Monthly Archives: February 2023

The Genius of Jordan Peele and NOPE

ominous looking cloud from movie nope

I’ve seen the Jordan Peele film NOPE three times. Each successive time, I discover something that I had not seen before. However, with all the possibilities for symbolism in the film, what stands out for me each time I’ve seen it is Peele’s use of a cloud as a focal point.  

I have become fixated on the idea that the cloud symbolizes our fears. We think we’ll be sheltered from harm if we just don’t look at them straight on. We reason that if we just keep our heads down and pretend that we don’t see the thing that scares us, we might be saved.  

Ultimately, one realizes that if you don’t look the thing that scares you in the eye, not only you, but those you love, will be destroyed.

No voice came from the cloud in NOPE as in the story of Jesus’ transfiguration, but some similarities and another difference struck me:

 [The disciples] saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave…a cloud overshadowed them, and terror gripped them as the cloud covered them….When the voice [from the cloud] finished, Jesus was there alone. They didn’t tell anyone at the time what they had seen (Luke 9:32b-36, NLT, emphasis added).

While further reflecting on the film and Peele’s genius within this context, I found it particularly interesting that, while Jesus’ disciples “didn’t tell anyone.” By contrast, the characters in the film all seemed to want to get “the Oprah shot” in order to tell the world what they had seen for the profit they may receive.

Of the three main characters in the movie who were terrorized by the cloud, it was the brother, OJ, who was chosen to make the ultimate sacrifice. Emerald, the sister, was gifted with the Oprah shot. The guy from the camera store’s life was saved only by a fluke of luck.

Yet in the end, each one was alone.

The enduring soul of Black music

My background music for cleaning, dressing, cooking, grooving, exercising, and dancing is 70’s Disco/Funk and R&B. This music makes me feel alive! It makes me smile. It keeps me young. When I’m moving to the beat of this music, I feel free in every way.

These thoughts came to me while I was watching Episode 3 of The 1619 Project titled, “The Birth of American Music.” Black people interviewed for this episode used the word “freedom” in describing the effect of Black music on them. Artists talked about how Black music continues to be created and evolved by sampling and building on the styles and sounds of historic Black music.

During the episode on music in America, I learned why Disco music became less popular and nearly faded from the airways. The story, as revealed in this documentary, of the demise of disco music is a sad one that keeps being told in every phase of Black progress.

Nile Rogers saw the backlash against Disco as the fear of an integrated America. Co-founder of Chic and developer of some of the most popular music for White performers after disco was literally blown to pieces, Rogers said that at New York clubs such as Studio 54, when music such as “Everybody Dance” and “Freak Out” was played, literally everybody was on the dance floor, all getting along.

Wesley Morris, film critic and podcast host, noted that “funk and disco were revolutionary, sexy, rebellious, and politically unafraid. [Funk] was a rebellion against broken promises of the Civil Rights Era.”

Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park with explosion, crowd on field, and "Disco Sucks" sign

What began as the antics of a White radio DJ—and spread to other radio DJs who didn’t want to play disco because it was not the music that they believed was real or pure—turned into “Disco Demolition Night” at Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox, on July 12, 1979. Hordes of White people brought records by Black people and gay people to the field and blew them up between the games of a scheduled double-header. The playing field was so damaged by the explosion and by the ensuing riot on the field of some 40,000–59,000 people that the White Sox were required to forfeit the second game to the Detroit Tigers. This violent act gave birth to the “Disco Sucks” movement.

In the interview with Nikole Hannah-Jones, Rogers said in reference to the riot at Comiskey Park, “It felt to us like Nazi book-burning. This is America, the home of jazz and rock, and people are now afraid even to say the word ‘disco.’”

Despite the attacks and the campaigns against Black music, according to Morris, the “soul of Black music is the soul of freedom, constantly moving, being transferred, a feeling, a spirit. You have to know it when you feel it. It’s too deep, too fast, too elusive, you can’t catch it.”


How do we gauge what we value? I’m not talking about abstract values such as freedom and independence. I’m talking about when the floods or fires come to destroy our material possessions, what do we take with us? What do we feel is our greatest loss?

During late January every year where I live now, there is a huge car auction. The auction brings back memories of cars I’ve owned over my lifetime. One might think that I would place sentimental value on my first car, the 1955 green two-toned Plymouth, or my second car, the 1956 huge two-toned blue and white Buick. No, they were pragmatic purchases with no sentimental value when I gave them up. There have been numerous cars since those first two.

Some of the cars my spouse and I owned were premium cars. In our more mature years, our purchases became more practical in regard to gas efficiency and monthly payments. While I had owned cars of my own during my single years, the cars bought after I was married were joint decisions between me and my spouse.

Except for one.

Have you ever seen something, and immediately known that it was yours? That it belonged to you, and if you didn’t possess it, you would never be the same?

We were living in a suburb of St. Louis on our way to an inexpensive restaurant because we were both too tired to make dinner after work. On this pleasant Fall evening, we were driving down the main drag of the town laughing about going to eat at what we called “the old-folks” restaurant. It was one of those restaurants that had a line like in a cafeteria and all the old people were there by 4:00 p.m. for dinner.

periwinkle 1978 VW converitble

On this street, there was one car dealership after another. I never paid much attention to them. On this evening, out of the corner of my eye, an electric blue flashed under the bright lights of the showroom. Calling me was a 1978 VW convertible with a periwinkle body and an off-white top. The top was down and in the back seat of the car was a huge teddy bear.

That was it! I said, “That’s my car!” Though we went on to get something to eat, I had no appetite. I was ecstatic about the car. I wanted us to hurry up and finish at the restaurant in order to get back to the dealership before someone else would see it and buy “my car.” My spouse used to tease me by saying that all my friends were crazy. Now he was saying that I, too, was crazy.

The short of it is that we traded in the stunning Grand Prix for “Violet.” This was certainly not a pragmatic decision. Though Violet was my baby, my spouse grew to love her as much as I did. The love for Violet never ebbed.

When I had to completely empty our house in Maryland in order to sell it and move West, I didn’t give material possessions much thought. Perhaps it’s because my grief was too fresh after losing my life-partner, my love, my friend. At that time, I could have walked away from the house and left everything. However, this was not a responsible option so, with the help of friends and our son, I was able to empty the house and garage to get it ready for sale. I kept very few material possessions and had no angst about what I gave up.

The saddest moment I had during this process was when I witnessed the truck pulling Violet up the hill away from the house and me. Standing in the driveway looking at the rear of Violet brought the only tears I shed in giving up a lifetime of possessions. Seeing the rear end of Violet moving away from me brought the feelings that I had not expressed about how the past was gone and a new reality was before me.

Our son suggested shipping Violet to my new home, where he prepared her for the annual car auction and a proper goodbye.

What a thrill it was to see Violet on a stage with lights on her as people bid on owning her. It reminded me of the first time that I saw her under the lights in the showroom of the dealership. This felt right. There was no sadness. Just joy in what she symbolized in our lives.

rear view of 1978 periwinkle convertible VW

I don’t want…

I don’t want to read another article about the Tyre Nichols and Black police officers tragedy.

I don’t want to hear another interview where experts explain why the tragedy occurred.

I don’t want to keep thinking about the tragedy.

I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with blog titles about the tragedy running through my mind:

We’re all victims
Race always matters
The hunters and their prey
All pawns in the game
Eyes everywhere
You can’t hide
There is no escape

Let there be light
Lord have Mercy
Change is gonna come

I don’t want to write about the tragedy.