Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thursday Throwback: Picture Pages

mr. cosby's hip hop album made me miss mortimer ichabod marker.  i present for your viewing pleasure "picture pages":

happy thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"I Wonder" Wednesday: Cosby Does Hip-Hop

i don't even know where to begin.  bill cosby has put together a hip-hop album.  i use the term "hip-hop" because the review does.  and based on the review alone, i'll probably never find the occasion to listen to it.

i'm sure he means well.  but i think this approach is flawed.  partly because i think it reads as "i have issue with your medium, so i'm going to use your medium to prove my point," which might have been clever if done well.  but it doesn't appear to have been.

but alas, i'm basing all of this on conjecture and one review.  which i would normally not do.  but i was skeptical from the moment i read the words "bill cosby's new rap album."  in honor of thumper's rule, "at least he's not rapping..."

i wonder...what's your take?

Monday, November 23, 2009

In the Shadows of Our Younger Selves

i didn't want to blog about the american music awards (AMAs).  i really didn't.  but something significant struck me about a couple of the performances.  there were at least 3 women (2 of whom are generally praised as icons) who in many ways were competing with their former selves while on that stage.

janet jackson opened the awards show with a medley of some of her up-tempo hits and her latest single, "make me."  though her attire left everything to the imagination (i just had the brilliant epiphany that maybe the bucksin 'fit was a nod to peter pan, for her brother.  that wasn't a joke.), for the most part the choreography was a throwback to the janet we all know and love.  and i think that's what made the performance odd for me.  she's certainly evolved as a person and a woman.  why don't we get this in her new music and her stage show?  one might argue that she's catering to a younger crowd (not the near-30-somethings and older who make up the majority of her fanbase), but the poor sales of her last 3 studio albums (the most recent didn't even go gold) should suggest that might not be a good game plan. interestingly, i thought her single "twenty foreplay" foretold of what the more mature janet might produce.  it was demure yet sexy, classic in its hat-tip to the legendary dorothy dandridge.  that was 1996.  i'm not always right.

after writing that last paragraph and taking a mental trip down janet's memory lane of entertainment greatness, i've decided to not devote a lengthy paragraph to jennifer lopez and her performance.  that one's too obvious.  "...not in the same league, don't shoot at the same baskets" -jay-z.  i'm right on this one.

that brings us to whit.  ms. houston gave her highly-anticipated performance of her latest single, "i didn't know my own strength" to a slew of viewers, some praying for the best, and surely some praying for disaster.  what we all got was something in between.  whitney has definitely lost her famous powerhouse voice to drugs and hard living.  and in their joy that she was able to come back from rock bottom (stop), many viewers praised her underwhelming performance as if her comeback had actually reached their expectations.  and maybe it did.  but the song was dull (and not just because robert "'r' is for fill-in-the-blank" kelly wrote it), and her vocal delivery rarely accomplished more than a speaking voice.

what's my point?  i have a couple.  i think we're often expected to be who we've been.  as people.  as artists.  as [insert myriad roles here].  and i think that's unfortunate, especially when we've grown beyond our younger selves. "people keep talkin 'bout 'hov, take em back'. i'm doing better than before; why would i do that?" -jay-z.  somebody should really make me stop quoting him.  another point is that once artists have reached "icon" status, we often are so overwhelmed by the memories of their ascent that we're not really paying attention to the person before us now.  on one level, that shows respect for the artist's greatness.  on another level, it's an insult for us not to continue to expect actual greatness.  and when (hear that, universe?  when) i'm so fortunate as to reach my own desired level of greatness, i don't want anyone to let me off that easily.  mj blew audiences away to the very end (and beyond) with his performances, not just with his legacy.

evolution is beautiful by nature.  and once we as a culture embrace it wholeheartedly, our idols will be able to more gracefully do the same.

be.  fly.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Flowers: Biographies

so, i'm obsessed with biographies.  actually, with anything that has a "true story" bent to it: biographies, documentaries, biopics, law & order episodes based on current events.  okay, that last one was a stretch.  but i am an avid watcher.  i digress (but don't you expect me to by now?).  you may notice that i didn't include autobiographies in my list of true story obsessions.  while i do ocassionally indulge in a memoir or autobiogrphy, i don't prefer them.  something about the bias of one telling his/her own story deters me.  i'd rather hear the story in a person's actions, as told by an (hopefully) objective source.

in reading biographies, i also tend to think about my own legacy.  what would my biography read like?  would anybody want to write it?  or read it?  what story would my actions tell?

having said all that, my current biographical journey is into the life of ms. zora neale hurston, via valerie boyd's Wrapped in Rainbows. it's an excellent read, and i'm pleasantly suprised at all of the little gems tucked between the pages of this well-written account of zora's life.

so, of course, i wanted to share with you!  and in return for my kindness, you can share with the Garten some of your favorite biographies.  sharing is caring.  happy reading!

be.  fly.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday Throwback: Me, Myself, & I

in a week full of reminiscing about p-funk, my childhood, and the intersection between, i give you de la soul:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brother Story: Leftfield

Leftfield's American in Paris is one of the best CDs of 2009.  if you haven't heard it, i'll be sure to hook you up by the end of this post.  if you're nice.

the atlanta-based hip-hop duo was born in greenville, south carolina  and blends their southern roots masterfully with influences from across the nation and around the world, "because someone out there in leftfield seems to be listening"... i guess that officially makes me someone.  i was getting worried there for a second.

Leftfield, through their sound and lyrical content, speaks to the listener who knows good music in any package.  so i'll skip the part where i tell you what to expect and who you might compare them to.  suffice it to say you'll get solid beats and provocative lyrics.  and maybe those are expectations.  but dare i say those are expectations we should have of all music...


and because you were nice, you can get the entire CD for FREE...just email Leftfield and mention SisterGarten in the body of the email.  free music in a recession?!?  the woman must be mad!!!  take advantage.

be.  fly.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Don't You Wish You Had Hair Like This? Then the Boys Would Give You a Kiss"...

talkin' 'bout good and bad hair...whether you're dark or you're fair...go on and stare, see if i care...good and bad hair...
-jigaboos and wannabes, from spike lee's "school daze"

it's time to cut my locs.  off.  i've had them for 7 1/2 years.  colored them a handful of times.  cut about 6 inches off over a year ago.  carried all kinds of experience, growth, and trauma in them (yes, that thing you hear "dreads" or people with locs say about carrying energy in our hair is very true).  it's time.

and the backlash that has ensued upon this declaration?  bananas.  some people simply say "but [your locs] are a part of you."  others have gone so far as to say a woman's beauty is in her hair.  unfortunately, i've tired of the latter response to women's hair in general that i rarely dignify it with a response at this point.  i do realize that some people simply think my hair is pretty and aren't ready to deal with change.  i also realize that the majority of the people who have reacted negatively are coming from a much more twisted perspective.

what i've been suprised to find is that even for natural hair, many people have european standards for what is considered beautiful.  my shoulder-length locs hold more value [to those people] than a TWA ever could.  conversely, when i first cut the perm out of my hair in the spring of 2002, resulting in my hair being that very length before i started my locs, that was THE first time i felt truly beautiful.  so the naysayers don't bother me.  well, i should say they don't affect my decision to cut.  but the fact that they've placed long locs above a short natural on their oppressive hierarchy of "good hair" is beyond bothersome.  we need to do better, people.

it's one thing to have beautiful hair.  it's a whole other thing for one's beauty to be defined by his or her hair (or any other feature, for that matter).  simply put, if your beauty lies in your hair, then your beauty is a lie.

be.  fly.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Brother Story: Traum Diggs

i had the pleasure of opening for hip hop artist traum diggs last month at busboys and poets in dc.  up until this point, i had never seen him perform live.  having known him for a few years, i know he has an impressive work ethic, and i dug what i had heard of his music online before.  but his live show...insanity.  his energy and raw soul filled the building that night.  on "the mission tour," traum travels with his band and a rotating roster of singers, comedians, and poets that move the crowd with ease from one emotional apex to the next.  according to, "Traum Diggs is a Hip Hop artist whose style, ability, and approach shatters conventional wisdom and all preconceived assumptions."  that sounds about right to me.

in honor of pure dopeness and the approaching season of giving, i present to you traum diggs.  you're welcome.

a tribute to MJ, "Mike Jackin' 4 Beats," a MUST HEAR:

and because i'm super generous, you can download the entire mixtape for FREE:

for more info on traum diggs and "the mission tour," visit

be.  fly.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday Throwback: They Come to Build a Wall Between Us...

i was listening to jay-z's BP3 today.  most days, actually.  on "so ambitious," he and pharrell talk about using naysayers as motivation.  somehow, today, this song led me to one of my favorite songs:

be.  fly.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sister Story: White House Staffers

First Lady Michelle Obama has announced a year-long mentoring that will be facilitated at the White House.  High school girls from the surrounding neighborhood will be paired with senior White House staff members, including senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, domestic policy advisor Melody Barnes, Obama's chief of staff Susan Sher and social secretary Desiree Rogers, reports the Washington Post.  source:

We each need to mentor at least one young person.  Period.  Young people can never have too many mentors.  Find something you're good at, and share it with someone younger than you.  He or she could b 5 or 25.  You could help with math or creating a resume.  Do something.  Make a difference.  *Jumping off my soap box now*

Be.  (Help someone) Fly.

"I Wonder" Wednesday: Are the SEPTA Strikers So Wrong?

i wonder if the reason i'm not angry at the SEPTA workers is that i no longer work in philadelphia.  i no longer rely on their services, and i'm not inconvenienced by their strike.  i've read and heard reports that the union refused a great contract and that essentially they're just being greedy.  i don't do their job (nor do i know the details of the contract), so i don't feel equipped to judge.  what i do know is that i currently feel over-worked, underpaid, and under-appreciated.  if i had a union full of folks ready to strike with me, i'd probably be making a picket sign right now.

be.  fly.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sister Secret: If You Can Read, You Can Cook

this is just one of the many things my mother has always said to me which has (suprisingly?) turned out to be very true.  i think my grandmother used to say it to her.  let's digest (tee hee).

if you can read, you can cook.

1.  this does not mean you cannot cook if you cannot read.
2.  this does not mean you can cook well simply because you can read.

this simply means that if you happen to not be innately good at cooking, you should be able to learn to cook well by starting with one simple recipe at a time.  following this basic principle, i now have 4-5 signature dishes that i have practiced, improved upon, and made my own.  and they're all crowd favorites.  ask me to deviate from these standards, and a meltdown may ensue.  but as long as i stick to what i know, all is well.  when it's time to add to the menu, i simply experiment on the fiancĂ© until i get it right.  it's usually edible.  he lives.

and whenever i'm asked to contribute to family dinner or a potluck, i make one of my signature dishes (usually vegetarian).  people get over the whole "ewwwww vegetarian?" thing and devour the offering.  and usually (if they don't know me well), they think i'm a really good cook.  and of course i am.  i'm a southern woman, after all.


*pictured: my signature "broccoli hot damn," my modified version of my aunt's "unbeatable broccoli casserole"


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