God’s Not Dead is a terrible movie

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Originally posted on (Movie Reference):

I was against the movie God’s Not Dead from the beginning. I saw the trailer and hoped nobody would ever go watch this, but, miraculously (hah), it made millions of dollars at the box office. I could tell it would be bad, and I read that it indeed was bad. I vowed never to give that type of production my money, but I kept hearing fellow Christians say stuff like, “It was good.” I was brought to my breaking point when somebody finally said, “it was so good.” That type of language is some Guardians of the Galaxy type description. I could no longer stand idly by. I needed a way to substantiate my claims that this movie should not be praised.

I immediately watched that movie. Luckily, I did not pay for it.

After the deed was done, some people questioned my actions. My good friend Thomas (also a…

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Hotten-THOT Venus

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Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda cover

I’m conflicted. But before I explain why I should give a little bit of background. 

In recent weeks Nicki Minaj stirred up quite the buzz when she released the cover art for her new single “Anaconda”. The cover features Minaj wearing only a bubblegum pink bra/thong set in combination with raspberry blue Jordans squatting down in order to accentuate the curvature of her butt. The photo got quite the reception, hyping some about the impending single, causing others to go on an Instagram/Photoshop spree, while others bashed the image as hyper-sexualized

Now cue my conflict. Minaj responded to critics by posting photos of scantily clad white women in similar positions with the caption, “acceptable” before finally posting a picture of her cover art with the caption, “unacceptable”. And for a second there I was in her corner, Nicki Minaj had seemingly uncovered a paradox in the way the bodies of white women and black women were perceived. But then it occurred to me that perhaps she was barking up the wrong tree. 

I’d like to go with the prototypical feminist response and simply say that, “its her body and she can display it how she wants”. And there is truth to that, eventually people will have to accept that breasts and butts are all just flesh and everybody has them. But at the same time I can’t help but feel uneasy when I look at this image. It doesn’t make me feel empowered instead its quite the opposite. Looking at this image I can’t help but think of Saartije Baartman also known as Hottentot Venus. Baartman was put on display as a freakshow attraction, a display of the perfect foil to that of the pristine white woman. She was considered to be such an abnormality due to her protruding buttocks and extended labia minora that upon death her genitals were pickled and put on display at a French museum. So what I see when I look at this image is the legacy of this hurtful display, the perception of a black woman’s body as so foreign it needed to be displayed as part of a freak show. 

The image also reminds me of a double standard that I’ve noticed in recent times, not in the perception in the bodies of black and white women but rather in the perception of black women of status versus ordinary  black women. In short if Minaj takes a picture like this, or if Rihanna wears a see-through dress or doobie to an award show then all of sudden it is considered an edgy feminists move but if an ordinary woman was to do any these things she would be considered a THOT or called out as ratchet. Why is that? I in no way mean to debase what these celebrity women have accomplished but everyday women lead the charge for equality with the struggles they face. With how they choose to present themselves to society, so why do we praise these women simply because they have a platform. 

So yeah, I’m a little conflicted. I feel as though women should have the right to display their bodies however they want and yet I want desperately for black women to be distanced from this abnormal, hyper-sexualized image that society has placed upon us.

The Aftermath

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I read an article today in the New York Times discussing the latest wave of math reforms to hit country as part of the Common Core curriculum and how similar attempts at reform in the past have failed us as a nation. I must admit the article brought tears to my eyes as I recalled my many years as a frustrated student in math class.

Time and time again I would sit in class knowing that I was a capable student and yet feeling stupid and helpless when it came to my inability to solve the simplest of problems. Like an attack dog I was trained to read problems for the keywords that would guide me to whatever pre-prescribed problem solving strategy had been taught in class that week. I was never taught to think for myself when it came to math, only to jump through the proverbial hoops of standardized test that the state demanded our teachers train us for. As I read this article it was refreshing to see that shortcuts that I developed on my own to understand and perform math tasks were not a reflection of my failure as a student but rather my brain working to learn something the curriculum failed to teach me.

This article also reminded me of the struggles that I faced as a student from a working class home, who didn’t have parents who were able to reinforce at home what school had attempted to teach me. Many of my middle class peers in the Pre-AP and AP courses that I took had already been exposed to higher levels of math and different manners of thinking from their affluent and business savvy parents, but I didn’t have that safety net. So I often worry about the generation of boys and girls in today’s K-12 public education system, because I want desperately for the school system not to fail them in the same ways it failed me. But I know how difficult it is and how long it takes for even the smallest of things to be reformed. And so my heart goes out to them, the far-too-many students that will slip through the cracks.

In the Thicke of It

Robin-Thicke
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Robin Thicke has been in the music business for quite sometime, but it wasn’t until last year that he had his first big break with his hit single “Blurred Lines”. With its upbeat tempo, catchy lyrics and throwback sound the song was extremely popular with international audiences and even shattered the record for “highest radio audience ever”. However, the song and Robin Thicke’s now infamous performance of it at the 2013 Video Music Awards have seemingly garnered just as much negative attention as popularity. Social justice advocates all over the internet were inflamed with the misogynist lyrics of the song saying that the songs’ chants of “I know you want it” and “but you’re a good girl” promoted rape culture. And I don’t argue that point, the song is indeed misogynistic and calls to my mind the unwanted encounters I’ve had with young and old men alike while walking down the street. And given that, I can understand why the songs lyrics might upset some people. But what I don’t understand is how Robin Thicke has become the lackey for what is essentially cyberbullying from people purporting to be social justice advocates (SJAs).

In a recent Twitter Q&A Thicke–hosted in order to promote his new album entitled “Paula” dedicated to his wife Paula Patton from whom he recently split and is determined to get back, as Thicke states in the premier single from the album “Get Her Back”– was trolled by said SJAs and hailed as the “poster boy for misogyny and rape culture.” And yet neither T.I. or Pharell Williams, Thicke’s collaborators on the song, have received any of the negative backlash that Thicke has. If all of this relentless teasing is supposed to cause some kind of catharsis in Thicke’s mind and the mind of any other man that thinks like him shouldn’t the SJAs be attacking his collaborators in equal ferocity?

The funny thing about it is that Thicke’s song isn’t any more misogynistic than any other R&B song. Take a look at the R&B Top 10 charts and there are several songs that are equally sexist. For instance, there is Jason Derulo’s “Wiggle” a song about how women are just bodies for men to admire, Derulo was also the author of another hit “Talk Dirty To Me” which fetishizes women of other countries as being exotic beauties with whom there is no need to get better acquainted because they’re just subjects and Derulo doesn’t speak their language anyway. Or what about Tinashe and her song “2 On” which is an ode to getting so drunk and high that you no longer the capacity to make good judgements and end up having drunken sex with someone. Why aren’t the SJAs attacking these artist, hijacking their media events and attempts to promote works that contribute to misogyny and sexism? I think its because for many social justice has become a trend, a fad to partake in when one feels the need to assert their superiority over people they feel to be uncultured and ignorant. Do they really think that tweeting to someone to make fun of them is really going to spur the deep intellectual conversation that needs to take place in order for someone change? I don’t think so, I think these people are just hopping on the social justice bandwagon and that Thicke has decided to lay down and remain in its path.

Sources:

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyDUC1LUXSU

Lyrics:http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/robinthicke/blurredlines.html

Record Breaking:http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/5733206/robin-thickes-blurred-lines-breaks-record-atop-hot-rbhip-hop

Hashtag Hijacking: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/07/02/robin-thicke-askthicke-twitter-qa_n_5551349.html

R&B Charts: http://www.billboard.com/charts/r-b-hip-hop-songs

Sogno Romano

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For the first time in many years, I dreamt of my father. It was a hectic dream, there was a lot going on, most of which I did not understand but for a brief moment he was there. For a brief moment things were as they were many years ago and there he was sitting on our couch wearing the faded blue shirt and silver basketball shorts he liked to wear around the house. There he was dark stubble and striking brown eyes in tact. There he was in my dream, returned to me if only for a moment.

I can’t help but contemplate the timing of such a dream. In the ten years since he passed I have often wished, prayed even, for dreams of my father but they never hapened. So I do wonder why this dream would happen now, at a time when my father (who is always in my thoughts) was not at the forefront of my mind. I must admit that I do in small part attribute this subconcious visitation from my father to Dacia Maraini and her story Sogno Romano. In the story she writes of a dream she had of her deceased friend Pier Paolo, how life-like he was, how young and energetic. She clearly understands how it feels to miss someone you love. And maybe my mind picked up on this having read the story earlier this week. Maybe my mind stored this emotional trigger and allowed it to bubble up to my subconcious while I slept. Maybe, I don’t know, but it was nice to see him again.

Piacere: First impressions of Rome

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Finally it rains. After a week of ungodly heat which likely made many people contemplate the pros and cons of walking outside naked (or simply not going outside at all) things are starting to cool down. I’ve been in Rome for two weeks now and I’m in love, how could I not be? Rome to me is what every young male protagonist is in any Disney movie to his young female counterpart: the person (or place) to which you have an instant affinity and from there embark on a romantic adventure you didn’t know you had the capacity to endure. Everything amazes me here, from the business of the city as it teems with life each morning and afternoon to  the stark quiet of the night when the city goes to sleep.

There are so many little things, so many intracies that I’d never thought I’d see or experience. For one thing traffic is crazy here, a billion compact cars, mopeds, buses, trams, and pedestrians going every which way at once. One of the more surprising things for me is the was the way people park here, it’s not unsual to see cars parallel parked in the street next to cars  parallel parked on the curb. Lets just say Romans give a whole new meaning to the phrase, “double-parked.” Many people just make their own parking spots by parking in front of dumpsters, on medians, or parking in a perpindicular fashion adjacent to a string of parallel parked cars. Walking is an equally crazy task, crossing the street requires that you basically step out in front of cars and expect them to break or swerve around you. There have been several times when instead of doing this I stood on the sidewalk waiting for all the cars to pass and was given a weird look as if to say, “what are you doing”, by the drivers and pedestrians passing me. Its a miracle that I get anywhere that doesn’t have a pedestrian light to tell you when to walk, although I find on the busier streets it helps to find a bold Roman and follow them as they cross.

Graffitti is everywhere in this city, everywhere. Its as ubiquitous as the culture and history found on every corner. Another thing found on every corner, and every place in between is dog poop. For some reason I thought that Rome, being such a small place, would have cats as the number one pet of choice. Afterall, they are small self-sufficient, and most importantly poop in litter boxes, making them a great pet for the familes living in the multitude of Rome’s apartments and condominiums. However that doesn’t seem to be the case at all, everywhere I go I see nothing but dogs and thusly dog poop. Some sidewalks have been turned into goat paths where one weaves their way through piles of petrified dog poop.

None of this is a critique of Rome, as I said, I love it here. Honestly, in some weird way these things add to the beauty and complexity of Rome. I find it oddly hilarious that the city that has been the center of some much history, so much power could be plagued by small things like angsty teenagers who need hobbies, or the the need for city ordinances that require people to pick up after their pets. Rome encapsulates the human experience, from the small inconsequential things to major movements of history. And I couldn’t be happier to be here.

Passegiata: My Time In Tivoli

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I had no idea what was in store for me when the day began. I just thought I was going to go on a couple of tours, see a few interesting things, learn a few new facts, but what happened was much more than that. I was absolutely mystified and enraptured by the beauty that lay before me, never in my life did I think I would gaze upon something so magnificent with my own two eyes:Villa Adriana and Villa d’Este two beautiful, breath-taking feats of immagination and architecture that are beyond words.

What I found most striking about Villa Adriana, the home of the Emperor Adrian built in the 2nd Century A.D., was the ingenuity and complexity with which it was designed. I can not begin to fathom how much planning and effort went into its construction. Layers and layers of materials were imported from all across the Roman empire and used to construct this magnificent compound in which even the tiniest of details were artfully planned.

From the circular structure of the heated rooms (designed to trap and circulate heat during the winter) to the dome of the Canopus (used to trap light and display the cosmos) it was all so beautiful and glorious and baffling.

As we walked around the complex I wondered what thoughts must have plagued the brilliant mind of the Emperor Hadrian, who was actively involved in the design of each of the buildings. I thought about how many nights a sleepless Hadrian would roam the halls of the palace and gaze upon the many realistic statues of his deceased lover Antinoo wishing they would spring to life. And I wondered if I could ever do anything so magnificent with my life that even if it fell into disrepair the ruins would be so glorious. And that was only half the morning…….

The next stop was the beautiful Villa d’Este built in the 1500s by Ippolito II d’Este. With wall to wall murals, numerous fountains and a marvelous view of the cascading hills it truly is a sight to behold. Its the kind of place you just want to get lost in, a place to look out at the world beneath you and contemplate the meaning of life. It makes you feel like glory is a place on Earth and its an honor just to be there. My inability to describe its beauty is a testament to just how beautiful it is. You just have to see it for yourself, otherwise you’ll never know that wasn’t just a dream.