Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This.



"All I ask is one thing, especially to the young people who watch. Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record it's my least favorite quality; it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen."

His consistent sincerity/gratitude/classiness/passion/goodness makes me feel better about everything. About a job I may not enjoy that much at times, about living paycheck to paycheck and being in tremendous debt, about a growing number of people I used to know well who may have become too cool for me and bombard their Twitter/Facebook with critical and judgmental thoughts. (Although I have been pondering this latter sentiment quite a bit in general recently, in particular, I have been irked by sarcastic comments about Conan and this speech, like the popularity of his demise with NBC on the internet by a bunch of white kids deserves the scorn/sarcasm by another bunch of white kids on the internet, because anything that is popular must be stupid and annoying, leaving little room for there to be any community-wide heart-felt emotion by anybody without ridicule.) Yes, there are places like Haiti that are in ruins, and other places around the world who have been in ruins for decades (Somalia, Afghanistan), as Conan pointed out throughout his entire last week, I might add. That doesn't change the need to work hard and be kind and to have hope about the future, and it doesn't change anyone's need to hear it, because we always need to hear it, over and over.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Cosby Show & Martin Luther King Jr.



I grew up on a steady diet of The Cosby Show and The Golden Girls and have been slowly trying to accumulate all-seasons-on-DVD of both, and have accomplished more so far (thanks to Christmas gifts over the years) of The Cosby Show. Kathy and I have likewise enjoyed some classic episodes over the last few years as we go through the DVD's, such as Vanessa's Bad Grade from Season 2. I love The Cosby Show more than life itself and Vanessa's Bad Grade is why. This is what happens in the episode: Vanessa gets a bad grade and hides it from her parents. Vanessa steals a sweater from Denise, Denise gets mad, Claire and Cliff come in to work it out. And then, COMPLETELY randomly, at the end of the episode everyone walks into the living room to find little Rudy on the couch watching MLK's "I Have A Dream" on TV. Everyone stops what they're doing to watch it, Vanessa and Denise share a meaningful look, and MLK preaches all the way until "FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST, THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, WE ARE FREE AT LAST!," I cry a lot, and then the episode just ends. IT IS SO GOOD. Theo's look of intense concentration is SO GOOD. SO GOOD. MAN I LOVE THE COSBY SHOW. This is the only clip I could find of it on YouTube and it's eight minutes long, so you can skip to about 5:20 to witness the walk into the living room. Unless you haven't watched the Cosby Show in awhile and have forgotten how amazing it is, I would say then watch the full eight minutes in order to remember. Also, in order to get a good glimpse of Denise's really awesome dykey haircut.

Similarly - although not as classic as Vanessa's Bad Grade - I was watching through a bit of Season 3 the other day and watched The March, another AMAZING touching-civil-rights-themed episode. I couldn't find it on YouTube but found the entire episode on some random site which apparently hosts a lot of porn, and touching-civil-rights Cosby Show episodes. Ah, the internet. I also couldn't embed it for some reason, but, if you go to the site and fast forward to 16 minutes or so in, you will find this scene: Both Claire and Cliff's parents are over for dinner and are chillaxing in the living room when Theo comes down to get advice on his history paper about the March on Washington. And OF COURSE, they were all AT the March on Washington, so they all reminisce about it in amazing ways, including lines like, "I still carry a little of that day with me," and then Cliff's dad of course reenacts some lines from MLK's speech, and THEN, Claire's dad says "Remember when we walked back to the bus and someone started singing - " and then he goes on to sing The Battle Hymn of the Freaking Republic - and although for some reason this clip cuts it off at the end, on my DVD he continues singing and all the other adults join in on the GLORY, GLORY HALLELUJAH chorus, while you hear Theo's typewriter as a voiceover as he rewrites his paper and he says, "The March on Washington was a day that changed my family." YOU CANNOT FIND TV LIKE THAT ANYMORE, PEOPLE, NO SIREE.

This post is of course in honor of Martin Luther King, but my Cosby Show love isn't done, so look forward in the future to posts involving dance-and-lipsynch-routines-on-the-stairs, jazz, Stevie Wonder, Bud, and when Theo enters the "real world."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jacqueline Woodson.

Being that it is my mission in life/future career choice to promote children's & young adult literature, I feel like I should use this space to document notable authors/books, since really I believe it is important for everyone, not just children, to read them. And, I like them, a lot, so there you have it. Now that that unnecessary disclaimer is over with, let's get on to that hottie, Jacqueline Woodson. She has written a whole bunch of novels concerning African American characters, and all of them are good. Well, I've only read three of them, but those three have been good. One of them is Feathers, which was awarded a Newbery honor in 2008, and which I liked but wasn't as strongly affected by as the other two: Locomotion and After Tupac & D Foster.

Locomotion is a novel-written-through-poems, a genre which is actually quite popular in J/Y books these days. I quite enjoy this form - when it's done well - and I LOVE Locomotion. It tells the story of a kid surviving foster care after a fire burned his house and killed his parents. I know, uplifting. Kids books always deal with shockingly disturbing issues, or, rather, the ones I like do. Dealing with his personal pain and issues of being a young black male resonate through his increasingly well made poems.

(from Mama)
No, I say to the cosmetics lady. It's not the right one.
And then I leave fast
Before somebody asks to check my pockets
which are always empty 'cause I don't steal.

(from Failing)
You say 1+1=2 and I go why?
You say just cause
like just 'cause somebody said it means it's the truth
And since I don't believe the things people say is
always the truth
'cause
sometimes people lie
it's hard to understand math.

I just finished After Tupac & D Foster and man oh man did I love it. It deals with the life of three girls in Queens during the Tupac era of the 90s. Everything about this novel was just beautiful: the girls and their friendship, their love of Tupac & all he symbolized to them, what it meant to grow up black in Queens in the 90s. I love the excerpt from the very first chapter which is reprinted on the back cover: D Foster showed up a few months before Tupac got shot that first time and left us the summer before he died. By the time her mama came and got her and she took one last walk on out of our lives, I felt like we'd grown up and grown old and lived a hundred lives in those few years we knew her. But we hadn't really. We'd just gone from being eleven to being thirteen. Three the Hard Way. In the end, it was just me and Neeka again. Woodson is also gay, and while I haven't read any novels of hers where gay issues are the central point of the novel, in this novel Neeka's older brother Tash is a "queen," and the issues of being gay and black are particularly unique and interesting to me, and I love the way she writes it. Tash had been a sissy from day one and most people just accepted it. Sometimes when the rappers started going on and on about how much they hated homos, me and Neeka would turn the TV off. We didn't really talk about why--just both of us knew that crap was hard on the ear when the homos they were hating on was your own family. This novel in general is kind of a quiet one, there aren't any huge, crazy plot twists & turns, but it's smart, funny, and sad, and that combination is usually my absolute favorite.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Haagen Daz Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream.

What goes better together than chocolate and peanut butter? Yeah that's right, NOTHING. Who does chocolate and peanut butter together the best? HAAGEN DAZ. Words cannot express how much I love this ice cream, but I am going to try by telling you that when I consider how much of it I have consumed in the last two years or so I am probably 20% Haagen Daz Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream, 80% blood and organs and bones and stuff. Haagen Daz Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream is probably the closest I have ever come to being addicted to something, and I'm not joking. I used to eat it so often - and when I say 'eat' I mean consume the entire carton in one sitting - that I would get really intense cravings for it that would force my body to get in the car and go down the street to 7-11 and buy it. I am trying to be better about it because I don't want to die of chocolate peanut butter congested arteries when I am 30. So I am thinking about trying to limit myself to one carton a month. I have also made myself consume only about 1/2 to 2/3 of a carton in one sitting, while consuming the rest the next day. Maybe by 2011 I will have enough self control to only have it once every other month, and stretch its life in my freezer to THREE days. They say the first step is to admit you have a problem. But it's worth it. Oh man is it worth it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Multnomah County Library.

Here is a story about the BPL (Boston Public Library): It was a big, fancy building, right on Copley Square! Sometimes when doing research for papers and projects at Emerson, I decided to branch out and try to use it! So I walked in, found a computer, typed in what I might need. It tells me this record is "lost." Or it tells me where this book/artifact may be, but I wander around for awhile, can't find it, and instead of asking for help just feel intimidated by everything and walk out. End scene. Repeat every single time I ever tried to go to the library. I have also admired the outside of the New York Public Library, which I'm sure purports itself to be the best public library around, but I feel like I'd probably have the same overwhelmed feeling if I ever went inside in order to actually find something, and not just admire the architecture. Don't get me wrong, I obviously love all libraries, but I'm just sayin', I think Multnomah County Library is da best.

I cannot tell you how many times I have used the library since I moved here, to check out books for fun but mainly to help with school. In particular I have used the Central branch downtown a heck of a bunch and although it's beautiful, I've never felt that panicky-I-should-just-leave feeling. I've asked a bunch of librarians a bunch of questions and they've always been super helpful. Today I even had to go into the rare-collections room where I had to fill out paperwork and such just to touch a book, and I didn't even feel intimidated there! There are a few other awesome things about Central: One, since Beverly Cleary is from Oregon and pretty much the best author-celebrity we've got, the children's literature room is named after her, and inside this room there is a huge metal tree sculpture thing with its branches hanging over the reference desk, and with kids and books and animals and an assortment of things carved into its trunk, and I swear I took a picture of it once but for now you can just trust me that it's great. Two, the steps leading from the first floor to the second, which are made out of some grand black stone/marble and are also carved with a variety of whimsical, pretty things.

Stealing facts from their website, they are also the oldest public library west of the Mississippi, and "among U.S. libraries serving fewer than 1 million residents, Multnomah County Library ranks No. 1 in annual circulation of books and other materials." They also have about a gazillion good programs for the community, as all libraries should. Also, they give me a lot of free stuff (mugs, tshirts, etc) for volunteering, and free stuff is awesome. In conclusion, I love this place.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Jiffy Lube #1006, Powell Blvd

Yeah, that's right, my first post of 2010 is about Jiffy Lube. But listen, our local Jiffy Lube is awesome, or rather, the people who work there are. Especially Ramon! Oh man, do we love Ramon. Just believe me when I say he is amazing. In general going there is always a satisfying customer experience: the workers are jolly and seem to genuinely enjoy their jobs (somehow), they all work well together, and they never treat us like we are young women who know practically nothing about cars (which we are) or pressure us too much to buy services we don't want.

One of the reasons Portland has become dear to my heart is the sense of community I feel, and I am increasingly interested in the idea of community in general. It's a city and so can't compete with the sense of community of my tiny hometown, but is much greater than I ever experienced in Boston. I have a local physician, dentist, and eye doctor in Portland (all of whom I love), I support local restaurants, bars, and coffee shops and often recognize the workers in them, customers from Kathy's work recognize her and wave hello to us when we are walking our dog, we really love our vet, I often read stories in The Oregonian about places we have been to or people I recognize, and I love the guys at our Jiffy Lube. These are all small things, but as someone who has lived here for a relatively short amount of time they make me feel like I have connections to my neighborhood, my town, short but comforting roots, and I like them.