Saturday, April 26, 2008

Going Viral

I don't know how long this Hillary Clinton viral video has been out, but a friend of mine just recently brought it to my attention. Check it out.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Oops, Vogue is racist

God forbid a strong, successful, handsome black man and a strong, successful, beautiful Brazilian woman are snapped together on the cover of a magazine.
The release of this month's issue of Vogue has produced much controversy, specifically surrounding the cover on which basketball phenom Lebron James is pictured with supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Following in the footsteps of Richard Gere and George Clooney, James was selected by Vogue to be the third man ever to grace the cover, arguably the most influential fashion publication in the world. Rather than celebrating this rare honor, critics and readers have uproariously condemned the selection of the photograph, asserting that it is blatantly racist and offensive. They have argued that the cover depicts the Cleveland Cavaliers forward as a "wild and savage white-woman obsessed beast" and Bundchen as a "damsel in distress", an image which they say is too reminiscent of King Kong. On the blog Feministe, Jill Filipovic wrote "I see a scary animalistic black man, a primal scream, and a beautiful white woman. Google image King Kong for a comparison." Over on the website Concrete Loop, commenter's have stated "Lebron is straight up perpetuating a stereotype (that of the brutal, wild savage) that helped enslave, lynch, and murder hundreds of THOUSANDS of our black men for centuries... and I'm just supposed to be content because he made it onto "massa's" magazine?!" Another commenter wrote "...Not only does this man look like an ape, but he's got this good ole prize, a white woman on his arm. There are a number of black high fashion models they could've paired him with and other shots they could've used of him. At least put him in a suit. He carries a suit VERY well."

True, Vogue doesn't have the best history of embracing African-Americans on its covers. As of last November, 4 out of 12 covers of Men's Vogue featured black men while only 3 African American women models and celebrities have received such honors since the magazine was founded in 1914. Despite this, it seems a little brash to brand the magazine as "racist" because of these statistics. As an African-American woman, I would love to see more ethnic and multi-ethnic models on the cover of women's Vogue, however, I am able to understand that the rate of occurrence at which "White" models appear on the cover is partially reflective of the number of "White" supermodels in the high-fashion industry (Keep in mind high fashion models are different than mainstream commercial models). In fact, to call Bundchen "White" is completely incorrect, as she is Brazilian, and therefore does not belong in that demographic. In addition to this Vogue's lack of ethnic models does not simply apply to African-Americans, as they have rarely (if ever) featured an Oriental or Indian woman on their cover.
While I do recognize that almost all men look better dressed up in a suit, dressing LeBron in a suit for the cover would have made no sense given the theme of this issue. For anyone who has yet to pick up their copy, the theme was "Celebrating Different Shapes." Inside, the magazine documented and chronicled a wide variety of Olympic athletes (Appolo Anton Ohno-Speed Skater, Michael Phelps-Swimmer, Chelsie Memmel-Gymanst, Lindsay Felix-Track Star) all of who were photographed in their sport's appropriate gear (leotard, speedo, skates, running shorts etc.) In addition to this some (not all) of the highlighted athletes were pictured next to models who were wearing high fashion pieces. With this said, placing a basketball jersey and shorts clad James next to a Calvin Klein gown wearing Bundchen was not done just for the cover, but continued throughout the issue, further evidencing that the contrasting wardrobe selection was deliberately done to single out James as being stylistically inferior.

As for the "other shots" that could have been used in place such as this one (which was featured inside the magazine alongside the article about James and Bundchen):

I think it's safe to say that this image doesn't grab my attention nearly as much as the one selected.

I don't believe that the problem concerning the interpretation of the cover stems from the racist inclinations of the Vogue publishers, but from the very people who assert it is racist in the first place. I know that when I first looked at the cover, King Kong was NOT the first thing that came to mind, much less the second or third thing (And I recently saw King Kong, too.) In fact, I didn't even think about the cover as being racist until I heard about the buzz being stirred up by critics. I believe that in labeling the image as racist, critics are making race more of an issue than it is or needed to be. In doing so, they essentially make it harder to move forward towards a more "equal" society, as for many like me, race isn't on forefront of my mind until it is brought up.

It's clear that Vogue definitely set out to illicit a response from it's readers with the release of April's issue, however I highly doubt it wanted THIS kind of response...but then again, all publicity is good publicity, especially in media and entertainment.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Lecture of a Lifetime

This man used to stalk me.
Everywhere I went, he went.

Normally I would have been extremely disturbed by such behavior however in this particular case postponed alerting the authorities due to the unique circumstances of the situation.

My first encounter with Randy Pausch occurred a few months ago as I was watching CNN recap their list of people to remember from 2007. Amongst the list of innovators, heroes, and activists highlighted was Pausch. I briefly watched the segment and gathered the basics of his story-he was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who had given a "last lecture" in September that became an international sensation when it was broadcast online-before I changed the channel and proceeded to watch a rerun of Gossip Girl.

My second run in with Pausch happened a little over a week ago when I was checking my email. As I looked through my messages, one from Borders Books entitled "This Year's Most Inspiring Book" caught my eye. Curious as to what this well of inspiration was , I opened the message expecting to see yet another title recommended by Oprah's book club. Surprisingly enough I was not met with Middlesex or The Measure of A Man but The Last Lecture, a book written by, you guessed it, Randy Pausch.

My third, and final, encounter with Pausch came last Sunday at brunch. As I settled down at the dining room table to enjoy my eggs and fruit, I picked up the LA Times and proceeded to sift through the newspaper, picking out my favorite sections. When I plucked out the Parade I once again came face to face with Randy Pausch, whose face was plastered on the cover.

By this time I had just about had it, so I decided to read the enclosed article to find out exactly what made this man was so special and why he and his story had infiltrated every corner of my life.

Last year 47 year-old Randy Pausch agreed to give a "last lecture" at Carnegie Mellon University, the institution at which he was a professor of computer science. The "last lecture" was not literally to be his last lecture, but rather a talk in which the he was to think about what matters most to him and what wisdom he would share with the world if he knew it was his last chance to do so. Last lectures are given at many colleges and universities around the world however Pausch's was especially unique in that a few weeks after being asked to talk, he learned that he was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer and only had a few months to live. With this discovery, the nature of his last lecture changed, as it truly became his final goodbye to his students. Rather than throw himself a pity party and cancel his commitment, this married father of three delivered his talk "How to Live Your Childhood Dreams" last September in which he discussed how he achieved his childhood dreams and provided realistic advice on how others can live their lives so that they could make their childhood dreams come true, too.

Although Pausch's lecture/book are full of heartening tales and advice, I picked out 3 of my favorite lessons of his to share:

1. Dare to Take A Risk
In a virtual-reality course that Pausch taught he encouraged students to attempt hard things without worrying about the risk of failure. At the end of the semester, Pausch presented "The First Penguin Award", a stuffed penguin, to the group that had taken the biggest gamble while not meeting their goals. He derived this award from the idea that when penguins jump in waters that are potentially full of predators, one of them must take the risk and be the first to jump in. Pausch contends that "experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted" and is one of the most valuable things anyone has to offer.

2. Look for the Best in Everybody
Pausch learned this lesson from his friend, and hero, Jon Snoddy at Disney Imagineering. It was Snoddy who told Pausch that is he waited long enough, people would surprise and impress him. From this Pausch realized that when one is angry and frustrated with someone else, it may be because that person hasn't been given enough time. Although it takes great patience and can take many years, Pausch reaffirms Snoddy's assertion that "In the end, people will show you their good side" and that is you "just keep waiting, it will come out."

3. Dream Big
"I was born in 1960. When you're eight or nine years old, and look at the TV set, and men are landing on the Moon, anything is possible. And that is something we should not lose sight of: Inspiration and the permission to dream is huge." -Randy Pausch, 2007

This lesson is perhaps the most simple, yet most rich of them all. Pausch urges all people to not only give themselves permission to dream, but to fuel their kids dreams , too. This particular lesson really hit home with me because as Daily Kos reflected , "we are all busy chasing down something important" and always reason that "there's always time to investigate this later." In the process of doing so, we "begin to overlook the important stuff as we chase the next buck, or the next big thing." I can totally relate to this statement in that I feel like I'm always worrying about what I have to do next, where I'm supposed to go, and what I should be doing to get there (in high school, it was college, in college it's grad school, and in grad school it's the job force) that I've lost sight of the things that I used to dream of doing and have stopped pausing to truly enjoy and experience the things I want to do for much longer than a mere second.
Randy Pausch is truly an inspirational individual. Despite being terminally ill with pancreatic cancer, Pausch has maintained a purely positive outlook on life and unselfishly shared it with the world not for the money, or for the fame, but for his kids, as he believed hat by doing so he was putting himself in a bottle that would "one day wash up on the beach" for his children long after he has gone. His story not only touched my heart, but really reminded me to take a step back and remember what is really important in life and to live it to its fullest every day before it's too late.

Watch Pausch's Lecture Below (I urge everyone to take an hour out of their day to do so):

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Fight Night

Forget Mayweather v. Big Show, I'm more interested in the Mariah Carey and Elvis Presley throwdown.

This week Mariah Carey KO'd the King of Rock when she surpassed him in producing the most No. 1 singles on the Billboard Charts This accomplishment comes courtesy of her 18th single Touch My Body, which is also is No. 1 on the trade magazine's digital download chart. Carey now only takes a backseat to the Beatles who sit at the top spot with 20 number 1 singles.

Although I'm not the biggest Mariah aficionado (or the biggest fan of the horrendously cheesy aforementioned song) I have to admit the girl can sing. For the past 18 years, her pipes have granted her the ability to turn out hit song after hit song, a feat which takes more than just good marketing strategy and luck. Presley fans are a little less likely to admit so, as they have gotten their white sparkly jumpsuits all knotted up in anger over his defeat.

And all over what?

So what if Mariah Carey has more #1 hit singles than Presley? Those numbers say nothing about the quality or lasting impact that each respective artist has had, or will continue to have, on musical culture. Just as KRTH-FM DJ Gary Bryan stated "Mariah Carey is a terrific singer, and this is a great accomplishment, but you can't quantify someones place in music history by chart statistics. Some people reflect their time and some people define their time. Mariah is a reflection of her time...Elvis on the other hand defined his time, much as the Beatles later did. Mariah doesn't have that kind of iconic stature." Los Angeles Times reporter Randy Lewis was able to effectively illustrate this point when he stated that there are no velvet Mariah Carey paintings, nor are there "couples racing to Vegas chapels to be wed by Mariah impersonators. Yes, it is true that Mariah Carey is a pop icon of our time, but she will hardly be able to transcend the times in the manner that Presley did simply because she is not the pioneer that he was.

Despite the Presley fan backlash, Carey has remained a humble and gracious winner. In fact, Carey touched base on what Bryan and Lewis stated by saying that although she was happy and grateful she could never really put herself " in the category of people who have not only revolutionized music but also changed the world" because that was " a completely different era and time."

And if Presley fans just can't get past the numbers, then they should chew on this. On researcher Joel Whitburn's list of Top 500 artists for albums and singles (which is determined on a sliding scale in which musicians are given points for each recording that reaches Number 1, 2, etc.) Elvis comes in first on both the Record Research chart an Album Ranking chart.

2 out of 3 Billboard titles for the King ain't shabby, especially since majority rules.

Rematch, anyone?