Another ‘Something New’ Review: Lakeview Terrace

A few months back, I had rented a couple of movie DVDs, one was “The Family That Preys,” (AKA “Tyler Perry’s Dallas”) and the other was “Lakeview Terrace.” I said I would render my opinions on both films, so let me finally get around to talking about the latter.

I liked it, plain and simple. Lisa (Kerry Washington) and Chris (Patrick Wilson) are newlyweds who have just bought a house in a hilly, suburban ethnically mixed neighborhood. But their immediate neighbor, Abel (Sam Jackson), is a menacing pain in the butt who disapproves of their relationship and doesn’t conceal his disdain for them. But lest you think this is a battle between pure good (Team Lisa and Chris) and ign’ant evil (Abel), the director adds some shading to the characters just to keep you guessing as to whose side you should be on.

Even the people who were basically good like Chris and Lisa, suffered from occasional, unflattering moments For instance, Lisa’s had a brief bout of smarmy overreaction when she told Chris that his parents tell her “over and over” that they love her. I liked the way that the director poked at their tender underbellies, put them under pressure and forced the characters to show what they’re really made of.

Here are two of my favorite moments. The first is when Lisa broaches the topic of having a baby. Chris, displaying all the immaturity of a man clinging to his adolescence, says: “We’ll get around to it. We don’t know how any of this is gonna play out.” Oh really?? What exactly does Chris mean by “any of this”?? The house or a pregnancy or maybe the marriage?! Kind of knocked him down a notch in my estimation. But I was still rooting for the couple, for Lisa’s sake.

The other unflattering slip comes from Lisa’s father (Ron Glass), to Chris: “Are you going to have children with my daughter?” The hits just keep on coming! Considering that Chris and Lisa are married, whom did Harold expect Chris to have kids with? Hmmm? Wouldn’t it be a piece of trifling, ghetto nonsense for Chris to have Lisa as his trophy wife sitting up in a house on a hill, only to turn around knock up some side project someplace else? Honestly, the men in this film are less than impressive at times.

Samuel Jackson’s character, as it turns out, was bitter about Lisa and Chris’ relationship—and other BW/WM pairings, presumably—because his wife apparently cheated on him with a white man. So now in his mind, white men get through life thinking they are entitled to whatever they want, including other men’s wives. Eh, I thought that motivation was a bit trite, but it didn’t take away from Sam Jackson’s entertaining performance.

Go out and rent this film, if you haven’t seen it already. The scenery and sets are attractive. It’s good to see Ron Glass again, and most importantly, the director does not punish Lisa for being with a white many by having her get back-slapped so hard she goes flying across a counter top. Although there is one scene, where a guy breaks into their house, and …


A Monthly Mommy Break

I need to brag about my hair dresser, because she did a superb job on my hair today. Look at the curls, the tapered cut at my nape and my favorite part, the flips. Everything is in place and works well together, framing my face where necessary and appearing to fly away from the top. This kind of thing makes maintaining a salon routine worth considering. LOL Still, I cannot guarantee that a teenager’s issues, a baby’s fussiness, mountains of laundry, blogging or plain laziness on a winter morning wouldn’t persuade me to skip it. 

Facing ComputerOnly since the end of my maternity leave have I even attempted to keep monthly appointments at the salon. Previously, I made it to Lash Out every three months or so at best, after my hair had already begun to revert to its thick, coarse texture. You might think that by the time my hair had reached that state, I would take the sessions seriously. No, I did not. I would sit in her plush red leather chair at Lash Out and stick my nose in a glossy magazine or book while she turned my neglected mane into neat glossy curls, like the ones in these pictures. And I’ve taken to asking her to be done with my hair in three hours, tops. I think that part is unnecessary, because she juggles clients efficiently, moving the ladies from the chair to the sink to the dryers and back again with fluid precision. Plus, I don’t want to come across as rude, like I don’t want to be there. I’m just not the type of person who wants to spend a lot of time on her hair. 

Facing WallAside from outcomes like this, there are other reasons to keep going back to Lash Out. It’s like a two-hour (three, at the most) break from the daily Mommy grind. The interior is beautifully decorated, with its red and yellow walls hung with giant prints of Diana Ross and Audrey Hepburn, and Tiffany-style light fixtures. The owner and main stylist are both businesslike yet friendly, somewhere in their late 20s and always stylishly dressed and coiffed. Some R&B or soul artist like Jill Scott is always being piped through the sound system and a black film is often running on the flat-screen TV in the back parlor.  Lash Out installs edgy, stylish eyelashes for more daring clients, and one stylist also threads eyebrows. The place just has a cutting-edge urban vibe to it. I might feel urban during my weekday commutes in and out of New York, but otherwise, I don’t feel edgy. Just when I start to miss Baby, like when I really need to give her plump little self a squeeze, my stylist is done and I can get back home to pick up my life where I left off.

He Was a Thriller

When my deputy editor read the headlines aloud, the ones reporting that Michael Jackson had been rushed to a hospital after a cardiac arrest, unconscious and not breathing, I earnestly hoped  that he would recover. But the next day, as we talked about his death, I tensed as the conversation unfolded. Who would be the first to call him a freak or a molester? Would people shrug of the news, indifferently calling it another tragic end to the life of a tormented artist, not wholly unexpected, but still sad? Of all the comments about his death that went around the office that day, this one upset me the most:

Paula: Well, I think his kids are better off without him.

I don’t know exactly what was wrong with Michael Jackson. But I do think it was too soon for him to die. For someone so obviously talented and accomplished, who was a creative inspiration to millions, whose life was and will always be a cultural reference point to leave unfinished business behind just seems plain wrong to me. I didn’t like the Michael Jackson whose life was tabloid fodder for decades. He needed to retire from the music business with dignity and to outlive the version of himself that had become a carnival exhibit. He needed to live, so that he would have a chance to be a better father to his children. But now, he leaves this world generating as much unflattering and mysterious press as he did when he lived. 

Following celebrity news closely has never been important to me. I just don’t like vicious gossip, and I find that all forms of reporting on famous entertainers and athletes inevitably take a nasty turn. Actors, musicians and ball players usually end up being put on display, their actions given the smoke-and-mirror treatment and teased like carnival animals, all so “Us Weekly” and “OK!” can rack up bigger circulation numbers and haul in more ad revenue. Professional journalists attempt to justify this deplorable behavior by saying that celebrities agree to be put on display in unflattering and sometimes depraved ways in exchange for the fame and fortune that comes with doing their jobs. No rational human beings strike such bargains. 

The general public is not entitled to full disclosure from anyone who has not been elected to public office and whose livelihoods are not supported by tax dollars. We all need to find better things to do with our time than to obsess about the private lives of celebrities. Constantly reading up on these people for no other reason than to gossip about it creates unhealthy habits, and we need to tone it down. 

Let me acknowledge that some serious allegations of molestation had been brought against this man repeatedly. Even I, as much as I loved to watch Michael dance and sing, would never put my adolescent son in the circumstances described in those cases. You could zig-zag an 18-wheeler on the margin of error present in those situations. When grown men behave in suspect ways toward children, then the public—especially this person’s near neighbors—must be given essential information so that they can protect their children. Parents whose children are likely to be in contact with that man have to be vigilant. Beyond that, we don’t need to know. 

The only thing I really wanted to know about Michael were the details of his creative process. That’s it. And just in case you’re wondering, “Thriller” is my all-time favorite Michael Jackson song, and all-time favorite music video.

The folks at YouTube disabled embedding of “Thriller” (and probably all of Michael Jackson’s videos) by request, but you can get it play if you double-click the video image. It will take you to the YouTube site, where it will run. If you want an even crisper looking version of the video, then go to Yahoo! Music. 

Mud Season

Normally, I like the rain. It’s conducive to taking rejuvenating naps, takes care of watering the flowers and shrubs when I’m short on time, and makes you slow down to take time for leisurely, intellectual past times like blogging. But enough is enough, already. We in the Northeast have had weeks and weeks of rain showers, and weather forecasters are predicting more precipitation every day until next Friday, which I think will be June 26. This waterlogged spring season has ‘dampened’ my enthusiasm for gardening, which I wanted to take up in earnest this year, just so that we wouldn’t turn out to be the busted house on our block. I also want to get back to cookouts, rent or buy patio furniture and hit the beach. But none of those things are going to happen, if all this rain keeps up. We had better dry out before July and August arrive, bringing their muggy conditions. Otherwise we’ll have to change New Jersey’s name from the Garden State to the Rain Forest State and stock up on OFF bug repellent!

While I wait for sunny days to come back again, the family packed up for a road trip from the Garden State to the Green Mountain State, Vermont. We’re visiting Hubby’s cousin and family. We packed up Little Sister and Baby, rented a Ford Escape and hit the road. We made the trip in seven hours. It felt like 10 hours, because we were traveling with an infant, who kept up her usual pooping regimen. We also had to pull over to feed her because she refused to eat her pureed carrots while the car swerved along winding roads. We pulled up to their new house in a lush, hilly subdivision outside Burlington. (Of course, everything is lush nowadays. But I’m over it.) They have one beautiful house, 2 charming sons, and three dogs. And predictions of more rain! I can more easily forgive Vermont for the soggy weather, because this time of year is known as mud season. After a mellow evening at home, the kiddies all bathed together and the parents (that’s us now!) talked for a couple of hours.

Today, we drove into Burlington to patronize the seasonal farmer’s market. If you ever find yourselves up here during spring and summer, readers, hit the Samosa Man at the Burlington farmer’s market. Samosas are Indian-style deep-fried turnovers stuffed with curried veggies, potatoes, chicken or anything else you want. I think the Samosa Man travels to other local farmer’s markets, and plans to open a brick-n-mortar restaurant in Montpelier.
That’s one advantage to intermarrying—you are more likely to be exposed to new places, languages, cuisines and aromas than you would if you stayed within the boundaries of your own culture. Of course, there is no guarantee than an interracial couple is likely to have rich experiences together, but chances are, one or both of you will do things that are considered out of the ordinary.

More importantly, Hubby and I celebrated five years of marriage. We’re just getting started by our elders’ standards, but it still feels like we’ve accomplished something. Gifts for the five-year mark are crystal, wood and watches, depending on whether you want to go the traditional or modern route. We opened our presents just before getting into our rental and driving to Vermont. Hubby bought me an antique wooden Asian jewelry box. He got that one right, because I’m always buying unique costume jewelry. I only have a few pieces of precious stones and metals, but I still need a place to keep my stuff. Also, I love antiques, and although I’m not a particular fan of Chinese culture, I do like Chinese furniture. I bought him a dive watch, which I hope he uses for its intended function, because doing so entails travel to breathtakingly beautiful places and adventure. It’s important for Hubby to get out, meet new people and explore. He thrives on it and it makes him even more pleasant.

He’s generally good-natured and easy to be around, even more so, after I cured him of his beastly ‘hunger anger’. During our first six months together, his irate outbursts before mealtimes turned many a date into ‘teaching moments’. Oh, and I can’t leave out two of the most dramatic changes in Hubby since I came along. The first is he no longer hates big-big stores with a passion, and actually volunteers to go to Costco. Cheerfully!  And he is actually considering buying—wait for it—a sport utility vehicle! Readers, these are no small things for an avowed left-leaning Democrat who has been on marches, despises the subdivisions and monster vehicles that define much of American society, and relishes arguing the issues of the day. Hubby has rubbed off on me too, during these past 5 years. I’m more open to people, whereas before I met Hubby, I would hang back and study them for loooong periods before volunteering deep insights into my inner workings. Or my middle name.

We head back to New Jersey in two days. After that, I’ll take one more day off before returning to work. I’ll keep you all updated on any other interesting findings on this, our latest, trip north.

Summer Reading

My little sister finished her sophomore year at high school today. She brought home a report card that was in absolute terms, a letdown, but it was relatively satisfactory because she did no worse than she had in the third quarter. She also brought home remnants of a cleaned-out locker, the learning theme for next year, identity, and her summer reading list. I’m not sure what’s on that menu, but it got me to thinking about what literary delights I would digest this summer, and what I should recommend on this blog for others.

When you hit the bookstore, or when you pass the next newsstand, pick up a copy of this months’ Vogue. There is a profile about Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations. I liked reading that Susan Rice takes a tough stance on human rights issues, has a soft emotional side, a serious approach to work and a spirit that embraces play time wholeheartedly!susan & ian

That’s a picture of Ms. Rice with her husband, Ian Cameron. What I liked especially about the article was what it didn’t say. Rice is a member of a black professional and social elite that has always existed in this country, but for some reason seemed invisible. Worse, the black elite seemed like an urban legend, or a mythical creature like Big Foot. Remember when The Cosby Show first went on the air?  I do. I think I was in the 7th grade. I couldn’t understand why black people insisted that a generally wholesome and intact family led by two educated, worldly black professionals could not exist. Thanks to the passage of time, Oprah and in no small part, I think, President Obama’s administration, we are being introduced to elite blacks in the very highest and most influential jobs on the planet. Also, Ms. Rice comes from a very impressive family. Her father, Emmett Rice, was on the board of governors for the Federal Reserve. No small feat for a black man born in North Carolina in 1920. But as you will see if you click the link, he already had a track record of breaking barriers by he time he was appointed to the Fed board of governors. Her mom is a guest scholar for the Brookings Institution.

On to books. You might remember my post about “Kinky Gazpacho,” by Lori L. Tharps. Gazpacho is a memoir of Tharps’ travels through Spain, Morocco, her childhood and young adulthood in the states. I love this book for its wit, warmth, honesty and insights into how Spaniards see blacks and vice versa, even if they are squirm inducing at times.

“On Beauty”, by Zadie Smith must be part of your permanent book collection. I am not a literary critic, so I don’t have the words to describe her immense talent. But what I like about Smith’s work is her crisp wit, and her full-bodied depictions of her characters.  Some writers, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, have unearthly powers of expression. But with Smith, sure, I feel like she’s way way up there above all of us, telling riveting stories by creating interesting people and use perfect diction in amazing prose to describe it all. But I still feel connected to the experience. One of the lead characters in “On Beauty”, Howard Belsey, is a white Englishman married to an African-American woman, Kiki. They’ve been married 30 years, but he just cheated on her—the weak fool—and the story picks up shortly after that. Smith’s husband is Nick Laird, also a critically celebrated novelist, pictured here. His recently published novel, “Glover’s Mistake”, also makes my summer reading list. Laird, Zadie's Husband

My Fine Young Fashion Plate

I normally do not go out and buy, nor do I subscribe to Vogue magazine. I don’t have anything against the publication, but the pursuit of couture fashion, or items close to it, has never been my chief business in life. But after picking up the April issue of Vogue, I think I might change my mind. Beyonce is on the cover, and on the way to finding the article about her, I came across interesting write-ups about two other black women. The first was about Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu, and the other was Zoe Kravitz.

Side note: Lisa Bonet looks more like her daughter’s older, cooler big sister trekking through Europe after college. She does not look like she is Zoe’s mother. Put that stuff in a jar and sell it!   

I’m also motivated by the fact that my new editor was an editor at Vogue and at Mademoiselle, which means I need to read up the publications to get a deeper understanding of her editorial approach.

Recently, I took the opportunity to get a picture of my daughter in her christening gown. I wanted to show her off just a little bit, so I took this overhead shot instead of a frontal one, otherwise her dad would have gone red in the face. And I used the April issue of Vogue to distract her from the camera and prevent her from looking up at me while I took her picture. This dress is a standout because it deviates from the typical baroque stylings of christening gowns. What baby would want to be overpowered by mounds of lace and embroidery and what mother could justify spending all that money, just to let it sit in a closet afterward? Truth be told, I did spend a nice piece of change on this dress, but as Aunt Mary pointed out—she was with me when I picked it—this one has more interesting detailing and craftsmanship. It’s restrained, yet bursting with creativity and prettiness. She’s right. You can’t see it, but the dress has a rounded collar with tiny embroidered flowers. It’s one of several very tasteful, pretty touches that does not go overboard. 

So, my little fashion plate was a hit during the ceremony, and during the luncheon at our house afterward. My in-laws came into town for the event, and we had a nice time. My mother showed up too, but that subject is better left alone.

Well, enjoy the closest look I can give you of the baby. And guess which article she just happens to be crumpling in her chubby fist? The one about Beyonce, of course!  

Fashion Plate