Best Summer Beauty Secret!!

Are you hot, or not? This question obsesses our culture from the billions we spend on cosmetic products to the massive social networking platform originally used–and still today–to rate the hotness of college co-eds, known as Facebook. Take a quick spin through your local mall, or better yet, television dial and our addiction to attraction is everywhere.

But what makes one person beautiful and another…well, less so? The truth is beauty is not a constant but a concept which varies widely based on place, time, and a host of cultural values. What is beautiful now is not the same as even a few years ago, and of course, the idea of a beautiful woman is different around the globe.

The Marquardt Beauty mask, a mathematical rendering of symmetrical features, applied to three races

Its safe to assume that ideas of beauty are as old as humans–beauty is, after all, in the the eye of the beast: animals use visual cues to chose and attract potential successful mates. In humans, some of the visual markers of a desirable mate are symmetrical features, clear skin, and less facial hair, “child bearing hips” and cues of youthfulness, indicating overall health.

tumblr_myj3854fM91rcei4io1_500The human focus on breasts butts are also leftovers from mate selection.

-1Other visual cues, like red lips, may be evolutionary adaptations to attract mates when humans began walking upright, obscuring visual displays of genitalia….or not.

We’ve come a long way from needing these cues. With 7 billion humans in the world, we’ve masted the mating thing, so the need for these visual cues is less, even as our ability to mimic these cues increases. Want to look young with plump youthful skin?


full red lips

Juvedrem Ad

and an attractive breast to waist ratio? All you need is cash and recovery time.


If you’re looking for something less drastic, try the latest make up craze–contouring.

Miracles-of-Makeup-ContouringBefore and after shots show the difference that a complex make up job “photo-ready” make up–originally popularized to deal with the improved picture quality of high definition cameras and video–can have . The celebrity Queen of illusion, Kim Kardashian, is of course, an early convert:

8312247449_fdfaab2079_zWe know that many of our favorite stars look more like us without their team of makeup artists and stylists than they would like us to know. Are they more beautiful? Not necessarily, but what they are is highly constructed. If we were to apply the same techniques used to change media personality on normal people, we know we would get similar results

Artist Esther Honig recently asked 41 freelance graphic artists around the world to Photoshop her image to make it beautiful. What results is 41 variations--darker or lighter skin, varying eyebrow shape, degree and style of make up and addition of clothes and accessories–of Honig (click the link to see all 41). Each picture is also a lens into the particular standard of beauty in each county.

channel-curation-featured-wide-largeIn both of these interesting media samples, we are challenged to see these variations in defining beauty. Going further afield, we find lots of conversation about accepting a wider variety of body types and ages as part of what we consider beautiful.

women's+ideal+body+size+for+menEven with a wider definition, our cultural obsession overemphasizes the construction of our outer appearance as beauty, but isn’t beauty more than skin deep?

2a42f69ef80ababf5b941e6c7127c0b5I remember watching TV with my father one day, when I was about 14 or so. In a commercial, there was an old woman with a weathered wrinkled face. I remember my father saying, “Wow, what a beautiful face!” I was struck by his exclamation–the face I saw was completely different from what every woman’s magazine was telling my adolescent self: that beauty, judged by men, hinged on having a completely polished and refined exterior, one that would cover any individuality blemishes and mask them as something more desirable.

Look at the real women–and men–around you: your parents, your children, your friends. You don’t love them because they’re sexy. In their faces, in their features, no matter how symmetrical or misshapen, is a lived experience, a real life complete with laughter (lines), sadness (and eye bags) and not a few days outside. It’s not their polished mask, but the very blemishes that track the life we have shared with them that makes them beautiful to us.

Chemical consequences of beauty products

What if they forgave your freckles and dark spots? Better yet, what if they loved you because of the laugh lines and crows feet that make you you? Would you have more time and money to spend doing what you love if you didn’t have to polish your mask so much? What if living your best life was enough to make you beautiful?

acceptBeauty, like the face of an old woman, is a life well lived with love given freely. Love costs nothing, contains no harmful chemicals, and doesn’t need to be removed before bed. Take off your mask, go live your life, it’s guaranteed to give you a healthy glow.





Princess and The Pant

Artist Claire Hummel has a fantastic set of illustrations of your favorite Disney princesses–with a twist.  She has taken all of your favorite Disney princesses and given them historically accurate costumes.

imgres-4 imgres-6

Surprisingly, some of these accurate costumes are not far off from Disney’s own.

imgres-2 imgres-5

What I want to know is, why have we not created a female heroin since women started wearing pants?  Hummel’s drawing point out that the Princess is outdated–none of them exist in our own modern era.  None of them are young enough to wear pants.  So why does the toy isle for girls look like this?

girls aisle.0

Plantation Daze

Just as the LA Clippers are getting ready to suit up for a promising post season game, Clippers Owner Donald Sterling was busted on tape making a host of horrible racist comments.  Recorded by his girlfriend–a 20-something woman of color–Sterling  ranted for nearly 10 minutes , including these fine comments curated by TMZ:

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” (3:30)

“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want.  The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.” (5:15)

“I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.” (7:45)

Thankfully the officials at the NBA promise to get to the bottom of things with an investigation–and even promise due process!  Wait, has he been charged with a crime?  No, but I don’t think it will take much investigating.  Is that you? Yes? Oh, then we’re done here.


This of course is not the first time that race has reared its ugly head in sports, nor even the first time that Sterling has broadcast his prejudiced proclivities–he was sued in a housing discrimination case  in 2003 that he settled for 2.75 million, and another case some reports say settled for 5 million.  More than just dislike, Sterling has a history of using his power to perpetuate his racist ideology.

Perhaps most telling though is a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against Sterling by Elgin Baylor.  LA Times reporter Lisa Dillman wrote about Elgin’s testimony back in 2010:

Baylor spoke about what he called Sterling’s “plantation mentality,” alleging the owner in the late 1990s rejected a coaching candidate, Jim Brewer, because of race. Baylor quoted Sterling as saying: “Personally, I would like to have a white Southern coach coaching poor black players.” Baylor said he was shocked. “And he [Sterling] looked at me and said, ‘Do you think that’s a racist statement?’ I said, ‘Absolutely. That’s plantation mentality.’ “

So it is well established that Serling is a text book racist. By textbook, I mean he uses his power and position to negatively affect people based only on the color of their skin.  Despite lots of calls for Sterling to face some sanctions or a suspension, will the NBA, who has long known about this guy, do anything meaningful this time?  Doubtful.

Twolves v Clippers X Brand

Tonight Doc Rivers and his team will suit up for this owner and play their hearts out.  The team decided not to boycott–for the fans.  The LA times reports that “players considered wearing black socks or armbands in protest during Sunday’s game but worried about being viewed as radical.”  In a long list of Tweets, Rivers’ son encouraged  people to support the players’ decision to play, saying one man’s racism shouldn’t stop the team.

But what if that man is called your father’s owner?  What if that man has made it clear that he is okay with having “poor black boys” play for him but does not want to have to be associated with them? What if that man is long known to have a plantation mentality towards players and staff of color?


Wait–okay with employing blacks, has a plantation mentality and a history of thumbing his nose at people who criticize him– Donald Sterling the long lost twin of Clive “Better-as-slaves” Bundy, the Nevada rancher who’s comments filled the airwaves this week with these racist gems?

Two men, within one week, making outragoues–and not unconnected–comments about black people.  We have seen this too many times to pretend this is shocking or surprising.  In fact, the idea that blacks are undesirables, poor wretches, depressed sitting on stoops or desperate to take any amount of abuse to play ball, welfare-bleeding baby-aborting self-imprisoning ghetto rachet free-lunch freeloaders, better-off-as-slaves is a prominent thread in our media environment.  From politicians to celebrities to NBA team owning billionaire black-fetishist Donald Sterling, overt racism is everywhere.  Maybe it’s time we stop treating these as isolated incidents and confront  the epidemic in evidence.

If you follow smntks, you know there is no shortage of public people making overtly racist comments, usually followed by a weak apology, or lame reasoning.  We hear this, we stomp our feet and holler, but long term, what do we really do?  Tonight, Donald Sterling will take his seat to watch his “boys” play;  Paula Dean is making a comeback;  Michael Dunn got away with murder.

Clippers player DeAndre Jordan took to Instagram to protest Sterling's comments
Clippers player DeAndre Jordan took to Instagram to protest Sterling’s comments


Its time to stop condemning and start acting.  Boycott the game. Don’t vote for the politicians who tripped over themselves to support Clive Bundy.  Stop yelling “black President” and start spreading the word that racism is real and we are all responsible for ending it.

If you think that socks and armbands are radical, then I’m telling you the moment is here.  Put your black socks on.  Rock a black armband.  It is time to get radical.






Boston Strong: Remembering the Whole City

This week Boston prepares to mark the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Boston has had its share of tragic events and shocking situations.  Like many other cities around the world, we can, sadly, add bombing to that list.  Just one year ago four people lost their lives and hundreds more were injured, many of them losing limbs,  when a bomb was detonated at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.


When the perpetrators surfaced just days after the bombing, the city responded in true Boston fashion.  In a city famous for traffic snarls and a less than friendly attitude, we showed that when we must work together, we will.  The major metropolis essentially closed itself while SWAT teams chased the Tsarnaev brothers across the city.  We spent the day inside, watching the news and watching our own streets, a hive mind hunting down those who injured our people and our beautiful city.

When the perpetrators were caught–one killed–the city collectively gathered to state our allegiance and grieve our loss.   Born in this fire was the phrase Boston Strong–two words that encapsulate the Yankee-born never-say-die prideful energy of this hard city.

Now, a year later, the city prepares to commemorate this tragic time.  There are conferences, news specials, grief counselors available to all, charity drives and every other form of ritual respect rightfully due this day.   Next Monday, the city will reclaim the fallen in an outpouring of love.


While we speak the names of the victims, allow me to add some loved ones to the list.  There were 40 homicides in the city of Boston last year.  This does represent a  sharp drop in the rate of homicides, but if your loved one was  killed what does that matter?  These 40 victims shared the same dream for happiness and a healthy family that the victims of the bombing did.  40 lives, gone.

A map of 2013 homicides, showing most outside of the downtown area.  From Universal Hub
A map of 2013 homicides, showing most outside of the downtown area. From Universal Hub

Please don’t forget to send a prayer up for the first responders who gave their lives fighting fire in Back Bay .  Remember the police killed in the line of duty this year.


And let’s also honor the mothers fathers husbands and wives whose lives were cut short suddenly on the streets of Boston this year.  Killed on their way home while their loved ones set their plate for dinner.

Brianna Morales was killed by a alleged drunk driver while walking near her home with her mom in November, 2013

What about those most hidden of victims? We can also add victims of domestic violence.  Though these women weren’t killed in the light of day at the finish line, their lives were just as valuable and and lost just the same.

Fist, stick, gun, knife, bomb, car, flame:  whatever end one meets, loved ones are left behind in desperate need of support and love to heal from loss.  This week our city will show the powerful healing love that comes from the collective mourning of commemorating our own.  As we say those names, lets remember the list of lost loved ones since the marathon is long.  Every life, whether it ends on the marathon’s finish line, the streets of the inner city, or the halls of a home, deserves the love and compassion contained in Boston Strong.


Happy International Women’s Day: You Are Like Bacon!

Happy International Women’s Day!  Today the world pauses to celebrate 50% of the world’s population–women.  Now you might be thinking: ‘Since women make up more than 50% of the world population why should they get their own month and when will men get a Men’s Day and Men’s History Month?  This is so unfair!’  Hold up.

Image 3-8-14 at 12.55 PM

Even though women make up 50% of the world population, they don’t have an equal share of financial wealth or political power.  Globally, women do 60% of the labor, but own less than 1% of the world’s property.  That’s right–women in the U.S. included–women hold only 1% f the world’s wealth.


When it comes to politics, women still don’t have equal representation in government.   Even when in office, women continue to combat stereotypical commentary on their looks and family roles.  Again, don’t comfort yourself by thinking this is only the situation in the developing world.  The United States has not had a female at the helm in the history of the presidency.  If Hilary takes the office in the upcoming 2016 election, that’s still 1 in 44. 


Even the most unscientific research–Google Auto correct– reveals the uphill battle women face in the fight for equity.  How do we think of who women are?  What can they do?  What should they do?

Image 3-8-14 at 1.09 PM (3)Image 3-8-14 at 1.09 PM (1) Image 3-8-14 at 1.09 PM (2)Okay, so we’re like bacon, shouldn’t vote or work, and can’t have it all.  It may not be scientific, but these ideas are popular–that’s why they rank high in the search terms.  I’m sure you’ve heard all these ideas about women before–except maybe the bacon thing….or maybe…

lady gaga

Interstingly, our not so scientific study has one more finding.  When I entered “women deserve”, Google had nothing to offer…

Image 3-8-14 at 1.09 PMSo even as Google and the rest of the world celebrate women in today’s doodle, the wider discourse about women continues age old patterns of inequality.   Raise your glass to amazing women today, but even as we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s plot to break out of March and claim our 50%.


Another day, another example of police brutality.  A man, seated, doing nothing but requesting his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of freedom from police harassment is brought first to tears, and then to the ground.  In America’s quest to completely ignore systematic police harassment examine the repeated evidence of excessive use of police force, let’s look at the relationship between crime and punishment.

So let’s get this straight; according to the law:

shooting unarmed boy= no punishment

asking officer not to touch you=arrest

listening to loud music=death

Time to rethink the whole system.



Happy Birthday, Facebook! Thanks for Ruining the World

Today Facebook turns 10 years old–not old enough to vote, drink, drive a car, or engage in consensual shenanigans.  But Facebook is old enough to have more than 1 billion users world-wide.  Think about it:  how hard must it be to get a billion of anything, let alone regular users?

facebook 1 billion

For each the pleasures that Facebook has afforded us there is the story of a consequence of the social media site, and of social networking in general.  Sure you can connect with far away friends you may have lost touch with–or read smntks which you love now– but all of your personal relationships are being leveraged to make money that you get no part in, plus your creepy ex is stalking your photo albums.


Despite today’s fond birthday wishes and general fluff pieces on Mark Zuckerberg, it hasn’t always been an easy decade for the creator or his social Frankenstein. From repeated privacy issues, and online harassment not to mention a questionable IPO, Facebook has weathered some slings and arrows with all their outrageous fortune.

Facebook IPO con

For us as end users, its hard to deny that Facebook has extended the breadth of our interpersonal circle.  We’re connected, right now, across the globe.  Pause…that’s amazing.  What’s more, we have come to believe that being widely connected is an important part of our personal life, and that sharing who we are across a huge network of people is an important task that has wider implications than pleasure.  We can make change, support others, learn, share, and engage with a huge community of humanity.

A map of global internet use
A map of global internet use

As you gaze lovingly into the candles on Facebook’s cake tonight, consider this question for yourself:  how has Facebook changed your personal relationships?  Look at both what you are given by the hand of social media, and also what it has supplanted, replaced, or made obsolete.  Is the texture of your friendships richer because of it, or have you traded, in some cases, breadth for depth, time for triviality? Chances are, it’s a bit a both.


Social networking is not something that can be destroyed or done away with, any more than the inventions of the technology that printed books, or birthed television.  But like every new medium, we must consider how this baby grows.  We must think about boundaries for healthy development, and building strong relationships born of the best of who we are rather than the lowest common denominator .


So happy birthday, Facebook.  Here’s wishing that you grow into a fine young social network that we can all be proud  of.

Do You Have To Be Right To Not be Treated Wrong?

Richard Sherman is $7875.00 away from putting this week’s scream-obsessed circus behind him.  The Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback has taken the week to turn an outpouring of criticism over a live on-camera interview into an opportunity to school us in stereotypes.  Now he just needs to pay his league fine and go on to play in the league’s biggest event where he will have the chance to respond on the field.  In case you missed it, at the conclusion of the Seahawks Forty-niners playoff game, Erin Andrews stopped Sherman for a little post-game chit chat.

Sherman delivered an earsplitting takedown of his rival on the field.  Within hours the Twitterverse lit up with criticism of Sherman’s “outburst”, and TV followed suit with a days worth of attention devoted to Sherman’s interview that used the word thug 625 times, according to Deadspin.  It didn’t take long for Sherman, not known for being quiet, to shoot back with some commentary of his own.

 Instead of delivering a dose of profanity, Sherman wrangled the criticism and elevated the conversation.  While he brushed off any implication that the criticism may destroy him, he did point out that he was bothered by the use of the word thug as a code word for the infamous n-word.  He correctly reminded us that in American parlance, when they call him a thug, they don’t mean that he is lurking around with brass knuckles, but that he is one in a long line of totally expected black brutes.

Is he right?  Sure.  You don’t need a word that starts with N to ring the bell of racism against black men.  What other choices do you have?  Try thug, brute, street, gangster, threat, hood, ape, pimp, dropout and a host of other names that trace a line decade by decade back through American history.  These words come and go like fashion, but the pattern of racism persists.


Richard Sherman, Ivy League graduate has proved that he is not these things.  He’s chosen to use this moment to draw our attention to the use of code words in common conversation to link black men who are public figures to long standing racist historical misrepresentations.  Sooo excellent.  This time it turns out that Sherman was the wrong dude to mess with.


But here’s the thing.  You shouldn’t have to be the right person to not be treated the wrong way.  Whether you are a Stanford graduate or just a guy on the grind, no man deserves to be defined by stereotypes.

We Ain’t What We Ought to Be

Today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech.  The 50 years since that famous speech stand today as a measuring stick to place blackness in America against.  To paraphrase MLK himself, it’s 50 years later and the negro is still not free.  Now I can hear you shouting “Black President !” from here, and I’ve seen Obama hanging around, so I know lots has changed. Even with all the change, the needle for black people–and poor people– that the civil rights activists fought so hard to move seems to point to the same old numbers.

By every metric of social well being , blacks lag behind their white counterparts.  While civil rights gave legal rights to blacks that were long overdue, the last 50 years has witnessed the slow erosion of these gains.  Stop and Frisk, Stand Your Ground, and the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights act all remind us that racism lives on in the heart of the American justice system, while discriminatory financial and educational policies bring the fight to our homes and schools.

What about in the fantastical world of mainstream media?   Surely the media does a much better job of representation now, right?  Well……
In 1963 there was not one network show–and there were only major networks and no cable, young ones– that starred or featured a character of color.  Films, much the same.  This is not to say that people of color were excluded from media.  Of course westerns like Bonanza and Gunsmoke filled screens with feathered savages,  and there were more than a couple of black entertainers popular that year.  The racist show Amos and Andy, cancelled years earlier still ran in syndication in over 50 markets.  Whatever popular representations of race there were by and large were would not be acceptable by today’s standards….right?
Fast forward 50 years.  We have handfuls of big blacks filling up our screens, and incidentally draining our pockets.  Beyonce and Jay Z are the reigning king and queen of a kingdom full of rappers, runners and ratchet weave wearers.  We even have some young white ladies who I refuse to name here doing their best to play out their own tilted image of what it is to be black.
There’s no doubt that there are hundreds more black characters in media today, but just as in 1963, media representations show blacks as lazy and crazy, violent and vixenish.  When we fight mainstream media for representation, we can’t stop with appropriate quantity.  Quality matters.  High visibility celebs who push a self-centered materialistic life, and images that reinforce the worst of classic stereotypes aren’t progress.
MLK’s I have a dream speech resonates so strongly all these years later because still we strive to be a better more perfect union.  Until the words that echo off the water of the mall are the same that make up the stories on our screens, we still have the fight in front of us. As the old saying goes, we ain’t what we used to be, but we ain’t what we ought to be.  Lets not take another 50 years to get there.

Let’s Go, Smarty-Pants!

I get it.  You are the master of the Information Age.  If you’re like the rest of us, I know you’re spending 8 maybe 10 hours a day glued to some screen or another–the smart phone wrapped around you like a leash or the giant screen tv that awaits you in your man cave, the computer you’re  locked in a staring contest with at your desk all day or the laptop that’s an extension of your very soul.

Like potato chips, you probably don’t even realize just how much you’re consuming, but trust me, we’re eating the whole bag here.

 But its not like you’re zombifying out to marathons of reality tv.  It is the Information Age and there’s a lot to stay up with.  How else can you stay current with a world of news, a host of celebrities competing for air time and the 648 friends that you’re keeping up with on Facebook?  You’d hardly know what to tweet about if you didn’t.
Whether you can remember the Dos prompt or you cut your teeth on an iPod, we all spend more minutes staying up to the minute than ever before.  So you’re savvy.  You’ve binge watched all of the Walking Dead and you could blow through a double jeaopardy round of questions on pop culture.  Sure you’ve seen every Super Bowl ad and seen more than a few bad public relations disasters.  Hardly a week goes by with out one.
And more often than never race and racism are in the mix.
So here comes your coworker/ professor/ boyfriend/ sister-in-law.  They want to know if you saw the latest and what you think.  They’ going to ask you to render an opinion on the most recent brouhaha over race in the media.
They’re going to ask you, ” did you think that was racist?”
Hey, you know what to do.  You live in what they have assured us is a black-president-electing-diversity-loving-open-minded-post-racial America.  So now we all agree on what’s racist and so you know just what to say to not look like an ass.
Except, maybe you’re not sure.  Even though we’ve all been chewing on this media diet for years, rarely have we ever learned how to stop to decode what we’re seeing based on more than a passing opinion.
And even though we want to live in post racial America, maybe we’re not quite there yet, and we could stand to talk some of this stuff out rather than shouting each other down.
This isn’t just water cooler chic.  Media messages about race are all around us, and they affect the way that we think about race, privilege and people in the real world.
But you’ve got smntks.
Here well get into the thorny patch of race in American media and clear a path for you.
Let’s get past the same old he said she said around race in the media and come to some common ways to talk and think about what we see.
So the next time they ask you at the church picnic/ boys night out/ book club if you thought something is racist.
You will have THOUGHT something.
Don’t you look smart?