Friday, March 8, 2019

Romance for Dummies


There is no love, when there is no romance

I often get asked why I write about love and romance. Does it not scare me? Or am I really so desperate to be loved? The words love and romance scares many people. It’s true, and matter of fact sometimes scares me too. Often, it conjures up thoughts of having to dramatically change yourself into someone else, to metamorphose into a new being and most of all, to feel appreciated and accepted.

In reality, romance and love are merely a life enhancement, not a real change. You can love someone without romance but without romance, the love fades away. It is the art of awareness and an awakening of the importance in your life of those you love. It is a reflection of the heart, and of the mind, a way to find something meaningful through shared experiences with someone else. 

Romance is also truly the way to a person’s heart and beyond. We all want and need to feel loved. It is the core of our existence to feel that we are important to someone, that we matter. Romance is not a college course, as it requires no degree. It quite simply entails getting in touch with your own heart then touching another's. 

It has been said that if you follow your heart, you will never go wrong, but how many of us actually open that part of ourselves that is the heart? We think we do. We tell ourselves we do. But do we really? We pretend at best, bad actors doing bad acting or feel intimidated. More often, we block than open up, confuse than confide, doubt than trust and to make it worse, we fight, we battle, we go to war. 

To make romance and not war is the challenge. It’s not really a difficult path really. We can enrich the relationships we are currently in, or those of the future, by bringing into our relationships a greater awareness of what is really important, communicating with clarity and adding a little imagination in our love. Take, for instance, the word ‘romantic interlude’. It sounds mysterious, doesn’t it? The mind immediately conjures up all sorts of settings from tropical islands to medieval castles. Everything from mellow moonlit nights and sensual candlelight dinners to clandestine makeouts in the car parking. So, in essence, romance is all in the mind, and the only way to get to it is by unlocking the imagination, by opening the heart, and expressing what is inside. 

Whether you are single, engaged, in a relationship, married a short time, or a long time, romance is important to maintaining strong love and lasting robust relationship. It’s the glue that connects. The possibilities of love are endless, limited only by that willingness to follow the heart as far as it will take you. 

If today was to be your last day of life, what would you have at the top of your list of things you would miss the most? Gone would be the money and material goals, for they, like life, are short-lived. What would you want to be remembered for? The possessions you attained? The success you were in your career? Personally, I would much rather be remembered that I truly loved and was loved. This is not to say we must sacrifice one for the other. It is merely a position of the importance of the things in our lives. 

In these sad times of short-lived marriages and even shorter relationships, there is always a great deal of fear, suspicion, mistrust, and insecurities. So we must aspire a return to romance in our lives and open ourselves to romantic notions, even if we are already in love. This will help restore the value of giving that little extra to our love lives that enriches and touches deeper into our hearts and melds into our minds.

Not only will you improve the life of the one you love, but you'll also improve your own as well. By giving someone the key that opens the treasure chest of who we are and what we feel, we can create a map to that treasure, follow it, or follow your heart, for romance is merely a way of expressing love, and that is the greatest treasure of all. 

If nothing else, you’ll realize life is a wonderful journey that can be enriched through romance, love and a little imagination. So, take that moment, that chance, and explore some wonderful ways to enrich your life, and your relationship. And I hope you find a smile, an opportunity, or just a deep sigh that signals the beginning of something more. Good luck! Happy romancing! 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Jackie Brown and the Blaxploitation Revival


Remembering Pam Grier, again! 

Pam Grier, this legendary name brings an image to mind instantly. Jive-talkin' dope pushers, cat-fighting go-go dancers and, of course, a kickass afro woman who can hide anything from razor blades to a small handgun. And she's been thrust back (periodically) into the mainstream with a vengeance. Her last big comeback vehicle was the 1997 blaxploitation themed crime thriller - Jackie Brown where she plays a struggling midddle-aged flight attendant caught up in a dirty money crime tangle. Jackie Brown incidentally was the third full-length feature film from Quentin Tarantino, Hollywood's favorite former video store clerk. 

Amidst a growing anti-Tarantino backlash, the director hoped to quiet critics with Jackie Brown, his adaptation of Elmore Leonard's 1992 novel, Rum Punch. The unlikely star of Jackie Brown was the then-48-year-old Grier, best known for Coffy (1973), Foxy Brown (1974), Sheba, Baby (1975) and a host of other AIP classics. The question was whether Tarantino's latest disco-era muse will be able to capitalize on the same magic touch that introduced Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs, 1992) to a new generation of film buffs and made John Travolta  (Pulp Fiction, 1994) filmdom's $20 million man. Fortunately, Jackie Brown lived up to the expectations grossing $74.7 million, against a budget of $12 million and earning Pam Grier several awards and nominations including a Best Actress at the Golden Globe. Her co-stars Robert Forster and Samuel L Jackson also benefited with Forster getting an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and Jackson winning a Silver Bear Best Actor award at the 1998 Berlin International Film Festival where the movie was also nominated for the Best Film Golden Bear.

Not every '70s comeback case is as lucky. Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan saw his US career finally take off with Rumble in the Bronx (1995), but subsequent films, merely re-releases of older Hong Kong films, didn't catch fire at the box office. It was only when he started making US features, like the 1998 action comedy Rush Hour with Chris Tucker, that he was able to maintain his buzz in this country. 

The difference between them may be this. The genre of film that Grier is best known for is (still) undergoing something of a revival. From the resurrected career of Rudy Ray "Dolomite" Moore to the remake of Shaft (1971), Blaxploitation icons are everywhere. Why have these films, and the people behind them, become such critical darlings? 

What many in the mainstream press are finally picking up on has been known to film scholars and students for at least the last decade. These films are among the most important and best documented examples of ethnographic filmmaking available. They were, for the most part, produced by black filmmakers, with black casts and crews, for a black audience, much like early "race" films of the teens and twenties that have become required viewing in film history classes. 

As such, they present a view of 1970s America from a black, urban perspective, something missing from even the best intentioned, Norman Jewison directed mystery drama  In the Heat of the Night (1967) or Stanley Kramer's comedy drama Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) - both starring Sidney Poitier or other racially tinged, socially conscious films of the previous decade. 

It was almost a comically distorted view to be sure, a world of pimps in velvet suits and kung-fu fighting call girls, but it addressed issues like social and economic injustice from both within and without the community. "The Man," specifically the crooked white cop or politician, was the least of the problems facing those inhabiting the world of Blaxploitation features. More often than not, much as it might hurt some egos, "whitey" was only a passing presence in the hood, a cop on the take or a mafia figure out for a cut of the action, not a central part of urban inner-city life. 

Ironically, most of the major blaxploitation films people remember today were second generation films with a Hollywood pedigree. Films like Shaft and even Pam Grier's biggest hits were signaling the death of the independent black cinema of the '70s through assimilation. With Jackie Brown, and later, the new Shaft (2000), or Robert Downey Jr's risky role in Tropic Thunder (2008), filmmakers have been hopping on the same bandwagon, some would say honoring, others would say harvesting, the morally ambiguous feel and flavor of this genre. The most notable examples have been Pootie Tang (2001), the very funny Undercover Brother (2002) starring Eddie Griffin and Black Dynamite (2009) starring Michael Jai White besides the more recent Taraji P Henson and Danny Glover starrer Proud Mary (2018) and Superfly (2018)

With a big budget and even bigger stars, it may be, as fellow pop culture connoisseur (and, some would say, washed-up hack) Bono would say, "even better than the real thing". Long live the Blaxploitation revival! 

P.S. Remember to checkout Brown Sugar, a reliable Netflix-style VOD streaming service that claims to offer the “biggest collection of the baddest movies” in the Blaxploitation genre on the internet. Pam Grier, now 69 is coincidentally the Ambassador of the Brown Sugar Network! 


This post originally appeared in the Axiom magazine. It's been updated and revised to make it more relevant to current audiences.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Hunting Treasures on the Internet Highway


Finding love in the cyber universe and other little things 

Last night, I watched the 1998 hit “You’ve Got Mail” starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks on the telly. Directed by Nora Ephron, it’s a bittersweet romantic comedy about two harried souls, who aren't aware of the fact that they already know each other on the earthly plane of the real world, but find each other in an online chat room under anonymous screen names and slowly develop a robust relationship. 

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I won’t spoil it any more of what happens next. It’s ironic though that this sugary story of computer love that transcends into real life still resonates with relevance, even in 2019. After all, all they do is predominantly chat throughout the movie. And despite being bitter enemies in the physical world, they proceed to virtually fall in love. You might think, how? With what and with whom are they falling in love? Thoughts? Passions? Humor? Fantasies? Hope? Or the person itself? 

Like old-fashioned love letters, you’ll have to admit; an incredible thing happens when two people simply correspond in writing. The brain feels liberated, unhindered by the bodies automatic social responses that occur when people communicate face to face. There’s nothing to worry about - how you look, how your voice sounds, whether you are black or white, what gods you follow; there are no judgments and if all goes well, no inhibitions later. There is just the mind working to be understood in a pure realm of trust and communication and opening up to a receptive soul. And soon it becomes much more than just an anonymous chat. 

In the real world, when we meet someone very attractive, we are pulled to them instantly. When the physical attraction is strong, it simply overpowers and takes priority over everything else. Then, it soon fades into oblivion. Lust over reason so to speak, confused for love rather than listening, understanding and accepting. But in the virtual space, you may not fully understand the other person chatting with you but you do have to listen. And vice versa. And by actually listening, you open up to a lot of understanding and that is the wonderful beauty of this exercise.

Of course, in these days of online perverts, sly scammers and dangerous stalkers, you’ll have to be very careful who you are interacting with. And many would tell you that people lie in the online worlds. I have had to endure the concerns of those who believe I'm out of my mind or simply that they are more cautious than me. "They could be lying about who they are!" I've been told. As if to say people you meet in person never lie about who they are? Oh, here's another one, "Anyone who has to put a personal profile on the Internet must be a real loser" or “simply wants to just get laid tonight”

Would you call someone who can type at least 100 words a minute, has the intelligence and literal eloquence to communicate his or her innermost thoughts and feelings, and has the self-confidence, focus, and motivation to actually do it - a loser? And why go through this elaborate ritual for sex when sex is now so readily available, free and cheap. 

Well, meeting someone in the flesh can be far more deceptive and dangerous these days than getting to know someone from afar. We humans are slaves to our senses first and to our hearts second. Remove all of the armour and the sensual desires and we are left with consciousness and communication in their purest forms. 

Thus, I highly recommend the Internet for your next romantic interlude. Of course it helps to know what you are looking for ahead of time. The most important thing when looking for your soul mate is to know exactly who you are. If possible, I suggest you sit down and make a list of everything you know to be true about yourself - down to the last detail, positive and negative and everything in between. Be completely honest. Then write down every detail about the person of your dreams, but that doesn’t mean you ponder up the Dead Pool or the Wonder Woman. 

There have been periods in my life where I have thought hard about the perfect woman I wanted in my life - if at all that was possible. I had a mental image of her down to the last detail - her face, her work, her body, her personality - everything. Obviously, the conventional methods of meeting a woman held no water with me. Did I really believe that the woman of my dreams could be living in the same city I was in or somewhere far off, 1000s of miles away? 

And my online profile too had to stand out. I want the woman to think that here is a man astute enough to know that his profile is just casual enough to make him not appear needy, and just alluring enough to attract a smart woman who knows the difference, or that he is just being honest. Either way I couldn't lose, could I? I’ll be truthful, all completely legitimate notions there trying to attract the best mate possible. 

If you cross this stage, understand that the person of your dreams may still not be ready for you in your present state, especially if you have plenty of emotional baggage. So you have to be insightful and objective enough to realize that you’ll have to shed the excess kilos, be willing to wait and also find someone who is willing to take their chances with you patiently. Patience is scarce you see. 

Typically, we choose only the people we are ready to be with. Every person in our life that we chose before finding the final “Chosen One” - was there because of either unavoidable circumstances or life wanted to teach you a particular lesson at that time. Our needs and wants change. Sometimes, we want to be drowned in affection so we would choose a needy, insecure soul who would smother us with affection. Then, we may want to go to the opposite extreme, pretending we could be with someone who loved you but let you be like a free bird. 

At any given time, we all have an image in our mind of the features that we consider attractive or desirable in the person we seek. As we grow older and possibly wiser, these requirements turn to virtues and traits we pursue and it goes much more than just looks. It’s as if, we have found a new realization dawning on us. 

On the Internet, deception is possible but unnecessary and obsolete because only we know who we are and what we need. Don't be a crafty jerk. Unlike the anonymity of the "You've Got Mail" era, we now have authentic power, the power to search the cyber cosmos incognito to find what we seek so what’s the point in faking an artificial persona? After all, we are looking for love and companionship, so why fake it. 

In the end, finding someone who loves and appreciates you is no easy task on the internet but remember, you’ll be astounded at how the cyberverse can sometimes throw an irresistible surprise at you, who would blow you off your feet and turn your life upside down. And what can happen next could be an incredible exchange of deep thoughts and crazy ideas; of all your hopes and dismal fears; of incisive messages and risqué gifs; of long emails and anticipated notifications, and of course, of carnal lusts and bodily desires. In essence, an emotional outpouring of the souls between two strangers on opposite ends of the city or far corner of the planet, depending where you find your match. A friend, a lover, a mate, a spouse...only time can tell. 

So, my fellow wanderers, start your engines and drive into the vast internet highway and take your chances. And you just might find the treasure to treasure for the rest of your life. Just dont forget to wear your seatbelt though. 


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