Sunday, June 26, 2011

Today's Sermon

click here for an mp3 of today's sermon stop running from your fears from pastor carter conlon of times square church. enjoy and be blessed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

forks over knives

The feature film Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.

i'm looking forward to seeing this one.

the business of food is such a powerful hydra-headed corporate behemoth nowadays that i never really believed that a film like this -- one that breaks down some essential problems with the way we eat as a culture -- could be widely marketed and distributed. (remember when the beef industry tried to unhinge oprah because of a show she did on mad cow disease?) i thought this was the land of the free, especially when it comes to free speech. but of course that's not the case. the powers that be are attempting to shift things so that you can't make disparaging remarks about their food products.

still and all, there seems to be a genuine shift towards wholesome, organic, healthful choices. if the food industry doesn't change, they will eventually be left behind.

because of the economic downturn, people are shopping at farmer's markets, maintaining their own gardens and generally eating their vegetables. it's not widespread, by any means. everyone is still raiding the dollar menu at mcdonalds and wendys here in the ghetto -- but even they're offering salad as an option.

if i could grow a garden in my harlem apartment, i would do it.

and although i think that organic fast food is oxymoronic, it's a rising trend whose time has come. i think that healthful options have to be taught and encouraged. while that's taking root, you may as well have something shockingly good for you at the local drive through.

like food inc and king corn, this film could shake things up.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


only one more week to go until my big day. today's somewhat uneventful birthday present is a massive donation to the salvation army. anything to edit my closets and clear out that pesky junk room...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

the latest "top ten" list - stuff i'm addicted to lately

these are a few of my favorite things that i'm obsessing over lately -- aside from boxing, well-researched (auto)biographies and pie crust, of course. and yeah, none of this is in any particular order. enjoy!
  1. bangable dudes from history: dead man porn for your still beating heart - girlie website the frisky has a feature called nerd girl porn that's interesting, cool and smart. i especially like the way they rethink historical figures and pop icons by sexualizing them and putting them in the now. it makes them more human. more real. and there's something erotic about looking such a familiar face in the eye as they stare down the camera. i love to read about the past, so bangable dudes from history (which i found via nerd girl porn -- and yes they feature both men and women, by the way) had me at the first sepia portrait. throw in a snarky color coded pie chart and i'm an instant fan. anything that can make someone like karl marx come alive in a totally unexpected way can't be all bad.
  2. 1930s day dresses - i think diane von furstenberg is right. if you want to feel like a woman, wear a dress. when women's clothing began to accommodate their busy day-to-day lives and around-the-clock glamour was no longer deemed necessary or practical, this is the kind of dress they wore: feminine, understated and just flat-out lovely. i'm starting to collect them.
  3. chococat - believe it or not, this is hello kitty's black friend. i'll be rocking this for awhile -- and springing it on my black grrlfriends whenever i can find any. apparently, its not easy to find.
  4. new! neutrogena ultra sheer body mist sunblock - this is a miracle in a spray can. imagine: no more smearing sun block in over my lotion before i run out of the house. with this, i can spray and go. i can even reapply it during the day the way i'm supposed to, for optimum results. it's waterproof, sweatproof, won't clog my pores, ultra light, not oily or greasy and i can wear it on my face. oh -- and it's cheap. i practically jumped up and down when i found it in the drug store. yippee!
  5. uptown soap company - i love these products. my personal favorite scent? black honey.
  6. tend skin - this is a miracle in a bottle. well. more like asprin in a bottle. the bottom line is that if you're going to shave, ladies, this is the stuff to use to make sure you don't get ingrown hairs.
  7. the hayman's tea cocktail at 67 orange - no, i don't like gin. but knowing the queen of england is highly partial to the stuff makes me wish i did. this is the perfect summer cocktail - made with earl grey tea, lemon and honey, no less! (and elderflower liquor.) *sigh* with all that going on, i can hardly taste the gin...
  8. kiehl's superbly restorative argan dry oil - i love shea butter - i wrote about this recently - but this dry oil takes the cake. i'd use it all the time, if i could afford it.
  9. adivasi masala chai - now that i've found this chai tea, i can't have the chai soy latte anyplace else except the mud cafe in the lower east side.
  10. clean plates - it's the way i eat out in gotham these days. what's great is that they've probably got your city covered, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

why can't i do a push up yet?

i am struggling with push ups in my boxing sessions. i'm pushing myself off of the ground with everything in me and it's just not enough. my arms shake like i'm palsied. we do so many that after a certain point, all i can do is hold myself in a plank position and wait for the next phase. it's embarassing. i'm sick of myself and how puny i am. whenever i push my body to do more, it turns on me in a way that feels deliberate and calculated. it's as though its telling me, leave me and this extra chub on your backside alone! with every day, every meal, every work out, my body and i are slugging it out. it's fighting me for every freaking pound. i am not lying.

watching the first lady do push ups with desmond tutu was nothing short of breathtaking. that was all the motivation i needed to push against the floor as hard as i have to, a little bit more every day, to make it happen.

i do girl push ups - yes, they're modified push ups but no one calls them that (and yes, "girl push ups is an incredibly sexist name for them) - and today for the first time, i did them comfortably and easily, without feeling that tremble rise up and overwhelm my arms. that's probably because i started lifting weights on my arms and upper body a little while ago. weightlifting works.

here's the correct way to do them.

here's the right way to do what most people refer to as "normal" push ups. (they call them "military" too.) you may not be able to do them after watching this, but at least your form will be correct.

am i impatient? absolutely. but then again, when does anything move fast enough for me? am i having fun? you bet. i like the idea of learning something useful, not just working out and bouncing all over the room to break a sweat and lose a calorie.

ultimately, i want to condition and spar on a regular basis. i figure i'm at least 6 months away from attempting that. i know that i've found the thing that will keep tweaking me physically for the rest of my life.

i have to be able to make it through two hardcore boxing sessions a day - push ups and all - with serious mileage afterwards to believe that i can make it through a few hours with monty negro.

Monday, June 20, 2011


back in the saddle again after a weekend of running around in philly -- which really is more fun when you sleep over. still thinking about that wonderful king sized bed i slept in at the westin. and of course they have a store! if i could have a bed like that, i'd probably turn into marcel proust and hardly ever get out of it. suprisingly, "pulling a proust" requires a lot more effort than you'd think. and yet, i can remember when i did it so often, i looked forward to disappearing from the world.

i'm up to my neck in boxing sessions, auditions, and rewrites oh my! lifting weights and running every other day, hoping to improve on my lousy bent leg girlie push ups and learn how to work that speed bag. at least i don't have to struggle to keep my gloves up anymore. now that's progress.

working on a new idea for the pie contest at the roaring 20s jazz age lawn party on this saturday that's exciting me a great deal. oh, that reminds me: the ultra-cute kit pie contest in a box -- and yes, my pie recipe and i are in there! -- is available everywhere as of june 28. here's what the box looks like!

this clever little box and the fact that i've made all my deadlines and submitted my librettos and manuscripts to the proper channels in the past few weeks makes me feel like a millionaire.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

black music month video #6 - young mc!

happy juneteenth, everyone! if i were in texas, i'd be singing and dancing to some old school hits in someone's backyard right about now -- and this song would definitely be one of them.

remember this? bust a move by young mc -- still a summertime anthem in my neck of the woods. there's something that's still so infectiously catchy about this little ditty. and i love the look and feel of the video. it's so exuberant and fun and "up". was it the guitar riff that made it so playable on rock stations? who knows...

i especially like it that he wrote the lyrics in his dorm room at usc in 90 minutes. a first draft. boom, just like that. totally makes sense that he was at the songwriting helm for tone-loc's wild thing as well as funky cold medina. all three songs have the same vibe.

young mc was quite young then. he had just finished this song and video, and a ba from usc in economics. his parents made him promise that if nothing happened after a summer spent promoting his album, he'd go to graduate school. boy, did that go up in smoke with a quickness. he even got a grammy for best rap performance.

hm. i wonder if public enemy has a grammy? (makes you wonder what a grammy is worth, doesn't it.)

everyone still plays this song relentlessly. here's hoping young mc owns his publishing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

philly comic con, tony atlas and how to fight like a girl

played hooky from my life yet again today and skipped off to be with my permanent boyfriend at the philly comic con -- a minor epicenter of sorts for freaks, geeks, nerds, gamers, trolls, stans, lolitas and other assorted socially inept wierdos. attending these events for his company -- booth display and all -- is a part of what he does so well. it's the same comic cons every year. after awhile, all of it swirls into one huge geek prom, replete with costumes, festooned with comic book seller's banners, layered with overpriced greasy food galore. sometimes i come with him, sometimes i don't. this time around, i wanted to get out of the city, make a last ditch effort to find some civilized way to howl at the moon before spring officially ended and sprung me into another season that i wasn't heavily anticipating.

i wasn't giddy about leaving town. don't get me wrong. one night in philly is exciting stuff. the food is fantastic. the museums are incredible. its ultra family friendly. the downtown area is accessible and walkable in an uncomplicated way that sort of hearkens back to another era, the way i can trip down the sidewalk and look down a side street paved in cobblestones and see perfectly preserved row houses. the old and the new are juxtaposed against each other so comfortably. and the vibe is grounded and soulful. i get a sense of history all around me, and i LOVE any city that embraces that.

apropos of nothing, mpb asked me if i wanted to move to philly as we were walking through the downtown area to dinner, just like that. it's easy to see us living here. not that we would, but that's just how cool this place is.

the night before i was to arrive, mpb told me that tony atlas was at the comic con. there were a slew of blaksploitation folk there, too. richard roundtree. pam grier. oh, and vivica fox! but they were all eclipsed by tony atlas. was he really there? i think i started yelling into the phone.

tony atlas was a huge part of my childhood. when i was a kid, my whole family would sit around and watch wwf wrestling matches, gleefully yelling at the tv screen and carrying on. i can remember daddy roaring at the screen when tony atlas came into the ring, because it was understood he was going to wreck the place. all those tag team matches were crazy! i can distinctly recall him wiping the floor -- quite literally -- with hulk hogan.

at that time in the state of georgia, mr. atlas dominated the sport, unquestionably. he had been mr. usa and was a bona fide strong man before he became a professional wrestler. now that i think about it, it was a really big deal that a black man was conquering the sport the way that he did. but in the moment, i wasn't thinking about any of that. all i could really think (besides wow, i hope he doesn't kill that guy) was, he's so astonishingly beautiful, i can hardly look at him.

. really, that's the only word that can truly describe him -- then and now. just so you can get an idea of what i was seeing as a kid, take a look at these videos.

here's hulk hogan starting a feud with tony atlas as he does a few poses for the crowd. (when hulk called tony atlas "boy", i was ready to put my foot through the tv!)

and here's a big fight they had at madison square garden.

needless to say, i wanted to be just like tony atlas when i grew up. strong. physically powerful. fearless. inexhaustable. relentless. aggressive. i quite liked the idea of physically running someone down and beating the snot out of them, and not going to prison for it. i honestly believed that fighting really did solve everything. actually, i still do. it's just that nowadays, i let God do my fighting for me. but i digress...

it didn't dawn on me that i couldn't have any of those abilities because i was a girl. i honestly didn't think that any of those things were exclusively male. estrogen? testosterone? meh. i figured it was mine if i wanted it when i grew up -- like everything else i could think of. the only thing that was holding me back as far as i could tell was bedtime. that, and my parents -- constantly telling me what to do.


so anyway, yeah. tony atlas.

when i got to the convention center, i was absolutely giddy. i wandered around until i found him, sitting at a booth. for a fee (which i was more than happy to fork over), he autographed a photo of himself as i remembered him, and we took a picture together. we had a nice little chat. and then i floated back to my hotel room because for some strange reason, i couldn't sleep a wink the night before. later when i examined the picture, i couldn't believe how big his arms were. don't i look blissed out?

not bad for a 67 year old.

i skipped back to mpb's booth and blurted, tony atlas called me sugar! needless to say, mpb thought that was hilarious.

what did we talk about? how gender is irrelevant when it comes to fighting. there's no such thing as fighting like a girl. fighting is technique. either you know how to fight or you don't. how strong black women are. how they had to be strong for themselves and for their children, because in some instances, black men were absent. how strong his mother was and how she knew how to fight, for all of them.

i wanted to get some of that on video, but when i came back the next day, he'd already left. dejected, i went to the eastern state penitentiary and wandered around amongst decay and ruin and ghosts.

mr. atlas has an autobiography out called atlas: too much, too soon on crowbar press. clearly, a must read. God only knows what happened to him...

Friday, June 17, 2011

the latest (food) epiphany

i've figured it out. sort of.

if i want a lean, strong, healthy body, i have to physically exhaust myself -- i mean, take my body to the absolute limit -- for a few hours every day. oh, yeah. and i have to not eat or drink garbage, cut the carbs drastically and stop eating at night. whether i do or don't do those things, i can see the results immediately.

the problem is that new york city is one big eatfest, with tons of street food options, from exotic food trucks of every ilk to hot dog stands to fresh fruit and vegetable vendors, with better bargains than grocery stores. (quite a few of them are 24 hours.) it's like gotham was designed for non-stop noshing. frankly, impulse eating is an urge that i haven't conquered entirely. although i must say that when its hot outside, the last thing i want to do is eat anything -- so at least the weather is working in my favor.

getting there is hard but i know that maintaining what i'm fighting for will be the real struggle.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

hitting that wall

i went to a bootcamp class yesterday at noon. i did it on a dare, sort of. a dare and a handshake. m, the person in question, held up his end of the bargain, so seeing as how i've grown into being a man of my word these days (finally!), i showed up. i wasn't looking forward to it. boot camp sounds like something impossible will be asked of me physically. but he'd lost weight in the weeks since i'd seen him and he blamed it on boot camp so out of curiousity, i went.

the class was crowded with all types and filled to the brim with enthusiasm and dread. and one of the mommies was there. (and she'd lost weight, too.) i was genuinely surprised to see this much of a horde on a wednesday in the middle of the day, but stranger things have been known to happen. i threw myself into every move. while i was doing each one, i remember thinking, this isn't so bad. at least i didn't feel like my chest was about to cave in, a la gennaro's boxing class. when i woke up the next day, i could hardly move -- so of course, i went to that aforementioned boxing session. because i want progress. because i missed it. but mostly because the only cure that i know of for that level of soreness is a solid workout.

and then comes the blind fury, when i'm swinging my arms and doing those combinations and my arms are trembling under the weight of me with every push up, like i'm palsied. at least my midsection isn't doing that anymore. progress.

towards the end of class after negro wore me out with mitts and the room was clearing out, this dark haired girl looks at me and goes, you aren't sweating enough. she looked like someone had hosed her down, and she was beet-red in the face.

you look like i feel, i said.

it's not that you aren't sweating, she went on. you have this overall sheen going, and she waved her hand in my general direction and said, but it's not really sweat.

i'm glistening, i mumbled. that's what i do.

once i explained my boot camp handicap, we introduced ourselves. whaddya know -- her name is zoe (i have a niece named zoe!) and she's a musical theater performer (non-union) and a 20-something nyu graduate. we talked shop, had this running commentary going as negro and j were boxing that was hilarious and totally sexist and over the top and then we hit the showers.

she's got a non-union gig in new hamster, so she'll be gone for awhile. but she'll be in boot camp next week. and so will m. i liked it enough to go back. i'm sorry it took a dare to get me to do it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

black music month video #5 - ice cube and tupac!

there's a lot of birthdays out there today amongst the rich and famous and especially the infamous -- but wouldn't it be interesting to have these folks stuck together in a room for a few hours? seriously, what on earth would they talk about?
  1. Neil Patrick Harris
  2. Waylon Jennings
  3. Harry Nilsson
  4. Courteney Cox, actress
  5. Jake Busey, Gary Busey's son
  6. Lash LaRue, western actor
  7. Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York
  8. Andy Pettitte, Houston Astros pitcher
two names that aren't on this list are featured in this video in a live performance. i would have to have my black card revoked if i didn't say happy birthday to ice cube and tupac shakur.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

i hit like a girl

i did two boxing sessions today. i've been away from all of that for awhile, so it was no easy feat.

after the first one, i felt a twinge of the overall ache that would definitely overtake me the next day. i realized that i had pushed myself harder than usual, probably because i'd been gone for awhile, and somewhere inside the excitement i felt upon returning, there seemed to be an abundance of adrenaline whipping through me. more than usual. but there was something more. my stance was cleaner. my technique was in place. i wasn't fast but i was solid. i put my body into every swing. even though i hadn't touched those gloves in forever, everything somehow fell into place when i did.

in the second one, i was hitting so hard and clean that the instructor george accused me of cheating on him with some other instructor.

wow. maybe i'm getting good at this.

at one point, as i was slamming my fist into my instructor's mitt repeatedly with rear upper cuts, i asked him if i hit as hard as a guy. without hesitating, he said yes. but what does that mean? there are way too many guys in the room who don't know how to throw a punch -- or take one. i want to be a hard charger and at the end of the day, that's beyond gender. maybe that's the real reason why i love this sport.

i wish i could remember how long i've been going at this, with this focus and intensity.

tomorrow at noon, it's an hour of a workout session called boot camp and then later in the evening, i'll see the one i call negro.

Monday, June 13, 2011

mental health day

i'm going to take the day off to recover from all that eating and wandering around that happened in vermont. the great news is, i'm working on a new song cycle, i made headway with one of my newer ideas and i got a lot of writing done.

yikes! my birthday is almost here! i have no idea what i'll do to celebrate. probably go to a korean day spa all day and graze. oh, wait. i should do that the day before, and meet up with everyone the following evening. (ah...i LOVE it when a plan comes together...)

the (mostly intangible) presents that i've given myself every day have been full of joy. mostly, they've let to quiet, soul searching moments that have given me a fresh perspective, a lot of insight and closure -- and in the end, i realized that i'd emotionally outgrown so much of what i was wading through. ultimately, the only real choice was to forgive and let go and move on.

as half the year is about to come to a screeching halt, i'm making myself three promises:
  1. to have a drunken tea party at our place -- sooner rather than later
  2. to spar in the ring on a regular basis before the end of the summer
  3. to give myself a beauty day once a week (at least)
oh. and more pictures!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

parting shots, part one

vermont is lush green mountains, wide open spaces with pastoral settings, diners and eateries and tea houses and antique shops clustered around sweetly antiquated town squares and farming communities. even when it wouldn't stop raining, it was beautiful. all that green, with big red barns trimmed in white, like something out of a picture book, and black and white dairy cows wandering around like lost children, nibbling on grass absentmindedly and counting the cars as they drifted by.

there were moments when it felt as though we were driving through a cloud -- so high up, with our ears popping, losing the radio station and then suddenly getting it back. it can certainly be posh, in a very old money new england way. victorian houses sit against the road like something out of an ancient pop-up book, some of them in rampant squalor and disarray, some grand. all of them, breathtaking -- especially the ones that were on the verge of falling apart.

charleston, sc has that same undertone of starchy tea-sipping english civility that cloaks new england like a well-worn hand-stitched quilt. i recognized it instinctively. there were moments when my nose twitched at the familiarity of it. the element that's missing is a distinctly african one. honestly, charleston feels as haunted as new orleans. but then again, i suppose any old town has it's very own creep factor. oh -- and charleston has the sun's constant presence pressing down on you, year 'round. vermont can get as cold as alaska. it's the chill that kills.

you can stay in a former dignitary's palatial jewelbox of a home, lovingly restored and converted into a hotel, like this one. still and all, bed and breakfast options abound.

but then it started to rain.


(so perfect for nana!)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

uptown saturday (film) night - "monsieur hire"

"The one you love and the one who loves you are never, ever the same person." - Chuck Palahniuk

if it's saturday night. that means if i don't have a gig -- or something else that's going to drag me out of the house -- i'm at home watching something interesting on netflix. although this saturday finds me out of town, that will hardly stop my fun. (i did look for a drive-in in the area to surprise my permanent boyfriend, but things are pretty soggy around here so that's out.)

my taste in film is running sideways lately. here's a "top ten" taste of what i'm into, so far this year. have you seen any of these?
  1. a somewhat gentle man
  2. ratcatcher
  3. diary of a nyphomaniac
  4. for a lost soldier
  5. mother
  6. ip man
  7. revolver
  8. lo
  9. micmacs
  10. the girl who kicked the hornet's nest
be warned: these are mostly independent, foreign, cerebral and bent. apparently, i have a driving need to be intrigued. if you don't, look elsewhere.

i'd like to believe that i'm beginning to think visually. that is, i want visuals that tell the story -- not words. i'd also like to believe that i'm gaining a better understanding the inner workings of all the elements that make a movie come alive.

i wish carrie could answer my stupid questions about mise-en-scene or sound choices or camera angles. i really do.

monsieur hire is what i saw tonight.

i refuse to give this film away plotwise but i will say this: this movie is a love story that is so achingly beautiful in such a hopeless way, it's nothing short of cringe-worthy. the romance that unravels so carefully inside of it all epitomizes the aforementioned chuck palahniuk quote. the thing that i clutched to my chest in the more harrowing moments as i got lost in the action was that when you really love someone, when that love is real, you don't care if they love you back. real love doesn't have to be reciprocated. it just is, whether the other person accepts it or not. and what's more, the love you have for them has the capacity to sustain you, in spite of whatever they say or do.

if you want to see what i mean, you'll have to watch the movie.

Friday, June 10, 2011

mini vacay

i'm skipping town for the weekend with my permanent boyfriend. (yay!) we are going to disappear into the lush green mountains, skip down memory lane, write stream of consciously, nosh endlessly and oversleep happily. i should have some colorful and interesting things for you to see and hear soon enough.

happy spring!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

black music month video #4 - la josephine!

for some, a singer is a singer is a singer. she is there to be seen and not heard, for the most part. at the very least, the physical aspect of who she is can be ingested and thrown into the equation of her assessment as a vocalist well before her talent is called into question. for all intents and purposes, she is whatever they think of as pretty. and pretty, as any female on the planet will tell you, is its own currency. pretty matters. a lot. sometimes, it matters too much. or rather, a certain kind of pretty matters too much -- one that is virtually unattainable. but i digress.

how heavily all of this weighs on the singer in question depends on which genre you embrace. jazz, it seems, requires a certain level of musicianship -- like ella fitzgerald, obviously. blues demands a powerhouse, a la koko taylor. and although what you look like is important all the way across the board, when it comes to producer-driven pop and r&b, what you look like is way more important than what you sound like, which is why a lot of those singers are visually primed and sonically irrelevant. when they can sing and not just warble with a lot of electronic assistance, they usually sing at you -- not to you.

ah, but these are the video ready times we live in. as you consider the latest offering from your favorite multi-hit wonder, its important to remember that once upon a time, not too long ago, live music was everywhere -- supper clubs, cabarets, breakfast sets, big bands, after hours combos, church gatherings, parlor dances, tea socials, juke joints, road houses, speakeasies. every venue seemed to demand a different kind of singer. a supper club appearance required a floor show -- something that eartha kitt could fill easily. a cabaret act? give dianne carroll a call.

interestingly, there were song stylists everywhere -- those singers whose outfits and presentation and arrangements were paramount. their performance level was incredibly individualistic, highly personalized and intimate. what they did onstage seemed effortless. a song stylist has to be able to do it all.

case in point? everyone considers nancy wilson -- who sings blues, jazz, cabaret and pop, and who had her own variety tv series back in the day -- to be a jazz vocalist but she calls herself a song stylist.

for me, josephine baker epitomizes this in all the right ways. for those of you who don't know, the performance in this video is how should be done.

here she is, la baker, way past her prime supposedly -- and yet she shines. she is old -- she is of the age that is dismissed, that is ridiculed, that is ignored by society. and yet she is slim and shapely and shimmering and elegant and beautiful. mesmerizing, really. she is singing to you and she is using everything she's got -- not just her voice but her all -- to give you this song.

of course, it helps that she has an endless supply of that indefinable thing called charisma but who would seriously think to get onstage professionally without any of that?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Short Film of the Day: Late Bloomer

who doesn't have time for a short film?

this funny little lovecraftian gem of a 7th grade sex ed class gone horribly wrong was an official selection of the sundance fim festival in 2005. although i especially like the way the vagina on the blackboard turns into a throbbing monster, that voiceover is what makes this such a fun ride. enjoy!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

shea butter, revisited

one of my birthday presents to myself this weekend was a container of 100% raw shea butter. it comes in yellow or white slabs (kind of like butter) and it has a slightly nutty scent. you can sit it on the shelf forever because thankfully it never goes bad. i got it on the street in the heart of harlem for five bucks from a west african in a suit. yeah, he was working it hard. and he had lots of other things, too -- and i'll get to them in a later post -- but that shea butter was all i needed for the moment.

basically, i'm really frustrated with a lot of the beauty products floating around out there for my skin -- especially the ones that are supposedly designed for me as a black woman. when i do find something i like, it's so expensive that i don't feel right about purchasing it on a regular basis. on the other hand, when it comes to my face -- cleansers, moisturizers, anti-aging creams, a good astringent -- i'll make whatever sacrifice i have to, for a clear, even complexion. for the moment, my face is taken care of. i have a facialist, i have an eyebrowist and i'm hooked on murad products. the rest of my body could use a little help.

right about now, the body shop and bath and body works are launching their summer sales, with deep discounts that make their body butters pretty tempting. but they still fall short. my solution? i take what they've got and fortify it with my own ingredients, thus creating something totally new and uniquely mine. it allows me to stretch the use of the lotion and give my skin the boost that the manufacturer never really considered.

it starts with an empty container. an empty body butter tub works very well, for example. i used an empty shea cashmere jar. i put in two parts of a heavily scented lotion -- this one is tahiti sweetie, filled with monoi oil -- and two parts shea butter that i carefully melted in the microwave. i stirred that up with a spoon until it reached a smoothness and consistency i recognized. and then i put in one part arygan oil and stirred that up, readjusting with more scented lotion until the jar was full. the litmus test? when i tried it, my skin drank it in and now it's softer than ever.

the bad news is, i won't be able to replicate the scent of the lotion accurately -- unless i use some of those oils that the africans sell. but that's okay. having healthy, clear, ultra soft skin is worth it.

good grief. i am so DIY. if i knew anything about construction, i'd probably build my own house.

Monday, June 06, 2011

black music month video #3

i happened to catch an episode of unsung the other night that featured miki howard. what a voice. one moment, she was on top of the world and then all of a sudden, she disappeared. i always wondered what happened to her. catch her episode if you can. it was quite the cautionary tale.

there's always something to learn from anyone's life story. maybe that's why i can't stop reading or watching biographies.

here's a preview of the unsung episode -- and one of my favorite miki howard songs, love under new management.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

three thousand words

the gig i had on friday at the lounge in edison ballroom was my idea of a good time -- the top notch band was in fine form, solid and relaxed and fun; the room was elegant and subdued; there was an open bar all night long with fredo ceraso of loungerati at the helm as bartender, so there was way more sitting and listening than there was swing dancing; media noche was a real pint-sized crowd-pleasing knockout, i must say; dj gaylord fields set the mood just right; and i got a chance to stretch out and explore billie holiday's earlier material.

the great news is that there were three photographers present -- joseph ritter who always takes such cool shots at the salon's events and selena, the aussie artist that's leaving in a week (unfortunately). selena and her galpal gill and i managed to take my portrait in front of the ballroom before the gig for a project she's working on, so huzzah for us. (!!!) she also shot video of us -- that was lovely, too...

selena shot the portrait on film, with the marquee above me and lights of times square behind me. can't wait to see what develops!

the third photographer was my permanent boyfriend, of course, who took the shots below. (yep, there's more coming...) enjoy!

oh, and by the way, the lads of joy are: andrew hall on bass, dave berger on drums, matt ray on keys and -- lurking in the shadows to my left, j. walter hawkes on trombone and ukelele.

ps: i'm wearing a bombshell dress by byron lars. (i LOVE his dresses!)

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Proust Questionnaire

found this iconic little curio online, a fascination of proust -- of course it's now a book, too -- and i was so intrigued by the answers of the famous and iconic, i thought i'd overshare.
  1. what is your idea of perfect happiness? happiness? no, thank you. i'd rather have joy.
  2. what is your greatest fear? at the moment, i honestly can't think of anything that i'm truly afraid of.
  3. which historical figure do you most identify with? an anonymous, nameless, runaway african female slave in america -- the absolute epitome of what it means to be a true rebel. she's the one that would set the kitchen on fire and burn the entire house down. that's why they started building kitchens outside, away from the big house. but i digress...
  4. which living person do you most admire? just about every elderly african-american person i've ever met or have yet to meet.
  5. what is the trait you most deplore in yourself? impatience
  6. what is the trait you most deplore in others? presumptuousness
  7. what is your greatest extravagance? whatever beautifies me. that includes boxing, stuff for my skin like argyan oil and shea butter, and korean day spas. (i have an eyebrowist. 'nuff said.)
  8. on what occasion do you lie? i'd rather not say
  9. what do you dislike most about your appearance? nothing, these days. (oh, wow. i guess i've finally accepted myself for who i am. whoo-hoo!)
  10. when and where were you happiest? too many moments to mention. jumping over that broom -- the moment when we were holding hands in midair, actually -- was definitely one of them. oh, wait. that was joy! (oops...!)
  11. if you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? i would have learned how to think critically a long time ago.
  12. if you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? absolutely nothing. everything is the way God wants it to be -- whether i like it or not.
  13. what do you consider your greatest achievement? surviving nyc as an artist.
  14. if you died and came back as a person or thing, what would it be? i'm not coming back.
  15. what is your most treasured possession? my journals.
  16. what do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? having to live inside the trauma of unaddressed emotional damage for the rest of one's life, free to alternately play the victim and victimize others who are wholly unsuspecting of how warped the person in question truly is.
  17. who are your heroes in real life? mavericks
  18. what is it that you most dislike? anyone who hates themselves so much that they will use the love someone offers them as a weapon against them. (see answer #16)
  19. how would you like to die? however God sees fit.
  20. what is your motto? "Talk doesn't cook rice." - Chinese proverb

Friday, June 03, 2011

black music month video #2

it suddenly dawned on me that there may be some folks out there who love rock and roll as much as i do, but who don't know of any black female guitarists. *sigh* thankfully, i'm here to help.

meet beverly "guitar" watkins -- from the ATL, steeped in blues and jazz, and a grandma no less! truly one of my all-time favorites.

here she is, burning it down at the winston blues revival in 1999. enjoy!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

...oh, and another thing...

i'm doing nablopomo this month, so expect a post every day. the theme for june is FAN, whatever that means. and nope -- i'm not sure, either.

when i think of fans, a lot of things come to mind. i grew up in the c.o.g.i.c. -- so church, obviously. stans, of course. burlesque dancers, understandably. geishas, for some reason. at the very least, you'll get some super tasty visuals. and maybe if i sift through all this thoroughly enough, i can finally figure out exactly what it is that i'm a fan of.

to tell you the truth, i'm a fan of everything and nothing. as soon as something interesting flips my switch, i almost always seem to find a brighter light someplace else. always and forever onto the next, unless it's something i really love.

that's the $64,000 question: what (or who) do i love?

black music month video #1

in honor of black music month, here's some black music -- aloe blacc's i need a dollar, a song that's all over a hokey commercial that runs incessantly in every hd supported medium imaginable. what with all the licensing that's getting flung about with this little ditty, here's hoping this brother is finally getting that dollar he so desperately needs.

actually, i suppose what i should hope is that he owns his publishing. but hey -- that's just me.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

hello, june!

june is a very special month for me. first of all, there's juneteenth celebrations to revel in. it's black music month -- but isn't that every month? and yep, it ends with my birthday so i'm determined to find a fun, celebratory moment inside of every single day. i'm giving myself 30 birthday presents. let the games begin!

how cool that things begin with a solar eclipse today -- from what the hippies tell me, this ushers in a fresh, new start. i end the week with a stellar gig at the edison ballroom on 6/3 that should find me all decked out and singing billie holiday's earlier, bouncier, more upbeat material for the better part of the evening. to tell you the truth, i'm still marinating on an idea that's blooming and growing in my head from the performance i did at lenox lounge for the harlem jazz shrines festival in may. more on that later.

in a perfect world, i'd take a whole week this month to mix my next album.

the mermaid parade happens on june 18. that's always a good time. there are the free new york film society movies, of course. probably with daniel carlton. there's weekly sunday songwriting sessions with rawn and jon. really great, to develop those muscles and write and play and sing. and yes, i have to go to the jazz age lawn party and i have to dress up like it's 1920 and i have to enter the pie contest. i just have to. very curious about dances of vice's event powerhouse stomp, probably because i love cartoons so much. (a live orchestra playing 20s hot jazz? i'm there.)

the really exciting news is, i start my unlimited kung fu lessons in chinatown. (and really, how many can i possibly stand, with all the boxing i'm doing every day?)

hm. if i were smart, i'd get to spa castle at least twice this month. and ride my bike everywhere.

with a lunar eclipse on june 15 and another solar eclipse on july 1 (yowza! three eclipses in a month. how often does that happen?), i'm starting to wonder how this will affect the more mundane moments in my world.

oh, i almost forgot.

today's birthday present: day 2 of my detox fast. (un)fortunately, this is too extreme for me. i'm switching to juicing and raw foods. *sigh* i miss boxing...