Entries Posted in "April 2009"

Barbie Gets Tattoos
April 30, 2009

We've all seen it -- that beautiful, young woman bending over to pick something up only to reveal a strategically placed tattoo just above her buttcrack. The sight of her buttcrack notwithstanding, you can't help but feel slightly...violated.

I'm not one of those people who feels it's my place to go around telling others their decision to get a tattoo is a bad idea. If you're an adult, you can make whatever decision you like. It's your life and your body. I do have an opinion on the matter though. I happen to believe tattoos are incredibly shortsighted, but to each their own. If you want to be a sixty-five year old rocking an emblazoned scripture on your forearm, that's your bag. Old wrinkly tattoos though? Not a good look. Where I take issue with the tatting trend that seems to be running rampant among young people is when children are being evangelized that tattoos are all the rage.

It turns out these days even middle-aged women are getting tattoos. Last month, it was announced that at 50-years-old, Mattel's Barbie Doll is celebrating by getting a tattoo. The LA times reports:

"We begin in Southern California, where, just in time for spring, Mattel Inc. has released Totally Stylin' Tattoos Barbie. The doll comes with a set of more than 40 tiny tattoo stickers that can be placed on her body. Also included is a faux tattoo gun with wash-off tats that kids can use to ink themselves.

A spokeswoman for the El Segundo toy maker said it was a great way for youngsters to be creative with their pint-sized gal pal. But some parents are horrified by this body-art Barbie, labeling her the "tramp stamp" queen of playtime."

We can all thank the Bratz dolls for opening up the door to this madness. You'll recall that some time ago, makers of the Bratz dolls came under fire for their scantily clad, overly sexualized dolls targeting young girls of color. Bratz dolls were said to have been an effort to boost self esteem among girls of colors who don't see themselves represented in the doll industry. These dolls came complete with lace thongs, push up bras, and garter belts. If that's the best toy makers had to offer by way of culturally inclusive dolls, I'll pass.

Some parents are wishing toy makers would draw the line somewhere. The LA Times interviewed a mommyblogger on the new Tattoo-laced Barbie:

On her parenting blog, Telling It Like It Is, Texas mother Lin Burress sarcastically predicted that "Totally Pierced Barbie" would be the next to roll off the assembly line. Readers commenting on the blog chimed in with their own fictional "Divorce Barbie," who would take possession of Ken's accessories.

Burress, a 46-year-old mother of six, said she was fed up with companies pushing racy fare to kids to make a profit.

"It's just one more thing being added to the pile of junk, like push-up bras and Bratz dolls, being marketed to these ridiculously young kids," she said. "These so-called toys just create a sense of rebellion."

I think Lin Burress hit the nail on the head. It's hard enough raising young women in this society who don't arrive at age 12 without having been completely indoctrinated with thoughts of insufficiency, insecurity, rebelliousness and shallow self-worth. If the goal of society is to raise up a generation of young women who will make smart, informed decisions for themselves, this type of doll is a step in the wrong direction. The last thing we need is the future professionals of America being fed the hype that tattoos are commonplace. Maybe it's just me, but I think the world could use one less woman whose 18th birthday plans include an appointment at the Lucky Devil Tattoo salon for her very own tramp stamp, no?

I understand that many view tattoos as a means of expression, but even the wise folks tattoo themselves discretely. Believe it or not, as far as we think we've come, there are still a number of stigmas attached to people with visible tattoos who attempt to enter the professional world. When was the last time you saw the average influential leader, politician, CEO, VP, principal, head of state, Executive Director, pastor, physician, or psychologist with a tattoo sleeve? Sorry to make generalizations, but those you will find are few and far between. Unfortunately for some young people, they already have enough stigmas coming against them. The last thing they need is another reason for someone not to take them seriously.

This isn't the first time Mattel has set off some parents with new products. The UK Telegraph reports:

"The firm has twice misjudged the public reaction to their Barbie products, once in 1999 when a previously tattooed version was pulled and once when a pregnant doll was brought out.
My favorite line from the UK's article read, "The doll now comes with a set of sticker tattoos so children can make her look like their heroes, such as Jordan, Amy Winehouse or Cheryl Cole." Because we all know Amy Winehouse is picture of heroism. Pray for her, seriously.

If there's ever been a doubt that we live in a mammon-driven culture, irresponsible toy makers are a glaring reminder. Sadly, they aren't the only culprits. Not surprisingly, the new tattoo Barbie is selling better than expected. This begs the question, who are these people buying this doll for their daughters? Nevermind, I don't even want to know. If you're the parent of young daughters, do your girls a favor and say "pass." I'm holding out for "Abstinence Barbie" or "Homeowner, Valedictorian, Entrepreneur Barbie." That'll be the day!

(Note: I use the phrase "Tramp Stamp" flippantly. I don't intend it to be a derogatory term nor do I wish to imply that women with lower back tattoos are "tramps".)

Posted by Ambra in Pop Culture, Sex/Purity | Link to This Entry | Comments { 6 }
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Correcting the Internet
April 29, 2009

Someone sent me this cartoon a few months ago and it most perfectly describes the average evening in my home. One of the things that's been made blatantly apparent to me in my nearly three short years of marriage is how different generations view technology. While I'm not entirely fond of the labels sociologists put on generations, I think there is a lot of truth that can come from observing the era in which a person comes of age.

Technically, I am a member of Generation-Y (also known as the Millennial Generation). My husband Andre, on the other hand is from the bunch known as Generation X. On most days, this means nothing in our home. After all, we're only four years apart. When it comes to the Internet though, those four years feel like dog years some days.

Like most in his generation, Andre has embraced much of what the Internet has to offer. He does the whole social networking thing to a certain extent, but views it as a necessary evil. Though he uses Google and many of their products like Gmail, Gchat, etc., he has all these theories about being watched online and doesn't trust that Sillocon Valley behemoth as he can throw them. Having worked for Google, I'd say his concerns are incredibly valid. For Andre, the Internet is purely a means to an end. He makes money on it, runs businesses on it, gets his information and entertainment on it, and stays in touch with friends and family on it. The difference between he and I is the level of seriousness with which we embrace the Internet. For me, the Internet is a way of life. It is a very serious matter and not something to be toyed with.

I can remember learning on Mac computers as early as second or third grade. We'd be whisked away to the computer lab where we had to endure "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing" and got to play Sim City as a treat. Yes, Sim City has been around forever. I started learning Microsoft Office in elementary school and by eighth grade we were gathering research information on the Internet and presenting our history projects via PowerPoint. I am on right on the edge of being in Generation Y, but I am truly a child of the technology revolution. I have no qualms about putting much of my personal life on the Internet or transacting on the Internet and most of my peers can be found online on all the spots I frequent. In short, I trust the Internet far more than Andre does. I also esteem it a bit higher, sometimes to fault.

Within our first year of marriage, it didn't take Andre long to realize he'd married a bit of a monster. Who was this blogging, podcasting, IMing, social networking, website managing woman he called his wife? One night he pointed out to me that he could tell when I was debating with someone on the Internet by the level of intensity in my typing. I laughed at first, but he was absolutely right. There are few things that infuriate me more than something I've read on the Internet.

Weblogs, message boards and other online communities provide the opportunity to converse with people from all walks of life, holding all types of worldviews. Nowadays most media outlets, including major news sites allow user feedback. Even social networking sites like Facebook incorporate many opportunities for you the user to tell people what you think. In short, the Internet is a bastion of personal opinion. Got an opinion? The Internet is waiting to hear it. Even better, someone is also there waiting to telling you you're wrong.

If you've surfed around enough, you've surely read some type of boneheaded commentary that warranted a response. Maybe you've even read it here! The difference between my husband and I is that when he reads something he disagrees with, he puts it low on his priority list. He thinks very little of the opinions of people on the world wide web. Me? I usually have to say something and whatever I have to say needs to be said with a great amount of urgency. The antidote to this type of behavior is quite simple: start a blog.

Posted by Ambra in Blogging, Life, Marriage, Technology | Link to This Entry | Comments { 1 }
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Pigs Are Surely Flying

swine.jpgCount me among the infirmed in this country. I just spent the last two days completely down for the count and banished from the bedroom for fear of infecting my dear husband. I haven't had any type of flu in a very long time and now I remember why. I'm very, very bad at being sick. Forgive me for being melodramatic, but there were a few points this week when I thought I was dying. No really, I was. The sign that things are bad is when 24 hours pass and I haven't accessed the Internet. And to think, I was just one fever short of potentially being diagnosed with the swine flu. No seriously, I was. But look, I'm almost all better now and just in time to comment on the hype.

The entire world seems to be atwitter right now with this "Swine Flu" madness that is sweeping the news reports. I understand health to be a serious matter and all, but forgive me for thinking this whole thing is just a tad bit...suspect. Conspiracy theorist I am not, but I can't help but wonder why this mild spread of a new strain of flu virus is the top news story everywhere.

  1. People die from the "regular" influenza virus every year. Not to minimize those deaths, as death of any person for any reason is a sad reality, but normal flu deaths certainly aren't sensationalized or made top news stories in the same way these swine flu deaths have been.

  2. It's an influenza virus. New strains of influenza pop up every year, many of which can be traced to other countries. There are so many strains of influenza, even the pharmaceutical industry can't keep up with them. Sometimes even the flu shot is rendered useless. People who have the flu spread the flu to other people. It's a fact.

  3. People who die of influenza usually do so because they already have a weakened immune system. It's not usually the flu itself that causes death.

  4. Many schools around the country shut down every year due to influenza spreading rapidly throughout the school.
The level of intensity and fear-mongering taking place at the hands of our national government and the media has reached levels of absurdity. Sure I can understand folks changing vacation plans to Mexico (I wouldn't do it, but to each their own), but the facemasks, airport lock downs and the widespread panic is entirely unnecessary.

I've read that some folks speculate this is a ploy to tighten up border control. Not sure I buy that theory, but I am convinced this mayhem is being orchestrated for a specific reason we may never know. Maybe that makes me sounds like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, but I don't put anything past anyone these days.

Not to draw any correlations (well maybe a little bit of a correlation), but I find it very interesting that former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius was just confirmed as the Obama administration's new Secretary of Health and Human Services last night. The logic behind rushing her swearing in stemmed from the reality that with the potential Swine Flu pandemic on our hands, the country needed someone in this position as soon as possible. President Obama remarked following her swearing in ceremony:

I am thrilled to have Kathleen Sebelius as my new Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Obviously, we have a lot to do to make sure that health care is affordable for the American people, to deal with critical issues like food safety. But we wanted to swear her in right away because we've got a significant public health challenge that requires her immediate attention, and that is the H1N1 flu outbreak that we've seen initially in Mexico and we now see over at -- got some cases here in the United States.

For quite some time there has been some turmoil around President Obama's nomination of Governor Sebelius to the highest healthcare post in America due to her incredibly strong pro-choice views. By incredibly strong, I mean that as Governor of Kansas, Sebelius consistently vetoed restrictions against late-term and partial birth abortions that are performed on babies from six to nine months. What Sebelius endorses goes far beyond the normal (read: shoddy) logic of those who support early abortion when the baby is considered a "fetus" and not an actual human being. Late-term abortions from six to nine months are treading on a very shady and shaky path. Concerns about Sebelius' record and less than ethical relationship with the notorious Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kansas, one of the most prolific abortionists in the entire United States, had halted confirmation hearings up until recently. This Swine Flupalooza has given detractors and supporters just the right level of distraction needed to push through Sebelius' confirmation. I wouldn't normally point something like this out except that as the new HHS Secretary she is poised for tremendous influence of the wrong variety. Activist Lou Engle writes on his blog (it's long but good stuff):
"Not only has Governor Sebelius supported Dr. Tiller’s practice, she has walked in political collusion with him, dined with him in the governors mansion and has received major funding for her democratic gubernatorial association from his extraordinarily lucrative business. Dr. Tiller’s wealth comes mainly from his expertise in the abortion of pre-born babies in their 6th-9th month of gestation.

Further, Sebelius vetoed bills that would have stopped Tiller’s practice, including one bill that would require Tiller to present medical justifications for all his late-term abortions (SB 389, titled the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act) and another that would enable prosecution or prevent illegal late-term abortions. It is very obvious when you see the funding stream from George Tiller’s lucrative practice to the political coffers of Governor Sebelius, $12,450 personally given from him and his wife and $120,000 from Tiller donated to the Democratic Governors Association in 2006. Interestingly, $200,000 from that same Democratic Governors Association went to a political action committee that Sebelius controls. She vetoed Bill HB2176 that would have demanded abortion clinics to attain to required health standards. She also voted to lesson restrictions on parental notification and informed consent.

President Obama wants a woman who has systematically disregarded the health of thousands of women and their unborn children by allowing late-term abortions to take charge of the nation’s health? How can someone so dismissive of human life be a health advocate for it?

Now, extraordinarily and providentially, Governor Sebelius’ Senate confirmation hearings will be held this week just as a case against Dr. Tiller goes to court in Kansas. Tiller is being charged with 19 counts of illegal late-term abortions after he claimed ignorance of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, a federal bill signed into law in 2002 that protects children born alive from infanticide by abortion doctors.

Just as the Kansas-Nebraska Act was the turning point that fueled the Civil War, so now this present “Bleeding Kansas” could be another flash point to subpoena the conscience of the whole nation in this civil war over the horror of late-term abortions. Oh the irony of Tiller being tried for criminal wrongdoing, and Governor Sebelius who has sought to protect him from prosecution is heralded as a champion of healthcare.

Why should an abortion doctor be found guilty for criminal activity and a governor who has done everything to cover and protect that crime be exalted? Was it only the Auschwitz death camp workers who were guilty of killing the Jews or were the political leaders who sanctioned it guilty as well? The answer is obvious to anyone who has a heart.

Maybe in these two hearings America is really the one being brought to the high court of eternal justice and it is the nation’s conscience that is on trial. Certainly many senators will not compromise their convictions and vote against her confirmation. But, more importantly the American people will have eyes to see this most amazing juxtaposition of these two hearings and will be confronted with the appalling reality that is in the heartland.

Governor Kathleen Sebelius has shown her brazen support of late-term abortion in condoning the death into the 9th month of pregnancy, well beyond viability. If given a chance, these babies would be born and would live with breath in their own lungs! Health Secretary Sebelius won’t let that happen.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, 'Indeed I tremble for my country when I consider God is just, and His justice will not sleep forever.'"

None of this should come as a surprise given that President Obama has never minced words about being one of the strongest proponents of abortion we've seen in a president in quite some time. I can't help but think that folks on both sides of this debate have to come to terms with the reality that there is a very shady and unethical side of the abortion industry that needs to be called out. Unfortunately, I don't think Sebelius' confirmation is going to help the matter in the least. Let's hope I'm wrong. Until then, I'm riding out the sympathy I'm getting from my husband as I battle the regular old flu.

(Update 4/30): I just noticed my spellchecker accidentally replaced "Sebelius" with "Rebellious" in a few instances. Um, wow. Didn't know spellcheckers were capable of freudian slips. I think my spellchecker is on to something though.

Posted by Ambra in Abortion, Current Events | Link to This Entry | Comments { 4 }
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The Real Stimulus Package
April 27, 2009

Among the many perks that come with not owning a television, there is one that reigns supreme over them all: the complete and total absence of CNN in my home. Even back when television was my opiate, I shunned most major news stations because it's always been clear to me mainstream media is in the business of sensationalism and selling bad news. If you're halfway conscious and living in any major metropolitan city, you don't need Ted Turner to tell you that the world has gone to hell in a hand basket; you see it out your window. I'll take sobbing owners of a newly remodeled home and Ty Pennington yelling "Move that bus!" any day over the doom and gloom perpetuated by your average five o'clock news report. What may have once been a reputable entity reporting important facts to American families, has now become the soothsayer to many of us. We wake up first thing in the morning, turn on the news (or log online to our news feeder) and as it plays on our emotions of fear and angst, we allow it to prophesy to us about our day and our future.

Perhaps the most easily visible example of our sensationalist media is the current reports of the state of our country's economy. "Hunker down folks," we're told, "Things are gonna get worse." While in no way do I wish to trivialize the effects of this "economic downturn" on those who've felt it most prevalently, I sometimes think we all could benefit from a moderate amount of perspective in the matter. Are we in a recession? Sure, according to the textbook definition of the word, I'll give us that. The value of the American dollar is pretty darn crappy these days thanks to decades and decades of irresponsible government, but let's not go there. What I can't get behind is all this likening of our current economic condition to "The Next Great Depression." Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Based on most reports, the national unemployment average in America is 8.5%. Some states may be experiencing something higher or lower, but let's use the average as the basis of the discussion. At an unemployment rate of 8.5%--and assuming there is a margin of error as these statistics are generally obtained by unemployment offices, and based on those citizens who actually report unemployment--that means approximately 91.5% of Americans are gainfully employed.

Let's just marinate on that reality for a moment.

We live in a country where the majority of citizens receive a paycheck for the work they do. Those who for whatever reason can't obtain employment or have chosen not to have the other option of starting their own business (and I use the term "business" very loosely, but not as loose as the marijuana leaves changing hands by people who call their drug dealing a "business"). When it comes to taxes, we happen to live in a country that actually rewards people for owning their own business and doing it legally. I'm no economic strategist but even on bad day, I'd have to say the aforementioned predicament sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Considering the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is currently hovering around 94%, I think we should all take a moment and say the pledge of allegiance or thank God, hug your neighbor or something because folks, that's good news. It's been argued that the unemployment rate during the Great Depression was around 25-28%. Rest assured, whatever type of horrible economy we think we are enduring is in fact not the misery we've been sold. As cliche as it sounds, it could be a lot worse.

Much of what's taken place at the hands of our government in recent months just makes me sick to my stomach. How an entire body of legislators and members of the executive branch of government (who by the way were voted in by us, work for us, and are accountable to us) decided it was a good idea to bail out failing companies with tax payer (and invisible) dollars is beyond me. Forget the fact that it's unconstitutional, it's not even logical. Thank God I'm a Christian because there are times (and they are few) when I think we could do ourselves good as a nation by showing up at night on the doorsteps of some of our governmental leaders homes with shot guns, pitchforks and torches in hand. We wouldn't load the shotguns with real bullets or anything. We'd just point our barrels square between the eyes of Joe Congressman and scare 'em a bit. Let them know that these here Americans aren't about to sit idly by as they bury this country into so much a debt our children's children's children won't be able to pay it off. Then we'd bid them farewell with the kind words, "God Bless You."

I'm not that violent. Really I'm not.

Any discerning businessperson who's been around the block knows that one of the key (and necessary) outcomes of any economic downturn is that it would weed out the weak performers with a sub-par product. That would be you, General Motors. Chrysler? You too. I may lack the full understanding of all the factors and potential spiraling effects that lead to a bailout decision, but I can assuredly say this: No company responsible for manufacturing the PT Cruiser and the Dodge Neon should receive any type of governmental bailing out. Ever. Were such powers bestowed upon me, the conversation would go something like this:

Me: "Failing company number 652 you may step forward. What is the name of your organization?"

Them: "We are the Chrysler Corporation."

Me: "Ah I see. And you wish for governmental assistance, I presume?"

Them: "Yes ma'am, that is correct."

Me: "Are you that company that manufactures the PT Cruiser? That hearse-looking contraption that has absolutely no get up or power, horrible interior usability design and is offered by every major rental car company as a torture method to harried business travelers?"

Them: "Yes ma'am, that's our vehicle, but we wouldn't quite describe it that way."

Me: "I would. Do not pass go and go straight to jail. DENIED. Next!"

America became the nation she is today because our economy rewarded those who innovated, not those who continued to fail. I recognize the auto industry is a complex one and many automakers have suffered in part because of the government's sanctions as well as the pressure from unions and a whole host of other people I think could use a visit from my make-believe-no-bullet-having-shotgun-toting crusaders. But I believe what we've seen take place with automakers and banks in this country is merely a shadow of many of the attitudes held by Americans. We somehow feel the government is responsible for our personal well-being.

(One minor caveat to my aforementioned statement is that I still jokingly maintain that if the government wants to get in the business of blowing $700 billion, they should forgive every American of their educational loans. See if that doesn't stimulate the economy. Those with five figure and beyond school loan debt, can I get an amen? Poor medical school graduates. They never stood a chance did they?)

I think we ought to be very discerning about who we allow to frame our reality. I don't caution against wisdom and good common sense, but I think many Americans are taking unnecessary measures and being overly fearful based not on their own circumstances, but based on what's being projected in the media. Sure there are terrible predicaments out there with people losing their homes and jobs and livelihood. There has been great greed and wickedness revealed in higher ranks of those at the helm of major financial institutions. It's nothing new. As is expected, some of those in places of authority have even resorted to taking their own lives. It's all a tragic mess and I don't presume to have the answers to how it all gets cleaned up.

I do think that Americans at large have an unhealthy attachment to "stuff." The thought of losing "stuff" sends some people into a downward spiral. We very much worship at the altar of influence and things we own. We do so to the point that we'd rather maintain the facade of success than actually put in the work necessary to achieve the success we so desperately emulate. Sometimes the result is that people live beyond their means. I came across a proverb earlier this month that struck me:

"Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food."
I like this version too:
"Better is he who is lightly esteemed but works for his own support than he who assumes honor for himself and lacks bread."
What interests me is that despite all that's taken place, there are people who are prospering in famine. Regular, every day people aren't depending on the government to bail them out, but rather recognizing the dream and the opportunity we all have because we live in America. Some of the largest fortunes in history were made or found root during the Great Depression. Believe it or not, there were and are people who managed to become prosperous honestly and with integrity. A bevy of new millionaires always rise up out of hard economic times. It's amazing to me that those who are prepared have found great blessing in the same season others are calling the worst we've seen in our lifetime.

It's all a matter of perspective, I suppose. While it's not the best time to sell home, it certainly is a prime opportunity to buy. Oh what I wouldn't give to be a first time homebuyer right now. When I ignore the news, I look around me and I see a host of people out there trying to make something happen for their families. I see "Now Hiring" and "Help Wanted" signs everywhere. I see folks who once had blossoming corporate careers living lives that now necessitate some creativity and a certain amount of risk. Sometimes living situations change and suddenly families become closer. New businesses emerge or some ingenious invention, website, application, service, or company sprouts up from someone who just needed a little pressure to innovate. Despite what Suze Orman and the rest of her cronies prophesy, I happen to think this is a great time be living.

As for the recession, I've chosen not to participate. You?

Posted by Ambra in Current Events, Economy | Link to This Entry | Comments { 7 }
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My Black & White Life
April 22, 2009

The older I get, and the more I set my sights on starting a family, the more reflective I am on how our cultural and spiritual upbringings affect the core of who we are. While I believe that our spiritual upbringing (or lack thereof) is probably the most foundational aspect we receive from our families, I think culture plays a significant part as well. Take corporal punishment, for example. The largest contingency of spankers in America is likely the Christians and for obvious (to me) reasons. The second largest contingency of spankers likely consists of people of color. I know many African American families who are not Christians, but do spank their children. Ambra's theory is this: if you live in a America and you are not considered a person of color or not a Christian, nine times out of ten you probably don't believe in spanking. I could be totally wrong. We'll never know now will we?

I use that little scenario to illustrate a simple point. As an African American I can wholeheartedly say that black families often raise their children very differently than "White" Americans. I realize this isn't a white and black world, but in many ways both literally and figuratively, I believe "black" and "white" represent two different extremes and I shall use them for the sake of convenience. All my brethren of color, feel free to use my logic as a template for your own culture.

There was a time in my life, however brief, when I thought I was a white kid. It was a fleeting thought and it almost got me killed. When I was ten years-old, my mother made me mad and in an attempt to manipulate her, I threatened to run away. I'd seen many of my friends from school use this tactic and it worked on most of the sitcoms (except the Cosby Show) so I figured I'd give it a shot. I wholeheartedly expected to receive some serious ministering to my backside, but my mother decided to run psychological warfare on me. Given this expectation, you can imagine my chagrin when my mother responded to my threat with, "Fine by me; just don't take anything you didn't buy."

Don't take anything I didn't buy? Wasn't expecting that one. I thought, where on earth did this woman come up with these snappy retorts? As a child growing up, there were times I seriously considered surrendering my uterus to the authorities for fear I'd never be able to match the ingenious rejoinders my mother pulled out of thin air. Surely my children would suffer from my lack of brilliance.

The next hour was agony as I tore apart every crevice of my room, searching for something, anything I'd purchased with my own money. After rifling through every drawer, sadly, I came up short. My clothes, books, and personal items all laid claim to the same financier: my loving parents. After digging a bit further into my messy closet, the one thing I managed to find was a pathetic-looking pink clay jewelry box with green flowers painted along the sides. It was one of the better pieces among the graveyard of my overambitious school art class projects. There was a time I could’ve sworn I'd be launching my own Plazgraff collection and no one could tell me otherwise. It is a sad day anywhere when you are running away to live on your own and all you have to your name is a poorly constructed piece of pottery. (Coincidentally, this reality would repeat itself twelve years later when I moved out on my own for real.) The four walls of the jewelry box were kind of lumpy and the handled top I made shrunk in the kiln so it didn't exactly fit perfectly. It was ugly and not well constructed, but in that moment, it was the most beautiful thing I owned.

I stuffed a few useless knickknacks into my precious jewelry box--some Bonne Bell lip gloss given to me by a friend and a few sticks of gum. It was summer so I didn't need a jacket. On my way out the door I bid farewell to my mother. I didn't bother waking my father from his nap to say goodbye. This was all a ritual I thought, and any moment my mother was going to beg me not to leave. I journeyed outside about fifty yards from our home and found a spot where the grass and the sidewalk meet. Just me and my ugly jewelry box there sitting on the curb. A few neighborhood friends in our predominately black neighborhood were out riding their bikes. They came and sat and commiserated with me. I told them my story of escape from the evil dictator formerly known as my mother. In many ways I was their hero. I'd done the unthinkable and managed to come out without unscathed.

After a good hour of watching blades of grass grow, it was clear that my mother called my bluff. Clearly I hadn't thought this one through and found myself missing home more than home missed me. I packed up my pride (and my jewelry box) and headed back to the house. Standing at my parent's doorstep with my tail between my legs, I regrettably rang the door bell. As if I were a turkey whose thermometer button just popped out, my mother looked pleasantly expectant to see me. I apologized to her and was banished to my bedroom to "think about" what I'd done. I never appreciated my parents as much as I did that day. As I headed up the stairs, my mom called out behind me,

"Oh and by the way…that jewelry box? You made that at your expensive private school. We paid for that too!"

Right then I knew I was officially indigent. That was the first and last time I ever ran away. That type of behavior might've worked in other households, but my mother wasn't having it.

I spent my entire life in uppity, predominately white, private schools. From preschool to college I was always one of the few chocolate chips in a big ol' bucket of milk. I am forever grateful to my parents for rooting me in all things African American. My mother would consistently remind me, "I don't know how it is at your white friends' houses, but in THIS house we don't play that." My parents raised us in a modest, middle class, predominately black community chalk full of extra-curricular activites. If nothing else, I'm certain my neighborhood and church community is was saved my proverbial life.

Still, you can understand why the website, Stuff White People Like, totally cracks me the heck up. It's brilliant satire for those who don't take these things too seriously. For me it's even more poignant being that I've literally been surrounded by white people my entire life. If you haven't checked out the website, you definitely should. He updates it regularly with the most recent entry being titled "Hating People Who Wear Ed Hardy." The site rose in popularity early in 2008 and the author of the website, Christian Lander, wrote a book by the same namesake and it's been available in stores for quite awhile. I bought it awhile ago, and surprisingly it's even funnier than the website.

Here are a few of my favorite examples of the 120+ things (and growing) on the list of "Stuff White People Like:

  • #60 Toyota Priuses
  • #62 Knowing What's Best for Poor People
  • #85 The Wire
  • #94 Free Healthcare
  • #69 Mos Def
  • #67 Standing Still at Concerts
  • #17 Hating Their Parents
  • #7 Diversity
  • #6 Organic Food
  • #90 Dinner Parties
  • #82 Hating Corporations
  • #73 Gentrification
  • #14 Having Black Friends
Every item on Lander's list has a full description written about it that's spot on hilarious. Someone else created a hilarious spin off called "Stuff Educated Black People Like" but all the links for it seem to be down.

I laugh at the majority list, but then I see myself in a few items as well. One of the decisions my husband and I made in our first year of marriage was to give up fast food (except Chick-Fil-A) and pop (for you uncultured East coast philistines, that's soda). We also started moving to a shop at more all-natural, organic grocery stores. The change made sense. My only requirement was that I didn't have to give up soul food or barbeque. People still look at us like we're aliens when we darken the doors of Whole Foods. Who's to say black people can't be health-conscious too?

One day this past Winter, Andre and I and our non-television having selves drove in a Toyota Prius up to Vancouver, Canada for the weekend. I sported my new pink and brown Northface All-Weather Jacket and we were grubbin' on our healthy all natural snacks from Whole Foods when it instantly occurred to me: "Oh my gosh, this is a really really white moment." Indeed it was.

I reference the list on the "Stuff White People Like" website for proof: #6 Organic Food, #60 Toyota Priuses, #48 Whole Foods and Grocery Co-ops, #87 Outdoor Performance Clothes, #75 Threatening to Move to Canada, #28 Not Having a TV.

But we're totally hood, I swear.

Posted by Ambra in Books, Culture, Race | Link to This Entry | Comments { 11 }
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Bikini Baristas & The Miss USA Pageant
April 21, 2009

It seems women in bikinis are causing quite a stir these days. Sometimes folks just can't leave well enough alone. An interesting trend has emerged out in the Pacific Northwest of lingerie and bikini-clad baristas. If this trend hasn't found its way to your neck of the woods yet, I imagine it's just a matter of time. That is, unless you live in the south because Southern folks don't play that mess. Seattle is known for bringing Starbucks to the world, but even Starbucks has competition these days. Instead of Starbucks, many morning commuters have often opted for locally owned, roadside drive through coffee stands. Smaller coffee stands have that hometown feel where you see the same barista every day and they know your ordering habits. What if one day you pulled up and your barista was sporting what I like to call "bedroom attire?"

A huge number of privately owned (read: mafia-owned) espresso stands centered on this business model have been opening up across the Pacific Northwest. With catchy names like "Bikini Baristas" and "Cowgirls Espresso" these new coffee stands have made it quite clear they aren't selling coffee. They are selling sex. What started out as women in bikinis has now become women in full out lingerie, thongs and all. The reader boards outside these establishments read like the ones outside the strip club or the peep show "Something hot is cooking inside!" or "Meet the new barista, Candy - weekdays, 5pm-close." The clientele these businesses are after is of course, largely male, and in my opinion, largely unethical.

These types of establishments open up a hotbed of issues and the legality is entirely questionable. Selling sexual images under the guise of coffee should require some sort of licensing just as strip clubs and other "adult entertainment" joint must obtain. Seeing these girls strutting around in plain sight of children is indecent exposure. I also worry about the safety of the young women involved. Most often they are under age 20, and while no one forced them into a negligee at gunpoint, these girls are being put at risk by this business model. Flaunting their goods on a daily basis to men, many of whom lack self control opens up a door that is not easily shut. With no security and only one girl working a shift at a time, what happens when someone shows up one winter evening wanting more than just a double tall nonfat latte? It is common knowledge that the sex industry is a magnet for all types of other crime.

As these coffee stands become more rampant, there are some citizens who aren't keeping quiet on the matter. This is why we need to pay attention to our state government with the same level of scrutiny we use on a national level. People who are smart know how to use legislation and their local city and county officials to build a society with standards. Just last weekend, my husband a group of others showed up to protest a coffee stand that recently opened up outside the entrance to a daycare facility. The local news arrived to cover the story and one angry parent who had the audacity to actually marry her beliefs with action got that espresso stand shut down in less than 24 hours.

I highlight this issue for a few reasons. We live in an age where the morality line is drawn in the sand and the tide is in if you know what I mean. The vocal minority of Americans get very uncomfortable with the notion of a hard line of "right" and "wrong". There is a tendency to adopt an "anything goes" mentality under the guise of liberty and freedom of expression. Scantily clad baristas are what we get when we continue in moral ambiguity. I am curious to know if those in other parts of the country could ever imagine businesses like this popping up?

Speaking of bikinis and moral ambiguity, the Miss USA competition took place this past weekend and much of the talk is not of the winner, but instead of Carrie Prejean, Miss California. Fox News (and a million other media outlets) reports:

When asked by judge Perez Hilton, an openly gay gossip blogger, whether she believed in gay marriage, Miss California, Carrie Prejean, said "We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised."
A little wobbly on her stance, but she got it out and that's what counts. And now the furor has begun. I absolutely love it! The Miss USA organization's executives have released statements of "embarrassment" regarding Prejean's comments. No big surprise there. The Miss USA pageant is owned by Donald Trump--a model of morality if I ever saw one. What's more, it's widely-known that the biggest contingency of pageant fans is homosexual men. You can imagine the hubbub her comments are causing.

Why folks are shocked though is beyond me. Pageants contestants are known as being some of the most conservative around. I'm not sure what the big deal is. The woman was asked a question and she answered it the same way the majority of Californians (Black, White, Hispanic, you name it) did this past election when Proposition 8 was on the table. She's entitled to her opinion right? Despite what Hollywood leads us to believe, Prejean's opinion is actually widely held my many Americans--including many of those who voted for President Obama. And what business does that question have in a pageant anyway? Miss California should've gone all Mike Huckabee on Perez Hilton's behind (channeling pre-election Republican candidate debates when Huckabee was asked if he believed in evolution), she SHOULD have said the following (my words, not hers):

"It's interesting that question would even be asked of someone competing in the Miss USA pageant. I'm not planning on shaping this country's legislation or running for public office; I'm asking for the opportunity to be Miss USA. But you've raised the question, so let me answer it. In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve and the institution of marriage. A person either believes that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, or that it's not. And the basic question was an unfair question because it simply asked in a simplistic manner whether or not I believe in my view or yours. But let me be clear. I believe in marriage and I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and should not be redefined as anything else. That is my view and it might not be yours. I don't think that my view would make me a better or a worse contestant for Miss USA. But I'll tell you what I can tell this country: if they want a Miss USA who isn't willing to stand for what she believes, I'm sure there's probably plenty of choices. But if I'm selected as Miss USA you will have selected someone who believes in those words 'God did create' and in the words of Martin Luther, 'Here I stand I can do no other.'"
Oh well. In my dreamy world that's what would've happened.

Previously on this topic:
- The Cultural Relevance of Pageants

And because I think he by far performed the most beautifully, masterfully and articulately in all the debates combined, period, here is the clip of Huckabee's response to the Evolution question:

Posted by Ambra in Current Events, Marriage, Politics, Sex/Purity | Link to This Entry | Comments { 12 }
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The Television: Friend and Foe
April 17, 2009

I have for some time had a love/hate relationship with the television. Growing up, it was a welcomed friend, delivering the warm and fuzzy classics such as "The Cosby Show," "Family Ties," and the great "ode" to early American values known as "All in the Family." I was probably the only three-year-old who actually regularly tuned in to Archie Bunker's tirades with great anticipation and interest. Growing up, I don't remember being babysat by the television. I don't remember television being a central focus of my life. My parents were fairly strict about the television being off on school nights or until homework was finished. If I rushed through my times tables I likely would be granted permission to catch an hour or so of prime time sitcom television and that was that.

When I was a child, cable television didn't bleep out swear words because they weren't even allowed on the air. Most networks didn't even air shows with four letter words so no bleeping was necessary (save maybe Jerry Springer, which actually used to be a legitimate talk show believe it or not). Back then, even tertiary swear words--the stuff we hear today in most rated-PG movies--were bleeped out. I never, not for one second thought of television as an enemy. Television was the bearer of all things good--a friend in our home, bringing delightful goodness, humor, education, and even a bit of insight here and there. Perfect it was not, but I was none the wiser. As long as the television brought me closer to Bill Cosby, it was the best thing since sliced bread.

Summers were an entirely different story. During the summers of my childhood I could take in as much television as I wanted and it was a glorious season to behold. Daytime television was like a treasure trove of new shows I'd never seen before. I remember the summer I was first introduced to soap operas. I was eleven-years-old and spent that particular summer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with my grandparents. When it came to television there are three shows that my grandfather never missed: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir (airing on Christmas Eve only), any football games involving the Pittsburgh Steelers, and of course, Days of Our Lives. Never has a show had a more fitting title because indeed that is what you give when you indulge yourself in soap operas - DAYS of your life. I tuned in avidly every day, hoping to find some sort of redemption in the storyline. The writers had me on the edge of my seat for each and every show...waiting intently on a resolution that would never come. I quickly observed that any inconsistencies in the plot or sense of reality could all be covered up by one of the characters having amnesia--lots and lots of amnesia. Soap operas are insufferable.

It took me an entire summer to come to the revelation that the chief end of daytime television (soap operas in particular) is to ensure that you the viewer will tune in again tomorrow. Beyond that, there is no other goal. I wanted my money back. "Days of Our Lives" had ripped off my entire summer and I felt utterly betrayed. Three months' worth of watching still left me with the same questions I had on day one of my soap opera experience. There is a lesson there I wish I'd realized much sooner in life.

One warm summer day in Seattle, I stood before 400 people and said, "I do" to a man who despises television. To all you single people, let me just say this: among the many things I think engaged couples should discuss in their pre-marital counseling type days is a little topic I like to call "Television Philosophy." Seriously people, this subject comes before who is going to do most of the cooking and perhaps even when you're going to have children. The thing most people will not come to realize until they've entered marriage is that one of the greatest challenges of sharing your life with someone is just that: how you live your life. There are certain realities about our every day lives we accept as normal and "proper" until someone else comes along and does things entirely differently. It's never the big issues that cause conflict; it's the little bitty ones like who unloads the dishwasher or whether towels should or shouldn't be left in certain places or how Saturdays are spent.

When I agreed to marry my husband I did so under the condition that when it was time for me to move into his house, I got to bring my television. He knew what he was getting into though it wasn't the easiest transition for either of us to make. He had to accept that there would be a television in the house. I had to accept that I couldn't turn it on anytime I wanted to. I wasn't a hardcore television watcher, but I did enjoy a show or two, but most importantly, television was my white noise. It was the way I chose to unwind after a long day in the life of an extrovert. It required nothing of me, it asked me no questions, and allowed me to be vegetable-like at my own discretion. But that pleasure? That same pleasure I felt when I watched Bill Cosby tell Theo that his logic about being a "regular person" was the "Dumbest thing" he'd ever heard anyone say (pilot episode). That was gone. Television wasn't stimulating anything in me. It was my opiate.

It's difficult to pinpoint the beginning of the demise of television in general. If you ask my father, it's always been on a downward spiral. All I know is one day I blinked and next thing I knew, you could record and watch your favorite television shows on demand and reality television had taken over as the new cheap route to high ratings. Through the course of time whatever standards of propriety we once had seemed to be completely muddied and the "pushing of the envelope" gained people accolades instead of the lambasting they deserved.

One frigid January in 2008 I had an epiphany of sorts. My husband and I were in Atlanta on business, and were surrounded by all sorts of successful people from various walks of life. I've made it a point to study successful people. That is, people with the type of success after which I'd like to pattern myself. I clarify lest someone thinks Paris Hilton is included in that lot. One of the major commonalities among many of the people I was meeting is that they were not television watchers. It wasn't anything personal against the television nor was it any type of judgment on the range of programming available. Simply put, they didn't have the time. They were so wrapped up in moving forward with their different visions that television was simply a distraction to their end goal.

I turned to my husband and said, "We need to get rid of our television." I had so many projects on the backburner I was running out of space on the stove. Nothing in my life was moving quickly enough for me and it was clear to me in that moment that the presence of the television was a distraction from the real work I had in front of me. I made it clear to my husband that this was a temporary existence. I didn't want the television banished forever, but I wanted it out of my life until some of my major life goals were met.

In January of 2009, I celebrated my one-year television-less-versary. When we first sold our only television I literally thought the world was going to come crashing down on the fact that I was going to miss the "Project Runway" season finale. Oddly enough, I got over it. I now find myself not missing the television at all. I've heard most shows can be found on the Internet now, but I have no desire whatsoever to indulge. I find myself reading more, accomplishing more, imagining more, and creating more. The hum of the television has been replaced by a silence I coveted for so many years and I love it.

Every night I walk my dog around our neighborhood when most folks have finished dinner and are in for the night. The darkness of the night provides little to look at except the bright lights emanating from the households along the street. It's interesting to me to peer into the windows of the homes of the average American. Without fail, more times than not you will find the family gathered around the tantalizing glow of the almighty television. To a certain degree I can relate because I too have been there on so many occasion. But my overwhelming reaction is sadness because in so many ways, I believe our love for television in this country has robbed so much time from our lives and innovation from our minds. I sometimes think we all could benefit from just turning that thing off just to see what original thoughts are swimming around in our brains.

I'll own a television again, but it surely won't own me.

Posted by Ambra in Life, Media, Television | Link to This Entry | Comments { 5 }
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New Beginnings
April 16, 2009

Right. Where to start? When you haven't been blogging for about a year and a half, it's hard to know where to begin. I'll start by saying my how I've missed this place! There isn't a whole lot about my life that's been as consistently gratifying as writing every day (or so). Though it was abundantly clear to me that I was burned out and needed a break. When I first began this website I was around 22 years old. I am now 27. It's amazing what five years can do to a person. I look back on much of what I've written here and I don't regret it one bit. Okay maybe a little. There are a few things I read now and cringe due to sentence structure or a mindset I held that I've now changed. But more often than not, I am forever indebted to whoever created the blog because I am fairly certain that there is no way I ever would have amassed 696 essays without such a phenomenon.

When I first began blogging it was a fairly new concept. Most of my friends, family and associates weren't well versed in what a blog was. Mass media was a bit threatened by the notion and was reporting on blogging with the same lack of understanding they're currently displaying in stories about Twitter. I kind of credit myself with launching my blog before blogs became the hotness du jour. Since I've watched the concept flourish and my daily online pit stops consist of visiting blogs more often than CNN or Reuters or even the New York Times.

I've tried for some time to pinpoint the moment when blogging wasn't as fun for me. I love writing and I love expressing myself so I couldn't comprehend why I'd burned out. Then one day it hit me. For whatever reason, this blog often found its way to politics. Understandably so seeing as how one of my chief passions in life is the discussion of worldview and how it relates to the political realm. That said, I realized that I am a person whose insights, discussions and revelations flow from my every day life. Simply put, I wasn't writing about my life. If anything I was trying to be as discrete as possible thanks to one too many loon bats emailing me with off the wall missives. You know who you are. So as my life began to enhance (with love, marriage, and some more fun stuff I'll share in the future), I found it more difficult to "be my whole self" in this space I'd created.

Needless to say, the time away was time well spent. While I have no clue who even visits this blog anymore (and boy do I miss some of the regulars around here for sure...please come back!), I am committed to building up a new readership of whoever will listen. In the wake of this last election and given the current state of our country and the world there is so much to say! I've felt in my heart for a long time it was the season for me to pick this back up again full time. I've done a lot of writing projects on the side, but nothing compares to the live, raw interaction you get on a daily basis from posting on your blog.

If there's any question of my commitment to this place, I've spent the last two weeks, 40 hours a week tweaking and restructuring the back and front end of my site. It was a freaking mess! I've also added tons of new enhancements and tools to help users interact more and spread the love. Every section has been entirely updated with new information and it feels so fresh and so clean. I'm equally excited that since this blog started back in 2003 a plethora of new tools like video, podcasting, etc. have become entirely more accessible. This means very interesting things are ahead for this place.

Thank you everyone who has tuned in to my radio show Politickin Radio, emailed me, or sent me a Twitter message about my whereabouts. I will update in more detail all I've been up to, but for now I just wanted to re-introduce myself and my blog to the world. The best is surely yet to come. I look forward to hearing from you!

Posted by Ambra in Blogging, Life | Link to This Entry | Comments { 10 }
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To Subscribers
April 3, 2009

If you're a subscriber, I apologize. I'm re-launching my blog but I have to tweak the design first so I've thrown up a couple of dummy posts to help me with formatting. Most of you probably subscribed so long ago you don't even remember what this blog was about! I trust you made a good decision by subscribing. Promise I'll be back with REAL content very very shortly! Thanks for your patience.

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry | Comments { 3405 }
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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City

I Have a Talk Show