Sunday, March 04, 2018

What's in this year's Oscars swag bag?

Ah, the legendary "unofficial" Oscars swag bag.  Now that Joan Rivers is gone and the event seems so predictable, what's in the bag interests me way more than the ceremony itself.  A week before the event, Distinctive Assets sends a swag bag to each nominee -- and yes, the host.  All of its contents are 100% donated by the participating companies in the hopes that the rich and famous will use their products.  (Hmph. I don't get the ROI on this one.)

Apparently, there's a lot of stuff in that bag. When it's value ballooned to well over $230,000 in 2016, they stopped flinging those numbers in the air and made pithy statements like it's the giving of the gift that matters.  Actually, it's the product placement that matters. Because ultimately, the actor is a personal brand that has value as a commodity. Ultimately, it's all a marketing ploy.  Lots of people figure out what product to use because their favorite famous person uses it. Or vacations there. Or whatever. What's ironic is that when you make millions of dollars per picture, you can easily afford to pay for all of it yourself. 

They don't need what's in that bag. I do.

I've always wondered what's inside that swag bag.  No, scratch that. I've always wondered what it would be like to get one.  I love acting, I really do. I have no doubt that someday, I'll work a lot. The thing is, I'm not so sure I want to totally commodify myself. And the work that most on camera actors put in to look the way they do need hardly be stressed.  Read more about that here.

Whatever.  I won't believe that I've truly made it -- whatever "making it" is -- until I get gobs of free stuff.

Here's an interesting tidbit: Sandra Oh is the only actor to ever turn down an Oscars swag bag. (Ha.) And yes, they have to pay taxes on this stuff but that shouldn't be a problem when you're loaded.

Check out this list while I get my unbridled greed in check (and on a Sunday, no less!) and feel free to let me know if I've forgotten anything. But first, the highlights!
  1. Twelve nights in Tanzania for two: Single rooms at the Serengeti Migration Camp (one of the top 10 hotels in the world) start at $695 and go up to $1,178. The 12-night stay includes a journey from Arusha to Zanzibar on private air transportation, all private meals, spa services, hot air balloon safari with champagne breakfast, private safari guide and vehicle, chef-guided cooking lessons, wild game drives and walking safaris, horseback riding, and snorkeling.
  2. Golden Door Spa: A week-long stay at this legendary destination spa in San Diego will set you back $8,850.
  3. Healing Saint: A year's supply of products including a luminosity skin serum and a hair follicle stimulant that claims to prevent further hair loss, valued at $2,316 by Business Insider.
  4. Rogue Maple Syrup: This is perhaps the weirdest inclusion in the swag bag, along with sweat-absorbing underarm pads. This high-end syrup costs over $100 for a package that contains multiple small bottles.
  5. Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu: This Hawaiian resort goes for about $330 for a single night in a villa. The six-night stay in a two bedroom villa with an ocean view features the added amenities of an on-site spa and numerous excursions.
  6. Avaton Luxury Villas Resort: Staying at this Grecian island resort would typically cost about $450 per night.
  7. Blush and Whimsy Magical Color Changing Lipstick: This product sets you back $22, but nominees won’t have to shell a dime.
  8. 23 and Me: A health and ancestry kit goes for $199, while just an ancestry kit costs $99.
  9. Lifetime supply of Oxygenating Foundation and Oxygenating Hydro Matrix: The foundation goes for $66 and the hydro matrix goes for $70.
  10. Epifruit: Nominees get a year’s worth of fruit deliveries.
  11. Proven Cosmetics: This brand uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to create personalized skin care products for consumers, which, in this case, are the world’s best actors.
  12. Reian Williams Fine Art: A commissioned original painting is available for all nominees.
  • a commitment from Jarritos iconic Mexican soda to donate a pallet of soft drinks to a charitable event of the nominee’s choice.
  • personal training sessions with celebrity trainer Alexis Seletzky
  • ALLΓ‰L DNA-based skincare
  • BANGARANG Positive Cube
  • Chao Pinhole Gum Rejuvenation
  • Charleston & Harlow candles
  • Chocolatines’ edible 16-piece jewelry box
  • Cook Yourself Happy: The Danish Way cookbook
  • Curlee Girlee children’s empowerment book
  • Dandi Patch amazing underarm sweat patches
  • Delicacies Candy & Confections organic & vegan lollipops
  • D.Thomas Clinic Signature DNA Head-to-Toe Treatments
  • Esther Fairfax Lotte Berk Barre Method private group class
  • Face It makeup remover combo kit
  • Halo, Purely For Pets 10,000 bowl donation + snacks
  • Happiest Tee luxury t-shirts
  • Hydroxycut Organic weight loss supplements
  • Inception of Beauty 10-piece makeup brush set
  • Justice For Vets Challenge Coin
  • Kalliope NYC Phobia Relief Expert
  • Liwu Jewellery inspired by ancient Celtic symbols and Chinese calligraphy
  • Look Fabulous Forever Prime Collection
  • Luxura Diamonds limited edition conflict-free diamond necklace
  • My Magic Mud activated charcoal whitening toothpaste
  • M·Y·O Cosmetic Cases
  • MZ Skin Collagen Eye Mask and Golden Eye Treatment
  • "99 Creative Wows – Words of Wisdom for Business Celebrity" Creativity Kit
  • Non-invasive full face skin rejuvenation from Nurse Gigi
  • No. 9 Daily Chemical Exfoliant from Oumere Skin Care
  • A lifetime supply of Oxygenetix Breathable Foundation and Hydro-Matrix
  • Paiva Aloe Gorgeous! luxury cleanser and mask fusion
  • PepperFace, stylish pepper spray 
  • PETA Bath Bomb (for humans)
  • Posh Pretzels gourmet gift box
  • Quincy Herbals SlimMax Detox Tea
  • Quip beautifully simple electric toothbrush
  • Safi Kilima Tanzanite bolo bracelets
  • Southern Wicked Lemonade all-natural lemonade moonshine
  • The Green Garmento Gigantote
  • TOTALEE hair care products
  • Vaya Tyffyns stainless steel lunchboxes
  • Wetsleeve wearable hydration on-the-go
  • Youth Blast revolutionary anti-aging supplement

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Start The New Year Right -- Register To Vote!

“What one does realize is that when you try to stand up and look the world in the face like you had a right to be here, without knowing that this is the result of it, you have attacked the entire power structure of the Western world.” -- James Baldwin

“Apathy gets you the government we have today.” – Gil Sery

When I was a kid, all the Southern black folk around me took their civic responsibilities very seriously.  Election Day was a solemn moment, one fraught with a reckoning to the past and the full understanding that once upon a time, the simple act of casting your ballot in a local election could get you and perhaps your entire family killed, or at least run out of town on a rail. To vote was to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who couldn't -- and I figured if the powers that be were going to work this hard to keep me from doing something, I should do it.  Voting became synonymous with adulthood.  I would couldn't wait to grow up so I could move to New York City, live in Harlem, live the life of an artist (whatever that meant), and vote. 

So far, so good.  

I can't explain why white women voted for Trump in droves, many of them knowing full well that their vote would have elected Hillary -- and yet they showed up for a record-breaking women's march on Washington, DC the next day. 

I suppose I could blame the electoral college. Still and all, I don't know why half the country didn't bother to vote in the last presidential election. I can't tell you why most people don't vote in mid-term elections. I can tell you this: Way too many people genuinely don't care -- and unfortunately, the first sign of bad nutrition is apathy. 

I can also tell you that 2018 midterm elections will be fire. 

If you want to stick your toe in the water, here's some tasty apps. I'm already at the other side of the pool -- eating clean, running and working on a new song cycle.  It's 2018, folks. #GetYourLife!
  1. Click here to get all the information you need so you can register to vote!

    * General election: November 6, 2018
    * State primary: September 11, 2018
    * Federal primary: June 26, 2018
  2. Voter -- Matchmaking for Politics!
    Answer a few simple questions and find out which politicians truly have your best interests at heart, and have a track record to back it up.

    Because advertising is one thing -- but who your favorite politician really is? That's probably something else.
  3. Countable
    An app that makes it easy to pester your Congress member.

    If you'd like to know what your representative is up to in Congress, you can use this handy app to  find out. And then you can use the app to contact them directly, tell them how you want them to vote on legislation and you can see their voting record -- so if they're half-baked, you can vote them out in the next election cycle. 

Friday, November 03, 2017

Don't Miss This Post-Halloween Drag for the Ages!

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, here's an epic drag straight out of Oklahoma that added years to my life. Enjoy!

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Glorious Schadenfreude of Trumpgrets

After the shock of the election, after the late night phone calls with sobbing confused (white) friends, after the long random conversations in the street with bewildered strangers, after the 50% of Americans who didn't bother to vote woke up and reality sank all the way in, there was a grieving process. Strangely, buyer's remorse was almost immediate.

The strange and abiding schadenfreude of #Trumpgrets -- people who voted for him and regret it -- is a gift that keeps on giving.  I know that there are some who want to take that loving hippie approach and lead his followers gently to (bipartisan) high ground while a few amongst us wouldn't mind dropkicking them into reality somewhere along the way, if that would help the process along.  No need for any of that. His most rabid supporters are beginning to see him for who he really is -- a thin-skinned sociopathic narcissist, a failed businessman, a megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur and a liar of epic proportions. Behold the epic Trumpgrets below and enjoy as much of that sweet sweet schadenfreude as you want, knowing that in spite of whatever the media and that Liar in Chief have to say about it, the tide has definitely turned against him.

And yes, most of these love notes are dated on or before December 2016.


Monday, November 28, 2016

"What Now?" Part 1: Let's Go Shopping!

"There are people who have money and people who are rich." -- Coco Chanel

In this post-election Christmas season of non-stop shopping, Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales and endless pop culture distractions, there are simple effective ways to use your money to make your voice heard politically. Because buying things -- whether you're shopping for a blouse at Lord & Taylor or eating a hamburger at McDonalds -- is a political act.

If you are anti alt-right, anti-white supremacy, anti white nationalism, anti-hate or anti-Trump, here are a few suggestions on how to put your money where your politics are.

1.  #GrabYourWallet

This campaign, initiated by Shannon Coulter and Sue Atencio, has a pretty straightforward missive: If you'd like to hit the Trumps where it hurts them the most, boycott the retailers that carry their merchandise.  Their comprehensive list includes contact information to retailers, so you can call and/or email the reasons why you won't be shopping there.  Because if people won't buy, they won't sell.

Frankly, if I see something I really like at Nordstrom's, I can usually go online and find it someplace else at a fraction of the cost. This ain't the 80s. We have the internet. So there's that.

2.  Donate to anti-hate groups in a hateful person's name.

Are you related to any Trump supporters who vote Republican no matter who's on the ticket? Do you know any bigots? Is your co-worker a racist?  Take a tip from John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight and donate to an anti-hate group in their name.  What a wonderful Christmas present for that uncle that hates gay people or that white supremacist cousin you grew up with that just joined the Klan.

Here's John Oliver's short list:

Planned Parenthood
Center for Reproductive Rights
National Resources Defense Council
International Refugee Assistance Project
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
The Trevor Project
Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

3.   RageDonate

I love this one.  It takes quotes from Trump and matches it with the appropriate charity in a revolving, ever spinning, never-ending roulette of hate speech. With one click, you give $10 and your rage subsides -- until he makes another inflammatory racist remark.

BONUS: Buycott

This is an app that let's you vote with your wallet by scanning barcodes while you shop. With one swipe, you can trace a product's corporate family tree and make a more informed consumer decision. And yes, it's free.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Supermoon Whitelash

Waiting for the supermoon was enough of a minor distraction to pull me out of my post-election doldrums. Then I saw this.

Former Reaganite and Trump anger translator Jeffrey Lord says Democrats started the Klu Klux Klan.  Understanding the truth behind this statement requires much more nuance than a hamfisted shill for Donald Trump is capable of, at least on camera. I followed the breadcrumbs to where this line originated. As usual, I expected nothing and I was completely disappointed.

When Bishop E.W. Jackson -- lawyer, staunch Republican, conservative political pundit, former radio talk show host and ex-marine, amongst other things -- was a nominee for lieutenant governor in Virginia in 2012, he released a video through his organization S.T.A.N.D. (Staying True to America's National Destiny) to push an agenda called Exodus Now

His goal? To convince black people to leave the Democratic party. What motivated all this? The Democrat's support of gay marriage at the 2012 convention.

Bishop Jackson says that Black people should leave the Democratic party because Democrats are the ones who started the KKK. In the wake of this claim, Virginia State Senator Stephen Martin repeated it -- adding that Democrats also created Planned Parenthood. When Senator Martin realized that there is no evidence to support his claim regarding Planned Parenthood (or the Klan), he said he misspoke. By then, the misinformation was out there, parading itself as the truth, and the alt-right was off to the races, embracing this statement as a call to action.

During the most recent election cycle, the ads imploring an ethnic mass exodus from the Democratic party have been nonstop -- from Republicans who declare themselves "the party of Lincoln", no less.  Now, making a statement like "The Democratic party started the Klan!" is the gigantic turdbomb of epic proportions that any neo-con can use to dead-end a political discussion. And no one wants to dismantle it. 

A simple fact check and a brief history lesson proves that this statement is not entirely true.  

Political parties evolve over time.  In the 19th century, they simply didn't exist as we know them today. Instead of identifying everything and everyone as Republican or Democrat, it's much more helpful to see where the shift in white supremacy takes place, and take it from there. Why? Because each party is made up of people who think a certain way and that's what shapes the party's beliefs and defines its platform -- not the name of the party itself.  Over time, the white supremacists, racists and bigots have shifted from one party to another.   That's the American way. 
As a Southerner and an African-American woman that's two generations removed from slavery, the question I ask constantly is this: Which one of you are white supremacists and what party are you affiliated with now? Political parties are not stagnant, fixed, immovable. As white supremacists change directions and affiliations, the parties are redefined. What was liberal is now conservative, and vice versa. 

Yes -- during the 19th century, Democrats were much more racist than Republicans.  Were Klan members Democrats? In all likelihood, yes -- but the Democratic party didn't start the KKK.  Then the Civil Rights Movement happened, polarizing Southern Christians against the Democratic party. When African-Americans gained the right to vote and became Democrats, those white supremacist Southern Christian became Republicans. In this regard, Republicans weren't a force for civil rights. For the Dixie-crats who joined their ranks, they were a refuge from it.  Those KKK Democrats are Republicans now -- and celebrating their win in The White House.

For days after the election, I fielded phone calls and texts and DMs and IMs from friends near and far, offering support, asylum and solid advice.  I got a text from my German sibling in Berlin that made me very happy.  I've chatted with lots of musicians who say they're not working or associating with anyone who voted for Trump.  One friend couldn't stop crying.  Another didn't know what to do about her Republican relatives.  Because Thanksgiving.

No one wants to spend the holidays with parents who voted for a bigoted, racist white supremacist.  No one wants to buy Christmas presents for anyone who put the alt-right in The White House.  No one wants to spend any quality time with someone who refuses to acknowledge that by campaigning on hate and fear, Trump created this climate of
violence and open hostility against people of color, women, the disabled and LGBTQs.  This is what we're left with: everyone getting bullied, even children (it's become a disturbing trend); women getting groped when they least expect it; African-American college students, harassed; and yes, murder.

Like a monkey gleefully flinging it's own excrement, way too many white people are spewing all kinds of racial epithets in every direction and smearing their ignorance all over everything with a fervor that is nothing short of stultifying. A friend in his 50s told me that he didn't recognize his high school friends anymore. He couldn't believe the things they were saying. When I hung up the phone, I remembered that his ex-wife was Jewish. His daughters -- both in college -- were at risk. One of them was in a march somewhere on the west coast and some guy hit her in the head with a rock.

He felt helpless, scared.  "How do you know who the good guys are?" he asked me.  Welcome to my black world, I must have said. Or something like that. And then I laughed.

"But she's my Mom," a gay friend whispered tearfully.

"Does she know who Mike Pence is? Does she realize what she's done?" I said flatly. 

"Yeah," he said weakly.  "She keeps going on about how Trump is going to bring morality back..." And then his voice trailed off.  He's a musical theater performer. His husband is a musician. They've got Obamacare.  They've got a great life. And it's over.

The moon hasn't been this close to the earth since 1948 -- when African-Americans were at the mercy of home-grown terrorism by the Klan (all over the country, not just the South) and the federal government did nothing to stop them.  There'll be other supermoons that will make you press pause and look up and wax poetic, but it won't be this close again until 2034 -- and God only knows what this country will be like when that happens.  We won't be where we were in 1948 -- but where are we going? 

Hopefully, you did something momentous on Sunday night.  (If you didn't, tonight is your night.) MPB and I had a mutton chop at Keen's and ate like it's 1889. Then we went for a walk in the moonlight and this depression rose and floated away from me like smoke. By the time I got home, something had shifted. 

As this new reality sets in and the climate of hate refuses to go away, it'll be interesting to see and hear what your favorite artist has to say about any of this in 2017.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

...that Clinton/Trump double standard, though...

Just when I think, no one is saying it so I'll say it -- somebody says it. Beautifully.  Kudos to this guy for summing up this election cycle so succinctly.

Michelle Bachman says God "raised up" Trump to be the Republican nominee, and I think she's right. Because of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton will be our next president -- and because of the Republican senators and congressmen who care more about the GOP than jobs or healthcare reform or anything else that concerns the rest of us, the Democrats will probably take the Senate and the House.