SMS (7.10.16): Pokémon & The Flashes We Show

If someone would have told me that I’d spend a little more than two hours chasing Pokémon around Arizona this weekend, in 110 degree weather, I would have had them committed. Twenty-four hours ago, I didn’t even have the app on my phone.

But several hours later, there I was. Sitting in a taco shop with my best friend, Sam, as he tried to catch the Abra that had magically appeared on my forearm. “Scottsdale is lit,” he advised. Sam then explained to me the basics of this present-day Pokémon game, and the details took me on a mental trip down memory lane.

I thought back to the euphoria of my childhood, and the times when my younger brother’s Nintendo Gameboy Color would mysteriously go missing. There I’d be on the other end of a locked bathroom door, device in hand, completely entranced and unbothered, as my mother and brother searched every corner of our house for it. It’s funny looking back on it, it wasn’t when they found me.

PikachuSMS

Fast-forwarding back to reality we’d found ourselves at the mall, which upon immediate notice had been transformed into a temporary gaming convention. I kid you not, there were groups upon groups of people stumbling around trying to catch ‘em all. And that’s when the fear of missing out kicked in.

I downloaded it, and before I knew it, I was holding my Zara bag in one hand, and trying to corral a Rattata with the other. Sam was right, this was lit.

Somewhere between Sam attempting to score Yeezy’s in a sneaker vending machine, and my Dodge sedan almost ending up in the trunk of his BMW, during my battle with a Zubat, we ended up at the town lake. And it was even wilder than the scene at the mall.

There were people everywhere. And this is where the bigger picture came into play for me. With all the tragedy and division we witnessed this past week, here was an illustration of our society at its best – united. People from all races, cultures, social groups, and backgrounds unified by a similar interest.

As I surveyed the interactions between African-American and Caucasian, sorority girl and fitness freak, jock and skater boy, I was overwhelmed by my feelings. There was a sense of pride, but also an inquiry of “Why can’t we always be like this?” It was the latest example of the good that can result when we give people, who we think we may have nothing in common with, a chance.

Magician Penn Jillette once said, “If you like the stuff I do, my chances of liking you go up.” In all my life, I’ve never found that to be a false declaration. So I issue a challenge to all who may read this: give people, relationships, opportunities – and ultimately, life – a chance.

Posted in 20-Something's, SMS | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Signed Sirelle: “Letter to My Future Son”

I write this guide to life in the event that I never get to tell my future son myself. 

My darling boy,

I have so many thoughts, I don’t know where to begin. There is a lot going on in our country right now—some of which you may one day read about in history class. These times I’m living in seem to be spontaneously perilous. Our country is gripped by turmoil, tragedy, and division. And the common denominator among all these factors is race.

As a Black man in America—the world, rather—people will almost always form an opinion of you before you even open your mouth to introduce yourself. That is out of your control. What is in your control, however, is the power you possess to either prove them wrong, or right.

LTMS ImageYou will never be able to change what you are, son. And never should you want to. Be proud of who you are, and be proud of your history. But understand, in your life, you will encounter a gauntlet of obstacles that many people will never even know exist. All because of the way you look. And there will be people, even friends, who will never face a tenth of those challenges, who attempt to tell you how you should act—or react—in certain situations. Block it out, always. A bird can’t teach a cat how to climb a tree.

Be respectful in all that you do. It is said that “the true measure of man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” Understand that, embrace that. You are no more important than the next man, but you are just as important as him, too. Nothing, including—but not limited to—respect, will be given to you in life.

There will be times you feel like the deck of life is stacked against you. Never let it discourage you. You must work hard, and most times, harder than others. As your grandmother always told me, “you are more than a conqueror”. Take as much pride in the process as you do the success; only then will it be fulfilling.

I wish I could promise you that adhering to all of the aforementioned would guarantee you a life free from conflict and hardship, but I’d be doing you no favors. The road ahead is rough. But there is a road. And Gods be good, it’ll lead you to victory.

I love you.

Signed,

Dad

Posted in 20-Something's, Signed Sirelle | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Signed Sirelle: “Untitled”

In the aftermath of the most deadly mass shooting in our nation’s history, we have reached peak hypocrisy in America.

Nightmarishly, in the early hours of Sunday morning, a gunman entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire on countless patrons. As of press time, 50 people were killed, and many more were wounded. The gunman, dead.

Needless to say, this was a terrorist attack. It has been reported by several media outlets that the gunman, an American-born man, called 911 at some point to pledge his allegiance to ISIS.

The gunman used an AR-15 to carry out his attack. And if that weapon sounds familiar it is because it was the same that was used in other mass shootings such as: Sandy Hook and Aurora. However, we don’t classify those tragedies as terrorist attacks.

Those attacks, according to many Americans, were merely “mass shootings”. Modern day executions carried out by troubled lone wolves, who didn’t have any friends and showed no signs of ever doing anything like this.

You see, in America, when James walks into a theater, followed by Adam into an elementary school, and then Dylan into a church, the events that follow are unfortunate incidents. The result of mentally unstable minds. Their religions aren’t to blame, nor are their parents, or where they’re from. All external factors are detached. Radical Christianity has a hall pass that causes even the most serial swinger to cringe.

The troubling truth about America and mass killings is that we always claim to mourn – and pray – but we don’t always condemn. Because ultimately, condemnation is driven by agenda, and what fits the benefiting narrative. Learning about a new mass shooting in America is like watching a pirated new blockbuster, because there’s this instantaneous lag. And during those minutes when details of the story – and perpetrator – are still developing, America is deciding how much attention they are going to give the attack, all based on the individual(s) who carried it out. And that, my fellow Americans, is what you call hypocrisy.

When the common denominator is terror, it doesn’t matter whether the equation is based around an Adam or a Dzhokhar, the objective remains the same: promote violence, fear, intimidation, and hate. The act of terror in Orlando was no different, as it specifically targeted the LGBT community.

President Lincoln once said that, “America will never be defeated from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” There was a reason they called him “Honest Abe”. Nearly two centuries later his declaration still rings true. America cannot falter to what happens on the outside by succumbing to bigotry and fear mongering on the inside.

Signed,

Sirelle

Posted in Signed Sirelle, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Opinion: You Are Not for Sale

While recently strolling down the cereal aisle, I became mortified as I approached a section of Frosted Flakes. Not due to that box of artificial sugar – though it should have been – but because of the realization that I had reached a place in my life where I was reduced to grocery shopping on my lunch break. It was my tipping point.

Society is witnessing a fascinating era of extraordinarily gifted millennials. In a revolutionary approach, they are challenging – quite successfully – the status quo in countless industries. Although for every boldly innovative mind, there seems to be several more far too at peace with mediocrity, and merely existing.

I find myself increasingly troubled by the trivial justifications offered by many of my peers and fellow millennials, as it pertains to their roles within their respective institutions. They often do not feel valued nor appreciated, and the unfortunate truth is that they typically are not; but, “the pay is good”.

Internalizing, and worse, subscribing, to such a sentiment is dangerous. It establishes a low standard that conveys a message that you can be bought. This, in turn, sets a dangerous precedent, because it transcends other aspects of an individual’s life. If you can be bought at your job, you can be bought in your relationship. You can be bought in your friendships, and in any and every interaction throughout your life. It’s a slave mentality, quite frankly; and you cannot go through life content with sowing the seeds of crops you will never benefit from.

GiftImage

One of my favorite actors often says that, “You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.” You may justify submitting yourself to a life that lacks fulfillment and self-gratification, essentially, because “the pay is good”. But all the while, you’re numb to the pain that you can’t take that pay with you at its conclusion.

Somewhere along the way, you must decide whether you want to be the difference, or the indifference.

I believe with every bone in my body that every individual on this planet was graced with a predestined gift. And while others may identify your gift, it is only you that can open it. Your gift is unique to you, as it – if tapped into – is your destiny. You must claim it.

“You cannot let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” is more than just an old MySpace status. It is a rallying cry for every individual who has ever felt that there has to be more to life than just existing in it.

There’s a stark, often uncomfortable, difference between living and existing in life. Recognizing, utilizing, and – ultimately – capitalizing off of your gift is the key to living your life. Ignoring your gift is the key to simply existing in it.

Recognizing your gift dares your mind to dream. Utilizing your gift, enables one to chase that dream. And as I stated in the summer of 2014, “Chase three things in life: your liquor, that person who gave you goosebumps at first sight, and your dreams.”

You and your gift are priceless. You oughta let the world know you are not for sale.

Posted in 20-Something's, Opinion | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Signed Sirelle: FEBRUARY 2016 – “The Significance of Black This, Black That: for People Stuck on Stupid”

“There shouldn’t be a Black History Month. We’re Americans. Period. That’s it.”

From the moment we begin our grade school circuit of history courses, we’re taught a “wide-ranging” curriculum of American history. The Reconstruction Era, Western Expansion, FDR’s New Deal, and—hell!—even the British monarchy are several exam subjects many dread during their grade school days. But that about covers it.

Certainly there were the three to four paragraphs beneath the Lyndon Johnson unit that glossed over the Civil Rights Movement, neglecting substantial evidence that the president, himself, was a notorious racist; but aside from that, “American history” is about as white as Apple’s board of directors.

The term black serves to be a vessel of empowerment for those under the umbrella; an identifier that breeds a sense of belonging, and purpose. Its concept is far too complex to be seen merely as an adjective.

The “we’re Americans, period” argument is an illusion, that can only be a reality when six Arizona schoolgirls—and the imbeciles who influence them—understand that a derogatory slur is more than “just a word” that certain races “shouldn’t be so offended” by. That such a word was often the last one scores of African-Americans were savagely taunted by seconds before nooses snatched away their final breaths.

Students, today, are gut-wrenchingly clueless that some of our most essential daily mechanisms were invented by African-Americans. They have no idea who Garrett Morgan is, nor that his traffic signal innovations revolutionized transportation for centuries to come.

Duke Ellington

The societal need for black history, the month, the days and weeks beyond it, is paramount. And frankly, we need Black History Month because that history isn’t represented within American history.

When a group isn’t represented on platforms deemed, arguably, as primary or mainstream, it manufactures platforms to represent itself. Thus, you have Black Entertainment Television.

“But just imagine if we had a White Entertainment Television channel!” Well, we do. It’s CBS, with the casts of “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory”. Just as there was NBC with “Friends”. Sitcoms comprised of all-white casts are essentially a television norm. Yet, outside of BET, one would be hard-pressed to discover several of the opposite.

As a result, and understandably so, some find the aforementioned to be continued evidence of privilege. But it doesn’t stop there. Just the same, privilege is also the roar for justice when the black mayor of Michigan’s first-largest city is tried for a “pattern of extortion,” followed by the enabling silence when the white governor essentially poisons the seventh. When the black quarterback (Cam Newton) is chastised for his on-field jubilation, while his white counterparts (Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers) are heralded as passionate for theirs. And attempting to dispute that might leave you all dressed up, with nowhere to go.

To some, this may be a conflicting ordeal. But the most critical aspect in comprehending this ordeal is to understand that people aren’t asking you to state that you are the problem, rather that there is a problem. And if you can’t do that, you might be the problem.

Posted in Signed Sirelle | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Signed Sirelle: JANUARY 2016 – “Letter to Obama”

Dear Mr. President,

I could not be more ecstatic that your presidency is coming to an end.

You see, I voted for you twice. And if not for that damned 22nd Amendment, I would certainly be voting for you again. But over the course of your tenure as Commander-in-chief, myself, and so many others, have continuously been confronted by an ugly truth.

I reckon that whether seeking to prove the existence of climate change, be it figurative or literal, one would achieve success either way. With nearly a third of our country campaigning to make America great again, it sends chills down my spine to ponder what their definition entails. Although the temperatures may be warmer than usual, the climate has been anything but. We are a cold society. And with our spacious skies as my witness, America has been all but beautiful.

In what seems to be nearly a lifetime ago, I pledged an allegiance at the start of every school day. “One nation under God,” was the line that always stood out to me; but it was indivisible that resonated most. Here was an adjective, that in context, declared We the People were unable to be divided or separated. Though nearly my entire life, our country has been just that.

Obama Painting 1

For me, this has been no more evident than over the last several years. I can count on one hand how many individuals I have encountered who oppose you, and your beliefs, solely based on political differences. Your election came at a time when America needed it badly. And you have presided over America when we needed it most.

Just over ten months from now, America will elect your successor. And oddly enough, one of the frontrunners seems to be such because he “speaks his mind”. Who knew, that over hundreds of years of electoral history, it was speaking your mind that screamed presidential.

I mean, imagine that: an individual, debatably sane, walks into a voting site and casts a ballot to elect someone to be the most powerful person in the world, all because they aren’t politically correct; pro-life or choice be damned! So it is there, Mr. President, where this country will miss your temperament. Your keeping of the head, when all around you are losing theirs.. and blaming it on you.

Via #hashtag, no less.

However, many of us thank you. As your presidency has exposed us to a hypocritical America. Those that champion Reagan Era politics, in the course of forgetting who said “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”. Bookmarking their bibles with core values, while placing higher ones on semi-automatic tee times, than elementary school kids. And they are the faceless avatars who demand that inner city youth not blame the world for their downfall, in the midst of blaming you for theirs. They are the real patriots.

So Mr. President, if it is the aforementioned that defines what real patriotism is, I’ll elect you and your fraudulent want of providing health care for all Americans, and criminal justice reform, in this lifetime and the next.

I commend your reserve, Mr. President, but I think it’s time to speak your mind.

Signed,

Sirelle

Posted in Signed Sirelle | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Signed Sirelle: SUMMER 2015 – “Love, Again”

contemporary love painting Love is so inconsiderate.

I mean, imagine this: one finally reaches a mild level of self-satisfaction — or content — with keeping themselves company, and in the click of a Facebook minute, your status changes.

We’ve all gone through the motions. Stuffing your bitter mouth with popcorn — during the previews of a Gone Girl premiere — keeping score of the tonsil hockey game taking place a row in front of you, and convincing yourself that you’d rather spend six more dollars on Sour Straws than to ever feel that way about a person again. Nonetheless, it’s a lie, and we know it.

At some point, spending New Year’s Eve — alone — fighting off shrinking 9-pound eyelids, two hours before the ball drops, becomes a bit banal; and it’s at that moment you arrive at the realization that you’re ready to dedicate those “Thinking Out Loud” lyrics to something other than your bowl of Ramen.

Even so, we still go through the senseless woe is me! cycle of ‘forever alone’, persuading ourselves to believe that no person will ever – again – make us as “happy” as we are when we’re saying “table for one,” at the sushi bar on Main Street. And just when we’ve convinced ourselves that living life by our lonesome, at 60, won’t be too dreadful, some pesky little nuisance with hazelnut pupils and mesmerizing chitchat, favorites our tweet, and before you know it you’re four names deep on your “Future Children” list in your iPhone’s Notes app.

I’ve heard this from a friend.

At some point during the infatuation process, you come to a crossroads in deciding if this is a project you’re willing to invest in. Quite frankly, the answer should almost always be yes. “Concentrate the mind on the present moment,” the old Buddha adage states; as one cannot let the trials of the past serve as a detriment to the triumphs of the present.

Love is a triumph. And in most cases, love is a reoccurrence. But love can only be a reoccurrence when the pessimistic mind allows the pardoning heart to succeed in the present, even though it has failed in the past.

One’s life begins as an inquisitive solo, that is inevitably intended to become a duet. And ultimately, a lifetime of duets are intended to become a medley: a songbook of experiences shared with an individual responsible for showing you that for every yin, there’s a yang.

Signed,

Sirelle

Posted in 20-Something's, Signed Sirelle | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Signed Sirelle: APRIL/MAY 2015 – “Sacrifice”

Just a few days removed from our annual observance of Memorial Day, I found myself pondering over the sacrifice every individual — in which we as a nation remembered — had made. They’d given their life to serve this country, and such is a debt we will never be able to repay.

uneven balance sacleBut what was it all for? Both nothing, and something, I’ve determined. Their sacrifice was for nothing, in the sense that it was that in which they — our fallen soldiers — wanted in return; but it’s that very nothing that makes it all worth something.

Imagine that for a moment, a commitment so grand that one risks their life for it, and essentially expects nothing in return. Incredibly remarkable, I find it; as should we all.

As a society, we can learn from such a creed: sacrifice. Marilyn Manson, of all people, once noted that “sacrifice to me is something you do without expecting something in return.” Whether such entails forfeiting a few minutes jamming out in the car, to call your grandmother — just because — or skipping Sunday brunch with friends, to help your mother with yard work, do it genuinely. With sacrifice, often comes reward; because I assure you that one will find much more self-gratification in their mother’s thankfulness, than they would have if they opted to day drink with their friends.

Personally, I have discovered that I find my true happiness in contributing to bringing joy to those I love. By nature, however, sometimes that may require me to miss out on engagements that would have otherwise only brought joy to myself — and I’m at peace with that. Because only then is the sacrifice that our fallen soldiers may have believed they made for nothing, truly, worth something.

Signed,

Sirelle

Posted in 20-Something's, Signed Sirelle | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Press Play: SUMMER 2015

Heli Luukkanen Sumemr GirlThree summers ago, I labeled the relationship between music and summer as being mythical, a cohesion of some sort. Fast-forward to the present, and my subscription to that belief is even stronger. I don’t find it a stretch to deem music as an essential component of our every day lives. For many, it’s our therapy, it keeps us sane. Although for whatever reason — that I have yet to be able to determine — I find this especially relevant during the summer. It’s the collective relativity, perhaps, that each individual track contributes to that we — the enthusiasts — identify with. And over the course of several scorching weeks, through our adventures and experiences, a seasonal soundtrack is created.

These are a few of the tracks that SCO will have on its summer playlist:

“I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” Jamie xx featuring Young Thug & Popcaan: Featured on the debut album of Britain’s Jamie xx — yet to be released — this track foreshadows the quintessential summer. This is an instant feel-good record, that sparks energy throughout you from the opening a cappella sample. Speak it into existence. With this record on your playlist, it’ll be nearly impossible not to subscribe to its’ title.

“Bitch Better Have My Money” Rihanna: For all the plans you have going into the summer, let’s face it, it will be nearly impossible to carry any of them out if that direct deposit doesn’t go through. So here’s a bi-weekly (or monthly) warning to all of our employers: BBHMM!

“National Anthem” Lana Del Rey: As we observe the 229th birthday of our nation, it’s practically our civic duty to celebrate America via song. Furthermore, this record — off Del Rey’s 2012 album Born To Die — is a harmony of eroticism and patriotism, so you can salute more than just the flag when you hear it.

“King Kunta” Kendrick Lamar: On the subject of patriotism, the concept becomes a challenging one in the absence of unity. Our nation has faced some critical events over the last several months — and summers — and this record by Kendrick Lamar serves as a symbolic reaction to those events. High temperatures have unfortunately resulted in high tensions, though on the contrary, one can only hope that this anthem leads to a period of cooling off.

“California Roll” Snoop Dogg featuring Stevie Wonder and Pharrell Williams: Not to rain on your sunshine, but if your summer doesn’t include California, is it even a summer? Okay, that may have been a bit rude but nonetheless, this track is tailored made for a California cookout.

“Bad Blood” Taylor Swift: Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but someone’s going to make mistakes this summer — and there may be no coming back from some of them. This track serves as a reminder that temporary acts of thoughtless spontaneity are permanently unforgivable.

Posted in Music, Press Play | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Buzz: Bloodline

Netflix Bloodline

I found myself needing to stay in the comfort of my own home this weekend, after recent trips to both New York City and Los Angeles; and where there is home, there is Netflix.  Admittedly, I’d already conquered the most recent seasons of House of Cards and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, so I was fresh out of Netflix Originals. I thought.

I stumbled onto a series entitled Bloodline, starring Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) and Sissy Spacek, among several other Hollywood veterans. Also a Netflix Original, the series chronicles a celebrated family — the Rayburn’s — in the Florida Keys. Although the Rayburn’s are presented to be an upstanding fixture of their community, I found there to be an element of mystification hovering over them.

Through narration, foreshadowing, and flashbacks, my suspicions were confirmed. When it comes to the Rayburn’s, all that glitters isn’t gold, and perhaps nothing is what it seems. From the beginning, Bloodline evokes a range of emotions, such as laughter, grief, disdain and empathy. “A family is a risky venture, because the greater the love, the greater the loss,” actor Brad Pitt once said, “That’s the trade-off.”

Posted in Entertainment, Television, The Buzz | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment