Nefertari Williams: Two Steps Smarter

An artist illustration of Taylor Swift by Thomcat23
Taylor Swift. Artwork by Thomcat23, Copyright 2024

Text by Nefertari Williams, Copyright 2024

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Two Steps Smarter

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I think Beyonce and Taylor Swift may have just two stepped all over our minds. 
 
Follow me through my pathway of parallel thinking..  And forgive me but “I was dreaming when I wrote this – forgive me if I go astray”. 
 
Well that’s where I’m going to start. This is a quote from the late great genius, artist and superstar, Prince. He wrote Purple Rain and America went wild. We didn’t care what genre it fell under – it was just amazing music… and we love it still to this day. 
 
Prince initially wrote this as a country song to sing with Fleetwood Mac specifically for Stevie Nicks but she admitted that she got a “fearful end of the world” vibe from the lyrics so she didn’t want to record it. She was right to get that vibe. The sing Purple rain is an actual spiritual reference that speaks about getting through tough times and your faith in a higher power during the end of time. Many pondered on the songs meaning for years. 
 
Prince used the color purple reference often, almost like he knew his end was coming sooner than later. 
 
I open with a Prince reference to show how we have had artistic genesis’s use their lyrics to shape our thinking throughout time. The art of story telling can change the mindset of generations- and it has. I believe it may be happening now. 
 
We lost this great artist in April 21, 2016 and his songs are still referenced and considered some of the most clever pieces of art ever made. 
 
Fast forward to present day. 
 
The world is on fire (as I write this Texas is literally experiencing its largest wild fire ever recorded 2/27/24) . There are three active wars, constant cyber attacks, women have lost their right to not have babies in some states and to get pregnant in other states. To top it all off we have a man who is saying the quiet part out loud while running to be President. He wants to be a dictator (the very opposite of what the framers wanted America to be) He feels he has total immunity even as a former President. 
 
This former President has tried to over turn the 2020 election, has incited an insurrection (but I think we have to call it a riot) and he might actually win his party’s nomination for reelection into the White House. 
 
Some Americans are ok with this because they feel as though they have been over looked and unseen. They are angry. Some may say rightly so. Some can’t even afford to buy groceries and they have been struggling financially for years. 
 
The problem is – the one man that they feel will be their “retribution” is part of the system that is keeping them poor but that’s another topic for another article. 
 
Ok so here we are in an election year. We have a candidate who is running that most of the country doesn’t want to win. He is running against the current President who some believe is too old to do the job with the vigor that is needed. That is the epitome of being stuck between a rock and a hard place according to many voters. 
 
 
The former President is known for not having a close relationship with the truth. He feels the last election was stolen from him and now he uses strange conspiracy theories to get his “followers” to believe that if he loses again it is because he was cheated. 
 
 
This brings us to my reasoning for opening with the lyrics of the late great artist, Prince and his influence on the world. There have been stories surrounding a young beautiful pop star which are implying that she is using her popularity to influence the election. If she is that’s not against the rules and other artists have made sings that seemed to be aimed at influencing the election for the former President.
 
Like the late great artist, Prince – She too used to be a country song writer. To top it all off she starts dating a very popular Football star who happened to make it to Super Bowl 2023. That’s when more conspiracies started stating 
that they are just dating to gain more popularity which will mean a stronger audience and possibly more votes for the incumbent candidate. 
 
Ok fast forward we have a popular award ceremony and the famous pop star (former country star) wins album of the year. Now this is a big deal because in comes another player. A mega star who shall remain nameless,  has the most awards that this academy has ever given but has yet to win the one big award- album of the year. The pop star win this title nearly every year.
 
Ironically (or maybe not) the mega stars husband is honored at the 2023 award ceremonies and was allotted time to give a speech. He used that time to tell the world that it is wrong that his wife has never won album of the year although her songs have won the most awards ever (again – except for the highest honor that they offer which is Ablum of the year) 
 
Now we are all confused. Why would he do that? 
 
During the big award show the pop star (Taylor Swift) announces that her new Ablum would release soon which brings the audience to a roar. With this announcement the pop star and her famous football playing boyfriend are the most talked about couple all the way up to the big football game of the year. The Superbowl. 
 
The pop star has been making appearances at football games to see her famous boyfriend and this has been great for ratings. It has also pulled in a demographic of Americans who don’t normally watch football. 
 
Everyone is excited because there are rumors that the boyfriend is going to ask the pop star to Marry him if he wins the superbowl. (He did win but didn’t propose)
 
So everyone is watching the big game. Then there is another twist. The mega star (Beyonce)does commercials during the superbowl  and announces that she’s dropping a country album ( she never won album of the year as a pop star and now she’s switching to singing country music). She then releases two country songs. Everyone is shocked. Everyone also thinks that this maybe a competition between the Pop Star who was a former country singer and the Mega Star. 
 
That would be an interesting theory except when you turn on social media all you see are people doing the two step to the Mega stars new country song and the people who are dancing to it are the same demographic of the Ex President who is trying to get re elected. 
 
Coincidence – I think not. In fact I think the plot thickens. I don’t think the pop star and the mega star are competing at all – I feel that it’s all a brilliant plan to unify the country which has been deeply divided due to the two Presidents running on opposing issues. 
 
I also think, like the late great Prince has done so brilliantly ( for example when his record label would not give him a fair contract, to gain back control he referred to himself as a symbol that could not be spoken out loud ) one of the two singers is the master mind behind this effort to use music to unite Americans. 
 
In the mean time I’ll be two stepping right along with the rest of America as the mega star becomes the first black woman to have a song reach number one on the country charts, the catchy country ditty seems to be leaving us a little less divided. 
 
I think our blonde pop star, with her oh so mischievous grin, is sitting back, cow boy hat cocked, thinking….the plan is working.
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About The Author:  Nefertari Williams is a jewelry maker, activist for women with heart disease and the mother of five beautiful children.  She lives in Willingboro, New Jersey.  To access additional articles by Nefertari Williams link herehttps://tonyward.com/nefertari-williams-the-vicious-cycle-of-war/

Milton White: The Supreme Diva


Text by Milton White, Copyright 2024

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The Supreme Diva

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As Diana Ross celebrates her 80th birthday on March 26th, she is the new face of Saint Laurent Spring Collection 2024!

The photo selected for the campaign, is reminiscent of her 1976 DIANA ROSS album cover featuring the “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” and “Love Hangover.”

During the spring and summer of 1964, America was introduced to the sounds of a new female vocal group, The Supremes. I purchased their album, “Where Did Our Love Go” with my allowance that year. In December of 1964, The Supremes made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. As we all know, the group became Diana Ross and The Supremes, before Diana set out on a solo career.

Rather than chronicle her life and career, which either you know, can Google or find on YouTube, I will give you a glimpse of some performances and concerts that I have attended throughout the years.

Although I had been to many shows and concerts in my childhood and teens, they did not compare to my first Diana Ross concert.

I received a call from one of my roommates who was in New York for a fashion magazine photo shoot, asking me if I could come to NYC to see Diana at Radio City Music Hall.  Amtrak was my mode of transportation along the Northeast Corridor while I lived in Boston, so I made reservations so that I could make it to the “City” for the performance. I quickly packed a bag and headed to Back Bay Station for my train.  I stayed at the Essex House on Central Park South near Columbus Circle.  

Excitement filled the air in and around Radio City Music Hall unlike the atmosphere of the Christmas Show and the Rockettes, it was more exhilarating.  Prior to being seated, I walked to the stage and back to our seats stage left. My view, the audience, sophisticated and well-dressed, ready for a night to remember.

The house lights dim, the orchestra strikes up the overture, the stage lights come up and then it happens…Diana Ross appears, and this sophisticated crowd goes wild.  

Belting out “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand” with full audience participation, Diana reigned Supreme!  followed by a medley of hits by The Supremes, Diana Ross and The Supremes, then running off stage for a costume change while still performing, she never missed a beat. Then delving into her string of solo hits climaxing with The Them from Mahogony into “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” Diana disappears again returning with a Gardenia in her hair to perform songs from her movie “Lady Sings the Blues.”  Diana ends the show with “My Man” but after several minutes of standing ovations, she returns to perform a final song. Emotionally drained, yet full of life, I vowed that I would attend her concerts in the future.

At the time, this was the best live performance that I had ever seen.  Little did I know that I would continue to attend her performances to the extent that I have.  I would like to share just a couple more experiences that may, again, bring back memories for some of you.

I lived in Philadelphia when “An Evening with Diana Ross” opened at the Palace Theatre in New York. I had to see it! In this show, Diana begins with “Here I Am” and introduced “Love Hangover” which was released in February 1976 and incorporated this hit in the show, where she would invite several members of the audience onto the stage to dance with her.  I looked at the list of cities where she would perform next.  Boston, here I come…great performance!  Next stop Philadelphia.  I did have a ticket for the show, which I thought sold-out.  I called the box office the morning of the show and secured a ticket, wait for it…front row CENTER!!!  Oh my, what will I wear???  I drove out to the Tiger Shop in Wayne and told them that I needed an outfit for the show. I let them know where I was seated and they dressed me accordingly, suit, tie, pocket square, cuff links, the whole nine yards.  I arrived at the Shubert Theatre and was escorted to my front row seat. I was in my glory.  The show begins, I can feel every tingling inch of my body.  I hear the intro to “Love Hangover” I’m getting nervous, the tempo crescendos into the disco beat, Diana looks at me, Oh My God, she’s walking over to me, she extends her hand and pulls me up onto the stage with her…I’m on-stage dancing with DIANA ROSS!!! Others join us and then she disappears for her next costume change. When she returns, we leave the stage, but this was the best night of my life!  The next stop on the tour was Pittsburgh, and yes, I grabbed 2 tickets and took a friend’s’ brother who was studying at the University of Pittsburgh.

“An Evening with Diana Ross” was shown as one of her TV Specials, where she portrayed Josephine Baker, Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters. Magnificent!!!

I didn’t think that Diana’s show could get any better after dancing with me on stage, lol, but it did!!!

This is one of the greatest shows openings, ever!  

Curtains open slowly revealing a screen that fills the entire stage, photos of Diana begin flooding the screens while the orchestra begins, then you hear Diana… “If you need me, call me, no matter where you are, no matter how far….”  Next you see on the screen a vision of Diana at the top of a long staircase, descending, until, until, she steps through the screen Live!!! Mind blown!!!  You can actually view this on YouTube Diana Ross 1979 Caesar Palace.

I went to several other performances throughout the years at the Valley Forge Music Fair, where my Limo driver met and followed her driver for a while, champagne in tow, the Westbury in New York the Mann Music Center and Atlantic City.

I didn’t get to see The Supremes in my youth, the Motown Revue didn’t play the matinee at the Uptown and the next time The Supremes were in the area, they appeared at The Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, which I was to young to attend.  After Dianas’ pet dogs were poisoned there, she never returned.

The “Return to Love” tour in 2000, reunited Diana, Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong as Diana Ross and The Supremes. I was fortunate to see them perform in Atlanta before the tour was cancelled.  They performed 16 of the 29 scheduled performances. 

During the pandemic, Diana went back into the studio to record her latest album “Thank You” which is upbeat and special I love it.  In September 2022, I found myself with a couple of friends at Oceans in Atlantic City for her performance.  Let me tell you, her energy, her voice, her performance is just as bright as it was years ago.  She has appeared at Hard Rock Atlantic City most recently and continues to sell out venues here and abroad.  

Do yourself a favor, when you hear of Diana coming to a city near you, get tickets and sing, dance and have yourself a grand time!!!

Milton White III

Portrait of Milton White style editor and blogger at www.TonyWard.com
Milton White. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

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About The Author: 
Milton White is a fashion aficionado, collector and consultant.  He is currently creative assistant to KVaughn Studio and style editor at TWS. To access additional articles by Milton White, link here: https://tonyward.com/milton-white-dining-out-in-february/

A.H. Scott: Crystal Clear

Illustration of President Joe Biden smiling from ear to ear. Artist: Thomcat23
President Joe Biden. Artwork by Thomcat23, Copyright 2024

Text by A.h. Scott, Copyright 2024

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Crystal Clear

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What will 2024 bring?

Will it bring about the reinforcement of American democracy?

Or, will it sink into the quicksand of dictatorship?

Well, of the two leading candidates of the respective Democratic and Republican party; one man boasts of an affinity for being a dictator. 

As for the other man, who came into office riding a wave of reclaiming the soul of America; he might not be a shoe-in of being re-elected. 

Just think about that reality for a moment. Donald Trump, a former President of the United States of America; who stoked and stroked an insurrection of the 2020 Presidential election, is closer than anyone would have believed in being on that pathway of reclaiming an office which he took to the brink of demolishing the spirit of democracy. 

Oh yeah – and all the while his doubly-impeached backside is facing 91 counts from New York, Florida, Georgia and Washington, DC over his malevolent machinations. For Donald, everything is everything, and everything is a-ok for him. Just keep the grift up and all is well is Trumpworld. 

Joe Biden, the current President of the United States of America; who has had a string of legislative successes that any politician would be getting high-fives and kudos over; is almost having to scream for a crumb of attention to get the respect he deserves over his record. President Biden doesn’t need to be a man begging for acknowledgement.

And, damnit, it’s a sad state of affairs in this country, when a person who has the gas can in one hand and the matches in the other in destroying anything that could be considered normal is leading or tied in the polls. Of course the polls are ever changing, and the election of this burgeoning year isn’t until November 2024. But, geez, is it just me, or is the abnormal the normal and sanity suddenly insanity. 

Alas, this present situation is not just about two men; this is about who WE are as Americans. Okay, more specifically; who WE are as voters. 

Some just wanna’ give a half-assed shrug and act as if what Donald Trump did in violating the 14th Amendment in giving aid and comfort to an insurrection, as if the Constitution doesn’t mean squat. 

To the rest of us out here in America who actually give a damn about what the Constitution means and should be heralded as being; the name of Donald John Trump should be as far away from any ballot anywhere in this country. He forfeited the right to be a candidate the moment he chose to overturn the 2020 Presidential election. Going a bit further and being blunter to the point; fairness and that man’s name or likeness ain’t even in the same galaxy. He gets what he gets and what I believe he should get is the sound of that closing cell behind him. 

Always acting like he is some penny-less victim, Donald Trump is playing that role of the ‘Poor Rich Boy’ whose daddy Fred didn’t hug him enough when all those millions he left his son was frittered away in bankruptcy after bankruptcy. Donald Trump, born with a diamond spoon in his mouth is groaning on and on every time he pops his head up before camera, rally or his own social network, which is Anti-Truth.

Just be glad you were not treated like every other defendant who would have been tossed in the clink to cool your heels until whenever your trial date came around. Yet, you have your southern palace of tackiness you get to stomp around in, all the while you tell your supporters you are being railroaded on their behalf. 

You tell them that the ‘deep state’ is out to get you, even though the title of President of the United States of America doesn’t make that reality of persecution stand the laugh test. 

The office of the President of the United States of America brings out whom and what you are. If you were a selfish, miserable, small-minded, misogynistic, son-of-a-Trump, then that’s what the reflection reveals during your days in that office. 

Donald Trump didn’t change when he ascended to the office of the President. It was the office of the Presidency that changed when he became occupant of that hallowed office. 

In some ways, the word descent is what comes to mind when I think of Donald Trump. The descent of America is what occurred when he and his lady love Melania descended that escalator at his namesake tower. Descent into one man’s egotistic madness is what we all have had to live with during the past, present and soon to be future in the realm of Donald Trump. 

Yet, for Mr. 45, there is another word that looms heavy. 

Even now, out of office and still on the hunt to claw back into the oval, Donald Trump is still the same person he’s always been. And, what word could be used at this moment – is DEPLORABLE. Oh, yeah, remember when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used that term and was berated and mocked. She was on target then and the target is still on point. 

Deplorable Donald is who he is. 

Tact be damned, when it comes to this human being; who is void of any flicker of humanity. 

The whole situation of January 6, 2021 has to be addressed. What happened before that date, and what has happened since that date is the flashing beacon which no one should attempt to avoid. 

 Call it a reckoning. Call it karma. Or just call it just desserts. 

Damn, this was just within the last five years, but it is starting to seem as if it were decades or a century ago when these events occurred. 

With Barnum-esque braggadocio, the former President of the United States revels in always saying he is in a category all by himself. And, you know what – he is. Donald John Trump is in a category all his own. He is the only person who has occupied the oval office who has been charged with felonies up and down the courthouses of the Eastern coast of the United States of America. 

Yes, Donald, your category is yours and yours alone. You know; the category of being the first candidate that even breaches the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and the courts have to come up with a ruling upon it. Yes, you have misshaped and deformed all which has been considered on the level of decency or just plain normalcy. Yeah, it’s all you, Donald Trump. Everything you touch turns to trash. Trashing the military, trashing the media, trashing political opponents, trashing fellow citizens, trashing anything you deem as being beneath your level of supposed greatness. 

Yeah, so even I have to agree with the point of this person being on a level of all his own. It’s the 9th circle of hell, but it’s Donald’s and Donald’s alone. 

Who would have ever thought that the levers of democratic institutions in this country could ever be taken beyond the outer limits of what is civil, proper and fair; all at the behest of a single person?

When Donald Trump whines about being tossed off the ballot in Colorado and Maine (and, hopefully many a more state) and being treated unfairly, it is a joke; for he should be glad he isn’t cooling his heels in a jail cell, until he goes through his court cases, due to his role as Insurrectionist in Chief for January 6, 2021. 

Having the panoply of legal theories and legal firms on retainer at his beck and grifting call, the leading Republican Presidential candidate could choose how he wishes to be defended.

Would it be a defense of ‘true innocence’ by Donald Trump? You know, the kind of innocence that a person who wasn’t standing over a corpse holding the murder weapon in hand and has an actual alibi of being a thousand miles away with visible proof. Or, would it be a defense based on technical jujitsu[1] of flipping words and crossing your fingers in hoping that you could pull the wool over a judge or jury’s eyes? 

Donald Trump can’t plant his flag on the visage of virginity. No matter what he or his highly paid defenders can toss into the ether as a hypothetical comparison[2] to any other person who has held the office of President of the United States of America, he has to stand on his own hooves and show not a fleck of ash upon a sheet of white. 

George W. Bush with the Iraq War or Barack Obama authorizing drone strikes were policy directives by both former Presidents of the United States. So, the pros and cons of what those two former occupants of the oval office are apples compared to the putrid citrus fruit which is the orange of insurrection.

Dragging any other politician into the mucked up mix that Donald Trump may be mired within, will never make him virginal. 

That train of temperance has long left the station of his living many a decade ago.

Alas, with all the gas-lighting that’s the purview of the Republican playbook, transparency of logic isn’t as evident as one may think it should be.

One party speaks in sentences, while another speaks in paragraphs. Yeah, I just wrote that and you might think it doesn’t make sense. But, it actually does. 

Donald Trump – Make America Great Again

Joe Biden – ????????

Yes, one sentence. Whether you agree with it or not; it snaps and goes straight into a simple note of memory. You can’t forget how easy those four words in that sentence can hold your attention.

Democrats never seem to come up with a single sentence that can grab the voters’ attention. There seems that there is nothing I as a Democrat can reply in a slogan to express a vision or a roadmap.  

As you read this, can you come up with a single sentence as a wraparound for what the Biden-Harris 2024 campaign is using as a basis for their re-election.

I don’t see it. I do see accomplishments. Most definitely, there are many of them that can be pointed to. Yet, are any of them bumper-sticker worthy? No, at this point, I don’t think so. 

This is where the Democrats constantly fall short in getting their message across. In a YES or NO world, politicians on the left are forever lost in an analytical loop. 

Donald Trump says Make America Great Again and yes, I roll my eyes and groan when hearing it. But, it’s a line that’s become ingrained. And, from Joe Biden’s side of the ledger, his advisors keep saying he’s got time to make his case for re-election. Well, it is now February 2024 and November is closer than they may think.

My small piece of advice for President Joe Biden and all within his campaign infrastructure is this – Make It As Plain As A Glass of Water. 

Think of it this way; think of a glass of water and just say what it is. Water is wet. Water is cold. Water is lukewarm. Water is life.

Keep it simple and make your point. No need for a long and overdrawn chemical analysis of H2O. 

That should be a breakdown of how a slogan should be made in defense of the Biden-Harris policies and the opposing of Donald Trump’s second coming. 

If it’s the growl of Make America Great Again, why can’t we on the Democratic side say something like – Democrats Protecting Democracy. Yeah, it’s probably too simple a phrase to say; but, a single sentence has to come from somewhere. Because, right now; people out here in America ain’t feelin’ it. 

You know, feeling the purpose of something beyond just the fact that Donald Trump is on the other side of whatever this election is all about. 

Feeling of purpose seems to be that level of intensity to the extent of bleeding for the candidate. And, no matter how good and valid a man Joe Biden is; it ain’t him that brings out that devotion. Now, devotion may be overrated. I don’t know. But, since that asset of devotion is not in the toolbox of the Democratic candidate for re-election; then that messaging better be hotter than Hades and more on point than Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

You see, I can list the achievements of the Biden-Harris administration and show how they are benefiting the American citizenry. Yet, seeing statistics in black and white won’t set the soul on fire for people to have an impetus to vote in November. 

THE BIDEN-HARRIS RECORD: 

American Rescue Plan [3]– Stimulus checks, child care tax credits 

Inflation Reduction Act [3]– Lowering drug costs and $35.00 insulin price cap 

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act [3]– Bridge repair and replacement, pipe and service lines, sewer systems, upgrading power grid, investing in high-speed internet 

Safer Communities Act[3] – Providing funding for gun safety and $10 billion in funding for mental healthcare

Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP) [4]– providing loans, grants, and assistance to small and minority-owned businesses in low-income and financially underserved communities.

Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program[4] – 8 million payments to renters at risk of eviction

Whatever the message is that the Democrats are working on getting out before this election, they should be shouting from the rooftops and flashing the bat signal. 

Advisors can say ‘Bidenomics’ from now until the end of Summer and that will fall on deaf ears. Focus on the underlying numbers and not a cutesy name for the economy under Joe Biden’s tutelage. 

The slogan should be – Competence Over Chaos!

There you go – 3 words – bumper sticker ready!

Biden/Harris – Competence Over Chaos!

It turns ‘old & creaky Joe Biden’ into a sober and clear thinking leader of competence versus ‘old & dithering Donald Trump’ as a diaper soaked cry-baby of consistent chaos. 

Now, it might piss off both sides of the political ledger in noting both men are ‘old’. And, yes, neither of the candidates are spring chicks fresh off the farm, okay. 

So, the choice is competence or chaos? 

And, that is crystal clear. 

“Crystal Clear”- THE FOOTNOTES: 

1.-Trump’s outrageous ‘license to kill’: MAGA lawyer claims POTUS may ‘legally’ murder American rivals – MSNBC

2.-Trump’s Bizarre Immunity Claims Should Serve as a Warning – The New Yorker 

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/trumps-bizarre-immunity-claims-should-serve-as-a-warning

3.-10 Accomplishments of The First Two Years of The Biden-Harris Administration – UpNorth News Wisconsin 

https://upnorthnewswi.com/2023/01/20/accomplishments-two-years-biden-harris-administration-2/

4.-Year in Review: Treasury’s Top Accomplishments During Year Two of the Biden-Harris Administration – U.S. Treasury Department

https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy1180

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Portrait of A.H. Scott poet and writer based in New York City
A.H. Scott

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A.H. Scott is a poet and essayist based in New York City and is a veteran contributor to this blog.  To access additional articles by A.H. Scott, click here:  https://tonyward.com/a-h-scott-games-people-play/

Shane Verandez: Flesh for Fantasy


Text by Shanell Verandez, Copyright 2024

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Flesh for Fantasy

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Flesh will never last, but a sculpture lives on forever…
 
What an incredible vibe to have a sculptor capture a piece of your essence within the compounds of clay to be seen by future generations to come. Imagine that…
My encounter with the sculptor, IIya Livshits, first started as friends on Facebook. I didn’t know that he was an artist let alone a sculptor, his art wasn’t displayed on his Facebook page. I just thought he was an avid hiker/ Nature lover, who likes to dance. So naturally, when he asked me if he could do a sculpture of me, I thought it was a spam message. I mean, it’s not every day or any day that you get asked that lifetime question!
 
I was apprehensive, but curious and expressed interest, so we met in person at an Ethiopian cafe in West Philadelphia. I needed to meet this undercover artist in person and catch a glimpse of this man… Read the vibrations. The meeting was a success and I decided to go ahead and model for project “claymation”. It turned out that the sculptor is an avid hiker, naturalist from Kharkiv, Ukraine Who is a self-taught sculptor since he was 12 years old. IIya now resides in Philadelphia,Pa., and is a Center City based software engineer by day and sculptor extraordinaire by night. The undercover artist… Some of us tend to take on dual lifestyles… “Pleasing others to please ourselves” in order to create our art.
 
During the day of project “claymation”, I was a little nervous because I am going to be in a private studio setting with the sculptor and had to prepare myself mentally and physically for the session. I quickly informed Ilya that I want to live to be 100 years old and am armed for protection so no funny stuff! In these times, you have to protect your “temple” from harmful forces, models! We made it to IIya’s studio located in a large Port Richmond vintage warehouse. His studio was located close to the top floor. Once I entered the studio, it was like a Clay Wonderland of multifaceted figurines of all sizes, races, creeds, and gender so intricately designed by IIya’s hands. The atmosphere of the studio was safe and comfortable, IIya’s laid back and accommodating nature added much to that. I remember during our first meeting( and his Facebook profile pic) that he likes to dance , so I put music on and watched him dance as he set up the space and then without notice, started to throw down the clay and begin to shape a bust of my face. He didn’t even need me to sit still to capture my bone structure. I had realized he was studying my face the whole time in motion. Now that’s impressive…
To capture art in motion and mold the subject into a real form.
 
To IIya, I was a living work of untamed art that he wanted to capture and mold into separate pieces. First the face, and then as he danced and pranced around the studio, started on the second piece, my nude torso, while taking pictures for future photo references to the sculptured pieces done that day. This will help the sculptor continue the focus on his work as the clay is drying for the final phases of completion. It turns out that IIya is a pretty decent photographer too. As the sculpting session began to wind down, and the sculptures were taking shape, a sense of pride started to overwhelm me. You see… I grew up as an “ugly duckling” and never had any confidence about my looks. Even now sometimes I still feel like that duckling, but through the forms of my clayed face and torso sculpted by IIya’s hands and eyes gave me a great profound sense of worthiness. Watching myself being sculpted was an “outer body” experience… A mirrored twin, as I look at a reflection of myself. A clayed form of my evolution that captured little trinkets of my soul into a solidified figure. Not only do I consider this act of art a compliment from the sculptor, but a lasting tribute, that I am here, will be here and made a “beauty” mark in this world. Thank you, IIya Livshits for the incredible experience! May there be more pieces to explore…
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Portrait of beautiful black woman wearing a scarf nude underneath and dark fashionable sunglasses
Shanell. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024.

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To access additional articles by Shanell Verandez, click herehttps://tonyward.com/shanell-verandez-phillys-black-and-brown-fashion-history/

A.H. Scott: Games People Play

photo illustration of modified American flag as chess pieces
Games People Play. Artwork: Tony Ward, Copyright 2023

Text by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2023

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What kind of game is this? 

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It’s 2023 and welcome to Mystery Date[1]: GOP Speaker Edition!

Kevin is out. Steve is shunned, Jim is ejected, rejected and haplessly erected with his jacketless quest to hunt a Biden called Hunter. Then there’s a guy named Tom, who is a 60 second man.

Kevin McCarthy got tossed out on his butt, after a vote against him vacated the Speaker’s chair. Steve Scalise was next up, but the GOP crew didn’t want him in the big chair either. Jim Jordan couldn’t wrestle up the number of votes he needed to be elected either. Then along came Tom Emmer from Minnesota who didn’t even get enough moments in the Speaker’s post to warm the big chair. 

Along the way, the GOP was in a scramble. Good ol’ Kevin McCarthy even had an idea he put forth as a gamble. Thinking he could get himself re-installed[2] as Speaker with Jim Jordan as a sturdy side-man was McCarthy’s wackiest idea to this present date. 

Kev, you were voted out. So, stay out!! That gavel is gone with the wind, sir! Have no doubt, that wheel of speakership fortune ain’t coming your way again!

Beyond the ones who are racing to please, there is that 1 mean boy named Matt Gaetz that wants everything to freeze. 

With Tom, Jim, Steve and Kevin out of the race, who will be the one for the role as House Speaker to take that place?

The winner is Mister Mellow Mike Johnson with a soft tone, outrageous overreach and insidious ideology. Mike is the TROJAN oops, maybe shouldn’t be using that word with such a righteous figure such as he. Two ways this situation can unfold with the new speaker; either there is harmony on the highway of humanity or an instinct of intolerance. 

With newly minted House Speaker Mike Johnson, the knots are what he’s all about. 

“He is a servant leader and he is going to bind us together” – Rep. Mark Alford, R-MO[3]

Speaking of bind – I think the American people are now truly in a bind of keeping our fingers crossed that the Democrats can maintain control of the United States Senate, because with Maga Mike in charge of the house, the thumping is going to be hard and harder from the right.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here he is: Maga Mike – The Super Thumper!

“Go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview. That’s what I believe, so I do not apologize for it.” – Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana[4]

Thumpin’ that bible hard as can be in one hand and thumpin’ somethin’ else with the other. 

“There will be no legal basis to deny a bisexual the right to marry a partner of each sex, or a person to marry his pet.” – Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana[4] 

So, no longer is the man from Louisiana just a stealth congressman, but now HE is House Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

“All’ gay people were ‘capable of changing their abnormal lifestyles’ and there is ‘clearly no “right to sodomy” in the Constitution.” – House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana[4] 

And, yet – there also isn’t any right to any form of any illusory descriptive positions or interplay between beings, be it from the docility of a faint peck of affection upon a rosy cheek in a stolen kiss during midnight’s missionary play to a backdoor bangin’ while hangin’ from chandeliers. 

There is no paragraph, stanza, comma or colon within the United States Constitution that voices anything in the galaxy of sexuality. But, then again, I guess those that thump that Bible round’ the clock see those considered as sinners around every shadowy corner and every pot of Puritan porridge.

So, there Maga Mike sits atop the House[5], as third in line to the Presidency of the United States of America.

Those who uplifted him to this critical position see this specific moment in history as one of glory. 

“The swamp is on the run, Maga is ascendant and if you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to Maga Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement, and where the power of the Republican party truly lies, then you’re not paying attention” –  Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-FL[4]

Representative Matt Gaetz is all in a tizzy of titillation in swooning over this man that is one of his own ideological ilks. But, more importantly, it is the head of the modern Republican Party who truly sees Mike’s elevation as an ultimate Trump card. Oops, I let the Donald out of the bag in noting that factor. Yes, it is former President and presidential candidate Donald Trump that walks with a bit more pep in his step in having an ally who is Speaker of the House to do his nefarious bidding when it comes to a possible repeat of actions Representative Johnson did on his behalf in authoring an amicus[4] brief to the United States Supreme Court to overturn election results in the subversive plot in the last Presidential election of 2020. 

Trump is probably thinking the newly installed Speaker is bound to make things better for his electoral comeback in greasing the skids for anything that’s bound to come during the upcoming election of 2024.

Bound for glory? 

Uh-uh. Only bound for having a sudden twang of amnesia is the game Maga Mike and all the rest of them are twisting themselves into knots for. 

Speaking of games that people play, there’s a man with more knowledge of balls[6] than any of the others that has been listed in this article so far.

Does anybody honestly think that in over those 40 plus years of thousands of virile, young men being shepherded under the tutelage of Tommy Tuberville in the pursuit of athletic victory that there were not a singular ‘blip’ of less than virtuous decorum that would be better to be gone with the wind?

Anything that would dare endanger, tarnish or detour a championship title and all the collective glory for an institutions’ sports program’s sterling reputation and a glistening array of trophy in a finely polished case would just be the price of victory. 

 

So, hey, I sit here and shrug as to what a person would do to be lauded as a champion in whatever field of vocation they have chosen to tackle. Pun intended. For me, it’s one of those things to ponder that make me go hmm.

Yet, for games that people play as being on the side of all that is pristine, pure and for the moral good; is in reality just the opposite for the tawdry power-grab for ascendancy towards adoration, adulation and ever expanding campaign coffers.

Being a game of pigskin to politics, to be in the winner’s circle is the end all be all. 

Of course with his reputation, Tommy ain’t no fly by night type of character. Tommy Tuberville has coached varied champions of swiftness and speed from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio to Texas Tech University in Lubbock and Auburn University in Alabama. 

And, finally of course in the Southern United States, there is the grandest of the granddaddies when it comes to a football program legacy – Ole’ Miss; otherwise known as the University of Mississippi, located in Oxford, Mississippi. 

That allure of winning has its’ perks for the pigskin gladiators who score on and off the field on any given Sunday. With that reality, there are always accommodations to be made to keep the starting line and backup second string waiting in the wings on that field to win. 

So, when Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville rails on and on about sanctity and sin while putting a hold on nominations for promotions in our government, it reeks to me as the height of hypocrisy. 

I wonder if any of the media that come in contact with Senator Tuberville, be it on Capitol Hill or back in Alabama has ever asked him of any glint of knowledge of any young men under his wise guidance who has had a possibility of their ability to conquer in the field of sports over his 40 years plus has ever been endangered of being sidelined by an unwanted pregnancy and having its’ results swept away for convenience of furthering the march to victory. 

As from the days of the then landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in the early 1970’s to now of the present day, data statistics[7] have documented on how many unplanned pregnancies have been terminated due to that once legally protected medical procedure across the United States of America. 

No one should be under any illusion of reality that Ohio, Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi have been excised from all the other 46 states being affected. 

When Senator Tuberville speaks with such a definitive deriding of any member of the United States military who has sought this medical procedure, as he is some kind of man of moral perfection that is trying to push his own stridency upon other citizens of equal standing; he probably figures no one would dare turn the spotlight of judgment back on him.  

Senator Tommy Tuberville, as well as all the rest of these Republicans are betting that they can best the game of pulling one over on the American voting public. Well, maybe some can be bamboozled with such ease in hearing a stem-winding speech on virtue and the Godliness which some profess to be bathed in.

Yet, as in the results[8] elections in Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky of November 7th, 2023 showed the country and the world, sometimes even the best players fumble and their opponents experience the winner’s circle for once in a while. Lest anyone forget the overturning of Roe v. Wade by Trump’s trio of autonomy’s reversal in 2022, many an American woman and our allies clasp the torch of recrimination in the voting booths for many an unseen decade to come. No, no, GOP – you wrought this and us women of this nation is tossin’ you out on your rears in defeat is how you are gonna’ to be taught this!!

So, just keep on thumpin’, Maga Mike and keep on torturing logic, ‘Bama Tommy; while Democrats, Independents and even Republicans who are fed up with the grubby grab for self-aggrandizement and phony piety that encompasses the party which now has gleefully relinquished any façade of a political vision and platform under the stranglehold of a tiny thumbed tyrant in waiting, Donald J. Trump have flipped the script.

Game on!!

“Games People Play”

by

A.H. Scott

Games People Play; The Footnotes:

1.-Mystery Date – Mystery Date Board Game Milton Bradley 

2.-Kevin McCarthy Floats Proposal To Return Him To Power And Make Jim Jordan Assistant House speaker – NBC

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/mccarthy-floats-partnership-jordan-assistant-house-speaker-rcna122037

3.-New Speaker Mike Johnson ‘Is Going To Bind Us Together’: GOP Rep. Mark Alford — ABC News

4.-Mike Johnson As Speaker Shows ‘Maga Is Ascendant’ In Congress, Matt Gaetz says – The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/oct/26/mike-johnson-speaker-matt-gaetz-maga-ascendant

5.-Republicans Choose Election-Denying LGBTQ-Hating Psycho as House Speaker – The Humanist Report

6.-Tommy Tuberville Made $25m Off Black men. God Forbid They Get Anything Back – The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2022/oct/12/tommy-tuberville-us-senator-auburn-coach-reparations-speech-football

7.-Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report (MMWR) – Centers For Disease Control And Prevention 

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/ss/ss7009a1.htm#T4_down

8.-The Supreme Court Dismantled Roe. States Are Restoring It One By One. – Politico

https://www.politico.com/news/2023/11/09/abortion-rights-elections-red-states-00126225

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Portrait of A.H. Scott poet and writer based in New York City
A.H. Scott

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A.H. Scott is a poet and essayist based in New York City and is a veteran contributor to this blog.  To access additional articles by A.H. Scott, click here: https://tonyward.com/a-h-scott-its-all-in-the-game/