And My Mom Got Scared: My Thoughts on the Peacock Show “Bel-Air”

As soon as I came across this show, I knew I had to check it out. If you recall from the HBO Max post I did a couple years ago (a couple years already? Wow!) you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And while I don’t usually care for reboots in general, I figured this one might be interesting.
Before I get to my thoughts about the series though, I first want to comment on streaming apps and accessibility from a blindness perspective. This has improved markedly in those two years, and I know we have many tireless folks working in the background to thank for that. Now, unlike then, I can interact with most of the apps’ interfaces and get them to work, instead of or in addition to using the Apple TV app to launch shows. And thankfully, most shows are also including audio description, which for the uninitiated is a track that explains to those of us who are blind the visual aspects that we would normally miss. I saw that Bel-Air had this, so I opted to pony up for the lower tier Peacock subscription that requires watching ads. There are only a couple ads per set, and they are a lot shorter than one sees on regular TV anyway.
So that noted, I shall speak a little about the show itself. Immediately, one is struck by the vastly different tone that “Bel-Air” takes compared to the TV show from which it draws inspiration. This is in no way comedic, as we see right from the start when Will Smith’s original Fresh Prince rap is played out and he “got in one (not so) little fight” on the basketball court. This fight ended in gunshots, and found Will behind bars. After his uncle springs him with a little help from his friends, Will is taken from Philadelphia to Los Angeles where he encounters Jazz. Jazz is a driver, and he gives Will a lift to the Banks residence in a car that bears some resemblance to that referred to in Will’s song as well.
The characters have similarities and big differences from those we saw in the original series. Will, ironically played by an actor with the actual last name Banks, sounds a lot the same but perhaps a bit flatter in emotional and vocal affect. Hilary and Jazz are both still kind of strange, but in less silly ways than they had been. They do end up drifting together as the show goes on in a more realistic way.
Ashley is only minimally seen throughout much of this season, but she does provide a rare platform from which to look at how LGBTQ issues play out in the Black community. This idea is spoken of little anywhere, and it certainly is rarely examined in a television program.
And Carleton? Well at first we are given the impression that he is just a complete jerk. But slowly his anxiety and illicit drug use reveal themselves, and the character’s actions become more understandable. If you think about it, you could certainly see some vestiges of that in the original show’s Carleton character. Finally, the way that Lisa and Will come together is also more realistic. She’s a long-time family friend who had dated Carleton, but their relationship was already starting to fall apart before Will drifted into the picture.
This series presents more like a long movie than the episodic Fresh Prince, and I think one has to watch the shows in order to follow entirely what is going on. But I thoroughly enjoyed the drama, feeling like it really started to find its way by season’s end with a show that was, when seen against the previous series, a combination of the famous show where Will encounters his father (Season 5) and the show that ended Season 1. It was a powerful episode, and it leaves us ready and willing to watch the Season 2 that I hope is coming.

Job Days No. 9: On Self-Development and Tutoring from the Other Side

Ah, my slightly late annual look at how things are changing or not on the job front has arrived. It’s the ninth (9th!) such post in this series, and my mind is boggled by how many there have been. How quickly does time fly.
Anyway, I guess things are slowly shifting as I move toward what I hope will be a fulfilling career as I bound along through middle age. Things are basically unchanged in the plant, as we call the manufacturing facility where I am employed. I’m still in Omni Glow, the name for the light sticks we package, as I have been since September of 2013. Ten sticks to a box, sling it onto the conveyor belt, grab the next handful, stuff, slide, and on and on and on. As with each year before I am faster than ever, because the rhythm when really established makes the day go by in a blink. I basically aim to stay awake, do the highest quality job possible, and head home at 3:20. I’m always amazed when I manage to catch faulty sticks even as they race through my fingers quickly enough to leave the occasional papercut. The past two weeks have been the best in months, because we’ve finally obtained enough product to really get going without being stuck and sent back to rework or worse, the pointless counting of buckles into already worn plastic bags as a time-killer.
Even as I work the “day job,” I am aspiring for more. As I’ve often discussed since it started, one of the main ways I’m planning to do this is through tutoring other blind individuals on assistive technology. I’ve now had three students at the plant, and with each I’ve gotten a little better. The last finally got me to open up more, and by the end I was talking to him before sessions started and after they ended. As others have told me, this not only makes the student more comfortable, it also puts me at ease and allows me to not stress as much about everything going perfectly with a lesson. After all, it’s about connecting with the other and finding out what a given student truly needs.
It’s been a couple months since I had my last student, so in that time I’ve been working to sharpen up. I did a couple of mock sessions with other tutors, which took me back to the days of grad school in the University of North Carolina’s then-named Rehab Counseling and Psychology Master’s program where we did these sorts of sessions for video tape. They do help though, as they show me how tight I had previously been and how smoothly I can teach if I let myself.
And even more recently, I’m being tutored by my cousin. He’s taking the online assistive technology program at World Services for the Blind, and thus has mastered many of the techniques involved in the delicate work of helping others. We’re working specifically on using Jaws for Windows with Outlook, but I think a lot of what I’m learning can be applied more broadly as I come to understand pacing, proper use of lesson and guides, and the like. I’m also grabbing a lot of material from the Freedom Scientific Training page so that I might use it in conjunction with these newly acquired techniques to actually help whomever I am assigned to next. Truthfully, working with him is instilling discipline as well, as I’m having to come home from work and shift gears twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays at 6 PM. This is a real challenge sometimes!
And that’s this year’s Job Days update. Things are getting really interesting around these quarters, and I hope to have even more exciting news to report to you soon.