Friday, February 10, 2017

Removing Oakley

Former NBA player and bad ass, Charles Oakley, was involved in an altercation with Madison Square Garden security when they told him he had to leave. Oakley was a few rows above New York Knicks owner James Dolan when the incident occurred. The two have been embroiled in a feud mainly because Oakley has been critical of Dolan and his handling of the Knicks. If you're a basketball fan, you know that Dolan has thin skin. You also know that Oakley isn't one to back down from anything or anyone. This is the video of what happened on Wednesday night:

Word has it that Oakley was removed because Dolan simply doesn't like Oakley. Dolan says that Oakley was acting in an "inappropriate and abusive manner." Whatever side you fall on and, trust me, nobody on social media is showing much love for Dolan - the point is, if Madison Square Garden security is asked by the owner to remove a certain person from the venue, they are simply doing their job. The only person Oakley should have a problem with is James Dolan. In that sense, Oakley was being disruptive. I can't side with Oakley because, whether he was guilty or simply minding his own business, in this case, he chose to shoot the messenger.

Friday, February 3, 2017


I've been obsessed with the entity known as Banksy since the day I first laid eyes on the 2010 documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop." I say entity because it's quite possible that Banksy could be male, female, or a collective. However, because Banksy is portrayed as a male throughout this documentary, I will refer to "him" as "he." And, just so you know, this is a spoiler alert, so rid yourself of this review if you want to watch it for yourself.

The film starts with Banksy and his merry band of street artists strolling the city looking to create art on buildings, billboards, etc., despite the fact that it is against the law - you know, those stuffy, authoritative figures who just don't understand the edgy, cool crowd. Other street artists, including Shepard Fairey who created the now famous Obama campaign poster with the word "hope" at the bottom, speak about street art culture throughout the documentary. Either way, the bait has been set and this is the point in the film where Banksy, the pied piper of cool, introduces us to a character who will eventually label himself as "Mr. Brainwash."

Mr. Brainwash is the exact opposite of Banksy and his graffiti cohorts. He is portrayed as a clumsy, uncool wannabe street artist who steals everyone's ideas to create art of his own. Banksy and company rip on this poor guy from here on out. Banksy, feeling bad for the guy, sets up a gallery for Mr. Brainwash to display his work while endorsing it the whole way. As word gets out and the day of the show begins, lines wrap around the gallery for blocks. The fix is in as Mr. Brainwash allows the adulation to go to his head and buys into his own hype. What a no talent idiot, right? Not exactly.

Whether you like art or not, Banksy has not only pointed out how the art world works, but society as a whole. The early bird or, in this case, the "cool" person gets the worm. Create art as an "uncool" individual and most of society will say your work sucks, unless someone "cool" says otherwise. The point is, allowing someone to tell you what is and what is not right or wrong is the definition of a tool. Dismissing someone who has a better grip on a certain subject because they don't fit the profile and you are still a tool. And this is the gift Banksy has left us, not physical art, per say, but performance art in which he exposes the inner tool in all of us.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Trumpian Logic

The big news recently, of course, has been President Trump's ban on immigrants coming into the US from certain Muslim countries. Even before Trump's views on immigration came to surface, I've pondered the idea of a saturation point regarding immigrants in our country. I think it's a valid question. We obviously can't take everyone, but who makes the final decision on who we will or will not allow in? Unfortunately, neither saturation nor security seem to be the main motivators for Trump's immigration policies. He has banned immigrants coming into the United States from seven countries which includes: Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. Let's face it, there are bad hombres everywhere, but in Trump's world, we are led to believe that these particular seven countries have the worst hombres in the world who are ready and willing to destroy the United States at the drop of a hat.

According to President Donald J.Trump's own financial disclosures, he has business dealings in 25 countries and none of them include the seven countries on the ban list. And, yet, the world's leading sponsor of Islamic extremism - Saudi Arabia - is conveniently nowhere to be found on this list. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that every US President has turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia's dirty dealings. Why? Oil. Oil. Oil. The other explanation may be that Trump did not include any Muslim majority country that he has business interests in. Making significant political decisions as "leader of the free world" fueled more by your own business interests than the interests of the country you are in charge of is not only unethical, it's criminal as well. If Trump survives this sloppy start to his administration and makes it through his first term, he will truly earn the title of the "Teflon Don."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Quicksand of Stigma

"Manic-depression is a frustrated mess."
-Jimi Hendrix

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population suffers from bipolar disorder. Being that I am a member of the 2.6 percent club, I can tell you firsthand that the gulf of understanding between those who have bipolar versus those who don't is vast.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that only 25 percent of people with mental health issues feel that people are caring and sympathetic toward their struggles. And, honestly, I get it. If you're not bipolar and you're not educated about it, it's hard to relate to those who do. But for those of us who do suffer from it, the lack of understanding and empathy compounds the hell that we're already in.

Invisible to the outside world, bipolar is genetic in nature and filled with stigmas. These stigmas, however, fall short in light of the statistics. The suicide rate among those with bipolar is 30 times higher that the general population. Our lifespan is roughly ten years less than everyone else. I could go on and on. The point is - having a bad day from time to time is not bipolar. Why, then, is bipolar so intense?

For me, the manic side allows me to fit into society by be outgoing, personable, etc.(even though I haven't had an intense manic episode in quite some time). Mania is the highest of highs that is better than any drug out there and you're constantly trying to chase it. You build relationships that you won't be able to maintain because the darkest wave of depression will come along eventually to the point that you have to avoid people and certain circumstances. You're no longer the person that everyone wants you to be. You have to hide which forces you to destroy relationships just so you can breathe. It's exhausting to be one person for a certain amount of time and a completely different person the rest of the time.

The overwhelming number of people I know who are bipolar also have or have had a substance abuse problem including myself. It's rarely an attempt to get high. It's a need to find balance. Downers when we're too wound up and uppers when we're too down to even get out of bed. We will damage our bodies just to get through the day. The future is meaningless. We desperately need to cure the moment we're in.

Thoughts of suicide eventually lead to attempts. I've had three myself. I've grown tired of having to put on my "happy mask" because you are not allowed to be anything but grateful for the life you have in this wonderful world. All of this despite the fact that I am truly grateful for not having "third world problems." It is a disease that allows you to see through all the bullshit which is both a blessing and a curse. Whatever the outcome, I keep marching on even though the stigma says I am simply giving up.

Some of us take lithium and antidepressants, and most everyone believes these pills are fundamentally wrong, a crutch, a sign of moral weakness, the surrender of art and individuality. Bullshit. Such thinking guarantees tragedy for the bipolar. Without medicine, 20 percent of us, one in five, will commit suicide. Six-gun Russian roulette gives better odds. Denouncing these medicines makes as much sense as denouncing the immorality of motor oil. Without them, sooner or later, the bipolar brain will go bang. I know plenty of potheads who sermonize against the pharmaceutical companies; I know plenty of born-again yoga instructors, plenty of missionaries who tell me I'm wrong about lithium. They don't have a clue.
-David Lovelace, Scatter Shot:My Bipolar Family

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Fallout of Fake News

The disturbing rise of "fake news" is an inescapable trend that's not going away any time soon. You can post something on social media without a shred of evidence as to its legitimacy. That post gets shared "x" number of times on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and, before you know it, you wind up with "Pizzagate" or some other over-the-top emotional response to a fictional story.

Fake news, however, is not exclusive to social media. It seems that the mainstream media, as well as other media outlets, are sometimes tweaking stories to fit their own agendas and raise their respective profiles. In his final press conference yesterday, President Obama expressed his own concerns with the fake news phenomenon:

If fake news that’s being released by some foreign government is almost identical to reports that are being issued through partisan [U.S.] news venues, then it’s not surprising that foreign propaganda will have a greater effect. It doesn’t seem that far-fetched compared to some other stuff folks are hearing from domestic propagandists.
I do hope that we all just take some time, take a breath... to just reflect a little bit more about how can we get to a place where people are focused on working together based on at least some common set of facts.

My particular focus on fake news has to do with an email I received today from the Daily Kos with an article written by Walter Einenkel. The headline reads: Trump's thanks African Americans for not voting, tells white people that's a good thing." Here is the quote in question that the Daily Kos focuses on:

And the African American community was great to us. They came through, bigly. Bigly. And frankly, if they had any doubt, they didn’t vote and that was almost as good because a lot of people didn’t show up.

Let me translate, if I may. What Trump is obviously saying is that more African Americans voted for Trump than most people anticipated. Whether that's true or not is beside the point. African Americans not voting or anyone else sitting it out, for that matter, wound up benefiting Trump in the end. And as far as Trump passing this information on to white people only, as though he were speaking at a klan rally, is so disingenuous it's almost laughable.

And, yet, my biggest criticism regarding the news, I reserve for Donald Trump himself. When it was reported that China had seized a U.S. underwater drone(which, in this case, turns out to be true), President-elect Trump tweeted out that the drone had been "stolen" by China in an unprecedented act(China returned the drone without incident). This wouldn't be a big deal if Trump was still just a wealthy, outspoken businessman, but he's not. Knee jerk reactions to news stories is nothing new. The Commander in Chief, however, wears many hats, one of those being the hat of diplomacy. Firing off tweets at every news story, fake or otherwise, with no regard as to the consequences can be as dangerous as firing off actual missiles. The only "unprecedented act" occurring right now comes from a man who is doing more damage to the presidency even though he has yet to be sworn in.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

In Defense of a Trump

According to a article, Shannon Coulter, the CEO of a communications agency, has called for a boycott of Ivanka Trump's fashion line, the Ivanka Trump Collection, and she's asking retailers who carry her products to break ties. Why? Because, according to Coulter, Ivanka has steadfastly supported her father's presidential campaign in spite of his misogynistic and predjudicial language throughout this exhausting election.

To Shannon Coulter and any of her followers who plan on entertaining this notion of punishing Ivanka Trump for the sins of her father, I would respectfully advise you to do some research on the clothes you wear. You will be hard pressed to find individuals who don't wear clothes made in sweatshops by the hands of children. Here's a list of some of the U.S. clothing retailers and others who outsource their labor to sweatshops in order to maximize profits:

Before you start pointing fingers at Ivanka Trump, you should, first, take stock of your own culpability in matters of morality. Anything less is hypocrisy.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Wendy Williams and HBCUs

Morning talk show host, Wendy Williams, recently made comments regarding Historically Black Colleges and Universities that didn't set well with many:

...I would be really offended if there was a school that was known as a historically white college. We have historically black colleges.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities(HBCUs) were created in the first place because blacks couldn't attend white universities. Secondly, I attended an HBCU(Southern University) where I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science. I am white. Just because the overwhelming majority of individuals attending HBCUs are black doesn't mean these institutions discriminate on the basis of color. If they did, I would never have been able to attend and receive the quality education that I did. Let it also be said that Southern University was the only school that accepted me. They did for me what predominately white schools wouldn't. For that, I am eternally grateful. These institutes of higher learning serve a critical purpose and should never be dismantled.

As the result of Williams's comment, however, Chevy pulled out as a major sponsor of her show. We all have learning curves and teachable moments. Unfortunately, we are inching ever so closer toward a nation of robots where everyone will soon be afraid to voice their opinions out of fear of the backlash to come. This will not end discrimination. If anything, it will end further dialogues on topics we desperately need conversations on. If we were as outraged by the epidemic of human trafficking as we were about the opinions of others, we might possibly affect real change. But, then again, that's just my opinion.