Celebrity Hubris
May 21, 2007

There are days (though few in number) when I am absolutely astounded with celebrities and the ignorance of their own inconsequentiality. Granted, we all like to inflate the importance of our own existence every now and then, no? The difference between the average person and those who hold a larger market share of media air time is consciousness. That is to say while the average person has enough sense to know when they have an inflated sense of their own fabulousness, certain celebrities do not.

A recent opinion column in the Los Angeles Times affirmed my long held suspicion. Theodore Dalrymple writes:

The cult of celebrity is not new, but it is increasing in its scope and effect. At one time, people wanted to simply gawp at the famous, and possibly dress like them. Now, many take their moral and political opinions from them.
Lord help us all if we are taking our moral and political cues from the likes of Angelina Jolie, Rosie O'Donnell, and dare I say, Robert Sylvester Kelly.

As though it weren't bad enough that Rose O'Donnell might be vying for a slot as the new host of "The Price Is Right," now R&B singer/pedophile, R. Kelly is comparing himself with Martin Luther King.

In a recent interview with Hip-Hop Soul Magazine, Kelly said,"I'm the Ali of today. I'm the Marvin Gaye of today. I'm the Bob Marley of today. I'm the Martin Luther King, or all the other greats that have come before us. And a lot of people are starting to realize that now."

Quite possibly cold hard evidence R. Kelly is smoking crack. To that end, he is possibly right in comparing himself to Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye. Kelly and his publicist have been back-peddling since the New York Post first ran the quote. Kelly's publicist has since clarified that Kelly was simply pointing out that he's a prolific songwriter of his time.

Generally speaking, writing and producing a lot of hit songs isn't exactly the qualification for joining the ranks of Martin Luther King. And if I recall correctly, Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) was quite the outspoken activist during his reign as heavyweight champion. He was outspoken against the Vietnam War among many other things and despite my issues with the Nation of Islam and just about everything he stood for, at least the man stood for something. That is a heck of a lot more than Mr. Kelly can say.

What disturbs me more than anything is the fact that people (who deserve to be in jail) such as Kelly and others who shall remain nameless continue to feel comfortable talking up their own egos because there is little to no accountability. Instead, the masses still buy albums and bother interviewing him for the sake of selling magazines. To boot, so-called advancement organizations like the NAACP are idiotic enough to nominate the man for an image award while he was under indictment for charges related to child pornography. Way to go NAACP.

It is interesting to me how rarely we make the connection between talent and the need for character. It's as though a person's giftedness or talent somehow make them exempt from moral standards or accountability for their sphere of influence. If our culture is truly drawing opinions and moral conclusions from such characters, doling out moral byes is dangerous ground to be treading.

Perhaps it is accurately fitting that R. Kelly nicknamed himself the "Pied Piper of R&B." A little research on the history of the "Pied Piper of Hamelin" folklore reveals an ending that is terribly eerie:

"While the inhabitants were in church, he played his pipe again, this time attracting the children of Hamelin. One hundred and thirty boys and girls followed him out of the town, where they were lured into a cave and never seen again."
Oh my.

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The Presidential Action Figures
May 18, 2007

Normally I stay far away from the presidential debates. On top of being incredibly boring, the debates on either side of the political spectrum are a bit too reminiscent of a high school homecoming queen competition. They are certainly just as glossy if not even more catty. As I watched the GOP candidates mildly duke it out this past Tuesday evening, I fully expected to see various sets of cheerleaders popping out in between questions. Team Romney's cheerleaders would be wearing "temple ready" uniforms, of course, but they'd be peppy nonetheless.

We certainly are in interesting times. When Woodrow Wilson was elected president in 1913, he didn't have to participate in presidential debates on television nor did he have to worry about his word flubs or neck fat appearing on YouTube the next day. Moreover, many have speculated that if the American public had known Wilson suffered such severely debilitating consequences from his stroke, they may not have elected him at all. I'm no scholar on presidential history so I can't comment on whether or not this was good or bad in the case of Wilson, but I would speculate that such a situation probably wouldn't have been good for someone like say...Bill Clinton. Though the meaning of "good" here is entirely relative; no television persona and platform on which to be "outed" in front of millions of viewers = great for Clinton, however terribly bad for the American people.

With the advent of Web 2.0, every statement, every word, and every misplaced hair is irrevocable. Not only is it irrevocable, if you're a public figure, it's cached, uploaded, downloaded, edited, spliced, and played on repeat from now until all of eternity so you had darn well better get that sentence out correctly the first time. So what do we get when these are the times in which we live? Presidential Action Figures. But not just any action figures. These ones have perfect white teeth, shellacked hair and various strings you can pull to hear a selected catch phrase or opinion on pet "political" issues. In the case of this week's Republican debate, the phrase heard when pulling said string always included the phrase "I am more conservative than you."

I didn't watch the first Democratic debate so I can't make a fair comparison, but given the fact that Hillary Rodham Rodham Rodham Rodham Clinton was present, I suspect the same party-toting banter was carried on - except in Hilary's case, she wasn't an action figure but more like a blow up doll. Or better yet -- a large balloon on a parade float, displayed for all to see and not very useful for much of anything. And while I'm in free-form writing, beginning sentences with conjunctions and whatnot, can I just go on record and say that America as whole (or even a half) is so not going to elect a woman as president? Ain't. Gonna. Happen. So by all means, please give Hillary the nomination so all the other nations can laugh at us.

With the parade float in the mix, as well as Senator Obama (whose racial credibility is going to flip flop almost as much as Hillary's maiden name), this promises to be quite an interesting year. Can't say I'm looking forward to seeing Presidential Myspace pages and all, but I am quite curious to see how this all pans out.

Until then, I'm not holding my breath on any one candidate. There are far more important and interesting things going on in the world and I am certain the formaldehyde will preserve the candidates until we get closer to the election next year.

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Hello, Internet
May 14, 2007

Where to begin? I don't expect too many to be viewing this post just yet as I haven't made the official rounds or notified those who used to frequent this site that it's back up and running. In many ways that's a very good thing as I have a bit of time to ramp up, spell check, and flex my writing, er.. typing muscles. I don't want to spend a great deal of time discussing why the year long hiatus, but I am happy to report this blog will live on.

So much has happened in my life between now and the last time I posted. Good stuff, but granted nothing I could've anticipated would keep me from one of the loves of my life for such an extended period of time. I am now 25 (a young twenty five though dangit), married and still pretty much as rebellious as ever just perhaps a bit wiser, more mature, slightly darker, and most definitely humbled. Much of the last year off has been spent planning a humdinger of a wedding (approximately 400+ attendees and if you're thinking of doing the same let me spare you the stress and just yell "DON'T!") and trying my best to adjust to a new husband (still feels weird typing that) who vehemently insists on putting ketchup on his tacos. I mean honestly, have you ever heard of such a thing?

That thing my parents used to tell me about time and how quickly it flies when you're older; it's amazing how proportionately true that statement gets over time.

The thing that utterly blows my mind is that we're coming up on another election year. Where in the WORLD did four years go? This blog really first started taking off around the 2004 election. I donned my Bush t-shirt with the rest of 'em and honestly, I don't regret for one second casting my first and second votes for George W. Bush. I don't pretend to understand the entirety of what's taken place over the last four years. To be quite honest, it kinda gives me a headache and only reaffirms my deeply held conviction that I am no political junkie and this is not exactly a political blog; it's a worldview blog. What I can say is that the political climate has very much changed. The culture has changed. Dare I even say the agenda has changed as well?

I myself am interested to see what opinions and ideas once again take shape on this here blog. I've gone back to read some of the older posts and it's somewhat like a time capsule -- equivalent to pulling platform shoes and bellbottoms out of an old dusty chest. I mean, who the heck is talking about Alan Keyes anymore? Is he even still alive? What about Bill Cosby's pound cake speech? That was so two years ago.

Needless to say, I have some catching up to do and it's hard to know where to start. One thing is for sure, when you haven't written anything in well over a year, there aren't a heck of a lot of people who still subscribe to your feed or even stop by to see if you have anything to say. It's kinda cool because it's like starting this blog all over again. That's all from me tonight. Lots more on the horizon.

Hope you'll stick around (again). I'm glad to be back.

P.S. It's 11:15 pm PST on Monday, May 14th so I still made my deadline. Ha!

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Mark Your Calendars
May 10, 2007

Blog's coming back May 14th, 2007. I swear.

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Self-Indoocement
March 27, 2006

Yesterday I sealed my fate as a certified looney toon. Just a few months shy of my one year anniversary, I officially resigned from my perfectly fine job at Google in order to make time for writing and upcoming projects. Even now as I type this, I feel nauseous at the thought. What in the world am I thinking? The answer to that I do not know, but I am excited about the prospects of what lies ahead. I'm even more excited that I can finally use Google Adsense without conflict of interest. I hope this life adjustment will affect this site for the better.

And you guys thought I was kidding when I said I was making major adjustments...

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America's Security Blanket: indulging in the suffering of others
March 27, 2006

Seattle's been making national headlines lately and I am reminded why I really really hate the news. In fact, if it's possible, I probably hate the news even more than I hate eggplant. Which is to say, I'd rather subject my digestive system to a slimy, tasteless vegetable than indulge in the doom and gloom reports that mark our daily news.

On a daily basis, tragedies, every day situations, and the decay of humanity are sensationalized and emotionalized in order to produce ratings. Whereas at one point the daily news was intended to inform us of the world's happenings, nowadays it seems to be nothing more than tabloid-style prophecies of death, fires, missing children, rape, car accidents, war, and everything wrong with the world. Is it true that these things are occurring on a regular basis? Yes. But as I've often lamented here before, if the news reports were centered on the great and exciting things taking place throughout the world, far fewer people would watch.

Can you imagine a news broadcast dedicated entirely to celebrating the fabulous things taking place throughout the earth? We could call it "Extreme Makeover: World Edition!" Three times a day the show would report on families that made their final mortgage payments, people who were on their deathbeds and then completely healed of cancer, lost children found, unemployed finding jobs, miracle car crashes where the passenger walks away unharmed, the victories in war, stolen money returned 100-fold, and interview every day people getting out of debt.

Too bad it'd never take.

There is something really sick and twisted about human nature that is actually pacified, if not downright happy to watch other people in their sufferings. We've all done it before. We've secretly sat back as we watched the latest horrific news report thinking to ourselves, "Man, I'm sure glad that wasn't me." The stress of our days and cares of our lives are at least made somewhat better by the knowledge that it wasn't our house that got robbed last night or our child shot to death on the street.

If our selfish news-watching highs weren't enough cause for concern, we always have our desensitization to fall back on. I recall during Hurricane Katrina, I eventually just turned the television off. It wasn't that I didn't care. It was that I knew my own limitations. The degree to which I personally could take action to help that situation was not aided by my television. You can only watch people in desperation for so long before the repetitive images of the same interviews and footage begin to numb you to the reality that people don't have to live that way.

I think we actually believe that we have the best of intentions. We want to be informed, we want to be sympathetic and we want to be spurred on to some sort of emotion, be it rage, sadness, or even consciousness. These motives notwithstanding, I believe our mass media does nothing more than reinforce lies in our minds that "what we see is what we get." Things are just going to get worse so we might as well protect our own and throw up a prayer for the rest of our world.

The problem with this effect is that it calls few people to accountability for their ability to change their world. Rarely do I see media honestly reporting on the cause/effect nature of many of country's most tragic events. We hear the media asking questions like "How could this happen?" or "Who's to blame for this?" In fact, we ask those questions ourselves. Yet little energy is spent answering the questions "Does my city really have to function like this, and what needs to be done to change it?"

To some extent, there is no incentive to change the way our society functions. We accept that violence and murder rates will increase and there are entities in this world that actually thrive off high crime rates. Where there's crime, surely there is a compelling news story, right?

The answer to the real questions could put our local news affiliates out of business. Even worse, it could put our low self-esteem "At least I'm doing better than 'them'" attitude in jeopardy of losing its Linus blanket.

(Image Copyright: Peanuts)

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There is Balm in Gilead
March 22, 2006

I'd just like to clear the record on one thing: I ain't dead yet. Got folks leaving blogituaries (I must credit Michele Catalano for coining that phrase, however I just redefined it) in the comments section. I need to clarify that every year I do a state of the blog address wherein I take my gubernatorial authority and speak forth where this blog is headed. It's not a goodbye. It's a pep talk.

Today I received a reader email that apparently sums up the heart of my "State of the Blog Address" better than I could. The reader's identity has been concealed for his privacy. He writes:

Ambra:

A couple of the comments on your "State of the Blog..." post touched on points that hit me hard a full day after reading it myself. The first was the realization, like Dave, that I enjoyed your blog because it validated my worldview. But, as MJ said, what made me come back (or rather, add you to my Newsgater feeds) was you, or the 'you' that you project through your writing. So, please don't sell that part of yourself short.

However, your laments got me thinking, too. Why is reinforcing my worldview so important? What spiritual goal does it help me achieve? Is it solely an ego stroke for that part of me that wants to be right? The answers were pretty obvious, and as a result, I've removed all commentators from my feeds who mostly regurgitate the news along with their right leaning spin. Not because they don't represent, necessarily, how I think. Rather, because I realize that I need to discover what/how I think on my own.

So, your introspection inspired me and re-connected me with some nagging questions in my own life that can no longer go unanswered. For this I thank you. I do hope you continue to blog, and that a connection can be formed via your gifted analysis and writing. Choose only those topics that truly inspire you. I'm sure that I, for one, will certainly enjoy contemplating your ideas, probably more so than looking for validation of my own.

God bless,

A Reader

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The Cult of the Offended
March 22, 2006

I'm not sure when, but at some time during the last 50 or so years, Americans decided (either by the collective, or by acquiescence) that one of their rights under God was the right to live life without the presence of offense. Not a day passes by without some adult requesting special treatment as a result of their "offense." The accompanying ritual to this sad, pathetic waste of everyone's good time is a society that is usually willing to bend over backwards to accommodate the offended and will often do everything in its power to ensure that offense never takes place.

What's most interesting to me is how the complaints about "offense" are usually coming from the same types of people. These are the people that crave ambiguity and find fault in simple things like textbook definitions of male and female. Heaven forbid if anything is that simple. But no, the inference that a man who dresses up as a woman is confused is somehow viewed as offensive or my personal favorite cop-out, "hate speech." These are often the same people who don't like words like, "God" (with a big G), "Jesus," "Christ," or "obey the law."

A hilarious display of blatant one-sided offense took place earlier this week, when Amazon.com quickly rushed to correct an error that could have led customers to believe they were *gasp* a company that's doesn't support abortion. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:

Amazon.com Inc. said Monday it had modified the way its search engine handles queries for the term "abortion" after receiving an e-mail complaint that the results appeared biased.

Until the recent change, a user who visited the Seattle Internet retailer and typed in the word "abortion" received a prompt asking, "Did you mean adoption?" followed by search results for "abortion."

Spokeswoman Patty Smith said the automated prompt was purely based on technology, and that no human had made the decision to show the question.

"Adoption and abortion are the same except for two keystrokes," Smith said. "They also, in this case, happen to be somewhat related terms."

Still, Smith said she and other company officials decided to remove the question after receiving an e-mail complaint and deciding that it raised a valid concern.

The concern being what? That people might get the silly little idea that adoption is an alternative to abortion? Or that Amazon.com might lose credibility were customers to think they were anything but abortion supporting progressives?

Either way, the woman's complaint is a waste of time that could be better spent working on tools that can help them get my books to me more quickly, thank you very much.

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By reader request, my partner in crime
March 21, 2006

on 09.01.06, he becomes mine

Photo Credit: Hun Kim, GH Kim Photography

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The State of the Blog Address: wherein the author subtly thanks you for your patience thus far
March 21, 2006

It's a funny title really, considering that in the last 6+ months I've probably posted 75% less than I have in my entire 2+ years of blogging. I've been grappling with the question of why blogging isn't fun anymore. One of the problems I've never had is a lack of things to say. In fact, throughout my time of blogging, I've kept a long list of topics to be discussed. It will take an entire lifetime to accomplish such a feat here in this forum and to be quite honest, I'm not entirely sure that I'm up to the task. Don't get me wrong. Despite the evidence, I have a very clear sense of direction when it comes to this blog. What I don't seem to have as of late is a lot of time.

I find writing to be very cathartic and to not have the time to do it is mentally exhausting. Is cathart a word? Probably not, but it needs to be. In my yet to be completed (or even fully fleshed out) Nyktionary, I would have listed the word "cathart" as a verb: "I very badly need to cathart. " I think I just created a new bodily function.

All joking aside, the harsh reality for me is that if I don't make drastic changes in my life to accommodate my writing and all things attached, I am going to be an unhappy and regretful individual. Sort of like the disgruntled public transportation workers who pass by women and children. Interestingly enough, this concept is at the core of the human experience. One of the basic questions of every person's life is "why am I here?" I am so incredibly blessed to have been raised by parents who forced me to answer that question at very early age. And so my struggle in adulthood has never been a question of knowing my purpose but more the nagging accountability of a conscience that knows the truth about Ambra's passion and is counting the months that she goes by ignoring such truth.

So I guess it really comes down to passion--knowing what yours is, and strategically making arrangements so that the rest of your life can be spent pursuing that end.

In my time away from this site, I haven't really been reading much online either. As a result, I've spent the last few weeks catching up on the blogs I used to read and love every day and for the most part, I've found that many have fallen victim to what I like to call, "The Soap Opera Effect." Back in my unredeemed days of junior high school mindless activity, I justified the show's title by watching "Days of Our Lives" every day for an entire summer. I immersed myself in the ridiculous story lines and unrealistic scenarios and found myself hooked on fake characters and their propensity for amnesia. As an adult, every now and then for kicks I'll watch 3-5 minutes of "Days of Our Lives." What I find is the same characters, dealing with the same issues, same ridiculous scenarios, and same bouts of amnesia. It's as though nothing has changed.

I'm not satisfied with that. For me, it is the lack of innovation and forward movement that marks my lack of pleasure with blogging.

For many, blogging is a hobby, an outlet, a place to vent, learn new things, and be a part of a trend, a community, or a fad. For a different segment of the population however, it seems that blogging as it stands simply isn't enough. I am of that variety. I want to impact the way people think about the issues I write about. It is my belief that a personality shouldn't drive a weblog any more than it should drive a church, a Fortune 500 company or a football team. I believe that the driving pulse of anything should be the ideas and worldview it represents. Personality is far out second. The more I see the blogosphere turning into a polarized conglomerate of politically charged rationale and personality-driven marketing, the less I want to be a part of it.

In my near 2.5 years of blogging there are a few things I somewhat regret (None of the below meant with any disrespect to the other parties involved. It's me--not you):

  1. Going on Republican Radio. I know my lane; I know my sphere. That ain't it. I felt grimey for that decision.
  2. Affiliating my blog with The Conservative Brotherhood. I don't like being a part of undefined entities. Sometimes you just need to fly solo and trust that your vision will make room for you. (But I still love you Cobb)
  3. Falling in lock-step and writing about what everyone else is writing about just because it seemed the thing to do. Enough said.
  4. Giving too much credence and time to the haters. Whether you are a nobody wearing one shoe on the subway or speaking to a crowd of millions, there will always be haters.
  5. Opening up comments on posts regarding Hurricane Katrina. I often fail to exercise the basic right I have as owner of this site.
  6. Not fully taking advantage of the opportunities afforded me by maintaining this blog.
Well that's all about to change. Not being satisfied translates differently for everyone. For some of us it will mean taking a leap of faith and quitting our full-time jobs to pursue the media market with full steam. For others it will mean getting together that book proposal that publishers have been waiting to see. For some it will simply mean bringing more honesty (first) and personality (second) to our writing or establishing a greater purpose for our piece of Internet real estate. Either way, I'm sick enough of being sick and tired that I won't even make any more promises about the future of this here little blog; I'll just "let it do."

Thanks for your support and lack thereof folks. Thanks for your mean comments and nice ones. Regardless of what you think of Nykola.com, I shall go forth and make you proud.

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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hindsight
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City

I Have a Talk Show