Prompt 14

Prompt: “It rained heavily that morning and Amber couldn’t make it to the game. Her new boots sat in the corner of her room; burgundy suede with a lace up detail on the front. “Perfect” she sighed emphatically as she looked out of the window”


Maybe the rain will stop, she thought. Maybe it’s one of those passing pocket thingies. Oh she prayed to every god in creation that was true. She had saved up her allowances and any excess cash for an entire year for those shoes. While her friends went to parties and the movies, she stayed home counting every penny, nickel, and dime.

Her parents were not well off like her friends’. If it wasn’t for her scholarship, Amber wouldn’t even attend Preston Academy. Her parents would never be able to save up enough to afford a semester’s tuition. So Amber knew about sacrifice and hardship. Anything worth having in this world you gotta work for.

These weren’t just a pair of boots. These were overtime at that goddamn burger joint. These were missed birthday and pool parties. These were no new clothes, even though she needed them. These were at-home perm kits, handmade junior prom dress with the worn out church heels, and the nice (but obviously cheap) costume jewelry.

She looked out the window again. Rain, rain, go away. This game wasn’t that important. It wasn’t homecoming or a match against the Academy’s greatest rival. It was a regular game on a regular Friday night. But, dammit, she needed this! She had already given up too many Friday nights, too many weekends, too much of her youth. She was only 17! And this was her senior year. Her 18th birthday will be here soon; then graduation right after that; and she’ll have to work through the summer for extra funds; and before she knows it, she’ll be in her first semester of college. So really all she had was a few months to still be a kid.

Maybe she was being dramatic. There’s a pair of old boots still in her closet. Sure they practically ran their course but wearable. She could just put them on and go, right? Amber ran her fingers over the fabric on her new boots. She toyed with the lacing. But she wanted to wear them so badly! What even is the point of all that hard work if you can’t enjoy it in the end? Is this what she had to look forward to? Busting her ass only to get fucknowhere with fucknothing? Oh, no, life had her messed up.

She returned to the window. This cursed rain was going to stop. Today! When she was a child, her great grandmother told her she could make anything happen. All you had to do was focus. Amber’s mother called it hogwash. “That woman’s never been right in the head,” she said. But Amber was so desperate. Maybe she needed a little crazy right now.

She closed her eyes. All you have to do is focus. Amber pictured a sunny day. No rain, no muddy ground, or puddles. A little bit of warmth but not too much, just enough to keep that late Fall chill away. A clear street with freshly fallen colorful leaves. And…birds twittering a lively tune. Why the hell not?

She opened her eyes. “Rain, rain, go away.” Nothing. The rain kept coming. Okay. Maybe she didn’t focus hard enough. She took a deep breath and repeated: “Rain, rain, go away.” Still nothing.

Amber sighed in defeat and sucked her teeth. “Man, fuck this.” She pulled out her phone. Maybe the rest of the week looked better. Surely there’s a rain-less day on the horizon. There wasn’t. It would rain for the rest of this week and a couple of days into next. “Godda… Alright.” Oh, she was pissed now. “I can make anything happen,” she spoke the words through gritted teeth. “I just…have…to focus.”

Again she closed her eyes and pictured her perfect day. This time she concentrated on it so hard her nose bled. She could smell the fresh air, feel the sun on her skin, hear the crunch of leaves under those beautiful boots.

This was it. This would do it. She opened her eyes, placed a palm again the cold window pane, and with full determination commanded: “Rain. Rain. Go. The fuck. Away!”

Her mother called it hogwash. Said her grandmother was insane. Said the woman died a crazy, lonely ass embarrassment. Her mother was wrong.

The rain stopped immediately. The water on the ground began to slowly recede until there was none at all. Not even a puddle. Amber opened the window. When she did a warm breeze carried golden brown leaves past her window. And in the distance, she could very faint…birds. “Ha,” she said in disbelief. She wiped the blood from her noise with the back of her hand and examined it. “Ha,” she repeated, still stunned. Her shock quickly subsided into excitement. A pleased smile grew on her lips. She did it! “Holy hell.”

She had no idea how long this would last, but she would be a fool to waste the time. Amber grabbed her new boots and swiftly laced them up then bounced down the stairs.

Her parents stood in the front doorway completely dumbfounded. “Not even a drop!” her father exclaimed. He walked onto the yard and raised both hands as if to catch a phantom drop. “This is…” he picked up a dry leaf from the ground, “…amazing…”

Her mother plucked the leaf from his hand and examined it. “What in the world?” She picked a fresh one from the ground, then another, and another. “I…” She cautiously stepped onto the grass, afraid her heels would sink through the muddy ground. But it was solid. “I don’t understand. How is this even possible?”

“Hogwash,” Amber said. Her voice surprised her parents.

“What?” her mother questioned. “Wha–what did just you say?”

She took a leaf from her mother’s pile and crumble it with her hand. With a delighted, albeit smug, smile, she repeated: “It’s all hogwash, mother.”

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Favorite Albums and EPs of 2018

Corner Store Press

There can be no denial that this year belonged to Janelle Monae. Having followed her career ever since a MySpace friend shared a video of a performance of “Happy Violet All-Stars” at a hotel (which culminated with Janelle jumping into the pool), I have been a fan and am so proud that her 10 years of hard work have seen her become a cultural icon. However, we all know that I try to focus on indie and under-represented artists, so DirtyComputer won’t be on my list. But there are many other albums released this year that deserve as many of the accolades given to higher profile artists, so these are the albums and EPs that made an impression on me this year.

Annabel (lee) – From This Side/I Came Across a Dreamer

I have been enamored with Annabel (lee) since their first album SolitaryPlaces. After…

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So I saw Infinity War today…

Here’s my spoiler filled review (of sorts) of Infinity War for those that care.

The Facts:

First off, let me say I went in with zero expectations. Wait… that’s not true. I went with expectations so low that it circled back to a zero medium. With that barest of bare minimums, I actually enjoyed it. Because listen… I was not looking forward to the mess that was gonna happen on my screen ever since they announced this film years ago. 60 characters? In one movie??? No thank you. But in the end I think they balanced them as well as they could have. Though, if you’re going for particular faves, especially from the new movies (mainly Spider-Man and Black Panther, they won’t get enough screen time to sate you.)

But enough about that! Let’s move in to…

The Good:

1) Thor got a lot of shine in this film. More than he’s ever had in any of the previous Avengers. And thank all the gods for that. Thor not getting the attention and love he deserves especially after the superb Ragnark would have been nothing short of a tragedy. Chris Hemsworth acting was spot on as well. He beautifully portrayed the pain of realizing that he is now the last Asgardian and he can’t even mourn that loss because now they have to stop Thanos, aka the biggest Big Bad that ten years of film have been leading up to. Thor/Hemsworth fans will leave the theater satisfied in his characterization. The humor from Ragnarok remains, though he now has an eye again (it’s a mechanical/techo(?) eye that Rocket stole). In the hands of skillful writers (or writers who at least give a fuck about him), Thor is a solid and formidable character.

2) Steve Rogers’ beard. Listen, if you know anything about me, then you know that I love Steve Rogers with all that is within me and putting a beard on all that fine is like my birthday and Christmas wrapped in one. I mean look at this shit:

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Look at it! That’s 100% authentic, Boston-made beard right there!

Now look at this:

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My dear friend, Jasmine, told me that I had to witness that gorgeousness on the big screen and, boy, she was right. These pictures, the videos, the gifs do not do it justice. When Steve’s 6’1, fine, thick ass came on the screen, I cheered. (Which, incidentally, was also the first time that I showed any real emotion in regards to this film, but I’ll get to that when we get to the bad.) Steve didn’t really get too much to do in this film but I’m fine with that. Especially since I think he’ll get more to do in the next film. If they don’t kill him off early on. Speaking of which, STEVE LIVES! I’m so happy because that was the one thing I wasn’t looking forward to. But you know who doesn’t live?

3) Loki dies. Yes this is a plus. Loki, was once herald as the greatest villain in the MCU (with good reason). But lately we’ve gotten other villains who have stolen that spotlight from him, both on the big and small screen. You have Erik Killmonger from Black Panther; Cottonmouth, Mariah, & Shades from Luke Cage; Killgrave from Jessica Jones; Hydra & Ava from Agents of Shield; and Hydra & The Winter Soldier in Civil War. Hell even in a shared franchise, Loki is bested by his sister Hela. Although he was the impetuous that initially brought the Avengers together, Loki doesn’t have to bear the load anymore.

Great villainy aside, Loki’s storyline has also come to a close. Unlike some other characters who “died” (yes, that’s in quotations, I’ll explain later) in the film. Villains rarely ever get a chance to show multi-dimensionality over multiple films. Loki was allowed that opportunity and it’s a solid ending for him. Killed by the man who sent him to destroy New York in the first Avengers. It’s poetic. It’s the ending Loki deserved.

4) The humor. It gave us a bit of breath in a very dark movie. Everyone got a chance to shine. Which was nice. Because usually it’s just Tony tossing out way too many quips and the other characters reacting to it. Which would’ve been fine if it wasn’t already established that they, too, had their own sense of humor.

5) The romantic subplots weren’t cumbersome or distracting. I’ll admit, I was really expecting to hate everything about Wanda/Vision. Wait, let me back up and say that I don’t care about either character standalone so I could care even less about them together. But I feared it would be, well, like how every other romantic relationship in the films have been since the beginning*. Annoying and, frankly, a bit unnecessary. (I’m thinking mainly of the awfulness of Thor/Jane. God, who allowed that to happen??? Don’t y’all screen test?!)

Also, BruceNat was acknowledged but not really delved into and, boy, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that. It makes me want to boost the final score up an entire letter grade.

*Sans Black Panther which gave us a romantic pairing with chemistry that didn’t feel shoehorned. You know what? I’m going to relegate this statement to the main three films: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America. Because those franchises are where the problem lies the heaviest.

6) The action scenes wasn’t as overbearing as I feared. Y’all know how bad action films have gotten lately, right? They’re all explosions and destruction but no plot. Even in films that do have some semblance of a plot, if the action scenes are overdone they can leave you exhausted. (I’m looking at you Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman and Age of Ultron and Civil War.)

The Bad:

1) The film started right where Ragnarok left off, Thanos has fucked up Thor’s ship and killed nearly everyone aboard except Thor, Loki, and Heimdall. Which begged the question: WHERE THE HELL WAS VALKYRIE??? With a movie filled with characters, y’all mean to tell me y’all couldn’t find five minutes to give her? I know she’s not dead or else they would’ve shown it. So what gives???

2) Also Heimdall’s death was bullshit. That gets its own line because that was the first death in the film that I felt with my whole heart.

3) Speaking of Heimdall, since when can he summon the BiFrost? I’ve seen all three Thors and nowhere did it ever show him being able to do that. I didn’t mind it but I’m kind of over these films adding random powers out of nowhere. At this rate, in the next film Steve Rogers is going to be able to summon the dead with his mind. Mark my words.

4) Speaking of deaths, there weren’t really a lot of them. And I know that’s audacious to say, but, I’m sorry, I just cannot take these “deaths” at face value. Aside from Loki, Heimdall, Vision, Banner, and Gamora, the others feel like a gambit. A ploy. Something to shock the audience. But I just felt nothing. Short of agitation.

Sure Heimdall and sweet Peter’s death (that child begging to live hurt my heart; Tom Holland is a gift) got me emotional, but other than that? Nothing. And I love majority of these characters and still, nothing truly moved me. I didn’t leave the theater weeping or in anguish. And I’ll get into depth about that in the ugly.

5) The humor. I know. I know. I already made it a good, but please hear me out. While the humor was necessary for a movie of this caliber it also often felt out of place. Some scenes lingered on too long just for a joke. I kept thinking, “Oh my god, can we move on now please?” At one point, I was sure they were just padding it out for time.

6) Way too many people were able to put their hands on Thanos’ crew. I haven’t read the comics but I heard that Thanos rolls with some pretty tough people, so scenes like Steve Rogers being able to catch Proxima’s staff (something I read that no human was supposed to be able to do) was ridiculous. I love you, Steve, but WHAT?! I enjoyed the little smirk Thanos gave Steve when he wrestle with his Infinity Gauntlet-covered hand but again, BITCH WHAT?! I get Thor being able to go toe-to-toe with them seeing as gods can only kill gods but everyone else?

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Another reason why this irks me will be covered in the ugly section below.

7) Strange giving up the Time Stone was bad writing. It made no sense other than to give Thanos a chance to get five stones before he went after Vision. Unless this leads to the one scenario out of 14 million that they win (which they most likely will because Marvel has so many movies still lined up and they don’t plan on stopping soon). But even so, it left a bad taste in my mouth. You never sacrifice billions of lives for person. Ever.

8) Thanos as a villain. Meh. Seriously. He was teased so much and for so long and now we have him and I’m indifferent. His reasons for wanting the stones could barely be called that. He wants to destroy half the universe because why now? It’s finite? Is that a reason? I mean sure, it can be. But is it a good one? No, not at all. What happened to him trying to court Death? Why couldn’t we have that one? That made more sense. Now look what you gave us!

I heard some reviewers were gushing over Marvel finally fixing its villain problem with Thanos and really? Y’all gonna spit on the graves of Erik and Hela and Cottonmouth like this? Right in front of my fucking salad????

I won’t lie, he made me a little twitchy when he got in the vicinity of my faves but that doesn’t mean he deserve to be at the top of the list.

9) They fucked up Wakanda. This is unforgivable and further proves why you can’t let white people in paradise. They come to your house, put their dirty feet on your table, and wreck all your shit. Disrespectful.

The Ugly:

And now we’re at the meat of the matter. Let’s get into it.

1) That ending was trash. Throw it away. I saw a review whose headline read (paraphrasing): “This ending is what happens when you let money write your movies.” And honestly? Tea.

Look, I knew when I went in that the final Avengers would be splint into two films but I thought they would at least give us a more solid ending than that. Half the remaining Avengers fading into dust? Then cut to black? I’m sorry Marvel but you are not the Sopranos. Or hell not even Agents of Shield. You’re not an hour long drama where vague endings are suitable because they will be answered in next week’s episode. We know that this story was going to continue but to do this ridiculous ass ploy? It’s a weak, unnecessary cash grab.

Nearly everyone in the theater walked out dissatisfied. This is what happens when you know there will be no repercussions for your actions. This movie will still make millions of dollars. It will still be a success. It will sell out theaters, and DVDs/Blu-rays/VOD, people will buy the Funkos, the toys, all the merchandise shit. They will bitch and complain and Marvel will not hear it or give a shit because they know that we’ll come back for Avengers 4.

Despite the truth of ALL of that, it still doesn’t justify half-assing an ending. It reminds me of when The Walking Dead kept the fate of the characters, namely Glenn, hanging in the balance at the end of season 6, only to kill him off at the end of the first episode of season 7. Sure it hurt, because I loved the character but I knew it was going to happen. And instead of letting the story play out to a satisfying end, they teased it for months. That’s not smart writing. That’s lazy. In the case of Infinity War, it’s lazy and arrogant.

Marvel knew what they were doing when they made that ending. They know what game they’re playing. They placed all their cards face up on the table and dared us to walk away. Knowing good and goddamn well majority of us won’t. And as true as that may be, that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve more for our loyalty and devotion. We already suffered through a decade of rehashed plots and creative dead zones (sans, like, three films). They don’t give a shit about the story they’re telling now. Everything is a never ending set-up. This film is not, say, Inception. Where a vague ending is fine because it’s a singular story told in a singular movie. Infinity War is culmination of ten very long years of various interconnecting films. The very least we deserve is a solid goddamn ending.

2) The fact that none of these deaths may be permanent.

Guardians of the Galaxy will most likely get a third movie since Marvel loves trilogies. So regardless of Gamora’s death being permanent or not, the franchise will have an opportunity to finish with Starlord, Drax, Groot and possibly Mantis. Dr. Strange, Black Panther, and Spider-Man only had one movie each so those character deaths are reversible. Bucky’s death would be uncertain if Sebastian Stan didn’t have more movies on his contract. I believe Anthony Mackie does as well. So I would say it’s a safe bet they will return as well.

Knowing all of this, the question remains: WHY? Why even kill off any characters or certain characters if their fates are already known. Because these are the games Marvel plays with the MCU.

Laying out all their planned movies in advance takes away the power of any decisions made in these films. Oh Thanos is going to destroy the universe you say? Gonna be tough to do that when you have films lined up for the next three years. Oh these characters are dead? Sure, Jan. I’ll see them in their main franchise sequel. It’s that bullshit ending all over again. It’s #CoulsonLives all over again.

This makes every death meaningless. Which means that two hours of my time has been wasted. Unless, of course, Kevin Feige was lying to us about the upcoming films. Which, if that is true, then woe unto Feige for the unholy hell that will be unleashed upon him from every black person on Earth, including me, for promising us Black Panther 2 then taking it away. It’s one thing for us, the fans, to hope a fave isn’t dead or be in denial about the death and, in turn, make fics and canons where they aren’t. It’s another for Marvel to dangle these characters in front of us, then pull them way, only to dangle them again. Like emotional cat toys. (That’s an awful analogy but please go with it.)

It would’ve worked if the original Avengers had turned to ash. If Steve or Natasha or Tony began to fade away. But when Bucky crumbled I was cautious. Then when T’Challa, Strange, and Peter died? I knew it was bullshit. Those three? Of all characters! C’mon, son! Marvel’s not even trying anymore and that’s just sad.

3) This movie made me kinda want to see Dr. Strange and… god help me… Benihana Coccyx wasn’t as ugly and alien like as he usually is. This is the worst infraction of them all.

Final Movie Score:

I don’t know. Let’s go with a C. That feels right.

Okay, Jay, but should I go see it?

Eh… That’s up to you, homie. I mean if you wanna. If you have a two and a half hours to kill then sure. Watch it. Mind you I spent $6.10 at the matinee and two of that was convenience fee from ordering with the Cinemark app. So it didn’t hurt me financially to waste my time on this. If your theaters don’t have prices like that, then you better figure it out. I know there’s a semi-decent cam out there somewhere. (Beneath the pale moonlight…) Or you can wait to rent it on VOD. But whatever choice you make, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Additional Thoughts:

One of the joys I’ve found in going to the movies is sharing audience reactions. (I’m an introvert and a loner so, yes, this is new for me.) The group excitement of Steve’s entrance. The collective shock of Heimdall & Loki’s deaths. The shared laughter at the genuine funny moments. The shared silence when the jokes ran on too long. The side comments when Tony was stabbed. The loud “WHAT?!” when Fury turned to ash. The audible disbelief of the ending eventually turning into silence when everyone left the theater in a collective state of “What the fuck did I just watch?” Aaah. I love it!

Feminist Reads For Women’s History Month

Musings of A Romance Junkie

                                                                     Image via Google

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Is your feminism intersectional? March is Women’s History Month, and I have two books in my arsenal that I am going to make a point to read before the end of the month.

The first book had me at the title: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.

Roxane Gay is a bad mamma jamma, and I encourage you to check her out. Bad Feminist is a collection of essays in which she speaks on past and modern-day issues that affect women in general and as a woman of color. Part musing, part call-out, this one is definitely worth consideration. Any woman who is willing to sacrifice money for principles is aight with me!

The next book on my list is a collection of historical romances. Daughters of a Nation: A Black Suffragette Romance Anthology has been in my TBR for a…

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Ratchet Research

Dust

ratchet-research-art

We cooked up something new for y’all while Black Girl Squee takes a brief holiday break. There’s a new show on the BGS feed called Ratchet Research. Author Katrina Jackson (Encore, @katrinajax) and I (@dustdaughter) host the monthly Black pop culture podcast with an historical perspective. We combine the ratchet pop culture news we all hate to love with the analytical eye for research and historical references. That’s where the name of the show comes from.

The first episode of Ratchet Research talks about The Knowles Sisters, Beyonce and Solange. We talk about the importance of their two brilliant albums, Lemonade and A Seat At The Table. And we also just stan out for these two supremely talented Black women. It’s a long episode but I think it’s a lot of fun. We sure had a lot of fun recording it!

Please send…

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Please Don’t Stop the Music: 2016 Favorites

Corner Store Press

I don’t know the person who said it, but this tweet is the best description I can think of: this year was a terrible movie with an awesome soundtrack. Or something to that effect. In a year when we lost Natalie Cole (technically 2015), David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Glenn Fry, Sharon Jones and… Prince… we lost Prince…, it’s easy to lament the genius we lost rather than celebrate the genius we might have gained. In that spirit, I am going over some of the artists and their albums and EPs that contributed to the year 2016’s awesome soundtrack. I tried to focus on talent that might not appear on the lists of bigger publications, so albums like Rhianna’s Anti, A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It from Here and Frank Ocean’s Blonde are all awesome but absent here. There will be some overlap, but this list is…

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It Wasn’t All Bad: Music That Got Us Through 2016

Corner Store Press

No matter how we feel about arbitrary time markers, we have to admit that this year did too much too fast. An absolute bullshit of a year determined to make us mourn every little thing we ever held near and dear to us. This isn’t to say this year didn’t offer us a few gems. It did. While some of us are still wounded by the loss of knowing we’ll never get new music from a few legends, we’re still celebrating some amazing music we got this year. Here are a few tracks and artists who made this year just a little more bearable.

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