Friday, December 25, 2009

Book Review: "Push" by Sapphire

I received the book "Push" by Sapphire earlier today as a Christmas gift...and finished it in one sitting. It was excellent.

This was a pleasant surprise, after a traumatic viewing of the movie "Precious" (based on the novel) last week.

[Read my review of "Precious" here.]

Having now read the book, I understand why the story would inspire a motion picture. I understand why the filmmaker Lee Daniels was eager to allow us to visualize the character of Claireece Precious Jones and her peers through his screenplay.

I stand by my previous opinion and still am not a fan of the movie but I must say, I feel redeemed having read the original text.

The book was more about the journey of Precious striving towards literacy, and was written in her broken English and limited vocabulary that expanded and strenghtened as the book progressed. You really got a feel for her growth with language.

While the movie placed too much emphasis on her evil mother, the verbal abuse, and the other negative experiences she had to endure, the book mentioned these elements, but also followed through by showing how Precious planned to overcome these obstacles.

Despite her poor communication skills, short temper, abusive history, and lack of love and guidance, there was an overwhelming sense of hope and perseverance in the inner-monologue of Precious. While she had every reason not to succeed, it was reassuring to know that she increasingly began to value herself, and understood the weight of an education and her own self-worth.

My intepretation of this novel was tainted by the screenplay version, but I'm glad I had the mental reference of the great casting in the movie to highlight what I was reading. I'm glad I got to read about what happened to Precious "after." I appreciate the way in which the author Sapphire took an ugly situation, and made it beautiful.

I now totally understand the power of this story.


My novels the Urban Toronto Tales tell the stories of life, love and relationships in the city of Toronto. For more information, please visit http://www.staceymarierobinson.com.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Review: "Precious" (the feel-bad movie of the year)

I saw this movie last night, and I'm concerned.

I fell for the media hype back in September. I went downtown for the Toronto International Film Festival red carpet to celebrate the screening of "Precious" and catch a glimpse of my favourites: Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Sherri Shepard, Paula Patton, and the accompanying fanfare. I believed in the power of this movie, the strength of this story (based on reviews of the novel "Push") and I was ready to be impressed.

But sadly, you really just can't take Oprah's word on everything...

This movie was disappointing. Disturbing. It got under my skin, and failed at becoming the wonderful film I wished it to be.

For those who have suffered experiences of abuse, my sympathy is genuine, and my heart really goes out to the pain and difficulties that must be endured in an attempt to overcome that. I also understand that Ms. Winfrey and Mr. Perry, as victims of molestation, really felt that the story of Clareece "Precious" Jones really needed to be shared.

Yes, some stories are important for audiences to see and understand. Yes, it's important that not every movie is a fairy tale, and that reality is portrayed to the fullest. But damn. I couldn't blame the people in front of me at the theatre that walked out about 30 minutes into it. It was TOUGH to watch Mo'Nique's character cuss and beat and demean her daughter. It was tough to hear the internal defeated dialogue of the main character, played by Gabby Sidibe.

The most awful thing to see was the violence/ignorance towards the babies!!!!!!!!!! Who does that?

I braved an intense crowd of overbearing fans and grown men paparazzi to get this photo of Mary J. at the TIFF screening of "Precious" at Roy Thompson Hall.
Maybe I'm biased. When I go to a movie, I want to feel good about life, about the characters, and walk away having had an uplifting/ optimistic/ thought-provoking or at the very least an exciting/ adventure-filled experience. But instead, I literally sat in my seat for a good 5 minutes after the movie ended wondering..."huh?" and still shivering from the disturbing imagery.

That's it...? What happens next...? THIS is the movie Oprah and Tyler just had to jump on board with? I wish the movie started where it ended...the build up was uncomfortable, and when you finally had a moment of redemption...end scene. Roll credits.

I'm not convinced it was worth the anticipation.

But what I DO know is that Mo'Nique and Gabby definitely deserve nominations for their roles in this movie: the acting was fantastic!! Mariah Carey and Sherri Sheppard were pretty good too. They were all raw, they were physically exposed to the worst interpretation of their naturally beautiful selves, and they made you really FEEL what was going on.

  • Lenny Kravitz looked GOOD!
  • There were a few moments of humour to break the tension.
  • Precious' classmates and teacher (Paula Patton) were endearing.
Despite those highlights, I'm not even sure I would recommend this movie to anyone else, but I do know that I'm going to finally read the novel on which it was based ("Push" by Sapphire), to redeem the missing elements of plot development and inspirational story-telling that I felt the movie was lacking.


To read my books abour urban Canadian life, love, and culture, please visit http://www.staceymarierobinson.com.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Review: Hill Harper's "The Conversation"

Hill Harper's new book "The Conversation" should be the last book written about black relationships.

It covers all of the topics, the discussions, and the tools needed for readers to move forward in this area, no longer held back by historical, social, and cultural restrictions, perceived or actual.

Released in September of 2009, Harper's third book focuses on "How Black Men and Women can Build Loving, Trusting Relationships" and has the potential to be the definitive word on black love.

Using personal experiences, candid interviews and discussions with his friends and associates, and modern references like the Obamas, the dangers of 'technological' communication, and even Steve Harvey's recent relationship book, Harper presents a relevant and timely discussion on "the breakdown of African-American relationships."

His purpose: to encourage conversation, to present various perspectives, and to encourage black men and women to work towards building a legacy of family and tradition, rather than publicly and personally destroying the bonds between one another.

Some of the enlightening chapters include:

  • What We Say, Mean, and Do

  • What Brothers Want

  • Will Mr. Right Please Stand Up?

  • Checking Baggage

  • Eros Vs. Sex/Lust Vs. Love - "Some women think men should read their minds and decipher what they really mean. Alternatively, they give the answer society or their mother told them was the proper answer, though it may not be their truth at all...For women, the issue of finding a healthy balance between all that is expected of her can be a tiring lifelong quest..."

  • Cheating

  • Dating With Kids

  • Anger, Forgiveness, and Learning to Let Go

  • Man Up -"We as Black men rarely hold other men accountable when we clearly see that they are not living up to their responsibilities with the women they are dating or married to and, even worse, with the children they have fathered..."

This book is great, because it echoes the current concerns of men and women from a variety of circumstances. While there are universal truths that can be applied to relationships of any race, the historical and specific references to African-American issues is encouraging. Harper understands the issues, and is able to address them directly. As his friend Brad states in the book:

"I think the Black family has been shredded for a couple reasons. The last forty years have been filled with fatherless households and women struggling to take care of their children. As a young girl, if your mother (who probably resents your father for not being there) continuously tells you, "You don't need a man for anything. Provide for yourself! Take care of yourself. Look at me...I'm doing it, and we are fine," at some point, that girl will begin to believe this. Then, that same young girl probably will not have the luxury of seeing her mom have a healthy relationship with a man. So, how is she supposed to know how to interact with men? On the flip side, in these same households, most young Black boys don't have male figures to teach them how to be men or how to treat women. What happens when this young girl and this young boy meet up when they are grown? Exactly what is going on now...you have two people who don't know how to deal with each other..." (pg 57-58)

At the age of 43, Harper's career in the entertainment business has allowed readers to grow and trust the familiar face that has appeared on classic Spike Lee movies "Get on the Bus" (96) and "He Got Game" (98), and as well as other favourites "In Too Deep" (99) and "Lackawanna Blues" (05). His television work has ranged from appearances on Married With Children and The Sopranos to his current role as Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on CSI: NY.

Harper has received recognition from the NAACP Image Awards as "Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series" for CSI: NY in both 2008 and 2009.

His strengths as an actor are numerous, but his academic background and achievements in writing foreshadow the contributions we can expect to see Harper make in popular culture, academia, and maybe even politcs one day.

The son of a psychiatrist (father) and anesthesiologist (mother), Harper has a B.A. from Brown University, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, as well as a Master of Public Adminstration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Just this year, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Westfield State College.

Hill Harper has been dedicated to uplifting and educating young people, as evidenced by his previous books: American Library Association award-winning "Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny" and New York Times bestseller "Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny."

He has a gift for communicating relevant, powerful, and progressive messages through his texts. We can expect to see more of this brother in the future; he is well-equipped and on his way to becoming one of the great black minds of this generation.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Comedians on Twitter




Some people don't even know what Twitter is, how it works, what the point of it is, or why people even bother to log in...but for those of you who are locked in, you know where I'm coming from...

Twitter got jokes!

Over the past few weeks, I have literally laughed out loud at some of the commentary, punchlines, and Trending Topics (the most popularly discussed Twitter topics of the day) that I've viewed online.

Yeah, sometimes I've felt like a stalker, constantly reading what the celebrity comedians are Tweeting about, but there has consistently been such a plethora of ridiculousness going on that I have even started to let people know about my secret pasttime. It's just been too funny to keep to myself.

This is such a unique moment in comedy history.

Never before have fans had immediate and real-time access to their favourite funnymen. It's one thing to go to the theatre or tune into the television to watch a staged performance...it's another miraculous effect of our evolving technological world that you can literally read up-to-the-minute jokes from these brilliant minds.

For example, during the American Music Awards last week, a few comedians were providing their play-by-play on what was going on, simultaneous with the live broadcast.

On Thanksgiving Day this past week, many were commenting on the Trending Topic "#youknowuhavinaghettothanksgivingwhen" with scenarios from their own family gatherings taking place that very moment...never before have comedians been able to interact with their fans on this intimate level, so directly.

Some people use Twitter for social networking and to have private conversations in ultra-public spaces...but I've used it for the laughs and for the entertainment.

Spearheaded by comedians Marlon Wayans and Affion Crockett, the routines have been taken to a whole new level. I wouldn't be surprised if the past few weeks of activity on Twitter by this particular group of men, inspires a new project, movie, or hopefully a comedy tour from them.

If you want to read the jokes past and present, you don't need an account with Twitter. Just visit them here (click photos):

Marlon Wayans








Damon Wayans Jr.








Nile Evans








Affion Crockett







If you haven't yet seen Affion's YouTube spoof of "Run This Town" (aka "Hunt Chris Brown"), here it is:


You can also check out their colleagues on Twitter (pls click on name links) Damien Dante Wayans, Shane Miller, and Craig Wayans...equally hilarious.

Enjoy!

What would we do without laughter? I'm thankful that I've been able to witness this new comedic phenomenon go down.

My books about urban Canadian life, love, and relationships are available on line. Please visit http://www.staceymarierobinson.com/books.html for more information.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Legendary Sanchez Performs in Toronto

On Saturday, November 21, 2009 at the Sound Academy in Toronto, Humble Penny, 2 Lined Music Hut, and Keep it Moven Ent. brought Jamaican reggae artists Sanchez and Pinchers to Toronto, with home grown opening acts Kim Davis and Steele. The night was hosted by Jahmin, and featuring early musical vibes by the Riddim Track Master Spex, and Radication sound.

There is nothing like a good show and a grown crowd. People who love the music, love the energy...and can appreciate being around mature patrons who share the same passion for a solid live performance. It's nice to see couples stepping out dressed to impress, bubbling the night away and lifting their hands in recognition of the classic songs they have been listening to for nearly two decades--songs that have provided the soundtrack to many events and day to day experiences.

To show support for an artist like Sanchez is a courtesy, a way of saying thank you for being a consistently inspirational artist. For contributing numerous songs to reggae culture that seem to never ever get old. There are few artists that have reached this status, where no matter where or when their songs are played...they are received warmly by everyone. Sanchez (aka Kevin Anthony Jackson) is one of those notorious artists who is loved by many, and rightfully so.

Time has done nothing to that voice. While other performers get noticibly weaker, lazier and lose their fire as years pass, this man was still sounding (and looking) like he was in his prime. The Chronic Band were also on point, backing him flawlessly throughout the night.

I unfortunately missed the intro performances of Steele and Kim Davis, but was able to take in Pinchers. Now with all due respect to Pinchers and the contributions he has made to reggae music..."Bandelero" was the big tune that everyone was looking forward to hearing from him. He went through his entire repertoire, sang some familiar classics...some not so familiar songs (in their entirety, verse after verse!)...and then when he had about 30 seconds left of his performance, gave the eager audience about 2 lines of "Bandelero"...then ran off stage and ended his set.

I'm all for dramatic effect, build up, anticipation, etc...but I do believe he should have brought "Bandelero" in all its glory. Not even the verses we all love to hear and sing: "Now him come lick de pelico..." None of that. "But I just drink the tequila..." Nope.

My video of Pinchers (briefly) performing "Bandelero"


So that was extremely anticlimactic to say the least...but his voice was still strong, skin still looked young and fresh, and he gave his all to his half hour performance.

Here are a few video clips from the night (visually interrupted by the occasional gun finger and raised hand around me, my apologies)...please enjoy!

"Here I Am"


"Missing You Now"


"Frenzy/Never Diss The Man"


"Down By The River"


"Amazing Grace"


"Lonely Won't Leave Me Alone"


"Gospel Medley" (Yup! He took us to church!!)


"Jamaican National Anthem"


I love my city. I love the people and energy here. I welcome you to check out my "Urban Toronto Tales" novel collection, stories about the live YOU live, available @ http://www.staceymarierobinson.com/books.html.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sample of "Video Light" the novel

My novel "Video Light" is an urban romance story, based in Toronto, featuring a couple who are learning about themselves, about life, and about love. Delia Chinn is a 29-year-old Jamaican-Canadian dancehall princess who raised herself in the city’s west end; Ryan Wright is a humble school teacher, also 29, who grew up in a Christian household with strict Trinidadian parents. They meet at a party on Caribana Sunday and end up in a whirlwind romance, challenged by their sceptical friends and family who think they are too different to fall in love...

[EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 3]

Unfortunately, Tuesday morning had to finally arrive. After a breakfast of omelets and orange juice, I drove Delia across the street to the Town Centre so she could begin work. Returning to my condo didn’t even feel the same, when I re-entered the space we had occupied together.

I’m sprung…dawg she got me…” Mike sang T-Pain’s song into the phone when I called him at noon. I knew he was on his lunch break–he was an accountant for Rogers Media–and I hadn’t heard from him since the previous day. “Got me doing things I’d never do…” he continued, stopped only by his laughter.

“Yeah, you think it’s funny?” I asked, turning on the television to check the weather forecast for the rest of the week. “Laugh now, understand later.”

“I don’t even know what to say, guy. You let the whole day pass and couldn’t even link me back. You and Miss Chinn over there tearing up the rug.”

“It wasn’t even like that, man,” I said, putting my feet up on the table.

“Of course it was like that. Don’t try to front like you’re over there reading poetry and s*it.”

“Come on, man. Give me some credit. Give her some credit!” I said, looking over at Delia's sandals by the door. “We just had a nice day together. Got to know each other. Cooked her dinner. Everything went smoothly.”

“Aright, aright. I see you’re taking this seriously now, so I’ll stop. So everything’s straight?”

“Believe me, bredren.”

“And you really think there’s something there?”

"Yup.”

“OK, OK,” he said, taking a bite of something. “I just hope you know what you’re doing. Them girls are dangerous you know.”

"What do you mean dem girls?” I asked. “What girls?”

“Those party girls. At the dance three nights a week, bunning a big spliff, drinking Smirnoff Ice and RockStar and getting men to buy them shots at the bar. We’ve seen them in action over the years, and you and I both know not a damn thing’s changed.”

“So she likes to go out. Nuttin’ wrong with that."

“I know, just be careful.”

"Mike, man. I don’t like the way you’re dealing with me, guy. I feel like I just hit the f*cking jackpot, and you’re bringing all this skepticism. What’s up with that?”

“I’m just trying to be the voice of reason man, like you always say. Trying to put things in perspective for you, before you drown.”

“Why I gotta drown? Why I can’t swim, Mike?” I asked, trying to force a laugh.

“You and dat deh hot gyal? I’m throwing you a life preserver from now.”
“I can’t handle it?”

“You can try. It’s not like she’s a regular pretty girl out there either, RW. This is like the dime piece of Toronto. All I’m saying is be careful.”

That was the last time I talked to Mike for a few days. I could admit it: I was wrapped up in her. I picked her up from work on Tuesday evening, stopped by her humble basement apartment so she could pick up a few things, and we went back to my place to chill. Dinner was waiting for her when we got back, we ate, we watched a little TV, and continued to talk about a little bit of nothing, just happy to be around each other.

And the routine continued. Wednesday. Thursday. When Friday finally came and I knew I’d have her to myself for the weekend, I couldn’t have been happier. Except this time when I dropped her home on Friday, her cell phone wouldn’t stop ringing.

I was sitting on a plastic chair in her living room, in the dim apartment, watching as she unpacked and repacked her overnight bag. The phone had gone through three consecutive calls without her picking up, until she finally stopped what she was doing, and put her hand on her hip.

“Honestly,” she said, reaching into her purse to pick up the phone. “Hello?” she asked, walking back to her bathroom to pack few more toiletries for the weekend. “I just stopped by my house for a minute, about to go back to Ryan’s place.” She paused, and came back out of the washroom to roll her eyes at me. “OK girl, whatever you say. I’ll link you when I get there.”

“What was that all about?” I asked her. Over the past few days, I think I had received the entire history of Delia Chinn, from the grade school stories, to the present day drama with her girlfriends. They were always having some issues, and being the single–and relatively unattached one–Delia was always the recipient of the news.

“Shannon says I need to check out TeeDotVibes when I get to your house. I hate that s*it, Ryan. The only time I end up seeing it is when I’m with Shannon. She’s addicted to it. It’s disgusting.”

“I used to go on from time to time, but after a while I realized it’s all nonsense anyhow,” I confessed, slightly embarrassed because I usually logged on to check out pictures and video of her.

“When I have liquor in my system, I always end up posing for the most amount of pictures. Especially when I’m with Kimmy. That girl loves the video light, in any form,” she said, zipping up her bag and pulling it up over her shoulder. She grabbed her purse with her free hand. “Aright, let’s roll.”

I followed Delia up the stairs, she grabbed her mail, and we headed back into my car. I was addicted to her. It still hadn’t been a week, but I felt like I already knew all that I needed to know. She was open enough to share many of the important experiences and lessons in her life with me, and in return, I also let her know about the happenings in my own world.

Each morning I served her breakfast before she went to work, every evening I had her dinner ready when she returned, and each night we went up to the roof to watch the sun set while she smoked, returning to the couch to chill and talk some more. Sometimes we didn’t even need the TV on, because our conversation alone was interesting. I couldn’t get enough of her, and thankfully, I think she felt the same about me.

Since it was Friday, I decided to take her out to eat, instead of going right back to my place. We just went to the Jack Astor’s across the street from the condo, and sat back in our booth for nearly three hours, talking about all the great dances we had been to over the years, from the nineties, straight to the present time. We had been to many of the same places, and crossed paths numerous times.

It was interesting to hear the tales from her perspective, to hear the perks she and the girls had received simply for being hot and energetic, and also to hear the ridiculous stories of men trying to get into their circle. She knew how to have fun, and I liked that about her. Even though Mike had been trying to break away from the club scene since the year began, I still didn’t mind going out every now and then to hear what the DJs were saying.

As we wrapped up our restaurant visit, Delia’s cell wouldn’t stop ringing. She eventually put the phone on silent mode, and left it that way until we were back at my place, ready to settle in for the night. She warned me that her girls would be calling, ready to see what was going on for the night. Around eleven, she picked up the phone to check her missed calls and inform them that she wasn’t going anywhere.

“I think I’m gonna have to pass on whatever’s going down tonight,” she said, picking up the phone when Lisa-Anne called yet again. Her silence let me know that the clubbing was not Lisa-Anne’s reason for calling. “OK, Shannon called me about this s*it earlier. I really don’t want to bother, girl,” she said, looking at me with concerned eyes. “OK, fine, fine. I’ll call you right back.”

“What’s up? Everything OK?”

“First Shannon told me to check the website, and now Lisa-Anne’s saying that there’s some s*it about me and Kimmy on there,” she said, looking over to the table where my laptop sat. “Do you mind? Otherwise I won’t hear the end of this.”

I brought my computer over to the couch, and logged onto the popular website, TeeDotVibes. Clicking into the Chat Bout section, I saw that Miss Chinn’s name was the subject of a few discussion chains. Delia asked me to skim it for her, and give her the update, while she began to take off her nail polish. It didn’t take me long to get the general gist of what was going down.

People were saying that Delia’s girl Kimmy was secretly hooking up with KG, who I assumed to be her ex-boyfriend Kirk, and that the ‘Goodas Crew’ was on the verge of dismantling.

“Is this for real?” I said, now realizing the time and effort some people put into fabricating stories, just for entertainment purposes. Before, I didn’t mind logging on to see a few pictures, but now, the whole concept seemed completely invasive and disturbing.

“What does it say?”

“Basically that Kimmy and Kirk have something going on, and you don’t know about it,” I said to her, shaking my head. “Some people really have time on their hands, huh?”

Delia kissed her teeth, shook her head, and continued to take off the polish on her fingernails. Curious, I read through a few more postings, and almost became concerned with the jumbled details and bad grammar. I closed the computer, Delia turned off her phone, and we decided to watch television for the evening until we passed out on my couch together...

To order your copy of "Video Light" please visit one of the Toronto sales locations, or purchase the book online @ eBay.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Review: Jay-Z Blueprint 3 tour (Toronto)

Ok, so I am officially "jockin' Jay-Z".

I admit, before last Saturday I really didn't have an opinion either way of the HOV. I was a fan of his hits back in the late 90s and early 2000s, but really haven't followed his albums, performances, or activities otherwise. Back in 2004 Jay-Z did an MTV collaboration with Linkin Park...but I believe that album purchase was more about Linkin Park than Jay.

But I digress.

After his performance in Toronto on Saturday, October 31, 2009 for the Blueprint 3 tour, I walked away with a newfound respect and appreciation of this man. He was great!

The energy in the Air Canada Centre was crazy. I have seen most of my favourites perform live, and can still safely say that next to Janet Jackson (2001), this show had the most vibes, the crowd showed the most love, and actually had me on my feet from beginning to end. Even from the depths of the 300 section.

The opening acts Wale, N.E.R.D. with wonderful Pharell, even got a good response from the crowd: that's how I knew it was going to be a special night. The ACC was a true representation of Toronto with attendees of all races, all ages, and all excited to take part in the event. Everyone was hype.

When Jay-Z came on stage, I couldn't help but feel like I was about to witness something great. Again, I don't know his lyrics. I didn't even buy a copy of Blueprint 3 (or download it...yet) but I knew that there had to be a reason 20,000 people were jamming consistently, hands raised, for over two hours straight.

Excuse my faraway footage...the details aren't clear, but the feeling is still there :)

Jay-Z opening - "Run This Town":


Even with the tracks from the new album played, he made sure to mix in the classics, giving us the full repetoire of his legacy.

Jay-Z performs "Empire State of Mind":


In one of the most anticipated moments of the night, Toronto's own Drake came out to bless the stage with a performance of "Successful." I found the crowd almost silent at this point, taking in each lyric, and the pride was almost tangible.

Drake:


Towards the end of the night, Jay-Z took a minute to thank the fans, and I think this is the moment that got me. I was amazed how incredibly arrogant...yet extremely humble he could be. He took off his shades and spoke to the people of Toronto with genuine gratitude. You could hear it in his voice, you could see it on his face: he was thankful to be who he was, and where he was.

He took another 10 minutes with the house lights on, shouting out the fans, pointing people out by clothing and costume (it was Halloween night, after all) and giving them the spotlight on the jumbotron. This personal touch, and the time he took to acknowledge his supporters also added to the night's experience.

It was warming to see him also big up Toronto-turned-international rapper Kardinal Offishall in the front row; the crowd showed him the utmost love through applause and cheers.

And just when you thought the concert was over, I think another wave of energy hit Jay because he extended the show past 11pm (which rarely happens at the ACC), had the lights back down, and gave the audience another 30 minutes of his talent.

I am addicted to live shows, admittedly. The noise, the crowds, the acoustics, and the physical energy. So needless to say when he closed with "Young Forever" from the Blueprint 3 with electric blue lighting on stage and near blackness otherwise, I found this to be the defining moment of the night. Thousands of lighters immediately sparked around the venue, men and women, teenage and grown, began to sing along, and you could just feel like you had participated in something great.

These are the musical moments that I live for.

In closing, Jay-Z gave the mandatory "follow your dreams" speech that most entertainers share when on stage. But the great thing about it is that when you see someone like him perform, and feel what can be created with passion, talent, and support, you can't help but naturally be inspired.

Whether in your 9-5, in your hobbies, or in your most ambitious goals and dreams, seeing an artist come from less than favourable conditions, and go against common odds to still achieve their highest fantasies...to me that is worth the cost of a ticket.

This is why concerts remain high on my priority list of spending. The $30-$100 I knock out for the ticket is worth volumes more to me when it comes to motivation, inspiration, and just appreciation of music and life in general.

Yes, it was just a rap concert, but I'm pretty sure there are 19,999 other fans in Toronto who like me, are still on that Jay-Z high right now, wishing it was 9:45pm on Saturday, and we could experience it all over again.
(Borrowed footage via YouTube user forzaferrarif1fan)


The "Urban Toronto Tales" novel collection by Stacey Marie Robinson: books are available online @ http:///www.staceymarierobinson.com. "Stories about the life YOU live."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: Chris Rock's "Good Hair"

I went to check out Chris Rock's "Good Hair" this weekend, slightly disappointed that in the entire city of Toronto and it's surrounding areas, there were only 2 theatres playing this film. Nonethless, I went to one of the locations and had a good time.

I love Chris Rock, and think he's a hilarious comedian who always has brilliant social commentary...BUT, I must admit that I was expecting him to get deeper on the subject of "black" hair and the mental and social affect it has had on black women in particular.

Don't get me wrong, he did cover all the basics. He went from LA, to Atlanta, to India to engage in honest discussion with a variety of people. The subject was touched on, however the element of humour and the vast ground to cover made it difficult to discuss each area in any great detail.

He took viewers to the men in the barbershop where we heard them talk about the difficulties in not being able to touch their black woman's head/hair, or participate in particular activities (swimming, steam rooms, etc.) with them.

He went backstage at the notorious Bronner Bros. International Hair Show in Atlanta, where hairdressers from across America dramatically competed for top accolades in their field.

Chris travelled to India to witness the sacrifice that thousands regularly make, choosing to walk around bald, while giving their hair to God. Then we saw a salesman travel from India, bringing packages of the sacrificed hair (10"-14" preferred!) to America where he hustled his goods for thousands for dollars.

What particularly resonated with me was when Chris decided to try and sell "African" hair to a shop owner in America, where the Asian male worker and Black female worker quickly declared that no one would buy Chris's "African" hair. The more "natural" look was in, they said.

Which leads to the question...natural for who?

Chris touches on how a black woman's hair is her crown and glory. Different women require a different look to make them feel good about themselves. Celebrities like Raven Symone, Melyssa Ford, Meagan Goode, Nia Long, and Eve proudly discussed their weaves and the money they spent to ensure their hair looked good. Hearing these opinion leaders in the black community embrace this, and disregard the natural beauty of their hair (underneath) was slightly disappointing to me. It was almost shrugged off like, it is what it is, and we don't mind.

Chris's conclusion, and perhaps the conclusion we all inevitably come to, is that it's a woman's perogative what she wants to do with her hair. Whether she wants to braid it, lock it, keep it natural, relax it, or weave it...it's really and truly a decision that she has to make for herself. And of course, realizing that the true happiness won't come from the outward appearance, but the quality of her character.

To each her own! As long as she knows that when the hair/hairdresser is unavailable, or she's caught off guard in her natural state...that she still feels beautiful with what God has given her.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Review: "Basketball Jones" by E. Lynn Harris

A true love story always reminds me that no matter what the circumstances are financially, geographically, racially, logically or otherwise...that when you're in love, you're in love. The obstacles may vary, but the feeling never changes.

With fictional NBA star Drayton Jones and his undercover lover, Aldridge James (AJ) Richardson, their relationship is a complicated web of money, deceit, fame, and a deep-rooted bond that began when the two men were university students. While AJ has always been comfortable with his sexuality and devoted to Dray, Dray was always hesitant to make their situation public knowledge.

AJ supported Dray consistently throughout his college athletic career, all the way up to the NBA, and as a result Dray made sure to take care of him...from a distance. Given the finest homes, clothing, opportunity, and money, AJ was happy being a "kept" man, living his life as a part-time interior decorator, and full-time companion to Dray.

While it seems that AJ has it made, living a life of shopping for Dray and himself, staying in the finest hotels for post-game romance, and still maintaining his anonymity, it's not until Dray decides to hook up with a female and "stabalize" his public image that their relationship starts to change.

And like every other love story, AJ must decide how strong his love for Dray is...if he's willing to stay a secret and suppress his feelings for the sake of Dray's family and career...of if he's going to stand up for himself against the lies, the inevitable gossip, and the people in his circle who are curious to find out the truth about his lavish lifestyle.

Written by the late E. Lynn Harris (who just passed away in July of 2009 due to heart disease), "Basketball Jones" is a gritty look into the African-American homosexual community, as the story travels around the southern U.S. from Atlanta to New Orleans, highlighting some of the trends, the stereotypes, and the intricacies of this world.

Likewise, the novel also takes a look at the lifestyles of the rich and famous, the benefits and the realities of professional athletes, and the interesting way in which these two distinct networks intercept.

It is fascinating to see the strong, creative, personable and MBA-educated AJ become weak to even the slightest text message or suggestion from his longtime boyfriend Dray. In his insecurity, readers are reminded that love is what it is...regardless of its colour or orientation.

E. Lynn Harris provides an interesting commentary on society, on fame, and on self-respect. His other novels, also themed on the lifestyles of "closeted" and "down low" black men, have led Harris to excel in and take control of American literature of this specific genre.

Perhaps the best part of this book--despite the entertaining language, current references, colourful characters, and unexpected plot twists--is witnessing the journey of AJ as he battles his love for Dray against the love he has for himself. A classic tale, universally.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Video Light" references on Twitter

You can follow me on Twitter by clicking the logo.

Now, I am admittedly new to Twitter (kind of) and still don't really get how to make the most of it. The trending topics (TT) the re-tweets (RT) and the dozens of other acronyms and routines that I have yet to understand...

But what I did find was some humour when typing in "video light" the phrase, in a search, and seeing--out of curiousity--what type of comments/conversation that it came up in.

VIDEO LIGHT is the name of my debut novel (available by visiting http://www.staceymarierobinson.com/), and is about a dancehall princess in Toronto named Delia Chinn who is always in the spotlight. This is what others on Twitter have been saying about females they know or see in the "video light"...

prettygirlnicky: #thoughtsindaclub y dah gyal deh inna di video light like she cute.. Go sit ur turtle lookin ass down

NickyBling: U have some #dumbjamaicans that feel it is ok 2 go to a dance 8 mths preggo & in the video light smoking a spliff - wrong on so many levels

keykeyfab: #jamaicanmen always got some past rayray bleached out face dancehall duty talk up ina video light dont look good ex... why

Ralph_Nova: @LadySlam no baby belly flat like bammy skinout inna the video light!!!!!!!!!

Sunshine_3312: #thoughtintheclub she goin 2hard in da video light she needs 2 stop it!

Y2daO: RT @Chase_Govt_6 Thoughtsintheclub why she fuckin up da people dem song in the video light mumble mad words like a african(no racism) (lmao

youseekriss: rt @shamtastic #thoughtsintheclub my girl stop walk inna video light. Yuh hole big nuh bl***claut. Di whole a qnz and bk dun know dat.

pinkcouture90: #thoughtsintheclub ni**as no damnn well dey get money but walk up in da video light talken shit

pozeup: #thoughtsintheclub but wait, why da f*ck is dis dancer man pushing me for the video light -_-

mizzkeribabi: #thoughtsintheclub damn I hate when bytches try and hide from the video light (covering dey faces wit flyers and walking awy).stay home den

jaydonthedon: What does Drake have against looking into the camera? I swear to god his side neck gets more video light than his facial.

Freakytye876: @CarnivalBarbie RT Baby Showers have video light!...hahahahaha u crazy lmao

KEEMAS0SEXI: FUKKIN HATE VIDEO LIGHT!!! ... BUT THESE JA BITCHES LUUUUUUUUV IT!! WIT HER TUFF CHICKEN PILL TAKIN ASSS SMFH...

djshortybless: Why is it that it's always the ugly girls that go up in the video light?? LOL!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Top 100 Jamaican Names

I'm sorry, this may be irrelevant, but I think it's hilarious. I've compiled this list from a variety of random online sources, and can not take credit for any of it!

Please enjoy the Top 100 Jamaican Names. Traditional names, common names, old-fashioned names. If you are Jamaican I bet you can find the name of at least 20 relatives on this list!










01. Ainsley
02. Alethia
03. Alton
04. Anne-as a prefix for females
05. Antionette
06. Audry
07. Barrington
08. Beres
09. Bernice
10. Beryl
11. Brenton
12. Bunny
13. Carmen
14. Cecil
15. Charmaine
16. Cherry
17. Claudette
18. Cletus
19. Clifton
20. Dawn
21. Delores
22. Delroy
23. Desmond
24. Donavan
25. Dwayne
26. Earl
27. Eggbert
28. Ernestine
29. Errol
30. Euda
31. Eunice
32. Fabian
33. Ferdinand
34. Fitzann
35. Fitzroy
36. Ford-as a suffix for males
37. Garfield
38. Garnette
39. Glenroy
40. Glenville
41. Hopeton
42. Horace
43. Hortense
44. Hubert
45. Hyacinth
46. Icilda
47. Joyce
48. Junior
49. Kenroy
50. Kingsley
51. Linford
52. Linton
53. Livington
54. Marcia
55. Marjorie
56. Marlene
57. Marva
58. Mavis
59. Maxine
60. Merville
61. Millicent
62. Myrtle (aka Mirkle)
63. Nadine
64. Nardia
65. Natalie
66. Natasha
67. Nigel
68. Opal
69. Pam
70. Patricia
71. Patsy
72. Paulette
73. Peaches
74. Pearl
75. Pearline
76. Peta-Gaye
77. Petoya
78. Petronella
79. Pinky
80. Primrose
81. Prudence
82. Radcliff
83. Renford
84. Renrick
85. Rohan
86. Royford
87. Rupert
88. Sheriann
89. Simone
90. Smith (aka Simit)
91. Stacey
92. Suzette
93. Teddy
94. Tony
95. Violet
96. Wentworth
97. Wilberforce
98. Winnifred
99. Winsome
100. Winston

Have I missed any??? Please let me know!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Are you a great Friend...or a mediocre "Frienemie"?

Before I begin, I want to credit the images used in this post. They're from an outstanding artist named Cidne Wallace. Her artwork, stationary and other products can be purchased online at MBSgifts, It's A Black Thang, or Afrocentric Gifts.

Do you ever wonder kind of friend you are? This is a question I often ask myself, and I take a moment to reevaluate my choices, words, actions, and surroundings probably more often than I should.

For a lot of us, our girlfriends are our family. We love them, look forward to their company, depend on their compassion...and they are an important part of our daily routine.

We we get older, friendships inevitably change. Some attachments grow stronger...others grow apart. Some resentments develop and animosity grows...some appreciations increase and respect grows.

The people we spend our time with at different stages represent our lifestyles, our standards, social preferences, and even our mental state. There are friends you party with, and friends you can cry with and bear your soul. Friends you can laugh with, and friends you can discuss issues with. Sometimes these friends are the same...sometimes various women hold various roles in your life.

It's always great to have other women to turn to, in general. Understandably, you can't be close to EVERYONE, and family and career obligations may not make you accessible all the time. But I do strongly believe that having a close network of at least one or two girlfriends that you can ABSOLUTELY without a doubt trust (with 100% certainty!) and depend on (through thick and thin!) is essential. I also strongly believe that you won't be able to have genuine and sustainable friendships, unless you know how to be a genuine and sustainable friend.

Being a good friend is something we should all work on, just like we work on and develop other skills. The kind of friend we are at 15 should not be the type of friend we evolve into at 35 or 45. There have to be lessons learned, stronger efforts, and concious awareness about how we act, how we are perceived, and how this all affects our relationships with other females.

I believe a good girlfriend should:

1) Allow you to express your thoughts and fears freely and safely at all times.

2) Make herself available to you in your times of need (within reason, or course, and based on urgency).

3) Include you in her life's routine (where comfortable), warmly, regularly, and without hesitation.

4) Be honest with you about everything. No exceptions. Good and bad; with taste.

5) Keep the trust of others, thus keeping your trust as well.

6) Have your best interest in mind at all times; encourage and motivate you to do your best and be your best.

7) Protect you from the others by defending you, and speaking well of you.

8) Be good company, someone you like to be around, even if you're not "doing" anything.

9) Respect your time, opinions, and lifestyle...and respect you enough to tell you when you're messing it all up!

10) Know when to support you, when to give you your space, and when to intervene.

If you could create the perfect girlfriend, what characterstics would she have? Now...what is stopping you from being everything that you wish to see in a friend? It's that simple. In order to have great friends and gain their respect, you have to learn how to be a great friend worthy of respect.

OK, so this isn't anything new. But if we all KNOW the fundamental differences between a good friend and a bad friend....WHY do some females continue to be gossips, unreliable, liars, disrespectful, grudgeful, jealous, or insensitive?


Please click the logo below to purchase one of the novels in my Urban Toronto Tales collection, "Stories about the Life YOU Live"...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why I'm Not Mad at Black Men for Dating Outside Their Race

To each his own!

This week I've read a few random Facebook discussions, a feature in Essence Magazine's online newsletter, and listened to a friend praise her own current interracial dating experience, so the topic is on my mind.

Is it even "issue" enough to discuss anymore? "Single black women outnumber single black men"..."Most black men are babydaddys or incarcerated"..."Black women are too difficult"..."That's it! I'm only dating white men from now on!"..."A brother shouldn't bring any woman home that can't use his mama's comb"...if you've heard one comment, you've heard them all.

So what kind of hypocrite would I be to say that interracial dating bothers me, when I have very close female friends of ALL races. ALL who have dated black men at one point in time, if not currently. I'm sure a lot of you fall into the same category. If you can spend countless hours having numerous things in common with your non-black female friends....why can't he?

And where do you draw the line? Dating a white woman isn't OK...but dating an Asian/Indian/Latino woman is? Are there degrees of "black like-ness" that are more acceptable when a black man is dating a non-black woman? If you're bothered by the white woman, you should be bothered by all other variations of non-black as well...right?

It is what is it. No excuses necessary. For whatever reason, not every black man is going to want to date a black woman. Some actually prefer not to. Some do it un-intentionally: things just happen! Can I get mad at that? Nope!

How many times have your heard one of your black female friends proclaim that they are DONE with black men, once and for all? Do you get mad at her for declaring this? Or if one of your black female friends walked into a room with [insert attractive/intelligent non-black male here]...would you shun her?

There are many reasons why the majority of people prefer to date within their race. Cultural preserverance comes to mind. Comfort. Familiarity. Natural attraction. However, having grown up as first-generation Canadians where we have been exposed to every race imaginable from infancy...is it that odd that some people will naturally gravitate towards classmates, co-workers, and neighbours of another race...and that they might actually have a lot in common with them, through common CANADIAN experiences?

You can't help who you fall in love with, and you can't always explain or historically justify what turns you on, or what you are attracted to in a mate. All you can do is mind your business and let people date whoever makes them comfortable for whatever reason. If they do indeed have an identity crisis, self-hatred, or a family complex...that's for them to deal with on their own. No amount of cut-eye or kiss-teeth will change that.

I am not mad at black men for dating outside their race, because everyone has free will, and will deal with their choices/consequences accordingly.

As long as I know I am making the best decisions for ME and my own personal, cultural, and social well being...everyone else can do as they choose! Even the brothers who prefer to date outside of their race.

It doesn't make sense to waste time and energy getting mad about this "phenomenon." Take that same energy worrying about how to make yourself a better person, and how to make sure you have your own healthy relationships.

We all have our preferences: dark skin, light skin, thick, thin, foreign, local, Jamaican, Asian...and sometimes we can't even explain why we prefer one "type" to another...it just is what it is.

I know what I like...and I can't expect others to agree with my personal tastes. I think it's only fair that we have the same respect for others.

What emotions do these images evoke from you? Why?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Steve Harvey says: "Standards...Get Some!"

I'm sure one of your girl friends must have told you about this book by now, if you haven't already read it for yourself. Steve Harvey's "Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, And Comittment" is like the new "He's Just Not That Into You." Equally entertaining, and very truthful.

And with any of these relationship "self-help" books, the author is never really telling you something you don't know deep down already. Even if you're happy, secure, and in a wonderful relationship already, I would still recommend that you take the book in. Steve Harvey is a comedian, so the book is funny if nothing else. The truth is refreshing, and he puts his message together in a very light and accepting way.

The 15 chapters are divided into 3 sections: 1) The Mind Set of a Man, 2) Why Men Do What They Do, and 3) The Playbook: How to Win the Game. Here are some of the highlights I found from each section.

THE MIND SET OF A MAN

  • A man needs his woman to have his back, and make him feel appreciated.

  • He needs to have his life in order before he can fully concentrate on fulfilling a woman's needs.

  • If he is "into you," he will not hesitate to show you off.

WHY MEN DO WHAT THEY DO

  • Let him know your "price" upfront: he will let you know if you're worth it, or he'll move on.

  • Either you're a Sports Fish (no rules, self-respect, or guidelines) or you're a Keeper; only you determine what type of woman you are going to be. Keep in mind: determining that you are a keeper is no guarantee that this guy still won't just walk away.

  • If a man is not looking for a serious relationship, no matter how great you are, you can't change his mind.

  • Don't let him get away with disrespecting you!!!! (Sidenote: EVER)

  • Men cheat because they can, and believe they will get away with it. There is always a woman out there willing to cheat with him. (Sidenote: DON'T be that woman either!)
THE PLAYBOOK: HOW TO WIN THE GAME

  • Get some standards; lay our your requirements, and he will decide if he is up for the challenge.

  • Let the man show you what he's made of; figure out how you expect to be pursued and do not settle for less!

  • Get to know his views on family, finances, religion, and how he plans to build his dreams.

  • Avoid being led on a string: don't be afraid to confront him with your needs and expectations.

  • Find out about his short term goals, long term goals, views on relationships, and what he thinks and feels about you...if you don't ask, you may never know.

  • Try to hold out the goods for 90 days...just like a new job, make the brother qualify for those benefits!

  • Play close attention to how he reacts to your problems, how he acts under pressure, how he handles bad news.

  • Make him feel like a man: don't give up your pride, job, education, or dignity...just be a lady.

  • If you expect to get married, let him know this, instead of waiting years...and hoping he will ask.
It's not rocket science, but it is interesting, it is valueable information, and we can all learn from previous mistakes, and false misconceptions. Relationships are hard work--regardless--but it's always nice to hear suggestions presented in a new way.

The one lesson that stood out to me: GET SOME STANDARDS! Respect yourself. This can apply when it comes to relationships, friendships, or even your job. Expect the best for yourself, give your best to others, and realize that you deserve to live and be treated greatly.

No excuses.

The book is wonderful. I recommend that you pick up a copy and read it for yourself. For a quick on-line sample, check out this <<excerpt>> that was shared on Oprah's website.

If you do get a chance to check it out or have already...please share your thoughts/feedback with me!


Please click the logo below to purchase one of the novels in my Urban Toronto Tales collection, "Stories about the Life YOU Live"...


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Book Review: "A Rare Groove" by Sophia Shaw

[Fanning face...]

This book is HOT!

Written by Canadian author Sophia Shaw, "A Rare Groove" is a sexy and enticing love story about the vacation romance that sparks between Simone St. Claire and Maxwell Harper. The two meet while attending a wedding in Jamaica, and have an instant connection despite Simone's inevitable return to Atlanta, Georgia, and Maxwell's to Toronto, Ontario.

Without giving the story away, I can safely say that it doesn't disappoint. The drama is juicy, the romance is alluring, and the characters are likeable. Most importantly, the love story is accompanied by a tale of a family trying to reconnect and reestablish relationships after nearly a decade of silence, as well as a dangerous encounter sparked by a high-profile criminal investigation.

Succesful and strong, Simone is a portrait of a confident woman who is faced with the opportunity to be the official girlfriend of a professional athlete, but knows herself enough to not get caught up in the hype of Atlanta's Kevin Johnson. As the heroine of this tale, Simone is sweet, yet convincingly human as she is faced with the dilemna of following her heart and passion, or sticking to a traditional and secure plan when it comes to her future and romance.

The seductive Maxwell Harper makes a great love interest for Simone, possessing all of the physical traits to make any woman weak, yet having enough vulnerability to give his character depth and compassion.

While any romance could easily catch fire while on a tropical vacation, both Simone and Maxwell are surprised at just how strong their connection is, after only knowing one another for a short while. Sophia Shaw's descriptions are vivid, and characters are authentic, travelling through various locations to bring a love story that is raw, very sexy, and sure to entertain!

Can't wait to read her other books!


Please click the logo below to purchase one of the novels in my Urban Toronto Tales collection, "Stories about the Life YOU Live"...