Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Avalanched

I have a really emotional response to today. I'll be the first to admit that I'm overly emotional on a regular basis. I feel deeply, things affect me deeply, I want things for myself and for others in a deep and almost tangible way. But today came out of nowhere but I should have expected it. 
It happened at the convergence of stress and joy. Those two emotions don't plug into each other. One always overtakes the other and while we hope that joy is the victor, sometimes it's the other way around. But today, they collided into each other in my far-too-cluttered brainspace and the effect was this sort of avalanche of feelings and thoughts gone awry. 
This isn't making much sense. 
Let me rephrase.
You know in James Bond movies when they are trying to out-ski the avalanche on the side of the mountain, and they just so happen to have a jacket on that inflates to being a bubble around them, keeping them unharmed? Okay, now imagine Peter Griffin and the chicken fighting each other within that inflated bubble jacket. There. That was what it felt like. 
Great things, less-than-great things, petty things, important things - they all mixed together like the ingredients in a sauce Rachel Ray would make while shouting at her audience about the wonders of unripe tomatoes. And the great things overtook the less-than-great things and what I was left with was a really call feeling that things are actually going pretty well. 
Yeah, some big things went wrong over the past week, but some even bigger things went right. For some reason, my disappointment over the things that went wrong was disproportionate to what the situation warranted. Guess that's just another time when hindsight is 20/20. 
As jumbled as all of this sounds, we've all had those overwhelming moments where we can't process what we're feeling and aren't sure how to articulate it. But I tried to articulate it and it came out sounding like the above. There's no moral to the story or any real rhyme to why I had to write this. I just had to get it out. I had to try to process the thoughts into something I could grapple with. 
And now I kinda want chicken for dinner.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In Crush.

I fell in love. 
Okay no, I haven't found my perfect match. I'm still very single. But I did fall in love. At first sight even. 
Okay it's not real love. It's not even real love adjacent. But it's an all-consuming, can't stop thinking about you, mentally-crippling crush that, to a junior high kid, would feel like a love that would never fade away. 
It's not even falling in lust. It's just a crush. (cue Jennifer Paige song) But it hit me in the face like a backpack full of grad school books and I've been dizzy ever since. I'm "in crush."

I'm 31 years old. Are crushes like this supposed to happen to people my age? Are our hearts still supposed to flutter at the mention of a name or at the remembrance of making eye contact? Whatever the answer is, I'm fluttering. Which is flustering. 

I prefer to be in charge. I like to lead things. I like to be in control. In so many aspects of life, that comes so naturally, but when it comes to a wandering heart that meanders its way wherever it so pleases, why do I feel completely helpless? I get a crush and my brain turns to Jello; it's functional as a solid but when you shake it around, it waivers and collapses like goo. 

I think the funny thing about crushes is that you are the one that ends up feeling crushed. I'm the one that can't stop thinking about it. They are blissfully moving on with their life...or are they? Maybe it's reciprocated? Maybe we can be "in crush" together? Maybe it's meant to be? Maybe I've found the love of my life?!

And then that happens. I hate this. 

But truthfully, I also love that I can still feel the flutter. It's a nice reminder that my single heart that's sat in time-out for a while still has a desire to come out and play. 

So if you need me, I'm going about my life: working, taking the train, walking here or there. And while my Jello brain is enabling all of those things to happen in a functional capacity, all it takes is one thought and I'm goo again. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The land of Insta-condemnation


I don’t believe in message boards. I think they are places where the lowest forms of life exist to not only bring down whatever the topic is but bring down anyone else who may be foolish enough to comment about said topic.

Having said that, I sometimes will make the haphazard decision to read what is in front of me, specifically if I’m looking at a Facebook post or an Instagram photo. The comments are right there on the screen and sometimes I’ll glance at them. There’s no harm in the glance, but when you start scrolling through…

A friend retweeted an Instagram photo of a very well known Christian music singer’s engagement photo. They’re on a beach, they’re elated, it’s wonderful. I was looking through some other photos on the singer’s page and there was one of Justin Timberlake mid-concert. Fun, I wish I could go see his show too. Then I made the mistake. I looked to the right and at the comments.

A debate had ensued in the comments left on the photo. A group of mostly women began an argument about the “spiritual repercussions” of the singer’s actions in the photo. Please bear in mind that her action was to go see Justin Timberlake sing and dance about a suit and a tie.

One woman said “I don't judge her! However - it's such a thin line to cross just because she's becoming more and more known around the world, so it requires being a little more careful with these things. Secular music is not bad, but someone with her shoes, this wasn't such a bright idea to post...especially to new believers who are coming to Christ. That's the only thing I see in this...”

Okay…

Then another woman agreed with her! “I totally agree with you! Such a bad move. Being a worship leader, she should set an example to those new believers. Such a shame.”

I fail to see the shame in going to a Justin Timberlake concert. I have a friend who saw him this weekend actually and loved the show. I also fail to see where it’s any of these people’s business to comment on the decisions this singer is making.

Sure, I know that we post things for people to see and comments come with that. Everyone has something to say and these women are allowed to be as loudly ignorant as they want to be. What concerns me is that their loud intolerance for decisions made by others is being thrust out into the world and people like me are stumbling on it, even if we don’t follow the singer on Instagram.

At what point will Christians understand that they have to function in a real world, where not everyone believes exactly what they believe, makes the same decisions they make or acts like they do? This insta-condemnation that is so readily accessible in much of Christian culture is the heavy hand that swats away people who don’t believe as they do. How do you expect someone to listen to your message with an open ear if you continue to slap them away at even the slightest hint of disagreement?

An old friend of mine posted an article from a VERY conservative site about the pastor of Hillsong church in New York City and about his approach to what he does. He then went on a rant about how wrong this man’s approach and doctrine is and that this is the problem with Christianity today. Now, I’ve been to said church and I know that things there don’t happen as they would in a small church on the buckle of the Bible Belt, but in no way did I feel like the teaching became a watered-down free-for-all.  I stated my opinion in the comments section, (there I go again, that damn comments section) and was ultimately told I still wasn’t correct in my thinking.

Christianity today doesn’t look like it did a decade ago. Why? The world doesn’t look the same as it did a decade ago. Just as pastors have to take the words written thousands of years ago and make them applicable to today’s living, we have to continue to do that over the course of our lives. The context when we were children isn’t the context we exist in as adults. There are so many people from where I’m from (Bible Belt) who are so afraid of the changes within churches like Hillsong who are welcoming to all people, approachable in their context and God isn’t portrayed as an angry being ready to strip us of our salvation at any given moment. Do crazy-overzealous-Christians go to Hillsong? Yes. Are there gay people at Hillsong? Yes. Do they sing in the choir? Yes. Are they open about their lifestyle? Yes. Does Justin Beiber attend when he’s in town? Yes. Is he the most obnoxious person in music? Yes. But all are welcome.

I personally don’t believe Jesus would be thrilled with the way Christians treat others, especially the way they treat their own. I think He’d be pretty saddened by it. I also don’t think He’d be all that pissed that this singer went to a Justin Timberlake concert. He would probably want to hear N’Sync songs just like the rest of us.  

My favorite comment though was by someone who had a least a modicum of sense. “You all obviously recognize him so you’ve listened to his music too. So you all need to sit down.” 

The power of a reboot

Nothing went right this morning. From the moment my feet hit the floor, it has been a sitcom-style-series of unfortunate events.
It took longer than expected to get ready because I couldn't find my pants because they were wadded up in the corner of my apartment for some reason.
Then I just missed the train but another was right behind it. A momentary break of luck. Too bad that two stops after boarding the train, it went out of service and hundreds of irritated New Yorkers got to wait on the platform for another train to show up. Which it did, minus the air conditioning the first train had.
The train took its sweet time getting downtown, all the while I'm beginning to sweat, which isn't a cute look when you're en route to the office.
I missed another connecting train before I finally got to where I was going, only to have little rain droplets begin to ping off my head.
This calls for an iced coffee. That fixes all things right? Except, I wanted some coffee with my sugar and creamer and apparently they missed that part of the order. So I have my coffee-laced sugar water and I finally made it to the office.

Time to reboot.

It's amazing really. No matter how strange our day has been, we have the ability to reboot just like we would a computer that's acting up. Some people haven't figured this out yet and if they "get up on the wrong side of the bed" in the morning, their entire day is somehow ruined. But there's such value in being able to put a mental stop to the bad moments to make way for the good.

So as I sat down at my desk, I rebooted along with my computer. There's no use hanging on to what happened this morning and letting it affect the rest of my day. That'd be a wasted day. Waste not, want not. And don't worry, I've got my coffee-laced sugar water to keep me alert.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thank you Lisa

I first became aware of Lisa Ling when I was in junior high and watched "Channel One" every day. The next time I heard from her was when she joined "The View." Leaving the daytime gab-fest may not have looked like a wise decision from someone so early in her career, but Ling knew she was meant to do more than have conversations around the table with celebrities. She was meant to talk to real people.

The first episode of "Our America" I saw was "Pray the Gay Away." Having had quite a bit of those same conversations in my own life, it was astonishing to see it play out on national television. There it was, being told out in the open. She also recognized that the story didn't end when the cameras stopped rolling and she revisited the subject. Not only was she a witness to the change, but her coverage also became a catalyst for the change. Exodus Ministries, the largest of the ex-gay movement ministries, shuttered and through "Our America," men who had been profoundly hurt and scarred were given the opportunity to confront the man behind the ministry. Some of the men found closure and maybe even forgiveness.

My personal favorite episode was actually about present day nuns. I tell people about it all the time. More than being an informative and enlightening hour of television, it was a masterclass in journalistic storytelling. Every angle was covered, every woman's story was told fully and with such care. The decisions of these women were honored by Ling in a way that made each of their stories important and meaningful. The amount of care shown left an impression on me that I haven't forgotten.

I'm going to miss "Our America." Ling has a way of telling the whole story, all sides and facets, and remaining as objective as a person can be while remaining present in the moment. Whether it was a gay christian, a man wrongfully convicted, a transgender person, a drug user or teenage mother, Ling allowed the stories of Americans to become thought-provoking and teachable moments. I know that her career doesn't end with "Our America," it continues to rise as she moves to CNN to continue her work, but I will miss this show. In an age where television channels are full of nonsense "reality" TV, "Our America" was TV that mattered and had the power to change lives.

Thank you Lisa.

A new Quest

Here's the thing. I watch a lot of TV. A lot. When someone asks me what shows I watch, I laugh first, blush second and own up to it third. I watch so much.

I've been excited about "The Quest" since I first heard the concept. It's a competition reality show set in a fantasy world that would coexist nicely within Middle Earth or any of the realms of "Game of Thrones." They are living in a fully realized world populated by citizens, royalty, monsters, villains and fantastical creatures. It's "Survivor" meets "Big Brother" meets "Lord of the Rings." I'm in.

I'll admit the first episode started slowly, but so did "The Fellowship of the Ring." There's a lot of groundwork that has to be laid for this fantasy world to build on. What did not take time to build was the fact that the attention to detail within this show is extraordinary. From the entrance through the tunnels to the grounds around the castle, everything felt as if we had gone on a journey with the contestants. It feels a lot like watching "Once Upon A Time," ABC's Sunday night fairy tale saga, except there's a human element of it knowing these contestants aren't actors. They are real people.

In an age where "reality TV" isn't really reality, the concept of "The Quest" is refreshing. It was said within the first two minutes of the show that the storyline is set and these adventurers are the pieces within the structured story. They fill out the narrative. While that removes the unpredictability so many watch reality TV for, it also gives us the knowledge that there's an endgame and it won't spiral on forever.

That narrative isn't that profound. But I think there's a lot underneath that narrative. One of that contestants, after she won the challenge, spoke about how she then felt like she deserved to be there. "...Not just a character I've build up in my head, but me, Bonnie. I deserve to be here." I feel like that's the takeaway from this show. Yes, the structure is fantasy and make-believe come to life, but the challenges and tests these people are facing are actually happening to them and for some of them, the boost in their self esteem is something they haven't felt before. The cast is a healthy mixture of diverse people but at the root of all of their stories, they felt like nerds. (Some are incredibly hot nerds I must say) Now, they are given the chance to exist in a world they previously only thought existed on a movie screen or in their imagination. Not only that, but they are the star of the story and have the opportunity to save the day in the final act.

I'm sticking with "The Quest." I think there's more to mine there and I'm a sucker for an underdog. And this is a show full of underdogs just waiting for their moment to prove to themselves they are worthy of the quest we call life.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Brittney Griner needs to take a seat.

Brittney Griner needs to take a seat.

In her new book, she talks about the homophobia she experienced while at Baylor University.

As a student of Baylor at the same time as Griner, I can tell you that we all knew she was gay. She openly held hands with her girlfriend on campus, they attended events together and spoke about it in class. The only time this has become an issue for her, is once she started talking to news outlets and she realized there's a lucrative book deal in talking trash about apparent conservatives in an effort to make her road appear more difficult as a gay person.

We know it's hard to come out and every person who goes through that process has their own story, especially in conservative environments. But Griner wasn't an outcast because she was gay at Baylor. People on campus looked up to her and in the two interactions I had with her, she was nothing but kind. Actually, one of those interactions was when she was hand-in-hand with her girlfriend. In public. No. One. Cared. She was doted upon and adulated like a celebrity and was often driven by a golf cart to her classes. There wasn't any talk about her not being able to be herself because in public, when I saw her, she was very open.

Gay people in the public eye need to quit this march of self-martyrdom. I understand that this story sells more books and will get you as the top news story on ESPN and OutSports, but the reality of the situation is not at all what she has presented it to be. It's a tacky scapegoat that sounds really great in the media. "The Baptist University tried to keep the superstar in the closet." When in reality, she was asked to not talk about it in relation to the basketball game. Why? Because it doesn't matter if you're gay or straight when you're on the court. It matters that you can make the play. So why take the focus off of being on a winning basketball team, one of the best in the country, to talk about the private life of a 22 year old girl?

Michael Sam has been in the news and was awarded at the ESPYs for being a trailblazer. While his coming out was also very calculated, he hasn't spoken ill of his time during college. As a matter of fact, he took the alternate route and has talked about the support he felt when he played football in college and that he's taking that support with him as he embarks on his NFL career this fall. Did he have people who didn't believe in him? Probably. But he's focused on the support.

While these comments from Griner will be but a blip on her career radar, it still irritates me that she took cheap shots at a university that paid for her education, gave her the opportunity to win a national championship and supported her all the way to the draft. Baylor is the alma mater of Olympic gold medalists, professional athletes, Emmy winning actresses and some of the top filmmakers in the country, all of which come back to Baylor to give back to the university that gave them their start. I wish Griner would do the same, rather than making Baylor a scapegoat for a more juicy sound bite to get people to buy her book.

I'm going to talk about Holler...

I keep my opinions mostly to myself when it comes to Broadway. Sure, my circle of friends and I will talk about what shows we liked and which ones we didn't, but basically, I keep that out of the public forum. Most of the reason is because I know and am friends with people who are working on Broadway in various capacities. Are they aware that not every show they've been a part of has been a winner? Yes. But they don't need me spewing that out on my Facebook feed. However, this summer, the debate about Broadway criticism has become almost more of a newsmaker than a show itself.

Holler If You Hear Me, the Broadway musical that used the music of Tupac as it's guide, opened and closed quickly. This wasn't surprising to most, especially among the people I know who saw the show, including myself.

I'll admit, I saw the show early on in previews. There were a couple weeks worth of changes that could have taken place between the time I saw it and when it opened, but in talking to people who went to see it after me, it didn't sound like much change had taken place.

My root-level thoughts are these: a large cast and crew were employed on Broadway. That's a win. The amount of talent within that cast list read like a gleaming beacon of belting divas and powerful men. That's a win.  The show was unlike anything else that was on the Great White Way. Win.
From the get-go, it was billed as the rap musical on Broadway. This was the selling point. Rap on Broadway with an almost entirely black cast. I think that's great. The Lion King and Motown both employ large mostly black casts, but that's about it. Broadway was and is a predominantly white person medium, something that is changing and needs to continue to do so. Even in BLEEP, I have written about the need for color-blind casting in classic shows. So having a big show in such a huge theater employing these actors was a win.

But when I got to the show, the excitement of something new quickly wore off as I was pummeled with the n-word in every other stanza, fed a less-than-compelling story and presented with performers who were not in the least bit utilized to the potential I've seen them have in other works. Another of the selling points was Tupac's poetic lyrics, which told the story of what was happening on the streets at the moment he was writing. The problem is that those lyrics were nearly impossible to understand as they were shouted sans any diction. Yes, I'm a white male with a masters degree in Communications from a private university, but for someone who doesn't know every word of the Tupac catalog (and I would argue that was 95% of the audience) that immediately sucked the poetic meaning out of the story...because you can't understand the story.

Even the ending, although borrowed from the book of West Side Story, felt like it could have been a poignant moment, until the shouting commenced again, utterly ruining any sort of emotional and teachable moment that existed.

After the show closes, star Saul Williams, did an interview with Rolling Stone where he blamed racism as the reason the show closed. There's no other way to read what he said. He is wrong. The show closed because it was a sub-par show, on too large of a stage, in a giant theater they could never fill in the middle of the summer. Motown sells out. Trip to the Bountiful was a hit. The Color Purple was a hit. This season, After Midnight was a hit and one of the best nights of theatre I have had. But when After Midnight closed, there wasn't any talk about racism being the reason.

Absent from most of the conversation was reference to In The Heights, the rap musical that won four Tonys, a Grammy and was nominated for the Pulitzer. But those were Hispanic people...so in some conversations I had, that nullified my argument apparently. But what I know, and this is coming from someone who actually lives in the heights and I experience the culture daily, is that In The Heights was rap. It was rap on Broadway that was insanely successful, launched people's careers and opened the door for more musicals in the same genre. The difference between In The Heights and Holler was that Holler wasn't a good musical. 

At the end of the day, it was poorly constructed, and rather than going Off-Broadway where it wouldn't be such a financial loss and also give the creative team time to gauge audience reaction, edit and change the show before spending Broadway money on it, they jumped at the chance to make a statement on a big stage. That statement didn't end up being what they wanted. 

I struggled with whether I was going to post this, but I've decided that just because I didn't like one show doesn't mean that I don't support art and the continued diversity of the art that's presented on the world's biggest stage, Broadway. After all, Broadway is the artform I love the most. I think that's why I just had to write it out and say what I wanted, because both audiences and the cast of Holler deserved better. Tupac deserved better than what was done with his lyrics. His writing serves as both a time capsule and a voice for people who feel voiceless. The intention was for that voice to roar on Broadway and instead, it shuttered with a whimper. 

What this show did do was ignite a conversation that needs to be had. Unfortunately, the conversation became about racism instead of what it needed to be about: producing better shows that warrant the $100 price tag attached to the tickets. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A new cadence

Is there anything as exciting as finding a new song to love? 
We live in a culture where new music is disseminated on an hourly basis and thanks to the internet, we have the ability to immediately listen to it, make a decision on whether to add it to one of our Spotify playlists and then go on with our day. But isn't it thrilling when you hear a song that stops you in your tracks for whatever reason and you not only press repeat, but can almost feel it sinking into your soul? 
Music has the ability to do that in a way that other artforms really don't. Other mediums can speak to us and they can certainly affect us, but music has a different affect on us. It's something we live our lives in. We walk down the street with our headphones in, we listen to it in our cars, we hear it at a church, it's overhead in a store - we actually have a soundtrack to our lives, whether we choose it or not. 
Every now and then, there's a song that surprises you for one reason or another and it becomes part of the fabric of our day. We hear it even when it's no longer playing. The beat becomes the cadence of our steps. Is there anything better? 

Sometimes, happiness is as simple as a new song to love and with it, a new cadence for our day. A small change that can mean so much. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Deep

Today is a deep day.
A deep day.
Some days, we go about our business, check the things off our schedule we need to get done, watch our shows at night, post a status or two about this or that and we head to bed before we start over again in the morning. Those aren't deep days. Those days, at best, are skimming on the surface. We all have those days. Sometimes, life can feel like it's made up of those days.
But then there are those days when something happens and it causes you to dig deep within you and fully be present for what comes up.
We released our new issue of the magazine today, and it's full of gospel artists. This isn't usually what we cover in the magazine, but why stick to a formula? We're creative so let's act that way. Interviewing some of these artists was like revisiting my childhood. I didn't listen to anything else besides them and talking to them felt like such a full-circle Oprah moment.
So I've been thinking deeply today. I began digging into my apartment to clean it and at the same time, I've been digging deep and allowing myself to remember the experiences that went on in my life that were tied to these artists. It's a lot of unpacking. Not that I'm a closed off person, I allow myself to be present again in those moments often, but today was a little different.
So I listened to that music again, I cleaned my apartment, and I even looked at some old pictures. Allowing yourself to remember, relive and feel deeply the moments of your past that sculpted you is a powerful thing. It's really something to let yourself be conscious in the moments that have passed. Today, we are overly focused on living in the now - telling ourselves that our pasts don't define us. And there'a a validity to that but only to a point. Our pasts absolutely define us and the decisions we make in the present.
I allowed myself the freedom to live in those moments, feel those moments again and dwell there again, if only for a moment. And it was freedom. And it was fulfilling to feel connected to those moments again.
That's why today is a deep day. That's also why today is a great day. It's great to feel deeply.