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Shani Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Hi. In case you still had me in your RSS or something, I don’t blog here anymore.

I’m on tumblr being terribly contemporary

shanio.tumblr.com

and on twitter being terribly witty

twitter.com/shani_o

and i work at nbcwashington.com now.

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The Melee

I’ve been out of commission since Sunday (with brief, failed attempts to be productive, followed closely by vomiting) due to a bout of gastroenteritis. I meant to blog this on Monday, but anyway, here I am.

Last Friday night, I played my very first game of Dungeons and Dragons with some friends and it was pretty great. It was also pretty intense. There were a couple of moments in the beginning where I had trouble keeping a straight face while the Dungeon Master and the other players were getting into character. And while I never really took on the tone of others (I named my character Jeff, after this guy) it soon stopped being funny and started getting real.

Though I’m quite a nerd, I’ve never played tabletop role-playing games, and now that I have, I’m starting to wonder why DnD has such a bad reputation. Sure, it’s complicated and esoteric and even the people I know who play don’t actually talk about it…okay, so maybe I answered my own question.

But DnD is pretty easy to pick up, and it seems, depending on the person running the game, sympathetic to the newbies. It’s certainly no more complicated to understand than baseball or football. And really, it’s as fun a way to spend a few relaxed hours with friends, pizza, and diet orange soda as I can think of.

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Hang With Me

Earlier this week, Rachel Kramer Brussel wrote an essay at The Root criticizing an “well-meaning” book by a woman who apparently has jungle fever. One of the tips for dating interracially in the book is watching films that are relevant to the race of the person you’re attempting to date. But Brussel writes:

I can’t imagine what I’d do if someone came on a date with me, “armed” with having watched Yentl and Schindler’s List (both on Davies’ list of recommended Jewish-themed movies). As for me, the black guys I’ve dated are more apt to talk about Tron or The Green Hornet than Mississippi Masala or Jungle Fever.

So this advice, when applied to people of color who want to date white people would mean (at least according to Aziz Ansari) watching almost every movie ever.

Obviously this is silly, and people are individuals who may or may not have interests in common with folks who look like them, but it got me thinking: What movies are required for people, irrespective of race, who are interested in getting to know Shani? Let’s see…

#1 The Flight of the Navigator.
This was my very first favorite movie, ever. Plot: a kid in Florida takes a shortcut to get home and falls in a ditch. He wakes up and it’s like, 12 years later, but he doesn’t realize that until he arrives at his house and it’s completely different. He gets reunited with his fam eventually, but they’re all 12 years older — his little brother is older than he is, whoa! — and it’s determined that he was abducted by an alien (voiced by Paul Reubens, natch) who accidentally dropped him off in the future. He spends the rest of the film trying to get home, and his right time. Sarah Jessica Parker and a robot get in the mix. It’s well-established that I enjoy space and science, fiction, so it’s not surprising that I found this film completely fascinating and funny whenever it came on the teevee when I was a kid. A few years ago, I bought it on DVD, and it holds up surprisingly well.

#2 Brown Sugar.
This is not a good film. It’s obvious and you know what’s going to happen — the two best friends will end up together. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs are BFFs who are dating/married to other people, but their friendship is clearly destined to be more. Whatever. The best scene is where Boris Kodjoe, maybe the worst model-turned-actor in the world and Mos Def, good-at-acting-but-mumbly talk about the future of Kodjoe’s career. Kodjoe, having just proposed to Lathan, wants to branch out from being a star NBA player and become a rapper (paging AI!). He asks Mos Def to be his “rap coach.” And yes, “rap coach” is a term that makes me giggle to this day.

#3 Imitation of Life. (Lana Turner version.)
This film is actually too dense to appreciate on first viewing. On its surface, it seems like a movie about a white woman and her black maid in the 1940s-1950s. Watch it again, and it’s a story about mothers and daughters. Watch it again, and it’s a story about race and tragic mulattoes. Watch it again, and it’s about women who choose their careers and selves over men. Watch it again, and it’s about Broadway. Watch it again, and it’s about amazing clothes and sex. Watch it again, and cry.

Well, there you have it.

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Monoculture and Banana Hatred

This looks more appealing to me than an actual banana. Flickr / redteam

This, this, is the change I’ve been waiting for:

[T]he latest issue of the New Yorker arrived on newsstands with a great (but sadly paywalled) article about the way in which the world of bananas-for-export is threatened by something known as Tropical Race Four.

We’ve been through this before: The Gros Michel banana was the predecessor of today’s banana of choice, the Cavendish. The Gros Michel died out after a blight, and it’s likely we’re heading the same way with the Cavendish. I understand how a monoculture can happen (sort of — because Ireland’s Potato Famine should have led to some pro tips) once, but twice?

Ann Friedman and Adam Serwer posted a dialogue at TAP a couple of years ago about the implications of the end of bananas, which, of course will hurt people whose jobs depend on the crop. That’s unfortunate. But, like Ann, I also really, really don’t like bananas: “It’s just that if I had to pick one industrially farmed food to go extinct, it would be the banana. They smell gross. They taste gross. They have a gross texture.”

I won’t miss bananas if they die out. They are disgusting. But this is a good reminder that eating local (when you can) is such a good thing, since small farms tend to have several varieties of produce.

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Here We Go

Alright, I’ve been blogging and writing around the interwebs a lot in the year since I’ve updated this blog. But it’s time to get back to writing in my own space again.

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Guest Blogging: TAPPED

I guest blogged at The American Prospect Nov. 9-13. Links to my posts, and excerpts below.

Paid Sick Time is More Than A “Public Health Issue.”
Excerpt: It’s exciting that a bill like this has the potential to pass in a major metropolitan area — New York has hundreds of thousands of workers literally living on day-to-day wages. But the fear that they’ll make the rest of us sick, instead of acknowledging that this is a basic right all workers deserve, is a pretty sorry catalyst.

Rupert Murdoch Is Aware Of Some Internet Traditions.
Except: News Corp media mogul Rupert Murdoch certainly has some unconventional views about the Internet. He’s already made it clear that he thinks fair use is a scam — ignoring the fact that the majority of newspaper content is generated through fair use — by recently accusing the BBC of copyright infringement. Now, he’s accusing Google, Microsoft, and Ask.com of “stealing” stories by directing casual readers to his sites.

Feminism Without Feminists.
Excerpt: Aside from being amazed that Sanchez doesn’t seem to realize she has feminism itself to thank for her ability to criticize the movement, I appreciate an acknowledgment from Levy that two-thirds of American families are either headed by women or have a woman as the co-breadwinner. For many of these women, “equal representation” isn’t the point — supporting their families is. And to go further, it’s important to remember that 22 percent of black families are headed by women, as are 14 percent of Latino families. Too often, the lives of poor women and women of color are ignored in the battle over feminism’s relevance.

Reality, Unreality, and Racial Bias.
Excerpt: There’s a 12 percent difference in how requests from white and black avatars were received. Paul W. Eastwick, one of the study’s conductors, said, “You would think when you’re wandering around this fantasyland, operating outside of the normal laws of time, space and gravity and meeting all types of strange characters, that you might behave differently. But people exhibited the same type of behavior — and the same type of racial bias — that they show in the real world all the time.”

The Chocolate Milk Offensive.
Excerpt: There’s nothing inherently wrong with a moderate amount of sweeteners, but sugar and high fructose corn syrup are in nearly all processed foods (and are often disguised under names that don’t look anything like “sugar”), and sugar is in whole fruits and vegetables. And now kids are being diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes. There’s simply too much sugar in the American diet, and it needs to be reduced. Eliminating sugary drink options in schools seems like the perfect way to do that.

On The RNC and Abortion Coverage.
Excerpt: I suppose something could be said for women who work against the interests of women getting what they deserve, but as Ann Friedman said earlier this week, “Many, many women who are opposed abortion rights have exercised those rights themselves — whether for health reasons or because, when it came right down to it, they simply found themselves making a different choice than they thought they would in that situation.” I feel empathy for these anti-choice women who have had a choice for the last 18 years, if only because some things are unknowable until you go through them.

That Sure Is A Nice Social Service Contract You Have There…
Excerpt: The Church’s social services division currently serves 68,000 Washingtonians, including a third of the homeless who use the city’s facilities run by the Church. According to The Washington Post, “fearful that they could be forced, among other things, to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples, church officials said they would have no choice but to abandon their contracts with the city.”

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