Will the real bikers please stand up: mayhem and memorials

May 19, 2015
Bikers have hearts too. (Photo Credit:  home.fotocommunity.de)

Bikers have hearts too. (Photo Credit: home.fotocommunity.de)

It was very disheartening to hear about the nine motorcyclists that were killed in a violent exchange of gunfire this past Sunday. In the past two decades the connotation of a biker gang has changed. Bikers became infamous in Hollywood movies that portrayed them as rough-around-the-edges drifters, who rarely put roots down in a town long enough to fall in love. In addition to the wall of isolation surrounding their hearts, they were almost always shown to have an affinity for abiding on the wrong side of the law. They’d thunder into town, break a few hearts, deal a few drugs, and ride out in a cloud of dust. Even in modern times, they always seemed to find a town with at least one dirt road that was perfect for kicking up of cloud of dust.

The 1969 film “Easy Rider” provided one of the most intimate glimpses into the day-to-day events and mentality of bikers that audiences had ever seen. It showed less of them as flat stereotypes, but rather men of many sides like everyone else. Despite what just happened this weekend, or maybe to give a balanced perspective, I wanted to share that I recently saw a new (for me) and more tender side of bikers. A co-worker’s father had passed away and I attended the homegoing services to show my respect. As I turned into the chapel parking lot, I saw row upon row of motorcycles everywhere and became a little nervous. After clicking the button to make sure all four of my doors were locked, I slowed down just enough to make sure the numbers on the building matched the address of the funeral home I was seeking. I parked and walked slowly towards the chapel, clutching my purse tightly.

I was impressed and surprised at the beauty of seeing both male and female bikers lining both sides of the sidewalk from the street to the top of the stairwell entering the chapel. Many of them were called up later to make remarks after the eulogy. What emerged was the picture of a man remembered for his love of God, family and bikes. One man broke down in tears as he remembered himself and the deceased (only 79 at the time) embarking on a cross-country ride. As more of them told stories, I was educated as I learned about the many charities that bikers participate in and the untold causes they raise money for such as researching cures and granting scholarships. I gained a newfound respect for them that will last long after the memories of the  tender way they lifted their comrade’s casket and ushered him out of the chapel.

So as this Waco story continues to unfold and investigators sift through evidence, let us remember we should try our darndest not to paint any group with one big brush. The people who started this shoot-’em-up brawl were just a few bad pages out of a fascinating book of adventurers.

 

 

“American Idol”: cancelled, but never forgotten

May 12, 2015

Audition of season one winner Kelly Clarkson

The hit television show “American Idol” is coming to a close after 15 seasons, according to an article in Variety magazine. Surprisingly many people via social media outlets are expressing thoughts that the show is past its prime, and should be put out to pasture. The producers want to see the show end on a “celebratory note” rather than be kicked out of the ring, holding onto the ropes with bloody fingers.

I will be a little sad to see it go. I think the show is a phenomenon! It has definitely fired up the dreams and hopes of many young hopefuls. Kids lined up for regional auditions and drove, or had their parents drive them, sometimes 12 hours or more for a chance to grab the elusive brass ring. I remember watching from the edge of my seat as a few contestants over the years admitted that they had called in sick, or even quit their jobs.

I would almost hold my breath rooting for them to make it. The courage and determination to risk it all on an audition lasting a few moments? The common sense (after all bills have to be paid) in me did many a battle with the part of me that admired the daring that they’d shown.  You only live once and it was exhilarating to see these teens and adults experiencing life to the fullest.

The article lists some of the “American Idol” alumni whose stardom shot into the stratosphere. Kelly Clarkson was the very first winner in 2002. She is still going strong, having won two Grammys in 2014:  Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Solo Performance.  And she’s not the only one continuing to make great music. And it’s all the more endearing to see their success because we feel like we were on this ride with them from the beginning of the first nervous sweaty moments, to their evolutions to full out rock stars. Remember these gems?

  • Chris Daughtry
  • Ruben Studdard
  • Fantasia Barrino
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Jennifer Hudson

I’ve enjoyed all of the judges, but my favorite group was the first panel which consisted of Simon Cowell (the judge you loved to hate), Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul. Their original chemistry was great. Even their little spats made you chuckle. But in the end they usually got it right, and picked the best talent to progress to the next round. There are whispers that the finale might feature visits from some of the past judges and performers from the show. That’s going to be a night to remember and, God willing, I plan to be right there watching. Make sure you’re logged into Facebook and Twitter if you watch it so we can chat amongst ourselves as we snack on popcorn and watch the end of a golden era.  :)

Succeeding on Facebook; how to stay in your lane

May 7, 2015
Proceed with a little caution and wisdom, and you'll be fine. (Photo Credit:  Pixabay.com)

Proceed with a little caution and wisdom, and you’ll be fine. (Photo Credit: Pixabay.com)

Today I’d like for us to discuss Facebook author etiquette. The platform itself offers a wonderful opportunity to get our work out there to the public for free, which is especially great if you’re at the start of your career, and not yet raking in the dough. You can post links to your books on your personal page as often as you like, or at least until your friends beg you to stop. Lol.

For this very reason many authors have created a business page dedicated solely to their books. It is presumed that if someone “likes” or follows your book page, they should not be surprised or annoyed to see multiple posts about, well…your books. Authors can  put up reminders of upcoming book releases, book signings, post chapter excerpts and conduct giveaways.

Now Facebook will even permit, actually encourage, you to create events. Everything about it looks and sounds glamorous, giving your book-related happenings all of the allure and fanfare of an old-fashioned Hollywood premiere. You can invite all of your Facebook friends with one quick click. The only thing is that I wish it had an option to hide the little box that shows how many were invited and how many are attending. It can be a little embarrassing to see that big banner reading “INVITED – 1,562 , MAYBE – 25, GOING – 3″.

However there is one thing that I see occurring more and more, and it’s really a tad bit rude. It seems that many authors in their eagerness to share their “baby” with the world have taken to plastering links to and blurbs about their books on their friends’ pages without said friends’ permission or prior knowledge. This is a no-no and can get you blocked from many book club pages. Many of these book clubs are highly organized and have specific days that authors are allowed to promote their books. Pay close attention to those days. We all make mistakes starting out, and you do not want to be me with the page moderator’s comment under my book blurb saying something to the effect that presumably I wrote better that I followed instructions. You talk about a horrifying experience, but learn from it I did. Of course I deleted my post as soon as I saw the comment, but who knows how many people saw it  and made a negative judgment about my book before I deleted it? Ouch, that moment still gives me shudders.

But back to your personal friends. I don’t care if you and Judy or Jack knew each other 30 years ago in grade school, right is right. And the polite thing to do is to send a quick message to your friends asking them would they mind if you posted such-and-such about your book on their page. Nine times out of 10 they will say yes the first time. But don’t take that yes as a permanent contract that allows you to post all day, every day, forevermore on their timelines. It might seem like a pain, but I would ask each time I wanted to post. As long as you take full advantage of Facebook, but never of your Facebook friends, you should have no problems at all. Happy writing. :)

 

Taxes, schmaxes…fear not, writers can get a break in today’s business world

May 4, 2015
Rejoice writers! Now you can write in peace without fear of losing the shirts off of your backs.  (Photo Credit:  www.flickr.com)

Rejoice writers! Now you can write in peace without fear of losing the shirts off of your backs. (Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com)

I hope everyone had a lovely first weekend of May. The weather was delicious here in beautiful South Carolina, which immediately put just about everyone in a joyful mood. I also stumbled upon some news that really made my day as an author, and I couldn’t wait to share it. Did you know that there are many things that we use daily in going about the business of writing that can be deducted on our tax returns? Now admittedly a lot of people probably already know about it because the article I found was dated June 17, 2010. Lol.

The article is “Tax Advice for Writers” written by Bonnie Lee. It is a good-sized composition that you can read at your leisure and take helpful notes. But just to summarize, there are some things that the IRS will allow writers to deduct from their income because they are considered “ordinary and necessary” business expenses. A few that are mentioned are:

  • Mileage to and from writers’ conferences and/or classes to further your craft
  • Advertising and marketing expenses
  • Computers, laptops and other equipment that you use primarily for your writing

Lee stresses that it is imperative to keep detailed records in the event of an IRS audit. One example she gives is rather than just keep a credit card receipt for a hotel stay, it is better to staple a flyer showing the writers’ conference being held at the hotel on that date, as well as a receipt for your registration to the conference, to the credit card receipt for which you are trying to deduct for your room and board.

Although the favored deductions will be different for each person, I must admit that what really excites me the most is learning about the advertising and marketing expense possibilities. I have long confined myself to advertising only on my own website (www.PamelaKayNobleBrown.com, by the way), Twitter, Facebook, and any other book groups that I could find that would let me advertise for free. I did this not because I was cheap, but because I simply cannot afford advertising until my book sales take off, but my book sales won’t take off without advertising because no one will know they’re there. Well, I’m sure many other authors are aware of what can be a catch-22 situation.

But when you learn better, you do better.  With this added information, I can now actually spend money on education writers’ conferences to hone my craft, vending tables, book covers, business cards, etc., knowing that they are considered legitimate business expenses, and not just out-of-pocket losses.

The main thing to remember, according to Lee, is that, and this bears repeating, you must have an organized system of record keeping so that you can prove that this is a venture that you have entered into with the true intention of making a profit (whether you actually made a profit or not) and not just a passing hobby.  And it is always best to consult a professional accountant or tax preparer. This actually has breathed life into my writing aspirations as I now have more tools at my disposable with which to share my writings with the world.  Hopefully Lee’s article will have other writers doing gleeful cartwheels over their computers as they hurry off to beat the deadlines to get their ads placed in their marketing avenue of choice. Viva les writers!

Tensions in Baltimore run amok; the naked truth is the only solution; what really happened?

April 28, 2015
We cannot let the beautiful and historic city of Baltimore self-destruct. (photo credit:  www.wyndhambaltimoremtvernon.com)

We cannot let the beautiful and historic city of Baltimore self-destruct. (photo credit: http://www.wyndhambaltimoremtvernon.com)

Try an experiment when you get a chance. Or maybe you’ve tried this one numerous times as a kid. Plop a pebble into a lake and it is fascinating to see the ripple effect outward as far as the eye can see. It is often easy to forget that incidents of stone, dropped into the sea called life can have an almost unimaginably far-reaching effect.

A young man named Freddie Gray was buried in Baltimore, MD, on Monday, April 28, 2015. Freddie was arrested recently, and it was determined that he died in the process of being transported in a police vehicle. Police authorities have admitted that Gray asked for medical attention at some point during the trip, however this request was denied. As of yet, no reason has been given for the denial. Maybe they were in a hurry? Could be, but it seems they had time to stop, remove Gray from the paddy wagon and put shackles on his feet, and then continue on with their journey.

Something severed his spine, and he died in police custody. What could it have been? A particularly deep pot hole in the street? A policeman’s heavy rifle accidentally fell on his back? The police have said they will issue a statement once they have completed the investigation. Behind those two heavy van doors, there is only a limited square footage of area to examine, and a limited number of people who were in that tiny space to question. Let’s hope they don’t drag it out. If the department has any investigative skills at all, it shouldn’t take that long to figure it out.

There are some people who have had quite enough of the slaying of blacks while in the custody of those sworn to protect and serve. And these people went about venting their highly understandable frustrations entirely the wrong way. Peaceful protests are needed, but looting and foolishness just invites more trouble and widens the gulf between civilians and law enforcement personnel.

But the majority of people are willing to wait on the Baltimore PD’s report before taking sides. The country, nay even the world is waiting to hear the what happened that led to most people waking up, seeing the broadcasts and wondering what country we were invading. Instead, it was the National Guard, 5000 strong, putting boots on the ground in Baltimore. Scary stuff. But just the tip of the iceberg if the official report, scheduled to be released May 1st, has some concocted fable of how they lay Gray on the bench in the police van, and there was a single pea under the mattress and it broke his spine. Leave the fairy tales to Hans Christian Andersen. Let’s keep it real, keep it honest, and put the perpetrators in jail.

Only when the truth comes out, will the city quiet down. Cover-ups are like continuously scratching a scab. The wounds ooze ugly festering pus, but never completely heal. I thank you.

Our prayers go out to the family of Mr. Freddie Gray, the policemen and firemen that have been injured in the melees, the innocent business owners whose life’s work has been reduced to ashes, and the families all over Baltimore who are just trying to live their lives in peace.

Ice cold; social media and Bobbi Kristina’s daddy

April 24, 2015

By now many of us have heard the tragic story of how Bobbi Kristina Brown was found facedown in a tub of water and now, months later is still fighting for her life. Lately I’ve been reading some comments by what I call Cyber Hope Stealers that are very disturbing.

Bobbi Kristina and her parents   (Photo credit: globalgrind.com)

Bobbi Kristina and her parents (Photo credit: globalgrind.com)

Bobbi Kristina has always been in the spotlight. Her parents Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown were so famous that it seemed the world, at least music lovers, waited with bated breath for the birth of their precious baby girl. Probably a major reason that the news of Bobbi Kristina’s tragedy hit the public so hard, is that we’d watched her parents grow up and become major successes in the entertainment field. We followed their whirlwind courtship and vicariously enjoyed their fairytale wedding in a New Jersey palace.

Family fun at that magical place.  ( photo credit: theurbandaily.com)

Family fun at that magical place. ( photo credit: theurbandaily.com)

Despite the maddening pace and pressures her parents faced in the music industry, there seemed to have been moments of pure family fun and laughter. After all, Micky and Minnie Mouse can make all of our troubles disappear, even if only for a day. To the very end of 15 years of marriage, Brown and Houston pledged their love to each other. But I’ll never forget asking a divorced friend years ago why she and her husband split when to onlookers they appeared so much in love. She said that it was sad to admit, but the truth is you can love someone with all of your heart, but just can’t live with them. And that appears to have been the case with the Browns. I believe they genuinely fell in love, but either outside forces, inner demons, or perhaps a combination of things, made them decide to end their marriage.

Joyful Father/Daughter reunion.  (photo credit:  celebrity.yahoo.com)

Joyful Father/Daughter reunion. (photo credit: celebrity.yahoo.com)

As is the unfortunate case with many divorces, young children, if parents are not careful, can suffer collateral damage. They are not quite mature enough to make sense of it all, and may feel torn between the two sides in a strange adult-like game of tug of war. In this case Bobbi Kristina and her father were estranged a number of years before the heartbreaking death of her beloved mother.

It was extremely encouraging when Bobbi Kristina posted the above pictures via Instagram on June 15, 2014. Last year on Father’s Day they rekindled their relationship and were determined to become close again. Bobbi Kristina, in addition to the pictures, posted the following words:

“I got a running start! 😋 love you daddy! #familyfirst! Xxo”

“(: my face says it all.. :) love you daddy!” and “#HappyHappyFathersDay,”

I am just so thankful they reconciled when they did, because they had no way of knowing what would happen only seven months later. Unbelievably, just when things seemed to be looking up for this family that had suffered so much misfortune, things once again took a turn for the worst, and Bobbi Kristina is now in a rehabilitation facility.

Most people are posting words of encouragement to her family. But the disturbing comments I referenced earlier have been targeted at Brown for wanting to be at his daughter’s side now, when she is seemingly unconscious, when he missed a lot of her teen years. What an outrage. Many parents want to be in their children’s lives after the dissolution of a marriage, and try their best, but sometimes the situation is less than desirable depending upon schedules, bitterness between the parents, or other logistics. Let them that have executed perfect child visitation, absolutely 100% of the time, cast the first stone.

Even more outrageous are the comments dismissing Brown as an opportunist because he didn’t pull the plug on Bobby Kristina after the first few weeks of unresponsiveness. Are you kidding me?  This is his child. Less than a seven months ago they just got their relationship back on track. I think these cyber bullies should just leave Brown alone, concentrate on having the best relationship they can with their own children, and pray nobody ever compounds their grief with criticisms should they find themselves faced with a similar decision as a parent. I thank you.

As the old Gospel song says, “the only time you should look down on a man is when you’re picking him up.”  I join the many others who have posted lifting Bobbi Kristina, Bobby Brown, Cissy Houston (Bobbi’s Grandmother) and the rest of the family in prayer for strength during this trying time.

Outdated irrelevant dinosaur…or do good manners still matter?

April 21, 2015
You catch more bees with honey than vinegar. (Photo credit:  www.flickr.com)

        You catch more bees with honey than vinegar. (photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com)

Good manners. Whether they were drilled into us, cajoled into us or we were simply following the examples lived by our parents, at some point in most of our lives, the concept of civility survived and thrived in our interactions with others. For the most part it’s all good. However, there are always a few bad apples in the bunch that tend to give the others a bad name.

This thought came to mind as I was eating some peanuts leftover from a certain restaurant that I frequent. I won’t mention the name, but this eatery is known for its good food, relaxing atmosphere, and allowing its patrons to toss peanut shells on the floor. You can also take a bag of the peanuts home to enjoy later, hence the ones I’m crunching on now.

But back to the story. I had called in a to-go order and the person on the phone said it would take about 15 to 20 minutes for my order to be ready. I was already near their location, so I decided to sit in my car and play with my phone to pass the time. A white SUV pulled up alongside of me and a couple got out with a little girl who appeared to be around three or four years old. She yelled hello in an effort to get my attention from the phone. I looked up and she was beaming as she told me they were going to eat. I said I was waiting on a to-go order, partly to make conversation, and partly to let her parents know I wasn’t some suspicious character in the habit of lurking around the parking lots of diners.

About two minutes later this same family came speed-walking back to their vehicle as if they couldn’t get away from the place fast enough. The dad was carrying the little girl whose smile was gone as she told me they were not going to eat. I asked the parents if everything was okay, to which the father replied, “Those heifers didn’t even look up, let alone greet us.” I expressed that I was sorry they’d had to put up with such rude behavior. They said they would not spend their money at a place where someone couldn’t spare two seconds for a quick hello or welcome.

So I walked in, truthfully but, as it turned out, naively thinking it wouldn’t happen twice in a row. Sure enough I walked in, and there were four young ladies at the counter with their backs to the door, whispering and giggling. Now I’ve worked in plenty of restaurants, and it is grueling work. So I don’t blame the hostesses (who appeared to be in their late teens/early 20’s) for taking a moment to laugh. My concern was that quite a few moments passed with no one acknowledging me at all.

Finally a manager came out and asked had I been helped. I said that not only had I not been helped, but that I hadn’t even been greeted. Furthermore, I told her that I know of at least one family they’d lost as customers for the same reason. After she made sure I had my order, she told the girls that they would have to do a better job greeting the guests. She reprimanded them in a quiet, professional tone and told them she didn’t need to hear any excuses, just needed them to do better. They cast shy glances and thanked me for coming as I made my way towards the exit. I felt better and will continue to eat there. They are young, and we’ve all been in the same situation. Hopefully this was their first adult lesson that old-fashioned good manners still go a long way. I thank you.

 

New contender to the “Empire” claims hit show stole his true life story

April 16, 2015

Ron NewtRon Newt claims the TV show “Empire” is based on his real life documentary “Bigger Than Big”.

(Photo Credit: @RonNewt Twitter Page)

In an interesting twist, we are reminded of how life and art are sometimes so eerily similar. There is a real-life former pimp and drug dealer who is suing just about everyone connected with the hit FOX network television show “Empire”. He alleges that after sharing his story during a meeting with Terrance Howard at a social event, the next thing he knows is that he’s seeing his life reflected in the prime time hit drama.

Ron Newt, the ex-gangster making the charges, is taking his cause to court and for his troubles he is asking for a judgement in his favor to the tune of one billion dollars. According to Newt, his life on the streets was just as colorful as the life of the young Lucious Lyons. He lived the infamous slogan of “sex, drugs, and Rock & Roll”; or rather, in his case, “sex, drugs, and R&B”. He signed his artists The Newtrons with label owners as diverse as Michael Jackson and Suge Knight.

The fact is, as a friend said to me, this story could be the true tale of countless ex-street guys in cities all across the country. Is this just a frivolous  lawsuit pressed by a con man hoping for a payday? It just might be. On the other hand are there really that many similarities between this guy’s stories and the almost fantastical drama portrayed weekly in the highly-rated series? If so, this should prove an interesting court case because even when he was on the streets, Newt supposedly had a lot of celebrity friends and might be willing to name names to prove his case. Time will tell.

Like Michael Jackson sang “This is it”; 2016 could possibly be the most exciting race in history

April 14, 2015
Hillary Rodham Clinton's enters the race; and they're off. (Photo credit:  Official Secretary of State Photo; en.wikipedia.org

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s enters the race; and they’re off. (Photo credit: Official Secretary of State Photo; en.wikipedia.org

Most people have probably heard that Former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has officially announced that she will be running for the office of President of the United States of America. Clinton, after running a popular campaign in 2008, caused a near riot of excitement on the campaign floor when she announced that her delegation was throwing their support behind presidential candidate Barack Obama. We don’t know if she was deserting what she felt was a sinking ship at the time, or whether she decided to get more political experience before running for the coveted oval office.
Either way, she certainly executed her exit dance in a classy way. Her being such a good sport about losing, and then in turn working under and closely with the candidate she has lost to, made her all the more admirable in the hearts of many. She clearly has a following. Some are likely the same sort of enthusiastic voters that get super hyped about the novelty gatecrasher in any election. They want to see a woman elected for the first time with as much urgency as tens of thousands of voters wanted to see a Black person elected for the first time in that now famed and historical election. Yes there have women candidates before, but there is something about this one that seems so possible, and therefore more exciting.
There have been the scattered comments that the scriptures speak against women rulers in verses like 1 Corinthians 14:34 and Titus 2:5. Yet some say these verses only refer to women being the head of the church. They rebut this with stories of known political female leaders in the bible, such as the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1) and a powerful female ruler and judge named Deborah (Judges 4:4-5). Whatever side of the coin you fall down on, a large number of people think this will be a fascinating race to watch. As we get more in-depth glimpses into each candidate’s beliefs and platforms, there will be a refreshing take on an old slogan. Now we will say, may the best person win.”

The ugliness of arrogance; bullets crack the facade of southern charm

April 9, 2015
No mother should have to experience the pain Judy Scott felt when she saw the video of her son slaughtered in the street. (Photo Credit:  dailymail.co.uk via ABC)

No mother should have to experience the pain Judy Scott felt when she saw the video of her son slaughtered in the street. (Photo Credit: dailymail.co.uk via ABC)

Arrogance is the next word, after cold-blooded murderer, which came to mind when I heard about the excessive parade of bullets that took the life of Walter Lamar Scott, 50, a North Charleston, SC resident. To learn that this was the handiwork of yet another officer of the law against an unarmed citizen was unbelievable, but even worse was the fact that this was done in the present climate of civil unrest and scrutiny of the ethics of some of the holders of the badge.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines arrogant as “showing an offensive attitude of superiority”. This officer, whom I hesitate to call an officer, not wanting to tarnish the other wonderful and dedicated law enforcement heroes, showed a remarkable unawareness of, or utter disdain for the current events commanding the news as of late. His disposition seems to be one of I’m going to do what I want regardless of the tension that is already in the air.

The judgment of this person, in retrospect, seems to have been incredibly flawed. His wife is reportedly eight months pregnant, so the last thing she needs is him getting fired right as they are about to bring a new life into the world. He may have momentarily snapped and fired twice out of fear, but eight times? In the back? He initially stated that he feared for his life due to the suspect struggling with him. Thanks to the due diligence of a passing citizen, a video has emerged showing that the only real struggle was the officer trying to catch up with Scott in a foot race, and failing that, dispatching his speedy bullets to do the job for him.

Knowing that interactions with officers and unarmed black men are already a hot topic of public conversation, this man was again arrogant enough not to give a flying pointed hood about how his actions would reflect on the national debate. More importantly he shot someone fleeing away from him down in the street, and showed a callous disregard of the taking of a human life unnecessarily. After the slaying of Mr. Scott has been thoroughly investigated, I hope that some of the previous encounters this officer has had will be re-visited to bring relief to families that may have been afraid to come forward because they had no video.

The Mayor, and the local authorizes must be commended for their swift actions in apprehending the culprit and launching a thorough investigation. Keep the standards high because the country, and even the world, are watching to see if our fine state is able to peek from beneath the Confederate flag flying on the grounds of its capitol and do the right thing. I thank you.

My prayers and condolences go out to the family of Mr. Walter Scott in their time of grief and loss. I pray that there will be safety without retaliation for his four sons in the event of future routine “traffic stops”.


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