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    New episodes of “Celebrity Damage Control” featuring yours truly coming your way!

    All that glitters is not good. Source.

    Fire up the DVR! New episodes of “Celebrity Damage Control” are coming your way only on Reelz Channel.

    Before she gave birth to dem babies, Mariah Carey birthed a box office bomb called “Glitter.” Catch me weighing in on Mariah Carey’s less-than-glam meltdown on “Celebrity Damage Control: Mariah Carey,” Wednesday, 1/21 @ 7:00 PM Pacific/10:00 PM Eastern.

    Follow that up with my commentary on one of rap’s most prominent females on “Celebrity Damge Control: Lil’ Kim,” Wednesday, 1/21 @ 8:00 PM Pacific/10:00 PM Eastern.

    Encores:

    “CDC: Mariah Carey” airs Sunday, 1/25 @ 9:00 AM Pacific/12:00 PM Eastern.

    “CDC: Lil’ Kim” airs Sunday, 1/25 @ 10:00 AM Pacific/1:00 PM Eastern.

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    Confessions of a Reluctant Exerciser: The reluctant AND sick edition

    I’ve spent the past 72 hours attempting to keep my sinuses from exploding inside of my forehead. I understand this isn’t exactly possible and, in many ways, anatomically inaccurate, but the amount of pressure I’m storing upwards of my nostrils would have you think otherwise. I’m suffering from a hacking cough so violent at times, I tear up and fear that I’ve cracked a rib. It’s not pretty.

    And throughout my attempts at decongesting – the endless hot tea swilling and cough drop sucking – I am lamenting that I can’t go to the gym. Yes, it’s catching me a little off-guard, too.

    While I’ve waxed poetic about the many reasons I love my gym, most of them have little to do with actual exercising. But over the past year or so, though, we’ve gotten into a rhythm, my gym and I. I’ve plotted out which classes at which location fit into my schedule best. I know the sweet spots in time and days of the week when it will be the least populated. I’ve made my routine decidedly reluctant exerciser-friendly and, in turn, it’s become one of my better habits.

    So when a particularly aggressive head cold disrupts this flow, I can already feel the inevitable setback I’ll experience when I am, finally, healthy again: the soreness of my muscles after my first weights session, the unease with which I will stumble through my “welcome back” hip-hop class, how I’ll walk with a dull ache in my calves for two days afterward. The pains of just “getting back into it.”

    Which, of course, means I’ve been very tempted to go. But since at least a few of my symptoms are “below the neck” (chest congestion, cough), apparently I should avoid any exercise that’s more strenuous than online shopping. Cold-sufferers with “above neck” symptoms can engage in mild exercise.

    As a reluctant exerciser, I’m taking my downtime to relish not being able to go to the gym really listen to my body and gauge its needs at the moment. It’s forcing me to be present as I try to heal it, whether it’s through more sleep, various juice concoctions with added ginger or hours of lazy Sunday afternoon football-watching. So, when I’m back in fighting/dancing/surfing shape, I’ll be ready to face my routine with renewed reluctance, yes, but, more importantly, renewed health.

    It’s time to change the conversation about race and the Oscars

    A seemingly prophetic tweet from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences account prior to this morning's Oscar nominations announcement.

    A seemingly prophetic tweet from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Twitter account prior to this morning’s Oscar nominations announcement.

    Early this morning, the 2015 Oscar nominations came out, revealing that Hollywood is still very much a monochromatic playground. Nods for Best Actor? All white. Best Actress? All white. Supporting Actress and Actor? White white white white white. Two exceptions in the major categories: a Best Picture nod for the Martin Luther King, Jr. drama, “Selma,” and a Best Director nomination for Alejandro G. Iñárritu for “Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).”

    And the outrage came, almost on cue. The Internet was flooded with not undeserved opprobrium over the race factor in this year’s Academy Awards race, much of it in 142 characters or less. Even the Academy seemed to know it was coming.

    But this conversation is starting to sound redundant. It’s starting to sound like an obligatory annual reaction at the shocking (not shocking) news that a lot of white men run a lot of things and that this is a surprise to anyone. This is like going outside and pointing to a tree you don’t like and saying, “I see a tree, and I hate that tree!” Well, so what? The tree – its roots, branches, leaves – is going to be there whether you hate it or not.

    The Academy may have an African-American female president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs appointed in 2013 – probably more widely known today as the “Dick Poop lady” – but it’s still a largely homogeneous organization at last count. Again, this isn’t news to anyone, or at least it shouldn’t be.

    To accuse the Academy of being purposely racist and snubbing diversity is too simple. It’s too easy and whittles down the larger, structural issue about who gets to tell what stories in Hollywood and why into a collective, angry mantra.

    Chris Rock addresses this structural problem with such elegance and pithiness in his essay for The Hollywood Reporter that I will only try to sum it up here: basically, minorities deserve to tell their stories but probably have to find other ways outside of the big studio system to do so. And when it comes to the color that Hollywood really cares about, it’s the color green.

    One of the most maddening things about awards season is that if you strip away the marketing, the campaigning, the political side of who gets nominated and who doesn’t, awards season – in theory – comes down to honoring the best stories told. Or more accurately, the best of the stories deemed important enough to be told in the first place. Because if you get an Oscar nomination, you – and the story you crafted or acted or depicted or shaped – are important. Let’s not even talk about what happens if you win!

    What frustrates me the most about “lack of diversity in Hollywood” conversations  – and I’ve had many on this blog and in real life – is that the question that largely goes unanswered is, “Why is diversity important in the first place?” The “rah rah yay diversity” triumphs are meaningless unless we know why diversity matters at all; otherwise, we’re heralding the response to a question that has yet to be clearly asked. Even worse, we leave open the possibility that diversity only comes as a form of appeasement, to satisfy a politically correct quota. Some would call this “tokenism.” And quite frankly, unless I am in the Academy (I am not), it doesn’t really matter how I feel about who gets nominated or doesn’t; I don’t have a vote. Of course, this only compounds the frustration.

    So, why is diversity important? Because it’s a reflection of the world we live in. Because there are rich, wonderful stories to be mined and told and portrayed by actors of various backgrounds to be appreciated by audiences of various backgrounds. Because minority audiences deserve to be depicted as normal with normal feelings and wants and desires, not just as “types” or caricatures or one-line cracking tokens. Because these stories, too, are important in the same way the stories of an abusive jazz music instructor and a computer genius who cracked the Nazi code are important. And, if we’re going by Hollywood’s standards, because it’s good business.

    Back to the Oscars. I see one of two ways minorities in Hollywood can “fix” the race problem. The first way is for filmmakers and actors of color to disregard the awards show entirely, deem it meaningless and reflective of such narrow taste that whether someone gets nominated or not is inconsequential. You can say the Oscars don’t mean anything, and take their power away. To quote Paul Rudd’s sage character in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “When life gives you lemons, say, “F*** the lemons and bail!””

    This, of course, would never happen, and nor would I want it to. Joaquin Phoenix notwithstanding, no actor or filmmaker or producer – of color or not – will ever go, “Oscar nomination for me? WHATEVER!” And even Joaquin showed up to the Golden Globes.

    The other way is to change the conversation.

    Today, the day of the announcement of the nominations for the 87th Annual Academy Awards, seems like a good juncture to pivot the conversation of diversity and the Oscars from one of reaction to one of action, from one of “why” to “how”: to not ask why there isn’t more diversity among this year’s nominees, but how filmmakers, screenwriters and actors of color can make the Academy care enough about our stories. Yes, this sounds a little too optimistic – even for my own taste – and a little naive. Like Rock suggests in his essay, diversity isn’t something that just happens because it’s natural and the right thing to include; it needs to be demanded. It needs to be made important. I am not quite sure how that will be accomplished, but I’m not cynical enough (yet) to think that it can’t be.

    I would like to think that Benedict Cumberbatch was nominated for his performance in “The Imitation Game” because it was a beautiful performance. And it was. He is, undeniably, talented. He was also nominated because he had the opportunity to tell the story about a gay British code-cracker who played an integral role in helping to defeat the Nazis in World War II that other people – writers, producers, directors, studio execs – decided was important enough to tell.

    Which isn’t to say David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo were undeserving of nominations as well, but to descend into Twitter-rage over why these fine actors weren’t recognized doesn’t do anything about a problem other than highlight that it’s a problem. We already know that. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

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    Confessions of a Reluctant Exerciser: “Just do it… because you have to.”

    A recent study showed that exercise is changing our DNA and possibly for the better. Which is great, especially for those of us who LOVE working out, which is each and every one of us, right? Of course not. Yes, despite my love for my gym – and I do love my gym but mostly because it has a steam room and eucalyptus-scented towels – I am what I call a Reluctant Exerciser.

    Now this isn’t a title anyone can earn; for example, if you’ve ever willingly run a 5K, you’re pretty much disqualified.

    A Reluctant Exerciser feels that working out is a chore. Nike’s motto? “Just do it.” Hers? “I do it because I have to.” A Reluctant Exerciser has successfully convinced herself that walking into the gym is “light cardio,” an act that deserves a reward of Chili Cheese Fritos. On more than a few weekends, she’s hitting the snooze button instead of the early Saturday morning cardio class. She thinks those “gym selfies” of people taken when they’re using weights machines are weird because how does that even work, and is that even safe!?

    Similar feelings extend to gym attire. Leave the Swarovski crystal-encrusted tops at home; this isn’t junior prom. No, this is something far more dangerous, a war of willpower and (lack of) motivation and, as such, requires an appropriate battle-ready uniform, usually consisting of worn-in track pants and loose, hole-y tank tops. She counts the minutes until her obligatory 30-45 in the gym of doing whatever are up. This is a Reluctant Exerciser; I am she.

    I blame my Reluctant Exerciser status on my stubborn insistence on making exercise boring for myself. This has been going on for the greater majority of my adult working out life.

    In college, my workouts consisted almost exclusively of jumping on a treadmill for 20 minutes and then doing some free weights or crunches on an exercise ball and calling it a day. I pretty much did this workout throughout my entire college career, save for a couple of times when I went running, which only served to reaffirm the fact that I hate running with the fire of a thousand suns.

    With the exception of a few yoga and Pilates classes, I was mostly too intimidated to do anything group fitness-oriented. So, I resigned myself to a repetitive workout that didn’t make me resent the gym as much as be totally bored it.

    It wasn’t until after my college gym days that I discovered I can like working out; it’s just about making it work for me and doing the things I (gasp!) actually like which – surprise, surprise – don’t include running.

    Over the years, I’ve realized that getting out of Reluctant Exerciser mode means making my exercise “routines” anything but. I started by trying a once-a-week Pilates class and then branched out into various versions of barre, interval training, maybe the occasional ViPR session. Eventually, I worked up the courage to try a dance fitness class which was HUGELY intimidating since, up until then, the only dance/choreography experience I’d ever had was a community center class when I was 8. Now I try to take a dance class three times a week.

    At some point between my first major professional gig and my second one, I started surfing, something I had only dabbled in in high school.

    I would still call myself a Reluctant Exerciser. Some weeks, I’m in the gym every day and others, not a single one. The bed still wins out over morning cardio class on occasion. That’s fine. I’ll take a late morning walk with my dog to the park and some coffee instead. And not reluctantly.

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    Catch me on a NEW episode of “Celebrity Damage Control”

    Because Keith Richards. Source.

    Start the new year off right: with some “Celebrity Damage Control“!

    Catch me weighing in on the epic scandal that almost ended the Rolling Stones for good on “Celebrity Damage Control: KEITH RICHARDS,” Wednesday, 1/7 @ 9:30 PM Pacific/Thursday, 1/8 @ 12:30 AM Eastern on Reelz Channel.

    Encore of “Celebrity Damage Control: Keith Richards” airs Sunday, 1/11 @ 9:30 AM Pacific/12:30 PM Eastern.

    Encore of “Celebrity Damage Control: Michael Vick” airs Monday, 1/12 @ 10:30 PM Pacific/ Tuesday, 1/13 @ 1:30 AM Eastern.

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    “Black Mirror” reflects the twisted effects of techno-dependence

     

    “Is there something in my eye?” A scene from the episode, “The Entire History of You” from season one of “Black Mirror.” Source.

    Here’s a personal challenge for you when you’re marathoning episodes of the wildly buzzy “Black Mirror,” currently streaming on Netflix in the U.S.: Resist the urge to pick up your phone while watching. Actually, resist the urge to engage with any technological device that isn’t the one streaming Netflix, and even then, that better be the only thing it’s doing. If you’re on a laptop, turn off your instant messaging and pings about new emails. Don’t go intermittently checking the Promotions tab on your Gmail account. Mute your phone. Just turn it. All. Off.

    Impossible? Incredibly difficult? Do you feel your fingertips just burning to log onto IMDB to look up whether that is, indeed, Jessica Brown Findlay from “Downton Abbey” in episode two? To respond to that last text message? Good. Or maybe for humanity’s sake, bad. Really bad.

    The anthology series – helmed by Charlie Brooker and which originally aired on the U.K.’s Channel Four starting in 2011 – dives into the darker side of our obsession and interaction with technology, the “black mirrors” that have become, for many of us, as necessary as limbs.

    The “Twilight Zone” influence is strong: twisted and morally ambiguous endings, different casts/realities/universes in each episode and delightfully addictive storytelling that keeps the viewer in a constant state of anticipation, of “Well, what next”-ness.

    Perhaps it’s ironic, then, that I’ve been watching this on a streaming service. Indeed, the Internet age seems to be defined by streaming, a steady flow of information, some useful but most of it useless, a time suck of animal videos, listicles and clickbait – the need to broadcast every minuscule detail of everything we experience, down to the food we eat and the grains of sand between our toes on the beach. I’m guilty of documenting both.

    This unending infostream is addressed, hauntingly, in the episode “The Entire History of You,” starring the excellent Jodie Whittaker (you might remember her from the woefully under-seen “Attack the Block” and, more recently, the U.K. TV show “Broadchurch”). It’s set in a future where people steadily record their memories and realtime experiences through an embedded subdermal chip, enabling playback of “perfect memories.” But what helps recall the past also hurts the present as the technology exposes the deep cracks of one couple’s relationship – and with perfect recall, no less. This would all seem like the product of some distant, dystopian future, a cautionary tale of technology’s ability to never forget, that is until you consider Google Glass. Oh, yeah. The future, one could suppose, is now.

    If technology is a drug then “Black Mirror” puts its side-effects under a microscope, magnifying our dependence through equal parts satire, social commentary and sci-fi and revealing those entirely too-human complications that come with such close tethers to technology. Unfortunately for us, but maybe fortunately for the creators of the show, there’s no obvious antidote, no methadone clinic equivalent for what seems like an unrelenting jones, this itch to always be connected, no matter the consequences.

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    “Serial” and the dubious nature of everything

    Like millions of others, I devoured “This American Life’s” spinoff podcast “Serial,” which debuted last October and still holds a #1 spot on iTunes. And I mostly loved the part-true crime, part-reporter’s notebook series. Mostly.

    The show’s popularity has made it something of a pop culture phenomenon, inspiring memes, endless Reddit threads and even a spot-on “SNL” parody. For those not in the know, the series is Sarah Koenig’s 12-part dive into a 1999 murder case she once covered as a beat reporter. Hae Min Lee was an 18-year-old high school student whose body was found in a Baltimore park. Her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was charged with her murder and has been serving a life sentence ever since; he is now 34 and has spent over half of his life in prison.

    Throughout the show’s freshman season (there will be a season two), Koenig revisits the case, piecing together the inconsistencies of the state’s timeline, re-interviewing witnesses including a crucial one whose testimony proved integral in Syed’s conviction and adding in her own thoughts and introspection – usually about the dubious nature of just about, oh, everyone – into the mix. And then there’s The Nisha Call.

    But it hasn’t been without controversy, especially with regard to Koenig, a white reporter, revisiting a story that involves mostly minority subjects from immigrant communities. Lee was Korean-American; Syed is Pakistani-American and Muslim. Episode 11, “Rumors” – criticized by some as one of the weakest ones in the series – stood out in particular because it not only offers up some contradictions to Syed’s general “good kid” reputation (paramedic, volunteer at his local mosque, star athlete, good student) but also reveals the blind spots anybody covering a community of which s/he is not a part should be wary.

    There’s an unspoken rule that I imagine most children of immigrant communities (myself included) in America know: that what you do is a reflection of the entire community whether you think so or not. So in episode 11, Koenig’s incredulity that, after Syed’s arrest, his peers and their parents were concerned – to the point that one friend says his father discouraged him from carpooling with a female friend – that a similar fate could befall another young male member of their close-knit community seems particularly naive.

    And while she acknowledges that many members of the Muslim community Syed grew up in were reluctant to talk to her, she doesn’t blame any part of their reluctance to her status as an outsider asking about one of their own who, as it still stands today, has been convicted of a gruesome murder. In earlier episodes, she largely dismisses Syed’s race and religion as factors influencing the jury throughout his trial. And maybe that’s empirically true. Still, these moments, sprinkled throughout “Serial,” are tinged with a kind of short-sightedness that seems incongruous to the think-aloud introspection she does do.

    With that said, though, “Serial” is riveting. It’s audio storytelling at its finest, the heart of which rests on the complex and dubious nature of everything involved in one particular criminal case, from foggy memories and reputations to shoddy timelines, erratic attorneys, and – whether Koenig emphasizes it or not – race and religion. I won’t get into the white reporter privilege issue or the backlash to the backlash, but I will say that perception is a huge theme throughout the show. That includes that of the storyteller herself. But it shouldn’t keep you from listening.

    Below, “SNL’s” parody of “Serial.”

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