Right. Where to start? When you haven't been blogging for about a year and a half, it's hard to know where to begin. I'll start by saying my how I've missed this place! There isn't a whole lot about my life that's been as consistently gratifying as writing every day (or so). Though it was abundantly clear to me that I was burned out and needed a break. When I first began this website I was around 22 years old. I am now 27. It's amazing what five years can do to a person. I look back on much of what I've written here and I don't regret it one bit. Okay maybe a little. There are a few things I read now and cringe due to sentence structure or a mindset I held that I've now changed. But more often than not, I am forever indebted to whoever created the blog because I am fairly certain that there is no way I ever would have amassed 696 essays without such a phenomenon.
When I first began blogging it was a fairly new concept. Most of my friends, family and associates weren't well versed in what a blog was. Mass media was a bit threatened by the notion and was reporting on blogging with the same lack of understanding they're currently displaying in stories about Twitter. I kind of credit myself with launching my blog before blogs became the hotness du jour. Since I've watched the concept flourish and my daily online pit stops consist of visiting blogs more often than CNN or Reuters or even the New York Times.
I've tried for some time to pinpoint the moment when blogging wasn't as fun for me. I love writing and I love expressing myself so I couldn't comprehend why I'd burned out. Then one day it hit me. For whatever reason, this blog often found its way to politics. Understandably so seeing as how one of my chief passions in life is the discussion of worldview and how it relates to the political realm. That said, I realized that I am a person whose insights, discussions and revelations flow from my every day life. Simply put, I wasn't writing about my life. If anything I was trying to be as discrete as possible thanks to one too many loon bats emailing me with off the wall missives. You know who you are. So as my life began to enhance (with love, marriage, and some more fun stuff I'll share in the future), I found it more difficult to "be my whole self" in this space I'd created.
If you're a subscriber, I apologize. I'm re-launching my blog but I have to tweak the design first so I've thrown up a couple of dummy posts to help me with formatting. Most of you probably subscribed so long ago you don't even remember what this blog was about! I trust you made a good decision by subscribing. Promise I'll be back with REAL content very very shortly! Thanks for your patience.
Earlier this summer while attending my brother's all boys private prep school high school graduation, I couldn't help but home in on something incredibly tragic. It wasn't the sea of khaki and bowties or the overabundance of navy blue sport coats and Lacoste boat shoes present. It wasn't even the fact that my brother's graduating class had all of like ten black kids--or the tragedy that ten black males is actually quite impressive for the average private east coast school. No my dear friends, this offense was far more egregious. Seated in the crowd of proud parents, I spotted a modified mullet.
Seriously, people does this really need to be said? Apparently so. It didn't work for Steven Segal or Michael Bolton so what pray tell makes people think this look is even remotely attractive? Sure we can all agree that the mullet of the 80s was scandalous in its own right. We all prayed to God that trend would never ever return. Unfortunately, the next iteration of that fiasco can be seen above. So for all who have ever wondered, here are my two cents: if you are a man at no point and again I say at no point whatsoever should your hair be at varying lengths such that certain sections can be put into a ponytail while others cannot. Not only is it not acceptable; it's not cute. Let it go brotha...let that back bit of hair go.
So I have this fish--his name is "Edward." He's a betta fish and I've had him for almost four years now. As far as I'm concerned, four years might as well be 250 in fish years. Never in my life has a fish survived my care longer than two weeks. When I was a kid, I always won a goldfish or two at the annual church carnival. I'd bring the fish home (to my parents’ dismay), plop them in a glass pitcher, and a week or so later, they'd die. Honestly, I never thought much of it. Though I must say whenever the topic of goldfish comes up, I am reminded of the Cosby Show. Why? For every life scenario, there is a Cosby Show episode begging to be referenced. When seeking out wise counsel in life the order of operations is such: God, The Bible, and then The Cosby Show. The second episode of the series featured the death of Rudy's pet goldfish, Lamont, followed by a bathroom funeral that would make any pet jealous.
My dead fish never got funerals.
As an adult, I thought I'd turn over a new leaf. I'm not really the fish-owner type. Real fish owners talk to their fish daily, eat dinner on TV trays and know all the answers on the "Wheel of Fortune." I'm of the persuasion that fish tanks have a dentaloffice-esque feel about them and personally, I like to make distinctions between my home and my last root canal. So for me, the betta fish was a good compromise. They don't need large tanks and they're really low maintenance. My kinda fish!
When I first got Edward, I had no idea whether he was male or female or even how to tell. I took a chance by giving him a masculine name. It turns out I was right on (Thank God). The last thing a fish needs is an identity crisis. To make matters worse, "Edward" was purchased from Wal-Mart. Not even a fish deserves that type of legacy. Did you know Wal-Mart sells fish? Wal-Mart sells everything. If Wal-Mart could sell happiness, I bet they would. That fact notwithstanding, I still detest Wal-Mart.
Almost four years later, I've nearly killed Edward about a dozen times and he's still alive and somewhat kicking. I recently realized I don't have much time to take care of him any more and last week I made the decision to put the fish out of his misery. We live on the waterfront so I had this grand plan to dump Sir Edward into Lake Washington. I visualized him swimming to his heart's content, free from that mean black lady who never changed his tank water. That is until Andre (my husband), questioned my motives:
Andre: Do you even know if that type of fish can survive in the lake?
Me: No. But I'm sure he'll be fine!
Andre: So you mean he could possibly die?
Andre: Whatever. Just make sure you're doing the right thing. That is another life and you need to be a good steward of it.
Who knew that getting married meant you have your own live-in judge AND jury? Yippee! I suppose it's always been my dream to marry a man who could use the word "steward" in every day conversation while also managing to send me into a downward spiral of conviction. Sexy I tell you. "Make sure you're doing the right thing" is Andre's code for "REPENT of your sins you wretched woman!" The most non-animal-loving, anti-pacifist man you will ever meet was defending a fish!. He was right though. What I planned on doing would probably kill the fish. It was just my chicken way of getting rid of him without flushing him down the toilet.
A few days passed and after mulling it over for awhile, I decided to put an ad on Craigslist to give away Sir Edward, the betta fish. It may go down as the silliest thing I've ever done, but at least I won't be answering to God (or my husband) on why I killed that darned fish. Then it happened. The responses. Oh my the responses! Nearly a hundred people replied wanting to rescue dear Edward from my care. A fish. They wanted to rescue a friggin' fish!
It was at that point I had my moment of clarity. Yes people, there is a point to this useless saga. There are two lessons to be learned here. One, Craigslist rocks and two, if one hundred plus strangers can show that much care, concern, and enthusiasm for a stupid fish whose presence or lack thereof will minimally impact the earth, America has got a heck of a lot of repenting to do for the unborn lives we've allowed to be killed on our watch. I can assuredly say there are generations desperately in need of the genius, the creativity, and the warrior-like spirit undoubtedly found among those never given a chance to live.
I'm back again. The summer in Seattle and about 32 weddings to attend, along with my general distaste for much of the direction of this blog kept me away. Needless to say, I'm changing up the pace a bit and incorporating more freeform writing. Should be fun. I have some fun updates too. One of them involves being on national television. More on that later.
This past weekend we flew to Virginia for a graduation. At my parent's house, we're all sitting around the family room and the following discussion takes place. Another to file under disappointingly humorous conversations with my beloved mother:
Mom: Hey Ambra, remember that Cap'n Crunch Commercial you filmed?
Me: Totally. Would you believe I called Quaker Oats a few years ago to try to track down the tape?
Me: They were very helpful. I described to the them the commercial, the production company, the year, and the cast: a little black girl and a white boy. They quickly sent me a tape. I popped it in and unfortunately it was ANOTHER little black girl and a white boy. Who knew Quaker Oats had such diversity.
Mom: Did you tell them it was for the Christmas Crunch cereal commercial in particular?
Me: Yes, but maybe I got the year wrong. Oh well. One day when I'm famous and on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno", they will track it down for me and play it as one of my "embarrassing clips."
Mom: Did you know you made like $8,000 from shooting that commercial?
Me: Um, all I ever got was a $1,500 check.
Mom: Yeah that was union pay for the actual day of the shoot. Your residual income was like $8,000 for the holiday months.
Me: What the heck? I never saw or knew about that money.
Mom: I know. We spent it on your private school tuition.
Me: Without my permission? What if I didn't want to spend it on that? I mean, I was in 8th grade; I wasn't exactly a little kid.
Mom: Private school was expensive. The money was invested well.
Me: Man, I feel like Gary Coleman up in here.
Me: Gary Coleman, Emmanuel Lewis, Macaulay Culkin, and Ambra Nykol on the next E! True Hollywood Story
If you're in the greater Chicago area, my husbo and I will be on air tonight as guests during the beginning of the hour, 7:00 pm (CST) on the McClendon Report - WVON 1690 AM. I'll be talking about the blog, online media and our new podcast.
Nine months ago today, I embarked upon a wonderful journey. Though unremarkable to most, a nine month anniversary pales in comparison to my parents' twenty-six year marriage and especially my grandparents' fifty years of matrimony. Heck, we're not even a year in but every milestone for me is pretty tremendous considering the dismal standards our society has for marriage. Don't get me wrong. We deserve no pats on the back. It's not as though I'm waiting for the moment when I can yell out "Hey, we've made it longer than Tori Spelling!" God help me if I ever use celebrity schizophrenia as my measuring rod for a successful marriage.
Throughout our engagement, Andre and I battled the evil forces called "wedding planning." If ever there were a shady racket to be found it is in the wedding industry. Only could a bridal salon get away with charging $300 for a piece of tulle by calling it a "bridal veil." During the whole arduous (but fun) process, we constantly reminded ourselves not to spend more time planning our wedding (an event) than we did planning our marriage (a lifetime). I would say we did about 60/40 and the result was an awesome wedding and thus far, an awesome marriage.
I haven't been at it long, but I can already say marriage ranks second on my list of best decisions I ever made. No doubt the single life is fantastic. If you are not married, live it up. Being unmarried has its own set of wonderful benefits and let me just say I managed to milk every last drop out of those benefits and I'm so glad I did.
By many standards, I got married young. Though at 24 (the age I was when I wed), in some countries I'd have five children and a goat by now. I am of the mind that maturity more than age should determine when a person is ready for marriage. I am also of the mind that history has proven the power a collective society has in determining exactly what the age of maturity is. In America and in many other countries, we associate the age of responsibility with the ability to drive a car, buy cigarettes, alcohol and obtain credit--not exactly good indicators of much of anything let alone maturity of an individual. One generation casts low expectations to the next, expectations are met and those expectations become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Today, we generally deem the average 21-year-old very immature.
I always knew I'd marry young. My general nature is fairly driven so a casual relationship here or there would never fly with me. If I was going to be in a relationship, it was for the long haul or not at all. The upside to that perspective was that we went into our marriage without a lot of the usual baggage. If I had to make one recommendation to all you future married-folk out there, the less baggage the better. I would do the baggage-free dance if one existed, but I think the funky chicken will suffice. If you have baggage, spend some time lightening your load before you join with another person in holy matrimony. It will make a world of difference.
I've struggled with how much of this aspect of my life I want to share online and I'm not sure I've come to a clear resolution. One thing I know for sure - we are in dire need of more clear-minded voices speaking out on the topic of marriage so if I can contribute my humble bit, I most certainly will.
So happy 9-month anniversary my dear. Here's to many many more (except in the future I would prefer to celebrate in 12-month increments, thanks).
If you ever want to suffer a massive blow to your intellectual ego, watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee. What these pre-pubescent middle schoolers can do is nothing short of amazing.
To describe a spelling bee as "enthralling" is probably teetering on the edge of sanity, but I must say every time the national bee rolls around I am giddy. Between the bizarre mnemonics, the fainting, and the Alex Trebekian-bred announcers, I just can't get enough. As nerdy as that statement may sound, it speaks volumes that this year the bee made its way out of ESPN's weekend-crappy-time-slot obscurity and into prime-time on a major network station. If only we could get Dick Vitale to call the play-by-play next year. That would be one entertaining event.
If you hadn't noticed, spelling is now "hot." Well, sort of. I doubt the masses will be lining up for autographs of spelling bee champions any time soon. I sometimes wonder if there is a direct correlation with spelling aptitude and social awkwardness. Awkwardness certainly abounded on that Washington D.C. stage last night. Then again, I'd like to see any adult (myself included) stand up on stage in front of millions of viewers and spell "autochthonous" (the winning word of 2005) with such finesse. I reckon the nationwide acceptance and appreciation of such talent and ability has grown leaps and bounds over the last few years. Surely that's thanks to ventures like last year's fabulous, though not so blockbuster film--"Akeelah and the Bee"--a movie I am not ashamed to admit made me shed a tear or three. It's also a movie that despite rave reviews and the public blessing of "Reverend" Oprah Winfrey, didn't fare so well at the box office. Black girls winning spelling bees isn't quite as appealing as black women whoring themselves for Academy Awards, I guess.
The presence of "diversity" among the spellers is a matter of perspective. When I worked for Google, a large percentage of the company's employees were East Indian. Needless to say, naan is now one of my staples. Most companies would put a feather in their diversity cap for pulling such numbers. In the tech world however, it has become quite clear that a large presence of East Indian employees is the rule and not the exception. So diversity for Google meant recruiting more women and more Americans of color. In that same vein, I often notice that at spelling bees, diversity abounds, but really, it doesn't. The statistics are fascinating. Some commonalities found among the majority might be: quality of school district, socioeconomic status, and presence of two parents in the home. I'd be curious to know exactly what are the makings of a typical championship speller. I won't lie; year after year I wonder why we don't see any more black students up there competing for the title. The "Why" is probably a much bigger question than I'm willing to discuss here. This year, however, I was very pleased to see Kennyi Aouad, 11, of Terre Haute, Indiana, a "fly" in the proverbial buttermilk of academic competitions. I almost cried. Clearly spelling bees are emotional occasions for me.
I also shouldn't fail to mention this year's winner, Evan O'Dorney, whose winning word "serrefine" seemed to present little challenge to his studious mind. But my pick of the night was the lone girl in the top ten, firecracker Isabel Jacobsen of Madison, Wisconsin. I can't help but keep solidarity with my chromosome sisters. She made it into the top three spellers and to boot she is one smart cookie. In her video profile aired during the bee, she mentioned one of her favorite words I will soon be adding to my arsenal:
"Kakistocracy": Rule by the least-able or least-principled of citizens; a form of government in which the people least qualified to control the government are the people who control the government.
Out of the mouths of babes, eh? Come January 2009, I fear we might have more uses for "Kakistocracy" than we'd like should a few certain individuals be elected to the White House. Blogger Michelle Malkin has other suggestions for use of the word.
Until then, I'll be reading my dictionary, trying to catch up for next year.
I have a problem with the notion that it is oppressive for children to be taught proper English. As though enforcing standards on the youth of America is somehow going to make them grow up repressed and bitter about being able to form sentences and conjugate verbs. They would have us all believe these children will end up as adults resting on a couch somewhere talking to a shrink about the horror of not being allowed to freely "express themselves" in the classroom. In America personal expression is overrated and unregulated. It conjures up something vaguely reminiscent of those hellion children on the show "Supernanny" who are permitted to yell obscenities at their parents all in the name of "freedom".
When it comes to freedom of expression, educator Garrard McClendon is breaking the language barrier. He's written a book, "Ax or Ask: The African American Guide to Better English" where he tackles many of the falsehoods about language that have been perpetuated in media, education, and the sub-culture. Not only that, he's done what most of us have failed to do: invade the public school system. McClendon has formulated a curriculum that teaches students how to speak proper English by focusing on correcting commonly mispronounced words and bad grammar. As can be expected, he's come under a bit of fire for specifically targeting black students. Although it is becoming quite clear that such a curriculum is needed in many other circles, his goal was to target the group of people being most affected by improper speech. For high schoolers in particular it could mean missing out on college scholarships, future jobs, and more importantly, the opportunity to say something meaningful to the world.
My dear Seattle has been in the news quite a bit as of late thanks to American Idol. Earlier this year, Seattle made headlines when Seattle Public Schools was in search of a new superintendent. Trouble came a brewin' when it was suggested that potential candidates have "a clear understanding of institutionalized oppression." At first glance, I don't see too much wrong with that statement. A little more digging and it was revealed that the implications of such a statement were convoluted to say the least. Last year, in a statement released by the school system's "Office of Equity and Race Relations", racism was defined as such (emphasis added):
"Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as "other", different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers."
So it's racist to set an atmosphere where students are expected to speak proper English? I guess the proof is in the pudding. Seattle Public Schools rank among some of the worst. Even Bill Gates stopped giving to Seattle Public Schools.
I've written quite a bit here about my sincere appreciation for the English language. Upon mastering it, I believe language, no matter where its national origin, is a very powerful knife. Language can cut very deeply. It can scar, wound and unnecessarily mark those who speak, hear or read it. When used as a butcher knife it can be fairly destructive. Contrarily, when wielded by the right person, language can be used as a scalpel to carefully dissect thoughts, expose hearts, and bring understanding and revelation to a culture desperately in need of a clear voice on just about everything.
Don't get me wrong. I am no language purist. I appreciate the newness of speech and the wacky words and expressions added to my vocabulary on a daily basis. I think the Urban Dictionary is a treasure trove of hipster nerdom. The beauty in being able to speak proper English is the license you receive to speak it improperly. In fact, some of the greatest writers in history consistently violated Strunk & White's rules of proper grammar, but did so with such intelligence and eloquence the average person could see the mark of master wordsmithing.
Every day, multiple times a day and depending on how I feel I might slip into my lax speech and be speakin' bad grammar usin' words like ain't and edumacation and dropping the terminal consonant off the verbs. The fact that I can analyze my own slang makes me a nerd. It also makes me a master of my words. I thank my private school education and my parents for that. When I slip into slang it's usually due to cultural idioms or because I'm chatting with my husband or friend and doing it for emphasis. I think of it as a dialect--my urban Seattleite version of patois. The caveat to my intermittent and intentional misuse of the English language is that I would never under any circumstances do so in the presence of those who didn't know I knew otherwise. Half the language battle is knowing where and when to speak appropriately. The other half is knowing how to speak appropriately. Therein lies the rub.