: Jill Scott's 'Shame,' Self-Mythology, and Genetics

I am feeling Jill Scott's song "Shame" today. I mean the lyrics and attitude of the song, which is absent of the emotion shame. In particular, I'm feeling the line, "And you don't even know my name." However, I'm not thinking of that line in its literal context.

I'm thinking about the implications of saying "you don't even know my name" figuratively, meaning that someone does not see who you really are because they've adopted a negative opinion based on whatever issues they brought to the table and refuse to see that's  not you but their negative construction of you. Some people see only what they want to see when they look at another person, and if they have a vested interest in seeing you as the "bad guy" or "the devil," then they will block themselves from seeing anything about you or your actions that contradicts their assessment.

I'm sure you've seen it work the other way when someone you know has been deeply in love with a man or woman who lacks integrity and uses them, but the one in love is blind to the beloved's faults. But back to names and character.

The prayer of Jabez from the Bible gives some spiritual insight on a name as character and destiny. The name Jabez means pain. Although his appearance in the Bible is brief, we do know that his mother gave him that name because she had a painful labor. In context of biblical culture, one's name carried one's nature, infusing the individual with how he or she would progress through life. But, as the story goes, Jabez prayed and asked God to change his course, to free him from going the way of his given name:
Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request.
I believe that whether we consider ourselves religious or not, call ourselves Christian, Jewish, Muslim or of some other faith, we all struggle with change when we want to change ourselves, our life course. It takes courage and self-discipline to write new stories for ourselves and not live out the stories our family, friends, bosses, or society in general write for us, or even the gloomy tale (negative self-mythology) we may have subconsciously written for ourselves.

Sometimes while attempting to change we get hung up on ideological/philosophical vs. scientific theories on this topic, issues of free will vs. our hard wiring. Can humans actually change themselves?

Humans can transform ourselves. However, I doubt that I can change myself when I'm going through a deeper depression, which zaps me of hope. So, depression can be a stumbling block, even a mountain because in order to transform ourselves, our minds must be in a state that lets us at least imagine hope. Depressed people, however, are not always able to see even a sliver of light, so they can't walk toward it.

Is it possible you suffer from a depressive disorder and it's interfering with your ability to move forward? You can check your symptoms here. Shove aside your pride, too, if that's what causes you to resist getting help. And if you realize that you are depressed and you have been for weeks or more, then you may need to take anti-depressants to pull through. Take them if you need them.

Whether you're depressed or not, I also recommend this book:  The Power of Habit. It's fascinating and inspiring.

I'd love to evolve into my best self and get to the place of confidence Jill Scott represents in her jubilant song, "Shame." Wouldn't you? But I also believe genetics play a role in how long we maintain a jubilant a state or urge ourselves into it. Yep, I believe there's a happy gene, even the one that influences how we fare in relationships. But I believe as well that we can fake out our brain's genetics, which is why I appreciate this TedTalk by Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extrayears of life.

And I know for a fact that music changes mood, which is why I was on the early train for Pharrell's hit song, "Happy." But isn't it unrealistic to think that our goal is to be perpetually happy? While I've used the word "happy" throughout this post, my goal is to be content and self-actualized. I may not reach that all my goals before I die, but I must continue my effort, the process of trying.

What about you? Have you been aware of those moments in your life when you need to change but have resisted that change or been afraid that you can't change at all?

Monday, April 21, 2014

National Jazz Month: 'Billie Holiday Was No Victim'

I've paid my respects to National Poetry Month, once through Bayou Magazine on Twitter, and also here at my blog ("Song of Fatigued Blacksplaining Folk"). But I'm also a jazz and blues lover, so, I can't let Jazz Appreciation Month go by without comment. My musical focus: Billie Holiday.

I discovered the BBC documentary on the Billie Holiday Story on YouTube. According to it, the famous movie Lady Sings the Blues, starring Diana Ross, got the singer's story wrong. The film asserts that despite being raped at age 11, receiving poor legal advice that resulted in her being sent to prison, being in a physically abusive relationships, and losing her life to the ravages of alcohol and drug abuse, Holiday should not be remembered as tragic victim.

The singer did as she pleased, made a lot of money, and spent it all, says one of her acquaintances. Poet Maya Angelou appears and says that Holiday made the use of profanity an art, so much so adds another person that her constant use of "motherfucker" didn't sound offensive when Holiday said it.

Someone else says that the singer was bisexual, loving sex with both men and women. Later her affairs with Orson Welles, Tallulah Bankhead, and a white heiress are discussed briefly, as well as her facility with a razor as weapon, her apparent preference for abusive men, and her propensity to beat the hell out of others if she felt a beating was in order.

The video also talks about Holiday's racial consciousness, her political activism, and how she had to deal personally with white people doing things like putting out their cigarettes on her fur coat or calling her "nigger woman" and her having to enter hotels through the freight entrance. She recorded the classic song, "Strange Fruit," protesting the lynching of black people," and though she faced hostility for it, she continued to sing the song with conviction.

"Strange Fruit" was written by Abel Meeropol first as an anti-lynching poem. Later music was added.

Not surprisingly, Holiday's autobiography Lady Sings the Blues (the movie borrowed the name), written and published  in the 1950s, was censored. The publishers didn't like her frequent use of the word "bitch," and white Hollywood stars who'd been intimate with her denied knowing her, accused her of lying.

The documentary's an intriguing watch. For those who haven't seen it, I've posted it up top.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife -- Does It Matter Whether Jesus Was Married?

In this case, I'm just passing along an intriguing article that's been trending on Facebook for a few days:  "No Forgery Evidence Seen in 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife' Papyrus."  The article says that scientific evidence has verified that the ink used and the papyrus date back to the 8th century A.D.; however:
". . . the results do not conclusively prove the papyrus isn't a very clever forgery, caution the scientists. Instead, they remove previously raised objections to the text, finding no evidence of it being a fake."
People connect this new information to the craze of the DaVinci Code novel as though the book was somehow possibly rooted in history or was prescient. However, I've written previously that there was nothing that unique about that book to me. I'd heard that religious conspiracy theory before. However, this controversial papyrus says nothing about Jesus possibly having children, and that was the truly big reveal in the novel.

All that aside, the real discussion this papyrus seems to stoke concerns the role of women in the church because part of the snippet says, per the National Geographic article, "The words 'Jesus said to them, My wife . . . she is able to be my disciple . . .' are written on the center of the fragment."

For me, this is an issue that would be of concern most to the Roman Catholic Church because it not only bars women from being priests but also demands priests be single and celibate, but there are other Christian denominations that bar women from ministry as well.

As for Catholicism, in February the pope ordained a married man as an official priest for the first time in more than a century. In the early Catholic church, "celibacy was optional."

As for protestants (some protestants), clinging to the belief that Jesus never married or had sex feeds into the puritanical notion that sex is bad, that the sin in the Garden of Eden was sex represented by eating the apple. For the rest of us who profess faith in Jesus, does it matter whether he was married or not?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Song of Fatigued Blacksplaining Folk: National Poetry Month

Song of Fatigued Blacksplaining Folk
by Nordette N. Adams

Oh, that we had a time machine to launch some people
back as black men born to slavery in 1853
and have them stay alive through the Civil War, survive
the Jim Crow South and see 1964 when LBJ
signed The Act assuring liberty for Black folk in
America, land of the White called "free."

Then see their sons and daughters locked up
for suspect cause and be told they're deluded, always
playing bogus race cards, whenever they perceive
this nation less than godly pure, not sainted love
community, not post-racial, not yet cured.    Better,
let some privileged citizens go back as black and

woman born in shackles, her body for experiment,
a breeder, merely chattel, who even after
Emancipation Proclamation, and Civil Rights,
and Women's Rights, she's scowled at in this nation.
Let the Scarboroughs and O'Reillys, the Limbaughs
and DeMints live our ancestors' lives and ours.
But would that make a difference?

Once returned to present time, again in their white
skins, would they have the fortitude to teach
their brethren,   or   what if they returned but retained
the darker body, would their former friends
suppress credulity? Could it be in such eyes,
see Black, see invalidity?

(c) 2014

I avoid writing on race these days, as I've said before, because it's so draining. Yes, I do feel guilty sometimes about not dissecting "the struggle" weekly, but I'm only human. Also, I know I'm not alone in this burned-out space. Nonetheless, a few race-related issues have caught my eye over the last few months, and I've seen my brothers and sisters lamenting on Facebook and Twitter some of the racialized issues in the news.

Perhaps, I've been absorbing so much subconsciously that I have not written about a poem had to appear. Today when I saw a friend post on his page a recent comment by Joe Scarborough saying President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder play the race card too much, this poem emerged. I would say also that the Melissa Harris-Perry apology to conservatives, the MSNBC apology and staffer firing over an honest tweet, everything certain myopia-afflicted white people have said about black people and Stand Your Ground laws, as well as the recent uproar over Hank Aaron speaking his mind, have all (with myriad other stories) played a role in this poem's emergence.

No, this poem is not the kind that would fly well in a poetry writing workshop. Someone would say, "It's too on the nose," or "It's too rhetorical," but I'm feeling it and this is my blog,  so here it is. And thank God it's National Poetry Month, too. Maybe someone read it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Quote of the day: From Ta-Nehisi Coates's The Blue Period

Jacob Lawrence, The Library

-- a giant swath of humanity and history. I don't think a human gets to see all of this before dying. But I want to see as much of it as I can. And here is the key thing--it thrills me to see it. I love seeing it. I love knowing. The knowing is its own reward. The ability to frame the question is it's own gift--even if you can't quite name the answer.

I think now, four years after watching that video, and having read A History of White People, that I am a writer. And that is not a hustle. And this is not my "in" to get on Meet The Press, to become an activist, to get my life-coach game on. I don't need anymore platforms. I am here to see things as clearly as I can, and then name them.
-- Ta-Nehisi Coates writing at The Atlantic, April 2, 2014: "The Blue Period: An Origin Story."

Coates opens his article with a video of Nell Irvin Painter discussing her book The History of White People and moves on to an examination of his own feelings and attempt to understand and reckon with the past and future of racism, of white supremacy.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Devious Maid's Promo with Jason Derulo's Talk Dirty to Me

Here's the Lifetime Channel latest promotional commercial for Devious Maids. It features Jason Derulo's song "Talk Dirty to Me" featuring 2 Chains. I've posted the video for the single below the commercial, and as you might expect, the language in it carries a parental warning. The beat and horns hook the song.

The official video for the song.

I post it for people who, like me, rarely listen to popular and hip hop music stations these days.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Old Friends 4 Sale" Prince & The NPG Rehearsal 2012

I love DrFunkenberry for sharing this, Prince's rehearsal of "Old Friends 4 Sale." I love it for the same reason I love the clip of Marvin Gaye rehearsing "Come Get to This" in that Belgium documentary: How often do we get to overhear music masters at work?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Brittnee Camelle vs. Melissa Jimenez: "Give It to Me Right" from NBC's The Voice

I'm a fan of NBC's The Voice; everybody who visits this blog probably knows that by now. And currently, the show's in the battle rounds stage. Tonight's best battle was Brittnee Camelle vs. Melissa Jimenez performing "Give It to Me Right," Melanie Fiona's song. (Fiona is a Canadian soul singer/songwriter.) The performance was hot as in sexy, and both young women, coached by Usher and the phenomenal Jill Scott, did well. So, well that I'll even excuse Usher for his use of the term "cat fight" when he talked about the battle.

But the best note came from Jill Scott to Brittnee. She told the young singer that as she listened to her with her eyes closed, she heard a story, but when she looked at her perform, all she was attitude, which was a distraction. Brittnee had a lot of chicken neck action going on before Jill gave her that tip. Jill and Usher agreed that vulnerability is a good thing.

So, who do you think won? Usher chose Melissa and Adam stole Brittnee, so both singers move on in the show.

As usual, I show my age when I write about this show. I had not heard "Give It To Me Right' before, so when the song started it threw me. All I heard was "Time of the Season" by the Zombies. That 1968 song was played often on the radio when I was a little girl and even a teen in the 70s. Fiona's song "samples it heavily," as Wikipedia says.

I've posted "Time of the Season" by the Zombies below this paragraph, and below it I've added Melanie Fiona's video for "Give it To Me Right."

Melanie Fiona's version

Thus ends my music lesson for the night.