Black Female Representations, Coupledom, Entertainment, Fandom, Marriage, Review

On The Run Review: I Almost Ran Away

A card-carrying member of the Beyhive, I didn’t have to be baited by divorce rumors and then pregnancy rumors to turn on HBO last night to watch Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s On The Run tour. Though when Jay was on stage alone I could have used a pair of defibrulator paddles to make sure I didn’t float away into unconsciousness, I managed to survive the television event that more than anything else bored me. Not to mention it also annoyed me with its use of “This is not real life” and “This is real life” tags to accompany some of the video footage. That the couple felt they needed disclaimers to distinguish their fictitious selves most consistently characterized by their gun toting alter egos “Bonnie and Clyde” from who they really are – unimaginably wealthy people who like hanging out on yachts – speaks to how the persistence of the Illuminati narrative may have gotten under their skin.

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All that aside, the times I was genuinely glued to the screen were not when Bey changed the axis of the planet by shaking her ass, even in her bizarre stocking thong thingy; it was when she put on her scorned woman persona and took the audience to church. The two best examples of this were her performances of “Resentment” and the Solange-penned, “Why Don’t You Love Me?” But even swaddled in my blanket of Bey rapture, which the presence of Jay-Z considerably dampened, the church element reminded me some of Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour. And frankly, how much more evocatively Madonna mixed the profane with the sacred. I doubt that was the Queen’s intention; I’m just sayin’.

Below are two clips of Bey performing the songs that were my favorites of the On The Run setlist followed up by classic Madonna.

My Parents, Personal Narrative, Stuff Published Elsewhere

My Father’s Incarceration And The War on Drugs in The Guardian

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I am over the moon about contributing to The Guardian, especially to have a headline piece in the opinion section that’s an Editor’s Pick on a Monday morning!! Here’s the link.

Academia, Bisexuality, Brave New World, Feminism, Science, Sexism in Science

Hormonal-vs-Universal: Gender Bias In Science

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A big part of how we understand or misunderstand the “nature” of our bodies comes from basic medical research. And a recent study conducted by Northwestern Medicine shed some light on where some of the misunderstandings may come from. Despite how important sex differences are in the development of diseases as well as metabolic responses to drugs, Northwestern researchers found that over half of the human race is being dismissed by basic surgical researchers. It will probably not come as a surprise that the half of humanity science is ignoring is comprised of women.

Melina R. Kibbe, M.D., the senior author of the study, has said, “Women make up half the population, but in surgical literature, 80% of the studies use only males.” Dr. Kibbe herself was once hesitant to experiment on female rats because their hormonal changes make them more unwieldy to study. However, another scientist, Dr. Teresa Woodruff also at Northwestern, suggested that Kibbe use female rats in her experiments on the vascular system. The result: Kibbe “soon discovered a critical difference between female and male rats, which may be important to human health.”

I came to understand that everything from female cells to female animals to actual women were rarely the subjects of scientific studies when I began to research the history of sex and found that scientists discounted the existence of bisexuality for most of the 20th century because their experiments never included women. When Canadian sexologist Meredith Chivers asked one of her male colleagues why there wasn’t more research on women and sexual orientation he answered that he was a man, so he studied men. The upshot: without large numbers of female scientists leading the way, research on female subjects isn’t getting done. But the solution isn’t just that we need more female scientists: the female scientists we have don’t spend the majority of their time conducting research.

In a post about female researchers and authorship, scientist and blogger Emma Pierson wrote that “studies have shown that female scientists spend more time on non-research activities, like child­-rearing and teaching, tend to work at institutions that emphasize teaching over research and are more likely to leave the workforce for family reasons.” Pierson also concluded that resulting from these factors, “the average male scientist authors 45 percent more papers than the average female scientist…” which relegates many female scientists to smaller, more isolated colleague communities. So we have a two-layered problem. A gender bias exists in science that shapes both who wears the lab coats and what specimens are being studied under the microscopes.

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Now, The National Institute of Health is in the process of writing a policy that will mandate all funded clinical research to study female animals and cells. This is critical, when according to Northwestern even in studies that focused on “female prevalent diseases, 44% did not report the sex; when reported, only 14% studied females.”

An age old  assumption abounds that women, no matter how much we talk and blog, etc., remain mysterious.  Well, as long as men are considered a stand-in for the universal and women are pegged as hormonal not only will we remain mysterious, but we may stay sick, too.

Academia

Talking Education on VProud.tv: Part I

I was delighted to be invited by my friend and colleague Marcie Bianco, News Editor at VProud.tv, to come in and talk about higher education. I love, love, my day job and it’s something that I hardly ever talk about in the public sphere. This the first of three video clips. Hope you enjoy! And that you keep an eye out for VProud.tv!!

Comedy, Entertainment, Fandom, Odd Couples, Review, Television

Two Dead Comics And A Living One

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Over the course of his FX show Louie, the comedian, writer and actor Louis C.K. wrote two beautiful obituaries for Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, respectively, probably without knowing it.

Starring as a version of himself in the show that he also writes and directs, the character Louie navigates a New York City made absurdly funny by a parade of strange happenings punctuated by intermittent drop-ins from tragically neurotic send-ups of “single moms in the city” as well as believable real-life portrayals of world-famous comedians including Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman and Marc Maron all playing themselves. With the death of Williams a month ago and the passing of Rivers this week, I rewatched the episodes guest starring the comedic icons and was struck by how succinctly C.K. captures two sides of the stand-up comic archetype. In Williams, C.K. focuses on the unassuming, almost shy presence that counters the volcano of energy that performers must bring to the stage. And in Rivers, C.K. gives his audience a representation of the pure and gracious perseverance that keeps artists plugging away at their craft because making people laugh is not a job as Joan tells Louie, “it’s a calling.”

After watching the documentary about Rivers, A Piece of Work, C.K. was inspired to invite Rivers on his show. The episode in which she co-stars is about Louie doing a crummy gig in the lounge of a Trump casino and then quitting because he breaks the rules, which include saying the “f-word,” “disparaging gambling” and “disparaging the owner of the casino.” During his last night at the resort, Louie catches Rivers performing at the casino theater and heads backstage to tell the grande dame how great her routine was. Rivers admits to knowing who Louie is, tells him that he’s funny and then invites him up to her suite “to talk shop.”

In Joan’s luxurious accommodations filled with overstuffed white couches and flowing with flowers, Louie tells the old pro with the paralyzed face that he quit the hotel job. Joan is mortified in that way that old school folks are when a young whippersnapper sprays entitlement on them like a self-righteous skunk. To clear the fog between Louie’s ears, Joan informs her less mature colleague that she has been in show business for a “million and two years” and the one thing that she’s learned is that you “never quit.” The passion and eloquence of her speech, dripping with a love of craft even more profound than Joan’s love of plastic surgery, which Rivers and C.K. wrote together, induces Louie to kiss Joan and though she is freaked out at first, she agrees to take him to bed.

Though Louie and Robin Williams don’t sleep together in the episode where the latter appears, the meeting of the two comedians is rife with intimacy. The only two mourners at the burial of a scumbag comedy club owner who is interred in a coffin likened to an “Ikea box,” Williams joins C.K. at a diner afterward where the two swap stories about the dead man, admitting that the idea of a funeral with no one present gave them both nightmares. Having aired their true feelings the comics recall how the deceased douche always tried to get comedians to accompany him to a strip club called “Sweet Charity.” In honor of the dead man neither of them liked, the unlikely pair go to the club where after Louie breaks the news to the staff, the strippers are reduced to puddles of tears and the DJ plays a tribute song. After Louie and a bearded Williams, dressed inconspicuously like a well-appointed wealthy man over the hump of middle-age, leave the club, the two break into laughter and shake hands, promising that they will attend the other’s funeral depending on who dies first.

Now, the deaths of Williams and Rivers alike have produced waves of mourners irrespective of how few of us have said our goodbyes formally. And though most of us knew neither larger than life personality personally, C.K. gave his audience an intensely personal glimpse of both celebrities that told us much more about the lives of comics than it did Williams and Rivers as individuals. By putting Williams in the context of death and Rivers in the thrust of life, C.K. presents us with the aspects of the human impulse behind art: souls too heavy with pain to go on and souls too buoyant to give up. Rivers and Williams will be sorely missed not only because they made us laugh, but because comedians more importantly make us forget our problems by sharing their problems with us. The side of Williams and Rivers that C.K. highlighted wasn’t just about comics doing their jobs. Rather it was about comics being genuinely decent human beings.

Body Image, Coupledom, Entertainment, Greetings From The Edge, Movies, Recent Study

Fifty Shades Of Dysfunctional

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If you are a promiscuous anorexic aged 18-24 who likes to get wasted and seeks out stalkers, boy is there a novel for you. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Women’s Health your life story is the publishing sensation Fifty Shades of Grey.

According to Amy Bonomi, the study’s lead investigator, of a research pool which included over 650 women between the ages of 18-24, those who read the book had a better chance of being in abusive relationships, binge drinking, having more sexual partners and experiencing disordered eating than women who have not read the novel. Now, I am not one of these folks who thinks video games and the music people listen to makes them violent, or killers, or very nice people for that matter. At the same time, there’s no dearth of studies that have found watching violence leads to violence and women obsessed with fashion editorials are also obsessed with body image. My takeaway: what people are attracted to is a kind of mirror not always of the lives we want to lead, but the ones that we do. What culture we choose to consume not only reflects back at us aspirational images of who want to be, but sometimes grizzly pictures of who we actually are. If this study taps into anything, I think it’s that we engage experiences that affirm us, even if what’s being affirmed is absolutely dysfunctional. That this study did not look at older women leads me to believe that more sage readers are not looking for affirmation as much as an escape, role play and fantasy from our forays into fiction, especially that of the BDSM sort.

I have tried to read Fifty Shades multiple times and unlike when I was a kid and would flip through romance novels to read the sex scenes I couldn’t even be motivated to do that much with Anastasia’s story.

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Instead I have just stopped reading it cold and started reading and finishing everything from a collection of Stephen King’s short stories to a few history books on 19th century New York. I don’t think that says much about me other than I am old, like fruit smoothies with a boost of fiber, think it’s normal to check-in with friends once or twice a year, and like my reading to stimulate what’s between my ears more than what’s between my legs.