Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"Head Games"--Yes, I did do an anti-abuse art project

This video features the art piece "Head Games." It documents a project I did for a required course in the MFA program at the University of New Orleans in Louisiana. The course is Form and Idea. Creative Writing Workshop students have had to take the course through the Film, Theater, and Communications department; however, this is the last year the course will be required for students in the creative writing MFA program.

The course has been replaced by craft courses in the students' specific disciplines, such as poetry and fiction.

My instructor was Henry Griffin, a screenwriter and film professor. He's a passionate and enthusiastic educator, consuming vast amounts of literature, film, and music. While I see the need for craft courses, even applaud their addition, I also think the program may lose something by not exposing its students to this interdisciplinary course.

For the final assignment, Griffin required us to take a piece of art from one genre--a song, a movie, a book, a painting, etc.--and adapt it to a different art form. I chose to turn Joni Mitchell's classic 1975 song "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" into the papier-mâché piece you see in the video.

The idea came to me when I saw local artist and fellow poet Valentine Pierce on Facebook showing off a wig head she'd covered with newspaper via papier-mâché. She did it for practical reasons--to show off hats at the French Market that she's created , but her photo caused me to recall seeing wig heads covered that way when I was a child. And then I remembered making a paper mache duck with my mother when I was bout 8 years old. She was an elementary school teacher.

One of the restrictions for the project was to not do anything you've mastered. We had to do something that we've never done before or had not done in a long time. Paper mache fit the bill for me. Previously I had thought about turning the song into a movie poster, but my drawing's rusty, and the 3-dimensional aspect of the head appealed to me.

Mitchell's song is about a woman enduring psychological abuse and control-freak tactics, so I curated tweets from the #WhyIStayed Twitter campaign launched by Beverly Gooden last year and typed them up, printing them on the laser printer. Later I pasted then on the top of the head. Throughout the piece I also used Joni's lyrics handwritten on different types of paper (newsprint, construction, printer, tissue) and some of the psychologically crippling words I've heard or read before.

The head represents a woman trapped by mental abuse, one who doubts herself, and fears leaving her abuser for whatever reason. That could be financial fears, fear of losing social status, fear for children, or fear for her own life. Sometimes it's all of the above.

Instead of using Joni's actual song, I used the karaoke back-up because I don't want her people to get on me. :-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Is Justin Guarini supposed to be like Prince figure in this Dr. Pepper commercial? (Video)

Okay, so you may recall Justin Guarini as the runner-up to Kelly Clarkson in the first season of American Idol, and then, unfortunately for him, that horrid movie called, From Kelly to Justin. But did you recognize him in this Dr. Pepper commercial featuring him as "Li'l Sweet"?

I'll tell you who I thought of when I saw it, especially when you throw in the falsetto singing Li'l Sweet uses; I thought of His Royal Purpleness, Prince, and I wondered if this was Dr. Pepper's way to leverage Prince's appeal without having to pay the mega-star. Of course, Prince would never do anything as silly as the Li'l Sweet commercial. Silly, but cute, too, I add.

I'm happy Justin has some work.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Woman found with heart missing in time for Valentine's Day (Video)

Just in time for Valentine's Day, a not-so-happy love poem for all those who are a little sad this day because they know how love can take a bite out of a person's heart. No, that does not feel very good, does it?

From the Lost Love News: Woman found, heart missing

New Orleans, Louisiana - On Wednesday night NOPD officers entered a home in the 900 block of Love Struck Lane and discovered a ghastly scene. A woman, now identified as the poet Nordette Writes, lay in a pool of blood. Her heart was missing.

It's incredible, but when paramedics arrived, they discovered the poet still alive. "It's impossible!" said Dr. Harland Cousteau of Wilde Maladjustments Hospital, "This woman should be dead. No one has ever survived without a heart."

Police spokesperson Roderick Joseph said officers were called to the scene after a neighbor reported loud wailing coming from the woman's little shotgun home. Writes came to, according to officers, swearing that a lion in man's clothing had disrupted her entire life.

"She says he'd been coming to spend times with her for weeks," Joseph reported. "He romanced her and promised to protect her, but without warning he gobbled her heart whole right out of her chest."

The refused to speak directly with Lost Love News, but a nurse at the hospital who prefers to remain anonymous said she overheard Writes tell a priest that the man was not only a lion but also another poet.

A neighbor, Miss Hester Prynne, said she has not seen any lions in the neighborhood, however, "Ms. Nordette has been entertaining a tall, dark gentlemen. He has a deep, sexy voice and is very polite. But I never caught his name."

"Saints preserve us!" Sister Mary Francis Benedictine told us. She ministers to the hopeless at the hospital. "We've never seen anything like it. It's a miracle," she said.

Dr. Cousteau said he'd hardly call it that, and he refuses to believe the patient's lion story. "Somehow we are being fooled. It's some kind of illusion, and I will get to the bottom of it, I assure you. There are so many ways to trick us now with technology."

His colleague, Dr. Jung said he believes Writes is suffering from shock and is confused, "She's in what we call a fugue state. With proper treatment, we may bring her back to sanity, and she may even grow a new heart."

Writes remains in her room, resting comfortably but is emotionless, according to the anonymous nurse.

"It's all very puzzling," said Joseph. "Very puzzling indeed."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus Parade: Crazy fun in New Orleans plus the raunchy satire of Krewe du Vieux (Video)

The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus rolled Saturday night, February 7, in New Orleans. It is one of city's many Mardi Gras clubs.
Relatively young, Chewbacchus is unique for its focus on science fiction icons and tropes. This year's parade's theme was “The Cult of the Sacred Drunken Wookiee,” and so billed itself as a "satirical space cult."

Lots of fun! The Krewe has more than 1000 members and the parade felt like it, too.

My daughter was one of the parade escorts, so the first time I went and found a viewing spot with friends on the corner of Frenchmen and Dauphine Streets in Faubourg Marigny adjacent to the French the Quarter.

Anybody can join and march. This year the fee was only $42, and both people of all ages paraded. It was wild and family friendly. I think next year, if I'm still alive, in decent health, and have a few extra dollars, I'll get a tricycle and ride in it myself as sort of a bucket list item.

I think that I prefer some of the looser, more home-spun parades, to the fancier ones that have been rolling for decades. A few weeks ago I also attended the raunchy, political satire Krewe du Vieux for the first time. As its name suggests it's a French Quarter parade. While much older than Chewbacchus, it's also a homespun spectacle of fun-loving rabble-rousers.

I probably would not have gone but I was invited to watch from a French Quarter balcony. Despite having grown up here, that was a first for me, too. Here's the video I took of Krew du Vieux.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mophie's Black God in Superbowl Ad (Video)

At least one Twitter commenter noted, "Twitter is making a really big deal about God being black in the Mophie commercial, as if Bruce Almighty didn't happen over a decade ago."

Actually, I didn't see anyone on Twitter really upset about God being represented as a black man, but I'll take the tweeters word for it. Twitter is a digital sea of humanity, so whatever stupidity you hear of in the brick and mortar world, you'll see it on Twitter.

I remember when Bruce Almighty came out. News and talk shows discussed God's representation in it a bit, but only the dumbest people back then were alarmed that God (Morgan Freeman) was black in that movie. The same thing goes for Dogma, which came out four years before Bruce Almighty. In Dogma, God was a woman (Alanis Morisette).

Mophie, a company I knew nothing about until tonight, may have "the best Super Bowl ad," writes The Verge, and  Fast Company's talking about the ad, too, encouraging the Twitter crowd to flock to its site and see the mobile charger company's ad in widescreen. The company could definitely use the publicity because when I bought my adult children mobile chargers this Christmas, Mophie mobile chargers did not come up in my search or in reviews. I guess they will now.

Back to God being black, I do not think of God as a physical being, but anyone who is troubled by the notion that God may be anything other than a white male needs to do a lot more soul searching. Perhaps the same people who are troubled that God may be black are also the ones who think every man with flowing, dark blond hair, a beard, and blue eyes looks just like Jesus, who was unlikely to have blonde hair or blue eyes.

For me, the ad caught my attention just for its stunning special effects. The final reveal of what was causing all the commotion on Earth made me laugh. Yeah, great ad.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Teacher Dances with Students to Hot "Uptown Funk"

As friends and family know and as my previous blog post confirms, I adore Mark Ronson's hit "Uptown Funk" featuring the lovable Bruno Mars. I watched the video the same day it dropped, immediately fell in love with the its "tip of the hat" to old school jams, and saw "hit" all over it.

I can add to my adorable list this performance of the song by theater students at A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School in Dallas.

The school's theater arts teacher, Scott Pankey, who's front and center dancing with his students, organized the project, according to the Today Show and other news sources. In the video, he leads students through the school's halls shaking to the infectious tune. The Dallas Fox affiliate adds, ". . . the video was all done in one take and it culminates with a large number of students and Pankey dancing together . . ."

In an interview posted below with Pankey and some of his students, he says that he's not a dancer but he told the kids if they would do it, he would do it. He also says that the student filming them was on a library cart. They say they didn't expect the video to go viral, but so far it has more than three million views on YouTube.

I've seen comments on Facebook about this video such as, "I wish I had a teacher like that when I was in high school." Don't we all?

Hat tip my friend and fellow blogger Babz at A Life In Transition for sharing this video on her Facebook page.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Chloe Goins Cosby Accusation Is Awfully Convenient

As almost anyone who knows me will attest, I am not a Bill Cosby defender. I wrote a long post weeks ago explaining why I think the 77-year-old mega-star is guilty. But I've also acknowledged that not all the women may be telling the truth. Some may be pilers-on for whatever reason.

Piler-on: a person, for instance, who hears about a big, public bus accident, claims they were injured in the accident, but later it's discovered that the person wasn't actually on the bus. That's where I see the 24-year-old Chloe Goins. The bus wreck here is the rape and sexual assault accusations exploding against Cosby, and Goins, or maybe someone behind Goins, is trying to cash in. She's piling on. (I apologize Ms. Goins if I'm wrong about you, but I'm saying what I fee.)

Her accusation that Cosby drugged and possibly molested her at the Playboy Mansion when she was 18 feels off, and that it happened in 2008--on the cusp of probable statutes of limitations expiration--seems rather convenient.

Goins is not saying that Cosby raped her. I want to make that clear. So, she's not taking on the stigma of being a rape victim. She says she can't be sure what Cosby (allegedly) did to her but alleges that she woke up to find him masturbating while licking her toes. The timing of her allegation after so many others whose allegations are beyond prosecution flashes like a big red light in my head.

Again for emphasis, my distrust of her is strictly a gut feeling. She could be telling the absolute truth, and like many victims of sexual assault or molestation, she may not have come forward because she was afraid. Cosby is a powerful, older man after all, and she, just six years ago, was a naive girl at the Playboy Mansion possibly afraid no one would believe her for no other reason than she was at the Playboy Mansion. But of all the women who've come forward, she's the one who strikes me as someone who, after having read all the other accusations, had time to think and manufacture a similar testimony.

Also, of all the other women, Goins seems the most like someone who could turn her accusation into a bonanza. She's white, young, and attractive with that bleached blonde, starlet vibe. Or as Prince could have said to someone like her, "U got the look."  She may have more to gain with this accusation and with time before the cameras than she has to lose.

Interestingly, in an interview with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, her attorney, Spencer Kurvin, made a comment last night that indicates he's aware that Goins has a lot to gain. He seemed not to include his client when he spoke of the other women who had come forward with nothing to gain. However he did say that his client risks criminal prosecution for false reporting if it's shown that her story is not true and taking that risk, as well as enduring the emotional difficulty of making such an accusation, gives her credibility.

His comments aside, when I say Goins is attractive, I'm not talking strictly about physical attractiveness. I'm talking about her appearing to be a carefully crafted marketing package, a "commodity." In the picture to the left, as she stands before photographers outside the LAPD building, she has the style and composure of someone with a smoothly constructed public image to maintain.

She also seems like someone who would understand that no matter how her case turns out--Cosby guilty or not guilty--a book deal and celebrity status may be right around the corner.

No, I'm not saying she's a slut nor am I attempting to shame her for her past as Radar Online and others seem determined to do. I'm saying she impresses me in this moment as an opportunist.

Okay. So, take away my feminist card!

Can I be wrong here? Of course I can. Will I be sorry to learn from facts that her story is true? Yes, I will because that will mean she's been abused. If her story is true, then I feel truly sorry for her. No woman should have her body touched sexually without her permission.

And I even admit now that I may be biased against her because she has that stereotypical lean and hungry look for fame. But just as I've shared my opinion on Cosby, I'm sharing it on her accusation. Fishy, fishy, fishy. Cosby is probably guilty of molesting some other woman, but I doubt that he's guilty of molesting Goins. And I usually lean toward giving victims of alleged sexual assault the benefit of the doubt.

On another note, you'd think by now Cosby could have found the accuser with the shakiest story and offered her money to recant. A recanter would cast a shadow on all his accusers, appearing to confirm the suspicions of the Cosby faithful, even some of the Cosby wobbly. They are desperate for anything they can find to logically discredit accusers of America's Dad.

Some Cosby apologists have concocted intricate conspiracy theories about the allegations. (I stress allegations because Bill Cosby has not been charged with any crime.) I've heard everything from the women plotted together to get his money to the mainstream media planned the whole thing because they live to bring black men down. I've even heard that white supremacists have brainwashed black people who believe the women. Yep. I've heard such craziness. Somebody, please, please make it stop.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Beauty, Race, and the Death of Amede Ardoin

On Facebook, I have written briefly about the beautiful book of poetry, If you abandon me, comment je vas faire: An Amédé Ardoin Songbook, by former Louisiana poet laureate Darrell Bourque, but I have not said much about the man honored by the book, Amédé Ardoin.

Ardoin was a black man who is considered to be the father of Zydeco/Creole/Cajun music by many in Louisiana. At the very least, he was a singer/songwriter and "accordion virtuoso." Sometime around 1940, the story goes, Ardoin was assaulted by a group of angry white men and later died.

While playing at an event before a white crowd, the singer asked for a towel to wipe the sweat from his brow. A white woman handed him her handkerchief. This gesture angered some white men who may or may not have been from Louisiana, and they followed Ardoin home, beat him, and ran over him with a car or carriage, crushing his vocal cords.

Unable to sing again, he fell into a deep depression. He died in an asylum later and was buried in an unmarked grave. I can't help think but of Zora Neale Hurston now who died in a home for the indigent and was also buried in an unmarked grave until Alice Walker resurrected Hurston's legacy.

The video below tells more about this gifted man, Ardoin, whose life was brutally shortened.

You can listen Bourque's interview with Susan Larson on WWNO at this link and hear him read some of his work from his Ardoin chapbook and other collections. I love to hear him read and talk.

Profits from If You Abandon Me go toward creating a memorial of some sort for Ardoin.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Poems for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2015

It's that time of year again when educators, church leaders, and parents begin to look for short poems that may be recited at Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As usual, I am seeing a spike in the search for my two poems honoring Dr. King, "Remembering a Life" and "Marking Martin's Day."

One of the things that has given me joy as I get older is discovering that so many different people have used the poems--from elementary school and college students to ministers delivering sermons on that day. Sometimes the poems are recited and sometimes printed in school and church bulletins.

But lately my poem "Behind the Color Blind" seems to be used more often for recitations. I think that's partly because of its heavy use of end rhyme and a steady rhythm. While those poems were written a while ago, I'm glad people continue to appreciate them.