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Category Archives: dinner and a movie

how to watch television – tips #2, #3, and #4: put your tv in its place

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“If you read a lot of books you are considered well read. But if you watch a lot of TV, you’re not considered well viewed.”
~Lily Tomlin

In keeping with the series of posts about the evils of television I started a couple of weeks back… wait. No. Let’s clarify a couple of things before we get too far along with these.

I don’t actually consider TV to be evil at all. After reading my first post on the topic, a friend of mine expressed some concern that I had morphed into one of these staunch anti-TV nazis and that I was gearing up for multi-week rant about television’s role in unraveling the fabric of modern society.

Rest assured, Dear Reader, that I enjoy vegging out in front of the tube as much as the average American. I also realize that I often get stuck for hours longer than I originally anticipated and may end up missing out on more beneficial forms of entertainment if I’m not careful. It’s a topic that has come up more than once within my circle of associates, so I thought I’d share my own thoughts on the matter for anyone else who might be interested. Sheesh. Get off my back, already. 🙂

Now, where were we? Oh yes.

Let’s delve into my next 3 tips for how to watch television more responsibly. I decided to group these all together because they have a common theme – where you keep your TV has a big influence on how much you watch it. Oh, and in case you’re just joining our regularly scheduled blog posts, you might also want to check out the first in this series of tips.

How to Watch Television – Tip #2

Take the TV out of your front room. In many homes, one of the first things you see when you walk in the front door is a TV. Just over the threshold lies this big hulking object, sitting front and center, just begging to be touched or turned on. See,that even sounds inappropriate, doesn’t it? Consider assigning your TV to a room that isn’t the main room of the house.

How to Watch Television – Tip #3

Don’t have a TV in every room of the house. There should be some place (other than the bathroom) that you can sit in the house where there is no TV to potentially distract you. If you’ve got a TV in every room, consider gifting at least one to a friend, donating it to a charity, or selling it on Craigslist.

How to Watch Television – Tip #4

Don’t make the TV the central focus of the room. Most people plan the design of the room around the TV – all of the furniture is arranged around the television as a central focus point. As soon as you sit down, you feel as if you’re automatically expected to watch the television, so you do. Try placing the TV off-center or storing it in an armoire, entertainment center or behind a curtain so you can close off the TV when it’s not in use. Yes, that means you may have to slightly shift the furniture or walk across the room to unveil the TV before tuning in. But you’ll transform turning on the TV into a mini-production, instead of an easy default activity. In turn you might feel less compelled to watch the tube just because it’s there.



turn off your tv – you are being remotely controlled

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News flash. Your TV is a remote control device. The irony of that statement struck me the first time I watched Putney Swope – you know, that movie I told you about last week?

While we sit in our homes using that little handheld clicker to control the television, advertisers in far away places are sitting around their boardrooms making decisions that they hope will allow them to influence and control our thought patterns, emotional responses, behaviors and actions.

Of course, this isn’t really a newsflash at all, is it? We know that advertisements and all sorts of subliminal messages are being streamed over the tube for the sole purpose of influencing us to buy something that’s for sale. But does that render us completely helpless? Is there no way for us to regain control of our TVs or our minds?

I suppose you could eliminate TV from your life altogether. Several of my friends don’t own a TV or watch one regularly. But for many, total TV elimination is impractical. And despite all of the crazy stuff happening on TV these days, it’s still a primary source for news, local information, and quality educational content.

So if we can’t get rid of our TVs, how can we at least be more mindful of how, when, and where we watch in order to limit television’s influence over our thoughts and behavior? I started thinking about it and jotting down some ideas, and before I knew it, I had a pretty decent list of tips for more responsible TV viewing. Instead of bombarding you with them all in one huge post, I thought I’d spread them out over a series of posts entitled “How to Watch Television”. It’s not like you have time to read them in one sitting anyway, right? Your favorite TV show is about to come on. ;-).

Here’s my first tip for making sure you don’t over-feed the idiot box.

How to Watch Television – Tip #1

Don’t watch TV immediately upon waking or just before going to bed.

These are times when the mind is at its most impressionable state. The line between the subconscious and conscious is blurred during sleep, so in those times of transition into and out of the sleeping state, your mind is more open to suggestion in the form of images, sounds, etc.  Just watch the movie Inception, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

If for some reason you must watch TV during those times – be mindful of the programming you select. Choose nature or educational programs over news, politics, or dramatic programming. While there are still advertisements sandwiched into the program breaks, the programs themselves tend to be more neutral. Another good option is to watch programming in another language. This can be a sort of ‘passive exercise’ for your brain. Even better, instead of watching TV when you transition from sleeping to waking,  limit your TV time to when you transition from work to home.



photo: kicking television, by dhammza

photo: by the warm glow of the television, by Heather Durdil

movies to watch: putney swope

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“Our job is to manipulate the consumer by arousing his desires. And then we satisfy those desires for a fixed price.”

~from “Putney Swope” (1969)


It’s a rare treat when you stumble across a film that’s so groundbreaking and before its time that it leaves an indelible impression on your brain. I was treated to such a stumbling a few months ago when a grey-movie-loving friend of mine introduced me to Putney Swope. Radical, thought-provoking, and absolutely hilarious… this one is now on my ‘favorite movies of all time’ list.

Synopsis: By a total fluke, Putney Swope – the lone black member on the board of a corporate advertising agency, is elected President when the owner dies. Determined to change the way things are done, Putney changes the name of the agency to ‘Truth and Soul’ and brings in a staff of pseudo-militant soul sistas and brothas to help him run the organization… into the ground.

You’d Like this Movie if You’re a Fan of: Black Dynamite, The Watermelon Man, Bamboozled

Why You Should Watch: 

  • Makes equal mockery of the blatant money-grubbing and mind-manipulation of corporate advertising machines and the flexible morality of revolutionary organizations that often makes it difficult to distinguish them from the money-grubbing manipulators.
  • The commercials in the movie are as funny (ha-ha) as they are funny (strange)!

Interesting Tidbits:

  • The guy who plays the lead character looks amazingly like Dick Gregory
  • Robert Downey Sr. (yes, Sherlock Holmes’ dad) wrote and directed the film and also did the voiceover for the lead actor because he kept flubbing his lines
  • Downey came up with the idea for the film during when he was making ‘experimental commercials for an ad agency – some of those commercials actually appear in the film
  • Antonio Fargas (aka, Huggy Bear) figures prominently in the film, providing lots of comic relief

Watch Putney Swope on Amazon


Left Unsaid: film series explores the blurred reality between our online and offline selves

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Left Unsaid

With everyone being so engaged in social media these days, it’s often hard to separate the online persona from the offline human. There is a line that is blurred – sometimes intentionally, sometimes not – when we start posting snippets of our personal lives all over the interwebs for the whole world to see. Through 140-character brain farts, status updates, microblogs, and snapshot images we develop composite pictures that may or may not reflect the totality of the individuals who publish them. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other social media applications have allowed us to expose more of ourselves to each other, but the core of who we are – what moves us, makes us happy, angry, sad, likeable or detestable – can still only be truly grasped by direct interaction. For this very reason, some people have chosen to opt out of the online world altogether, refusing to allow the line to be blurred because they realize that it’s important to maintain the humanness of connections.

Filmmaker Nelson George (who also produced Chris Rock’s ‘Good Hair’) has created a collection of very brief video vignettes that explores many of the social concerns of merging online conversations with offline reality. George’s series, Left Unsaid, chronicles several intimate interactions among a group of eclectic female creatives who’ve been invited to a meet-and-greet in a Brooklyn brownstone one sunny Sunday afternoon.  

The series is divided into 19 chapters, each of which focuses on one or more pseudo-fictional characters. I call them pseudo-fictional because it seems as if the characters themselves have been modeled after the women who are playing them. One particularly poignant interaction occurs between Belinda – a dancer and single mother, and Bethlehem – a freelance writer who pays the bills by writing for a tween-oriented celebrity gossip blog. In the chapter, titled “Phat Booty”, Belinda finds out that her pre-teen daughter is actively engaged on the site that Bethlehem writes for. Have a look at the video for yourself.  Check out the entire Left Unsaid series by visiting: I’d recommend starting from the first chapter – I didn’t at first and almost wrote the series off because I didn’t have the proper context.

Also – keep your eyes peeled for Chyna Layne – the girl who played the Jamaican smack-talking sista Rhonda in Precious.

(as seen on Black Web 2.0)



film opening: joan rivers – a piece of work at landmark theatre midtown

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Mouthy, brash, funny women are my role models (I doubt you are suprised by this news). And if there’s anyone who is the poster child for mouthy, brash, funny women it’s Joan Rivers. A couple of weeks ago I caught a piece about Joan Rivers on CBS Sunday Morning. The brief but thorough biography revealed a whole ‘nother side of the loudmouthed comedian that surprised me and inched her up a notch on my personal admiration scale.  The segment accurately portrayed Rivers as a self-made entertainer who studied under Margaret Mead, survived a spouse who commited suicide, was whitelisted and subsequently blacklisted by Johnny Carson, and – suprisingly enough – has a sensitive, vulnerable side that is masked her characteristically tough exterior.

Have a look for yourself:
Watch CBS News Videos Online

This Friday, a documentary about the life of Joan Rivers, entitled Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, opens in Atlanta at Landmark Theatres Midtown Arts Cinema. The film “exposes the private dramas of this irreverent, legendary comedian as she fights to keep her career thriving in a business driven by youth and beauty”.  It’s sure to be a fitting tribute to brash broads everywhere.



Landmark Theatres Midtown Arts Cinema
931 Monroe Drive
Atlanta, GA 30308
(678) 495-1424

dj rich medina on current tv

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before black dynamite and bushido brown

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Alright, so if you don’t already know (or don’t already have your own bootleg copy), Black Dynamite comes out on DVD today. This hilariously authentic spoof of 70s blaxploitation films features Michael Jai White (of Spawn and other B-movie fame) as the ass-kicking, smack-fighting, lady killer, Black Dynamite, who will stop at nothing to avenge his brother’s death and clean up the ‘hood.

The movie premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, but unfortunately, was largely overshadowed by the heavier-themed Precious.  However, Black Dynamite has gotten a lot of positive reviews from  critics, and I for one think it’s impressive to note that Jai White not only stars in the film – delivering both comic lines and action sequences with great skill – but also had a hand in writing the script. I guess he’s had enough B-movie experience to be able to turn the genre into a comic goldmine for himself.

On a related note, I happened to be enjoying a DVD collection of The Boondocks during Atlanta’s recent snow ‘storm’ , and rediscovered one of my favorite scenes  where Huey goes toe-to-toe with Bushido Brown, a black kung fu master sporting a perfectly coiffed afro and aviator sunglasses. The beau – who’d never seen the Boondocks episode – hipped me to the fact that the cartoon character seemed to be modeled after Jim Kelly, a real-life blaxploitation kung fu action hero from the 70s. Later that day, in an attempt to cure our cabin fever, we made a trip to Videodrome and immediately came across Black Belt Jones, the 1974 flick starring none other than Jim Kelly.  Needless to say I snatched it up and, upon viewing it, was surprised to find that not only did The Boondocks borrow Kelly’s image for the character of Bushido Brown, but Michael Jai White also borrowed heavily from Black Belt Jones for several scenes of Black Dynamite. The theme song from Black Belt Jones – composed by funk guitarist Dennis Coffey – was also surprisingly familiar. A snippet of the theme (along with a snippet from Coffey’s tune, ‘Scorpio’) was sampled in LL Cool J’s ‘Jingling Baby’. Just goes to show, a good thing never goes out of style.

If you’re a fan of movie spoofs, 70s culture, tongue-in-cheek action films, or watching sexy, shirtless black kung fu masters stick it to the man, I strongly suggest you rent them both.

Later for you jive turkeys,