And I Thought I Was Ambitious

This kid, Ben Shapiro, puts me to wretched shame. Oh, and check out his bio too. Harvard Law at age 16? I ain't mad atcha.
posted by ambra at 7/31/2004 12:07:24 AM | link to this entry | |


The Case For Why I'm Not a Member of A Political Party: Exhibit B

The Democratic National Convention in 60 Seconds

Much hype has been made over the fact that many prominent bloggers were for the first time, given exclusive press access to the Democratic National Convention. I think the idea's ingenious since often, bloggers can be some of the more blunt reporters around the internet. From what I've read, no reporting thus far has been earth-shattering. Instapundit has a pretty good round-up of opinions. However, I must say, I'm a little surprised if not shocked and embarrassed that no one even bothered to contact me about reporting on the convention. Surely there were some fashion faux-pas going on up in that place. I could've had a field day taking pictures and doing fashion critiques alone. People never believe me when I say it, but you can learn a lot about a politician by the way they dress. But alas, my feelings are not hurt and I have moved on.

Confession. Save the news and various transcripts, I didn't watch one bit of the DNC. Double confession. I probably won't watch a whole lot of the Republican's Convention either. Why? Because they are dry, typical, boring, and at times, I can have the attention span of an underdeveloped, ADD gnat. My aversion to politics kicks into high gear any time I see too many power-ties and blue pin-striped suits. And what is it with the fanfare? Yeah yeah yeah, so John Kerry got the nomination. And? We all knew that seven months ago so I realize it's tradition and all, bu talk about anti-climactic! No matter what party, I just can't get with the "hip-hip-hooray" celebration. Bill Clinton? In the words of Michelle Malkin, "Bill. Hill. Ill." Barack Obama? Aside from the fact that I just can't say his name without thinking "Osama", I'd say he gave a good speech, had some good thoughts, and well, he's for Kerry so I guess that's where we part. Al Sharpton? Aside from his vapid pseudo-sermonizing and this here "halleluiah" picture, I'll give him credit for waking up the front row and bringing a little "spice" to what otherwise seemed to be a dry concoction of conservative bashing.

Newsweek is reporting that among the "Gen-Next" (people under 30) crowd, John Kerry is the leading candidate over our dear incumbent president. That's all and well, but just four and a half months ago, Newsweek was saying that my generation was voting for Nader. What is it with these polls anyway?
"For the NEWSWEEK GENEXT Poll, Ipsos-Public Affairs interviewed 350 registered voters age 18 to 29, from July 5 to July 22"
Well golly gee, there's a healthy cross section of the youth population eh? Interestingly enough, 53% of those polled felt Democrats were too liberal. Now there's a novel idea.

With the work of various campaigns geared towards young people like "Rock the Vote" and "Citizen Change", along with unabashedly liberal, young, celebrities coming out against Bush, I wouldn't be surprised if the "Gen-Next" vote becomes way more important this time around. As a result, both candidates have brought their children onboard to rally the younger voters.

My piece of advice, if you want to engage my generation, throw some neon lights on that there convention podium (actually, the proper term is lectern), because the rhetoric gets dull and you need a sieve to get to any semblence of honesty and truth.

That's my piece at least.

posted by ambra at 7/30/2004 03:17:54 PM | link to this entry | |

Human Capital: The ROI of a Kid

Yesterday, I received an email from my mother that was rather poignant yet disturbingly offensive, all at the same time. She discussed the return on investment of children and her disappointment with its current dividends. "ROI" is a concept we use a lot in the business world, but perhaps I'd never considered it quite the way she expressed. I am not now nor have I ever been a parent, so I don't presume to know the type of emotions involved in watching your offspring head a different direction than you'd originally planned, but I can only imagine, it's no walk in the park.

By now, many of you know my story of educational rebellion. All my life, I was "set-up" to become a [insert cliche lucrative profession] of sorts. I never really had the heart for anything traditional or pre-formulated, but being in college only reinforced the fact that I was indeed on academic, analytical, and high-expectations overload. The thing I usually fail to mention in "my story" is the absolute fear I felt when I had to make that frightful decision to leave my "prestigious" college for a world of uncertainty. As I sat in my obsessively organized dorm room, I was unable to appreciate the beautiful Connecticut Springtime because I knew the mountain before me. When I picked up the phone to dial the dreaded number of my parents back in Seattle, I felt like Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking. I knew I wasn't coming out of the conversation alive, so I said my last prayers and was read my last rights. Around that time, I could have desperately used a Susan Sarandon in my life. The burden to make one's parents proud can be incredibly motivating. The burden to make one's parents proud can be incredibly oppressive.

To understand the graveness of my decision to quit school prior to even declaring a major, you'd have to understand my educational background and the expectations placed on me since birth. For whatever reason (wisdom I presume), our parents made the decision early on that their children would never set foot in the doors of a public school. This wasn't a judgment against public schooling, but they were insightful enough to see that Seattle Public Schools were not particularly the best back in 1981. Instead of your run-of-the-mill private school, my parents opted for the most rigorous college preperatory education they could find. Throughout our lives, there was a clear educational target put into place for all of us. College was the rule and graduate school was the exception.

Keeping us in private school was a struggle, and we were by no means upper-class. Upper-class is when your money works for you. Upper-class is when you can choose to work. Upper-class is when relationships and affiliations are currency. Upper-class folks didn't need a major scholarship to attend our very expensive private schools. Aside from a solid education, the thing I most enjoyed about private school was rubbing elbows with the oldest of money-makers. I had the privilege of attending school with children of great means from famous and influential families. I was no fool. I took notes every chance I got. Although there are times when public school had something to offer, the reality is, my family sacrificed greatly to afford myself and my siblings the education we received. I know we received a good education and that's not something we take lightly or trounce upon as though we were ungrateful.

Then comes me, the eldest daughter, "irreverent", "unappreciative," and "indignant". Actually, not really, but having been groomed for higher education all my life, I think my parents feel I did them a disservice by forfeiting college altogether. I believe the figure in my mother's email was $1,352,000.56 that she believes they've spent on the private education of my three-siblings to prepare us for success in college (and you thought I was an overexaggerater). Clearly, that's very inaccurate, but I see what she's getting at. She jumped to an extreme to prove a point. After all, it was a lot of money when they could have opted for a "free" education.
[ I'm having flashbacks to the famous Cosby Show episode where Sandra and Elvin announce they're not going to law school and medical school respectively, and instead want to start a wilderness store. A declaration to which Clair Huxtable demands $75,350.92 in Princeton University tuition paid back to her immediately. ]
So what is the ROI on a child? Was that time and money invested into my brain or was it invested into me as a person? Which is more important, my ability to think intelligently and independently, or my ability to succeed in the workforce and academia? Are they mutually exlusive characteristics? So was it all a waste of money? I suppose only time will tell. These are questions I'm slowly having answered. Everyday that I wake up and realize I have more common sense and headway than many of my peers, my immediate reaction is to say, "Yes, it was worth it". College is fantastic, but it wasn't for me. One would hope that your education is worth more than what college you go to and which profession you choose. I'm certain most sane parents would just be happy with a child who grows up to be an integrous, productive, contributing, and leading member of society. Thus far, I don't think I have failed in any of the aforementioned but there are miles to go. The ROI of children is multi-facetedly more than just a professional destination. When my parents eventually head into the latter portion of their lives, part of that return will be us taking care of them the same way they took care of us. The years to follow will be revelatory for me as I gain clarity on what exactly it is my parents "deserve" in payment for all they've given me.

I don't necessarily blame my parents for being disappointed. After all, they got shafted in their expectations that I'd fulfill my end of the bargain. Expectations are a funny thing. When they're unmet, we immediately consider it a horrible thing instead of doing what we should do which is re-examine the fairness and honesty of what was expected in the first place. To be honest, a child's life is never owned by the parents to begin with. It's more like a loan situation where they're given the awesome privilege and responsibility of steering its direction. That desire to make my parents proud has not disappeared, it's just changed manifestations. I want to make them proud in my obedience to who I'm supposed to be and not what they expect me to be. And if the clarity of my words are any indication, I think I'm on the right track.

posted by ambra at 7/30/2004 03:16:25 AM | link to this entry | |


Who Needs Abortion T-Shirts?

When you can wear clothing with these phrases on it:

- I Had an abortion

- I Sold drugs to support the Taliban

- I Threw a chunk of concrete off of an overpass

- I Loostened the fittings on the workout equipment at the gym

- I Pushed an old man into a busy intersection

- I Stabbed a man in the back of the neck

- I Looked into my neighbor's daughter's window last night

- I Set fire to the hospital burn ward

- I Killed a dog with a bat

- I Kicked a 12 year old in the groin

- I Pee'd on a woman walking down the street

- I Cheated on my wife with a crack hooker ... without using a condom"

Lets all revel in our failures an exhalt them as if they were sacraments.
(Credit to: The Brilliant Commenting Genius of Reader "Byron")

I say, down with censorship, up with idocracy!

posted by ambra at 7/29/2004 02:01:38 PM | link to this entry | |

Cos Conundrum Continues

At a recent college conference in South Carolina, Bill Cosby once again defended his remarks. The AP reports,
"'I'm going to keep on saying what I've been saying,' he[Cosby] said Wednesday, speaking to a group representing 118 historically black colleges and universities nationwide, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

On Wednesday, he said the music industry glorifies music that demeans women, praises life in jail and uses profanity.

He said college educators should prepare students to help poor blacks from backgrounds of violence and single-mother households.

Instead of joining the Peace Corps and going to Africa, 'go across the street into the projects. These are people who need to see another picture, a brighter picture.'"

People have been saying this for years. That doesn't make it any less true today. Oppression is in our own back yard. In the case of Seattle, it's "their" backyard (the projects in Seattle actually have grass).

People still continue to pick apart Cosby's comments for the better and the worse. In "The Black World Today" (rolling eyes) Playthell Benjamin (if that's not a name!) wrote a lengthy open letter to Bill Cosby called Dear Brother Bill. I'm still sifting through it, trying to figure out just what exactly he's getting at. Then in the piece, Bill Cosby Was (Mostly) Right, Stan Guthrie of Christianity Today, cites the "redemptive role of the church" as being the one thing missing from Cosby's message. Agreed.

(Cool Points to: Mark Shea for the tip on this event)

posted by ambra at 7/29/2004 01:55:11 PM | link to this entry | |

If You Design it, Idiots Will Wear It

I realize this is old news but my typing fingers couldn't help it.

I don't care what type of convoluted statement the Spawn of Satan at Planned Parenthood are trying to make, these t-shirts are an abomination. The online store on Planned Parenthood's website reads
"They have finally arrived!

Planned Parenthood is proud to offer yet another t-shirt in our new social fashion line: "I Had an Abortion" fitted T-shirts are now available. These soft and comfortable fitted tees assert a powerful message in support of women's rights."
Their new social fashion line? Just when you thought people couldn't get anymore psychotic.

Inevitably, these maniacs are trying to pass this off as an effort to bring people from behind the shame of having had an abortion. Interesting. Instead of helping people deal with the shame, they're gloating about it.

Reason #48596067683742244 Planned Parenthood is a wicked, evil, tool of an organization.

Hip-Hip-Hooray for free speech!

posted by ambra at 7/29/2004 11:00:56 AM | link to this entry | |

Because My Readers Are Over-Reactors

Okay. One email too many.

I intentionally used the second half of my rant to bash pharmeceutical companies in the hopes that readers would get the revelatory irony. Perhaps I'm asking too much.

I realize that many people have struggled with many things and you just never know what you say/how you say and the way it is perceived. I am completely sympathetic to the varying degrees of abuse and addiction other people have experienced, but I feel the need to point out that everything on this website is 50% tongue-and-cheek and 50% serious. (Must I continue to state the obvious?) For this reason I announce to the relative world:

Ambra is not addicted to vicodin.

Ambra took vicodin as prescribed.

Ambra is no longer taking vicodin because the pain has subsided.

Ambra is anti-drug abuse.

Would you like me to flush the remaining prescription down the toilet?

Oh yeah, by the way, yeah I'm still a Christian too.

There. I said it. If only you knew how funny these accusations are. As you were soldiers.

posted by ambra at 7/29/2004 09:30:09 AM | link to this entry | |


The Case for Why I Won't Join a Political Party. Exhibit A:

The Demise of Andrew Sullivan is Moving Far Too Slow

I don't usually blog about the blogosphere itself. Sometimes I prefer to treat this growing organism as though it doesn't exist. It's more fun this way and it keeps my writing honest and un-abashedly disloyal to anyone but my web-host, who's really the only one who can pull the plug on this whole offensive deal anyway. Today's different. Now maybe I'd been living under a rock, but up until about six months ago, I'd never heard of Andrew Sullivan, author, blogger, conservative, and gay-rights activist extraordinaire. After surfing a few of my favorite conservative weblogs, I came upon links to his site rather often so one day I decided to see what the hubbub was about.

As suspected, the hubbub was about absolutely nothing. It only took me moments to see that Andrew Sullivan was nothing more than the confused moderate's poster-boy for politics, but more specifically, same-sex marriage. Every time I write about this issue, someone always wants to ask me if I've read good old Andy Sullivan. Well I have, and I'm not impressed. I wasn't buying it then, and I'm not buying it now. Thankfully, others are starting to notice the same.

Many bloggers have recently come out (no pun intended) against Mr. Sullivan. Nathan at Brain Fertilizer cites his inability to relate to anything outside the realm of his "homosexuality" as "Why We Should Stop Reading Andrew Sullivan" (good thing I never really started). Meanwhile, reading Michelle Malkin's post on his recent stooping to the lowest of lows by starting a "sponsorship" campaign to cover costs for his blog, with varying levels of partnership (again no pun intended) and special perks when you give more money (my goodness, he'd fit in perfectly on TBN), led me to these lovely words from one of her brilliant commenters, David Blackmon
"Andrew Sullivan is a classic example of an otherwise intelligent and fairly astute political observer who allows himself to become utterly and completely consumed by a single issue, in his case gay marriage. His pathological need to destroy the institution of marriage in this country has led him to develop a similar pathological hatred of President Bush, and that in turn has basically rendered him irrational on all other political topics.

It's too bad - a year ago he appeared to have a promising future. It has been almost painful to watch over the last year as he has devolved into utter and complete irrelevancy."
Yes! If I had a tambourine right now, surely I'd play it.

posted by ambra at 7/28/2004 02:11:16 PM | link to this entry | |

They're Raising Up Seventh Graders Now

Being that I remained silent throughout approximately 50% of high school about my dissention on key politcal issues, I know what it means to do have these type of guts. Although it's much easier to do public speaking with a popular message and a crowd full of partisan-folk, I must give credit where credit is due. Last night at the DNC, 12-year-old Ilana Wexler, founder of "Kids for Kerry" (that's right, the chick started her own 501(c)(3). Deal), chided with great passion and convicition,
"When our vice president had a disagreement with a Democratic senator, he used a really bad word. If I said that word, I would be put in a timeout. I think he should be put in a timeout."
To which the crowd of course stood to their feet. Can't say I agree that Cheney was in the "right" for his choice expletive. But really though, when's the last time you heard a young Conservative publically speak up with such conviction? If we keep raising sissy, weak-minded thinkers, it will be a long, long time. Take notes Republicans, them Dems are onto something.

posted by ambra at 7/28/2004 12:56:35 PM | link to this entry | |


Requisite Monthly Rant III: The Point At Which I Worship the Wonders of Vicodin

Sometimes, life just pokes you. Life's little pokes run the gamut of expression. They manifest in major disappointments, setbacks, strained relationships, and both physical as well as emotional pain. We all know that pain can sometimes be good. It reminds us we're still alive and human. Pain also stretches us, gives us fortitude and helps us to grow in this grand thing we call life. There are hundreds of flowery words and deep insights we can give pain, but let's just be honest, sometimes it stinks. The stinkage of pain is far more pungent than the aroma of its virtues.

I spent the first two days of this week wallowing in the depths of my own extreme and total pitifulness, writhing in insane pain. This "good" pain I speak of was not what I was experiencing this time around. No, this was bad pain. This was very bad pain. This was the make-you-want-to-slap somebody type pain. This was that pain that keeps you up at all hours of the night, thanking hallucinations of Nick-at-Nite executives for producing another Cosby Show marathon, sleeping on the couch because you never made it to the bed, and counting the dots on the popcorn ceiling because it takes too much energy and focus to close your eyes to sleep and that "energy" would be better spent wide-awake fighting off the evil pain monsters that haunt in the night. This is also the pain that would graciously allow very enticing opportunities like, "Hey let's go shoe-shopping, all-expenses paid, my treat!" to ease on down the road. This was the pain that kept a wordy writer such as myself silent for two days.

It seems in spite of my obsessive compulsive flossing, brushing, rinsing, impeccable attention to my teeth, "nice smile" (I've been told), regular check-ups, and two horrendous years of braces, I somehow ended up in an upset tooth predicament, which consequently, landed me in the dentist chair on Tuesday morning, getting a gosh darn root canal. That's right, a root canal. Nevermind the fact that my bionic-teeth possessing younger brother (who by the way, admittedly went YEARS without ever brushing his teeth) has never had even a minuscule cavity in his entire annoying little life. He got the good genes. Instead, all my hard dental upkeep ever reaped was the reward of a sugar-free lollipop given to me by the dental assistant upon my departure from having the crap kicked out of my gums.

The precursor to this tragic Tuesday morning event included the right side of my face swelling up to the size of a small Russian village (a well-fed one at that) and me collapsed on my parents' understuffed family room couch, pleading with the God of mercy to "just take me now". I'm hardly a dramatic person (she says under the influence of vicodin), but seriously, this one ranks right up there next to the time I broke my arm in two places and the doctor "set" it back into place with no medication, using only the death grip of his hands and the force of his upper knee.

Now I'll be the first to wail on the evils of the pharmaceutical industry, but this week I have a newfound respect, honor, and admiration for the makers of vicodin. Vicodin is now my special pain-relieving friend. Even now, when I think of it, I want to cry tears of thanksgiving and joy. Oddly, this comes from the mouth of the same person who only two months ago said one of the privileges of being a child of God is "healing any time we want". Instead, I committed the ultimate sin and worshipped the glory vicodin. I know I need to get on my knees and repent for my horrible idolotry, and trust me, I will. I guess at this point the least I can do is thank God for creating the men and women who thought up the brilliance of vicodin.

Now let's get real. With the baby-boomers heading into the last quarter of life, "futurists" and people with common sense are predicting that the next trillion-dollar business is the health and wellness industry. Pharmaceutical companies know this and they'll do their darndest to keep people buying into the hype until the grave. Did you ever notice how on those commercials for the latest "cholesterol-lowering, nasal-drip clearing, allergy-ridding, sex drive-raising" medication, the end script goes something like this,
"Side-effects may include: gas with oily discharge, damage to the liver, diziness, blindness, nausea, numbness, head lice, heart murmors, internal bleeding, brain swelling, small pox, and ultimately, death.
Here's to hoping that last symptom doesn't happen on their watch. Interestingly enough, most people these days take medication to treat symptoms and side-effects but not the root cause of their illness. The fact that someone has to sacrifice a healthy liver for the sake of low-cholesterol is just heinous.

What would happen if all of a sudden people started getting well? What if our need for these modern-day, manufactured, synthetic chemicals we call "drugs" was obliterated? Surely a host of individuals would be out of work and a handful would be out of a fortune. The ploy of many a pharmaceutical company to keep people sick and dependent on drugs for relief is elusively wicked. I suppose the installation of the Food and Drug Administration is an attempt to bring checks and balances to our commerce of legal medication. Some days I wonder just which members of the FDA are in bed with top drug-producing companies. Then again, I weigh all my suspicions against the backdrop of my suppressed conspiracy theorist tendencies so of course everything is fair game for "overreactor" labeling.

Still, healing is a way better remedy for life's pokings.

[The author apologies for the trivial, self-centered nature of this rant. Generally requisite monthly rants deal with more pertinent issues however considering the influence she was under, it is certain you understand the deal. Past Monthly Rants: June, April ]

posted by ambra at 7/27/2004 10:20:20 PM | link to this entry | |

Reality TV Goes Altruistic

Okay, this is known as genuine stalling.  I've got a couple of things lined up for today, however nykola.com headquarters has been majorly under the weather and a bit doped up this week.  Thankfully, no amount of vicotin could stop this tripe from running through my brain:

Conservative Eye for the Hippie Guy
This show takes a team of 5 young, smart Republicans and travels to the corners of the United States spreading good cheer, finding unsuspecting hippie guys who need their wardrobe spruced up a bit.  Hippie Liberals turn in their tie-dye for the staple navy blue suit and red power-tie.  On this week's episode, the latest subject of the Fab-Five breaks down crying when they tell him he has to throw out his "Impeach Bush" signs.

Who Wants to Be a Billionaire?
Theresa Heinz-Kerry agrees to give away part of her fortune if you agree to vote for her husband.

The Whore
Who wants to be the next Capitol Hill Whore?  Do you have what it takes to be a certified, Washington, brazen hussy?  Then you could be the next Capitol Hill Whore.  Join 15 other contestants competing for a spot as the next biggest whore!  Each week, via a number of challenges, contestants face off in the "whoreroom" where Bill Clinton also known as "The Bill" will be "firing" someone each week with the help of his staff which includes "Jessica "Washingtonienne" Cutler among others.  The goal is to narrow down the contestants to help further their careers.

Add your suggestions as you see fit....back in the groove later today.

posted by ambra at 7/27/2004 08:12:59 AM | link to this entry | |


Blognic Recap

There's nothing worse than having a temporary physical deformity the first time you meet complete strangers.  I suppose it could've been worse. I could've had the chicken pox or a bad hair-dyeing experience, but no, Sunday morning I woke up looking like the Godfather.  My right cheek was swollen to abnormality.  It seems I had an irritation that caused the swelling and I was less than thrilled.  As you may recall,  Sunday was the first ever Seattle Blognic where a variety of Seattle area bloggers and readers came together to eat meat.  To the veg-types, this is known as a barbecue.  Despite my better judgment, I made the decision to go dressed as Marlon Brando and I'm glad I did.  In spite of my ailment and bulging cheeks, a good time was had by all.  There's nothing like realizing that indeed piles of flesh and bones do exist behind these virtual realities we call weblogs.  If more people realized this they might cut back on the hate mail.

I know I said I'd take pictures, but for the first time ever on this weblog, I lied.  I'm certain you understand however, that it would take an honest day in Jesse Jackson's office before my swollen, bee-stung face was going anywhere near a camera yesterday.  Thus ends my personal drama.

It was purely enjoyable to meet some of Seattle's finest thinkers in the blogosphere.  The event was organized by the very hip Matt Rosenberg of Rosenblog, the very much down-to earth Stefan Sharkansky of Shark's Blog, and the just plain nice and gracious Brian Crouch of Medved Fans (who by the way, also has a gorgeous wife).  Meeting peoples' spouses, kids and dogs was quite an experience.  In addition, receiving feedback and discussing blogging was humbling as always.  Strangely, I did get asked twice if I was considering running for some sort of political office.  Errr, absolutely, unequivocally not.  I also realized that I had no idea how to pronounce my own website.  So for everyone's info, Nykola.com is pronounced (Nee-Cole-Uh), like the "N" version of the cough drop "Ricola".  (You have to sing it for the full effect).  I know, not exactly catchy, but unlike some people, I never thought this thing all the way through.

So all that said, it was a good day and I look forward to doing it again sometime.  Maybe next go 'round we'll bring in the Liberals.  Now that would be grand ole party.

Stefan's got a more comprehensive recap of all who attended.  [Gushing] He even called me lovely and talented! [/Gushing]  I'm just eternally grateful no one took pictures.

posted by ambra at 7/25/2004 11:18:26 PM | link to this entry | |


First Ever Seattle BLOGNIC

Yo (throw-back to the 80's) I'm signing off for the weekend. My nerd-butt is exhausted, spent, fidgety, and anxious to enjoy the Seattle sun (a true rarity).

This Sunday, all things pending, I'm attending a "Blognic". The gathering shall consist of local Seattle bloggers and readers. So if you live in the Seattle area and are a reader and/or blogger. I'd encourage you to come out, eat some bbq and meat, I mean meet some internet personalities in person (details are included in the link above).

I must say, this shall be odd. I'm still a little new to the whole net-relationship thing. Trust me, I'm blacker than I appear on the web (Okay I just cracked myself up on that one).

I'll be sure to take pictures. Enjoy the weekend everyone. I'll still be chiming in on comments.

posted by ambra at 7/23/2004 02:29:49 PM | link to this entry | |

Sex Educators Who Should be Shot. On the Next Riki Lake

I'm not a violent person really, but when it comes to certain things, I would probably be a good defense for gun control. I've long had issues with sex education and this is why, Teacher Has Kids Tasting Flavored Condoms. WorldNetDaily reports
"The New Mexico Health Department is standing behind a sex-education teacher in Santa Fe who encouraged ninth-graders to taste flavored condoms."
Quick, somebody get me my pistol because if a teacher had my child's tongue anywhere near a condom, it might get ugly. And here we conservatives are with "abstinence education" as the only thing to offer. I think some lessons in critical thinking would help as well. This type of behavior, this is what I mean when I say conservatives lack a certain assertiveness. These educators these days are downright bold.

When my brother was in eighth grade, he took some form of "sex education" (in a private school mind you) and came home one day with a goodie bag care of the evil spawn of Satan at Planned Parenthood. Included among the condoms and other paraphernalia no 13-year-old boy should have, were a few bumper stickers with condoms on them that read "Just Wear It". Yeah, safe to say, those suckers went in the trash. It hasn't been that long since I was in seventh grade and even I don't recall classes being this graphic. When my younger sister took health class, her text book had two whole chapters on "what to do when you're a boy but you feel like a girl" or vice versa. Keep in mind, nowhere in the text did it say "seek help" or "be concerned". I confiscated that book from her and kept it for future ammunition.

Schools shouldn't even be attempting to teach kids about a topic that belongs in the family. Unfortunately, in a culture where the family is in disarray, someone must, and our educational system (public and private) has failed miserably with relativism and humanistic philosophies because even they don't know what they believe. And where is the church? Where they normally are when the subject really counts; sleeping, or waiting for Jesus to take us to heaven.

Although the Santa Fe school is standing behind the teacher, in the past, condom demonstrations have accounted for a few teachers being suspended or even fired. You may recall last year, a Florida teacher was fired for doing a condom demonstration that included mood lighting, music, and a banana. But that's only when parents speak up. And how active are most parents in their kids schools? Not.

Believe it or not, many school districts are actually hungry for solutions in the area of sex education, but the people who bring something tangible to the table get first dibs. Those people are usually blood-thirsty liberals. Even Europe is after solutions (now that's amazing). A Forbes article released yesterday noted the successes and failures of a peer-led sex education program in the United Kingdom,
"A school-based sex education program taught by older students helped girls delay their first intercourse.

But the program didn't have a similar impact on boys, and it didn't increase the likelihood the teens would use protection, reports a study in the July 24 issue of The Lancet.

The study by the British researchers was prompted by concern that the United Kingdom has the highest under-18 pregnancy rates in western Europe. The researchers evaluated sex education programs taught to 13- and 14-year-olds by 16- and 17-year-olds, and compared them to the more traditional programs led by teachers. They assigned 8,000 students in 27 schools to either a peer-led group or a teacher-led group.

By age 16, fewer girls from the peer-led group reported intercourse than girls in the teacher-led group; 35 percent of the peer-taught girls said they were having sex, compared to 41 percent of the teacher-led students.

No differences were found among the boys in either group. Thirty-three percent of the boys in the peer-led programs and 31 percent in the teacher-led sessions had sex for the first time before age 16."
Researchers said the goal of the project was to increase the number of teens practicing safe sex (whatever that is). The program helped "delay" girls' first intercourse? Dear God we've lowered our standards if this seems like a good thing. Then again, many places in Europe are as lewd as they come so it doesn't shock me their teenage pregnancy rate is so high. I suppose anything would be progress for a place like Amsterdam.

If people expect the next generation to begin at a better place than our parents left off, this issue should be of top priority to everyone. I think I'm going to expound on this come Monday, there's another article about teenage sexual activity and the lack thereof that's peaked my interest.

posted by ambra at 7/23/2004 12:16:46 PM | link to this entry | |

Apple. One Step Closer to World Domination

With the announcement this month that they'd be releasing the cheaper version of the iPod to the world, I am convinced Apple has plans to take over. I'm an avid Apple user myself, but admittedly, I initially bought my iMac and iBook because they were "pretty" and I didn't want a Dell hunk of ugliness in my house. Chicks. We're weird like that. The "Mac vs. PC" debate can get cut-throat and for the record, I use both. And for the record, I like Dell.

This Fall, Duke University is providing its entire freshman class with iPods. Now may be the time to reconsider this school as having more than just a kick-butt basketball team. The Durham Herald-Sun reports,
"The iPods, which can download and make use of both audio and text material, will come stocked with Duke-related downloads, including information for freshman orientation and the academic calendar. Duke also will create a special Web site modeled on the Apple iTunes site from which students will be able to download music and course content from faculty, including language lessons, recorded lectures and audio books.

Students in visiting assistant professor Lisa Merschel's elementary Spanish class will use the iPods to listen to audio examples of textbook exercises and hear Spanish songs.

And adjunct professor Sally Schauman's students will use their iPods to record lectures in class and interviews while out in the field for her freshman seminar about the ethics and science of urban water conservation."
Fear my generation. Fear them intensely. My younger siblings attend a private high school that has rolled-out the "lap-top program". The program requires all students to have a laptop as assignments are both given and submitted via the web. At my sister's graduation this Spring, one of her classmates parting words were,
"Don't ever take for granted a school that has its own server"
A six-year-old is hacking into your computer as we speak.

Hat tip (Joanne Jacobs)

posted by ambra at 7/23/2004 09:52:00 AM | link to this entry | |

Freedom & Democracy

Caught these thoughts on the Flag-Burning Amendment and freedom and democracy by way of Hot Abercrombie Chick (ugh, dislike that name intensely) and thought it was on point,
Let's not be so simple-minded as to think that freedom and democracy always go hand in hand. Democracy has allowed laws promoting slavery, segregation, eugenics, and a whole host of other gross violation of individual freedoms because the voting majority was in support of them. If Democracy is such holy and unequivocally good institution, why do we have courts that can strike down majority-approved legislation? Right is right, wrong is wrong, and freedom is freedom no matter what a democratic majority supports. Is preventing people from telling me that I can't burn a flag on risk of imprisonment antithetical to democracy? Sure it is - so was Brown vs. the Board of Education. But to say it is antithetical to freedom is silly. It's that simple.
That's heat. Ya'll know how I feel about democracy...

posted by ambra at 7/23/2004 09:28:57 AM | link to this entry | |

B.B. King is a Vegan?

You don't even have to be half-way coherent to recognize that the folks at PETA are off their ever animal-loving rockers. No, seriously. I often wonder just what exactly they are smoking over there in Norfolk, VA (PETA's headquarters). Yesterday, they announced the winners of the annual "World's Sexiest Vegetarian" as Outkast's Andre (washed-up) 3000 and "actress" Alicia Silverstone. There goes that word "sexy" again! In an interview, Andre 3000 aka Andre Benjamin said he'd spend his last day on earth eating broccoli. That's right, eating BROCCOLI. Does anyone find something wrong with this?

I'm cool with vegetarians (as long as they don't subscribe to the religion of vegetarianism), but vegans tend to be militant converts. They have lost all common sense and cannot even think straight. Then I see PETA's list of the other celebrity vegans and vegetarians competing for the title of "sexy" and I am miffed. B.B. King? Are you joking me? Then again, he is diabetic so I guess it makes sense.

Here's my piece on vegetarianism. If you're going to stop eating meat, fine. That is your prerogative. While I am against the social movement, I do realize that many people "go veg" for many reasons including health and well-being. You can enjoy your vegetables and have a great big vegetable party for all I care.

But please don't infringe upon my right to a double bacon cheeseburger anytime I see fit. In college, the day before Thanksgiving break began, the campus militants put anti-turkey flyers in every student's mailbox, right along with a lovely picture of a turkey being murdered. I was not pleased. Right then I knew, if ever a fight was gonna go down at Wesleyan University, it would be between me and the vegetarians. Anybody bold enough to try to come between me and thanksgiving turkey and stuffing was looking for an old-fashioned beat-down.

And another thing. If you're going to be a vegetarian, BE a vegetarian. I'm sick of seeing you people talk out of both sides of your mouth, eating chicken, fish, the likes of which qualify as MEAT if you ask me. "I'm a vegetarian, but I also eat fish." No. In that case you're not a vegetarian. You're a person who eats fish.

And when someone calls you out on your phony vegetarian identity, please don't lie. Just admit that like the majority of North America, you like meat. As you should. After all, it's here for your consumption.

You veggies can do what you want, but as for me and my house, we will serve steak!

Side note: There was a funny scene in the film Notting Hill where a woman claims she a "Frutarian". Meaning, she only eats fruits that have "fallen" from the tree naturally. Just where do we draw the line?

posted by ambra at 7/23/2004 12:59:31 AM | link to this entry | |


Classroom Dynamics

One of the subjects dearest to my heart is education. Funny to hear that coming from the mouth of a college drop-out, but it's true. If you want to engage me in a heated debate, start theorizing about our educational system.

Personally, there are times I feel I was missing out by never attending public school. As with most life-long privatized school beings, I started feeling the "itch" at the end of eighth grade when faced with the reality that after the summer, most of my friends would be entering the lovely socially diverse and wonderful sphere of public high school, while I'd be left with the whities, practicing the PSAT at a school with no wrestling team or cheerleaders, and only eight black people in my class. I am grateful for my education, however flawed it may have been, but there are times I wish I could go back and do things differently.

Over the last three or so years, I've come to the conclusion that I would have been a good candidate for homeschool. Both my parents worked so there was no way this could happen, but in a perfect world, I think this would have been my preferred method of learning. I have never been an enthusiastic classroom student. When it came to formalized education, I was a devout dualist. I treated school like a job. Teachers were the boss, my classmates, they were my associates and co-workers with whom I cracked jokes during the day but rarely spoke to or saw in the night, and who by the weekend, were merely figments of my imagination. I excelled in the arts and all the humanities (history, philosophy, social studies, religion) except English (go figure). Perhaps that could be the cause of my distaste for the classics. Since I've never been too fond of the three-part essay, most of my English teachers hated my writing, and I mean HATED. As for the mathematics and sciences, well, let's just say medical school has never once been even a faint consideration. It wasn't grades, but my love of knowledge and learning that was the driving motivation for me to think independently. High school was pretty boring for me and college was too. A more independent approach to learning would have probably worked well for me.

Homeschool advocates can be pretty diehard. Opposition to institutionalized education seems pretty futile to me. At this point, we've got to make something of our current schooling process. These days people have lots of philosophies about the classroom. Some good, others downright sac-religious. It's commonly known that studies show in secondary education, girls learn better in a less-competitive, all-female environment. I mostly agree, although being a black woman in a predominately white environment tends to be a bit different so this didn't really apply to me as I was rarely intimidated by the guys in my classes. Translate the same philosophy of female-dominated learning to higher education, and nowadays you get extreme feminism and lesbianism (I kid you not). The 2003 film Mona Lisa, Smile touched on this, although they barely treaded water in their plot. Your modern day, all-female institution of higher learning is no longer the place of "grooming" and "intellectualism" Radcliffe used to be. The halls of prestigious schools like Bryn Mawr, Mills, Scripps, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and Wellesley (which produced none other than Senator Clinton herself), are steeped with man-hating, self-sufficient, feminist philosophies and liberal ideologies. I'd be kidding myself if I didn't admit that everyone in the "Seven Sisters" schools as we called them knows that they're churning out more lesbians than the film industry. There's a reason for that, but I digress.

Other studies have shown that people learn better in smaller classrooms. I suppose this is the privilege of private education. In elementary school, I rarely ever had a class over 19. In high school, our graduating class was about 130 which pales in comparison to senior classes of 400 and 500 students. I can definitely say the learning was more intimate and direct. In my case, I also chose a small, private college of only 2700 so the same was true most of my scholastic life. Although, in college I would have quite liked disappearing into the back row of a boring history seminar.

Smaller classrooms don't seem to be in the near future for most schools. Even if they were, there is a big piece of the learning puzzle many educators don't take into account--the family.

It is very easy for us conservatives to preach about how educating children should ultimately be the responsibility of the parents. I couldn't agree with this statement more as now more than ever I realize that no matter how great or horrible your education, your family's role in shaping your critical thinking can catapult you to the highest heights of academia if you allow it. I'm certain one can find the statistics to back all this up, but I'm not one of those people who climaxes on statistics, so at this point I'm going to speak on experience.

A recent New York Times article (registration required) discussed an inner-city Indianapolis elementary school that is suffering inside because of what's happening outside,
"At Riverside Elementary School here, students wander the halls. Several times last term, the police dragged out disorderly 11-year-olds in handcuffs. Crack dealers work the neighborhood, where four young men have been killed over the last year.

These are the obvious signs of a school in crisis. Yet there is a less visible but powerful condition that is both cause and symptom of Riverside's chaos. Its student body is in perpetual motion. In 2002-3, 437 children transferred into the school or moved away in midterm, far more than the school's total enrollment of 330.

'Every time rent comes due, some child leaves,' the principal, Donna Smith, said. 'Parents lose jobs. Kids get tossed back and forth between relatives. Children are moving in and out of the school all the time.'"
The single most influential aspect of childhood learning is the family structure. We can toss around thousands of different learning concepts, but when we fail to address the effects of many dynamics, we leave kids swimming against the current. This article is a stark reminder of the partnership schools must develop with the community in which their students reside.

My sophomore year of high school, I took a fabulous physics class that successfully whopped my behind. The class was predominately white and Asian, along with three of us blackies. About two weeks into the semester, it became painfull clear that "we" the black students were not doing as well as the rest of the class. We struggled with some of the basic concepts while the rest of the class excelled to more advanced work. Puzzled, I went on a discovery of sorts. I dismissed the conclusion that we just weren't "as smart" as bunk. I knew better than that since we all had better grades than most of our class. Some other force was at work. After picking apart my classmates brains, it hit me. The dinner table! The common denominator amongst most of the students in the class was the discussions that took place when their family ate dinner. While our black families discussed politics and other pertinent issues, they talked about their homework and physics equations with their parents. They had a built-in analysis and love of the sciences in the fabric of their family. Our lack of family dialogue made us have to work twice as hard to get a decent grade. This revelation changed the way I viewed learning.

Our teaching and classroom methods these days don't account for much of what they should.

posted by ambra at 7/22/2004 01:26:49 PM | link to this entry | |

Help A Sister Out

This is probably the only time I will ever do anything like this on my website, but I have a favor to ask. When you get a chance, drop by my younger sister Amelia's fundraising site sendamelia.com. Following me in true rebellious fashion, she's deferring college to attend a year-long ministry leadership training program to gain focus, direction and a deeper relationship with God.

Unfortunately, my parents, being livid that she is postponing college, have decided to support this decision from afar (read: they ain't coughin' up any dough). I love and respect my parents very much, but sometimes they are very stubborn (and yes I know they will probably read this but that's okay, this is nothing I haven't already told them). So anyway, if you get a chance, and feel compelled, go and donate. She has to raise a great deal of funds in a short amount of time. I guarantee it's a legit-op, and she's a legit person (however looking rather like Angela Davis in this photo). If you can't donate, at least forward the link to someone who can!

posted by ambra at 7/22/2004 01:24:19 AM | link to this entry | |

A Sign Things May Be Getting Out of Hand

While driving home yesterday, I pulled out my PDA and placed it on my lap (I'm a notorious multi-tasker). In any case, at a red light, I snapped this rare photo opportunity as this image is a sign things are a bit out of hand at nykola.com headquarters. When you start putting post-it notes on your electronic calendar device, it's probably time to re-examine its effectiveness. A few months back, I lost my organizer and proceeded to miss every single one of my appointments in one week. But at least it's a neon pink post-it so it stands out right? Whoever created post-it notes definitely had me in mind. Funny Stuff.

For reasons above, I shall be posting later on this morning.

posted by ambra at 7/22/2004 01:15:27 AM | link to this entry | |


Dumb Quote of the Day

"I'm a stick my non-partisan foot up John Kerry and George Bush's [early form of donkey]" - Sean "Puff Daddy/P.Diddy" Combs

"Citizen Combs" is at it again. This time, Combs' newest voter-registration endeavor is called Citizen Change whose slogan "Vote or Die", is geared towards the 18-30 year-old crowd of voters of color, or what Combs refers to as "the forgotten ones". Seriously though, where would we get our entertainment from without this man?

The always credible VH1 reports,
" As political press conferences go, it was unusual to say the least. Backed by a DJ and surrounded by chanting kids and giant monitors, P. Diddy vowed to make voting "sexy" on Tuesday as he announced his newest exploit...the media mogul/athlete/actor/fashion designer said Citizen Change's goal is to champion the cause"
So now we're making voting sexy? Okay. Am I the only one who hates that word? I must say howver, I have to give it to Puffy this time. As much as he bothers me, he's managed to do more to rally my generation around politics than anyone on the right side of things. Oh but that's right because Combs' most recent endeavor is said to be non-partisan. Not everyone is convinced,
"Despite his insistence that the group is nonpartisan, its staff consists of mostly liberal political advisors, such as James Carville, the outspoken liberal co-host of CNN's "Crossfire." The group plans to split its time "50/50 for both candidates to speak to the people." Puffy has already sat down to talk with Democratic candidate John Kerry, and he began talks with Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie on Monday night. Toward the end of his address, Puffy issued an open call to all other leaders interested in joining him, specifically imploring Republicans to become involved, saying, 'I give you my word that this is not about the party, it's about the people.'"
Puffy has promised to give Republicans equal face time. Last week, after attending Philadelphia's NAACP convention at which Kerry spoke, Puffy caught a helicopter to meet with young Republicans gathering as part of the Bush campaign.

Interestingly enough, this week marked the official addition of both Barbara and Jenna Bush to their father's campaign. I heard on the news this morning that campaign leaders are hoping to leverage the "Sex and the City" vote with the twins' effort. Um, this shall be interesting.

posted by ambra at 7/21/2004 08:06:40 AM | link to this entry | |

Why I'm Not a Republican (Part Three): My unsuccessful quest to become politically mainstream

[ Part I & Part II ]

Every group of individuals has its vices and Republicans are simply no different. Why am I not a Republican? If I had to answer the question in only four words, I'd say "because Republicans are boring". Be that as it may, my answer clearly begs for more details, and details I shall give. Politics these days seem to be big on promises and low on solutions. My issues with the Republican Party are few, but important.

I'm a regular reader of a fairly neo-conservative, young adult, Christian magazine. Early this year, the magazine launched a campaign and call to social action called "The Revolution". "The Revolution" was designed to be a support network and think-tank for those around the world who are effectively facilitating change and working towards the goal of empowering others in their sphere of influence. When announcing this new campaign, the editor of the magazine commented, "[our] call to social action is bound to make Conservatives uncomfortable." I meditated on this statement for days and since I consider myself conservative, I must say, I took it very personally. I couldn't quite pinpoint what angered me so, but I am now certain it is the outside perception that conservatives aren't concerned with the every-day needs and issues of certain people. What is social justice? Well, in its most basic form, it involves recognizing, championing and advocating for the needs of others unable or un-equipped to do so for themselves. It's really an amoral concept however, it's been distorted by rampant liberalism.

In my most humble opinion, the greatest area in which Republicans lack is their call to social action. While Conservatives are good at rallying behind an issue and driving home a point, the passion and the fire that seems to be lit under the rear-end of every heavy-hitting Democrat often overpowers the less assertive and seldom innovative consistency of your average, nondescript Republican. These days, the words "social, justice, and action" carry a negatively liberal stigma. I'll be the first to admit, I'm guilty of rolling my eyes almost every time I see some "tool organization" blocking traffic in protest over an issue I could really care less about. Liberals have relegated "social justice" to organized protests, petitions, boycotts, screaming matches, and Amnesty International. For a group that claims to be so "progressive", they certainly have adopted old tactics to get their message across. Here in the age of ideas, truth gets pushed to the side by whomever, or whatever can stay in the limelight the longest. We don't need to leave America to find people who need an advocate. Social justice is in our own backyard.

It is un-questionable that American morals find their root in a Judeo-Christian heritage. Dispute me on this if you will, but most of our founding political documents point otherwise. These morals took shape early on as a number of different issues, among them freedom for the slaves, loving thy neighbor as thyself, having compassion for the widow and the orphan, providing for the poor, justice in government, and free speech for all. Today, our interpretation and application of these early foundations is in desperate need of re-evaluation. On the left, our nation has devolved from moral accountability to tolerant, and all-inclusive acceptance. On the right, we have remained inactive and ineffective, on our moral high horses wondering why the rest of the country can't just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps like we did. We've adopted our "pet political doctrine" and rarely stray from the familiar and comfortable arguments. Meanwhile, in the midst of our "pet political issues", people are dying. This death is not physical but economical, emotional, and spiritual. Even worse, this "death" of sorts is in great danger of being inherited by the next generation if we don't make some major changes soon.

I don't say it often, but there are many citizens living in our country who by fault of their own via mental and systematic oppression and poor-self image have been left completely disenfranchised. Disenfranchisement. There's a word Republicans and Conservatives love to hate. I'll admit, it's not my favorite word either, and I don't use it often because it is a term that is grossly misappropriated. Nevertheless, in our aversion to this term, we often forget it is a reality for many in this nation. Even those vaguely familiar with the Biblical "Great Commission" know it involves "binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners...to rebuild...to restore...to renew...". Jesus was in the trenches, getting dirty, meeting needs, and most importantly, empowering the people. Very rarely did he hit people over the head about how and why they arrived at their place of desperation. No, he comforted, gave aid, and most importantly, he empowered others to triumph over their situation and live a higher quality of life. So why are so few Republicans in the trenches encouraging triumph? My first instinct is to assume the view from the cheap seats is better, but to be honest, it's a question I'm still waiting to have answered myself.

While Republicans have developed a distaste for the word "disenfranchised", they have failed to recognize the very moral principles on which our country was founded. Welfare, healthcare, affirmative action, and abortion rights seem to be a hotbed of controversy these days. For the most part, the Republican party makes clear their stance on these issues. Their stance is generally one with which I agree, although I am not so sold on their solutions if and when they exist. It is time for the "problem announcers" to become the "problem solvers". There are times when it feels quite literally like we conservatives are beating the air.

As much as it pains me to concede a strength, in the absence of genuine leadership in key areas, the Democrats have stepped up to the plate and usually end up being the only ones offering any tangible solutions to our nation's dirty laundry. Democrats have spent billions of dollars on ineffective welfare programs and tax initiatives because they were able to convince the general public that they had the "right" solutions. Shady and ineffective as they may be, when it seems Democrats are the only ones doing the talking, "the people" are at a loss. Unfortunately, we live in a country full of people sorely lacking independent judgment and critical thinking skills. These same folks, if left independent of a leader, will become so thirsty for genuine leadership, they will turn on themselves and as Michael J. Fox's character "Louis" said in the Liberal movie The American President,
"...crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand."
The argument then becomes a question of whether those people drink the sand by educated choice, or do they even know the difference?

Meanwhile, Republicans have successfully become resounding gongs and clanging symbols, but often lack the key ingredient of love and compassion for people in their message. Sometimes, I wonder why liberals don't hate us conservatives even more. In the heat of politics and getting the upper hand, I sometimes grapple with whether or not "love" is even there. Even with my outright bluntness and hard stance on many issues, very rarely can I actually stomach the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Republicans have banished themselves and become the predictable nightmare we call "a political party". At times, their policy is like watching paint dry. Dull, dry, unaffected, lacking innovation. I fear the constant yapping and rodomontade against affirmative-action and preferential treatment every time the word "race" is mentioned or the terribly mundane "abstinence education" rhetoric is beginning to get bloody old. Surely in all the wisdom and knowledge accessible to men, there is something more comprehensive that can be brought to the table?

This era begs for an innovative sound. Conservatives cannot afford to be boring. It pains me that day in and day out, I can watch Hannity & Colmes and The O'Reilly Factor (although Bill is a personal favorite), or read The National Review and World Magazine and hear the same dull ranting, raving and "partyspeak". The Republican answer is often predictable and aged. It is time for the innovators to emerge and shape the conservative culture of the 21st century. The issues are complex and will take more than much of our run-of-the-mill conservative legislation. The more I examine the major issues impacting our nation, and for me specifically, the black community, the more I realize the inadequacy of any sole political party's ability to play god.

(Final Part Four Forthcoming)

posted by ambra at 7/21/2004 05:00:06 AM | link to this entry | |


Just What Should You be Reading?

The subject of books abounds! Do you have a homogenized bookshelf? My mind got thinking again this weekend when I caught some more dialogue on reading necessities. In a recent article, care of college student (and kindred spirit) Rachel Durado at the Banana Republican, writer Kelly Jane Torrance compares the readings lists of British and American celebrities,
"How do American celebrities compare? Oprah magazine gives us some of their picks. All too often, they lack the idiosyncratic touch and therefore resemble course requirements for Diversity 101. Hillary Clinton's list includes The Joy Luck Club, The Poisonwood Bible, The Color Purple, The Clan of the Cave Bear, Wild Swans, and West With the Night by pioneer female aviator Beryl Markham. What a virtuous reader our former First Lady is!

The selection made by America's other First Lady, Katie Couric, is just as solemn, but strangely dated: Black Like Me, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Huckleberry Finn, The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Of Mice and Men, A Patch of Blue. It turns out Couric gave Oprah the names of her childhood favorites. What an earnest young woman she must have been!

On the other hand, Nigella Lawson, the English celebrity chef, is not ashamed to admit her love of the now savagely derided children's author Enid Blyton. Lawson says of Blyton's The Naughtiest Girl in the School, 'This book taught me how deeply enjoyable reading is, and that's what counts.' Reading--it's not just a grim duty!"

Oprah's picks resemble a booklist from a Diversity 101 course? I couldn't agree more. Just this past weekend, the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative organization recently received a letter written on behalf of a young black man. The subject? Recommended reading by black authors.


I mentor a young black man who is going to go to college next year. I was wondering if you had a list of literature or suggestions for some reading material. He is interested in economics and business. I was hoping for some ethics, philosophy, and history titles as well. I would prefer if the authors were black. He attends a majority white private Catholic school where he is one of the brightest students; I want him to have some black intellectual experience too.

Thank you for your time.
In a response, fellow Conservative Brotherhood member Michael Cobb Bowen has given his own recommendations in true "to be continued" format. Interestingly enough, he's divided the authors into the categories of "Philosophicals" and of course my ultimate favorite, "Existentialists". Among the authors, he mentioned the works of Cornel West, Malcolm X, and Skip Gates. I used to be in love with Cornel West, almost to the point of obsession. I read all of his books including his lengthy "reader". In retrospect, I can't figure out if it was his ideas I was in love with or just the fact that I was so thirsty to read something half-way intelligent by a black author that I was hanging on every word he wrote.

I'm fairly certain that the question at hand in this letter is not one I could answer very quickly. Although I've read the works of a significant among of black authors, narrowing down the must-reads takes a bit of examination. Much of my education afforded me a somewhat lop-sided presentation of intellectual thought. The writer of the letter remarked that the boy about which she was writing was a student of a private, predominately, white Catholic school. It is obvious she felt he was lacking something in his own education or else she wouldn't have written.

When I was in school, a good portion of the books we read and analyzed were written by the same types of people. Those people were usually dead, white, or male. While some were classics, others were just all around good pieces of writing. If someone asked me to list off recommended reading based on white authors alone, I could produce a big fat list. It would be rather ignorant of me to think that the reason for this is some sort of lack in ability amongst authors of color. Nevertheless, teachers never failed to throw in that one (and sometimes two) token book(s) of the semester written by an author of color. This was a strategy that proved itself to be a set-up. The lopsided percentage of "old, white, male" authors compared to most others was dreadfully apparent. This being the case, that one "colorful" book we read each semester had to be pretty gosh darn good or else we'd all start forming our negative opinions about authors of color and their inability to write coherent thoughts. At the time I read it, Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior pretty much decimated my desire to read future works of Asian-American authors.

The question of what a person should (or should have) read is really quite complex. I don't believe it is the same answer for every person. As a black, woman, intellectual living in America, it would behoove me to have certain pieces of writing under my belt. This knowledge doesn't necessarily serve as bragging rights or give me some exclusive edge in conversation at the dinner table. No. This knowledge serves a purpose beyond shallow table references. It gives me the foundation and knowledge to understand the history of thought as it relates to my own race of people. If I intend to be at all relevant in my daily affairs as it relates to my own cultural heritage (both claimed and unclaimed), there are certain things I can't afford not to know. The same is true of anyone based on their sphere of influence and activity on the Earth. While no actor should go without studying Shakespeare, the average person could care less about Macbeth.

I'm odd in that I don't really have any favorite books. Instead, I have a list of books that drastically impacted my life and my way of thinking. Life-changing books are not always those I agree with, as they are often either insightful or inciteful. At times, I can grasp more insight from Hitler's Mein Kampf or Sanger's Motherhood in Bondage than I can reading the exalted works of many of our glorified thinkers. I am an avid used-bookstore shopper. This could be the nerd in me fighting to get out, but I think it's more the fact that I'm more likely to stumble across a rare jewel in small-time bookstores than I am less-likely to find in the commercialized Barnes & Noble. Although, I'll admit Barnes & Noble gets a fair amount of my money.

That letter got me thinking. How many of us have ever even bothered to ask the question, "what should I be reading"? It's something that beckons more discussion and I fear that all too often, we let the New York Times or Oprah make the decision on our behalf.

posted by ambra at 7/20/2004 12:04:21 AM | link to this entry | |

Authors Find a Niche With Singles

The New York Times published an interesting article yesterday on the booming self-help book business for singles. The focus of the article was Christian singles. I think the preferable term here is "unmarried". God never called us single. The article focuses mostly on author and motivational speaker (I hate that term) Michelle MicKinney Hammond, whose 20 some odd books have been primarily marketed to Christian woman. I've read bits and pieces of her work and I was never really impressed. And trust me when I say I've read just about everything there is out there in this area. It's a topic that is near to my heart as I watch the women of my generation legally prostitute themselves.

I think we've got a lot of reform to do both in the body of Christ and in the world in how men and women relate to eachother and how we view singleness or "unmarriedness". I believe two major things have hindered women.
1)Too much independence
2)Too much dependence on a human relationship for wholeness
Perhaps I'm using this as a placeholder for later discussion. There's an interesting dynamic that's been going on in our country for quite some time; we practice divorce.

More on that later...

posted by ambra at 7/20/2004 12:02:52 AM | link to this entry | |


Momma Said There'd be Days Like This

Every now and then, I wake up in the morning and think, "Someone please tell me this is not my life". Today was one of those days. Don't get me wrong, I am one of those people who lives without regret and is in love with life and its hilarious tendencies. However, it seems these days, I am desperately in need of some rest and relaxation otherwise known as a vacation. Sometimes, I call myself the "oldest 22-year-old I know"; figuratively speaking. I say certain things that just plain should not be coming out of my youthful mouth. Things like "my feet hurt" or "I need to go pay bills" or "my how you've grown!" or "sorry can't stay out late, I've got work in the morning" or "that boy needs to pull his pants up!". I knew it was bad when last night, I kept nodding off at my desk in the midst of writing a post. "Oh no" I thought, surely I have not become my mother.

I understand that I don't have a kids (thank God) or a husband (soon enough), or many of the other things that drive people to the nutty place at which I currently exist. Keeping this in mind, I do try to keep my life in humble perspective. But maybe there are some of you out there who can identify with the great burden it is to be the blacksheep in life, your family, your sphere of influence, or even worse, your age bracket. For reasons only God knows, my age has not hindered me in the least. Maybe this is why I don't subscribe to the "level playing field" argument. In my lifetime, I've had tremendous doors opened for me, been given promotions and favor minus a college degree, and probably carry more responsibility than the average 22-year-old. Responsibility is something you grow up wanting and grow old hating. I'm not old, but I already hate it. And trust me, I have my days (although few and far between) when I wish I could just go back to college and be a hapless, debt-free student again. That's usually the youth in me reminding me that I still have the right to kick back and have fun.

I am familiar with this "contemplative feeling" as it happens every July when I realize how much of my lovely young adulthood I've sacrificed to "the call". Last summer it got so bad, on a whim, I almost dropped everything and flew to Hawaii--by myself. At the time I would've preferred it that way, but in retrospect, I'm glad I didn't. Unfortunately, due to a hectic work schedule, the closest thing I'm going to get to a vacation this summer is a few extended business trips in August to Southern California and the East coast, and an out-of-town friend's nuptials. Even then, I'm bound to stay busy. Question for the masses: Is it possible to "not do anything"? If anyone knows, please tell me your secret as I am very interested in that formula for success. Most of the time, I find that I need to take vacations from my vacation (if you know what I mean).

The way things are going, it's looking like the next couple of years will have me bicoastal from Washington to Virginia. I am not too thrilled about this but nevertheless, not my will. Submission is sometimes painful. Joyful submission is downright evil.

Today, I woke up with absolutely, positively nothing to say or write. Well, except these here words. Silence from "the botherer"? I know, it's bizarre, but I promised myself when I kicked this "thing" off that if I didn't have anything worth writing, I wouldn't write at all. Hopefully I'll be back to my normal, verbose self tomorrow. I've got lots inside of me, but this was one of those days when I just couldn't get it out. Is this the essence of constipated stagnation? Yeah, that must be what this is. Tonight I'll take an enema and be back with a vengeance tomorrow.

Ugh. I hate these days.

posted by ambra at 7/19/2004 11:13:59 AM | link to this entry | |


This Was Not What I Signed Up For

Funny. I've lamented every holiday about my distaste for the sappy and disingenuous nature of greeting card companies. I went against my card-nonethusiast nature the other day when in the store, I couldn't help but drop $2.49 on the absolute worst card I've ever seen. At first glance you may think this is intended to be joke-card of sorts. I wish I could say that was the case but trust me, it's not. Thank Carlton Cards for this one:

[ Card Front & Inside Respectively ]

Can I just shout an emphatic "No!"? No this dismal cubicle does not make the hours of tedius labor, cramming, thesis-writing and exams of the average college or grad school graduate seem anywhere NEAR worthwhile, thank you very much. This is on top of the crappy starting salary and the college loans. Judging from the testimonies of my friends, folks aren't too happy with what they signed up for. If anyone in my family even brought this card anywhere near me on my (would-be) graduation day, I'd return it to get the $2.49 back so I could apply it towards my college loan interest. End of story. Hands down, worst card I've ever seen. In my life. Seriously.

posted by ambra at 7/16/2004 01:54:48 AM | link to this entry | |

Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience

Question of the Day:

At what point does child nudity cease being "innocent"?

"Whose Line is it Anyway" Points if you know what book of poetry that title is from.

Update:  No really, I'm seriously asking the question.  This is not about child porn (odd people took it that way).  I used the picture to left as an example.  Some years ago everybody had that "innocent" naked baby picture lying around.  Where do we draw the line?  We got asked this question in a seminar once.  Picture yourself at the beach, there are parents who let their babies and toddlers run free like the wind.  At want point is it time to cover up?

posted by ambra at 7/16/2004 12:58:43 AM | link to this entry | |



The tizzy in the comments section of "Political Polarization" post got me thinking about this "groupthink" thing. I'm lifting something off of fellow Conservative Brotherhood member Cobb's site:
Groupthink Requirements
Ideological Coherence, Small Groups, Established Institutional Identity, Loyalty
Discussion that takes place in the context of assumed consensus.
Do you agree with this definition? Under what, if any circumstances is groupthink okay? Based on that definition, I can think of one, although I won't say right now.

In the corporate environment people just make up words and concepts. One thing we use around my workplace is "braintrust". That is, my trust that you're smart and I'll go along with whatever decision you make, without even knowing what the decision is. This is of course much different than "groupthink". It seems to me groupthink doesn't always imply that there's "braintrust".

Alright, enough conceptual idioms. My brain's gonna go 'splody.

posted by ambra at 7/15/2004 12:38:24 PM | link to this entry | |

The Nature of Botherance

It seems my recent discussion of our "great" classics has bothered a few. This is music to my irreverent ears. One person has even gone as far as to form a rebuttal on the greatness of The Great Gatsby. Thankfully, however, this same person as well as a few others have picked up the ax and begun listing their least favorite force-fed novels. Makes me feel good to know I've done my part to bother others and spur them onto "paying forward" the bothering. Perhaps I shall call it "Bothering forward". Somewhere there's a screenplay in there.

In light of a few snide comments and not-so-nice emails I've been receiving lately all of which I answer by the way, (except the one telling me white people rule the world and black people should be exterminated off the Earth), I'd like to remind certain folks that under the moniker "nykola.com" my tagline is not stroking the common opinion since 1981, it's bothering people since 1981. Now If people don't like that, then I've successfully done my job (smile).

When I first started this web thing, I thought of a couple different taglines:
- "inciting riots since..."
- "inducing labor since..."
- "sending people back to nicotine since..."
As these are all things I've managed to do in my lifetime. However, "bothering people" was the least abrasive and the most fun. Somebody left a comment one day saying "The thing I love about the internet is its potential to shock". I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately, this is both a virtue and a vice. I will always aim to be clean, fair, respectful, and honest, but not always nice. This could make me or break me, but since I can dish it, I sure can take it. Tally ho!

posted by ambra at 7/15/2004 12:08:18 PM | link to this entry | |

Tasteful Politics

There are very few things that send me into convulsions. Among them, being called "feisty", use of the word "tolerance", little puppies crossing a busy street, and people who say dumb and degrading things about prominent political leaders in public. Ill-politics are like finger nails on a chalkboard for me. It gives me the chills. And I'm not talking about the good kind either. There's nothing like sitting back, relaxing to get your hair cut and being forced to listen to your stylist rant on about how much she hates Bush. Am I the only one that thinks this is completely unprofessional?

So you can imagine my disdain when I heard of Whoopi Goldberg's recent comments about President Bush and Dick Cheney at a recent Kerry fundraiser. I've yet to locate her actual words, but even then, I wouldn't post them because knowing Whoopi, they were inapproriate. The New York Post reported,
"Waving a bottle of wine, she [Goldberg] fired off a stream of vulgar sexual wordplays on Bush's name in a riff about female genitalia."
Classy Whoopi. Very classy. Can't say I'd expect more since Goldberg is known for her uncouth behavior. It seems the heads at Slim-fast did since they made the brilliant decision to hire this loose-cannon as their national spokesperson. That's mistake number one. They did however, avoid mistake number two. When Republican and Conservative Slim Fast drinkers (there's some Google boolean) started complaining to the company, Whoopi got dropped like a bad habit. So much for contracts. Slim Fast's Kathi Eckler remarks,
"Slim-Fast selected Whoopi Goldberg as its spokesperson because of her commitment to losing weight, which we applaud.

"We are disappointed by the manner in which Ms. Goldberg chose to express herself and sincerely regret that her recent remarks offended you. Advertisements featuring Ms. Goldberg will no longer be on air."
There are two subjects that can incite riots among the masses: Religion and Politics. Smart people know how to play the game, but the fools, well, they mouth off dumb things in the workplace and on CNN. Am I the only one that thinks a measure of tact should be used when discussing certain matters in a public forum?

As expected, Republicans were not pleased about the set-up of Kerry's fundraiser, which lined up celebrities with the intent and sole purpose of "skewering" the President. So what's new? I must say, this is my LEAST favorite aspect about politics during the presidential election. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of resorting to tactics of name-calling and mud-slinging. Democrats have the upperhand in that they're fighting an incumbent and many people love to hate Bush. It seems this is the game you have to play to be heard these days. All parties are guilty. Shame.

I personally think it's downright tacky. Why can't anything be about the issues anymore? That must be the "sheltered youth" in me speaking. I admit, I'm guilty on many occasions of slinging mud myself, but even with Clinton, I tried to remain civil. On another note, does anyone find it ironic that Whoopi's tagline with Slim Fast was "I'm a Big Loser"?

Self-fulfilling prophecy.

posted by ambra at 7/15/2004 01:18:35 AM | link to this entry | |


Female Brains

I could write about the recent debates around the Federal Marriage Act (I probably will later but not right now), I could write about how Weezie from the Jeffersons moved on up, or how sick I am of hearing about Kobe Bryant, or "Queasy" Mfume's dumb and typically calculated remarks on behalf of the NAACP. I could discuss the theory of relativity, the war on Iraq, or the current lack of leadership in the Philippines. I could finally finish and proofread my dissertation on not-being a Republican or write about the other fifty some odd topics I have lined up for this site, but today I won't. Right now I am going to talk about shopping and my addiction to buying shoes, the anger I feel when my lipstick melts in the sun, my love for ridiculously priced designer jeans, and the strange "peace" and solace I feel when I wander through the mall. Or how about the fact that every now and then, when I don't feel like thinking, processing, or analyzing, I indulge myself on Sunday evenings by watching my nemesis, MTV's Punk'd in re-run, laughing very hard and eating an entire large Canadian-bacon pizza by my lonesome, all while reading pointless magazines none of which contain the words "U.S., Today, World, News, or Week" with articles who peak in profundity when they outline the best forms of leg hair removal. Here's a tip: waxing hurts. Even in the midst of all this, I still manage to feel good about myself, and I still consider myself a half-way decent and intelligent human being. Every now and then, I reserve the right to vent.

Today I am going to talk about a subject I've toyed with in my head for quite some time. That is, being female and being intelligent. Before the "tomboy's" get all bent, let me just say that my intent here is not to stereotype anyone. I realize that the spectrum of womanhood is deep and wide so forgive me in advance if I pigeon-hole anyone. After all, you know how I feel about those labeled boxes.

This is a subject rather dear to my heart since I am most definitely female, and dare I venture to say I am somewhat intelligent (most of the time). So I have this problem, although I'm not sure what it is but maybe you can help. My dilemma is best outlined in a brief story I'd like to share:

The summer of my junior year, my best friend Alyssa and I took a trip to Washington, D.C. The trip was multi-faceted. I visited some relatives in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and the both of us were on a mission to check out Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, UPenn and Temple University. It was an action- packed two week trip, most of which was spent in our nation's lovely capitol.

After a few adventures, the worst of which included getting stuck on the Beltway (a heinous work of engineering if you ask me), and included crying, sweating, and cautiously used Christian-profanity, we'd managed to successfully pick apart every university within a 120 mile radius. Alyssa decided if accepted, she'd attend Georgetown. I wasn't as impressed and remained pretty neutral on which school I'd choose.

After tasking intensely, the remainder of our trip left lots of time for sight-seeing and profound historical learning. We'd both been to Washington a number of times so the Capitol Building, the White House, Washington monument and the Holocaust Museum didn't interest us much. I wanted to go shopping and eat ice cream. So I'm certain you can understand my excitement when my aunt with whom we were staying mentioned we should check out the Mall. Needless to say, wrong mall.

The best time of the entire trip was not the time we spent immersed in the history of Washington, the buzz of politics at the Capitol, or the guided tours of the top universities. No, it was the day Alyssa and I, along with my cousin, who's also fluent in French, and some well-saved spending money and allowances, rode the train into Georgetown and hit up every shoe store East of the Mississippi. Nevermind that we managed to only speak in French the entire time, when we returned at the end of the day with shopping bags in hand, I had this feeling as though we'd done a great disservice to womankind. We chose recreational bliss over scholarly aptitude and had the shoeboxes to show for it.

So what is it about our culture that makes a girl feel she has to act a certain way to be deemed intelligent? I consider myself a moderate girly girl who doesn't mind getting dirty or breaking a nail. There are times when I absolutely need my "non-academic" interests to involve the least amount of thinking possible. Does this make me normal, does this make me dense, does this make me a ditz? I could care less what the answer is, but somehow society's decided to define that for me. I read the work of many great female journalists and authors and increasingly disturbing are the comments from critics who feel the need to point out their shock of someone with such great aptitude. You mean a woman right? You mean you're shocked that they're women and intelligent right? I recently poured through the comments on a blog of a particularly insightful female writer. Every now and then I'd see someone write "wow, you've got beauty and brains! How rare!" Is it really rare, or is that the concept our culture's projected?

I struggle back and forth with this as many women do. I've always hesitated to post my picture in conjunction with my writing. Not because I think I'm pretty or anything, but because writing can be a lot more fun when people don't know who's behind the words. First impressions are a funny thing and I'm not sure what my picture gives off, but I would have rather not risked it. Then I remembered two things:
  1. When I read, I like to put a face with words.
  2. I don't care what other people think.
So after all that rambling, I'm hoping you see my dilemma. I reserve the right to be mindless every now and then and unfortunately, these days that gets attributed to my sex.

posted by ambra at 7/14/2004 03:12:03 PM | link to this entry | |

Bush Celebrates "Take Your Daughter to Work" Day

Just when you thought our nation couldn't handle another Bush, they get two more! In an interesting turn of events both of the First Twin daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush have decided to join their dad on the campaign trail. This is a far cry from their inaugural festivities during the first year of their dad's presidency with you know, the underage drinking, the fake id's, parties at Chuy's and whatnot. I would have expected this from Barbara but certainly not Jenna the "free spirit" as one Washington Post article calls her.

Since the 22-year-old Jenna and Barbara graduated this past fall from the University of Texas and Yale respectively, it seems the two have made a decision to crack down and get serious. The two share an office in Arlington at the Bush-Cheney campaign headquarters and their duties have yet to be outlined. Most people are suspecting their role will have something to do with rallying the young adult population. Heaven's knows we need it. Jenna's first major move was to hop onto the campaign bus and attend a few rallies along with her dad in rural Pennsylvania. This should be interesting. I'm actually really glad they're doing this. I like seeing the family aspect. I caught an interview this morning with First Lady Laura Bush and she mentioned that having grown up a little, the twins have become a bit nostalgic and don't want to regret not ever having been a part of their dad's presidency in a major way.

Even with my aversion to politics, if my dad was running for president, I'd be one campaigning fool. However, they'd probably make me shut down this website.

The campaign trail isn't the last stop for the twins. Reportedly, Jenna has applied for a teaching position at the Harlem Day Charter School and Barbara's considering working with AIDS patients in various countries. Just what is it about the oval office and Harlem?

Don't miss them on the upcoming vogue magazine cover!

posted by ambra at 7/14/2004 01:24:28 PM | link to this entry | |


Lessons From the Huxtables

Being that the Cosby show is the I-ching and sum of all wisdom, I had to mention this. In light of the hip-hop discourse at hand, I watched an episode of the Cosby Show in re-run last night. It was the one where Theo and Cockroach rewrite Shakespeare's Julius Caesar via rap to help them learn it. Interesting...
posted by ambra at 7/13/2004 10:28:02 PM | link to this entry | |

Epiphany! Movies Are Sleazy

I'm convinced, people have nothing better to do with their time. A recent study (NYT registration req) from the Harvard (I wonder where the endowment goes) School of Health, has found that the last decade in film gave birth to what they call a "ratings creep". It seems movie ratings are much more lenient than they were ten years ago. You mean to tell me that we had to do an in-depth study at a major university to find out that film content is more violent and sexually explicit? Sometimes I think I'm in the wrong profession. Some of these people are being paid way too much. In the New York Times article on the study, Rich Taylor, a spokesman for the Motion Picture Association suggests that the standards for judging acceptable depictions of sex and violence in American society are constantly changing. I give you my case for the fight against moral relativism and situation ethics in this country.

Co-author of the study and associate professor of get this, risk analysis and decision science (you're kidding me right...that's a real professorship?) Kimberly Thompson notes,
"When you look at the average, today's PG-13 movies are approaching what the R movies looked like in 1992 [and] today's PG is approaching what PG-13 looked like a decade ago."
That's not even counting the tripe and sexual innuendos Disney throws in most of their rated G movies. I've always said the ratings system is a joke and an excuse for people who want a shortcut to doing their jobs as parents. This is the danger in allowing the Motion Picture Association to dictate to us what is and isn't appropriate. It's ALL relative.

Ultimately, the result of the study appears to have left them with more questions than anything. Questions such as "What's the difference between sensuality and sexuality?" or "violence and action violence". Their end hypothesis? There's no fool-proof way to rate films. Well, duh.

posted by ambra at 7/13/2004 04:34:06 PM | link to this entry | |

Hi, I'm Charles Dickens, and I'm Overrated

For the record, I'm not a booksnob, I'm a bookslut. I read 'em and leave 'em. Books are an interesting topic of discussion. You'd have to understand my kooky personality to see how much humor I find in ripping on our "great works of literature" to shreds. My previous list was based on books I'd actually read or attempted to read. That leaves a lot out. Please understand that my tongue and cheek disdain for Dickens and Homer is tinted with a bit of respect and honor. After all, they are "great" authors. So all you Dickens lovers don't have to get your panties (or boxers) in a wad. I'll give them their due for long-windedness. There was a moment when I enjoyed Great Expectations. The end. I imagine if I would ever meet Dickens the conversation might go as such:
Ambra: So Mr. Dickens, many people love and revere your work.
Dickens: Yes I know. I'm brilliant like that.
Ambra: Honestly, I thought you were kind of boring. I mean, some of your books were the best snoozefest of my middle school life.
Dickens: Well, you're certainly entitled to your opinion, but my family's estate is making millions from my work even to this day.
Ambra: Touché.
Dickens: I really never expected Great Expectations to do so well.
Ambra: I'm suprised it did.
Dickens: ....
Ambra: Be honest, was "Pip" really meant to be "pimp"?
Dickens: (laughs) Can you imagine him saying, "Pimp Sir. Pimp Pimp Sir" sounds like the latest Jay-Z chorus
Ambra: What you know about Jay-Z?
Dickens: Jigga
Ambra: But really though...Mrs. Havishan, the wedding dress? It was all a little creepy to me.
Dickens: I have to admit, I was on opium when I wrote that character in.
Ambra: Figures.
When I was applying to colleges five years ago, I got a lovely letter from a school called "St. John's College" inviting me to apply. This school is scary. There are no majors, barely any teachers, all you do is read old (and a few new) books. It's like four years of reading every classic ever written. Fine for some, but for me, that would be H-E-double hockey sticks.

The thing is, in my opinion, no work of literature is exempt from criticism. If reading your book sucked one month out of my life, I'm entitled to say a thing or two in response to my lost time. One of these days, should I ever get around to writing a book, I will probably greatly regret that statement, but for now I'm just going to be flippant.

That said, a few readers have commented on their least favorite books and authors and as promised, I'm listing them. I've had english teachers who would have coronaries if they read this but oh well, they don't hold my fate anymore. Perhaps I should have changed the word "worst" to "over-rated". In any case, you said:

Overrated Authors
John Steinbeck
Ernest Hemmingway
Charles Dickens
James Joyce
Toni Morrison
Jane Austen
Virginia Woolf (that chick was a raving loony)
Thomas Wolfe
Maya Angelou (my addition)

Additional Worst & Over-Rated Books
  1. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  2. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  3. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  4. Ulysses by James Joyce
  5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  6. Rabbit Run by John Updike
  7. Roots by Alex Haley
  8. Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
  9. Silas Marner by George Elliot
Anytime a book needs Cliff's notes, I think we're all in trouble.

P.S. this list should be much longer.

posted by ambra at 7/13/2004 02:32:36 PM | link to this entry | |

Political Polarization

Interesting. Guest blogging over at GlennReynolds.com, is law professor and author Cass Sunstein. He tackles the question of why Liberals and Conservatives hate each other so much. My first inclination is to shout "because they're wicked!", but that really does this discussion no good. He goes on to make some interesting observations about "groupthink" in his brief post on political polarization,
"Here's a clue: When like-minded people speak mostly to one another, they go to extremes. If members of a group think that President Bush is good, they're likely, after talking together, to think that President Bush is great. And if people in a discussion group think that the Iraq war has gone badly, they'll probably end up thinking that it has gone disastrously.
I'm rather tempted to quote the whole darn thing since it's so short. I did like this point however,
"Unfortunately, group polarization creates major problems. People can end up thinking of their fellow citizens as real enemies, rather than as simply having a different point of view. And even worse, both individuals and groups are likely to make big blunders if they don't contain dissenters. Corporations, investor clubs, and politicians do a lot better if they seek out views very different from their own."
My name is Ambra Nykol and I'm proud to be a Conservative dissenter. See, you need people like me. You really do!

posted by ambra at 7/13/2004 11:45:25 AM | link to this entry | |


Um, I'm Against Gun-Control But...

Something about Frank's "Peace Gallery" at IMAO is unsettling. Can't quite put my finger on it...
posted by ambra at 7/12/2004 06:33:24 PM | link to this entry | |

Rosie, This Stuff Just Can't Be Coincidental

Funny how right around the time the Supreme Court is making a Federal case out of marriage, Rosie O'Donnell's making a nut-case out of Norweigian Cruise Lines. Her newly founded company with partner Kelli Carpenter O'Donnell (I guess that makes Rosie the male figure) R Family Vacations, specializes in promoting getaways that are gay-family friendly. Perhaps someone can educate me on the differences. A cruise is a cruise.

Oh wait, not this cruise. This one's different NY Daily News staffer writes:
"Families were expecting more than just a pleasure cruise. Included among the classic cruise entertainment is educational talks about adoption and pregnancy."
Agenda? What agenda?

posted by ambra at 7/12/2004 01:53:46 PM | link to this entry | |

Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?

So while we're on the subject of books (a subject I just can't seem to shake lately), I want to recall a recent topic of spicy debate. In all that I do and discuss these days, my favorite hat to wear is the young "millennial" one. That is, by most adults' standards, the rebellious, misunderstood generation cap. This is also where I usually contend with my fellow conservative associations.

A few weeks back, it came to light that a summer school program in Worcester, MA made "gangsta rap" a part of their curriculum when they placed one of Tupac's collections of poetry, The Rose That Grew from Concrete on their summer reading list. Many people have already tackled the subject of Tupac's poetry being used in the public system. Last month, author and columnist Michelle Malkin delivered a scathing report in her article 2 Lazy 2 Teach. The backlash was interesting, yet typical. Conservatives got on their moral high horses and spouted their "infinite wisdom" on how we should be teaching, while the usual Tupac lovers emerged from their dens of mourning to defend his honor. Neither reaction has produced any fruit in my opinion. I have yet to see useful dialogue in this whole topic of the hip-hop generation. I love Michelle Malkin as much as the next, but she and I dissent on a couple of things, and neither of them is Tupac. Due to the hat I wear, I need to come at this from another direction.

(Before we go anywhere, let's clarify the difference between rap and hip-hop. Rap is the act of saying rhymes to the beat of music. Seems rather basic and amoral when you put in those terms doesn't it? Hip-Hop on the other hand, is a four-part cultural movement. It encompasses breakdancing, graffiti art, rapping (aka emceeing) and DJ-ing. For those interested, Rap New Direct has a more in-depth look at the differences.)

The first mistake intellectuals (especially conservatives) make when discussing the topic of slain rapper Tupac Shakur, is to write him off as just that; a slain rapper. Not so boys and girls. Unfortunately, he's a Hip-Hop icon. There has yet to be another person to enter the sphere of hip-hop with the same cross-cultural effect on the masses. Tupac was a prophet of doom and voice to his generation. Albeit a hurt and wounded voice that cried vapid declarations and lies, he managed to slip in some tangible truth every now and then. That is of course, the essence of true deception. With lyrics seeping in anger, he empathized with the fatherless generation, dated his gun, called his own dad a "nigga", and ultimately prophesied his own death. Truth be told, an unsettling percentage of my generation related to this, or related to the "fantasy" of this (white folks included). I never did, although I knew some of his lyrics even without owning any of his albums. The guy was everywhere. He was tangible, palpable, and "real"--as real as you can be when you don't even know yourself.

Listening to Tupac's music alone MAKES you want to be angry. This is an artist who even in his death continues to hold his listeners in bondage. I call him the "Black Elvis", referencing the masses' inability to accept his death. There continue to be numerous theories around the validity of his death and his "second-coming" (warning sign for cult activity). I'm sure it doesn't need to be said, but I'll say it any way. Tupac is dead. Gone. In the grave, and probably in a place you don't want to be. The legacy he's left is more of a stronghold than anything else. I would argue that he's the single most prominent rapper to touch my generation. Hands down. The bells don't go "rah-rah" for this one. It's a sad reality.

The Worcester, MA school's decision to add Tupac's poetry to their reading list is embarrassing and irresponsible. Let's just get that on the table. Conceptually, this attempt to be "hip" and "relevant" is like shooting blanks in the dark. Not because they're using alternative text, but because they're using text steeped in death, lies, and anger. In her article, Michelle Malkin writes,
"The presumption that children -- and particularly inner-city children -- can only be stimulated by the contemporary and familiar smacks of lazy elitism and latent racism. These educators, and I use that term as loosely as gangster rappers wear their pants, are clearly more interested in appearing cool than in inculcating a refined literary sense in students. Their aim is not enlightenment but dumbed-down ghetto entertainment."
May be true. In fact, probably true. I don't trust most educators as far I can throw them. But let's be careful here. Hip-Hop doesn't equal dumbing down. Is this instance, that may be their motive, but this is not a black and white issue (take that for face value please). In fact, given the right lyricist, rap is one of the most intelligent music genres out there right now. I don't say that lightly. Hip-Hop embodies something more than just rap. It's a movement, and it's full of messages. We can choose what those messages should be. Right now, the dominating message is self-destruction. In terms of Malkin's comments on elitism, I actually think we teeter on the line of elitism when we begin to define what forms of writing can't be considered poetry. It's like the discussion on what art is. In school I read poets, (white men mind you) who were raving lunatics of death, high on every drug imaginable. Yet we consider them great poets. I'm not suggesting Tupac is, but our standards are questionable.

Let me tell you where conservatives get in trouble. They can't disassociate rap's co-conspirators with the artform. "Gangsta rap" and various other offshoots of the original art form have given the genre a bad rap--if you know what I mean. In its purest form however, rap is amoral. Like money, it's merely a magnifier or in some cases, a modifier of its owner. Most conservatives don't see this.

My new found friend, Avery Tooley of the Conservative Brotherhood discussed Malkin's column in a piece he wrote called Et Tupac?. Avery's my resident music buff, so he breaks it down gently,
"I've seen Michelle Malkin on television before (thank the Lord for good eyesight!), so I'm pretty sure that her beef here is not with the selection of Tupac specifically, she doesn't like the idea of using hip-hop in the classroom, period. Once again, if somebody doesn't like hip-hop, they just don't like it. That's a matter of taste. However, I think it's intellectually dishonest to suggest that hip-hop is somehow unsuitable for classroom consumption, particularly if a person doesn't listen to it enough to distinguish between the genres within hip-hop. Certainly there are elements of hip-hop that lack substance, and unfortunately that's what gets the most attention and makes the most money, but there's a whole lot of other records that could be useful in a classroom context. I know when I was teaching math, I couldn't wait to ask the kids what Redman meant when he said, 'I hit the spot like x,y.' It's not all idiot stuff."
Avery's perhaps said it better and more nicely than I would. Once again, this is a place where conservatives and I part ways. I don't agree with teaching Tupac in secondary school, but I also don't agree with our marriage to Westernized teaching structures. Growing up, I could memorize song lyric upon lyric, but yet struggled through the Pre-Amble of the constitution. Even today, I memorize things better if I know a corresponding song or set it to a mental beat. Music is a powerful medium. This was the success of shows like Sesame Street and School House Rock.

Mnemonic devices and teaching methods involving music and culture are probably the most untapped area in the arena of education. Hip-Hop has quickly become the top selling musical form amongst all races. Even in all its accompanying garbage, there's something we need to take heed of about the culture. Toyota, Pepsi, Sprite, Chrysler, and McDonald's have realized it. Hip-hop is the next wave of everything. It's not going to die down as analysts have predicted. If you thought you were uncomfortable now, just you wait. Thankfully, in the midst of the foolishness, there are people who are being raised up to set a righteous standard lyrically, and in lifestyle. Their albums sit in my collection as we speak. Mark my words. The first person who can package hip-hop in a way that teaches a difficult classroom subject will be a multi-millionaire. You can quote me on that.

posted by ambra at 7/12/2004 11:24:04 AM | link to this entry | |

Discussion Topics

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 at 7/12/2004 06:46:20 AM | link to this entry | |

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 at 7/12/2004 05:25:00 AM | link to this entry | |


Out With It...Worst Books Ever Read

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 at 7/9/2004 12:10:00 PM | link to this entry | |

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 at 7/9/2004 10:39:17 AM | link to this entry | |


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 at 7/9/2004 08:55:48 AM | link to this entry | |

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 at 7/9/2004 01:22:06 AM | link to this entry | |

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 at 7/9/2004 12:01:16 AM | link to this entry | |


Pure Enjoyment at the Hands of a Liberal

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 at 7/8/2004 02:51:18 PM | link to this entry | |


Public Displays of Expression

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 is exciting to me. When it's 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 at 7/7/2004 04:03:04 PM | link to this entry | |

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 at 7/7/2004 01:40:51 PM | link to this entry | |

Give it A Rest Already!

My proposed contribution to the evil racket.

[ Note: I am actually holding the air ]

posted by ambra at 7/7/2004 01:38:39 AM | link to this entry | |

Help! My Dad's a Geezer

Famed singer Kenny Rogers' wife gave birth to twins yesterday. At 65 years of age, that makes Kenny Rogers a father at the age of a grandpa. When the twins are age five, they will have a 70-year-old father. Does anyone else have a problem with this? Let's not kid ourselves here. We're not exactly living in the days of Moses and Sarah when old "senior in age" people were experiencing immaculate conceptions. Men are not living to be 500 years-old anymore and there comes a time when women shrivel up. I believe there's a reason for that. In an age where we have legalized genocide, I'm all for procreation. However, I debate internally about this whole issue. Is it possible to be a poor steward of one's "capabilities"? I suppose a father is better than no father, however these brief stints of fatherhood can be frustrating for many kids.

Throughout my school life, I always had young parents while of all my friendss parents were the same age as my grandparents. My mother and father were 25 and 29-years-old respectively when they conceived me. Not exactly teenage parents, but it certainly put them in the category of "young parents" in the inner circles of private school life which was usually riddled with children of second marriages. I'm not sure what it is, but rich white men (not all but some) often get divorced and re-married to young hussies half their legal age. Is that the quarter-year life crisis version of a sportscar? I will never understand what a foreign supermodel sees in Donald Trump. Could it be the power? The money? The hair? The world may never know.

In high school, I had a classmate whose father died at age 78. He was only 18 at the time. He was a product of his dad's late second marriage and he was devastated by the death. Not only was he devasted, he was also angry. His anger mostly stemmed from the fact that while yes, his father's seed brought him onto the Earth, he got stuck with a sick father who spent most of his childhood dying. It's a sticky situation. I don't believe any children are illegitimate. It does bother me that so many prominent men are starting second families they'll never be around to raise.

Thoughts? At what point should people stop having children? I suppose it'd help if men stayed with their original wives.

posted by ambra at 7/7/2004 01:07:29 AM | link to this entry | |


Happy Independence Day

Freedom is a beautiful thing. It's also a costly thing. This weekend I was reminded of how life is but a vapor.

Since the rest of my family ditched me for other bigger and better events, I spent Sunday afternoon with friends, trying to find the best barbeque going on in town. Well, I found one (the food was good too) and also fell in love with one very cute pitbull puppy who goes by the name of "Prince". Not formerly known as, his name is just Prince. In any case, about two hours after this picture was taken, Prince was struck and killed by a vehicle.

That's a tough one for me since I'm a dog-lover. More importantly, it just reminded me how precious and short life is. Period. Call me deep. Yes, I probably am being so, but hey, God can speak through a rock so I figure why not this situation.

I honor the memory of all those who've given their lives throughout history so I can celebrate freedom today (it took me a minute, but I did bring it home). Happy Birthday America.

Hope everyone had a great holiday!

posted by ambra at 7/4/2004 11:53:03 PM | link to this entry | |


Random Things That Occupy My Mind on a Friday Afternoon

Tobey McGuire. Is he really as vapid and blah as he appears in his interviews? If so, the potential of me seeing SpiderMan 2 this weekend is not looking so hot. Update: confirmed that he is vapid, however that characteristic was fitting for the role of Peter Parker.

Hershey Kisses with Almonds. Would it kill somebody to sell them without the wrappers? Seriously. My fingers are getting tired.

Lionel Ritchie. What happened to him? Is he even black anymore?

Iron Chef. Are you serious? No really. Please stop, before I get addicted.

And for all you waiting on part two of you know what, it's coming okay. Geez. SaturdayMonday probably. I don't even post on weekends, which should show you all how much I care about my readers. Jerks.

posted by ambra at 7/2/2004 02:05:27 PM | link to this entry | |

Blog Underdogs

I skimmed through all the current nominationsto be certain I wasn't "repeating" (which I probably am but oh well). I was looking for the TRUE nominations and not the shameless self-promotions. There were a heck of a lot of those. One thing I've set out to NEVER do is self-promote my blog. If that means it remains in the fledgling state, so be it. I'd rather have a few faithful readers here by choice than be a linkwhore begging for hits (no offense to those of you that do...it's just not my style). If my blog should one day become popular, I want it to be the good old fashion way: Word o' mouth. Or in the net's case, "Word o' Links".

Now, onto my nominations. I get bored very easily and thus it takes a lot for a blog to really draw me in. "A lot" generally translates to "personality". Dry, stale, content is just like everybody else. I am diametrically opposed to about 50% of the blogs I read, but you probably won't hear about any of them here. I try to only link things of interest to readers. I think everyone on my blogroll is deserving, but these are a few of the blogs that keep me on my toes:

Booker Rising: Awesome news-type blog for moderates/conservatives with a focus on counteracting defeatism in the black community. Maintains a good balanace of positive and negative which I like. He also manages to snag some of the most interestingly obscure daily news.

Rosenblog: Props to fellow Seattleite, and freelance writer Matt Rosenberg. He often writes about the twisted politics in Seattle but he doesn't leave non-Seattle residents out. He writes in such a way that brings you into his world. I was first hipped to him via a commentary he wrote on Bill Cosby in the National Review. Good stuff.

EvangelicalOutpost: I don't always agree with what Joe writes but that's not what I look for in a weblog. He gives incisive commentary with a Conservative Christian worldview. He pushes out way too many good essays at a time. Makes me wonder if he's really that smart.

Avery Tooley: I love this guy. Again, we don't always agree, but he has an underhanded way of making you think twice. He's admittedly a music buff so he spends about 50% of his time on that, but he's been writing more and his writing style is very conversational which I like.

Hot Abercrombie Chick: Yeah okay, bad choice of name. But the chick behind the blog is Amanda Doerty, a sophmore philosphy major. She doesn't post as regularly as I think she should, but when she does they are very thoughtful philospical arguments. Better to read when you have some time to think.

posted by ambra at 7/2/2004 01:59:32 PM | link to this entry | |


Striking Resemblances

Juliette pointed out to me a strange resemblence. Yes I realize they are far from each other on the evil spectrum, but these photos are good for a laugh.

posted by ambra at 7/1/2004 08:54:58 PM | link to this entry | |

Cosby Smites His Critics

Thursday, during an appearance at the PUSH/Rainbow Coalition's annual conference, Bill Cosby once again released fire. This time he fought the accusations that he's been airing the black community's dirty laundry,
"Let me tell you something, your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day, it's cursing and calling each other n------ as they're walking up and down the street."
So far the articles I've read are far more bold about the facts than last time around with Cos' speech at the Brown v. Board gala. Almost too bold. Although they've all noted the fact that Cosby's words were interspersed and sometimes interrupted with applause, "Amens" and "uh-huhs" from onlookers, I'm not feeling the headlines: "Cosby Has More Harsh Words For Black Community", "Cosby Slams Poor Blacks, "Cosby Attacks", or "Bill Cosby went off on another tirade against the black community". I think we need to be careful here. Nothing about what Cosby is saying is against the black community. He's addressing a mindset that can be held by anyone. Cosby has referred to his words as a "Call to Action". I realize that "Bill Cosby Mobilizes Black Community" does not make for as good a headline, but this is where the media agitates me. They cast unnecessary tension onto situations.

Interestingly enough, the last time around Cosby admitted that his entire speech was off the cuff and inspired by the moment as writer Cheryl V. Jackson reports,
"...when he looked at the 80-something-year-old players in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision who were seated in the balcony...He then started talking about how he felt that, for some black Americans, education had taken a back seat to achieving glory on the sports field."
Indeed Sambo on the playing field has long plagued the black community. According to Cosby, the games we need to focus on winning take place in the mind,
"Our victory was not in how many white men were knocked out in the ring...Our victory was not in how many touchdowns we ran. It is about our minds, the use of our minds and education."
This time, the focus of his admonition was definitely personal responsibility,
"For me there is a time...when we have to turn the mirror around, because for me it is almost analgesic to talk about what the white man is doing against us. And it keeps a person frozen in their seat, it keeps you frozen in your hole you're sitting in."
I couldn't have said it better myself.

The month following Cosby's last speech has been filled with amazing transformations of the hearts of many in the black community. While many were at first outraged, it seems more are now coming out of the woodwork in support of Cosby; including Jesse Jackson. This time around, prior to Cos delivering his speech, he'd already earned the support of a captive audience. People held cardboard signs that read, "Bill Cosby, You Don't Need to Apologize". Mine would've read, "Bill Cosby, You Don't Need to Clarify". I must admit, I'm half-way shocked to hear Jesse Jackson coming alongside and defending Cosby. I mean, what's in it for him?

Nevertheless, there is certainly a stirring in the atmosphere. Two licks in two months may be a lot for some to handle and trust me, there are plenty who still stand against the "harshness" of Cosby's words. Oh well, folks better suck it up and take heed when wisdom speaks. This is the stuff that gets me going.

posted by ambra at 7/1/2004 07:26:19 PM | link to this entry | |

Vote Someone the Underblog

I'm just going to come out and say it. The biggest, badest, most popular blogger in the land known as Instapundit doesn't really impress me. Good thing for him he doesn't have to. Maybe I'm just one of a different taste, but large amounts of daily links to news reels, and one sentence posts and whatnot doesn't really keep me coming back for more. Insightful commentary and opinion do.

Up for the second year in a row, is the "Underblog" Awards. Nominate 5 of your favorite quality, underrepresented weblogs that you wish others knew about. A list of 100 is compiled. I think this is a great idea. I'm going to post my nominations soon, I just have to narrow it down.

Incidentally, (hat tip: Instapundit)

posted by ambra at 7/1/2004 03:01:31 PM | link to this entry | |

Sad-Him Hussein

These days everyone has their opinion on war. Those caught in an ideological utopia would that it never take place. These are some of the same people who preach peace, tolerance, and social justice. Perhaps someone should explain to them that peace is not the absence of conflict, tolerance has low standards, and justice isn't fair. Then there are those who realize that freedom isn't free, nor is the obtainment of peace a fabulously elegant process whereby people march around the city, blocking streets and chanting in rhythm. Someone please tell me the last time in history, any international conflict was solved through some well-written prose? World peace through poetry? Let's not be that naive. Even the philosophy of Mattie Stepaneck can't give this world what it needs.

We can succumb to these lofty ideas that human beings can "talk" through situations, but history tells us this just isn't so. What a privilege it is for many to enter into a courtship with the idea of peace without the historical baggage of what that's meant in this world. "World Peace" isn't just an answer in a beauty pageant. World peace should be the last thing at the bottom of our national laundry list. As long as there's wickedness on the earth, there's not going to be peace. There is a time for peace, and a time for war. War is necessary.

To say whether this war was right or wrong right now is just human opinion. Only time will gauge the answer to this question. I can only presume that some years from now, overpaid tenured historians will be analyzing and writing about the War on Iraq. Even then, many of them will still be wrong.

I don't pretend to know the historical implications of the capture of Saddam Hussein. I certainly will not gloss over his pure wickedness, his coward-like behavior, and his manipulative sorcery that held an entire nation in bondage. When I saw him on trial this morning, the first thing I thought was, "he looks sad". Foolish me. He is sad. Sad, indeed. He's only going to grow more sad as the days go by. As I listened to his words, I remembered, consciousness is sometimes terribly temporary. How soon we forget, being swayed by popular opinion and political agendas, that WMD's or not, this man is wicked. I have not a shred of compassion for the man. His fate is between he and God. Let justice be served, God be true, and every man a liar.

posted by ambra at 7/1/2004 01:35:47 PM | link to this entry | |

Bandwidth Debacle

I'm a bit perturbed at my web host. Actually, fuming mad at this point. Wednesday started off like any other day. I emerged from a rather dry morning seminar on Immigration Law to find that my tiny website had gone splat. Big time. For those of you not familiar with bandwidth, it's the method by which hits to a website are allowed to take place. Apparently, mine got too many. I'm not sure which was more disappointing, the fact that my website was down, or the fact that no one was able to enjoy the splendor of my Al Sharpton photo montage (see last post). I know what some of you are thinking. This must be a grandious effort on my part to attract attention to myself. Unfortunately, I'm just not that crafty. I really did exceed my bandwidth.

I never thought I'd see the day, but it seems my readership increased a bit exponentially. Apologies for the site being down. As you can imagine, I was not too thrilled about that, but I have only myself to blame. I made the necessary adjustments and all should be well. This is starting to hit my pockets, but I'm not complaining, I don't mind an increase in viewers. I just didn't expect it this fast.

As you were soldiers.

posted by ambra at 7/1/2004 11:12:25 AM | link to this entry | |
The Critics
If I had been this smart and this focused when I was twenty-two, I'd be ruling the world now. This young lady, Condi Rice and I still might." - Baldilocks

"Ambra is a smart young blogger. I'm interested in hearing more about what she has to say." - Evangelical Outpost

"...she's bright, funny, and one amazing blogger." - Kerry Haters

"...one impressive dudette." - Mark Shea

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