Thursday, March 29, 2018

Fried Chicken Wednesday: The Roseanne Reboot

Technically, this is a late night snack of leftover chicken since I began writing this piece on Wednesday night...but I fell asleep and now it is Thursday, so maybe we should just call it chicken salad. However, I think you'll see why the metaphor still applies.

I didn't watch the premier episode on Tuesday night when it aired because, as you probably know, I have a two year old and I have no idea when anything airs on television in real time. Which is ironic given my recent annoyance with the idea of a TV streaming service like ROKU, but I digress. I watched the episodes tonight on demand while the Hub put the Toddlersaurus to bed.

The first five minutes were hilarious. Every issue that could be attributed to present-day life for the so-called typical working-class American family found a way to be present and accounted for: from seniors paying for their medication, to the middle aged daughter/caregiver, to the interracial active-duty military family, to the ideological divisiveness of the last election, to the gender-fluid grandchild. All of that was introduced before the first commercial break.

I actually expected the show to go downhill from there, but it found a way to remain funny and clever. The original Becky is scheming to become a surrogate mother for the replacement Becky. Son DJ is a veteran with a black child and a black wife who is deployed somewhere. Aunt Jackie has become the sitcom version of Cindy Sheehan, which is its own ironic twist given Roseanne's apparent road to Damascus/hell conversion from socialist to Trump supporter (in both real life and in her alter ego). Perhaps that actually makes sense in bizarro world, but let's revisit that blurred line later...

The storyline's meat and potatoes center on daughters Darlene and Becky. Darlene is back at home, presumably to care for her aging parents, but that facade quickly unravels, so we can assume that much of the drama will center on her struggles as a single mother with two very interesting children. Becky is attempting to get a fresh restart on life by passing herself off as a viable candidate for surrogacy for an affluent yuppie couple. Of course that is both funny and sad given the real-life tragic death of Glenn Quinn, the actor who portrayed her husband Mark on the original show, which will be addressed later in the series run.

Assuming that everyone forgot about the last "dream" season of Roseanne, life still sucks for the Connor family. And if there was a sitcom family that could be realistically be revived after a twenty year absence then it makes perfect sense to turn to the Connors. Edith and Archie Bunker are dead, and no one would ever believe that Michael Stivic could be anything other than a typical aging hippie. If there was an interest in revisiting the Evans family (and I am shocked to learn that apparently there is), I'm not quite sure how that would work but I guess somebody with more creativity and vision can work on that one.

For a minute I totally lost my train of thought...a Good Times reboot???!!!???

Anyway, the point is that if the goal of this revival was to depict or reflect the concerns of what some people believe is forgotten America, then the most obvious family to do that convincingly is the same sitcom family that assumed that role in the 80s. While there are plenty of other family sitcoms from the same era, none of those shows actually assigned themselves the task of being a reflection of an American ideal, with the most notable exception of The Cosby Show (but we can't talk about that right now).

As for the blurred lines between Roseanne and Roseanne Connor, I can't even begin to wrap my head around that ideological evolution, but now that I have seen the premier and know that it was enough of a hit that the Trumpet called her to offer congratulations...I'm good. I can put this show in the same category as most things on TV, which is I can take it or leave it. I was never was a big fan of the original show anyway. I am not a snob or an elitist, and I consider myself to be open-minded enough, but this won't be must-see for me especially when I know that I am better off making more of an effort to see Blackish or Atlanta.

And here is my final piece of cold chicken--for the record, this show makes the same erroneous assumptions about people's lives that have become so divisive and intractable in real life. We call each other names when we're angry, but when it is time to stop shouting, then we realize our common humanity and capacity for tolerance and empathy. Of course the Connors have both a black and a gender-fluid grandchild because this is America. Of course Jackie can be a retired cop and a life coach and have supported Hillary Clinton because this is America. Of course people are struggling financially, physically, and emotionally (even the yuppie couple that is willing to resort to surrogacy) because this is America. Not just working class, or inner city, or rural, or coastal, or evangelical, or agnostic--we are all American.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Marching For The Children

We marched for the children in New York City on Saturday (because the Hub had an event), so here is a brief retelling of our umm, misadventures in long-distance activism:

Our day started slow because I had some writing to finish and we were distracted by all manner of stuff: the coffee maker that only displayed its instructions in French; this weird ROKU thing on the television; and just being parents to a kid who was really excited about being in a different place (and who insisted on taking two dolls with her, just because). At 11am, right when the Rally was set to start, we were finally about ready to leave, but it was well after noon by the time we even got close to the rallying point. We hailed an Uber/Lyft, hit traffic, got diverted, and had to walk several blocks to West 72nd where we were then directed to walk back uptown to West 86th. This was the essence of our "march" since by the time we got there, the Hub suggested that we needed to pause to get a sense of the crowd. Which lasted exactly ten minutes before the Toddlersaurus began to meltdown due to hunger, so we decided to take a quick lunch break around the corner. Alas, we picked the absolute wrong place--it took nearly 90 minutes for them to serve us a handful of chips and a tablespoon of guacamole as a mea culpa for having us wait another 30 minutes for our order of tacos, wings, and noodles. By the time we made it back to Central Park, this was what we found:

And that idyllic scene is what inspired this mini-piece on the Facebook page that you can read here--a quasi-contemporaneous perspective on the day's events.

Now that I've had a chance to digest some of the news coverage I gleaned from a random ROKU stream and Twitter, I wanted to add my voice to counter the asinine responses of folks who still think this is all part of some vast left-wing conspiracy. Because we already know that some of you love your guns as much as you love your comfort animals (more than actual people)--but blanket snarky assumptions are exactly why this issue is so divisive, so I am going to start by stressing my belief that reasonable people on both sides of this issue can disagree.

And the fact that we disagree does not mean that you don't care about the life of my child or that I don't have respect for your constitutional rights. It means that we have a difference of opinion. So I find it appalling that grown ass adults have taken to social media to ridicule, chide, and attack young people for expressing their views. It is especially offensive that these attacks have followed a typical strain of mean-spirited trolling that is more personal and petty than substantive.

Some of you hate Planned Parenthood with the same vehemence that some of us hate the National Rifle Association. Depending on your political leanings, one of those organizations has nefarious intentions that threaten the sanctity of life. So tell me the difference between the busloads of teenagers that descend on DC every January to March for Life and the gathering last weekend...

How did we get to this place as a country where sympathy is reserved for only certain victims (wait, why am I even asking that question in a #BlackLivesMatter/#MeToo world)? So allow me to rephrase: why are we still thinking and praying about possible solutions when people are vulnerable everywhere--at their church, at an outdoor concert, a gay nightclub, meeting with a Congresswoman, at the movies, at an early morning softball practice, on a military base, at McDonald's, at the playground, walking back from a convenience store, hanging out with friends, after volunteering at a civil rights protest, leaving a speaking engagement, playing the organ at church, standing in the doorway of an apartment building, working late in the studio, standing on a hotel balcony, or in their classrooms hovering in the coat closet. HOW MANY MORE EXAMPLES DO YOU NEED?

I was a congressional staffer when the shooting occurred at Columbine High School. We were in the midst of negotiating a juvenile justice bill, with strong opinions on both sides of how to deal with issues such as sentencing and prevention programs. Then-President Bill Clinton asked Congress to consider gun control legislation as a part of the package of reforms and I learned first-hand about the lobbying power of organizations like the National Rifle Association. I won't demonize them because it was their job to advocate on behalf of their constituency, but I will say that they are a Goliath with bipartisan appeal.

I could be cynical and end this piece with a sigh of despair by reflecting on how my own youthful idealism was dashed 19 years ago when I witnessed those congressional gun control debates after Columbine. I took this picture of my daughter on Saturday, right before we left the scene of the March (and apparently missed seeing Paul McCartney). She is why I will always be willing to zigzag the streets of New York or the halls of Congress or wherever I need to be in order to advocate against gun violence. This country has mourned the loss of too many children to senseless violence that we can prevent by confronting the notion that we dare not control access to the tools of their demise. So I end this with an adorable photo of my Toddlersaurus to remind the world that nothing is more precious than the lives of our children. We march for their lives.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

International Women's Day Series - Nobel Women

We are midway through Women's History Month and today marks the end of the Busy Black Woman series for International Women's Day, which focused on the 48 women who have been awarded Nobel Prizes. This index post is being offered at the end of the series instead of at the beginning, in case you missed any of the posts or tweets that were presented throughout the week on the Busy Black Woman social media platforms.

When I originally thought to create this series, I wanted to honor a group of women whose accomplishments are not very well known. I already followed the Nobel Women's Initiative on Twitter, and was acquainted with the work of several women who had received prizes in Literature and for Peace. However, I was not at all familiar with the women who had received prizes in science or economics except for Marie Curie...which leads to my confession that this effort did not take off with the same enthusiasm as previous series.

Yet, that is the entire point of highlighting the work of each of these accomplished women! Regardless of our interests, careers, and passions, it is inspiring to know that there have been women who can serve as role models for the young Busy Black Women who endeavor to become scientists, physicians, or economists one day. And consistent with the theme for International Women's Day 2018, the #PressforProgress is not only found in activism. (And of course, at the end of this effort, I have a newfound appreciation for the work of women across all fields of endeavor.)

Before you click through the index, I did want to share a few of the insights I gained about the women who are featured. Although I thought it would be a daunting task to profile these 48 women, given my lack of familiarity with so many of them, once the series began and I delved into the research, I learned a great deal (and there is so much more to learn). A few of the early science Laureates were married to their co-recipients, while some of the women acknowledged that they were married to the work itself. No women were awarded Nobel Prizes in any field for the entire decade of the 1950s, and despite an increase in the number of women who have received recognition in the past twenty years, there is still a noticeable gender gap. The first woman of color to win a prize was Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991, after which more women from all over the world begin to receive acknowledgement.

In the #MeToo era, it will be interesting to see how gender impacts future awards. And it would be quite the research project for someone to inquire about how gender impeded past nominees.

In addition to the links provided, there is a biography for each woman included on the Nobel Prize website. Enjoy the rest of Women's History Month!

Introduction - March 8, 2018
United Nations - International Women's Day
Google Doodle - #IWD2018
Gowns Worn by Queen Silvia of Sweden

Prizes for Physics (2) March 9, 2018
Marie Curie (1903)

Prizes for Chemistry (4) March 9, 2018
Marie Curie (1911)

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (1) March 9, 2018

Prizes for Physiology and Medicine (12)  March 10, 2018
Youyou Tu (2015)

Prizes in Literature (14) March 11-12, 2018
Alice Munro (2013)
Nelly Sachs (1966)

Prizes for Peace (16) March 13-14, 2018
Shirin Ebadi (2003)
Aung San Suu Kyi (1991) 
Alva Myrdal (1982)
Mother Teresa (1979)
Jane Addams (1931)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Baby Fever

For the record, and I am serious, I am not interested in having another baby. I am firmly in the one and done camp. Unlike my parents and everyone else who made conscious choices when spacing their kids, I'm good.

But I am a bit nostalgic for that baby I once held in my arms who is now an opinionated toddler who can wriggle away and potentially injure me in the process. A loud and dramatic toddler. A vocal and emotional toddler. A two year old adorable terror who will be three in a month.

As a stay at home mother, I have literally watched this child grow and change every single day of her life. I haven't missed more than a few hours here and there of her development. I was there when she rolled over, when she sat up for the first time, and when she took her first steady steps across a room. I have watched her learn to climb up the stairs and taught her how to slide down each step, one at a time, on her bottom. Now she regularly charges up and down without holding onto the railing, and often laden with toys. Quick flashback: I clearly remember the day I watched in powerless horror when she tumbled down each step at my parents' home--an experience that apparently made no imprint on her as she was gleefully running around the house just fifteen minutes later as if she had just gone down a sliding board at the playground.

I miss my baby girl, but because I have watched her grow before my eyes, I am also ready for her to mature into whatever phase we're supposed to be in at this point. She has mastered the use of the word "no" and she knows when to say "please" with the right amount of fake sincerity. She can sing along with her favorite tunes and knows how to find them on my tablet. (And when I first began work on this piece on an unseasonably warm February afternoon, she was busy squishing ants, which I believe is a childhood rite of passage.)

But missing that baby isn't enough to compel me to take the plunge again. Not at all. Nor is cooing over all the pictures of the adorable little cherubs of my friends and acquaintances that over-populate my FB timeline. So to answer the inquiry posed by so many about the arrival of my next baby...and to emphasize my declaration from the second sentence of this piece, I AM DONE.

For starters, I am 44 years old. God willing, I will be in my 60s by the time this child will be halfway out of the house. Second, I am so over tantrums. I repeat, I AM SO OVER TANTRUMS over the dumb isht that gets her upset. This morning it was about getting dressed. This afternoon it was after we had gone to the bathroom at the Costco. This evening it was because I wouldn't buy her some cheap Minnie Mouse plushie to go with the one she already has. Third, I don't want to tempt fate by assuming that I will have another drama-free pregnancy. Especially since I am convinced the price for that easy pregnancy was the longest and most annoying post-partum recovery (and I'm not entirely sure how much of that was just old age). Finally, I need to reclaim my time. I need to build my empire. I need to be me, and not just the Mom to that child who won't wear her coat in the cold or who likes to collapse in the middle of the floor for no good reason or who likes to dance to any kind of music whenever she has an audience.

I love this child with my whole heart. I think most mothers agree that there is nothing that compares to the love for one's child/ren because there is nothing that prepares you for the way your entire being evolves. Everything changes--from the way you remember your life before to the way that you see your life ahead. And I respect that for many people, they want to multiply those feelings by having several children. Perhaps I would have felt differently a decade ago (and admittedly, I did).

A decade ago, I had a different that never envisioned the roller coaster that I've been riding for the past (nearly) three years. Without her, the life ahead of me didn't promise to be nearly as stimulating. I love children, and once upon a time I saw myself with the American ideal: two children, a dual career couple, healthy and involved grandparents, and a clean house. Sometimes our dreams change. I'm okay with a roof over my head, one occasionally attentive grandparent, the Hub's good government job, and one very spirited headstrong girl whom I hope will take over my empire one day.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Busy Black Women at the Oscars, Take 2

In the first part of this miniseries, we honored the nine African American women who won Oscars, so now just a few hours ahead of the ceremony, we wanted to highlight a few of the nominees (and yes, we are #rootingforeveryoneblack along with a few others):

Mudbound received several nominations, including:
Dee Rees for Best Adapted Screenplay; Mary J. Blige for Best Supporting Actress; and "Mighty River" for Best Original Song, written by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq, and Taura Stinson

Octavia Spencer for Best Supporting Actress, The Shape of Water

This year 40 women were nominated for awards outside of acting, so we're rooting for all of them as well, namely:
Rachel Morrison for Best Cinematography (the first woman nominated in that category)

"Stand for Something" for Best Original Song, written by Diane Warren and Common from Marshall

Lady Bird for Best Picture, and its director Greta Gerwig, for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay

And our Honorable Mentions:
Get Out for Best Picture; its director Jordan Peele for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay; and Daniel Kaluuya for Best Actor

Denzel Washington for Best Actor, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Busy Black Women at the Oscars, Take 1

For Women's History Month and Oscar weekend, we turn our attention to the African American women who have won Academy Awards. This is a miniseries of what will be presented through the Busy Black Woman social media in the hours leading up to the 90th Academy Awards telecast, which will air on Sunday night at 8pm EST.

For the most current list of black Oscar winners (and the primary source for this series), I consulted this article from The Hollywood Reporter. Below is an index of additional links (including Internet Movie Database for actress bios and filmography) that will be posted to Facebook and Twitter #BusyBlkWmwithOscars in case you miss anything:

Hattie McDaniel
Oscar's First Black Winner - The Hollywood Reporter

Irene Cara
"Flashdance...What A Feeling" - YouTube
The Official Irene Cara Website

Whoopi Goldberg
The View -
Five Best Oscar Hosts of All Time - VOGUE

Halle Berry
Introducing Dorothy Dandridge - Golden Globes
Halle Berry on her Oscar Win - Variety

Jennifer Hudson
Burden Down - The Official Jennifer Hudson
"And I'm Telling You" from Dreamgirls - YouTube

Pay Mo'Nique, Netflix - Salon
Hollywood Hunger Games, Take 2 - Busy Black Woman

Octavia Spencer
The Shape of Water - Fox Searchlight Pictures
Octavia Spencer Makes History - Entertainment Weekly

Lupita Nyong'o
From Political Exile to Oscar to Marvel's Black Panther - The Hollywood Reporter
Speaking Out About Harvey Weinstein - New York Times

Viola Davis
You've Got A Friend in Me - Vanity Fair
Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong'o - Broadway World