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'Luke Cage' is the blackest show on TV, and I am totally here for it.

A spoiler-free review of the power-packed Netflix original.

Before this weekend, I didn't know I needed Luke Cage in my life.

The latest superhero TV drama, airing on Netflix, stars Mike Colter as Luke Cage, an escaped fugitive living in Harlem who has had greatness (in the form of superpowers) thrust upon him. Now he's using abilities to right wrongs in his community.

Luke Cage (Colter) surveys some damage. Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.


I'm now halfway through 13 episodes of bone-crunching, gun-bending, superhero content from the same universe that gave us "The Avengers," "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," and "Jessica Jones." And so far, I have no complaints.

Before this weekend, I didn't know I needed a show that is blacker than black.

"Luke Cage" isn't "sassy black friend" black. Nor is it "consult a magical negro" black. It's "playing chess in a barber shop" black. It's "history lessons on Crispus Attucks while being mugged" black.

This show is truly, deeply, proudly black.

Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.

Between kicks and punches, "Luke Cage" addresses issues like the criminal justice system, fatherhood, and the n-word. It name-drops writers like Donald Goines and Chester Himes in one scene and cuts to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it nod to famous New York street photographer Jamel Shabazz in the next.

"Luke Cage" is not blackness for the masses. It's blackness for black people. And if you don't get it? Too damn bad.

This blackness is no accident, either. It's by design.

"I’m not one of these people that says, 'Oh, Luke Cage happens to be black,'" creator and show runner Cheo Hodari Coker told Vanity Fair. "No, he’s black all day because I’m black all day. There’s just no way around that."

Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.

Before this weekend, I didn't know I needed a show that centered on Harlem not as a setting but as a character.

Even after only one episode, we're shown a full and diverse Harlem community: political leaders, business owners, parents, seniors, kids on basketball courts, and dudes in barber shops. Not just black people, but Asian-Americans, too. And Latinx and a handful of white gentrifiers. There are families who've been in Harlem for generations and those just settling in. This is the real Harlem.

Luke Cage (Colter) and Claire Temple (played by Rosario Dawson). Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.

The characters seem to know each other. They know their mamas; they know the parks they hang out in. This is important because Harlem is not just a setting for an action show. Harlem is a character, commentary, and changing world. Harlem shows that these are real people affected by the larger-than-life supervillains of any Marvel outing and also by the low-level street toughs.

Plus, characters on all sides are fighting to take their community, Harlem, back. Cops, criminals, and politicians (and even Cage himself) think they know the best way to do this. Only unlike other shows or characters with similar goals, this time we recognize clearly exactly what and who they're fighting for.

"I don't believe in Harlem," Cage says in one scene, "I believe in the people who make Harlem what it is." When Cage believes, we believe too.

Before this weekend, I didn’t know I needed a show with women who kick ass and take names.

The women of "Luke Cage" are more than sex objects or empty motivators for our hero to act. They are complex, highly capable, talented, and driven.

Detective Misty Knight (played by Simone Missick) is a familiar face from the original Luke Cage comics, and while she's not fighting sharks (yet!), she's a badass detective and a hero.

Missick as Misty Knight. Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.

Councilwoman Mariah Dillard (played by Alfre Woodard), is a complicated character who wants to reclaim her community for the black families who've always called it home. But her vision for a New Harlem Renaissance comes at a heavy price, and we see Dillard weigh these consequences against a future she desperately wants for herself and her constituents.

Woodard as Mariah Dillard. Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.

And you can't forget Dr. Claire Temple, Connie Lin, or Reva. No matter how often or how long they're on screen, these women do more than just serve male storylines. And it's about damn time.

Before this weekend, I didn’t know I needed a show with a bulletproof black man wearing a hoodie.

But I did. I really, really did.

After a summer with too many bullet-ridden bodies, it was satisfying to watch a character like Luke Cage own the screen.

Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.

He's the son of a preacher, a stand-up man who doesn’t swear. He reads voraciously, works two jobs, knows how to make a damn good cosmo, and he somehow never gets ashy. I'm pretty sure he's one of the "strong black brothas" En Vogue sang about in "Free Your Mind." Bullets bend and ricochet off his body, leaving tears in his clothes but never on his smooth brown skin.

Luke Cage has strong arms and a stronger character. He cracks bones and twists guns in half not for the hell of it. He does it for his neighborhood and his chosen family. And he does it all in a hoodie (yeah, that's no accident either).

GIF via "Luke Cage."

After too much injustice in our world and too many deaths, I as a black woman just needed to feel like I was on a winning team. Even if it was just for a few hours from the comfort of my couch. "Luke Cage" gave me something to cheer about. It reminded me just how strong we already are.

Before this weekend, I didn't know I needed "Luke Cage."

And I don't need Luke Cage the way I need water or air. But I do need him the way you need to remember the lyrics to a song you once knew, a song that made you dance with abandon.

"How does it go?" you ask no one in particular. It's inescapable, unresolved. And then, suddenly, when you least expect it, there it is. Like an old friend. And you wonder how you managed without that missing piece, however small, for so long.

I didn't know I needed Luke Cage. But I really, really did.

Pop Culture

Airbnb host finds unexpected benefits from not charging guests a cleaning fee

Host Rachel Boice went for a more "honest" approach with her listings—and saw major perks because of it.

@rachelrboice/TikTok

Many frustrated Airbnb customers have complained that the separate cleaning fee is a nuisance.

Airbnb defines its notorious cleaning fee as a “one-time charge” set by the host that helps them arrange anything from carpet shampoo to replenishing supplies to hiring an outside cleaning service—all in the name of ensuring guests have a “clean and tidy space.”

But as many frustrated Airbnb customers will tell you, this feature is viewed as more of a nuisance than a convenience. According to NerdWallet, the general price for a cleaning fee is around $75, but can vary greatly between listings, with some units having cleaning fees that are higher than the nightly rate (all while sometimes still being asked to do certain chores before checking out). And often none of these fees show up in the total price until right before the booking confirmation, leaving many travelers feeling confused and taken advantage of.

However, some hosts are opting to build cleaning fees into the overall price of their listings, mimicking the strategy of traditional hotels.

Rachel Boice runs two Airbnb properties in Georgia with her husband Parker—one being this fancy glass plane tiny house (seen below) that promises a perfect glamping experience.

@rachelrboice Welcome to The Tiny Glass House 🤎 #airbnbfinds #exploregeorgia #travelbucketlist #tinyhouse #glampingnotcamping #atlantageorgia #fyp ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

Like most Airbnb hosts, the Boice’s listing showed a nightly rate and separate cleaning fee. According to her interview with Insider, the original prices broke down to $89 nightly, and $40 for the cleaning fee.

But after noticing the negative response the separate fee got from potential customers, Rachel told Insider that she began charging a nightly rate that included the cleaning fee, totaling to $129 a night.

It’s a marketing strategy that more and more hosts are attempting in order to generate more bookings (people do love feeling like they’re getting a great deal) but Boice argued that the trend will also become more mainstream since the current Airbnb model “doesn’t feel honest.”

"We stay in Airbnbs a lot. I pretty much always pay a cleaning fee," Boice told Insider. "You're like: 'Why am I paying all of this money? This should just be built in for the cost.'"

Since combining costs, Rachel began noticing another unexpected perk beyond customer satisfaction: guests actually left her property cleaner than before they were charged a cleaning fee. Her hypothesis was that they assumed she would be handling the cleaning herself.

"I guess they're thinking, 'I'm not paying someone to clean this, so I'll leave it clean,'" she said.

This discovery echoes a similar anecdote given by another Airbnb host, who told NerdWallet guests who knew they were paying a cleaning fee would “sometimes leave the place looking like it’s been lived in and uncleaned for months.” So, it appears to be that being more transparent and lumping all fees into one overall price makes for a happier (and more considerate) customer.

These days, it’s hard to not be embittered by deceptive junk fees, which can seem to appear anywhere without warning—surprise overdraft charges, surcharges on credit cards, the never convenience “convenience charge” when purchasing event tickets. Junk fees are so rampant that certain measures are being taken to try to eliminate them outright in favor of more honest business approaches.

Speaking of a more honest approach—as of December 2022, AirBnb began updating its app and website so that guests can see a full price breakdown that shows a nightly rate, a cleaning fee, Airbnb service fee, discounts, and taxes before confirming their booking.

Guests can also activate a toggle function before searching for a destination, so that full prices will appear in search results—avoiding unwanted financial surprises.


This article originally appeared on 11.08.23

National Autistic Society/Youtube

"Diverted" educational video shared through the Too Much Information Campaign.

Everyone who lives with autism experiences it somewhat differently. You'll often hear physicians and advocates refer to the spectrum that exists for those who are autistic, pointing to a wide range of symptoms and skills.

But one thing many autistic people experience is sensory processing issues.


For autistic people, processing the world around them when it comes to sight, smell, or touch can be challenging, as their senses are often over- or under-sensitive. Certain situations — like meandering through a congested mall or enduring the nonstop blasting of police sirens — can quickly become unbearable.

This reality is brought to life in a new video by the U.K.'s National Autistic Society (NAS).

The eye-opening PSA takes viewers into the mind of a autistic woman as she thinks about struggling to stay composed in a crowded, noisy train.

It's worth a watch:

The PSA hit especially close to home for 22-year-old actress and star of the video Saskia Lupin, who is autistic herself. "Overall I feel confused," she said, of abrupt changes to her routine. "Like I can't do anything and all sense of rationality is lost."

She's not alone.

According to a study cited in NAS' press release, 75% of autistic people say unexpected changes make them feel socially isolated. What's more, 67% reported seeing or hearing negative reactions from the public when they try to calm themselves down in such situations — from eyerolls and stares to unwelcome, hurtful comments.

The new PSA aims to improve that last figure in particular.

It's part of the organization's Too Much Information campaign — an initiative to build empathy and understanding in allistic (i.e., not autistic) people for those on the spectrum.

Autism Awareness Day, campaign, World Autism Awareness Week

Campaign by National Autistic Society created to share the autistic experience to the world.

Photo from Pixabay

"It isn't that the public sets out to be judgmental towards autistic people," Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS, said in a statement in 2016. It's just that, often, the public doesn't "see" the autism.

"They see a 'strange' man pacing back and forth in a shopping center," Lever explained, "or a 'naughty' girl having a tantrum on a bus, and don't know how to respond."

Well, now we do.

Instead of staring, rolling your eyes, or thinking judgmental thoughts about the young person's parents, remember: You have no idea what that stranger on the train is going through.

“We can't make the trains run on time," said Lever. But even the simplest, smallest things — like remembering not to stare and giving a person some space and compassion if they need it — can make a big difference.


This article originally appeared on 03.28.18

Image from Pixabay.

Under the sea...

True
The Wilderness Society


You're probably familiar with the literary classic "Moby-Dick."

But in case you're not, here's the gist: Moby Dick is the name of a huge albino sperm whale.

(Get your mind outta the gutter.)


There's this dude named Captain Ahab who really really hates the whale, and he goes absolutely bonkers in his quest to hunt and kill it, and then everything is awful and we all die unsatisfied with our shared sad existence and — oops, spoilers!


OK, technically, the narrator Ishmael survives. So it's actually a happy ending (kind of)!

whales, Moby Dick, poaching endangered species

Illustration from an early edition of Moby-Dick

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Basically, it's a famous book about revenge and obsession that was published back in 1851, and it's really, really long.

It's chock-full of beautiful passages and dense symbolism and deep thematic resonance and all those good things that earned it a top spot in the musty canon of important literature.

There's also a lot of mundane descriptions about the whaling trade as well (like, a lot). That's because it came out back when commercial whaling was still a thing we did.

conservation, ocean water conservation

A non-albino mother and baby sperm whale.

Photo by Gabriel Barathieu/Wikipedia.

In fact, humans used to hunt more than 50,000 whales each year to use for oil, meat, baleen, and oil. (Yes, I wrote oil twice.) Then, in 1946, the International Whaling Commission stepped in and said "Hey, wait a minute, guys. There's only a few handful of these majestic creatures left in the entire world, so maybe we should try to not kill them anymore?"

And even then, commercial whaling was still legal in some parts of the world until as recently as 1986.

International Whaling Commission, harpoons

Tail in the water.

Whale's tail pale ale GIF via GoPro/YouTube

And yet by some miracle, there are whales who were born before "Moby-Dick" was published that are still alive today.

What are the odds of that? Honestly it's hard to calculate since we can't exactly swim up to a bowhead and say, "Hey, how old are you?" and expect a response. (Also that's a rude question — jeez.)

Thanks to some thoughtful collaboration between researchers and traditional Inupiat whalers (who are still allowed to hunt for survival), scientists have used amino acids in the eyes of whales and harpoon fragments lodged in their carcasses to determine the age of these enormous animals — and they found at least three bowhead whales who were living prior to 1850.

Granted those are bowheads, not sperm whales like the fictional Moby Dick, (and none of them are albino, I think), but still. Pretty amazing, huh?

whale blubber, blue whales, extinction

This bowhead is presumably in adolescence, given its apparent underwater moping.

GIF via National Geographic.

This is a particularly remarkable feat considering that the entire species was dwindling near extinction.

Barring these few centenarian leviathans, most of the whales still kickin' it today are between 20 and 70 years old. That's because most whale populations were reduced to 10% or less of their numbers between the 18th and 20th centuries, thanks to a few over-eager hunters (and by a few, I mean all of them).

Today, sperm whales are considered one of the most populous species of massive marine mammals; bowheads, on the other hand, are still in trouble, despite a 20% increase in population since the mid-1980s. Makes those few elderly bowheads that much more impressive, huh?

population, Arctic, Great Australian Blight

Southern Right Whales hangin' with a paddleboarder in the Great Australian Bight.

GIF via Jaimen Hudson.

Unfortunately, just as things are looking up, these wonderful whales are in trouble once again.

We might not need to worry our real-life Captain Ahabs anymore, but our big aquatic buddies are still being threatened by industrialization — namely, from oil drilling in the Arctic and the Great Australian Bight.

In the off-chance that companies like Shell and BP manage not to spill millions of gallons of harmful crude oil into the water, the act of drilling alone is likely to maim or kill millions of animals, and the supposedly-safer sonic blasting will blow out their eardrums or worse.

This influx of industrialization also affects their migratory patterns — threatening not only the humans who depend on them, but also the entire marine ecosystem.

And I mean, c'mon — who would want to hurt this adorable face?

social responsibility, nature, extinction

BOOP.

Image from Pixabay.

Whales might be large and long-living. But they still need our help to survive.

If you want another whale to make it to his two-hundred-and-eleventy-first birthday (which you should because I hear they throw great parties), then sign this petition to protect the waters from Big Oil and other industrial threats.

I guarantee Moby Dick will appreciate it.


This article originally appeared on 11.04.15

How to clear a stuffy nose instantly.

With cold season upon us, there's no better time to learn a couple of awesome and easy tricks that will clear up the dreaded and annoying stuffy nose.

Prevention magazine created a short video showing two easy ways to get you breathing free again no matter how stuffed up you might be.


Both tricks take less than two minutes and are certainly worth trying out when it feels like that runny nose might never go away.


Watch the YouTube video below:

This article first appeared on 9.8.17.

Pop Culture

A brave fan asks Patrick Stewart a question he doesn't usually get and is given a beautiful answer

Patrick Stewart often talks about his childhood and the torment his father put him and his mother through.

Patrick Stewart often talks about his childhood and the torment his father put him and his mother through. However, how he answered this vulnerable and brave fan's question is one of the most eloquent, passionate responses about domestic violence I've ever seen.



WARNING: At 2:40, he's going to break your heart a little.

You can read more about Heather Skye's hug with Captain Picard at her blog.


This article originally appeared on 06.26.13.