Category Archives: Pop Culture

Cleaning Up After The Elephant…

A couple of my coworkers recently turned vegan after having watched the Netflix documentary “What the Health”, which documents the role that meat and dairy products play in our diet and subsequently our general health.

It would be easy and routine to see the word diet and instantly think about food, Well!… I am not talking about a diet that pertains to just food, I am talking about a diet that pertains to what we also consume visually and spiritually.

The words diet comes from the Greek word diaita which means “a way of life”, consumption comes from the verb consume which derives from its Latin  origins con “altogether” and sumere “take up” – I point out these references because we spend our whole lives being consumers of a multitude of different “diets” or to put it another way we spend our whole lives “altogether taking up a way of life”

As a 70’s baby, I grew up watching Dukes of Hazard. Not the 2005 reboot, no! I’m talking about the original Dukes of Hazzard, man I used to love Daisy Duke. “Just the good ol‘ boys, Never meanin’ no harm” the theme song, Boss Hogg, Roscoe. The way that Bo and Luke would slide across the hood, jump into their car through the window and race away. The General Lee! emblazoned with a huge Confederate flag on the rooftop, how naive I was? Or was I? I guess what you don’t know can’t hurt you…

Nowadays I try not to watch as much TV as I used to, I’m not judging those that do watch a lot of television, I just choose not to. Although, in saying that I was watching the recent public unrest in Charlottesville and I couldn’t help but get angry and agitated, a procession of racists and neo-nazis spewing hate and delivering a message of white nationalism under a banner of “Unite the Right” vehemently opposed by counter-protestors determined to put a halt to the proceedings. Now coming from where I’m from it’s damn near impossible for me to feel a way about white people, especially considering the fact that a lot of my friends are white. I’m not gonna lie though, having watched these events I felt a certain way about a white male that stood next to me on the train the Monday morning after that weekend’s unrest. I  normally wouldn’t, but this imagery left a sense of disdain for white males and led me to believe that this man standing next to me was essentially one of these far-right bigots that were plastered all over my TV screen this past weekend. He looked just like them, was dressed just like one of them for all I know he could have really been there. I tell you this story just as an example of something that I consumed and how it had a negative effect on me. This coming from a man who has experienced and seen quite a bit in his lifetime and considers himself far less likely to have his opinion swayed by external sources.

That’s the thing with a lot of current television and media coverage. There is a tremendous amount of negative content with a little bit of feel-good sprinkled in every now and again but for the most part, it’s negative content that is continually promoted and thrown in our faces.  Go to the local gas station, 7-eleven or bodega and pick up a newspaper, I can almost guarantee you it will be a negative headline. Shock and awe, mouth aghast, is this what editors of newspapers demand of their headline writers? I’m pretty sure that’s how the story goes. Journalistic sensationalism is a word I’ve heard on several occasions in regards to our current news smorgasbord. Then there’s television’s most recent phenomenon – Reality TV, where do I start? Especially that which is targeting a more youthful, urban market. If you peel back the layers to the majority of it you will find nothing, no substance, no art, no form of motivation, nothing that will enhance your life. Not that you won’t be entertained and not that every waking moment should be spent trying to enhance your life but try living on a steady diet of that and see how it slowly infiltrates who you are and then becomes “who you are”.  Don’t get me wrong as someone who watches the occasional reality show, It’s entertaining, I am entertained. But I find that it is somewhat of a guilty pleasure as I can often feel like it’s an hour of my life that I want back after having watched.

In fact, let’s talk about our current President – Donald J. Trump – a businessman who became a reality TV star who became the ULTIMATE reality TV star. I don’t want to get into politics, trust me. But, even his staunchest supporters would have to admit that his presidency is like a serial drama with a storyline that would seem far-fetched if conceived by Shonda Rhimes. Imagine what this is doing to the collective psyche of the American public. The Whitehouse drama that sees someone in his administration either fired or quitting every other day. The racial overtones that see a seemingly politically sanitized racist America emboldened and without mercy inflict their will on the minorities. This could be a whole piece about “45” in and of itself but I’ll cut this short for now and return to regular programming.

This digital world we live in is like a media free for all, a scrimmage controlled by those who get out their content the fastest and whose flock is the largest. Even more so now with the rise of the smartphone, everyone and their mother is a freelance videographer and media is shared at a rapid pace often times without being vetted or censored., many of you may not be familiar with this website but I’m sure at some point you seen at least one viral video with someone shouting “Worldstar” in the background, I can almost guarantee that video was not of the heartwarming variety.

There’s a continual inner dialogue that we as humans have with ourselves. Self-conscious to confident to arrogant. A pendulum that swings from invincible to vulnerable in the blink of an eye. We are a perpetual rollercoaster of emotions and feelings all generated by thoughts, thoughts which are often determined by what we consume. In fact, while doing some research on this piece I’ve come across the term “cognitive distortion”. Cognitive distortionsare simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves. Now imagine how bad you’ll end up feeling about yourself if you consume a steady diet of nonsense or not even how bad you’ll feel about yourself but how your thoughts will be controlled by that content. Television, music, social media, aural and visual consumption is essentially what shapes our minds.

Environmentalists talk about “cleaning up after the elephant”: the endless task cleaning up industrial contamination, and how a far more effective strategy is to avoid fouling up the environment in the first place.

– B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D. – “The Attention Revolution”


“avoid fouling up the environment in the first place”


I would love to be able to say that as a parent, specifically in my role as the father,  that I am without fault in the way that I raise my son. I’m not! I know it, his mother knows it, I’m pretty sure that at this point even my son(who’s currently 4 years old)  knows it. I’m fine with that. There is no parenting handbook, no manual or instructions or rulebook to abide by. This is nothing that prepares you for parenthood. My little guy is a unique individual, unique as in there will only ever be one Cameron Elijah Madiba Walters. We observe and we adjust, we make mistakes and we adjust. As long as I ensure that the primary focus on adjustment is within myself, my demeanor and how I, we as parents, handle his environment.  How we ensure that he is not negatively affected by the world that we display for him to consume. The goal is to clean up after my elephants so as to leave his environment and his domain uncontaminated. 

Life’s Seasons

I find myself somewhat disappointed with Mark Walters, the man. If I’m being totally honest, writing in the 3rd person for the sake of unwavering accountability.

  • Disappointed with the fact that  I haven’t kept up my end of the bargain when it comes to maintaining a writing schedule.
  • Disappointed with the fact that I haven’t reached some of the goals that I have set myself in life.
  • Disappointed with the fact that I have not kept my end of the bargain in more than a few things in my personal life.

The goal was to keep content flowing no matter what, to have completed such a limited amount of work after almost a year online is disheartening.  Alas, it is what it is and still, I continue. I realize though that I am a continual work in progress and that in itself is encouraging. I do have my excuses, quite a few if I’m honest, but none of them really hold any true weight if I want to be who I aspire to be. So, I’ll take a pass on my excuses and just explain them as excuses that we all have. Although, in the plain light of day you could say it really just boils down to laziness.

The Winter Funk

Photo by Morgan Jones on Unsplash

I always seem to go into this funk during the winter months. I think it’s because of the limited time outside and the little time spent outside is normally accompanied by a dark sky, and some kind of wet weather condition be it rain or snow. Yes, some people like the winter but not me. Like most people, it’s more a time of bunkering down and relaxing.  There’s little to no enthusiasm for the creative side of things, at least for me that is. I guess in a way, your surroundings lose a pulse and a vibrancy and you’re stuck with a “meh” vibe. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain in words but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was not the only one that feels this way. Cabin fever – irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter – that about sums it up. All in all leading to more excuses.

The Hamster Wheel

Ah, the old 9 to 5 or in my case the 7 to 4. What with getting up before the crack of dawn and then coming home to an energetic 4-year old with a 3-hour commute and hyper-stressed clients sandwiched in between. It’s no wonder that I often find myself falling asleep in front of the TV most Friday nights. During the week I may alternate between falling asleep and going to bed at a respectable time, Friday is our designated movie night so there’s a desire to stay up late but as previously stated there’s often failure. The workweek grind will leave you with no time for anything else.

Get up, shower, work, eat, sleep…Get up, shower, work, eat, sleep!

Although once again this is an excuse, there’s a saying, if you want something bad enough you will find a way. Sadly, and I use this term begrudgingly because it debunks my too tired myth, this is true. It’s all about habits – breaking the old(BAD) and forming the new(GOOD). I think Gary Vaynerchuk best explains it when speaking, he often asks what are you willing to do to realize your dreams, are you willing to outwork all others? Are you willing to, despite all these excuses, find time to do what it is you set out to do?


Social media, social media, a bit of TV, social media and sports. The distraction factor! I guess I could have lumped this in with Winter Funk as these tools and mediums of entertainment go into overdrive during the winter months but they remain a constant thorn in the side of incremental progress all year round. For instance, the sports team I so dearly love – Liverpool F.C – are currently involved in the Champions League Final, those of you not familiar with European soccer, let’s just say that this is like the Superbowl of soccer. Distraction? Hell Yes! as I find a lot of my time currently consumed with following up on the latest news from my team in and around the lead up to this monumental game. I am at heart a big Sports fan. Even on a general level of social media I’ll find myself easily consumed. For example, Twitter – the number of times I’ve logged in with the intent of looking at something specific and got drawn into something entirely different due to a trending topic or an appealing headline.

Me, Myself and I

It’s funny, one of my biggest hangups is not maintaining a high standard or should I say not being able to create works as good as works that have previously been well received. At least, that’s whats in my head. To put it bluntly,  past success leading to present doubt. I say success in the loosest terms as it’s really just my ego being stroked when someone praises your creative side. Mind you,  there is some truth to it though. I have written a couple of pieces that I am extremely proud of and I want to be able to continue to touch people’s emotions. To have value where my words are relevant and resonate with people. Am I an individual? Yes! But,  I am also a peer, I am a part of a whole, the fatherhood fraternity, the parenting community. I want to be able to speak to and for,  those who may not know the words or simply don’t know how to. At the same time, this is also my therapy. The keyboard my voice, the blank slate the psychiatrist’s chair, the echo my thoughts. So once again I make a promise to myself to maintain the schedule which I initially set out to keep, slowly but surely I will break through these mental barriers and gain that oh so precious momentum that will see me adhere to a new found me. A book I am currently reading entitled “GRIT” by Angela Duckworth is helping me recalibrate along with the warm weather and sunshine as we come out of the winter doldrums.

Do What You Believe You Can’t Do!….

The old cliche – “anything is possible” – we say it but do we really believe it?  … Well, actually achieving something is the best form of validation and motivation.

The title says “Do What You Believe You Can’t Do”. On the surface that sounds counterintuitive but when you read it to yourself a few times and really listen to that voice in your head, think about it.

Anything is possible? Yes, but we often leave that for someone else to prove, what makes them so special? Yes they achieved the unachievable but how often have you heard yourself saying “I could have done that” – “Anyone could have done that” – “I wish I’d thought of that “ well why didn’t you?… Oftentimes, it as simple as having talked yourself out of it, not leaping when you should have, hesitating when you should have just gone for it. What’s the worst that could happen, you fail? Show me one highly successful person that has not failed and I’ll show you a liar, in fact most high achievers embrace failure with open arms as failure is a part of the learning process, failure is akin to a bodybuilder pumping iron. It’s not really failure, it’s a piece of the lesson in what is takes to achieve your dreams.

The funny thing with “doing things” is , the more you do, the more you do!…

The doing is always possible, the result is what separates the failure  from the success. You never know, you just might surprise yourself.

Social Media, not so social…. Part 1

I realized something today, well I realized it quite some time ago but today it hit home in a way that I never would have thought. I called my grandfather to wish him a Happy 87th Birthday and we had a nice long conversation. Later this evening I went over to my mother’ s house and asked her if she had spoken to daddy(we all call him daddy) for his birthday. “No! Daddy’s birthday was on the 1st, today is Denise’s(my aunt) birthday”, replies my bewildered mother. My mum’s birthday happens to be on the 7th. It just so happens that my grandfather and my mother do not have Facebook accounts, how inconvenient. My aunt Denise does have a Facebook account but she doesn’t publish her birthday, once again how inconvenient.

I love social media but the same thing I love about it is exactly the same thing I hate about it. You can scroll through your feed and feel like you are in communication with people even though technically you aren’t. I’ve had many a phone call where the conversation starts with “long time no speak” and we proceed to tell each other about all the things that are happening in our lives only to be met with a sense of deja vu. Of course! You know this already, you’ve already seen it all on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat feeds.

It’s like there’s this disconnected sense of connection that is prevalent in our society.  This is coming from a 43 year old male, who knows different, has experienced different. Who remembers a time when people couldn’t take selfies or posts pictures of every meal or live streams. I don’t feel old but to a 2017 teenager I’m almost ancient. Seriously, a conversation I was having a couple of months ago involved discussing the fact that a teenager did not possess the wherewithal to have made a phone call to get information that he needed. We laughed about it at the the time but in all seriousness actually talking on the phone is a lost art. Texting, textese or texting language is the order of the day. This teenager so used to texting, didn’t figure out that he could just call a phone number and actually speak to someone.

Listen, I’m not complaining. Social technology is a great thing and I can personally attest to it’s usefulness, especially being an immigrant living in New York. I can maintain relationships with family and friends overseas. We can organize groups without the need for close proximity. I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives at the moment. I guess my real question at the moment is, where are we headed?

What Would You Do?

TGIF! Thank God It’s Friday, time to get off work and enjoy some cocktails during a much needed happy hour. Yeah right! Not with a 3 year-old it at home it isn’t. Long gone are those days of leaving work and hightailing it to a bar on a whim,  to unwind and enjoy some libations. My preferred destination nowadays is homeward bound and to be perfectly honest with you, I am just fine with that.

So lets’s start this again then. TGIF! Thank God It’s Friday, the little guy has enjoyed his movie(Friday is his movie night) and is now fast asleep and we’re sat here watching the TV show “What Would You Do?” For those of you not familiar with the show, here is the wikipedia description –

“The program features actors acting out scenes of conflict or illegal activity in public settings while hidden cameras record the scene, and the focus is on whether or not bystanders intervene, and how. Variations are also usually included, such as changing the genders, the races or the clothing of the actors performing the scene, to see if bystanders react differently. Show host John Quiñones appears at the end of each scenario to interview bystanders and witnesses about their reactions.

As the experiment goes on, psychology professors, teachers, or club members watch and discuss the video with Quiñones, explaining and making inferences on the bystanders’ reactions.”

This particular episode featured a segment where a mother and son are in a toy store and the boy wanted to get a doll.

I actually wanted to write “and the boy wanted to get a girl’s doll” but feel somewhat conflicted actually typing out the words girl’s doll. That, in a nutshell is at the heart of the issue I raise here.

I myself have been in this very predicament multiple times already and I’m quite sure that I will be in this same predicament going forward. To be honest I haven’t always dealt with it in the way that I would hope to have been able to deal with it. We once went into a Walgreens and my little guy wanted a Minnie Mouse car. I promptly told him no and said we would be getting the Mickey Mouse car and made sure we left with the Mickey Mouse version. It’s happened again with the same suspects, Minnie and Mickey and once again I made sure that he left with the male. Perhaps it’s speaks more to my insecurities than to his choice of toy. Male, heterosexual, retired man about town; my son is not playing with a girls toy. I’m not quite sure, I do realize though that it’s instinctual, almost reflex, son wants “girl” toy, bait and switch with the male version.

Considering my age, background and being raised in the era when I was it would be natural for me to associate dolls, specifically Barbie type dolls with being a girl’s toy. My(Our) biggest argument has always been whether there were enough “Afrocentric” dolls for our daughters to play with, never mind having to worry about your son wanting one. Hell, Action Man was white too come to think of it, but I wasn’t much of an action figure type of kid growing up. Obviously the world has changed quite a bit since my childhood days but have we changed for the better, have we changed for the worse, have we just changed for the sake of change. Or is it that this has always been our world, it’s just that we get to see the whole now as opposed to our previous limited view, due to this digital age.

When it comes to our children and how we raise them,  specifically concerning the boy/girl axis and the values we should instill it can often times be a bit much. There’s that gray area between personal opinion and being politically correct, that gray area between being gender bias and non-gender bias, that gray area between the values that I was raised with and the world that we are/I am raising my son in. It’s a joint effort but going forward let’s stick with the dad’s perspective as I’m the one currently typing on this keyboard.  Anyway going back to the points I raised earlier, it is not my job to be politically correct when it comes to how I raise my son but at the same time there’s an obligation to raise him in order to assimilate with modern society. Not that I want or need him to “fit-in” per se but I also don’t want him to be ostracized because of a belief system that I may have subjected him to and essentially trained him to follow. Think about it, you’re almost treated like a pariah nowadays for wanting to raise your kids with old-fashioned values and to be honest they are just that, “old-fashioned”. The world is constantly changing, we are continually evolving. Maybe it’s time to get with the program. Maybe it’s time I get with the program.

One of the things about becoming a parent is that you are quite literally forced to look at the world differently. You are somewhat in control of a life that came into the world through you.  You realize that you will almost always force your belief system onto your kids. It’s pretty much impossible not to,  but is it the right thing to do? I challenge myself constantly to be “present” and by that I don’t mean just showing up when needed. I mean when I am home with my son, that I am present. This means free from distractions, the cellphone is in the corner, free from the cluttered mind that is left over from a day’s work, right here, right now, nothing else matters. It’s not always easy and trust me I often falter. At the same time, it’s in these moments of clarity that I realize that this little person is a reflection of me and my spouse. It’s the little things too, the mannerisms, the shouting, the gestures towards the dog. All the subtle ways that your child will model your behavior, oftentimes behavior that you are not even conscious of, the stuff that we often don’t see because we are running on autopilot. Let’s face it, if mummy and daddy are working a 9 to 5, you are running on auto-pilot the vast majority of the time.

What I love about this show is that it inspires thought, conversation and the periodic look in the mirror, some self reflection. It also shines a light on society and our collective psyche. It’s a snapshot into our biases or lack thereof, be it cultural, gender or race related. There’s probably a lot of people as now adults who believe in something just because it was taught to them by their parents not necessarily because that is what they themselves believe. I aspire to raise my little guy with an open mind and will try not to project my belief system onto him, a question to you is What Would You Do?