Entries Posted in "July 2004"

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Discussion Topics
July 12, 2004

Okay, I'm posting later today (promised) because I was up all night, but I started to Audipost and then realized I would just be rambling without some verbal ammunition. Any ideas for a subject matter I should focus on?

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry
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Site Updates

For regular readers, a couple of changes to note:

Upgraded Comments
Fed up with looking at ads like "Lesbian Trash Seeks Bowling Partner", I finally upgraded my comments to remove all ads and add an additional 2,000 words. You may now make your comments as long-winded as you choose. This is something I may regret one day.

New Section
Intent on giving myself yet one more thing to feel obligated to update on a regular basis, I added a "Currents" section on the menu bar to replace my (Reading, Listening lists) of yore. I'll probably update it weekly. God help me.

Switching to Movable Type
Lastly, thanks to a generous reader/internet-genius, who shall be named at a later date, I will most likely be converting to Movable Type publishing platform by August 1st if all goes well. The fact that this makes me so excited further validates the fact that I have become a full-blown nerd. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, be very happy and just move on. You're probably still scoring high marks on the cool-meter, as I on the otherhand, am not.

Happy Reading!

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry
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Out With It...Worst Books Ever Read
July 9, 2004

The time has come. That literacy post got me thinking. One of these days I'm going to post my recommended reading list (right..in all of my infinite wisdom and glory I'm sure). But hey, reader "Donna" suggested it so why not. But now it's time for a little Friday fun. I feel like doing a little ripping, so out with it. What are some of the worst books you've ever read?

As a pre-curser, let's not get offended if someone lists off our most-favorite book. Everything's up for criticism 'round these parts...except of course, the Holy Bible.

I'll start and continue adding as they come to me:

  1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  2. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

  3. Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
  4. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  7. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  8. Everything in my History of Contemporary Christian Thought Seminar by a bunch of old white dudes

  9. Auto-Biography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X (with help from Alex Haley)...yeah I said it.
More forthcoming. Gosh this is fun. I'm interested to hear what books make your list. Have a great weekend everyone!

Posted by Ambra in Culture, Education | Link to This Entry
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That Just Proves My Point

In his piece "Black Power", Dean of Dean's World further supports my take on throwing yourself at the mercy of a political party. He notes,

"But here is the danger: no matter what your interest is, or ethnicity, or whatever, you are always making a major miscalculation if you align yourself with only one party. Because then the fate of your issue rises and falls with the fate of that party. Black people need to start realizing this: Democrats do not respect them, and Republicans don't bother with them. And believe it or not, it is not because either party is racist. It's a simple matter of pragmatism: Democrats know they don't need to do anything but play the 'rah rah' game to win black votes, and Republicans have learned through difficult experience that nothing they do will get black votes anyway."
Well said. Dean continues,
"I have long maintained that it is simply not healthy for anyone--not Republicans, not Democrats, not black people, not America as a whole--that one party owns the black vote and the other can't get black votes no matter what it does."
We're talking undoing years of indoctrination here. He makes it sound so simple...

Posted by Ambra in Politics | Link to This Entry
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Ack! I just heard what financial analyst Jean Chatzky said on the Today show this morning in response to Katie Couric's question of what a woman who owns her own house and then gets married should do about putting her husband's name on the deed...Chatzky replies,

"Get a pre-nuptial agreement."

Oy vey. The world we live in.

Posted by Ambra in Culture | Link to This Entry | Comments { 4 }
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Reflections On the Ill-Read Society

Yesterday, I read an interesting article in the New York Times called "Fewer Noses Stuck in Books in America, Survey Finds" (registration required). Not quite an eloquent title, but the article discusses the decline in reading amongst Americans in all demographics. A survey called "Reading at Risk" was released yesterday by the National Endowment for the Arts who is really more interested in the percentage of people reading novels, short stories, plays and poetry. The survey is inclusive of all literature however. According to survey data, fewer than half of Americans over 18 read any of the above mentioned genres of literature. Demand for books in all different genres has greatly diminished through the years. Bruce Weber writes,

"What this study does is give us accurate numbers that support our worst fears about American reading," said Dana Gioia, the chairman of the endowment, who will preside over a discussion of the survey results at the New York Public Library this morning. "It quantifies what people have been observing anecdotally, but the news is that it has been happening more rapidly and more pervasively than anyone thought possible. Reading is in decline among all groups, in every region, at every educational level and within every ethnic group," he said, calling the survey results "deeply alarming."
Whaddya know? People have been predicting this for years. In light of our culture's blatant aversion to anything that doesn't include commercials, Weber goes on prodding for possible reasons,
"The study, with its stark depiction of how Americans now entertain, inform and educate themselves, does seem likely to fuel debate over issues like the teaching and encouragement of reading in schools, the financing of literacy programs and the prevalence in American life of television and the other electronic media that have been increasingly stealing time from readers for a couple of generations at least. It also raises questions about the role of literature in the contemporary world."
Interestingly enough, awhile back, I discussed my "distaste" for many of the classics we've all come to worship. Kevin Starr, professor and librarian was interviewed for the article and remarked,
"There are two distinct cultures that have evolved, and by far the smaller is the one that's tied up with book and high culture. You can get through American life and be very successful without anybody ever asking you whether Shylock is an anti-Semitic character or whether 'Death in Venice' is better than 'The Magic Mountain'.
I suppose it wouldn't disprove his point if I admitted I have no clue what he's talking about? Being well-read and its usefulness in society. Now that's a discussion I could sink my teeth into. I would break that concept up into two points of discussion. The question of whether or not people should be well-read is a simple one. Yes. The greater question is well-read in what? We all agree this nation could stand to stress literacy just a tad more. Heck, from the cultural context I know for a fact that Black families don't stress reading nearly as much as other cultures. In terms of what literary work should occupy the arsenal of the average American adult, I say it should vary. The last thing we need is a bunch of ninnies running around quoting Dickens; especially when there's so many well-written and prolific treasures collecting dust in the corner of the library. Many are even written by foreigners. If we're all reading the same books do we really have a well-rounded society?

I'll be the first to admit, I'm a skimmer and a speed reader. I read for information more than pure enjoyment and enlightenment. School pretty much beat the life out of any passion I would have had for reading. I think this is why I've never been into fiction. I can count on two hands the number of books I've read cover to cover yet I can talk "classics" with the best of 'em because thanks to my European education, I have in fact read quite a few (just not all the way through). In many ways, institutions of higher learning have created this normative and "high-class" definition of what it means to be well-read. I don't quite buy it. Rarely do people ever stop to examine if some of the work we've esteemed so highly is in fact, putrid and circular tripe. Two words: James Joyce. Understand, I'm not suggesting we throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I certainly think some high school english reading lists have become a bit homogenized. On the other hand, in some schools we'd be making progress if they were just able to get books. The privileged side of me is a bit strong in this area, but I realize the complete lack of appeal of our classics of yesteryear to many of your average teenagers. Reform of some sorts is definitely in order.

So why is our society so ill-read? Here's a hint: Kevin Starr reminded us in the article that today our society has no "canon". See there's this one book that's pretty amazing. It's been around for years and it's the number one best selling book worldwide. It's divided into 66 sections and includes every type of literary style you can imagine. It contains narratives and soliloquies, symbolism, allegories, and poetry. It's the most intelligent piece of literature you will ever read. It's called the Bible. Read it some time.

Hebrew culture was (and is) steeped in the Torah and other wisdom writings. The average kid could quote more scripture than I have memorized today. A love for reading the Bible was cultivated early in most young people. Even in the New Testament, common people and unbelievers knew the law of Moses and promise of the coming Messiah. By all indications, our predecessors were astute students of the Word. This is a foundation that is slowly being eroded by a society that loves to hate God. The true love for reading was once found in a society that held a universal tenet. We've surely got some work to do and I'm certainly not about to go back and finish The Odyssey so I can impress somebody by referencing Homer in the boardroom. Fat chance.

Posted by Ambra in Culture, Education | Link to This Entry | Comments { 1 }
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Caught in a Fashion Faux-Pas

Those familiar to this site know that every now and then I am prone to giving fashion critiques. Well folks, it's time for another. A few days ago, I had a "moment" while driving and just had to take a snap-shot in motion (hence the blurriness). What you see here is a lovely woman, strolling along on her merry way, unbeknownst to her, she would end up at the center of my ridicule on the world wide web. For the sake of my analysis, let's just call her "Jane". Don't worry, I'd never show Jane's face. You may not be able to decipher the photo, but Jane has on some very chic ankle cowboy boots (as chic as ankle cowboy boots can be). What else you say? Jane's also sporting some lovely shorts. That's right campers, shorts. I would like to announce to the relative world, that under no circumstances is it ever acceptable to wear ankle cowboy boots and shorts. Not okay. Be warned. My camera shall continue to be on the prowl.

Posted by Ambra in Culture, Fashion Faux Pas | Link to This Entry
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Pure Enjoyment at the Hands of a Liberal
July 8, 2004

Oh man. Black, Liberal blogger "T-Steel" made me grin from ear to ear this morning when I read his post Why I Hate Democrats More than Republicans. The post is pure poetic genius (barring some of the language). An excerpt:

"Black Democrats (along with Asian and Latino ones) are just the White Democratic Elite's little toy dogs that yap for Scooby snacks and sparingly get one. Call me whatever you want to call me. Racist. Off-base. Un-American. Doesn't change the fact that Democrats are sneaky, manipulative bastards that use and abuse black folks and other minorities in plain view of the nation. I hate Republicans. But I really, really hate Democrats."
This is better than a Butterfinger.

[ Hat tip: Booker Rising ]

Posted by Ambra in Politics | Link to This Entry
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Public Displays of Expression
July 7, 2004

Cultural tendencies are a funny thing. I grew up with a mother who had the uncanny ability to embarrass you in public every chance she got. She didn't wear frost lipstick, high water pants, or polka dots and plaid. No. Her crime was much worse; she was loud.

Not only was she loud, she was also outright bold and lacking certain inhibitions of most sane people. These are the same inhibitions that serve as a restraining mechanism for saying things that might embarrass family members and show up on your record when you run for congress. These are the very inhibitions to which most people yield in order to avoid inciting riots. I've never underestimated my mother's ability to say the first thing that comes to her mind out loud. I come from a call and response culture. I've found that most of white culture (whatever that is) in general tends to be less given to outward expressions of fits of excitement, anger, and perplexity. Then again, Greeks are pretty loud. Italians too.

I spent most of my childhood dreading every moment I had to enter the presence of the general public with my transparent (what you see is what you get) mother. She's an educated woman, a Ph.D. at that, so her words were never uncouth. Raw maybe, but never uncivilized. If the platform was available to disagree, she usually would. I've become all too familiar with that pit-in-my-stomach feeling when in the middle of our meal, I know she's about to start telling our waiter how she thinks his attitude stinks. Our culture was one where if you liked something, you said so. If you didn't, you said so too. This is otherwise known as "co-signing". Find your run-of-the-mill predominately black church, sit in the back row, and you will see this concept epitomized. The word "Amen" essentially means "it is so" or "let it be". Now a days, it's common vernacular across racial lines as a vocal affirmation of agreement. Being the non-traditionalist that she is, my mother took her propensity to "co-sign" to the culture. At the ballet it was, "You better dance girl!", at the opera it was, "Alright now, you better sing!", and at the symphony it was, "That boy is PLAYING that violin". All of this was said aloud for the row behind us to hear. And there I sat next to her, shrinking into my seat, hoping no one saw me, praying I could be a white kid. Surely white kids didn't have mothers that proclaimed "Yes that's right!" in the middle of a play or "Amen" in the middle of my high school valediction.

In retrospect, I have since come to have a great appreciation for the bold vocalization that often accompanies certain cultural presence. I'm not nearly as vocally liberal as my mother, who once in high school, managed to bring my entire U.S. history class into a debate on the "founding of America" at our bi-annual parent night. Yes that's right, parent night.

Even now, this type of behavior is not so limited to cultural attachments, although I have found that many I encounter have not been raised to react so "freely" in the presence of truth or untruth. Truth and insight are exciting to me. When truth is revealed, I can't help but get happy. Every now and then I find myself in the middle of a company meeting wanting to shout out, "ain't that the truth!" or telling the President of our company he "better preach on!". I usually restrain myself. But every now and then, depending on the appropriateness of the environment, I too inherit the "co-sign" gene.

Thankfully, that's not my biggest mountain. See I have this other problem. I laugh at inappropriate times. While I generally have great restraint and self-control, every now and then it hits me; the insatiable urge to bust out laughing. If it's not already clear, I have a unique propensity to crack myself up. If no one else thinks I'm funny, it doesn't really matter because at least I make myself laugh.

Sometimes I wish I could clone myself just to have another "me" to laugh at my corny inside jokes and make fun of the crazy West-Indian Anarchist on the corner who claims the police are the devil. Whether I'm mentally recalling the time as a high school sophomore when I peed on myself in the middle of the mall (I can't believe I just admitted that on the world wide web); or the time back in 1989 when my mother accidentally walked up to the ticket counter at the movie theater and asked for four tickets to see the great Rick Moranis classic, "Honey I Shot the Kids", I always seem to remember these things at the most awkward and inconvenient times--board meetings, business presentations, the dinner table. Nothing is really off limits in my mind. I can think of one event in particular that best highlights this issue.

I'm not a huge movie goer, but last year when I went with some like-mindedly crazy friends to see Cuba Gooding's film Radio (a good movie by the way), for the first twenty minutes of the movie, I could not stop laughing. As you can imagine, this didn't go over well with our slightly better behaved neighbors who were attempting to draw every ounce of deepness and profundity out of their movie-going experience. There we were at a poignant film about a mentally disabled fellow overcoming great odds, and all I could see was the actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. the man who I constantly knock for having absolutely no rhythm, a man I've nick-named "the goofiest black guy on the planet", acting a fool, and tripping over stuff. Of course, after I gained my composure, I enjoyed the movie and was able to see past Cuba and appreciate the complexity of the character. Sometimes my sense of humor gets the best of me.

Public displays of expression vary among the masses. Generally, the people less prone to it get bothered by those who laugh out loud or verbally affirm. I find that when I go to the movies, plays, concerts, even church there are some strange cultural factors at work. Oftentimes people take themselves too seriously.

My culture is vocal and interactive. We sometimes yell at movie screens, telling the dumb girl running towards the killer to run the other way and we verbally co-sign during church when the Word is on point. Granted, there will always be those people who take it too far and act ignorant, but for the most part I consider myself a civil and respectful person always aware of appropriateness of expression in different contexts.

For people that think everyone must conduct themselves in a quiet manner at all times, I say you're entitled to your own preference, but I can do without the evil looks thank you. I am of the persuasion that variety is the spice of life, and while my mother drove me batty, I certainly have some stories to tell.

Posted by Ambra in Culture, Life | Link to This Entry
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Why I'm Not a Republican (Part Two): My unsuccessful quest to become politically mainstream

[ Click to Read Part One ]

Bush. That one word conjures up so much emotion these days. It's the central theme of the average joke and the main topic on public transportation systems everywhere. At any given time, one can enter into a very heated debate at the very mention of the name "Bush". Ever since it was determined that he won the presidency, his opponents have sought his demise. The last four years have been riddled with more presidential hatred than I've ever seen in my short stint on Earth. The night following the election was interesting to say the least. It was clear Bush had his haters early on. We all remember the scandalous "voting fiasco". Universities everywhere were abuzz. For me, being at a politically charged university made the Bush backlash even worse. People were staying up into the wee hours of the night tuning into CNN, C-SPAN, and every other news station we got on our "free cable", a secret luxury about which none of us ever bothered to tell the cable company. A luxury that was taken away when one of the guys in the dorm "accidentally" called the company to complain that "everyone in his dorm has free cable except him". What a buster. I was probably the lone Bush voter in my entire dorm (which was by the way, all-black). I would guess that a mere 3% of our 2700 student population voted Republican that year. I never found the rest of the 3%.

If by some fluke Alan Keyes had won the Republican nomination, surely I would have voted for him. That would have made me a full-fledged "sellout" with him being black and all. However in this case, I believe George W. Bush was the man for this hour. Casting my very first vote for Bush is a decision I remain proud of to this day. In fact, since then, my voting record has closely aligned itself with Republicans. My Democrat-loyal and laden family and I remain in a cordial disagreement on most key issues. Once my parents got over the shock that I was a wretched, money-loving, scumbag, college-dropout, and outspoken conservative, they still invited me over for dinner every now and then. They even let me live with them for a few months until I found work. Remaining in a constant state of "agreeing to disagree" during that time was my saving grace. These days, arguing doesn't interest me much. They know I'm their crazy, outcast daughter who'll go to great lengths to embarrass them on the world wide web. It's a role I quite like as of late.

My immediate reason for voting Republican is default. Although I believe there are a few areas in which the Democrats have the Republicans beat (I will discuss in Part 3), I will forever remain diametrically opposed to most everything for which Democrats stand. This leaves a person few options--especially when Libertarian ideals are bit too removed and idealistic for my taste. This concept I just explained is familiar to John Kerry as he too will reap the benefits of an entire group of people who love to hate Bush. Votes by default are his only hope. Voting according to party lines involves far less thinking in my opinion and since I'm a thinker, I never let any candidate or issue get off that easily. I weigh everything against the backdrop of my foundational beliefs.

My reasons for voting Republican thereafter have to do with the issues dearest to my heart. When it comes to politics, there are four main areas that get my affection: Family, Finances, Health and Education. I generally weigh my political opinions in light of these four things, however in my mind, family reigns supreme and faith is intermixed into all four. Faith should never be compartmentalized. I don't consider other issues of lesser importance, however, thinking about foreign policy for more than five minutes is like self-invoking a migraine headache.

As far as I can see, the Republican party has proved they are committed to preserving family values. I will always be pro-family above any other issue. I believe the family is the primary mechanism by which God transmits blessing on the Earth. The state of the family is the pulse of this nation. When families are in disarray, our nation goes to chaos (as proven by every current statistic in America). The family condition is the indicator of the future success of this country. Protecting the rights and privileges of the family unit will always be a priority in my mind. I will always be against legislation that usurps parents' rights, seeks to impose an inheritance tax, legalizes all forms of abortion, attempts to play "daddy" and supports any other type of marriage other than the institution God created. I write often on the family because I'm passionate about restoring it to God's original intent and order. I believe the key to reducing violence, crime, gang activity, and substance abuse among other things lies in the restoration of the family. This is not the government's job, however our wisdom or lack thereof concerning who we allow and don't allow in office on both the state and federal levels will determine how successful outside "agencies" can be at focusing their energies on resolving family decay.

I would imagine the Republican Party of "yore" is one I'd admire greatly. The early platforms of the party are far from the stereotypical view most have of Republicans today. Abolition of slavery, equal rights, freedom of speech, women's suffrage, and freedom from the tight reigns of government control are of the utmost importance in my mind. People consistently open the issue of returning to the fundamental nature of the Republican party. Sometimes I'm not so sure it will ever happen. I do realize the roots of the Republican party are rich in upstanding history, however my fundamental issue goes beyond what's in the basic tenets of a political party. My issue is in the general nature of political parties themselves.

The last line of the Republican Oath reads,

"FINALLY, I believe the Republican Party is the best vehicle for translating these ideals into positive and successful principles of government."
Despite the tired efforts of Ralph Nader and his shady NGO's, we essentially operate under a dominating, two-party system. Under the premise that Congress must be controlled by a single party, I suppose "yes" the Republican party would be the best vehicle to translate my conservative ideals. I've stated before that a democracy would not be my first choice of order of government and domination based on a party system is the reason why. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of having loyalty to anything/anyone but God.

Republicans are not monolithic. Within the Republican party, you will find people across the gamut of thought and logical reason. There are pro-choice and affirmative-action Republicans. Rather conflicted I'd say, but they exist. At some point, there has got to be non-negotiables. What is the standard to which we hold our values? It is certainly not the Republican Oath, the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence as those are all documents penned and inspired by men, fallible in their own right, yet brilliant nonetheless. The way I see it, the Republican party lacks central accountability and while espousing conservative ideals, the origination of those ideals is somewhat muddled. This presents a bigger problem than just pro-life vs. pro-choice. This is a matter of who has the final say on any given issue. In this country, we say it's the "people". I say the people are no less fickle than the Israelites who thought they wanted a king.

As a Christian, I've made the decision that my allegiance will never be to an institution, people group, race of people, alliance, party, or society as I believe false allegiances are the very thing that have brought our country to its current state of affairs. As a black conservative, I am certain of this more than ever as I see what unfounded loyalty to the Democratic party has done to our collective political power. Allegiences and party-loyalty are fine for some people, but when it comes to politics, there's too much at stake, and I have my issues with Republicans too.

[ Part 3 ]

Posted by Ambra in Politics | Link to This Entry | Comments { 4 }
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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
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