Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

As I write this, I still cannot believe this is true. It feels like a piece of my childhood just died today. I remember dancing around as a kid to Michael's albums. He was iconic, he was a legend. And whatever shell of his former self he became in his later years, his accomplishments and contributions to the music industry are written in the history books.

I have to admit, I don't usually get choked up about things like this, but as the radio station played his hits, I found myself crying. And a little later when I had to pick something up from the store, I couldn't even remember my own pin number. This is such a loss, such a loss. I mean, who tops him? What male pop/r&b artist comes close today? If you ask sooo many people today about their careers, they will tell you Michael Jackson inspired them. The choreography, the music video, the dance breaks, all these standards were set by Michael Jackson.

My prayers go out to his family and his children. I am deeply sorry for their loss. Our loss as fans doesn't compare.

Beyonce in Washington DC

Last night, after a very long and eventful work day, I took my little cousin into the big city to see Beyonce. I had heard and seen from television performances that she puts on a great show. And it was a quite a spectacle. I was very impressed and felt like I got my money's worth. Unlike many acts today, she can sing and dance. She has got stage presence, charisma, and she just "puts it all out" on the stage floor. She works for her money. I was very impressed, and I feel like she is close to becoming that which she aspires to be: a legend.

I feel like there is a general lack of professionalism among artists today. And however bland it might be in her interviews, Beyonce is professional. She is composed when she needs to be and lets lose when it is appropriate. And where it may seemed contrived with a lesser performer, she makes you feel it, she makes you believe she is a superstar.

I don't want to spoil it for anyone who has it seen the show, but at one awesome moment, she walks on air...literally. She killed it, and she filled the huge Verizon Center here in DC. And if you hadn't heard, the First Lady brought Sasha and Malia to the show. If you have the opportunity, you should definately check out Beyonce's concert. It is worth the money. You will leave satisfied.

In light of the passing of Michael Jackson, I appreciate Beyonce's showmanship even more. She is a true talent in the same manner of legends before her. I appreciate her contributions to the industry.

Monday, June 22, 2009

President Obama has a lot on his plate. He has acted swiftly to get his agenda passed through Congress. Stimulus, bailouts, bankruptcies, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, DOMA, Green Energy, War in Afghanistan, Healthcare reforom, financial market reforms, and he can still find time to take the First Lady out on dates. What is he, Superman? Hardly, just very intelligent. Even when his most loyal supporters began to question his master plans, he seems to prevail in the end. Polls are showing that the public is beginning to question his spending. And he is spending alot. Still, despite this, people still like him. And what's not to like? The beautiful wife, family, and dog! Of course, I have my opinions on the five problems swimming around the President's head in the picture above. But, I don't feel quite at liberty to share them. However, in my mind, among the easiest things to fix are LGBT issues. It seems crazy that we want people to serve in the armed forces but enforce this silly rule. And then there was that DOJ brief a couple of weeks back using incest citations to support the Defense of Marriage Act. The Department of Justice motioned to have a Federal case thrown out for lack of standing (among other reasoning). I actually read the brief, and it is very well done. The legal reasoning is solid: DOMA must be settled legislatively and the party alleging injury in the case had no standing to bring the case before the Federal Courts. The brief was good, but the writers forgot the "politics" of the situation and used incest citations. Ouch! And the president seems to be feeling the pressure as he made a concession and signed a presidential memo awarding some federal benefits to same-sex partners (although this has been happening in the private sector for a while).

But the War in Afghanistan, Gitmo, Wall Street, the Auto Industry, Healthcare reform, and Green/Energy reform...these are highly complex and politically volatile issues. I am anxious to see how all this will play out.

Metro Train Crash

There was a metro train collision (seen above in the AP image) a little after 5 p.m. this afternoon. I took the VRE back to Stafford at 5:25 p.m. It was actually a nice day today and so I walked from the Capitol to L'Fant train station. Although the collision was on the Red Line, it just makes you think. I, like those people on that train, was just getting off from work and making my commute home. You really have to count your blessings and be thankful for each day. At any rate, the press reports there have been four confirmed deaths and many others injured. My thoughts and prayers go out to the people who lost someone today.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

War Supplemental

We just passed a 106.6 billion dollar war supplemental providing for increased funding and support to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The supplemental serves to beef up our efforts in Afghanistan pursuant to the President's outlined "strategy" during a speech he gave in March. The bill is H.R. 2346. The power to make legislate appropriations and revenue bills vests with the House of Representatives exclusively. This is because the House is said to be more representative of the majority (it's true). At any rate, there are thousands of bills introduced and circulated around Congress. The process is long and there are various obstacles bills must overcome before becoming law. This is one of many perpetual checks on power the Founders placed on our form of government. However, the House Committee on Appropriations reported on the original supplemental on May 12, 2009. The bill was cleared for Mr. Obama's signature on June 18, 2009. It took a little over a month for us to write a 106.6 billion dollar check in further funds to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is fine, and I support the troops, but if someone was asking you for money, wouldn't you want to know a little bit more than vague and general descriptions? The bill is online for public view, but I am sure it will go unnoticed.

To illustrate my point, a section of the bill allocates 1.6 billion dollars to support efforts building up Afghanistan's economy and rule of law. I didn't know the rule of law came at such a fixed rate, and as far as an economy is concerned, are we not still in a recession, albeit on the recovery. I agree that we are in the mess and we need to stabalize the region as there is a struggle for power and control of the people's support. But with reports of the present government's corruption and contention with minority groups, it would seem a bit problematic for us to train the country's army if it is ran by a government a good number of folks find corrupt. I almost wish for the days when we would fund insurrections or paramilitaries to overthrow other governments. That's the way you do it. Change is brought upon by 'the people.' Hopefully, Iran will show the Afghans how it's done.

President Obama should tread carefully with this war in Afghanistan. I am certain he knows and there are plenty of intelligent people around him. So I guess we will all see how this turns out. But, it doesn't look pretty.

My Daily Routine

I start every day at 5:30 a.m. While I get on my feet, I am staying with relatives in lovely Stafford, VA. The city has got some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. I have been here through three seasons, and it is quite nice -- the snow in the winter, the great spring weather, and now getting into the HEAT of summer. At any rate, I only live 40 odd miles from DC, but since this traffic is one of the worst in the nation (3rd in the nation I think), it can take 40 minutes to 90 minutes getting there. So, most days I have to take the train: the Virginia Railway Express. It is a nice and comfortable ride that takes a little over an hour with all the stops in between. So I lwake up at 5:30 so I can eat something and watch the news. I don't leave my house until 6:50 a.m. The train I take leaves every morning at 7:20, and that puts me in city at somewhere around 8:30. From L'Fant Plaza, I walk to Rayburn to start the day.

So, technically I am a legal/legislative intern. I have a good stipend so it makes it worth my while. It was of great fortune that I got this position starting out and not something else. I don't believe I do traditional intern tasks. And that's a good thing, I am a J.D. after all. So that should be good for something, right? Nevertheless, I brief memos, attend hearings, and conduct meetings with lobbyists. In general, I assist the Congresswoman's Legal Counsel/Legislative Director with her activities with the House Judiciary Committee. I draft talking points, formal correspondence, hearing testimony, hearing questions, floor statements, and most recently legislation all on the Congresswoman's behalf. It's all great, and I am gaining great experience. I transitioned into the position seamlessly. I am not sure when the "internship" will end, but I definately plan on staying on the Hill for a few more years. At least that's the plan. But I was recently told, "when man plans, God laughs." So I will let him work it out.
This is a picture from getty images. It was a House Judiciary DOJ oversight hearing with Eric Holder testifying. And that arrow points to me at the Legislative Assistant table. The hearings are very interesting. So far, I have had a lot of initial insight on many of the hearings due to the courses I chose in law school. Death penalty has come up, mandatory minimums, prosecutorial discretion, and a host of other topics have been discussed during hearings. So all those writing classes paid off. And I can't stress enough, I do A LOT of writing. So, that's another personal blessing because anyone who knows me well knows how much I love to write. It's been over two months, and the novelty has not worn off...I work on freakin Capitol Hill. Everything I have studied, all the politicians I follow, all the news I have spent hours watching, and all the politics I have followed -- and I am right in the middle of it all during Pres. Obama first term, a new SCOTUS pick, and a democratic majority in the House and Senate. I don't and won't ever talk about what happens outside what everyone sees on TV. It's kind of interesting since I always talked politics before, but now it would seem a bit unprofessional to talk about what goes on in the House. But, it's cool. There are plenty of other things to talk about. So I can blog about life in general in DC/Virginia.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Aristocratic Style: Post-Grad

Well, I suppose I am doing this out of sequence. I should start by discussing what I have been up to since I finally got called into "the game" after a what seemed like an eternity on the proverbial bench. I will begin by saying where I am now is all due to God's grace. There is no other way to explain it. Sure I worked hard, but for things to turn out as perfectly as they did -- well, that is attributable to God. But I will get into all that in another post. I will start with my love affair with Washington D.C. Maybe it's not quite that dramatic. Truth be told, after the first day, I felt like I belonged. I have not been lonely or homesick. In a strange way, it has felt like I have been working up to this moment my whole life. So I have embraced the city: the culture, the cuisine, the people, the sad realities, and the POLITICS.

I work on Capitol Hill for the U.S. House of Representatives. Specifically, I work within the office of Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35). That's the legendary Rep. Waters. I probably will never say much about what goes on in the office of in Congress, but I will say that it's all thrilling, and I love going to work everyday. It is cliche, but really, I have the opportunity to help people. And this is a personal dream come true. I may not be able to save the world, but bill by bill, I have the opportunity to help someone some where. And I have been really struck by how many people do care about politics. Maybe it is the high from Pres. Obama and the renewed sense of democracy, but people care...and call. So as it was when I was at the first Presidential Debate at Ole Miss, I have found myself another front seat to history -- working in government during President Obama's first term and during all the changes he is trying to make. It's an historic time and it's a little scary. But whatever happens, my style game will be proper.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rebuilding/Restoring My Faith

(I heard the choir sing this song last Sunday, and I was deeply moved. It prompted me to journal about my personal experience with religion)
There is something I have wanted to talk about, and it is certainly always a controversial topic. This of course is religion and faith. I should first say I went to a Catholic private school for eight years, my dad's side of the family is mainly missionary baptist (the default negro religion of choice), and my mom's parents are Jehovah's Witnesses. My parents took me to different churhces of the years, including Kingdom Halls. But I was not raised strictly one denomination. In retrospect, I am thankful for this. Because of this, my spiritual journey has been independent and thoughtful. I never did anything out of pressure or force, it was all my own desire to want to cultivate a faithful and spiritual relationship with God. I have sat in many congregations for many different Christian denominations, and for all my observations, the main problem with organized religion is that it (much like anything else in this life) can only be as perfect as the men who form them. "God loves, Man kills," was one of the titles of one of my favorite graphic novels growing up. And this about sums it up. Speaking specifically about Christianity, I do believe in God and Jesus. I do take the Bible as both a spirtual and historical document. Furthermore, the principles Jesus teaches us are great morals for one to live by. Jesus spoke to everyone. He did not discriminate, he told us the greatest commandment of all is to love one another as ourselves, second to loving God with all our heart, mind, and strength. And yet today, Christian congregations discriminate, judge, they are often racially and culturally segregated, and they have problems with hypocritical leaders. The last straw for me, was when I was told that I should wait to be bapitized, three times. Moreover, I was never given any guidance on what I was doing wrong or how I could be better prepared for baptism. Ultimately, I took this rejection to be a rejection from God. I made a mistake that many make. You cannot throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water, right?
It does seem silly for any one person Earth to have sole authority to say who can get baptized. We are all sinners in need of salvation, in need of hope. After the latest incident, I became complacent. I found baptist pastors with their screaming and shouting just as ineffective as the solemn dictator priests of the catholic church. I really don't think I need to go over the highly documented malevolent acts carried out worldwide by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has been at the route of some our global history's most inhumane attrocities. And the missionary baptist church, the black church, has it's problems too. Sometimes there is a very thin line between a pimp and a pastor. And sometimes, the way preachers get the congregation "high" on the spirit to "prepare" them to give "God's ten percent" is very silly. I mean, if you read the Bible as true and believe the one scripture everyone can recite (John 3:16), we know that God's sacrificing Jesus established a new covenant doing away with Old Testament traditions such as blood and animal sacrifices at an alter. I don't thing "ten percent" equates with Jesus' crucifixtion. At any rate, and understandably, the Church does need to take in money to keep things going. That's fine and legitimate, but making it a matter of a specific obligation to God is kind of odd. I am sure God is hip to and can make good use of our currency.
Needless to say, I suppose, I could always find something wrong or something that I don't agree with. But I think I had to come to accept that I shouldn't expect perfection in a church. Churches and congregations are made up of men and women trying to do the best they can. People want a place to go, a sanctuary. People want to believe in ultimate good, in salvation, and that there exists a power greater than man's intellect. The most beautiful thing about life, is also the thing that can make it very difficult and painful. War follow peacetime, loss is inevitable, and pain is impending. We have to take the good with the bad, and we learn to cherish the good times by experiencing hardship. So, understandably, we want to go to a place where we can leave all of that pain, all of that sorrow, all of that guilt, and all of that doubt.
I spent so much time trying to be perfect that I completely missed the point. We are not perfect, but we are beautiful and all bound as a human species. We desire love, fulfilment, and the space to pursue are separate kind of peace and happiness. Once I let go of this, and accepted my own imperfection, I was able to rebuild my faith from the ground up. So, folks, I was very much humbled. Life has humbled me, and love has helped me to find my way back to God. The people that scream and shout in church: that is their way of coping. That is how they find happiness, that is how they acheive their peace. Who am I to judge? We all have to work out our own salvation. And as far as hypocritical priests and pastors, more often than not, those people reap what they sew. I will always encourage people to read the Bible (or whatever they read) and to put their faith and trust in God, not men. My desire is to cultivate a genuine and real relationship with God and Jesus. And I try to let my christianity manifest itself in how I deal with others: with kindness and respect. There are many Christians, there are less who are actually Christ-like.
"I am at peace, because I am free"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Aristorants: Memorials

I do believe that as we get older we began to view things with a different set of eyes. Lately, I have been moved by our nation's monuments. It's strange, I have read about them and maybe seen them at different points in time. But I really have a new appreciation for them. I took this photo (to the left) recently while touring the national mall. It sits on a plot to the left of the Vietnam War memorial. I think I did a good job capturing the piece. The way the light hits the faces lined by bare tree branches is quite striking. So now I really appreciate just what an honor memorials and monuments are. They seek to capture and memorialize a pivotal point in time, an important part of history. Lincoln is memorialized for his leadership during the great test to the union - the Civil War. FDR is memorialized for his part in helping to lead us through world war and the Great Depression. Undoubtedly, these times, also very critical, will be memorialized in some way. Is Barack Obama worthy? Only time will tell. So far, he is only notable for being the first African American president. He is noteworthy for many other reasons, but only time will tell if his term rises to the level of what George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and FDR. He seems poised to do so, because right now, the country needs a great leader and a new hero to take us out of the darkness that has been the last eight years. Years that has seen one calamity after the next set to the backdrop of war, economic collapse, and the decline of American dominance and prosperity. It's hard to say how America will look on the otherside of this recession...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Union Station
Washington DC

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mr. Samuel Goes to Washington

I made it. I have been in the DC area for 12 days and things are moving very quickly. Although I haven't exactly landed a job yet, I am finding much to fill my time. I have been getting to know the city, learning how to find my way, and making connections I think will be beneficial. I actually took this picture (to the left) before I went out to my first reception/mixer on the Hill. With my navy suit and blackberry, I seemed well equipped to pal around with Washington's power brokers. It has all been very surreal, and it's just hard to believe that this is home - that D.C. is the next chapter. I am living with relatives in Stafford, VA while I look for a job and endure the dubious networking process. Although, I guess I should describe it as such. It is very much an essential component of politics and a professional career on the Hill. It's about creating and building relationships. So although I don't have a job (yet), and despite my occassional moments of doubt, my better senses tell me I am on the right track. And my friends tell me the God has already got everything worked out and that I have to simply catch up to his plan:

"I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you...plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

And I do believe this scripture. I don't believe that my being here is mere coincidence. The way was paved for me, and it seems things were set in place a while ago. When I look back on it all, everything makes sense. So back to this photo. Before I left home, my dad got me a navy suit and a blackberry. And that's kind of the uniform here. Everyone is in a suit or sportcoat, and everyone has a blackberry. From the metros to the streets, everyone is on their blackberries. And being a recent convert, I get it. It makes you more accessible and it allows you to get all your emails on the go. It is a very practical device. When I took this picture, I was on my way to a congressional mixer on the Capitol Hill. Thankfully, I had some friends who were able to connect with people in town. They in turn have been showing me the ropes and introducing me to the right people. So on this day. I had a few engagements to attend. I first had a meeting with a founder of a local lobbying firm in the city. Despite being ill the night before, I shaved and cleaned up and brave the outdoors to make my appointment. As it turns out, it was worthwhile. The founder was very cordial. There was a quiet intensity about him. You could sense he had experienced much in life both professionally and personally. He seemed willing to assist me in my ongoing quest so he said he would forward my resume to some notable folks and then he proceeded to introduce me to other people in his office. Later, my local tour guide took me to the NAACP office. I really couldn't enjoy the experience like I wanted to since my allergies started to flair up again. It was a small miracle I made it out that day anyway. At any rate, I met another person there who was also going to pass along my info to someone else.
Later, I made it to a reception for a congressional caucus. It was crowded, and it general I had a good time. Again, I met alot of people. The blackberry was filled up with new contacts. I also met Barney Frank in passing. We shook hands and he sort of brushed me off, and was not very engaging. I wasn't disappointed. I didn't have any expectations, but the encounter was consistent with how he presents on TV. Still, much respect to Mr. Frank. Anyway, there were alot of cool folks in the room, and there were also some "less than cool" people there too. Again, it was like the first day of law school. Everyone is there sizing out the competition and trying to flex some muscle or exhibit a pretentious amount of intelligence. This wasn't everyone. There were actually plenty of pleasant people there too. But looking back on it, I would liken the evening to the first day of school.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Barack Obama and Madam First Lady Michelle Obama
of the United States of America

Aristocratic Style: Benjamin Bixby

Outkast’s Andre 3000 has always been known for his otherworldly style. His lyrical skill is undeniable, but you could always count on him to perform looking like a cross Oompa Loompa, Rick James, and an astronaut. In present years, he has become a celebrated style icon for his truly unique and individual sense of style. Lately, he has been rocking looks inspired by the 1930s. Naturally his clothing line, Benjamin Bixby, debuted last year. The designs are collegiate, classic, and reminiscent of the 1930s. Anyone who knows me knows this is very much my taste. Like J.Crew designs (and similar costume designs you will find in films such as “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance”), Benjamin Bixby is a lot of cardigans, plaids, vests, and timeless pieces that will last generations. In the latest GQ, Andre was named one of the magazine’s best new designers.
The honor is well-deserving. And in my opinion, if Andre continues along this path, he may dethrown Diddy's Sean John to become a celebrated and legitimate design house in the industry. And that would not take much. I believe since its start in 1998, Sean John has only had two major shows in New York: the first in 2001 and the second last year. As with all his other endeavors, signed artists, and personal life for that matter, Diddy has commitment issues. He doesn't seem to put too much time into one endeavor for a significant amount of time to make it the success it could be. He seems to do best at manufacturing products that don't really stand the test of time: Unforgiveable (cologne) Boyz in the Hood (hiphop group, remember?), Danity Kane (rip), Day 26 (any day now)...At any rate, hats off to Andre 3000 for a truly inspired and aristocratic first showing. Benjamin Bixby is available exclusively at Barney's.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mr. Samuel Goes to Washington

I am at the moment, still unemployed. And despite moments of absolute paranoia and hysteria, I am fairly certain that I will eventually find gainful employment. So, as I did with my CNN internship (and eventual job!) I am claiming it right now. March 1 is my deadline to be in the District of Columbia. Arrangements have already been set in motion, so now I just have to go through with it, and take the jump.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sade = classic. Somethings never go out of style and this sultry singer's smooth voice and sensual musical arrangements are "always on time." Sade is a band headed by the lead vocalist Sade Adu. She is the only female member of the group and appears predominantly as the face of the band in videos and album covers. Sade achieved success in the 80s, 90s, and lastly in 2000 with the release of the last CD to date, "Lovers Rock." The band is a blend of jazz, R&B, easy listening, and soft rock. The music is as poignant as it is sexy. So, whenever she sings about heartbreak, racism, social injustice, and love, it all sounds seductive and alluring. Below are a few of my favorites, though I basically like every song she has sung.

Aristolife: Building up the Strength to just...JUMP

"I hope that my achievements in life shall be these--that I will have fought for what was right and fair, that I will have risked for that which mattered, and that I will have given help to those who were in need that I will have left the earth a better place for what I've done and who I've been." -C. Hoppe
People that know me well know that I am very averse to any sort of risk. Everything must be well thought, planned, deliberate, and backed up by a contingency plan. In fact, I have come to understand that much of my life, achievements, and drive come from a profound sense of fear. It is my fear of death that drives me to in someone beat death and live a healthy lifestyle. This fear is the culmination of my emotions felt from losing both my grandfathers to heart disease and cancer respectively. So in every way, my decision to live my life is out of fear of facing a similar end. Likewise, my fear of being swallowed up by this world and it's injustice and corruption lead me to excel in academics and to eventually pursue law school. In obtaining a certified knowledge of the law, in some way I feel that I cannot be taken advantage of in the same way the law and justice can unfairly victimize unknowing American citizens. And lastly my fear of heartbreak and disappointment has impeded me from developing close friendships and personal relationships. I can talk and socialize with many people, and some may describe me as gregarious, but I do enjoy quiet time where I can gather my thoughts and well, think. Think and worry endlessly about all the possible things that may be out of my control and then construct or devise a plan under which I can obtain control.
As I have gotten older and realized these personal truths, I have slowly begun to break down the barriers and be open more to taking risks. It's not like I am going to go wild, but I am having to become more comfortable with "not knowing" or not being able to control every outcome. Presently, as it relates to the photo above, my life is being taken on a different route than what I had tried to create. I have tried to avoid a direct career in politics, yet it is in this field that I am most passionate. I was going to just transition from law school into a job that was convenient (and a great opportunity) that was not related to politics. These couple of opportunities I had lined up were sidelined after the deep recession. And by a turn of events, I find myself on the edge of fate, about to take a great leap of faith, hoping to land on to destiny. It is a scary thing, but I feel it is time I start to cultivate a little more faith. So here I go...