Monday, January 30, 2012

How "The Help" Helped Me!

>Sometimes I just hate black history month. I hate remembering the unfortunate past of our ancestors. I hate being reminded of the "evils" of white people, and the permanent damage slavery and it's aftermath has done to black people. I hate the photos, I hate the video footage, the riots, I hate all of it because it hurts too much to imagine that these things and behaviours were once standard.

I avoid it. Yes, I'm a coward in that I don't want to confront the images and stories if I don't have to. I haven't seen Amistad. I've never sat through Roots, although I've tried many a time to read it and watch the movie. Hell I'll admit it: I haven't even finished reading Malcolm X! As a writer, a communications graduate, and as a black person...I should be ashamed to admit it. But I just HATE the fact that this extreme overt ignorance is only a few generations away from my reality now.

And then I had to go and watch "The Help." Lord help me, because it was wonderful and painful all wrapped up into one film! I knew it was a good movie, but never got around to the theatre to watch it months ago. But now that Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer have been on the news these past couple of weeks with recognition for their acting...I figured it was time for me to take a look.

It's a great movie. Actually, it's the best movie I've seen in a while. It hit me on so many levels that I couldn't not like it. The black woman level. The independent woman level. The "writing" woman level. It was catching me at all angles and add in the entertainment value, and I couldn't go wrong.

Based in Mississippi in the 1960s, it tells the story of Skeeter (Emma Stone), a journalism graduate and aspiring novelist as she uncovers the untold stories of the domestic helpers in her community. I love the characters Aibileen (played by Viola Davis who was nominated for a Golden Globe, and won a Screen Actors Guild award for her performance), and also Minny (played by Octavia Spencer who won both the Globe and the SAG award). There were also great performances by acting heavyweights Allison Janney, Cicely Tyson, and Sissy Spacek. A great cast of women, as most of the men were unidentifiable.

Despite the heart-wrenching mistreatment of the "negras" and the painful references to segregation, and legislation-supported was an empowering story.

I loved how Skeeter was so determined to tell the story of "the help," and make an impact in her immediate surroundings with her writing. I loved the intelligent "sass" of Minny, and the quiet strength of Aibileen. I was reminded of how STRONG our people had to be to endure such bullshit for so many years!

It hurts, but at the same time it is completely uplifting because I am then reminded of how we have risen. It hurts, but it also shows me how important it is to have a strong character, and determination...even in the worst situations. It shows me that we as a people should make it a point to ensure that we are continuously uplifted, supported, and improving.

It hurts, but it heals, because it has helped me to remember my ancestry and the footsteps I am walking it. It has helped me to remember that even when you have absolutely still have your will, your pride, and you can still affect change both within yourself, and externally.

The Help has helped me to not be afraid of this rich black history, but to embrace it for what it is, and learn from the lessons that have already been taught.

Thanks to writer/director Tate Taylor, I have been enlightened tonight!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Get It Together, My Sisters!

Sometimes...I can't blame the brothers for being annoyed. Sometimes I understand exactly why some men have no behaviour. I get it...I can see why they are apathetic when it comes to the antics of their female counterparts. Sometimes I don't want nothing to do with women because even I don't understand what's going on in your minds! CRAZINESS! I don't want to be a traitor to my gender, BUT sometimes I see things, and hear things, and think about things that drive me nuts! So this is my plea for women..."us women" smarten up, and get your shit together!

Yes, I'm single, unmarried, and I have no children. What do I know? Maybe this doesn't qualify me to even dare speak on these subjects. Maybe it qualifies me even more. Nonetheless, here is my bad advice to my sisters everywhere...but especially you in Toronto. Wake up!

1) Educate Youself ~ Education doesn't require thousands of dollars and a university degree, but it does require dedication. Pick up a book! Watch a documentary of some sort. Go to a seminar or two. Have conversations with intelligent people and stop gossiping about nonsense. These are requirements for mental expansion, and the strengthening of your critical thinking skills. Get in the habit of doing things that will challenge your thinking processes, and introduce you to new ideas and systems. Even if you have received formal education, it doesn't mean that you are automatically smart and well-rounded. The mind is something you have to feed and nurture on an ongoing basis. Be committed to consistently learning, growing, and expanding...indefinitely!

2) Know Yourself Before You Judge Others ~ It's so much fun to talk about what other women/people are doing wrong in their lives, why they are messing up, and why you are so much stronger and logical than they are. It's so easy to pass judgement on the people around us, even when our own lives are full of flaws and bad decisions. But there's nothing worse than having an un-informed person decide that they want to be the authority on someone else's life! If you don't fully know yourself, and have full awareness of how YOUR actions look, and how what YOUR behaviours represent, then it might be in your best interest to zip it. We can definitely learn from the actions (and mistakes) of others, but try not to be so quick to summarize and philosophize about another individual until you have your own life figured out. Keep your eyes open, because if there's something that bothers you about someone's more likely a reflection of your own demons that you should work on conquering.

3) Just Because You Look Good Doesn't Mean You're Entitled to ANYTHING ~ You're pretty. We get it. Your breasts are huge, we understand. You live in the gym: you're ripped! You spend hundreds on new shoes, your wardrobe is off the chain, and men are hitting on you left and right. You're a video girl...we can see that! You should be a super model, and enter hair shows in Atlanta, and marry a rapper and live in Hollywood. You're that hot. what else are YOU bringing to the table? By all means: look good! Work out! We all want to be sexy and attractive, definitely! But don't make your dedication to your appearance the end of the road. By all means: dress nice, and put on makeup! Go for it! BUT, don't let that be the end of your attractive qualities. Because looking good might get you the job interview, and might get you a few "digits" from two brothers every time you touch the road...but what's going to keep that job? What's going to keep that man? Your new boots? Your new expensive hair? Yes...draw them in, but you better make sure you have the strength of character, intelligence, and sensibilities to be MORE than just a pretty face/hot body. Looking good doesn't entitle you to anything. Just because you're hot doesn't mean that men automatically must shower you with money and attention, or that people automatically must pay attention to your business ideas and aspirations. Put in the work on the inside too (cliche enough?), and don't rely on visuals to get you through. Because trust me, that shit is only appealing for so need some other qualities to complement the hotness.

4) Stop Using Your Children as Collateral ~ If I had a dollar for every baby mama drama tale I hear, I'd stop blogging, quit my day job, and buy an actual writing career. For the love of JAH, ladies! If you're going to have children, you better realize that they are going to have a father. And if the father doesn't want nothing to do with his child (aka YOU) and doesn't have the common decency or intellectual ability to realize his role and responsibilities as a father/man...then there's not much you can do. I'm not making excuses for the deadbeats, but do not spend the rest of your life and your energy trying to teach this brother a lesson! Do not resort to police calling, violence, various forms of stalking and crank calling, and other crazy antics (I don't have the stomach to list them all) to get the man's attention, and get him mad. The last thing you should be doing is destroying the father of your child. The same father that you should want to have involved in your child's life--regardless. Asshole or not, kids deserve to have a father figure in their life. And I don't want to defend the loser dads out there that don't even deserve to have "pickney"...but I also don't want to condone manipulative behaviour and illogical activities that women resort to to "prove" just how bad a father he really is. If you have a child...whether you're single, married, living together...wudeva...your one responsibility as a mother is to nurture this baby, and give them every great opportunity and encouragement and love for them to go into the world. Do not bring the negative energies of hatred around them. Do not stop them from seeing their families and fathers...especially if the families and fathers love them very much. You as the mother will most likely always be the #1 caregiver. Don't take the joy away from others who just hope for even a fraction of time that you get to spend with the little one. And don't use this love for your child, as a reason to be evil and prop up your child as collateral for something else you seek...and may never realistically find.

5) Just Because He's Sleeping With You Doesn't Mean He Cares About You ~ Self-explanatory. Unless this is your MAN, and he's acknowledging you publically and proudly as his woman, and you have entered a mutual commitment...don't get your hopes up. It is what it is, sister. Even if it's THE BOMB! Reconize a relationship from a bootie call. Realize attraction from respect. Remember the difference between love and lust. When someone LOVES'll know. You won't have to ask your girlfriends 101 questions and analyze 101 text messages, BBMs, and conversations to search for hidden clues. When he loves you, when he wants you, when he ADORES'll know, because he will make SURE that you know. Anything just a convenient arrangement. And more often than won't be convenient for YOU, if you still have to wonder wha gwan.

6) Stop Waiting For A Man To Save You ~ Not going to happen. Financially, emotionally, spiritually...not going to happen. You've heard it before, but you truly DO need to love yourself before you can expect someone else to love you, and save you, and marry you, and start a life with you. And even if you're married...unfortunately, sometimes that husband isn't going to save you either. Sad and unfortunate as it may sound at times, you really have to learn to take care of yourself. Handle your own business! Learn how to boost your own self-esteem, and realize that there is no one in the world--not even your best girlfriends--that can rescue you from yourself. You really and truly have to put yourself in a position where you can sustain your own actvities and have control of your emotions (Good luck! PMS anyone...?) at all times. Keep buliding up your own methods of maintenance. Stability. Don't wait around for the perfect man to come and complete your life, because truth be told, even when he comes around, you are still going to need to know how to take care of yourself. YOU are all you'll ever need to be you and to achieve your best. Everything else is just a bonus.

7) Pay For Your Own Damn Self ~ Yes, it's nice to be taken care of. I'm sure it's freaking wonderful to have men purchasing cars, condos, clothing, vacations, and jewelry for you regularly. That does actually happen right? Well, I'm sure some women are fortunate to be pampered and put on a financial pedestal like that (all the power to you, ladies!) but you still need to be prepared to pull out your own wallet and handle your business. TRUST ME...I love chivalry like the next girl. Being pampered sounds GREAT to me. "But"...I am prepared to pull out my own wallet and handle my business. I am prepared to save, and plan, and know that if I want to enjoy the luxuries in life, while I hope an intellectual and nurturing sexy chocolate millionnaire (he exists, right?) will come and hand me a platinum card with a smile...that if he isn't around, I can still live the type of life I want to my own methods. Or if something goes wrong and you no longer have access to his pocket or his pampering...that you can still take care of yourself. At the very least...have a backup plan in case your sponsor decides that he don't want to sponsor you again.

8) Stop Hating On Other Women ~ Hating manifests in so many forms! And few women are openly hating. Most are undercover haters. Women that secretly enjoy when you're feeling down, or having a bit of bad luck. Women who secretly think they're smarter/stronger than you, and look down on your choices and practices. Women who don't know how to help you celebrate success, or encourage you to do well. Only stupid women are bold haters that just come out and tell you. The majority if women are not going to admit their insecurities and true feelings...they are going to pretend that it's "all good" and pretend that they're "fine" and pretend that they are "fierce" and emotionally stable. But a true sign of a hater is a woman who isn't keeping it real with HERSELF. Stop watching what other women are doing or not doing. Do you. Celebrate yourself. Celebrate other women. There is strength in sisterhood, and you are more likely to progress in your own life if you learn how to help others, accept help, and genuinely put good energy into the world.

9) Build Your Own Legacy ~ You are here on this earth for a reason. I think the majority of us are dedicated to finding this reason, and developing it. Men and women are here to recognize their God-given abilities, and to put them into action. And our legacy can manifest in many forms: service to others, being a parent, or being involved in particular activities, businesses, or initiatives. There is no clear path to finding your legacy, or determining what it is that you are supposed to contribute to the world, but it is important to have something to build towards. Whether you have it all figured out or not, realize that you are going through life leaving a mark with everything you say, everything you do, and everyone you meet. Make sure this legacy is one marked with class, with integrity, and with purpose. Don't just go through the motions...find a direction, and don't lose focus of it. Stand for something! Represent something! Represent yourself exactly the way you want to be remembered.

10) Know Your Value ~ Once you find that legacy, and find that direction, you can live your life knowing who you are, and what you are worth. And if you are still searching for a direction and a purpose...know that you are capable of doing great things, and that your contribution is valuable. And if you don't believe that...then find a way to make it true. If you think you don't have any value, then create value for yourself. No one else will place a value on have to stand firm in your worth, know yourself, and set some standards. Know exactly who you are, and don't allow anyone else to determine what you are worth, or what your contribution is going to be. Make this clear, so that no one can ever second-guess who you are or what you represent.

There! I got it off my chest! Maybe I need to listen to my own advice at times...but maybe we all just need to look at ourselves more than we look at those around us. Maybe we need to study ourselves, before we study other people. Maybe we need to realize that the only person we can control in this ourself.

Most importantly, we have to recognize that we are women. We are powerful! We have the power of life. We have the power of love. We have the power of nurturing and strength...and we have some other powers that will always carry some weight... (don't make me post the YouTube clip of that Jamaican radio host and her recommendations!!!)

So women, get it together! Make your sisters and friends proud! Be strong! It's all very simple. Stay focused, be smart, and love yourself. Set a high standard and don't compromise (but be realistic). Expect people to respect you, and do so by making yourself WORTHY of respect.

You are a queen. Don't forget it. And don't make me have to remind you again, because I'm pretty sure this entire post qualifies me as #8 (haaaater)!

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tyrese Gibson (Part 2): If "Open Invitation" was a movie...

When I hear good music, I realize it has the ability to take me out of the audio experience, and into a visual wonderland. The way the instruments collide, the movement of the bass and rhythm, and the overlay of the artist's voice create another dimension of experience.

When I hear good music, it inspires dialogue, it motivates creativity, and reveals storylines to me. As an author, I thrive on receiving new lyrics, and intricate sounds. As a music-lover, I appreciate receiving new creations and allowing them to transport me beyond the CD. Beyond the liner notes.

When I hear good music, I realize that there's nothing else in the world that can tell a story, and explain an emotion or personal journey, like music can.

Tyrese is an actor, and has the gift of storytelling, so as a songwriter, his talent is evident with the way this musical plot moves and develops. It is more than just an album, it is an experience.

If Tyrese Gibson's 5th studio release "Open Invitation" (2011) was a movie, I believe it would tell the story of love, passion, self-reflection, and how a confident but sensitive man reaches out to the woman that completes his experience. Through a series of thoughts, confessions, descriptions, and rhythms, the album took me on a journey, with each song providing an independent soundtrack to a specific moment. Each song created a picture in my mind of what the music would translate into, if it were life depicted on screen or in fiction.

I'M HOME (feat. Jay Rock) ~ The credits role, the profile of a strong chocolate brothers enters the frame. You see the physical perfection, but you sense the emotional sensitivity, and the romantic hesitance. You hear his declarations as he introduces himself to the moment. He takes his place. The song rings of morning, of an awakening, and a new beginning. His face is reflective as he states who he is, introduces his intentions, and presents himself to the world... he is here. He is home.

I GOTTA CHICK (feat. R. Kelly & Rick Ross) ~ And what is the male protagonist of a story, without the introduction of his beautiful female counterpart? We meet the lady of his attraction, and listen to him describe why she is worthy. She's down for him. That's why he "fu*ks with her," he declares. The sound has that southern California bounce, that familiar sunshine aura, and is a mellow but funky groove that lets us know that something's about to go down. Something is brewing...

STAY ~ And the familiar sounds of a familiar hit are refreshing. It's the official introduction to this story. The title screen, and the beginning of the romance. He is a little apologetic, and acknowledges that he is a flawed man, but still promises to do whatever it takes to win the affection of his love. His intentions are deep. In a classic but powerful soul tune, he isn't too proud to beg, and knows what he may have previously lost in this woman. He is willing to now go that extra mile, to make her smile...he's ready.

BEST OF ME ~ The mood becomes joyful, the sounds are motivating, positive, and lively. He is happy to have this woman in his life. He believes she is sent from God to slow him down. He craves her support, for she gives him strength. This is a song of praise, a song of recognition, and a song of understanding. He knows that this woman is bringing renewed life and spirit to him, and he celebrates this...

NOTHING ON YOU ~ At this point, our male protagonist has fallen in love. You can hear it in his voice. You can feel it in the rhythm. He tells her: "You stole my heart, so I can't go far." He feels good, and his mood is complemented by the heavy bass of this good, old-fashioned slow jam. It's a moment. There is movement. He realizes that the other women have nothing on her. They don't even compare...

ONE NIGHT ~ So the brother is feeling good! He's in a good place. He has his lady. Life is nice! He's ready to hit up the club, catch a vibe, and enjoy the moment. You can feel the's sexy, it's light...something wonderful is on the verge of happening. He's taking a break, he's pausing to soak in the stage of his relationship, and celebrate it out on the town with his people. He reminices over when he first met his love, and how he had to prove himself to her. His seduction is deliberate, but still light, and confident. He knows what he has...yet he wants to make sure she knows that "what [he] has...will mess [her] mind up". Cause when this party is over, when he's finished riding this beat, and popping those's about to be taken to another level...

IT'S ALL ON ME ~ Our main character is contemplative now. He's got big plans, making big promises, and preparing for a deep seduction. He's ready to put everything out there for this woman. He's being boasie (as my Jamaicans would say), and he's flaunting what he's got. He's dancing. He's bouncing. He's riding that beat. He's saying yeah, I've got the money, and yeah I can take you where I need to take you...but guess what? She's worth it. And guess what? She can have it all. He needs her more than he needs these prizes, and he's willing to give her his riches. He has the money...but the money means nothing. He's feeling good, the rhythm is dictating his mood...and it's all about the value of her womanhood. She's priceless.

TOO EASY (Feat. Ludacris) ~ So he's given up the riches (in theory) and let this woman know her value. Now: he's remembering his manhood. The sound is grimy; he's feeling grimy! He's back at the club, and he's back in the fast lane. He's not dancing, but he's definitely grooving. He's having a ball...but he's ready for what's next. He's cool, he's re-claiming his status. He's remembering his roots for a minute, because he's been working hard. He's been grinding. He's "doing it big, and hustling hard". He "makes it look too easy" and he knows it. He is proud, of himself...

TAKEOVER ~ We hear the thoughtful, light groove. The music is hopeful. It's reassuring. He's anxious. He's been preparing for a while, but he's ready to takeover. He's driving with a slight lean; he's ready to take full control and solidify his plans. "You don't have to worry," he says, because he finally has it under control, mentally. You can hear the confidence. You can feel it...

I MISS THAT GIRL ~ And while he drives in preparation for the takeover, he reflects back to the woman in his life, and the journey they've taken. He remembers when he didn't have her. He remembers why he now appreciates her so much. It's a sad, reflective soulful anthem with a combination of horns that makes you feel how his heart is fluctuating, and longing. He reflects on how lonely he was without her. He realizes to himself, "where would I be without [her]?" He feels the magnitude of the moment...and knows there was a time when he couldn't bear being without her. He never wants to be in that place again...

INTERLUDE ~ Oh, it's about to go down! It's sexy. It's a late-night phone call between the two lovers, and although there's light-hearted and playful banter between them, the deep baritone voice, the teasing tones, and the seductive language let's you know exactly what time it is.

MAKE LOVE ~ Mmmm! Without lyrics, the music alone sets the mood for a subtle yet agressive session of deep connection, heavy breathing, soothing voices, comforting whispers, and the strong vocals of a man carefully pleading for intimacy and easily receiving it. All of the contemplations and previous experiences have all come down to this one moment. Simplicity. A chorus of polite invitation. Harmonies of a mellow pleasure. Details of an expert lover. The passion sounds evident. The heat is evident.

ANGEL (feat. Candace) ~ And the love making smoothly transitions into the after-glow. The same slow-paced snap and bass rhythm. The same vibrato keyboards. The same background vocals, smoothly calling out in joy. And it's now become a spiritual experience. He has planned and worked his way into his woman's life, and now he is giving thanks. Now he is singing out in satisfaction, and now he is joined by a female voice: an angelic complement to his vocal gratitude. He describes how he's opened up. He proudly declares his love. He describes his divine viewing "like a vision from the sky" and is motivated to share his discovery. He has been moved, for he has been to heaven.

WALK ~ And at the end of our character's journey, he asks you to walk with him. He wants to talk to you. He has been through a phenomenal experience, of love, that represents one person's connection to another. But now it's time to take a step back, and analyze what that connection means. To understand how one gets to that point where they're in a position to accept and appreciate that type of connection. And in a prayer to the Lord, Tyrese, our character in this fictional journey, opens himself up to his fans, and to his God. He is on his knees, praying. And in a sultry tone, with comforting words of wisdom, he speaks to us...the listener. The passion has come, the epiphanies have been reached, and now...he just wants to walk.

And as he walks, he acknowledges that he is thankful for his blessings. He asks God for clarity, and suggests we also seek that life is revealed to us. He addresses his insecurities, and his beliefs in God's plans and gifts. He "finds comfort in discomfort." He looks at the people he spends time with and accepts that his life will be a direct reflection of his surroundings. He becomes a dub poet and a preacher, a friend and a voice of reason.

He walks. He has placed his soul onto the tracks, shared the strength of his voice that is easily comparable to the legendary R&B crooners of our present and past. He celebrates the power of love and partnership, acknowledges the hard work he put in to get there, and then winds down to say thank you. He has let the music uplift the audience, and his voice summarize the listening experience.

If this album "Open Invitation" was a movie, it would bring us through the emotions of life, naturally, and conclude with an open end...and an opportunity to take away whatever conclusion our spirit desired at that very moment.

At the moment of taking in this album today, my spirit needed to hear the sounds of comfort, his voice of seduction, be reminded of the possibilities of true love and its bountiful benefits, and of course conclude with the focus on the Creator. Conclude knowing that none of these experiences--artistic or otherwise--would be enjoyed without His divine direction.

When I hear good music...I feel the spirit. When I feel the spirit, I feel alive. It is my drug! My sustenance. I am grateful for those who have been given the gifts to write, sing, produce, and share it. Therefore I gladly accept Mr. Gibson's "open invitation" to take part in this classical musical moment in time.

Next up...I review his New York Times Bestselling book: "How To Get Out Of Your Own Way."

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tyrese Gibson (Part 1): The Next Pop Prophet

I am impressed by R&B singer/ actor/ model/ author Tyrese Gibson.

Physical beauty aside, I am impressed by the role he is claiming in pop culture, and the effort he is making to share his wisdom, carve his niche, and maintain his abilities across the entertainment spectrum.

He is a pop prophet on the rise: speaking by divine inspiration; a spokesman for a movement; gifted with moral insight and powers of expression.

There haven't been many lately. I think with the hype and excitment of Barack Obama entering the United States presidency, there was a huge void filled in pop culture discourse and "urban" cultural leadership. Obama represented the voice of reason, the voice of hope, and the voice of self-identity for many.

I've always felt that since the highly visible and highly vocal fraternity of the Civil Rights Movement, that there has been a lack of dominant leadership. Black male leadership, specifically. Rather than looking to ministers and politicians, businessmen and radicals to lead movements and suggest ideologies...young people and urban society-at-large did not necessarily have any organized movements to follow.

"The people" were lost, and I believe it was evident in the cultural products that were being created and disseminated. Hope was gone, the superficial was infiltrating big time, and there was a lack of upward mobility...or at least the public perception of this mobility.

Between the Martin Luther King Jr. / Jesse Jackson era and the recent Obama movement (which has argueably lost some steam), I truly believe that pop cultural icons have stepped up their game as of late, stepped away from their microphones and movie sets, and made great efforts to expand their reach.

We are seeing a new level of intelligence emerging. Lyrical content is improving. Creativity is expanding. And by no means am I judging society entirely on pop culture's contribution...but I do believe that the "prophets" of pop culture do have a great deal to do with social perceptions, and even the thought processes of those growing and developing within their era.

But there have been changes. A rapper is no longer just a rapper. An actor is no longer just an actor. Those who have been given a consistent fan base, considerable cash flow, fan-induced power, and an acute understanding of their demographic, along with the wisdom of transition...have indeed become the modern day prophets.

And rightfully so.

Now those engulfed in their world of science, religion, literature, dance, medicine, agriculture, or other fields will have their own trendsetters and their own voices of wisdom, leadership, and reason. When I speak of pop prophets, I am referring to mainstream mass media, popular culture, and those in the public North America.

I believe the church/religious organizations, political representatives, and others in positions of leadership no longer carry the same widespread influence...particularly when it comes to this generation of young folks. While every generation has it's griots and role models, I find that the "hip hop" generation of the past few decades has managed to skilfully create and sustain urban idols.

People who speak their language. People who understand their struggles. And most importantly...people who are a product of similar environments, yet who have obtained status and success as a result of their discipline and talents.

We've seen it happen with Tupac, with Will Smith, Jay-Z, and Russell Simmons. We see Kanye and 50 Cent stepping into their business shoes. Oprah. Some are extremely visible in their ventures, their best-selling books, and their philanthropic activities. Others move low-key, and make moves behind-the-scenes, undetected by E! News and TMZ.

As a self-professed entertainment junkie, I enjoy observing the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Yes, I keep up with the Kardashians, tune in to Ryan Seacrest, and frequently research the "who's who" of Hollywood and beyond because I truly believe a lot can be learned from our modern day "celebrities."

While history and politics are also excellent subjects for character studies and human understanding, my interests have always remained with the here and now. What's hot. What's new. What's popular...and why.

Particularly because these individuals obtain such a high level of financial success and such extreme visibility that I am often fascinated by their perspectives on life....after getting what most of us are striving to get, to a certain extent.

After you get the money, the cars, the power, the influence...for the well-adjusted, I believe this is prime opportunity for you to reflect on what is REALLY important in life. Some of us can realize this without obtaining ridiculous riches...some of us will never be satisfied until the level is reached, and the goals are met.

But it's always interesting to listen to the words from those who have struggled, and who have "made it"...and then to heed their lessons and learn from their experiences, and hopefully walk away realizing that all that glitters is not platinum...and that they too continue to strive for basic wisdom and understanding.

Enter Tyrese Darnell Gibson. He just turned 33 years old, born in Los Angeles, been on the scene for just over 15 years, and still staying visible. Discovered while riding a bus in 1994, he began his career modelling, but that soon transitioned into a lucrative acting career when he was cast as "Jody" in 2001's Baby Boy, followed by roles in movies like Four Brothers, Annapolis, and the Transformers and Fast and the Furious sagas.

I've watched many of his interviews, I'm one of his 2,261,233 Twitter followers, I'm a fan of his movies, and I distinctly remember how his 3rd studio album "I Wanna Go There" got me through a challenging and inspirational part of my life. It soothed and comforted me when I was at a pivotal point in my growth as a woman, and remains a special album in my collection for what it represents.

Did I mention that I have a steady rotation of his photos as my BlackBerry wallpaper? But I digress.

So I'm an admirer of his talents, and my interest in his intelligence has been piqued. I'm finally going to review his 5th album, "Open Invitation" (released in November of 2011), and read his book "How To Get Out Of Your Own Way" (released in April of last year).

And then I'll continue my thoughts with "Part 2" of why I believe Mr. Gibson will indeed by one of the great thinkers of our generation in pop culture...

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why I'll Always Love The Muppets

As a child of the 80's, it should be no surprise that I grew up a fan of the Muppets. As an adult of the millennium...sometimes I still think of them fondly. I realize that there was a consistent theme within their shows, their missions, and their passions that are still evident in my present-day interests.

So they're puppets, I know. So their stories were fictional: I get it. And believe me, they're not the ONLY source of motivation and direction in my life, but every now and then I realize how much I loved them as a child...and I completely understand why.

Created by puppeteer Jim Henson, the Muppets were a gang of fun-loving and dynamic animals and personalities who were introduced to society through the television show: The Muppet Show. Beginning in 1976, this program brought viewers 120 episodes and embedded them in history for life.

Every night on The Muppet Show, theatre director Kermit the Frog would try frantically to bring the show together, despite inevitable mishaps, chaos, and problems. Each episode would feature a "human" guest star, and the versatile multi-layered humour would make the show a favourite with well as children.

The cast was loveable: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy the diva pig who was always in search of stardom, stand up comic Fozzy Bear, Scooter the nerdy gofer, Gonzo the odd stuntman, Rowlf the piano dog, the gibberish-talking Sweedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew the scientist and his lab assistant, Beaker. And how about the ultra-cool band: Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem featuring Animal on drums, Sgt. Floyd Pepper on bass, Janice on guitar, Zoot on sax, and Lips on the trumpet.

Then there were Statler and Waldrorf, the grumpy old men who would heckle the Muppets from their box above the stage.

Classic stuff!

Looking back, I can see that the elements of "showtime" were always strong. Especially in two of my favourite childhood movies, The Muppet Movie (1979) where the group takes a cross-country trek to find stardom and success in Hollywood, or The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), where they head out to New York City to take their show to Broadway.

They were always about the show, about the song and dance, about entertaining others, and getting through their crazy issues to put on a spectacular production.

The latest Muppet film, The Muppets (2011) starring Jason Segal, Amy Adams, and Chris Cooper, also features a memorable musical soundtrack, as Jason and the cast attempt to save the old Muppet Theatre from destruction. I haven't yet seen this movie (and may never)...but I love that they are still relevant. At least to some of us.

The love of everything entertainment is a dangerous, yet seductive addiction. Loving the spotlight, loving the hype, the glamour, the energy, the people, the fame, and the success. But at the root of it, as an artist, is the love for producing something and sharing it with the world. Whether it's a book, a movie, a song, or a dance or athletic performance. There's usually an artistic driving force behind this passion that is unavoidable, impossible to subside, and something that you can't matter how unreasonable or farfetched your desired results may seem.

That's why you gotta apreciate them. They were ridden with disaster and personality clashes, obstacles and unfortunate events...but they kept going! They kept singing. They kept dancing! They worked together as a team, and they travelled and journeyed wherever they had to go to make their dreams come true.

And that is why I'll always love the Muppets. For encouraging Stacey Of The 80's to love the arts, and take the ups and downs knowing that the final show was always worth the wait!