Monday, December 26, 2011

Resolutions...a way to positive change

The New Year is upon us with its promise of positive change and renewed hope.

It is a time for making resolutions; however, I recently heard someone say that she is not making resolutions this year because she did not accomplish last year's.

Do not avoid making resolutions because of past failures. Change is difficult. Our habits develop over long years (often for reasons we are not conscious of) and resist breaking easily. There is a behavioral model that outlines the steps toward changing behavior or habits.

The Stages of Change model was originally developed in the late 1970's and early 1980's by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente at the University of Rhode Island when they were studying how smokers were able to give up their habits or addiction.

Here is a much-simplified version:
  • Pre-contemplation: Not seriously thinking about change
  • Contemplation: Aware of consequences of a bad habit and thinking about your problems
  • Preparation: Have made a commitment to change
  • Action: Taking steps to change
  • Maintenance: Avoiding temptation to return to bad habit(s)
  • Relapse: Discouraged but recognize that cessation of a bad habit does not follow a straight path
Consider these stages when making resolutions. Expect to falter along the road to change. Narrow resolutions to one or two. Reward yourself for small steps taken in the direction you want to go.

My list of 2012 resolutions is short: handle my finances better, get fit(ter) and kick start my writing career.

Will you dare to change?

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Zombie Love

    I am a fan of zombie movies and TV programs: "The Walking Dead," (AMC), "Shaun of the Dead," "28 Days Later," "Zombie Apocalypse," "Dawn of the Dead," "Return of the Living Dead" and countless others.

    Imagine my surprise when a student in one of my writing classes said that he had done maintenance at an Army facility that housed real-live zombies! He was very serious (and seemed to be in his right mind).

    He told me, "Go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website and see for yourself. They have information about zombie attacks."

    Well, I did, and you can, too.

    Likewise, while driving through Vegas one afternoon, I spotted a truck with an official-looking decal that read--"Zombie Response Team."

    Surely, zombies do not exist. What do you think?

    Photo courtesy

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Book Lovers Alert

    One of TV's great offerings is C-SPAN2's Book TV (, a weekend potpourri of interviews, seminars, and panels with non-fiction authors. Books run the gamut from  history to linguistics to politics.

    From book fair to bookstore appearances, authors read from, talk about, and answer questions about their books. I always find myself jotting down titles that I would like to read:
    • Pox: An American History by Brandeis University historian Michael Willrich
    • The Jersey Sting, A True Story of  Crooked Pols, Money Laundering Rabbis, Black Market Kidneys, and The Informant Who Brought It All Down by New Jersey Star-Ledger investigative reporters Josh Margolin and Ted Sherman
    • What Language Is (And What It Isn't and What It Could Be) by linguist John McWhorter
    • Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President by Eli Saslow
    "In-Depth" is a three-hour interview program with viewer call-in and e-mails; few television programs devote that much time to serious discussion. Recent guests have included documentary producer, Michael Moore; novelist, poet, and essayist Ishmael Reed, and Ann Coulter, Fox News commentator and Dems-basher.

    This week's schedule (December 17-18) features Tulane University political science professor Melissa Harris-Perry speaking at Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem about her book Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America (Sunday, December 18, 10:45 AM, EST)

    Book TV keeps me in touch with major themes in U.S. and world history, politics, media, criminal justice as well as countless other issues and events.

    I'm addicted; I hope you will be too.


    Monday, November 28, 2011

    Dissin' America's First Lady

    Americans love First Ladies who are stylish, supportive of their presidential hubbies, and diligent moms. Michelle Obama fits the bill on all counts.

    Likewise, Mrs. Obama is a  graduate of Princeton University (cum laude) and Harvard Law School, mother of two young daughters, Malia and Sasha (who are too young to get much press attention, thank God), and an advocate of childhood fitness and military families.

    She is down-to-earth with a sense of humor and handles herself with aplomb at public appearances.

    Why, I wonder, would NASCAR fans boo Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice-President Joe Biden, last week at an event sponsored by NASCAR and Joining Forces, an organization that promotes the training and hiring of veterans?

    Mrs. Obama does not make policy nor does she have political aspirations (unlike former first lady, and now secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton).

    The First Lady’s primary duty is to represent the United States at home and abroad, which Mrs. Obama does admirably.

    For some narrow-minded Americans, the Obamas defy misconceptions and stereotypes about African-Americans. They are cosmopolitan, articulate, and family-oriented.

    Political leanings aside, what more could you want in a First Family?

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Flash Blacks

    I was talking to my sister about an old movie, Deadly Voyage, I'd recently seen featuring a very young Omar Epps as one of eight African stowaways on a British commercial vessel. Among the seven stowaways brutally murdered by the racist crew is British actor Chiwetel Ojiofor in his debut role.

    I have followed Ojiofor's career since seeing him in the 2008 flick, Redbelt, in which he portrays a master martial artist and trainer.

    The conversation with my sister, who had no idea who Ojiofor is, led me to wonder when Hollywood will recognize excellent black actors who appear in big budget films with major stars, but who still largely play supporting roles.

    Among my favorites are:

    Jeffrey Wright, 37, described by IMDB, an Internet movie site, as "one of the most underrated and underexposed actors of his caliber and generation." He's appeared Source Code, Cadillac Records, Inside Man, American Gangster, and Salt.

    Mos Def, 38, former member of Black Star whose appeared in the Italian Job, Brown Sugar, 16 Blocks, and HBO's biopic Something the Lord Made, about the life of surgical technician Vivien Thomas, who helped pioneer heart surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1930s.

    Michael Ealy, 37, blue-eyed actor whose played diverse roles in Showtime's Sleeper Cell, Barber Shop,  Seven Pounds, Takers, and Miracle at St. Anna's.

    Derek Luke, 38, most famous for playing opposite Denzel Washington in Antwone Fisher. His roles have included playing Sean "Diddy" Combs in Notorious and a South African activist during apartheid in Catch A Fire with Tom Robbins.

    Honorable Mentions: Columbus Short (Stomp the Yard), Idris Elba (Takers), Shemar Moore (TV's Criminal Minds), and Tyrese Gibson (Transformer).

    There are others, but in the interest of brevity, I've mentioned these few.

    Can you name other not-so-famous but fine actors (or actresses)?

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    All Ain't Always What It Seems...

    Wow! Yet another "nice guy,"retired Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, faces allegations of sexually abusing eight "at-risk," boys (read: from low-income families) who were part of his The Second Mile sports program, which he devoted himself to after retirement.

    According to Sandusky, he only "hugged," "horsed around after showers," and "touched their legs."

    Now, it is not my place to pre-judge the coach; however, why are we always shocked when a successful man (or woman) is accused of wrongdoing. We are all human. We are all fallible. We are all capable of despicable behavior.

    For example, we were loath to believe the sexual misdeeds of our leaders (e.g. former Pres. Bill Clinton, former U.S, Representative Anthony Weiner, D-NY, and former New York governor, David Paterson), who each admitted to misconduct while holding the most public of jobs.

    Today, Herman Cain's wife, Gloria, said that her husband would have to have a "split personality" to have sexually harassed women as alleged. It wouldn't be the first time that the wife was the last to know.

    I hope the allegations against Cain are untrue; it seems a shame that these charges will forever tarnish his reputation as a business man and community leader.

    However, if they turn out to be true; don't be surprised.

    Monday, November 7, 2011


    I don't get it.

    How did Herman Cain jump to the front of the GOP's presidential candidates?

    Before his name became a household word (for all the wrong reasons this week), the American public had not heard of him. Yet, Republicans have grabbed onto him as the next possible nominee for the presidency.


    Would you vote for a man who
    • Breaks into "Amazing Grace" at a major news conference about allegations that he paid off several women who reported his sexual misconduct? (Today, one of those women went public.)
    •  Says that China is a "military threat...trying to develop nuclear power."
    • Says that the person he admires most is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who weathered a similar storm of controversy that brewed after Anita Hill, his assistant at the Department of Education and EEOC, testified at a Senate confirmation hearings in 1991.
    • Got downright nasty with hordes of reporters trying question him about the allegations.
    • Has no political experience.
    • Promotes a tax plan under which everyone--from low-income families to millionaires--would pay at the same tax rate, 9 percent.
    In the spirit of self-disclosure, I admit that I am a registered Democrat.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Pre-Herman Cain black presidential candidates

    With Herman Cain dipping his feet in the presidential nomination pool, the idea of another black candidate running for the Oval Office is headline news.

    However, a quick review of American history reveals that as early as 1904 an African-American named George Edwin Taylor from Arkansas sought the presidential nomination for the National Liberty Party.

    In fact, other African-Americans have sought nomination for or campaigned for the U. S. presidency representing major and minor political parties, including Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver (Peace and Freedom Party, 1964), NYC Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (Democratic Party, 1972) ( People’s Party, 1976), Lenora Fulani (New Alliance Party, 1984), Jesse Jackson (Democratic Party, 1984, 1988) and (Alan Keys, Republican Party, 1992).

    What’s ironic is that in Africa and most Caribbean countries a man of color as president is the norm.

    Herman Cain: A (Bitter)Taste of the Limelight

    With sexual harassment accusations dogging Herman Cain, he is getting his first taste of intense public scrutiny by the media. Truth or no, it places a cloud of suspicion over his presidential bid that might kill his chances.

    Well, maybe not. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Norman weathered similar charges during his October 1991 nominaton hearings when former colleague, Anita Hill, alleged that he made inappropriate sexual remarks.

    Despite her testimony, the Senate voted to confirm his nomination (by President George H.W. Bush) 52-48.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    It makes you wonder...

    Case #1

    Recently, I received three letters from the same department of an insurance company with the same date but different instructions about when to pay my back premiums.

    First letter--Pay by 10/26/11
    Second letter--Pay immediately
    Third letter--Pay within 10 days of receipt of letter

    Confused, I called the insurance company to ask which pay date I should honor. After fumbling for words, the customer rep put me on hold to check with a supervisor. When she returned, she advised (in a stern voice) that I pay before the 26th.

    This major corporation, however, only accepts payments by mail or automatic withdrawal. No telephone or online payments. Go figure.

    Case #2

    A cousin of mine who had applied for early social security (at age 62) continues working fulltime. Consequently, she must stay within income guidelines established by the Social Security Administration or pay back a portion of benefits received.

    During the past three months in different letters (some arriving on the same day), the SSA has informed her that:

    1. She owes several thousand dollars which will be recouped by stopping her checks for a specified period of time.

    2. She owes several thousand dollars and must pay immediately.

    3. She will receive a check for a smaller amount the next month.

    4. She is owed back money from SSA calculation error.

    This week, she received another later stating that she will not receive checks for the next two months.

    What happened to the "security" in Social Security?

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Occupy Wall Street: Wimps No More

    U.S. suffragettes in the 1900s. Civil rights marchers in the sixties. Protestors at the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle in early 2000s.

    Observers questioned these groups' motives, tactics, even their right to assemble, often labeling them misguided, disruptive of civic order, or “outside agitators.” Today’s Occupy Wall Street protestors face similar criticism.

    Nonetheless, OWS protestors give a public face to Americans’ frustration at the ineptitude of state and federal governments and the perceived avarice of multinational corporations when addressing the nation’s financial crisises.

    For example, in order to circumvent recent congressional legislation limiting onerous bank fees, some commercial banks introduced new “fees” (e.g. for debit card usage or previously “free” checking accounts) to make up for revenue shortfalls.

    Nonetheless, certain media pundits argue that OWS protestors are not representative of groups that suffer the most economic hardship—low income and working families. Others say that OWS needs a coherent message—to galvanize public attention—or a credible spokesperson to articulate clearly their grievances.

    Last week, on Bill Maher’s Real Time, guest P. J. O’Rourke, political satirist and journalist, asked, “What solutions do they offer?” Come on O’Rourke. Neither Washington nor Wall Street has long-term solutions for long-term problems that confront the nation—from curbing the deficit to creating jobs. Why should protest leaders have answers to complex economic issues?

    Occupy Wall Street is slowly spreading to other parts of the nation…and the world. More citizens are expressing their discontent. Let us hope that this nascent movement grows large enough that those in public office or on corporate boards no longer consider us a nation of wimps.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Job Promises: easy to make; difficult to keep

    Most Republicans vying for the 2012 presidential nomination bash the Obama administration for failing to create jobs; they confidently promise to get unemployed Americans working again.

    If reducing unemployment is so easy to accomplish, why no has prior administration (i.e. the Bush Administration) done so successfully?

    Job growth occurs primarily in one of two ways: through private sector (small and large businesses) hiring or public works initiatives by the federal government.

    Do Republicans have a secret weapon? If so, what is it?

    Democrats also have failed to provide us with clear-cut explanations about their policies and plans to get America working again.

    How exactly will President Obama’s billion-dollar jobs plan work? How many thousands of jobs can we expect it to generate? Who will be eligible for these jobs? What kinds of jobs will be created?

    Republican primary candidates also need to answer hard questions about their plans for job creation.

    Mostly, however elected officials give us slogans and sound bites.

    The public needs substance—the how, what, and when of Democratic or Republican plans to create jobs.

    On the other hand, the media and the public should demand concrete answers.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Will President Obama Get a Second Term?

    Why, I wonder, would President Obama campaign for a second term?

    The sweet smell of success that surrounded his 2008 presidential campaign has turned to stink.

    * His Gallup Poll approval rating hovers at 40 percent, the lowest of his term.

    * Republicans have an almost pathological dislike of the man and his policies.

    * The American public blames him for everything from increasing the deficit to pandering to corporate interests.

    * Democrats have been slow to speak out in support of Presidential initiatives, and some consider him too conciliatory toward Republicans.

    Who will comprise his voter base in 2010?

    Independents? (Not a sure bet, according to some political analysts.)

    African-Americans? (They have been eloquently silent throughout his term.)

    Will I vote for him again? Probably so.

    I do not support all of his policies, but on the other hand, Republicans seem eager to gut or veto any initiative that helps ordinary Americans.