Archive for September, 2014

Marital Mondays: “Birthdays Were the Worst Days … “

Watching The Blacklist, in my polka dot panties, eating chewy chocolate chip cookies, for 12 hours, with sex breaks and kisses in between … That’s what I want for my birthday. I really want to go away with Hannibal. I don’t even want to go far. It can be a hotel 7 miles away. I want to forget about calendars, bills, lessons, practice, designing, housework, email correspondence, anemia, hair combing, cooking and driving. I don’t even want either of us to drive to the hotel. We can take an Uber. I just want to chill.

This is really just a fantasy. I’ll likely celebrate my October birthday in December when Mooch’s play is over. There’s no way we can go away — not both of us (Well there is, but it involves so much planning, food labeling, worrying, paying people, and stress, that it is not worth it at all). It was fun blogging about it, though.

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Under the Overpass: Turn on Your ‘Tube’ & Turn Off Your TV

Under the Overpass focuses on politics, current events, and social commentary from a black, crunchy, granola perspective. Myshell chooses the topics. Michael writes the commentary.

You have just walked under the overpass (just below the funk), and down here, I gave my TV up (again) three years ago. Before this most recent deuces move, I had fallen off the Boob Tube Wagon for 18 months because I was jonesin’ for the Lakers, Da Raiders and MSNBC. Before my jones came down, I was TV Free for five years. And before that, I was pixel clean for four years. Doing the math: 12 out of the last 15 years I’ve been unplugged from the main engine of consumer capitalism (and it would’ve been 15 for 15 barring alley-oops, a Raider bad romance and Rachel Maddow).

My serial TV pink-slipping is not simply about my resistance to being sold stuff I don’t need every 8 of 30 minutes, it’s about my resistance to damaging TV series. Serialization as psychological serial killer. The portrayals of Black folk on network and cable scripted shows border on buffoonery at best and child-abuse (for those of us who let our children get near the remote) at worst. Do I have to even mention “reality-TV” (the, the National Action Network, the Dream Defenders and Community Coalition are still trying to make up lost ground that Flava Flav’s House of Love cost the Black community)?

Before I continue, I think it’s important to note that there are many Black folks who think not having a TV is weird (my Mama) and irresponsible (Mama said: “Baby, it’s dangerous not having a television. How you are you going to know what’s happening in the world? Besides, there’s some really interesting programming on Animal Planet ”).

It’s not just my moms who’s feeling what corporate TV has to offer. According to Variety the 50 Cent executive-produced scripted drama Power, averaged over 4 million viewers in its initial season (these numbers included some of my boys), had a 71% African-American audience, almost evenly split between men and women, was the most popular “Black show” since The Wire, and has been renewed for a second season with more episodes (10) than its initial season (8).

Having acknowledged the corporate power(s) that hold sway over some of our brethren and sistren (and my Mama), the crunchy don’t have to drink the Crunk Juice. It may take a little effort (and a reliable high-speed internet connection and/or a smartphone with 4G Juice), but we can watch some damn TV that won’t kill us (and/or kill the one Black character before the first commercial).

Many Crunch-izzles are turning to independent TV that is streaming online. An African City is a webseries scripted-drama which follows the lives of five single women of African-descent ([MaameYaa Boafo], [Mensah], [Adjei], akena [Humbert], and [E.]) who have recently settled in Accra, Ghana. Created by executive producer Nicole Amarteifio, the show features relatively high production values and absolutely high levels of character complexity. The show goes H-A-M on stereotypes about African women, while taking pains not to paint a romantic picture of Accra. We learn about the psychic benefits of returning home to the Motherland, while getting hip to the practical irritants of mandatory power-grid rationing and water shortages. Along, the way we gain insight into the lives, loves, spiritual beliefs and cultural traditions of some super bad sisters, whose intelligence and charisma draw us in as much as their fly gear―and all that beauty filling out that fly gear.

Creator, Amarteifio, has said that she decided to make An African City a webseries because her ideas would have been changed had she made the show a television series. “You ain’t never lied,” as the poet D-Black would’ve said. As I watched An African City, I was struck by how fresh and original NanaYaa and her crew seemed. I was taken aback because I know similar African-descended sisters (Omone and Kadija come to mind), but I’ve never seen them sensitively represented in a television series. The Power(s) that be ain’t having it (There’s a reason, and real people behind the reason, why Flava Flav got a TV show and not Chuck D). If Amartefio had sold her soul and show to network television, An African City would be airing Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC as An Inglewood City, starring Mack-10 and T-Boz as re-united lovers whose Ghanaian au pair, NanaYaa, dreams of one day returning to Accra to become a rap star―but in the meantime she surreptitiously slangs mixtapes out of Mack/Boz’s Chicco 30 Key Fit stroller. Stop me when I start lying (here’s where D-Black would’ve chimed in again).

For the crunch-izzles who aren’t as ital as some of our übor conscious comrades (most of us know at least one well-meaning and righteous bredren/sistren who acts like they ain’t nevah sucked marrow out a Popeye’s chicken wing or two-stepped to 2 Chainz), the webseries That Guy may be for you.

The show is like Seinfeld on melatonin, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky and Purple Urkel and set in apartment above Ice Fade City Barbershop on Slauson Avenue. That Guy explores the BFF-threesome between Judah (Jeremy McBryde), a burly cat with Rick Rossian facial hair and baby-mama drama, Mike (Will Catlett), an anger-management repeat offender, with an ex-girlfriend who keeps misplacing her ex and hyphen, and Dionne (Jeanine Daniels) who has a key to Judah and Mike’s apartment and knows her way around a keyhole―especially because her perpetual singleness leaves a lot of spare time on her hands. It’s a show about nothing that has something very funny about it.

Show creator and co-producer Daniels’ writing is funny, insightful and loose (in a good way like mixtape Weezy). The actors have great chemistry and the comical predicaments are off-beat. The sexual-related scenarios will make you cringe and smile at the same time (Although it is destined for a series of You Tube remixes, Judah’s little ditty “Get Dem Skins” is not a Jerry Jones fight song exhorting the Dallas Cowboys to beat the Washington Redskins).

On some real talk, the show, at times, luxuriates in casual misogyny that I don’t subscribe to, and it contains certain depictions of working class Black life that subscribe to stereotypical notions.

What’s most affecting and endearing about this millennial comedy is that the comedy is rooted in awkward friendships, where awkward friends have an awkward love for each other. It’s the Fugees as a buddy movie as a webseries, without Wyclef and Lauryn doing The Nasty. In That Guy, The Nasty get’s done, just not among the principals.

So fellow Crunch-izzles, if you’re contemplating going cold tofurky off the TV, know that there are alternatives to the engine that drives consumer capitalism. You can kiss that buy, buy, buy, box goodbye and say hello to An African City that’s not in Inglewood.

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Tuesdays With Mooch & Fuss: The Power of Ten

Last week, Fuss focused on the number ten. We didn’t do it in a Sesame Street “Let’s count to ten” fashion, because that would have made us both fall into a math-induced coma. In a rich conceptual way, we explored addends that equal ten (2+8, 4+6, 9+1, 5+5, etc.). We also reviewed counting by tens, counting to ten in Spanish, and playing with tens in money. She spotted tens everywhere — the air conditioner, the clock, the oven timer.

Making Tens on the Montessori Addition Strip Board

Adding up to Ten

Art in Tens

In Language Arts, Fuss is learning about possessive pronouns, possessive proper nouns, and when to use apostrophes. Science-wise, she’s been interested in why and how water boils, how fish know when to stop eating, and how long it takes cars to slow down from various speeds.

Mooch reviewed expository writing last week. She wrote a paper on parents being some of the most tired people. There were three revisions and one typed final. She is loving Saxon math more than Singapore but is starting to feel like it repeats a lot. I think she needs the repeating. We’ll see how it pans out. Singapore moved much more quickly, it was at least challenging. Now she feels like she learned all the stuff she’s doing now last year. To stave off boredom, I purchased an Algebra curriculum on the side. It should be here next week.

Mooch decided to randomly make a doll this week

Mooch learning to draw manga characters in her free time

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Marital Mondays: In Sickness …

Hannibal agreed to shave my legs for me. I’m not able to do it. In fact, even taking a shower is difficult because doing activities that require me to go from low to high cause me a great deal of dizziness. That means washing my feet has become a task that leaves me anxious. I’ve fallen twice. I have to park within 70 steps of where I’m going, or I’ll be short of breath. Other than that, my anemia makes me feel weak and achy like I have the flu.

I know that all sounds horrible, but in my opinion, none of it is as bad as having to accept help. It didn’t really dawn on me how ill I’d been feeling for the past few months until my sweet friend inboxed me on Facebook offering to mop my floors for me. As tears splashed on my knuckles, I actually typed the words “yes” and “please” instead of “no” and “thank you.” The most unusual combination of gratefulness and defeat came over me.

I’ve tried so many options (different supplements, a transfusion last year, even a meaty diet). I’ve had all the tests — no fibroids, no colon issues, light menstrual cycle, etc. Doctors don’t seem to use the scientific method anymore, so I’ve been testing hypotheses myself. A couple of weeks ago, I realized the Ibuprofen I pound for sinus headaches could be causing some problems. I initially thought it may have given me an ulcer and blood was being lost there. My nutritionist fine-tuned my guess. She said Ibuprofen does things to the intestinal tract that decrease absorption — not just of iron but of lots of other nutrients as well.

I have stopped the Ibuprofen, and I’m using the ginger and nettle tea she suggested for my sinus headaches. She also said that, unfortunately, Floradix is no longer a good iron supplement. They changed their formula, so she suggested FeraMax 150. I ordered it.

Meanwhile, Hannibal is being incredibly supportive. My body used to crash on me at 6pm when he got home. Now it gives out at 1pm, and I trudge along for the rest of the day on sheer willpower. I try to get all of the important stuff done in the morning (even cooking dinner). Then the afternoons are just driving kids here and there. I’m so exhausted. More blood should be on its way soon. Then the doctor will schedule another transfusion.

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Traveling in Black: Why Iceland?

The “Traveling in Black” series will share the experiences of people of color when traveling abroad. You’ll find out all sorts of cool places to go and fun things to see. Each article will specifically touch on how you may be treated internationally, what the culture is like, and how to prepare for your visit.  

By Selena Sage

I once read that the shorter the travel distance between two places, the more alike those places start to become. Now that the world is a plane ride away, I’ve found that to be true. So many areas of the world feel so much like America it does not feel that you’ve left home. (Or the location may be so impoverished you may end up depressed and wish that you never left home!) I was disappointed to hear Jay Z playing in Jamaica instead of steel drums, and I was surprised to hear American Hip-Hop in Stockholm when I expected to hear Swedish music. Though Chinese rap was actually in Mandarin, I was rather delighted to see that the music videos on MTV in Shanghai were a clear rip of BET! In short, it can be difficult to gain a truly unique travel experience these days.

Before I took my trip to Iceland, I had the feeling that I was going to the North Pole. I had no idea what to expect, but my Icelandic friends invited me and I thought, “Why not?” Here are a few things about Iceland I didn’t realize:

  • It’s closer than you think! Iceland is only a 5 hour flight from New York, and a 3 hour flight from London.
  • Everyone in Iceland speaks perfect English! In Iceland, children are taught (starting in grade school) Icelandic, English, and Danish. Communication won’t be a problem.
  • The Icelandic countryside is amazing and there will be moments when you feel like you’re on the Moon! Volcanoes formed Iceland, so there are lava fields everywhere.

The entire population of Iceland is only about 300,000! It is a Scandinavian country, and though it is not incredibly diverse, everyone is polite. Tourism is the largest industry in Iceland, and the country receives almost one million visitors per year! Reykjavik is the capital city of Iceland (population around 120,000), and is generally the city to stay in when visiting. It is very easy to walk around the city (there are shuttles — approx $25pp — from the airport that will take you to your hotel directly, so you would only need a car if you planned to drive into the countryside yourself), and there are many restaurants and shops to visit. It has the feeling of quaint and clean town, and there are sights around the city that are worth visiting (the Cathedral, Einar Jonsson Statue Garden, Reykjavik Art Museum). Even in the city, it is possible that you have never experienced air this clean! Electricity is generated via geothermal energy, and even the water that you drink from the faucets is glacier water! You can comfortably see the sights of Reykjavik in 3-4 days.

Reykjavik is the seventh most expensive city in Europe. It’s not as bad as London, but food can be a bit pricey. I recommend always asking for the daily special, which is usually a fish with vegetable at half the price of normal menu items. The fish in Iceland is incredibly fresh (fishing is the second largest industry after tourism), and the preparation is very flavorful. Every restaurant I went to was excellent (The Fish Market, Uno, and Fish Company to name a few). During high tourist season, it’s a good idea to have a reservation.

The most amazing part of Iceland can be experienced once you leave the city beyond. If you really want to get away from it all, there are great stretches of nothingness (i.e. lava fields with moss). The air is clean and crisp and you will likely catch glimpses of beautiful Icelandic horses, sheep, and cows grazing. Because of all of the geothermal activity, there are hidden hot springs that make nice side trips. I strongly recommend booking a guided tour for at least one of the days to learn more about the landscape and history of the country. My Icelandic friends own a tour company called Iceland Luxury Tours, which provides private tours. The tours I took with them were amazing and they have a five star rating on Trip Advisor. I recommend them very highly. With special Jeeps, we literally rode through rivers and up glaciers! Once in the glaciers, you can either hike around or rent a snowmobile. It is easy to stay active as you will want to walk around and experience the sites. Beyond the glaciers, I also visited the famous Geyser and beautiful waterfalls. The scenery was unlike any place I have ever been.

For a truly unique travel experience, Iceland delivers! You will travel there and truly feel like you left home. Without a doubt, you will leave with an adventure or two under your belt. If you happen to enjoy hiking, there are many trails to explore (and some cabins to rent in the countryside if you would like a prepared meal and bed). Be sure to pack warm clothes (even in the summertime, the glacier areas can get down in the 40 degree range during the day) and prepare to go exploring! Before booking a traditional hotel, look into renting from a resident. Iceland Luxury Tours also has fully furnished loft spaces for rent that are considerably less than hotels with far more accommodations (like a kitchen!). Staying near the city center in Reykjavik is ideal.

Enjoy the journey! 🙂

Selena Sage is a guest writer. Please feel free to check her website:

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