Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Mix Tapes: Turn Off Your Swag, and Check Your Bag

As it was my 28th birthday this past weekend, it seemed there was no better way to celebrate than weeping into my Alpha King while Rachael Yamagata played sad songs about love at Schubas.

Rachael Yamagata. This is not Schubas. I did not take this.

Just kidding! Well, sorta.

Yes, Rachael Yamagata did play some sad love songs. Yes, I was drinking an Alpha King. And at one or two moments, I might have considered weeping. However, I was not alone and crying in a corner, but it was fun to make it sound like that for a minute. My friend Beth and I went—thanks, Beth!—and I think I can speak for the two of us that it was one element of an overall fun weekend. This was my second time seeing Ms. Yamagata, and she did not disappoint. I love her. (I've documented this love here, and here.)

Moving on to today's if I needed to add more to the increasingly long list of ladies in music I'm crushing on, I've found two more: Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White. You might know them from their work with Shabazz Palaces, but they just released an album as the duo THEESatisfaction. And it's awesome. (Stream the full album here.)

[via Sub Pop]

Pretty Much Amazing has a rather spot-on review of the album, and as I don't have much to add and would rather just listen to the music more while I attend to the piles of laundry at my apartment, I'll just leave you with their review, and this:

Whatever you do, don't funk with my groove.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: Like the Dark-Haired Girl in Blue

Clearing the Space

I am clearing the space for a lover
to enter my life, I am clearing off a big space.
Today when I went bicycling I saw
on the grass one lover pair after another.
They were lying on each other, like rugs, or fur coats,
and all you could see was the shag of a redhead
or the lips a boy pressed down on a girl
while their lips held chastely still.

I walked my bicycle past them, thinking
for a moment of every lover I had ever enjoyed,
and when none of them made my heart sink
and when I experienced no pain,
then I knew I was free of them
and that I was clearing a new space
as big as my life, as big as the pasture
the lovers were linked on.

I am preparing a space for the loved one,
I know what she looks like already.
She looks like the dark-haired girl in blue
I only saw for a second, before her Spanish lover
smothered her.
Then, when I circled back on my bike, she was on top.
But I rode on, because my time will come
and meanwhile I'm preparing a space,
I am cutting the grass, for the loved one to walk on;
I am cleaning my heart, making my thoughts
learning to be patient.
And if it should prove not to be in the end
a woman, not to be a human lover entering
after all, but something fuller and sadder, like the
like God, I will only say, I suspected it all along.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Mix Tapes: Revisiting Miss Thang & Moesha

I have to admit, it was with more than a little glee that I discovered today that Monica and Brandy have a new single.

Don't even try to pretend you didn't immediately think of "The Boy is Mine" video. Just don't even.

But before we get to this new song, I think we need to talk about some things. Like my love of Brandy and Monica, particularly from the years of approximately 1994 through 2000. Yeah, I was young—we don't need to get into specifics, do we?—but so were they! I loved them.

First, I met Brandy:

I had to share the album cover, because I loved it so wholeheartedly. I wanted nothing more than to be this hip. The hat! The boots! The attitude!

Sure, my brother Jay kept talking about how she looked like a goldfish, but I didn't care. He made fun of just about everything I liked at around this point in our lives, so I took his snarky comments as confirmation of her awesomeness. Besides, who cared? She was singing this:

Soon after, Miss Thang entered my life. Who didn't love "Don't Take it Personal (Just One of Dem Days)" in 1995?

I will admit, Brandy might have had a slightly bigger space in my adolescent heart than Monica. But I think we all know why, right?

Mo to the E to the ...

Now, as it happens, my love for Monica and Brandy has changed over the years. I haven't bought or listened to any of their recent albums (the last Brandy album I got was Full Moon, if that tells you anything). However, I may or may not have occasionally watched "Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business" on my days off the summer I moved back in with my dad. I found it hilarious. Leave me alone.

Oddly enough, I randomly listened to "Miss Thang" in its entirety as I was getting ready to go out on Friday night, and I still loved every minute of it. I mean, "Before You Walk Out of My Life"? "Why I Love You So Much?" There was a reason Monica was the youngest artist to have two consecutive Billboard chart-topping hits.

So it's probably also time we listen to this Monica hit:

That said, I wasn't quite sure what to expect with the new Monica and Brandy duet. Over at NPR (I'm keeping up with Monica and Brandy via NPR now? Good lord), Frannie Kelley writes of the song:

Brandy and Monica, who, like Usher, have been making R&B hits since they were teenagers in the late 1990s, team up for a rematch of "The Boy Is Mine." Here they're on the same side and they're a little more grown up. The accoutrement certainly is; the styling on the video, from the gowns to the vehicles, is luxe. Maybe so luxe it distracts from the chesty alto Brandy's working and the perfectly calibrated runs Monica lays down.
I definitely agree about "the chesty alto Brandy's working and the perfectly calibrated runs Monica lays down" and sure, the video is "luxe," even if I did keep thinking, when the hell is Mekhi Phifer gonna show up?

But, um. We need to talk about a few things. Watch and listen, will you?


Well, I now know what makes me laugh harder than listening to Ray-J talk. Every time "log off your Facebook" or "that Macbook" was mentioned, I busted out laughing in my cubicle.

Even so, I still like the song. I really do. I can't help it. My 14-year-old self would disown me if I didn't. But if you think this song (or video) will ever top this, you must be trippin.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tilt Your Head Back and Laugh

It was the best kind of Sunday in Chicago. Sunny, clear skies, and for the first time all year, warm enough to step outside without a coat.

The people-watching on Sundays in Logan Square is almost never a disappointment, but it's even better on an almost-spring day like this one. Today, on my way to the coffee shop, I watched a young couple cross the street, his arm across her shoulders, and her hand reaching up, their fingers intertwined. He leaned in and whispered something in her ear, and she tilted her head back and laughed. He grinned.

It was a tilt your head back and laugh kind of day. It was a good day to take a walk.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

From the Red Line at Rush Hour

This evening as I left the office, it was still light outside. I noticed this first on Monday, with a bit of shock—the sun is shining! Holy crap. Along with the sun, it’s been so windy I feel at times during my walk that I’m actually getting carried across the street, but it’s not a cold wind, so I’ll take it. When the wind is whipping my hair all over my face, the sun is glistening off the river and the buildings, and this song is playing on my iPod, it all feels quite romantic and wonderful, my little walk to the train. That is, until I catch a glimpse of myself in a window’s reflection and see the state of my bangs. Yeesh. But, whatever: All in the sake of my love affair with the city.

It’s amazing the way a little sunlight at the end of the day changes everything—from the look of the buildings to the people walking on the streets. Although at this point in the winter I just feel fed up and long for spring with such fierceness it’s as if spring was something I experienced in another lifetime, I do love the way Chicagoans hustle up and down the streets when it’s bitterly cold and windy out—it’s like we’re all fighting the same war. And then, the sun shines again, the temperatures rise, and it’s like everyone just lost his or her virginity. We abstained all winter, and damn it, now we are getting LAID. (Yeah! The weather as a metaphor for sex! It happened. Deal with it.)

I was feeling this general warmth for my city as I crossed over to State Street and passed the news station and the beautiful Chicago Theatre. Protesters were outside, holding up signs. One woman held up a sign: “End the WAR ON WOMEN!” I beamed at her. She stared back at me, expressionless.

I was still smiling as I started bouncing down the stairs to the Red line. I must not have had Youth Lagoon playing too loudly, though, because I could hear the man hobbling down the stairs next to me muttering under his breath: “All you motherfuckers. You never fucking listen to me! I’m talking. All you motherfuckers.”

When I made it safely down the platform, I could hear a woman singing. She had quite possibly, and I swear I do not exaggerate, the most beautiful voice I have ever heard singing live. Live, from the Red line at rush hour.

I didn’t even pause my iPod. I just pulled the earbuds out and listened. I stopped directly across from her to watch as she sang. She was singing some gospel song, what, I don’t know, but she was certainly taking us all to church. Except for the fact that no one seemed to be paying attention.

For a moment, I considered digging through my bag to see if I had a couple bucks. But that didn’t seem good enough. So I just watched and listened. The woman looked back at me, and even though she had on heavy fake eyelashes, I could see her eyes smiling back at me. I grinned at her, and she kept on singing. She finished right as I could hear my train barreling through the tunnel. “Thank you,” she said, to no one in particular. I clapped. It was a sad little sound. But she smiled back at me, and I felt like she'd given me a gift—it was as good as the feeling I get on the way to work, when I say “Morning” to the man on the milk crate and he returns my greeting.

I placed my earbuds back in my ears and stepped on the train. The person in front of me started to head left toward some empty seats, then said, “Ugh!” and turned back around. One of the seats was covered in vomit. I found a vomit-free seat and pulled my book out of my bag. When I looked up a few minutes later, a woman had sat down on the seat closest to the mess. I saw her look over at it for only a second, and then without skipping a beat, went right back to writing her text.

At rush hour in Chicago, we only really see the things we want to notice.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's Women's History Month! Let's Party. Er, Read.

Today marks the start of Women's History Month! Who's ready to party? I know THIS guy is:

what a dick!
Just kidding! We all know Rush Limbaugh hates women. We also should know he's a raging lunatic undeserving of our time. And as such, I promise never, ever, to put his ugly mug on this blog again.

Now, back to the important stuff: Women's History Month. 

[via feministing]
So, how to celebrate it? History is so borrrrring, after all. Hmm. Lucky for you, I have an idea.

READ! (A Book. Written By a Woman.)

I personally like to celebrate my geekiness things such as this with some great reading. I recently started Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook, and seeing as how it makes my bag weigh approximately 50 pounds, I imagine I'll be reading it for much of the month. Now, if you don't really feel like committing to a 640-page book at the moment, maybe don't read that one. But I've been staring at it for the last year as it sat on my bookshelf, so now is the time for me.

Can't think of anything you'd like to read? Never fret, my dears. I have some suggestions:

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, by Ntozake Shange
This book was the inspiration behind the title of my blog. 'So what?' You say. 'I saw the Tyler Perry movie.' I say, WOOF! He ruined it. Read the choreopoem instead. Here's one reason why.

I Am No One You Know, by Joyce Carol Oates
One of my all-time favorite short story collections, by one of my all-time favorite writers. Her story "The Girl With The Blackened Eye" will haunt you for days.

Emma, by Jane Austen
A classic! And then after you read it, you can watch the movie. And then watch Clueless. You're welcome.

Mighty Be Our Powers, by Leymah Gbowee
A moving memoir about the Liberian Civil War, and how Gbowee led an army of women to help bring her nation peace. This woman's strength and courage will blow your mind.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Because you're going to need a good laugh after reading that memoir.

I have plenty more suggestions I will gleefully talk about at exhausting length, so if these aren't doing it for you, tell me and I'll promptly give you five more ideas. That's right. FIVE.

And ladies, if the 'War on Women' is bringing you down, just remember to always say:

Happy reading! (I hope.)