In Case You Missed It: Alicia Keys Celebrates 10th Anniversary of Debut, Streams Live Concert Online

Alicia Keys giving an air hug to audience in Beacon Theatre and around the world.

Last week, A. Keyz shared the tenth anniversary release of Song in A Minor. To commemorate the occasion, Keys allowed AOL to stream a concert from New York’s Beacon Theatre. You can STILL watch the show online courtesy of the Huffington Post (AOL’s most recent purchase). Needless to say, A. Keyz proved why music lovers have been “Fallin” in love with her since 2001.

Alicia Keys Song in A Minor Beacon Theatre

Tickling the ivories, with the “15-hour candle” burning in the background.

Alicia Keys Beacon Theatre Songs in A Minor A. Keyz

FEELIN’ IT!: Like an old Jay-Z joint (Click the image above to see what I mean).

Alicia Keys Beacon Theatre Hocus Pocus A. Keyz Songs in A Minor

PUT A SMILE ON OUR FACE : “Just give me that smile…I can’t live without it.” 

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.

Continue reading

Father’s Day Post: Songs for My Father: Six Songs for Father’s Day to Celebrate or Shame Your Pops)


During today’s This Week, Robin Roberts had a special sit-down chat with President Barack Obama about this special day.

The president has been outspoken about his absentee father, and even an 11-year-old puts him on the hot spot asking, off-camera, “Do you miss your father on Father’s Day?” Obama’s response (according Roberts): ‘No, I do not.’

As Roberts and This Week‘s host, Christiane Amanpour, pointed out, his interview focused more on lessons he continues to learn as a father himself, and not as the son of an neglectful one. President Obama briefly lamented the approaching “storm” of the teen years of his daughters Sasha and Malia.  He said he was thankful that he has the Secret Service people as deterrence to keep away knuckleheads.

Yet, President Obama did have some kind words for his father who inspired some of his favorite pastimes: playing b-ball and listening to jazz. He said a one-day visit with his father helped him develop his love for both.

The jazz bit inspired this blog post, since I can’t even play H.O.R.S.E anymore without embarrassing myself.

Honor Thy Father

“Song for My Father” – Horace Silver/Dee Dee Bridgewater  DDB: Love & Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver

Dee Dee Bridgewater’s live version of “Song for My Father”:

“Father” is a jaunty, bossa-nova-tinged classic that defined the career of hard-bop pianist Silver. This song and the album of the same name celebrated the Cape Verdean heritage of his father. Dee Dee Bridgewater took a swing at it with tribute album to Silver, Love & Peace, singing the best father praising lyrics I’ve ever heard.

“Color Him Father” – The Winstons

This D.C. soul’s group 1969 single rivals The Intruders I’ll Always Love My Mama” with its “charm” (i.e. bearable sappy-ness).  Runner’s up as my favorite Father’s Day song.

Continue reading

Top 18 Highest Paid Employees at HU & HUH a.k.a. “My First Infographic”

During the 2010 academic year, before the PCAR process began in October 2009, top administrators received pay rises approved by the finance committee of the Board of Trustees.

When Sidney A. Ribeau became president in 2008, his gross pay was $239, 704 with a base salary of 207, 498.  Last year’s gross salary: $608, 049. The new salary figure of more than $700 thousand becomes complete after tacking on nontaxable benefits of $100 thousand dollars, including a  $95,000 house paid by the university (as a traditional custom).

While current university president’s wages soared, his predecessor’s plunged.  H.P Swygert, president emeritus who currently teaches at the law school, received $2, 300,880 in the 2008 to 2009 academic year, as reported in the Hilltop previously. A lion-share of the million dollar compensation was the disbursement of deferred payment –$1, 730, 363, to be exact – from a plan Swygert started in 1999.

Eleven of the top 18 highest paid employees at the university, including the hospital, are administrators with offices in the Mordecai Johnson Administration Building – or in the case of several had offices in the administration building. Continue reading

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

Movie Review: BLUE VALENTINE [SPOILERS…Juuust Maybe]

Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine (2010): Long Time, No Nice Time (Or To Be or Not Be “Como Nossos Pais”)

Long time, since we had a nice time

Do you, do you, do yah think about that?

–         Phyllis Dillon “Nice Time

(Bob Marley & the original Wailers also cut a much slow version named “Nice Time” that’s worth checking out)

Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) still think about their long-gone good times. Between the two, Dean is the only one fighting to keep their marriage alive. And Cindy has him on the ropes. She dodges all his amorous advances, and crushes all of his efforts to rekindle their former passion that time has snuffed out.

“I don’t want to be like my parents,” Cindy says earnestly during an early tête-à-tête with Dean. He understands her, since his parent’s marriage ended when his mother skipped off, arm-in-arm, with another man.

“No one else talks in my family,” she says matter-of-factly, “And when they talk, they only yell.”

Instead of kicking and screaming, Cindy often uses her words (and disappointed glances) to hurt Dean more than her tiny fists ever could. In the opening scene, when Dean cuts up with their daughter Frankie for fun, her blasé sighs and cutting stare signal how fed up she is with playing mom to two “children.” And a later “promotion” (i.e. proposition) to work at an office far away from Dean actually inspires a rare smile. The “promotion” is her big chance to get away from it all. But luck stopped favoring her a longtime ago.

When the bickering stage of their marriage begins, neither of them knows. And you won’t either since the film’s non-linear narrative never reveals when the rupture exactly begins.

But when a mini-drama of Whose Baby Is It Anyway? (à la Maury Povich) inspires a couple to head to the chapel of love their “I dos” doom their marital bliss before those two words are even exchanged. Continue reading

Movie Reviews : La France & Le Doulos (or “Deux de France”)

Although Camille (Testud) never sees the warfront, she does experience war’s harsh conditions. (Les Films Pelleas)

LA FRANCE ‘07

La France is the first film I’ve watched starring Sylvie Testud – and it won’t be the last.  In Serge Bozon’s “war musical”, she confirms her reputation as the go-to actress for offbeat films in France.

As the lovesick Camille, she passes time waiting for her husband tending to the house and running to the town’s highest hill to spot any combat action. Her husband has left her to serve in the country’s army during World War I (“The Great War”) in 1917. But a letter written by him sends her much closer to the warfront than just a hilltop view.  The letter sparks the old fighter within Camille: She aims to find her husband and drag him back home, since as she says, “The war has come between us.” Continue reading

Movie Review: Winter’s Bone [Spoiler Free…Or Yet Another Vain Attempt]

As a “bred and buttered” Dolly, bail bondsmen are no stranger to Ree (Jennifer Lawrence): In her meth-ravaged community, lab explosions and drug busts are commonplace.

However, the day when Sheriff Baskin (Garett Dillahunt of 4400 fame) darkens her front door, he delivers unexpected news that threatens to tear her family apart. Jessup, her meth-selling father (whose face is never seen except in a childhood picture), is on the lam and he used the family’s house and acres of lumber wood as collateral to post bail. If he isn’t found within a week’s time, the struggling family will be tossed out onto the street.

Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) sets out on a quest to find her father, in order to save her family’s house. (Roadside Attraction)

But Ree refuses to allow her young siblings and her depression-numbed mother to become homeless. So, she sets out on a perilous search to track down her father herself, which provides the back-bone of Debra Granik’ down-home noir.

The coldness among the people of Ree’s small town does not need the film’s ominous score: their menacing faces and volatile behavior – when “cranked out” or not – suffices.  Viewers will have a hard time forgetting Merab (Dale Dickey) the moment the camera zooms onto her face as she warns Ree to stop looking for trouble by asking around town about her father’s whereabouts. Or when Ree seeks help from her uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) and the tense family reunion that occurs when she visits him. (In a later scene, Ree tells him, “I was always afraid of you”; His response with a slight grin: “That’s because you’re smart.”)

Despite further warnings and return visits by officers, Ree continues playing the detective while acting as a substitute mother to her vulnerable siblings. Her determination to not give up on both accounts shades light on future plans life has forced her to limit. Plans to join the army for quick money prove fruitless when the recruiter tells her that taking her siblings on the base during the combat would be impossible.

Crushed but not broken, she lets yet another dream die as her search reaches its climatic end – with a handy chainsaw in tow.

Classic Rating Scale: 7/10 – Potential Cult Classic