Summer Reading: Four Headlines Stories That Caught My Eye

1. CRIME DOWN, MEDIA CRIME COVERAGE STILL HIGH?:

A recent Brookings Institute report reconfirms a little-known fact: Crime is going down in the U.S. in both the ‘burbs and major cities and has been decreasing for a while.

Since 1993, violent crimes have been in a much-welcomed free-fall. As crime researchers write in the Atlantic, the reason(s) explaining this drop are currently mere speculation.

Yet, the sensational coverage on Headline “News” and local six o’clock broadcasts remains the same, making communities (more) leery of their own neighbors. And preventing people from realizing the downward trend that has existed for more than a decade.

To TV stations, crime stories are the drama they need pull in viewers and ratings, and, not least of all, advertisers.  Crime stories are what they actively seek to catch on film as it unfolds. A case-in-point: the Casey Anthony trial coverage.

 From Nancy Grace (Why does she still have TV showExhibit A) to strangers in the street, the “guilt” of an un-convicted “Tot Mom” accused of killing her child is already decided in many minds. The whole media circus proves to me that tragic Peyton Place scandals should stay local and not  be broadcasted to a national audience.  When national broadcasters “pick up” their local affiliate stories, they cheapen sensitive, emotional stories and frame them as soap operas with daily updates, which viewers can tune into to catch the latest “episode.”

And I can’t flip channels fast enough to avoid catching a glimpse of polls asking viewers to decide a defendant’s guilt. I thought that’s what a judge and jury was for…

 There is never enough coverage of convicted white-collar criminals like Raj Rajaratnam. The media never misses a perp walk though. But cases with national impact deserve more than one-day coverage.

Rajaratnam was convicted in one of the largest insider-trader cases in U.S. history. His conviction in May, lacked the drama of Anthony’s, but the impact affects me more.

When the “financial wizards of the Darks Arts” act up, you’re guaranteed there’s a ripple effect that WILL affect everyone. Stock markets and their investors are an emotionally unstable, high-maintenance pair: They will react to every outcome; from a slap on the wrist to being sentenced in  a jail cell beside Bernie Madoff. Their reaction may cause downturns or upshots that send the economy (and every American) on an emotional roller-coaster.

As the financial crisis shows, the doings of financial wizards deserves more scrutiny than the messy relationship of a Orlando family.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Even the Rain (Tambien La Lluvia) (Sin SPOILERS…)

They Can’t Go On, They’ll Go On (Dig the Beckett-esqe Title)

a.k.a The “Happy World Water Day” Post (Beleatedly since WP had a “hack attack”)

A statue immortalizing Frei Montesinos giving his famous speech located in the Dominican Republic. (“bartolomedelascasas”)

La verdad tiene a muchos en su contra… la mentira muchos a favor.

(The truth has many enemies. The lie has many friends.)

–          Frei Antonio de Montesinos/Juan

The movie-within-a-movie (or mise en abyme) is a strange beast dependent on two stories that either complement each other or fail to jibe at all. In the case of Rain, off-set drama propels the story as much as it did in successful predecessors like Almodovar’s Broken Embraces and Minelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful.

Early on, the obsessed screenwriter Sebastiàn (Gael Garcia Bernal) remarks, “I hope I can get through this.”

He does. Yet, he quickly loses the “bleeding heart” façade that’s in full effect at the film’s open.

The first scene is fittingly a casting call for an epic film about the “real” discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus (referred to as Cristóbal Colón in the film and played by legendary yet alcohol-dependent actor Antón).

The open casting call draws people from every small town surrounding Cochabamba, Bolivia. So many people show up that Sebastiàn and company – his foil Costa and documentarian Maria – have to turn away those at the end of line.  But a future cast members, a Quechua man named Daniel, thwarts their plan by stirring up a commotion.

Daniel, who’s casted to play the martyred cacique leader Hatuey, lacks professional acting experience. Yet, we quickly discover that he has one gift that threatens the film: a knack for rallying people against the Bolivian government.

The almost useless Maria follows around Daniel and his fellow “starving Indians” (as Costa offhandedly refers to the Quechua people he casts to play as the Tainos of Hispaniola). Her aim: to make a behind-the-scenes featurette for the main film.

Following the Quechua extras allows Maria to catch more than unguarded moments off-set. She luckily follows them the day workers from the government’s water agency come to harass the villagers. In turn, the villagers chase the agents away with their fists and swing shovels as the truck pulls off.

After “greeting” the two men in the truck, their violent reaction to the mere sight of the government reps becomes clear as they explain to Maria their losing battle against the government. For the last few years, the government has pushed to privatize the wells in Bolivia by taxing villagers’ use of wells that some of them privately purchased.

Daniel and his fellow neighbors refuse to back down.  And when the government agency finally padlocks the last well of freshwater in the village, tensions in Cochabamba reach their breaking point. Fearing that even rainwater collected in a pail will be outlawed next, the villagers begin mobilizing, and agitating officials with traffic-jamming demonstrations and blockades.

Filmmaker Costa (r) and screenwriter Sebastian (l) stumble into a water-fight much more violent than a Supersoaker match. (Vitagraph Films)

“You don’t understand. Water is life,” Daniel says to Costa when he bribes him to stay out of the trouble.

But Costa later sees eye to eye with Daniel and the demonstrators, even risking his life in the process.  Sebastiàn, on the other hand, dismisses the protest as an annoyance (“…our film is going to last forever” while the protests will be forgotten). His modesty should have its own milk carton: it’s missing…or it never existed.

As a “nutcase” for his craft, Sebastiàn believes “the film comes first, always.”  And ‘til the bitter end, he’ll harangue and coerce those who stray from his overriding goal: to see the script that he devoted years of research to brought to life. His selfishness, heightened by his inner “vampire” (i.e. his  talent), allows him to see nothing but his film – making everyone expendable after they’ve done their jobs. But as a bloodied Daniel/Hatuey tells Costa after the latter bails him out, “Some thing’s are more important than your film.”

The film’s political bent does not make it unadulterated Marxist poetry (à la Gilles Pontecrevo’s La Bataille d’Alger).  Furthermore, the dedication to progressive historian Howard Zinn does not make this “fictional” account more biased than most cable news channel (CNN valiantly tries to put the “c” in the centrist political fiction that politicos like to shovel.) In fact, the movie strikes a balance between revisionism versus accuracy (which is sacrificed for “bottom line” costs).  Antón was simply egging on Juan/Frei Antonio Montesinos when he said the film “isn’t art. It’s pure propaganda.”

Before the credits roll, the balance shifts decidedly to the left – in favor of the villagers. The exact moment in which the balance is lost: when the mayor of Cochabamba utters the unforgivable line: “If you give the Indians an inch, they’ll drag us back to the Stone Age.”

In their struggle for yaku (Quechua for “water”) against the government, the villagers have a protest chant to counter the government’s underestimation of them: “Rifle or gun, the people will never run!” The defiance of the chant demonstrates their unbreakable resolve – much like Sebastiàn who refuses to leave Bolivia with an unfinished film.

Classic Rating: 7.5/10 – Potential Cult Classic

Side-note:  In light of the stalled US climate legislation (full overview of the climate bill’s demise) and the delayed resolution of Lago Agrio-Chevron lawsuit, a happy ending for the “Green” crowd is long overdue.  2000’s Erin Brokovich, by modern standards, is ancient.

But besides being a political drama, Rain is a great way to “celebrate” Columbus Day…or “Turkey Day” alongside this musical play from the Addams Family Values:

“Climate Change: Real or Hoax?” Panel Sheds Light on Policy Difficulties and Its Impact on Food Security (Part 1)

During a two hour event on climate change, two editorial cartoons summed up the misconceptions atmospheric scientists, a policy expert, and an environmental lawyer tackled before a packed auditorium.

The first cartoon, which was drawn by British cartoonist Chris Madden, depicts a man playing an ostrich, burying his head in the sand “over climate change is much easier now that half the world’s turned to desert.”  Tongue-in-cheek yet very accurately, the drawing provides a glimpse into how the climate change (or “global weirding”) debate has lead to a majority of everyday Americans doubting the impact of global warming.

Warren Washington Warren M. Washington atmospheric science climate change real or hoax UCAR

Warren Washington, PhD, takes question from the audience before panel discussion begins. (Derrick Haynes)

Results from the latest Gallup Social Series Environment poll demonstrate that Americans belief in global warming, uncertainty about its source causes (human activities or natural causes), and scientific evidence are declining.  More Americans – 48 percent, to be exact – believe that global warming is exaggerated. Those who believe climate change is occurring have dropped by 15 percent, the “lowest since the first time Gallup asked this question back in 1997.”

“Right now the skeptics have been pretty effective about misinforming people,” Warren M. Washington, PhD, told an audience who filled the auditorium of Howard University’s Social Work Library. Continue reading

Where Did the “Mother Nature Overlooking the Anacostia” Come From?

Glistening mosaic brightened up the drab side of a highway overpass in front of Kenilworth Park.

While returning from my hour (and some change) ride on the Anacostia (via a “party” barge boat), I stumbled upon a portrait of “Mother Nature” overlooking the river surrounded by a blue heron and water lilies.

Unfortunately, there was no artist signature to tell me whose addition to the side of an overpass was worth stopping me in my tracks to gawk at.

I like mysteries: I know that film noirs are more truthful than most “docudramas.” But this kind of mystery saddens me.

More picture posted below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accompanying “towers” with sunflowers and fluttering ladybugs among other Anacostia plant and wildlife captured in these colorful mosaic sculptures.

A Great Blue Heron soars in an azure sky.

“You say hello, and I say….” Goodbye! ‘Til next time!

VIDEO: Multimedia Storytelling Group Project – “A Day on the Anacostia: A Trip to Raise Environmental Consciousness

After months of working on a group project, we have reached the inevitable end. I’m extremely pretty proud of this effort, since my HD bloggie and Radio Shack Kodak camera were what Stacy Lattisaw and Johnny Gill sang about: a perfect combination. I must admit I was surprised at the end results. Of the photos I included in the video, I did not have to employ that much Photoshop abracadabra to fix them.

Disclaimer on comments: I’m still very much an artist…so, I think you know the rest. (“I’m sensitive about my….”)

And “High five!” to Christina Coleman & Maya Rhodan as the best team members in the world…

In a Debunking Session, Climate Change Expert Shatters Myths, Discusses Global Impact

A group of students gathered in Drew Hall on Howard University’s campus as Doctor Jeremy Richardson, physicist and climate change consultant, debunked common myths about climate change.

The discussion was organized by two campus outreach leaders, Howard’s General Assembly Chairman Kenneth Burnett and junior civil engineering major Jordan Rivers, representing the Alliance for Climate Protection.

The discussion was meant to help the audience members who filled Drew’s lounge to “think globally, act locally.” Dr. Richardson’s lecture would focus on the global impact of greenhouse gas emissions, while also addressing to what can be done by students and communities to address environmental degradation such as unsafe drinking water at a local level.

“Environmental issues are a hot topic right now, Rivers said, “Before you can organize or do anything involving social justice, you have to do your homework.”

Throughout his informal lecture, Dr. Richardson used a slideshow that former Vice President and Nobel-Prize winner Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth was based on.

In light of recent events such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the slideshow received updated information on events not included in Gore’s 2006 Oscar-winning documentary about global warming.

But Dr. Richardson did not agree with using the term “global warming” in regards of climate change.

“I don’t like use the term “global warming” as much as I like to use “global weirding”[sic],” he said, “You see a lot of weird things happening now.” Continue reading