Category Archives: Things

QFBR: Trail Of Echoes by Rachel Howzell Hall

There’s a neighborhood in the dusty corners of the ‘hood, not terribly far from where the rich people live, where too many young teen girls have gone missing lately.

Then it happens—again.

This time, it’s 13-year-old Chanita Lords who has vanished from a neighborhood in Los Angeles known as The Jungle.

It’s another case that strikes Detective Elouise “Lou” Norton in the heart and gut because she grew up in that neighborhood. Norton also recently solved the case of her long-missing older sister Tori, whose bones had finally been discovered at a shopping plaza not far from where she was last seen all those years ago–part of the scant remnants of her last living day. Tori had been literally under their noses, yet just beyond reach.

So Lou takes another trip down memory lane to The Jungle, and to a family that still lives in the same apartments where Lou and her family used to reside.

Part of her walk includes revisiting and reuniting with families whose members were problematic on the bullying front back in the day. Now, it appears that foul attitudes and bullying jackassery were passed down to the next generation.  

Lou manages to balance, though not always seamlessly, her unwavering dedication to police and detective work to keep other girls like Chanita from being snatched–while knowing how folks in her old neighborhood feel about the police and understanding why they do.

As part of the murder mystery backdrop, Rachel Howzell Hall continues to weave in relational dynamics between the characters in Lou’s life. From the ultra-tense sentiments she harbors toward her dad who ditched their family and is trying to make amends, to the tensions that arise based on cultural and environmental differences between the way Lou was raised and how her partner, Colin Taggert, grew up in Colorado.

But they still work well together as partners in crime solving, along with the other members of the homicide team. Part of the relational story includes a coming out and its aftermath between two longtime friends, and Lou’s attempts to juggle work and kind-sorta-but-not-really-but-still-kinda-sorta blossoming relationship with an Assistant District Attorney who seems like a great guy. 

As for the murder mystery, Howzell Hall‘s writing, as always, keeps me guessing. Who are the main suspects? What’s up with the three mean hood chicks who lived in the same apartment complex as Chanita? Did they carry out one of those Lifetime-esque jealous cheerleader-type of murders and dump the body in a nearby park? What about the mom who had a roughneck boyfriend? The convicted pedophile who lived nearby? The girl’s counselor at school? Some of her schoolmates? Who, what-the-what, when, where, how and why?

Who killed Chanita and tried to deter investigators by injecting bug repellent into her thighs?

Who’s sending the ciphers and other mysterious notes? Who killed AGAIN? Is this a serial killer?  What about the other missing girls? Who, when, where, what-the-what? How and WHY?

Well, that’s about all I can say without saying too much. But yes, is a page-turner!  And I’m so gratified that I guessed the right killer! But the detectives thinning the field did make it easier, though.

To find out more, check out this read— Trail of Echoes. It was published in 2016.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

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EPISODE 20: If We Could Only Talk—a chat with singer- songwriter, a cappella arranger N’Namdi O. Bryant

When you know what you do best, sticking to your guns—as singer-songwriter PJ Morton writes and sings—is how to get your life’s work done.

Today’s podcast guest is N’Namdi Olufemi Bryant, a singer-songwriter and host of the podcast “For the Love of A Cappella.” We get into some themes of his latest album during this episode. It’s titled “If We Could Only Talk.” 

So N’Namdi and I had been talking about doing a podcast together for MONTHS, but as usual, life takes on its own plans. We were going to have him on before an album release earlier this year, then tech difficulties took over his project.

But the idea was still in both of our orbits. So—lookie here—I saw on Instagram that N’Namdi was in Washington, D.C. I said to myself—GIRL…..let’s make this happen! If you don’t ask him if he’ll have time for an interview—it’s an automatic no!

I asked if he had an time to chat. He said yes, and here it is! It all worked out.

So we met up at the Mansion on O Street. It’s a tourist destination located just off the bustling Dupont Circle, and has a fascinating trove of history tied to it. It’s also where N’Namdi sometimes performs.

There are so many themes to this podcast, and to preserve the integrity of the conversation flow, I tried not to do too much lifting and pasting of interview parts. We talk about negative self-talk, and what N’Namdi does to overcome that hurdle. Also—a discussion on imperfection and about the different ways he stretched his vocal range.

During our talk I learned some things I didn’t know in the decades since we last saw each other.

So let’s get right to the conversation, where we start talking about his podcast “For the Love of A Capella,”and where he got the idea for his program.

===========

07:55-Why it took him more than 10 years to complete one particular song arrangement

11:05—The makings and stories behind his current project “If We Could Only Talk”

21:30—How Kermit the Frog came up in our conversation

26:06—The road to vocal range

31:51—The time we talked about skylines and smog

33:39—Homeless in Huntsville, Ala. and Nashville

49:59—The part about albums, hilarious singing telegram and touching ride-share driver stories


That was N’Namdi Bryant…singer, songwriter, musical arranger…lover of a cappella! His new project “If We Could Only Talk” and his other albums are available on various online platforms–including iTunes.

Learn more about his projects on his website—The Acappellian.
You can also connect with him via social media:
Facebook
Instagram

Remember to also follow Planet Noun on Social Media, and to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and please rate the show.

Thanks again for stopping by Planet Noun. Until next time, take care!

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From breakup pining to thriving with “I Ain’t Thinking About You”

Whew! This book may be fewer than 60 pages, and it’s an enjoyable read—but a dense one. By that I mean there’s lots to reflect on… And reflect some more. This book is a workshop! 

Based on the title, I imagined a sassy, finger snapping read. That’s in here—along with research-based recommendations. I love when sass and humor meet academic research. I really relate to the tone of this book.

I also love the humor! Plenty of that in here, too…along with hope. That’s what I really, really like—all the steps are meant to get folks to hope.

My favorite parts include Chapter 4 and practical ways to get to acceptance—radical acceptance—and no longer blaming ourselves when someone we’re dating “ain’t actin’ right.”

Oh, and the necessity of forgiveness to get to a place of healing, and looking ahead to what we want life to look like after we’ve fully moved on.

I also love the humor! Plenty of that in here, too...along with hope. That’s what I really, really like—all the steps are meant to get folks to hope. Click To Tweet

There are 13 chapters total in the book, eight which outline the path leading to and including The Breakup Funeral™. Each chapter will ask you to do some thought work that involves accessing your deepest emotions surrounding the breakup (or breakups–plural– if it applies?) and any past influences that may impact your dating choices today. There are writing prompts that provide an outlet for all of that self-exploration and excavation.

Lenina Mortimer, the book’s author, recommends going through the eight steps in order because each step is builds up to the recovery culmination—The Breakup Funeral™.

Lookie here, seriously consider (then get) this book if you’re grappling with a recent breakup. Heck, you may want to check it out even if a relationship ended a while ago, but you’re still grappling with some residual grief. Even if your emotions and your mind ‘been known’ the person ain’t coming back, even if you don’t WANT them back—but you haven’t found it in you to start the path forward to thriving again… This book is also for you.

“I Ain’t Thinking About You” gets 5 out of 5 planets!

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Amazon’s new music streaming tier for students costs less than laundry load

Observation: Amazon’s new student streaming price tier costs less than a single load of laundry. (Graphic: Business Wire)

Amazon announced today that all current and new Prime Student members can subscribe for access to the premium tier Amazon Music Unlimited for an extra $0.99 a month. This comes just ahead of the new academic year as students are preparing to head to campus.

Students who subscribe to the add-on service will have ad-free access to more than 50 million on-demand songs and curated playlists, and be able to tell Alexa what to play via the Amazon Music App for iOS or Android, and all devices where Alexa’s digital spirit lives.

Read more here.

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EPISODE 18—When your name helps pave the pathway to greatness

In this episode of Planet Noun, a chat with an up-and-coming…award-winning jazz musician Jazmin Ghent.

When she learned she won the 2019 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album, Ghent was in the midst of a trip to Australia.

“So I was absolutely shocked, so shocked, and I feel like it changed the dynamic of that whole trip in Australia. I just know it’s no one but God, and I’m beyond thankful, and I don’t take it lightly. You know, I’m representing women, African American women in music, in Jazz music, so I’m beyond thankful and grateful.”

When she’s not belting smooth tunes from her saxophone, she’s in the classroom teaching music to children in Polk County, Florida.

We talk about her pathway to jazz music, the saxophone, and how names and other language used with children can affect the trajectory of their lives.

She also talks about how words from musicians she looks up to helped guide her path.

“I did this Show Your Talent competition. The judges were Marcus Miller, Brian Culbertson and Boney James… It was surreal to be in front of these people I grew up listening to,” Ghent said.

“I was so nervous before I played, and Brian Culbertson came up to me and said ‘you know what, just have fun. And if you have fun, everyone else will have fun, too.’ That was the moment where I was like—maybe I could do this and record, and write and make this a career. That would be a defining moment.”

Ghent says she is on a constant path of self-improvement when it comes to her musical gifts.

“I feel like there’s this unattainable goal that I have for myself that I’m constantly working towards. I just know I had a love for music and it’s what I wanted to pursue. I can’t see myself doing anything else. So that’s what turned it into a career…”

Planet Noun is all about the People, Places, Things and Ideas that teach us, prompt us to make a difference and do more with what life presents. That’s exactly what Ghent is doing with her teaching and her music.

Listen to the entire interview —featuring Jazmin Ghent, winner of the 2019 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album.

Learn more about Ghent’s music on her website.

You can also follow her on social media:

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

SoundCloud

Instagram

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EPISODE 15: Crafting characters that can step from a book’s pages and walk down the street

Any day is a good day to profess affection… so—I admit—I’m in love. With books written by today’s guest! So, there’s this character named Elouise Norton who has captured my heart! Why? Because she’s so human… It’s like I know her.

I’m stoked that I got to interview her creator during a visit to Los Angeles!

Critically acclaimed crime fiction writer Rachel Howzell Hall is the author of several books, including the Lou Norton series, and another title They All Fall Down, which will be released on April 9.

We discuss a range of things from her origins as a writer, how she can explores through her characters, the dualities and unexpected realities of her page people—her characters, and more!

Take a listen to Rachel Howzell Hall on Planet Noun Episode 15!

Part 1—00:00-08:10
Where it all started

Part 1a—08:16-17:07 How a character, Detective Elouise Norton, was a tutor to Howzell Hall

Part 2—17:04-29:02
Characters you don’t expect… dualities and unexpected realities.

Part 3—29:05-36:20
Rachel’s journey toward crime fiction

Part 4—36:28-42:37
Reconciling characters and subject matter with a churchy upbringing

Part 5—42:40-end
Most gratifying moments as an author, and maximizing her time as an author who also has a family and a full time job

Links to stories mentioned in episode:

Torrance bowling alley shooting

Rachel’s social media links:

Instagram

Twitter

Website 

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Episode 13: Meditation to yoga and lots in between—with Stephanie Gaines-Bryant

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant, owner/operator of Radio Yogi Health and Fitness

Have you ever spoken to someone at work and you knew there was something more intriguing to their story?

That’s what I started finding out after one co-worker and I got to talking and I found out she has a yoga business. After starting this podcast, I asked her to be on the show to talk about the benefits of yoga.

It’s a New Year and, no doubt, you might be reviewing resolutions to be fitter, healthier, and/or vowing for better self care this year.

What better way to do so than to get your yoga on?

I’ve done so sporadically through the years and quickly noticed I was one of a few faces that looked like mine among the student population. I definitely didn’t notice any black instructors.

But now I know one! Yes, only one.  I’m certain there are more out there, but she’s the only one I know of.

Meet Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. She’s a news anchor at a 24-hour radio news station in Washington, D.C. She’s also owner and operator of Radio Yogi Health and Fitness in Bowie, Md.  

Listen up to find out more!

Planet Noun is all about the People, Places, Things and Ideas that teach us, prompt us to make a difference and do more with what life presents. Episode 13 guest is Stephanie Gaines-Bryant–radio news anchor and owner-operator of Radio Yogi Health and Fitness.

Part 1

01:30 — What Radio Yogi is all about
02:38—Stephanie’s journey to meditation; then yoga practice and instruction
16:41—Thoughts about Christians and yoga practice

Part 2
21:10—Stephanie’s advice on starting a new habit this new year—whether it’s yoga or something else.

Part 3
• 39:44—In addition to being on the radio and running her yoga business, Stephanie also runs a non-profit—Sisters for Fitness, and talks about the concerns that led her to start the organization. This segues into a discussion about mental illness in the African American and some Christian church communities. If Jesus can fix it, why can’t that fixin’ be accomplished via a therapist?

Read more about Stephanie at Radio Yogi Health and Fitness website and Sisters 4 Fitness by clicking the links. You’ll also find more on Facebook and Twitter.

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EPISODE 3—Balikbayan Boxes: Care Packages in Reverse with Jason Reblando (Repeat)

Since Christmas is around the corner, here’s a question for you: 

What’s the value of a can of Ensure? Spam? Or a pack of Doritos or other snack you can pick up during a Target run or at the corner store?

Well, if you’re a member of the Filipino diaspora, everyday items, snacks and other treats can have additional meaning attached to them if they’re shipped to the Philippines from abroad in a Balikbayan Box. 

It’s a tradition I had no idea about until a year or so ago.  It was then I realized that—among all the groups of color I grew up around in Los Angeles—there are some folks whose traditions I’m more familiar with than others. I don’t pretend to know everything about anyone, but as an eternal student, learning as much as possible is a constant goal. It dawned on me last year that I knew next to nothing about the Filipino diaspora and Filipino Americans, and wanted to learn more. 

This-here interview was released last year, and was so interesting I wanted to share it again this year!

So if you’ve heard this before—welcome back, and stick around. If you’re hearing this for the first time, let’s dig into this holiday repeat of Planet Noun Episode 3—Balikbayan Boxes: Care Packages in Reverse with Illinois-based artist, photographer and author Jason Reblando.

Happy holidays! Merry Christmas, Happy everything! Take a listen to a holiday repeat of Episode 3, with guest Jason Reblando. He’s an Illinois-based artist, photographer, and author. Jason joined me on Skype.

This has been a holiday repeat of Episode 3 with guest Jason Reblando, an Illinois-based artist, photographer, and author. He was on Skype.

Here’s a link to Jason’s article about Balikbayan Boxes on City Lab.

Learn more about Jason, his book projects and artwork on his website.

Find him on social media:

Twitter: @JasonReblando

Instagram: @jjrebs

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Netflixing and Chilling soltera—when partnerless storybook endings are happiest of all

Violet is bred for perfection from head to toe. Her mom saw to it. Perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect clothes, perfect stride, impeccable toes to slide into perfect shoes. Everything just perfect to the gaze and the ears. She is bred to only utter words that fall pleasingly on others’ ears. Violet colors with excellent strokes and only within socially acceptable lines. Early on, she learned to maneuver through the world by placing outside perceptions ahead of the person she wanted to be.

However, she didn’t even know who that person was and didn’t realize it until her perfect life plan began to hiccup.

Violet’s metamorphosis starts when her boyfriend of two years didn’t slide an engagement ring on her finger—as she expected. Clint surprised her with a cutie-patooty puppy-dog instead.

Vi is pissed, and her birthday surprise takes her on a roller coaster that led her to a place and idea in which all women—yea, all people—should solidly stand at some point in life: That they are enough.

Nappily Ever After whispered to me, and I felt fragments of my life coursing through the script. I’m certain I’m not the only sista-girl who thinks so. From dodging swimming pools because I didn’t want to reverse my straightened hair to its natural Afro state, to summer camp braid-ups to keep it manageable. Of course there was that ever-present sense of anxiety that my ‘nappy’ hair had to be fixed via the hell-heat torture of a pressing comb.

This film helped resurface memories of wash and press days with my mom and sister at home… the ubiquitous “hold your ear” command in countless black-folks’ kitchens and hair salons across the country, and likely around the world where pressing combs have had their reign.

This movie spoke to me because of the familiar concern I used to have about rain and fog—things that could make freshly pressed and curled tresses scramble back to their roots.

It also spoke to me because in addition to those “hold your ear” commands, countless post-salon care instructions included the words “sleep” and “cute” in tandem. And sleeping cute may have looked cute and kept my hair style as close to salon perfection as possible, but it never resulted in sound sleep and never felt cute for my neck, which usually ached the next morning.

Without giving away the entire storyline, it was gratifying to watch Violet transform from a superficial human who outgrows the hair hatred that was passed down from her mother under the guise of always appearing “acceptable” to the gaze of others—even significant others. It was also heart-warming to see this character start gaining true confidence in herself based on who she is as a person and not how she appears to the world—and definitely not based on whether she has a man. The process is jump-started, but is in no way completed by the end of the film—even after five hairstyles and a liberating pool scene.

I’m also gratified that it didn’t have a storybook “girl gets guy” ending, because we all know those shit-perfect endings ain’t always real. This film is up to the times and realizes that the perfect ending doesn’t always involve a significant other or marriage.

Sometimes the perfect ending means finally being happy with yourself. By yourself. And that’s so okay.

Now I have to get the book to see what actually happens.

There’s another Netflix movie that explores a similar theme–only without  pressing combs, perms and flat irons. It’s a Spanish language film that’s titled Soltera Codiciada. The English title—How to Get Over a Breakup. There are several subtitle and audio options. I enjoy films that can involve part-time reading.

In this Flix, Maria Fe’s boyfriend called to dump her. That’s how she spiraled through the seven stages of grief. And drinking. And drunk calling and What’s Apping him as she meandered through each stage.

So what led to this?

Well, what had happened was…

Her novio left Peru to attend graduate school in Madrid, Spain. Then he dumps her, breaks all contact, but she sees him posted with some other chick on Instagram.

Maria Fe drinks, a friend helps her find a roommate and over the months, her life slides back to normal.

Mari-Fe even completes some home-improvement projects in her inherited home, and starts a blog.

Thing is, she always wanted to be a writer, but was occupied by spending her time pleasing her boyfriend for six years to the point where she wasn’t chasing her own dreams.

Homegirl makes strides at work even though her boss is the most horrible person on earth—racist, sexist, homophobic and oblivious to it all.

Fe finds her blog, Soltera Codiciada, getting good traffic traction. She even finds herself on the cusp of a work promotion.

What happens in the nooks and crannies around these key events—well you’ll have to watch the film to find out. But I will say this: Old boy, ex novio, makes a comeback. Whether he stays or goes you’ll find out when you Netflix and chill. But Soltera Codiciada’s ending is spot on in my opinion—just like Nappily Ever After.

Why? Because it also shows a woman can be a fairy godmother, genie, or her own Prince Charming/Principe Azul who respects and rescues her own damn self.

And I love it.

Both Nappily Ever After and Soltera Codiciada/How to Get Over a Breakup earn…

 

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Planet Noun — Podcast Pullquotes Season 1 Roundup

So I totally enjoy producing this podcast. It find it informative and inspiring and downright educational to step into the perspectives and experiences of others.

Season One is in the books! We’re 11 episodes in, and I’m grateful and thankful for every iota of support and encouragement that I’ve received so far.

Season two gets started one month from now, and I invite you along for that journey!

But for now, let’s relive some  favorite snippets from most of the first eleven episodes of Planet Noun Podcast.

There’s another episode, but I didn’t include quote snippets from that one. I’m so looking forward to sharing more from that episode during the holidays!

Take a listen to these, enjoy, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud!

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