About naikanomtom

Chicago native, former Florida resident and now, a Virginian. This is an extension of my now deceased YouTube channel, which will feature blog posts of various subjects, most of which will be fun and or lame. Subjects will include my thoughts on film, humor, food, politics and of course anime. Although I don't have the heart to dabble in anime music videos nowadays, I hope this will be a welcome place for my old fans, and a low-key refuge for new ones.

Naika Reviews “Dear White People (Season 2)”

dear-white-peopleThe first season of Justin Simien’s amazing Netflix show, “Dear White People,” was one of my personal favorites from Netflix last year, and after binge-watching Season 2 eariler this month, I can safely say that it not only continues the conversations that the first season started, but it expands on them with sadness, mirth, courage and even mystery.  My expectations weren’t only met, but they were, frankly, blown away.  In a lot of ways, Season 1 was kind of like an introduction to each of the key characters of the show, along with their major issues, trials, flaws and motivations.  There’s the brave Samantha White, the creator and host of the Winchester University Radio program, “Dear White People,” the shy school journalist Lionel, the tough-guy comp-sci geek Reggie, Samantha’s smart-yet-second-fiddle pal Joelle, the savvy and ambitious Coco, Sam’s on-and-off white grad student filmmaker BF Gabe and lastly, uber-polished school president Troy Fairbanks.  This is ensemble TV at its finest, and if you thought Season 1 did wonders with these characters, wait until you see Season 2.

However, the cast’s evolution couldn’t have happened without challenging circumstances, and that’s really the heart of what makes this season so special.  Season 2 begins with the aftermath of the Hancock protests where Samantha is forced to confront both a relentless troll named AltIvyRight, and a new conservative student radio show sarcastically named “Dear Right People.”  Little by little, our band of heroes are challenged left and right by trolls straight outta 2016, but the shadow that looms largest for this season is the legacy of Winchester.  While the main episodes focus on each character like last season, each is tied with a lengthy introduction featuring how this Ivy League school  historically supported the institution of slavery in America, with our narrator ending each intro with the two most important words in the show, “Watch Closely.”  This not only gives the show a connective thread to each episode’s separate narratives, but makes our characters’ quest for truth against the burgeoning alt-right forces on campus much more global, with greater mystery and higher stakes.  If anything, the show not only provides sharp social commentary, but a nuanced look at interracial family dynamics, loads of soul-searching, a mysterious hunt for an online racist and even the unraveling of a secret society on campus.  Yes, this is ALL in Season 2.

dear-white-people-season-2-02But that’s not all.  Justin Simien and his list of directors provide each episode with a surreal yet probing cinematic flair that slams us into the lives of everyone at Winchester.  These touches range from the long, winding shots of Sam’s studio, to the lonely shots of Lionel trying to fit into a very white Pride Day mixer (loved his defense of Asian peoples BTW), along with Sam’s talk with Gabe in black and red lights and the gothic spookiness of the bell tower.  And let’s not forget Troy’s Fear and Loathing in Winchester as he truly goes out-of-body all over campus, where the camera just creeps and swerves along his ‘shroom-induced joyride….complete with a talking dog!  With all this in mind, I think it’s safe to say that Season 2 is not only food for thought, but it’s an absolute feast for the eyes.  While we were watching, my wife said that each episode was like watching a movie, and you know what?  She’s right.  Every episode is LITERALLY a love letter to the cinematic tradition.  Furthermore, these lovely visuals are punctuated by an amazing jazz score that’s very hard to miss, where each piece provides a quaint but purposeful drive to the events of each episode.  With sounds and sights like this, who the hell needs network TV?  Especially when it’s too afraid to cover subjects relevant to our generation?

In a world where being Black in America means being kicked out of a coffee shop, a shared dorm space or even your own fucking BBQ, shows like Dear White People couldn’t have come sooner.  With astounding visuals, an amazing score, and a cast of characters who are all seeking to find their place in a world that has harmed, shackled and silenced their existence before they were even born, Season 2 of Dear White People is a triumph of what T.V. could be when diverse individuals are allowed to speak their truths both in front and behind the lens.  The conversation has finally begun folks.  Listen well, and watch closely.

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A Few Words on Arsene Wenger

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So the search begins to find the next man to lead the Arsenal.  As many now know, Arsene Wenger has sadly announced that he will bid the club farewell this summer.  Players and fans alike have taken the news with either surprise, sadness or elation.  I’m obviously upset that he’s opted to leave, but I don’t begrudge him.  Results for the team have been poor throughout the season due to bad defense (Mustafi, Bellerin and an aging Cech), the professional lapses of some of our midfielders (Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey at times) and some dubious, dubious referees.  I will admit that Wenger hasn’t had his best year in terms of tactics, but I don’t agree with the Wenger Out Brigade or the asshole pundits who call for his head day in, day out.   Criticism, anger at his tactics and honest reflection are one thing, but the circle-jerk of vitriol and the normalization of Anti-Wenger bias both in and out of the pitch have been awful things to witness.  This may be the only reprieve that I hope Wenger will get once he leaves the Emirates.

Many sports journos have speculated a great deal as to the reasons why Arsene has left before the end of his contract, but I’m of the opinion to not giving a damn until a book comes out.  I’m mentioning this because for all the praise that’s coming in from Phil McNulty, the BBC or ESPNFC, these are the same asshats who would bay for his blood after every bad result.  It pissed me off to see this last Friday, and I wonder how much more Wenger will be assessed in the near future, especially in relation to Arsenal if results sour in his absence.

Wenger is a manager that I’ve grown to respect beyond the confines of football.  His thoughts on life are reminiscent of an old teacher guiding his pupils towards adulthood and I will truly miss the kind of thoughts he would share in interviews like this.  I hope that wherever he goes, or whatever he does, he’ll be loved by all Gooners as time passes.  Here’s to better results as the season comes to a close, and let’s all give the Boss a great send off when it finally comes time for a goodbye.

Legends of Badassery

It’s been a very very hectic two months for me, and although I wanted to review Scott Sanders’ “Black Dynamite” for Black History Month, I don’t think I have the ability to do.  Instead, all I have are a collection of some of my favorite fight scenes featuring some of the most badass African-American martial artists ever.  See below, and witness a slew of asskicking, especially from Michael Jai White.  Enjoy folks!

Adieu Olivier

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Arsenal have had a poor season, and no amount of fluff from me can hide that.  Our away form is atrocious and our midfield is leaky.  And when I say leaky, I mean we turnover WAY too much.  Xhaka really needs to learn how to defend without fouling and Sanchez, despite the awesome things he’s done for Arsenal, turns balls over way too much.  So when he finally went to United instead of Citeh, I was like, “Meh.”  However, the rumors swirling around Giroud leaving felt like a dagger to the heart.  All in all, I understand why he needs to go; he’s got a new baby, it’s a World Cup year and he needs regular playing time.  Unfortunately, like many would highlight, Giroud is simply awesome as a Plan B, and no striker would want to be relegated to that.  It’s with these thoughts in mind that Wenger decided to open the door for Giroud to go.  I absolutely hate the fact that he’s gone to Chel$ki, but I hold nothing against him and, frankly, hope he benches Morata.

It also sucks to see that his final game with us was one where we lost to Swansea…AGAIN.  It’s almost as if the Swans have become another bogey team for us away (like offside Southampton), and it’s an atrocious record that needs to be put to bed.

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However, I need to give props to Olivier.  He never gave up when new strikers came in and always, ALWAYS gave 100% to the club.  He’s made so many howlers, but created so many glorious, beautiful footballing moments for us that really, I can never ever be mad at him.  I’m sure many would argue that he didn’t fit the system at Arsenal, but he contributed to our sloppy brand of sexy football in his own way.  The flicks, the touches, the back-passes, his class and the headers were all just glints of polished dynamite that have adorned the Emirates’ grassy canvas and I’m sad to see it all go.  Sure, we finally have Aubameyang, but will that help us break down the obstinate, defense-first playing style of the Prem?  Will we finally see some more of what we saw yesterday against Everton?  Or will we just see an increasing number of frustrated Arsenal faces in the opposition box once ANOTHER call goes against us?

Whatever it is, I’m moving on from this hectic transfer window with a sigh of relief and exasperation.  We said goodbye to Theo, to Debuchy, to Sanchez and to Coquelin, all folks who’ve done their part to steer the Arsenal ship as best as they could.  The fact that Giroud is part of that list makes it even more sad.  Our beautiful Arsenal story with Olivier Giroud ended on January 31st, 2018, but I sure hope we get to hear more from him, especially once he dons the Blue Jersey of France this summer.  Until then, I wish him the very best because to me, no matter where he goes, Giroud will always be a Gunner.  Adieu Olivier, and thanks for all the memories.

Goodbye 2017: Naika Looks Back on A Year of Hatred, and a Year of Resistance

Hi folks.  Yes, it’s been a loooong while since I wrote anything, but to be fair, things have been uber busy for me.  I’m taking on a lot more responsibilities at work which more or less keep me there longer throughout the day.  The best thing about it however is that I am learning a ton of stuff related to research and will no doubt learn a lot more through trial and error.  It’s a lot of stress and anxiety, but I’m glad to be helping the team at a time when we’re short of staff (I’m sure you’ve ALL heard of that story before).  Bottom line is that it leaves me less time to write and study.

However, when I do get home, I basically shut off and hang out with my wife, and that’s the most important thing.  If there’s anything super duper good that I can say about myself in 2017 on a more personal level, then it’s about the two of us getting hitched.  Yeah, I know.  That’s a big deal, but yeah…I didn’t wanna write about it because that’s private.  Furthermore, we opted out of the big ceremony because in this economy, who could afford one?  We just got affordable rings and went to a courthouse.  We did the deed and boom, we were married.  That was my 2017.

Now I generally go super detailed in these end of year write-ups, but not this time.  As I mentioned, work has really enveloped my creative time, so I’ll just spout out some stuff that really hit me this year and you can take it or leave it.  Sounds like a plan, right?

So first off, me and the missus participated on our first protest, and that was the Women’s March in D.C.  after we witnessed the worst inauguration in modern history.  It was a lovely yet crowded event, but I can’t complain.  It was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, and it was awesome to be a part of that (thanks Rachael!).

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I participated in another protest in September called the March for Racial Justice.  It was more or less a big fat rebuke of Trump and White Nationalism where there were die-ins in front of the Department of Justice, taking knees, Native American drumming, solidarity and lots of lots of cussing in front of Trump Tower.  That to me was the single greatest march that I’ve participated in thusfar, and it was my third protest of that year.  There was so much energy, anger and togetherness as we took over the streets of D.C. to have our voices heard, especially after something as harrowing and awful as Charlottesville.

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Who’s that asshole in the background there?

While we’re at it in regards to Charlottesville, this year for me, in a lot of ways, will no doubt be synonymous with violence and hate.  From what so many people experienced in the Las Vegas Shooting, to the utterly horrific attack in a Mosque in Egypt to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar, this to me was a year where those in power who demanded that we all turn inward, away from out better selves, got the upper hand and used it to eliminate others with hatred. With violence.   If there was any year of my life thusfar that painted a sad and grim reminder of how horrible humanity can be when it succumbs to darkness, look no further than to 2017.

Violence alone doesn’t always destroy us.  Sometimes, it’s also disaster.  Puerto Rico, Texas, the Dominican Republic and other regions in and around the U.S. experienced widespread chaos with Hurricanes Maria and Harvey.  While Donald Trump was busy insulting the plight of fellow Americans (oh, I’m sorry, they’re Puerto Ricans), tossing paper towels and victim-blaming survivors, folks experienced the loss of electricity, flooding, re-flooding and sickness.  Oh, and if we didn’t have enough to contend with from storms, we have wildfires out west as well that haven’t stopped burning.  Climate change, bad infrastructure and nonsensical housing in flood prone land can all play a part in exacerbating these issues, and without sound policy to resolve them, shit like this will continue to happen and leave tons of people out in the cold.

And speaking of being left out in the cold, another big story that caught my attention unfortunately involved the forced eviction of hundreds of migrant workers from Beijing, China (really recommend y’all to read more about it because there’s so many details regarding hukou and other things that I won’t have the fortitude to flesh out or explain).  It all started as a ‘safety evacuation’ after a fire broke out in an area filled with migrant workers.  Since these folks have lots of obstacles to attain affordable housing within Beijing (and mind you, these folks ARE CHINESE TOO), they’re forced to live in lots of derelict buildings that haven’t been properly maintained in order to make ends meet.  So if something like a fire does happen (like it did around Thanksgiving time), people get hurt BAD (19 died that day).  Thus, the CCP came on by to save the day by forcing EVERYONE to evacuate for their own safety…..without providing ANY sort of alternative housing for them, even though IT’S WINTERTIME.  Couple that with the disgusting, derogatory term calling said migrant workers ‘the low-end population’ from official documentation, and you get yourself a potent cocktail of outrage and disappointment from all walks of life in China.  And by the way, these derelict homes are now DEMOLISHED, so these folks more or less have NO WHERE TO GO except back to their homes IN THE MIDDLE OF FUCKING WINTER!

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Hua Yong, a painter from Beijing, soon became another focus during the ‘low’end’ controversy by filming the devastation from these evacuations, interviewing migrant workers and uploading his stuff on YouTube, with one video being his impending arrest by authorities in Tianjin (he’s since been released on bail in December and is now in Sichuan).  If there was ANY story that really made it’s mark on me from China, especially on a personal level, it would have to be this.

And let’s not forget the #MeToo movement as well.  Dear God has it wrecked the reputations of men who seemed untouchable.  Assholes like Mario Batalli, Kevin Spacey and yes, the asshole-in-chief Harvey Weinstein, are all out of jobs, while respected folks like Charlie Rose, Al Franken, Louis C.K. and Matt Lauer (he was always a jerk) have shocked the country as they’ve been outed as abusers, cheaters and filthy perverts.  Furthermore, this movement underscores just how widespread workplace sexual abuse is, and how much fear women (especially women of color) experience once it happens to them.

And yes, despite how perverted and deplorable people in power can be in the workplace (and beyond), the #MeToo movement was, and is, a positive movement meant to unshackle and empower those who are preyed upon.  These reactions, these movements, and this fierce resistance has been, for me, the most moving thing for me to ever experience on a social level here in America.  We marched against an elected pussy-grabber in January after he was sworn in.  We kneeled when the NFL season began because Football is a business that doesn’t give a shit about anyone.  Signs and voices were held up when the White House banned people from coming into America simply because they’re MuslimDisabled voters invaded a Senate hearing when Rethuglicans wanted to gut Obamacare.  Migrant workers from China protested CCP Police as they were forced out of their homes even though they were, and are, instrumental to the lifeblood of Beijing.  Kids stood up to torch-wielding American Nazis in fucking Virginia while our President basically said, on live fucking television, that they were MORALLY EQUIVALENT.  Young children and adults, who have only known the U.S. as their home, risked arrest and deportation in order to fight for DACA.  So yeah, I’ll remember 2017 for death, disaster, famine, hatred and rape, and yet, I’ll also remember it for resistance.  I’ll remember it for sign waving.  I’ll remember it for how sad I felt when I would see a child in Yemen on YouTube as I ask myself “Why am I not doing more?”  I’ll remember it for taking a knee.  I’ll remember it for Hua Yong.  I’ll remember it so that we can all think twice about how American hubris affects other nations.  I’ll remember it for for my healthy, democratically guaranteed contempt for an elected leader.  And most of all, I’ll remember it for finally committing to someone I love.  For finally doing the one thing I never thought would ever happen to me.

And you know what?  She’s now a Ph.D. too motherfuckers (#WomeninScience).  Goodbye 2017.  I’ll never forget you.