“Lucky Life Can be a Comedy…Sometimes”

February 17, 2015 Leave a comment

For those who stay informed about politics, general current events, comedy, and how they cross-pollinate the news of The Daily Show host Jon Stewart retiring is probably still fresh in their minds. Also, if one is paying attention these days the grapevine is still “shaking” with news of Brian Williams and his departure from NBC Nightly News because of apparent continued hyperbole in the telling and retelling of his war reporting during the Second Iraq War in 2003 (RollingStone has a good piece on this). Finally, as if the rule of threes is playing out in a weird way, there was the tragic and untimely passing of 60 Minutes reporter Bob Simon. A person who covered wars going back to Vietnam and as recent as Iraq 2. Tragic irony that he died in a car crash.

These three media events display the blessings of media in the United States and the tragedies. Jon Stewart carved out a niche for himself and others with his commentary and criticism of society and culture, and news media itself. Defining himself as a satirist he blurred those edges of comedy and journalism to present a critical analysis of what the general public has watched. Jon Stewart and The Daily Show were not just a vehicle for news gathering and reporting. They provided social commentary and analysis…at least from one perspective. Lost though in the comedic art skill set Stewart displayed was the fact he was a damn good interviewer. He spoke with guests in a very direct, funny, and respective manner. Hopefully he continues to at least talk with the people who balance society. This is why Stewart and his incarnation of The Daily Show will be missed. The “real” news was left to people like Brian Williams.

By-in-large Brian Williams was the most trusted news anchor on television. He seemed humble, and despite recent events I believe he is still a humble newsman. But with fame comes a hefty price. With all his fame and what seemed to be power and influence, those tangibles quickly became intangible and bought him nothing except heightened scrutiny, intolerance, and what appears to be no second chance. We take such delight and pleasure in building up our idols, if only to take equal joy in watching them be torn down, or just fall. Brian Williams was an investment; a transaction; a commodity that provided great benefits for NBC. But seeing that the brand may be damaged NBC has chosen not to support one of its premiere brands. Instead, the corporation has decided to effectively terminate Mr. Williams. What comes of this is still anybody’s guess, but one thing is for sure, people will watch their news anchors with all the more scrutiny and skepticism.

All that said, Bob Simon was a newsman beyond reproach. As comedians are presented as legitimate purveyors of the news, and anchors defend themselves again accusations of false reporting, a staple for decades was Bob Simon. 60 Minutes is an institution, and Bob Simon was as well. I remember my father watching 60 Minutes every Sunday on CBS, so the show and Simon were somewhat familiar to me. In any regard as far as real newspeople are concerned, Bob Simon was as real as you could get.

In the United States people are fortunate to have a wide range of options as to how they access news. Jon Stewart used satire to analyze news placing a critical spotlight on the mainstream media; he taught us to think (while laughing…hoping that would change our behavior). Brian Williams represented how people, these days, need to take in news; in immediate 2 to 3 minute clips that seem fairly accurate and trustworthy. But now we know we should watch nightly news broadcasts with the same skepticism and critical eye that Jon Stewart has used to create his segments for The Daily Show. Finally, we are extremely fortunate to have reporters like Bob Simon who take journalism out of the theater of comedy and nightly news bits and into the theater of captivating story telling and poignant critical analysis.

How lucky that life in the United States can sometimes be a comedy, while also being deadly serious.

“When To Draw The Line?”

February 1, 2015 Leave a comment

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is quite poignant right now. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo assassinations the world is engaged in a conversation of how to deal with terrorism some say originate from an extremist interpretation of Islam, and some say is a bastardization of a religion practiced in peace by 1.5 billion people; thugs making an excuse. Editors from Charlie Hebdo say they will continue to satirize the prophet Muhammad, and other religious prophets as they see fit; if the times call for it, they will do it. The rest of the journalistic world is not so sure about that course of action. Is that because of respect for a figure 1.5 billion people hold sacred, or the fear of the retaliation by a small number of people who have a warped mentality strong enough to carry out murder in the name of defending Islam? There are debates taking place about when to draw the line; when to push the envelope further; how to “take back” a religious faith; the meaning of humanity.

In squaring this circle and coming to grips with the reality that people do heinous things in the name of something else, personally I feel awarding these terrorists the mantle of Islam, and religion in general, is ill-advised. ISIS/ISIL are like Boca Haram who are like the Klu Klux Klan, thugs who hate and want power. These people want neither religion or faith or peace or to govern. They want to rule and destroy. They are gangs of thugs and need to be treated as such, which means denying them agency; denying them identity; denying them power. Does Islam play a role in the conversation? Maybe, but to condemn Islam would be to attach the peaceful majority who practice it to a corrupt few who claim the same. I do not believe the Klu Klux Klan represent the broader Christian view. The people who drape white cloths over their bodies in order to terrorize people “different” than them by lynching innocent people and burning the very symbol of their supposed faith do not represent the Christian faith I was raised with. I believe the same goes for Islam.

These may be difficult times, and as such difficult conversations need to be had, but I think we can separate the thugs from the faithful; the murderers from the healers; the minority from the majority. The Charlie Hebdo satirists, I think, have shown us where and when to draw to the line. Now maybe journalists of their ilk can give the 1.5 billion Muslims that practice Islam some space to have their difficult conversations. One that will lead to resounding actions to separate the violent extremists who use terrorism to preach their words from the peaceful observers who pray for prosperity and respect toward their fellow persons who share the same Earth as one.

Categories: Islam, Religion, War

“Gotta Have Some Me Time, But Share What You Learn”

January 11, 2015 Leave a comment

“Gotta have some me time.” Personally, I employ this. I eek out “me time” in the morning before other members of my family wake up. I either exercise or do something else like write, read, or just listen to podcasts; stuff like that. I think this “me time” time has allowed me to reduce my stress, while being able to stay in shape and increase my knowledge.

“Share what you learn.” This is the other part to the “me time” ritual that I encourage because if you are learning something why not share it? I know people may want to do something just for themselves and not for anyone else, but if you have a family, or are in a relationship, or have close friends and acquaintances you deeply care about and value why not share the things in your life that are helping you? Maybe the people you love most can also benefit from what you are doing. When I look deep down inside, within myself, I realize this the true motivation for why I want eek out “me time”; I want to share my personal improvements with those I love and cherish. To me, this is the ultimate reward; when people around me improve their lives through an example that I showed them. Do they have to do the same exact thing? No, but a positive change where I was the catalyst is all I could ever ask for.

I have been somewhat on a health kick, but not to bludgeon others with some self-righteous message of “run and eat healthy like me or you will die”. I basically started refining my diet to get in shape for a marathon; gotta fuel your properly for one of those. That said, I still have my fare share of the junky stuff, but I am just much much much better at regulating my temptations. I eat fairly cleanly, but very satisfyingly. I am cutting down on my added sugar intake, as well as limiting intake of foods that spike my insulin production, which causes my liver to ultimately tell my body to store natural food sugar as fat. I have been doing this process of refining my diet for some time now, and my family is coming on board. I even had the great pleasure of sharing some of what I have been learning during my “me time” with my mother-in-law, who seemed quite interested. Whether or not she adopts what I have been doing was not the purpose of our exchanges, but just the exchange of knowledge was fulfilling, especially as I found out a lot about the way she thinks and documents what she has been learning during her “me time” throughout the years.

Ultimately, “me time” is great for personal refinement and or enhancement, but the next step, in my humble opinion, is sharing the “me time” gains with other loved ones. Our relationships are what make our existence as humans unique and fulfilling. Nurturing and sustaining these relationships in constructive ways leads to great lives for everyone involved in the process. Why not be a part of that richly satisfying process by sharing what makes you better? Be a little selfish so you can concentrate on bettering yourself, but remember to share so you can really see the gains.

Categories: Miscellaneous Debris

“Curtain Rises on US Political Theater”

January 6, 2015 Leave a comment

John Boehner, United States House of Representatives Speaker, and Mitch McConnell, United States Senate Majority Leader, have chosen their teams. Now the rubber meets the road and it is time to legislate and lead the United States branch of government that actually proposes, writes, negotiates, and sends law to the President of the United States to get confirmed. So the big question is, can the two branches of government responsible for making and enforcing laws and leading the government of the United States work together? My answer is, if leaders lead then yes. If leaders do not lead the no. Short and easy answer. Read more for the details.

Some immediate tests of turf:

1) XL-Keystone Pipeline – If you do not know what that is, it is a long metal tube designed to carry oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The oil is particularly difficult to get out of the ground (extract) and comes from central Canada; the tar sands of Alberta. Economically speaking, the United States is looking at about 40,000 contracted jobs and about 30 to 40 full-time salaried jobs. Not a massive job influx considering the private sector of the United States has been generating hundreds of thousands of jobs a month for the past few years. Also, the oil from these tar sands is not going to be used in the United States. The refineries on the Gulf of Mexico will process the stuff and it will be exported to other markets. Most of the profits will go to Canada.

The environmental impact is always there but if the pipeline is built and monitored properly all should be okay (until a break happens and heavy tar oils destroys the U.S. bread basket – basically, central United States). The pipeline is probably no more dangerous than the train oil tankers used to transport oil right now.

President Obama really doesn’t like this project, and the Republicans will use it to test him; will President Obama stand up to the left-wing environmental lobby, or will he throw a bone to the Republican led Congress?

2) The Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) – This is pretty simple to understand. The Republicans want to dismantle this policy, but have no real replacement policy. For lack of a better plan Republicans will try to negate various provisions of the law like the medical devices tax, which pays for a lot of the plan. There are other provisions that plague the system, according to dissenters of the law. Will Republicans really work to tweak the program or will they defund and dismantle key provisions? This should be really interesting because truth be told there are Democrats who don’t like various provisions of the law and could be persuaded to vote with Republicans. This is a big test of the political leadership of President Obama within his own party.

3) Immigration Reform – As far as I see it, President Obama didn’t break any laws with his recent executive order to shield particular illegal immigrants from immediate deportation. The shield isn’t indefinite. The shield expires a few years from now, so eventually those illegal immigrants being protected will have to go back into the shadows, if comprehensive immigration is not instituted. The kicker is the Republicans could have squashed this entire situation by approving legislation a year ago. The legislation that died in the House of Representatives had all the goodies – massive border security upgrades, reorganization of VISAs, guest worker permits, increased taxes, fees, and fines, expedited processes, educational provisions, etc. It was a truly comprehensive bill that Republicans put together, without a lot of President Obama’s input (the Republicans, in particular Senator Marco Rubio from Florida, as for that, but could not convince their colleagues in the House of Representatives to vote for the bill).

The President did his deal an acted as best he could; within his authority. So the question is, will the Republicans do something on immigration reform or just continue to complain that the President is a dictator in chief, or some king presiding over an empire?

A few more “small” bits and pieces; hanging chads:

How about comprehensive tax reform? That would be good considering the US tax code is bogging down industry and regular people (ironically the US is still the most productive economic machine in history…but for how long with a tax code bigger than the IRS itself?…just kidding, but it is big).

There are also infrastructure bills to deal with, and jobs programs to institute, and the continuous “project” that is education in the United States. Oh, the government has to pass a budget (a small detail within this big picture).

And the grand finale, there is an election coming…in 2016 (will talk more about this in another post).

What happens in the coming years with the new U.S. Congress, held by Republicans, and the Executive Branch, held by Democrats, will keep political junkies on their drips…Hopefully this kabuki play doesn’t keep the Supreme Court awake at night because that would be really bad.

Categories: Miscellaneous Debris

“Why I Liked THAT Cosby”

December 30, 2014 Leave a comment

I was holding out some kind of hope that the allegations agains Bill Cosby would turn out to be false; maybe he would come forward with evidence to refute every claim, magically. I held out hope because when I was a child and grew up watching Bill Cosby showing me me, on the TV screen.

I was born in 1975 so I grew up when “The Cosby Show” debuted and closed. I was also watching shows like “What’s Happening?” and “Good Times” as well as “Different Strokes”, “All In The Family”, and “The Jeffersons”. But something about “The Cosby Show” transcended all those shows. While I looked much like “Roger Thomas” from “What’s Happening?”, and even identified with his character a bit, I never felt like “What’s Happening?” depicted me, or my family environment. I guess the single mom deal was far from my reality. All the other shows were extremes of my reality – “Good Times” was a depiction of a black family fighting to make it while living in the projects (low income housing). “The Jeffersons” was an ode to black business success taken to the heights, whilst not forgetting the roots. Ultimately, I just couldn’t see my situation. Then came “The Cosby Show.”

My parents were not doctors and lawyers, but they were employed well enough to provide their children with middle-class, even to some degree upper-middle class, lifestyles. We never wanted for anything. Our house was never cold, and there was always more than enough food on the table. On this note we probably overindulged, but that was my reality; my parents provided. We lived in an amazing amount of security; I was definitely allowed to play outside after dark without parental supervision. We lived in a town that provided us with an education that was an example of how good U.S. public education should be administered. And when it came time for college, we went to top notch private universities (me Syracuse University and my sister Fordham University…price tags not exactly at “Good Times” level). Basically, we had a great life under the umbrella of my parents. This was “The Cosby Show” to a great degree.

“The Cosby Show” also showed me that we, as black youth, could aspire to be working professionals with a healthy family life, while being humble and regular (also with all the happy dysfunctionality that goes with family life). I dreamed big as a kid, and I still dream big. I am studying for my doctorate of education in curriculum and instruction, not something the average person just throws around. I don’t say that to be high-minded but just to say my dreams are still moving forward. I still dream big, but I guess I can also reel in those dreams and turn them into practical realities. Again, “The Cosby Show” was a reflection of this.

But, if there is one thing I really loved about the Bill Cosby I grew up with was that he made me, and my family laugh. We just laughed and laughed and laughed to no end. In some ways I think my parenting style, and overall demeanor, of trying to inject humor and comedy into situations comes from Cosby’s character of “Heathcliff Huxtable”. My parents were/are awesome, but they were not clowns and jokers (although now they seem to joke a lot more than when I was a kid). “Heathcliff Huxtable” showed me a father and husband and son could be funny and serious and inspiring all at the same time. I was always like this, but as a father and husband and son I am now in the moment where all these traits and realities are coming together and living through my current persona. Looking back I see that “The Cosby Show” depicted characters like this all the time, and they were characters I could identify with then and now.

It truly does sadden me to know the truth about Bill Cosby because the reality of his exploits does corrupt all the good memories I have of him as a child. I do wish all these women, and insiders would have blown the cover much much much sooner so I could have discarded the facade. I know he was really funny, for me, but obviously at great cost to others. He was plainly a bad person that put on a great show, and it has caught up to him, thankfully. I will not introduce “The Cosby Show” to my child under some false pretense other than to say that as a child I simply did not know Bill Cosby was a monster, and I wouldn’t have watched him if I had known.

So the question goes, “will I re-brand those cherished memories for what I now know is the truth; the product of a sick twisted man?” I can’t obviously retroactively stop laughing; go back in time and tell myself to stop watching this guy. If anything, I do hope Cosby mans up and comes forward because at least he could then own his success more truthfully; with the equitable depravity he displayed. The alternative is his legacy will forever be that he was and is just a coward and pure fake.

Categories: Miscellaneous Debris

“We Are What We Eat”

December 16, 2014 Leave a comment

This is where it starts. Can’t underestimate the power of food. If you eat crap then crap you will be. If you eat golden fruit then golden fruit you will be. It just comes down to what you want to be.

This was where my refocus started. Actually, this refocus started with my marathon training, but to do that I focused on the food I was eating and how I should be eating to fuel my marathon training. The main source of food, and lifestyle, information came from Dave Asprey’s podcast “Bulletproof Radio”.

The story goes, I was simply looking on iTunes for health and fitness podcasts to keep me motivated through my mid to long runs. I found Asprey’s podcast and was hooked from the first one. I don’t listen to every single podcast, but I usually tune in to the ones that speak about diet and exercise, which are quite a few. That said I do listen to quite a few and I personally feel they are well produced, informative, and entertaining. The objective for Asprey, as I have come to understand, is to disseminate information that will help people kick ass in life; performing the best they can, all the time.

A little background about him. He has raised his knowledge through years of self-study and self-hacking. He has changed his life in so many ways, and brings the knowledge and experience he has gained through self-change to those interested in listening, and those interested in changing their lives in positive ways. He used to be something like 300 pounds, but over the years of self-change has reduced his weight by 200 pounds, and has raised his activity and performance levels tremendously. Along the way he has used his background as a computer systems specialist to achieve great success in body and lifestyle redevelopment.

Over the years of gaining knowledge and experience hacking his body and lifestyle he has provided a wealth of information to those who have chosen to engage his shows. This journey wasn’t just a knowledge dissemination project for Asprey though, he turned his life-change mission into a business of health foods and supplements. I actually bought, and still buy his goods from “Bulletproofexec.com.

His foods are made from high quality, but very simple ingredients; I understand the ingredients list, which is a key to healthy eating, I believe. He awakened me to a heightened level of nutrition that was, and still is, very interesting to me. I do think for some he and his guests can get a bit nerdy with their nutrition and lifestyle talk, but he usually brings it back to ground zero for people to understand how to apply the knowledge to their lives. He also alerted me to the more holistic aspects of my body, and how my body works in conjunction with all my environments – internally and externally.

This was an awakening moment and I recognized I had to be more conscious of what I was taking in. Now I am pretty conscious of what food goes into my system, and how it makes me feel. I fully understand the saying, you are what you eat.

I will follow up on this topic with more information about Asprey and his Bulletproof products and guests. I trust the way they are sourced, and I like the ethics behind his products, plus they deliver to Japan quite easily. It is an investment in my health and lifestyle that is well worth it.

Eat well!

Categories: Health and Fitness

“‘Quality’ of Information”

December 12, 2014 Leave a comment

There is a plethora of information sources out there for people to consume – social media (twitter, facebook, instagram, tumblr, etc.), traditional news media (FOX News, MSNBC, CNN, BBC, NPR, Mother Jones, Monocle, etc.), podcasts (too many to name), literature (novels, poetry, essays, journalism, etc.), general television, cinema, music, I could keep going and going. One doesn’t have to wonder why people may be frustrated by what they should or maybe should not listen to or read about. So the questions, I feel, become what is the quality of information you consume, how do we balance points of view, and how do we siphon out the “good” from the “bad” because eventually we act upon the information we consume, right?

Personally, I consume a lot of information from all sources and forms. I do read more magazines than novel-type books; listen to political-news, society/culture, and health/fitness podcasts more than read newspapers; watch more political/society-culture television than sitcoms; not sure why in any of these instances, I just do. I’ll be writing about my outcomes from the various “quality” information sources I consume. Take a gander at this space when you can. Peace.

Categories: Miscellaneous Debris