Month: January 2013

Open Letter to Barbara Lippert, re: Volkswagen Irie

Dear Ms. Lippert:

I’m writing this on Tuesday night, to run on Thursday morning. It’s possible you’ve retracted your position with regard to the Volkswagen Super Bowl ad by now. If you have, you should disregard the remainder of this letter.

If you haven’t, I urge you to reconsider your position. I read the posts on your blog about Lance Armstrong’s Oprah interview and about Coke’s anti-obesity message. I’m actually curious to see what you’ve got to say about Helen Gurley Brown. The two posts I read are sharp and insightful, and all of this makes your position on this Volkswagen ad harder to understand.

I watched your interview on the Today show, in which you mentioned that the ad contained no link to Volkswagen. I confess I didn’t understand what you meant. I presumed the bright red Volkswagen that the main character uses to cheer up his coworkers was a link to Volkswagen. Is that not the case?

Shortly thereafter, you made reference to a “black accent.” What, precisely, is a black accent? Certainly you do not mean to suggest that all black people employ the same “accent,” dialect, or cultural speech pattern. That really would be offensive. I’m also hoping that you’re not suggesting the Jamaican accent – which is actually what we’re hearing, Ms. Lippert – is the exclusive province of black people. I’m pretty well versed in what Jamaicans sound like; my mother is Jamaican. She is black. My great-grandfather was Chinese. My grandfather spent his Jamaican youth with white, Indian and Asian Jamaicans. I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of them, as well as my mother’s equally diverse childhood friends and babysitters. They all sound like the guy in the commercial.

I want to make sure I’m being clear here. The last time I was in Jamaica, maybe five years ago, I met quite a few people who were not black but who spoke with precisely the same Jamaican accent as the guy in the commercial. It is not a “black accent,” Ms. Lippert. It is a Jamaican accent.

To me, a half-Jamaican, it’s a sound that speaks to equal measures of hard work and good times. It speaks of the slower pace of island life and the conviction to live in the present moment, to live fully, if not intensely.

It is a hell of a lot more than “black people are happy.”

I would also refer you to a series of Volkswagen ads in which a Swedish actor portrays a German engineer devoted to “un-pimping” people’s cars in the style of the then-popular MTV show, Pimp My Ride. In these ads, the engineer uses a fairly broad spectrum of hip-hop vernacular with a German accent, to comedic effect. “Ve just dropped it like it’s hot,” he says, before throwing a gang sign of sorts and claiming “V-Dub, representing Deutschland.”

I do not recall that anyone was offended by this. The argument for offense here, however, is at least as sound as yours. Shouldn’t we take offense that white Europeans are appropriating hip-hop terminology? If Jamaicans are using a “black accent,” why did no one address the appropriation of “black culture” in this case?

For the record, I thought those commercials were funny, too. Especially the one with the trebuchet. Hip-hop culture is at least as diverse as West Indian culture, but many people incorrectly presume that it is the exclusive province of black Americans.

In any event, I’d suggest respectfully that you remove the phrase “black accent” from your vocabulary. You’re the media expert, but I can’t imagine that’s playing awfully well to a black demographic. It certainly offended me, not that this letter is about conflating one person’s wounded feelings to an entire group of people.

I hope you’ll leave me a note in the comments; I’d really enjoy hearing from you. In the meantime, it is my ardent hope that Volkswagen airs that commercial on Sunday.


Alexa Day

Very Inspiring Blogger Award


Anne Lange nominated me yesterday for the Very Inspiring Blogger award, which is all nice and shiny just above. Anne’s first book, WORTH THE RISK, is available right now from Etopia Press.

Of course, winning such an award comes with responsibilities as well. I’ve got to post the plaque (there it is, above), tell you all 7 things about myself and choose 15 more people to receive the award after me. I don’t know that I’ll get to 15 people tonight, but I promise you’ll get as much as I have to offer.

Seven Things About Alexa

1. I got an A+ in high school English for writing a racy sonnet about Verona. My teacher said he didn’t care about the content, so long as we got the form right. I bet he didn’t say that to the following year’s class.

2. I’m a total geek, especially with regard to Star Trek. I paid full theater price to see the most recent movie in IMAX. Three times. I don’t think I’ve paid full theater price to see another movie since, although I considered paying to see The Hobbit in IMAX just to see the long trailer for the next Star Trek movie.

3. Losing my job in November 2011 is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Had I not lost that job, I wouldn’t have discovered bartending as an alternate career path. I also wouldn’t have finished my novel, ILLICIT IMPULSE, which is coming soon from Ellora’s Cave (plugplugplug).

4. If I could live anywhere in the world, I’d choose Shanghai. If you restricted me to living inside this country, I’d pick New York City.

5. I can probably recite Blazing Saddles.

6. If I could travel backward in time to anyplace in my past and live there forever, I’d choose my third year at the University of Virginia. High school was over, law school hadn’t happened yet, and just about everything was right with my world.

7. There are at least three knitting projects in progress at my house at any given time.

This has been fun! Many thanks to Anne for nominating me. I, in turn, nominate the following people:

Denise Golinowski

Nara Malone

Madeline Iva

Sofie Couch

Leah St. James

Tracey Livesay

Nancy Naigle

Tina Glasneck

Enjoy the trip! And don’t forget to sign the guest book.

Cocktailery: Living with Consequences, or The Hangover Remedy

Very short post in Cocktailery this month. I’m having an exciting month, but with everything going on, there’s not much time for the drinking. There’s not much time for anything, really. I’m trying hard to make time for the day job.

This month, as we’re torn between celebrating and wanting to start fresh, healthy new years, I wanted to quickly share my favorite hangover remedy. I learned it in bartending school, and with all the celebrating for New Year’s Eve, the sale of my first novel, and a milestone birthday coming up fast, I have had – and God willing, will continue to have – lots of reasons to use it.

According to my bartending instructor, who is wise indeed, much of the unpleasantness that comes with the standard hangover is caused by dehydration and low blood sugar. Repairing the consequences of our actions, then, is really about getting hydrated again and restoring something close to normal blood sugar levels. It’s all about the pre-planning.

Step One: Before you go out, buy yourself a couple of packets of Kool-Aid. Prepare it according to the instructions, but put in just a tiny bit more sugar than required. I use hot water to dissolve the Kool-Aid and the sugar faster. It’s going to be in the fridge all night long anyway.

Step Two: Put the Kool-Aid in the fridge. Then go out and drink as usual. Cheers!

Step Three: Come home. Or at least to the place where the Kool-Aid is. You’re going to need it kind of soon.

Step Four: Go to bed. If you did this right, it should be late.

Step Five: When you get up for the first time to use the bathroom, drink a nice tall glass of the Kool-Aid. Then go back to bed.

Step Six: The next time you get up, you should feel a lot better. You may not even feel hung over. If this is not the case, and you still feel a little used up, repeat Step Five.

Step Seven: You really ought to feel better when you get up again. If you need three glasses of Kool-Aid, there’s a chance you’ve got alcohol poisoning, and you should behave accordingly.

A couple of quick words about the Kool-Aid cure.

I prefer to use actual Kool-Aid, made with actual sugar, rather than my usual bar standby, Crystal Light lemonade. You need the sugar to get the job done. Don’t use iced tea – the caffeine isn’t doing you any hangover favors. Kool-Aid is uncomplicated and cheap, plus there’s some nostalgia value, right? My bartending sensei said sugar water will work just fine if you don’t have Kool-Aid, but I don’t think of sugar water as a beverage. If I don’t finish all the Kool-Aid, I can always have it with dinner later. What are you going to do with a pitcher of sugar water?

Neighbors, get your Kool-Aid on! May you have many occasions to drink it.

Day on Bond on Bond

Mom and I have a long-running argument about who is the best James Bond. Don’t laugh. I bet you have debates like this in your family, too. Mom says it’s Sean Connery. I cannot agree.

“Roger Moore is the real James Bond,” I said.

Mom was incredulous. She could not believe that a well-educated, sophisticated woman like me would choose Roger Moore over Sean Connery. But I do. Roger Moore was my first Bond – A View to a Kill was the first Bond movie I ever saw – and I think everyone has a certain loyalty to her first Bond. Having seen all the other Bonds (except Daniel – it’s a personal thing), I find I would still choose Roger Moore. His Bond, with apologies to Yul Brynner, is Bond.

This Christmas, Mom acknowledged the special place in my heart that James and Roger share, and she gave me a copy of Bond on Bond, written by Sir Roger himself. The book is really a memoir of sorts, a guided tour through the Bond franchise, complete with insider stories and photos. The writing is wonderful; I feel like I’m sitting across the table from my favorite Bond. But if the pictures serve to remind me of the Bond I fell in love with all those years ago, the memoir as a whole is tailor-made for a woman on the cusp of a milestone birthday.

Roger Moore was 45 when he took up the mantle of Bond. Never too late to start doing something magical, is it? Our society starts trying to convince us that we’re too old to do things at 30 or so. I’m so inspired to hear that my favorite Bond was over 40 when he became 007.

Roger doesn’t take himself too seriously. The true joy of the book, the center of its conversational voice, is his gently self-deprecating humor. He doesn’t have anything to prove. He can look back on that remarkable period of his life, which includes Moonraker, the space movie, with the grace and confidence that can only come from someone who has thoroughly enjoyed his time in the sun but has moved on to another place, that is just as sunny in its own way.

He’s generous with praise for the other Bonds. No one’s a competitor, and no one’s an outsider (not even Daniel). Roger treats the other Bonds as if they’re part of a family. A really weird family where you might flip your car through a corkscrew turn on the way to the grocery store.

Back then, I wanted to be James Bond. Tonight, almost 30 years later, I still do.

Do I dare to open the debate here in the comments? I do. I do dare.

My Heart Belongs to Paper … but the Kindle is Pretty Awesome

This Christmas, Mom and I elected to join the 21st century, already in progress. We got each other Kindles. We do not need to do anything on the Kindle other than read, so we got the little one with the ads. We are both hard-core book addicts. Mom started me using when I was just a kid, and now I’m trying to make my own in my house after work. We do not see how ads for other books presented on a reading device could possibly be a problem. Seriously, if you were smoking crack, and in between rocks, your pipe lit up with ads for discounts on more crack, would you ever complain about that?

I’m digressing a little. But let me just say, at the outset, that I will probably always prefer the paper book.

I’m kind of old school in this regard. I like the weight of the paper book. I like the feel of the pages. Deckled edges? Oh, yes, please! Marbled endpapers? Indeed! And the spines on the shelf! My ex gave me a three-volume definitive Sherlock Holmes set (with annotations!) that just … reassures me when I look at it. When Ray Bradbury died, I held my autographed copy of Green Shadows, White Whale and thought of his hand on the page as he signed it. I first perused Reclaiming History just because it was a hefty, hefty tome, but I bought it for the promise of reading Bugliosi on the Kennedy assassination. Sixteen hundred glorious pages, plus so many notes he had to put them on a CD-ROM. I’m drooling a little just writing about it.

I said I was addicted.

The argument for the Kindle and its ilk with regard to my chosen genre is a powerful one. Some people evidently take issue with being seen in public reading erotica. I understand. I do! I just don’t have that problem.

One night I took my copy of Fortytude to a bar and met a good-looking soldier who was also celebrating a milestone birthday – his 30th. I met a handsome intellectual who saw me reading Les Liaisons Dangereuses on the bus. The paper book shows the world not only that I do read, but it shows the world what I read, and therefore just a bit of who I am. It’s like a nametag. I personally would not have minded showing the world that I am reading Held Captive by the Cavemen. That doesn’t trouble me at all. If it troubles those sheltered souls sitting nearby, then maybe they should look into minding their own business.

But one cannot purchase a paper copy of Held Captive by the Cavemen. If one has a Kindle, though, one can have it all ready to go in less than a minute. I think it took me three clicks to put it on the machine, and now it’s waiting for me. (I need to hurry this post along, actually, so I can start reading it.)

Then I started poking around, looking for other stuff to buy. This is where the Kindle gets dangerous. Scoring a paper book takes a little effort. Hardback? Paperback? Don’t even start me on the shipping. The Kindle takes you from whim to purchase in just seconds. And so, when I found Dirty for the Kindle for just a couple of bucks, I went for it. I love Megan Hart’s work – the world she creates would be very cool to live in, even without the sex … but then there’s sex in it. A win-win if I ever saw one.

This time it only took one click. Very nice.

There’s a lot to like about the Kindle, to be sure. It’s tiny but strong. It’s discreet. It’s fast. It’s not terribly expensive. And if I’m going to be working in the realm of e-publishing – and interracial erotica all but guarantees that – I need to get comfortable with all these advantages.

The paper book is my first love, though. I will probably end up being the little old lady sitting on the park bench with a paper copy of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen. Over on the bench next to me, a mother will tell her little boy, “See, Jimmy? That lady has a paper book. Long ago, you could only get books on paper.”

And Jimmy’s going to say, “I thought they all came on rocks way back then!”

And then the little wise-ass and his mom are going to laugh. But I won’t care.

I will be too busy stealing glances over my book at that shirts vs. skins touch football game. Those guys won’t notice. The Jane Austen makes me look harmless.

You can’t do that with a Kindle. Can you?