My Reading List of 2017

I started out the year wanting to add some non-fiction to my readings because last year was really fiction heavy. It ended up with me going on a bit of a biographical to semi-biographical kick over the course of the year.

The biography that impacted me the most is called In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park, who escaped with her mom when she was 13 (she’s just 24 now). The book is extraordinary not because it’s hyperbolic and propagandist (which to be clear it isn’t), but because the situations she found herself in were so unlike anything most people would ever experience. And — as far as biographies go — it was an easy read. No filler.

Sophia Loren’s autobiography was really good too. I knew a little about her and was familiar with a few of her films, but I didn’t realize she had been through so much. It was kinda like a few years ago when I read Susan Lucci’s autobiography on a whim despite not being a soap opera fan. It turned out to be one of the more engrossing books I read this year.

When it comes to the fiction portion of my annual reading list, I read my fair share of a lot of different stories, including a couple of Karen Robards mystery suspense stories and a couple Danielle Steel novels per usual.

My favorite of all the books I read this year, however, is Basketball (and Other Things) by Shea Serrano.

I actually read two books by Shea this year. BAOT and The Rap Yearbook, the latter of which I finally got around to after wanting to read it for a few years now. In both cases, once I picked them up they were hard to put down. In fact, I bought BAOT the week it came out — a rarity for me. I really enjoy Shea’s irreverent, casual style and how much info is delivered in a non-tedious way.

In total, I read 30 books this year. That number doesn’t include any Audible books either. Not a bad literary year, I’d say. Continue reading “My Reading List of 2017”


Good Mood Music: ‘Butterfly’ and ‘You’

It’s a 2-fer this month. This year marked the 10-year anniversary of two of my favorite albums: Butterfly by Mariah Carey and The Velvet Rope by Janet Jackson. Both albums are landmarks releases of what were already legendary careers at the time. Both albums were also both products of introspective periods and produced a number of songs I’ve consistently listened to since 1997.

Butterfly, Mariah’s first release after her split from husband and manager Tommy Mottola, signaled her transition into a more independent self. It was when she took full control of her music and image, exhibiting a side of her that had been hidden since she made her debut at the beginning of the 1990s.

The album’s title track is a straightforward take on how she felt like she was finally emerging from the cocoon of the previous chapter of her life. I can play the album from start to finish without skipping a track, but “Butterfly” is my absolute favorite. In fact, it’s probably only behind “Can’t Let Go” on my list of favorite Mariah songs, if not 1B.

The Velvet Rope is a concept album revolving around the metaphor of the velvet rope as the boundary you set around your emotional availability. Who do you let in? Who do you keep out? I remember in an interview Janet saying that this album was her letting people behind her velvet rope. Throughout the album many sensitive subjects are touched upon such as: the then-emerging phenomenon of social networking, depression, sexuality, homophobia, domestic violence, and self-worth.

You” is the song I go to when I need a musical kick in the rear. It’s a good pick-me-up when I begin to wallow in self doubt. Other songs on the album like “Got ‘Til It’s Gone,” “Together Again” and “I Get Lonely” became much bigger hits, but none were as impactful to me.


The Human Factor of the NFL Slide

A lot has been said and written about the declining viewership of the NFL. I even wrote about an aspect of it last year. While scrolling my Twitter timeline the other night, I came across this exchange:


It’s a really good point on one of the probable reasons the NFL is encountering a headwind unlike any other its had to weather before. The league has depended on and perpetuated facelessness and systematic replaceability for (most of) its players for decades. (An aside: the “most of” is a discussion unto itself.)

But now athletes, or anyone really, don’t have to go through traditional channels to have their perspective disseminated to the masses. There’s never been more access to the players, and many players are taking advantage of the opportunity to interact with fans despite the potential drawbacks from trolling and the like. As a result, there is more connection to the individuals who play the games than the league has ever seen.

The Information Age has also brought about more public knowledge about the risks associated with football. We always knew that football wasn’t the safest activity, but we now have unprecedented data into just how destructive it can be. The more is known about the players as people, the harder it becomes for fans to reconcile watching what these athletes do for entertainment alongside the knowledge of what it’s doing to them long-term.

However, not all the reasoning from fans reassessing their NFL support is altruistic of course. As evidenced by the pushback to player protests and demonstrations, there is a significant faction of the NFL fandom (like in general society) that doesn’t want to see the players on the same level of human as themselves. The ones saying their football watching is being impacted by the protesters are essentially saying that players asserting their humanness is making them recoil from the NFL.

Even in this instance, while opposite on the compassion spectrum from being uncomfortable because (consciously or unconsciously) you don’t like the toll the game takes on the players, the wane in enthusiasm towards viewing is directly connected to humanity.

The actions the NFL will take in efforts to stop its slide may not be clear yet, but one thing is clear: the playbook has to change and riding the fence is less of an option each day. Whatever moves it makes, the league will end up ostracizing a group of people. The question is: which side of the social issues swirling around it is the league willing to stake it’s existence on to stand? How much individual humanity is it as an entity willing to give its players?


Seeing the Southwest

Featured Image: White Sands National Monument (New Mexico)

I’ve been doing some daydreaming about places I want to travel soon, and two states that seem to catch people off guard when I bring them up are Arizona and New Mexico.

I’ve always had an affinity for the desert southwest, maybe because I was born there. However, my family moved away before I was old enough to remember it and I’ve always wanted to visit. The visuals from afar are beautiful. The Grand Canyon. The red rocks of Sedona. White Sands in New Mexico. The scenic byways of New Mexico. I want to see it firsthand.

Also, being a girl who grew up in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, I have a soft spot for astrology and space. In these two states, there are places renowned for their sky-gazing sights. One is the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. Plus, New Mexico has an extensive history and connection with the space program.

In addition, I’ve had a respectful — and more than passing — curiosity about the Native American cultures of the Navajo and Apache tribes since I was younger. I wouldn’t mind doing one of tours of Navajo Nation or visiting the communities of the other tribes that make the southwestern United States their home.

The car girl buried within me would like to see the passageway that helped the car industry explode too: the historic Route 66.

So yeah, I hope a trip the southwest isn’t too far in the future for me. The biggest question may be will I have enough time for all the things I could do there?

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon


Good Mood Music: Got It Good

Usually it’s the singer that initially draws me towards a piece of music. However, in the case of “Got It Good” it was the producer.

During one of my periods of exploration, I came across the Haitian-born Canadian DJ by the name of Kaytranada and got hooked on the stylings of his mixes.

“Got It Good” is a cut from his debut studio album 99.9% that came out in 2016. It contains a sample from “Olho de Vidro” performed by Jaime E. Nair, and features the vocals of Craig David, whose music I’ve also enjoyed over the years.


Good Mood Music: You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else

“…’Cause if you ain’t loving me
I wanna know who in the world you lovin’
Tell me if you don’t want me around…”

Fed up. Those two words sum up the Jones Girls 1979 release “You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else.” The Jones Girls were a group of 3 sisters from Detroit, who got their start in the music business singing backup for acts like Aretha Franklin, Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls, Diana Ross, and more.

“You Gonna Make…” was featured on the sisters’ self-titled debut album. Although the song only peaked at #38 on the Top 40 chart, it did make it to the top 5 on the R&B chart. The song has been covered and sampled countless times over the years. The catchiness of the percussion and synth used in the underlying track no doubt play a part in its ability to endure within different time periods and genres of music. Despite the subject matter, it’s a pretty upbeat tune.

You may also know of another song from The Jones Girls debut album: “Who Can I Run To.” That song was the B-side of the single release for “You Gonna Make…” and was covered by the group Xscape in 1995. The Xscape version reached #1 on the R&B charts, along with being a top 10 pop hit.


Results for the Caribbean Gymnasts Who Competed at Montreal Worlds

Like at the Rio Olympics, Manrique Larduet (Cuba) achieved the best results of the Caribbean gymnasts at the Montreal Worlds. He led the men’s all-around after the qualification rounds, but ended up 5th in the final after too many bounces and steps on landings. He also fell just short of the podium in his individual event finals with results of 7th on floor and 4th on parallel bars.

Manrique’s teammate Randy Leru had medal potential in the high bar final, but unfortunately sat his dismount after an otherwise fantastic routine. He finished the final in 7th. But not getting a medal in Montreal didn’t seem to dampen either of their spirits any…

Audrys Nin Reyes of the Dominican Republic was also expected to contend for a final, specifically the vault final. However, he was a casualty of the injury-laden third subdivision and withdrew after missing his first vault. He opted against doing his second which was scheduled to be a new vault he submitted to the FIG to be named after him, if successfully completed.

Continue reading “Results for the Caribbean Gymnasts Who Competed at Montreal Worlds”