Friday, December 23, 2011

An Abstract Christmas

 The 5th Annual Festival of Trees at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens in West Palm Beach, Fla. this month was a sight to see. With the theme "Magic of the Movies" abstract Christmas trees were abound. So glad my friend, Jane invited me. Yes, us Janes stick together.
Here are a few that caught my eye:

101 Dalmatians by Gil Walsh Interiors

Marie Antoinette by Tom Mathieu & Co., Inc.

 Sandlot by Giberson Design, Inc.

The Teahouse of the August Moon by Allan Reyes Interior Design


Monday, December 5, 2011

'Chocolate Me!' Book Signing

Taye Diggs at The Soul of South Florida Book Expo.
I love to celebrate literature. So Nov. 19 I attended The Soul of South Florida Book Expo at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale.
I went to hear actor, husband and father, Taye Diggs of the TV show "Private Practice" discuss his current children's book, "Chocolate Me!" 

The book is based on a poem he wrote while a student at Syracuse University reflecting his experiences growing up in Rochester, N.Y., when he was the only black child in his complex.  The questioning of his complexion by peers and teasing, made him reflect on skin color at a young age.  Those memories inspired the words of his poem, which he now uses to inspire youth who might be going through the same experience.  He also wishes to use the book to celebrate multiculturalism, and self-acceptance.

I was a little early for his discussion, so I stood outside of the book signing room with a few preteens and their chaperones.  Five minutes later, Diggs wearing a pink polo shirt, jeans and a checkered applejack hat, walked coolly into the building with his friend and illustrator of "Chocolate Me!," Shane Evans and I think his publicist.  He greeted the preteens, "Hey, how are you doing?" flashing a smile.  I immediately knew it was him, and so did the chaperones.  When the three walked into the room and closed the door behind them, one of the female preteens  asked excitedly, "Was that Taye Diggs?" An elder in her group confirmed it was, and she proceeded to almost jump up and down saying, "Oh my God, that was Taye Diggs; I've never been so close to a famous person before."
That is precisely why I really enjoyed the event.  It was free and open to the public.  The auditorium where the presentation took place was intimate enough for the children and teens to really interact with Diggs and Evans.  
Taye Diggs and Shane Evans invite brothers to sing.
There were no security guards making fans stand at a distance.  They were able to connect with the young audience, freely.

Diggs read from "Chocolate Me!" while Evans played the guitar.  He then fielded questions from the audience on the book, his friendhip with Evans and even some off-topic questions like, "Were you in the movie 'Malibu's Most Wanted'?"  Diggs confirmed it was him.  He and Evans then invited two brothers on the stage to sing with them.  It was heart-warming.
Diggs signs young fan's shirt.
Afterward, we all headed to the book signing room where they signed copies.  As I waited in line to get my book signed, fortunately closer to the front of a long line, a boy who looked around age 11 or 12 approached me.  He said, "If I give you five dollars, would you let me cut you in line?"
I told him he didn't have to give me five dollars, and of course he could go ahead of me.  The young man asked Diggs to sign the back of his T-shirt, which he did.  Really cute moment.
When I approached the table, I mentioned to Diggs I am an alumna of Syracuse University, and he smiled and said while he signed my book that he and Evans were up there the week prior for a signing during Homecoming.  He then passed my book over to Evans to sign; he was friendly as well.  The artist's signature even includes a smiley face.

Friday, October 28, 2011

My thoughts on 'Anonymous'

Last night at the Regal Royal Palm Beach Stadium 18, I saw a screening of "Anonymous," a film by Roland Emmerich, which opens today in theaters nationwide.

The film supports the theory that Shakespearean works were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, an Elizabethan aristocrat.  de Vere, unable to reveal he penned famous plays such as “King Lear” and “Henry V,” needs a writer to pose as the author.  That's where William Shakespeare came in. This character certainly does not reflect the Shakespeare I first learned of in high school, and grew to appreciate.  He is an actor, not a scribe, who was villainous. The film is like a Shakespearean play, with shocking elements you can find in “Hamlet.”  The screen is filled with the politics and scandals of that era.  I thought the acting was great, especially Rhys Ifans as de Vere.
I am not a Shakespearean scholar, and cannot tell you whether or not the allegations in the film are far-fetched.  What I can tell you, is it illustrates the power of the pen.  We are in the year 2011, yet a film is made discussing the relevance of writings from the 17th century, and is causing a heated debate.  I enjoyed it for that very reason. 
The film illustrates the importance and power of the written word, which I believe is starting to diminish.  We write in sound bites for social media status updates, and send text messages with sentences like, "How r u?"  Nowadays, the art of writing seems to be at risk.  Do many teens understand the power of writing as a creative force?  Will reality TV eventually overcome scripted TV? 
The passion portrayed by the writers in "Anonymous," especially through Ifans’ portrayal of de Vere, made me think of why I started keeping a journal as a teen, why I enjoy writing poetry, why I write blog entries -- because writing can incite and inspire.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Food Trucks Come Out at Night

Last night while driving home around 7:30 p.m., I saw the light...of food trucks. On the corner of Park Place and S. Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, adjacent to Flamingo Park, was a line of food trucks under the canopies of humongous trees. I found out every Tuesday night from 6 to 10 p.m. at this location will be a gathering of Palm Beach-based food trucks, "Dinning on Dixie," spearheaded by The Fire Within food truck. The venture began Oct. 18. A few people stumbled upon the great find, as I did, while others there came prepared with folding chairs to dine al fresco underneath the stars. There was a variety of food to choose from including Caribbean, American barbecue, even veggie options. And, I can't forget the dessert truck. Looks like Tuesdays are going to be tasty.

Monday, September 26, 2011

You Don't Eat No Meat?

                                         A scene from the film, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"

Saturday I went to a local comedy show, and the comedian spoke about his wife who is a vegetarian. Once he said the word "vegetarian," the audience began to boo.  Then he asked the vegetarians in the audience to raise their hands.  I guess I wimped out, but I wasn't going to raise my hand and be assaulted with the angry glares of adamant meat-eaters.

Why are some people so adverse to and offended by those of us who choose not to consume meat?  This isn't the first time I've been put in the situation where my admitting I don't eat red meat or poultry was like wearing the scarlet letter  "A."  Well in this case, "V," and maybe it should be in green.  Most vegetarians I know don't go around preaching on soap boxes.  It's a lifestyle choice, which might not be for everyone.

Every Monday is Meatless Monday.  An initiative of The Monday Campaigns Inc. in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future, Meatless Monday is a global movement to improve physical health and environmental health by encouraging people to not eat meat on Mondays -- the typical beginning of the work week.

Maybe if we can all be vegetarian for a day, there would be a lot less veggie hate.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

'The Hippest Trip in America'

The Soul Train photo exhibit at Expo 72 in Chicago, Ill.

Don Cornelius was the creator and host of Soul Train, the music variety show, which aired in syndication from 1971 to 2006. As the show's origins are in Chicago, Ill., an exhibit at Expo 72 in Chicago features 56 photographs from an archive of more than 300,000 still photography images to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the "Hippest trip in America.” The exhibit runs through Oct. 2, 2011.
I was able to see the journey back in time while in town.
Check out my pics here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Superhero Summer

Summer 2011 was the summer of the superhero in film: "Thor,” “X-Men: First Class,” "Green Lantern” and "Captain America: The First Avenger."
Imagine if these superheroes really existed.
Would you feel safer knowing there's a hammer-wielding Norse god down the block?  Perhaps. Though, at what cost?
I personally think they'd be a drain on the economy.  The amount of destruction caused to catch criminals would cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions to repair. To compensate the amount of money spent, tax increases affecting the corporations that sponsor superheroes might be incurred. Then, how would the corporations expense their intergalactic recruiting trips?
I know superheroes are trying to save the Earth and all, though, clearly, certain guidelines must exist from small to large scale.  If Thor returns to Earth, he can't go around to diners smashing mugs and dishes.  Things are hard enough for small business owners.  I know he only did it once, before he became humble.  But, sometimes old habits are hard to break.  And the amount of money the state of New Mexico would have to shell out for Thor's hammer-habit would be cosmic.  Then there’s the question of his status.  If Thor comes back to live with Jane Foster, would he be considered an illegal immigrant unless they marry? Would he qualify for non-resident alien status?
The X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants have way too much drama going on between each other for the X-Men to have a clear focus on saving the world. The affairs, vendettas and personal issues -- remember Wolverine’s back story?  Also, I think the X-Men are a little vain with their superpowers.  They might turn all “Hollywood” on us, and go on tour with Lady Gaga or something.
And, what about preserving the environment?  The Green Lantern isn’t “green.” In order to defeat criminals he expels fists of green energy into the atmosphere.  That could lead to further damage to the ozone layer.  We’re already dealing with global warming.
What also concerns me are the personal issues some superheroes have.  Captain American was "asleep" for 70 years.  Is he emotionally stable?  I think he might need some therapy sessions to find himself again.  He also doesn't have a clue about globalization, the Internet or smartphones.  Such knowledge is helpful in international crime-fighting.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Can't Get to D.C.? Visit an MLK Landmark Near You

Initiated by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. more than 20 years ago, propelled by the foundation they created for their goal and with the ultimate approval of Congress, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is now a reality. Located in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., the monument opened to the public Aug. 22.

Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial
in Washington, D.C.; photo provided
Dr. King is the first African-American (and non-president) to have a major monument built in his honor along the National Mall. Hurricane Irene might have postponed the official dedication scheduled for Aug. 28, the 48th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech to Oct. 16, but just like King’s legacy, the memorial is here to stay.
If you don’t live in the D.C. area, yet want to feel connected to this historical moment, maybe there's an MLK memorial or landmark close to your area.  Hopefully, I can get to D.C. soon, but in the meantime I decided to visit the memorial closest to me, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Landmark Memorial on North Flagler Drive in Currie Park in West Palm Beach, Fla.  Completed in 2004, it’s positioned right along the Intracoastal Waterway.
Behind the bust of Dr. King reading the Holy Bible is a granite wall with continuous running water. On the opposite side, is a concrete wall with engraved excerpts of his speeches, along with a timeline of his life.  There are also flagpoles flying international flags, noting the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s global influence. (The Washington Post recently published an article listing sites around the globe that honor him. Read here)  
Below are photos I took today of West Palm Beach's MLK memorial, using my iPhone.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Landmark Memorial on North Flagler Drive in Currie Park in West Palm Beach, Fla. 


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chicago's Lakeside View

I believe each city has its own charisma and charm. I've only been to Chicago in the summer, so I only know of the cool breeze Lake Michigan provides on hot days. Though, I hear during the winter months, the lake effect is bone chilling. Even so, I think the city's charisma and charm includes the lake, which is 307 miles in length, 118 miles wide, turquoise blue and is bordered by the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.  It almost appears like the Atlantic Ocean seen from Florida shores. The Navy Pier gives you a picturesque view. I happened to be in town during the Taste of Tall Ships. Here are some of my photos:

The Lynx, a schooner,  interprets the general configuration and operation of a privateer schooner or naval schooner from the War of 1812.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sade Shines in South Florida

Sade performs at Bank Atlantic Center in Fort Lauderdale

I’m listening to Sade’s “Kiss of Life” as I write this entry.  Since seeing Sade’s Soldier of Love World Tour Friday, July 15 at the Bank Atlantic Center in Fort Lauderdale, I’ve been elevated, riding on a cloud of soulful goodness.
From watching her music videos on MTV as a kid in the ‘80s to playing the Love Deluxe CD over and over again while I studied in college, to listening to “Soldier of Love” the other day on a long drive, I’ve been a Sade Adu fan for a while.  This was my first time seeing her live in concert.
The artist has a cross-section of fans.  Concert attendees were diverse in ethnicity, age and nationality. I saw men and women in their early 20s, as well as men and women appearing to be in their 70s.  Everyone seemed excited.
John Legend, the opening act in the U.S., began with his cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”  He is definitely a debonair and charming performer and instrumentalist with a great voice.  Favorites like, “Ordinary People,” “Save Room” and “Green Light” had the audience singing along.
During intermission, I got into a conversation with a couple looking to be in their late-40s.  The male, originally from England, now lives with his wife in South Florida.  In England, he said he had the opportunity to see Sade perform many times, and boasted her biggest fans are there.  Though across the pond they’re privy to more performances since she resides there and in the U.S. we are graced by her presence about every 10 years, I told him her fan base here is pretty solid, too.  He then asked me if I knew where Sade was born.  Of course I knew; it’s Nigeria by the way (her father Nigerian, mother, British).  Right after that exchange, it was time for her performance.  We parted ways agreeing there’s enough Sade love to go around.
You could feel the excitement and energy in the air when she walked on stage.  Sade thanked Fort Lauderdale for having her back.  She told us that as a youth growing up in Holland-on-Sea in the UK, she dreamed of being in a place with warm, beautiful weather and was happy to be here. 
“Your love is king,” she said to the crowd.

Sade souvenirs

And, that’s the hit she began her performance with.  Her singing voice live sounds just like, if not better, than her recorded voice.  She’s the real deal.  From “Soldier of Love” to classics like, “Smooth Operator,” Sade sang her heart out accompanied by an awesome band and creative set designs.  She is simply gorgeous.  The crowd was mesmerized.
I didn’t want the concert to end, even after Sade did an encore.  In my opinion, nowadays there’s a limited number artists who create music that inspires, soothes and promotes the positivity of love.  Sade's music does that.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Flora and Fireworks

It was my first time viewing fireworks in West Palm Beach, displayed right above the Intracoastal Waterway, which lies between the city and Palm Beach Island. What would make these photos of fireworks different from any other I've taken of fireworks? I decided to include the palm tree, indigenous to the area.

Click here to view more photos

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

'Transformers: Dark of the Moon'

Autobots, Decepticons and global domination, oh my!
Last night I saw an advance screening of director Michael Bay’s sci-fi film “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” a sequel to “Transformers” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” at Muvico in West Palm Beach.
Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) again unites with the Autobots and the U.S. government to defend planet Earth.  Now, they’re in a race against the Decepticons to obtain vital technology located in a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the moon since it crashed there in the 1960s. And, it was that spacecraft’s crash, which prompted President John F. Kennedy to commission NASA’s moon landing in 1969.
The fact this film is said to be the final installment of the “Transformers,” combined with its big budget action and special effects extravaganza, will make it a summer blockbuster. I saw the film in 3D and IMAX, so my visual and audio senses got a work out, especially during the final, almost apocalyptic battle in Chicago. 
In my opinion, the stars of the film are not the humans, but the robots.  The drama between Optimus Prime, (voiced by Peter Cullen) and Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy), is way more compelling than any of the human action going on.
The film tries to incorporate comedy, including a “Hangover-like” bathroom scene, and political jokes to go along with its initial D.C. setting.  And as a part of the drama element, you will witness the ho-hum love story of Sam and his new girlfriend, Carly (Rose Huntington Whiteley).  Also, shown is a kind-of-sort-of love triangle between Sam, Carly and her boss, Dylan (Patrick Dempsey).  When Dylan made his first appearance, I heard a woman in the theater exclaim, “It’s Dr. McDreamy!” referring to Dempsey’s popular role on “Grey’s Anatomy.” 
But, with that said, I don't think most will go see the film for a dynamic love story. Kids, as well as those who grew up watching the “Transformers” cartoon in the ‘80s, fans of the comic books or those who enjoyed the first two films, want to see the mutable robots in action. And it's lengthy action you'll get -- over two-and-a-half hours’ worth.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Want a Treat? Follow the Tweets.

It's Monday, so I'll be checking my Twitter feed to see where the dainty food truck will be. If you work in, live in or visit West Palm Beach, Monday through Friday you must try the Curbside Gourmet food truck. Founded in 2011, it's the first gourmet food truck in Palm Beach County.

Trust me, the food is not the average street food of hot dogs, hamburgers or chicken on a stick. You can expect gourmet fair like caramelized grapefruit, mint pea soup, blueberry iced tea and crab cake sliders. And, the prices are reasonable. I’ve paid the same price, if not more, for lunch at chain eateries. They also have daily specials, which are announced on Twitter along with the truck's location.

Grouper tacos
You can actually taste the flavor of the seasonal, local ingredients used. The cilantro in the grouper tacos sings! The grouper tacos are actually a fave for many. I remember the day I purchased the last batch. The news traveled down the line, and a woman even scolded me. It was all in jest. Everyone waiting on line is in a good mood because we know we’re about to please our palettes. The food is fresh and made to order. The staff is really friendly, and the experience is definitely a nice addition to the work week. The Curbside Gourmet serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks.!/curbsidegourmet

Friday, June 24, 2011

Smartphone Etiquette, Please

If a person is busy sending an e-mail or a text on their smartphone while having a one-on-one conversation with me, in person, I find that just plain rude.  Yeah rude, I’m not overreacting.  We all know time is of the essence, and multitasking is a good skill.   But, is it really necessary to piddle upon the keys of your smartphone, with your head down, when I’m asking you how your day is going? That scenario has happened to me many times with coworkers, at networking events and even with friends and family. 
Here’s another example.  Earlier this week, I was at a seminar/luncheon where a woman seated at the table in front of me was ferociously typing on her smartphone, with her head lowered, during each presentation – there were three.  She barely stopped to eat lunch.  And, it wasn’t a huge hall. It was an intimate setting, only about 40 of us.  The speakers were less than 6-feet away from her table. I even caught one of them glancing at her.  I pictured a bubble over his head, like in cartoons, saying to her, “You’re like school in the summertime: No class," quote by Rudy of “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.”
As a former adjunct instructor, I know how it feels to talk to an audience with members who are texting, or updating their Twitter status.  Though, they were 18 and 19-year-olds.  The students grew up with social media, and texting to them is like breathing.  I explained the error of their ways.  Still, there were a few who couldn’t stop their compulsion.  Yet, the woman at the luncheon is a professional in her 30s, she should know better.
All I’m saying is we are living in a society where technology has enabled us to isolate ourselves enough to only virtually socialize.  When we actually have human to human interaction and conversation, perhaps we can put the smartphone down.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

'The Art of Getting By'

I saw an advance screening of “The Art of Getting By” (PG-13) last night at Muvico in West Palm Beach.  The romantic comedy, distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, is a first feature for writer-director Gavin Wiesen.  It premiered at the 2011 Sundance Festival, though under the title, “Homework.”
The main character, George, is a senior at a prestigious high school in New York City.  He is into doodling and drawing all over his school books, rather than using them for actual school work.  His lack of completing homework assignments makes him frequently visit Principal Bill Martinson (Blair Underwood), and creates a looming threat of expulsion, instead of graduation.
George lives with his mother (Rita Wilson) and step-father in a well-to-do area of Manhattan.  He goes to a great school (which kind of has the “Gossip Girl” vibe) paid by his father, a business man who moved to China.  And, George is highly intelligent.  So, what’s George’s problem? He’s the brooding, philosophical artist who ponders constantly upon what’s the point of life if we are all going to die. The oversized, dark trench coat he wears metaphorically hides him.
His anti-social ways start to change when a friendship begins with his classmate, Sally.  Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts were good picks for the characters of George and Sally.  Highmore was able to portray nerdy, misfit awkwardness, yet have a cute and endearing appeal. 

Roberts has an onscreen presence.  She did a good job portraying an 18-year-old female honing the skills of male manipulation learned by her mom, yet struggling to still experience youth.  Through scenes of underage drinking, partying, sleepovers, family fights and high school classes, we see a coming of age drama, with a privileged spin.  It is an independent film, so don’t expect the cinematography or storyline to be like a mainstream teen romantic comedy.
All in all, I wasn't excited by “The Art of Getting By." Perhaps because I’m not a preteen, teen, or can relate to the lifestyle of the main characters, what I took away most was the fact George’s teachers care about his success -- an important quality for teachers. A dose of tough love from Principal Martinson, and Ms. Herman (Alicia Silverstone) contributed positively to his situation.  In addition, I did see the groundwork for successful careers for Roberts and Highmore. And, as it is his first feature film, I did leave interested in seeing Wiesen's future projects.
The film opens June 17.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

'Super 8'

Last night I had the opportunity to see an advance screening of Paramount Pictures’ "Super 8" (PG-13) at Muvico Parisian IMAX in West Palm Beach.  "Super 8" was written and directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg.
Among his credits, Abrams is the creator of "Alias," and co-creator of "Lost" -- two ABC hit TV series of which I've seen every episode.  Don't get me started on "Lost."  I still lament Wednesdays at 9 p.m., as my favorite TV show is no longer on the air.  He also directed "Star Trek" (2009), a nonstop, sci-fi thrill ride. And, Spielberg's roster of award-winning films contain countless of my favorites.
In “Super 8,” strange things are happening in Lillian, Ohio in 1979 following a late night train crash.  The intense crash, almost apocalyptic, is witnessed by a local group of pre-teens in the area filming a zombie movie, using Super 8 film, to submit to a film festival.  Dogs began to flee the city, electronic devices like microwaves go missing, and so do people, local police and military clash.  Intertwined in the plot are stories of family relationships.  The dynamics between main character Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his father, Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler), after the death of Joe’s mother in a factory explosion, represents grieving, anger and acceptance, important themes in the film.
                                                                      See the trailer

I will not discuss the actual mystery.  It's a pet peeve of mine when someone spoils a plot, ruining one’s desire the go see the film.  What I will tell you is there’s no for need 3-D glasses, and you needn’t see a prequel to understand what's going on.  What I enjoyed about "Super 8" is good storytelling, with a message.  The film made me nostalgic, actually.  It's a nod to the Spielberg movies of my youth like "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and "The Goonies" directed by Richard Donner, story by Spielberg. In films such as these, children used as main characters remind us of goodness, tolerance and acceptance, which should always be at the core of humanity.  Yet, "Super 8" also incorporates the mystery sequences, elements of surprise and symbolism that made "Lost" so popular.
At the theater I sat in front of two pre-teens.  The two really related with the youth in the film, laughing with them, shouting, "Oh, no!" when they were in peril.  I got the feeling they were affected in a positive way, especially by the ending when I heard a sniffle. I think the point of cinema is to be affected, and clearly these girls were, as was I.   
I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Check out “Super 8.”  And stay for the closing credits. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Fashionable Law

The other day I walked behind a young man who wore white boxers and ceremoniously lifted up his pants with each step. Did I want to know the color of his boxers? No. Did I wish I had a belt I could give him? Yes.

Every now and then, fashion fads raise eyebrows and make one scratch one’s head. During my youth there was the Gumby haircut, Hammer pants, bamboo door knocker earrings, shoulder pads and biker shorts. Now, it's "droopy drawers." Though, here in the state of Florida, young men need to purchase pants that fit, or hefty belts as the Florida Legislature passed the SB 228 bill in May, which requires school boards to modify their code of conduct to forbid the wearing of clothing that exposes one's underwear. Repercussions range from a verbal warning and parental notice to in-school suspension. The bill was sent to Governor Scott's desk for a signature.

I don't particularly like seeing saggy pants. I think it looks sloppy and not fashionable at all. Yet, I hope that will not be the only focus of SB 228. It should not only target young men, but focus on young women, too. I've seen many school age girls who wear low-rider jeans, and tops which expose their undergarments. To keep it fair, you can't call it the "droopy draws bill" as it singles out only young men.

But, can teen fashion really be regulated by a bill? Or, does it ultimately come down to parental control? I guess we'll see. I just wish the quality of education for students would also be a focus in Florida legislature.

Monday, May 23, 2011

From Ferocious to Endearing

At times I think about how some of the most ferocious or dangerous animals, or people for that matter, have been transformed by pop culture into cuddly, quirky and endearing characters.

Who has ever hugged or cuddled a teddy bear? Come on, be truthful. Whether Paddington, a Care Bear or a no name stuffed teddy you won at a local carnival, you’ve embraced the bear. Real-life bears are quite the opposite.

Walt Disney was a pro at making surly animals, as well as dangerous humans, like pirates, well, lovable. The Pirates of Caribbean franchise originated as an attraction at Disneyland in 1967. Now more than 40 years later, this past weekend in the U.S. Walt Disney Pictures released “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tide,” the fourth film in their highly successful “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, which began in 2003 with “The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

This all ran through my mind May 20 as I chatted with Capt. Jack Sparrow amidst a band playing and swashbucklers shouting “En Garde!” On my way to Fro-Yotopia, a self-serve frozen yogurt place, I walked into a Pirate Party at Downtown at the Gardens, a shopping and entertainment complex in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The party coincided with the release of “On Stanger Tide.” It wasn’t Johnny Depp I spoke to by the way, just so you know.

He was a friendly guy who participated in the party, and drew a crowd of children and adults wanting to take pictures with him. I wondered if the 10-year-olds smiling and posing for pictures knew what real-life pirates do. Then I thought that perhaps I was being too philosophical about kids enjoying a movie character. Their history teaches will eventually clue them in, hopefully.

Enveloped in the spirit of the evening, my friend Felicia and I decided to see the film. I would say “On Stranger Tide” is not my favorite out of the series. Though I think Depp’s performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow is good; he actually carries the film himself. The supporting characters were kind of just – there. The storyline, which centers around the search for the Fountain of Youth, is not that exciting. The most unique additions are what I call “Anti-Ariel not-so-little Mermaids.” They give new definition to the term “mean girls.” And, I must say the 3D element is not effective. If there is a fifth in the series, hopefully it will be a comeback.

Back to my pondering. Is the creative transformation of traditionally unfriendly inhabitants of our world wrong? Nah. I don’t think so. As long as you know not to embrace a grizzly bear if one shows up at your backdoor.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Thanks to a meet up orchestrated by South Florida Social Geeks: Geeks with Social Skills, promoted on Twitter, (I'm chic, but there's also my geek side ) I was able to attend an complementary advance screening of Marvel Studios' "Thor" April 30 at the Regal Royal Palm Stadium 18, 1003 N. State Road 7, Royal Palm Beach, Fla.     "Thor" directed by Kenneth Branagh, also director of "Hamlet" and "Henry V," is based on the comic book character, "The Mighty Thor" published by Marvel Comics. I must admit, Thor is not one of the Marvel superheroes I followed as a kid. Spider-Man is my fave, perhaps because of the journalism aspect.

I actually first became acquainted with Thor through the 1987 film, "Adventures in Babysitting." As a kid myself, I identified with 8-year-old, Sarah (Maia Brewton), who was infatuated with Thor, wearing a plastic replica of his helmet. Sarah eventually gives the helmet to a mechanic, Dawson (Vincent D'Onofrio) who she believes is the superhero. So, when I saw the nod to the "Thor" movie after the ending credits of "Iron Man 2," I looked forward to seeing it.

The film depicts a soon-to-be hero's humbling journey to a destiny of greatness, amidst a battle to save the Asgard realm from Jotunheim's Frost Giants and their leader Laufey; and also a battle of sibling rivalry. Odin, Thor's father played by Anthony Hopkins, is the wise king of Asgard who seeks peace between the two kingdoms. He also wishes, for his eldest son, Thor, to be worthy of wielding his hammer, even if it means sending him to Earth. Hopkins secured the drama element of the film gracefully.

Chris Hemsworth's portrayal of Thor combines comedy and drama. Especially humorous is the pre-humble Thor, and his first exploits among mortals in New Mexico. Natalie Portman shows her comedic side as the quirky scientist, Jane Foster of New Mexico. Jane is dedicated to her research, wants to be taken seriously, and is dangerous behind the wheel. The site of Thor's physique, and a chivalrous kiss by him on her hand, has her quickly falling for him and assisting him in his pursuits. Tom Hiddleston's portrayal of Thor's brother, an awkward, sneaky and snark Loki, is also very good and compelling. And, Idris Elba gave a strong performance as the gatekeeper between worlds.

As I finished watching the film, I thought, 'Would staunch Thor fans like this film?' I'd say, yes. Between Thor's time mingling with mortals on Earth, finding himself, falling in love, hammer throwing, supernatural fight sequences, a strong cast and good special effects, I found "Thor" entertaining. Also, what Hemsworth manages to do through the character's development is make you like superhero Thor, and be willing to follow him to the next adventure. The film opens May 6.

Isaiah Mustafa will host's live-streaming U.S. red carpet movie premiere of "Thor" May 2 at 8:30 p.m. It's a first for the website. Click here for more info:

Lessons I Learned from "Thor":
  • Don't sass your elders
  • Always be kind to the gatekeeper
  • Back up all your computer data to a USB flash drive, especially if you're doing research
  • Sometimes it pays to stay until after the closing credits

Friday, April 29, 2011

Cee Lo at SunFest

Cee Lo Green
 Last night I attended SunFest, a music, art and waterfront festival in West Palm Beach, Fla. produced by SunFest of Palm Beach County, Inc.  It’s a five day festival (April 27-May 1), but I chose Thursday night to see Cee Lo Green perform. 
A singer-songwriter, rapper and record producer, Green is a versatile artist. He started his career with the Southern hip-hop group, Goodie Mob, who were at the concert and performed some of their classics with Green.  He then branched out in his career to form Gnarls Barkley, with DJ/producer Danger Mouse, creating the global hit “Crazy.”  Now, he’s gone solo, and won a 2011 Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for his song, “Forget You.” Green’s also a musician coach on NBC's new musical competition series "The Voice."
Dude’s got talent.  His performance with his all-female band was energetic and fun.  Green performed new tracks, even ballads, good singer. And, he also performed his hits. Though I must admit, while we were waiting for him to come on stage, I wondered if we’d see another feathered outfit and a Muppet or two.  But my friend Lady was right when she mentioned that we are in South Florida, it’s hot and humid, and he’d be in a T-shirt.
Click here to view more photos

Friday, April 22, 2011

Caring for the Earth

Happy Earth Day!  April 22 is a day set aside to recognize and encourage the world-wide environmental movement through public policy and the actions of consumers.
I have to admit, I’m not always as environmental conscious as I should be. I do recycle, and try to conserve energy, like not having on the radio, TV and computer all at the same time, or unplugging devices when they’re not in use. Though every Earth Day, I think about what more I can do.
I attended The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Emerging Professionals and the Palm Beach Branch of the USGBC South Florida Chapter's screening of “Climate Refugees” (2009) the evening of April 19 at the City of West Palm Beach’s LEED Certified Waterfront pavilion located downtown.

In the documentary by filmmaker Michael Nash, he and his crew traveled to areas hardest hit by climate change including Bangladesh, India, the Tuvalu islands in the South Pacific, China, Sudan and Chad, Texas and New Orleans, filmed over the course of two years. Rising sea levels, coastal erosion and droughts are causing the displacement and migration of millions.
Needless to say, the film is an eye-opener in many ways. Nowadays, it’s absolutely rare to see bipartisan agreement on issues. However, Nash interviewed politicians John Kerry and Newt Gingrich, who both concur there is an alarming issue at hand. He also interviewed scholars and scientists who affirm the implication of climate change is not a projected crisis, it is going on now.
The mention of rising sea levels made me immediately think of the devastating tsunami in Japan triggered by an earthquake in March 2011. Earthquakes aren’t known to be a result of climate change. Though, can they be?
In regards to the also devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, an article on, an environmental science and conservation news site, states, “Erosion caused by hurricanes and large-scale deforestation may have contributed to last year's devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti, according to a geologist at the University of Miami.” Read the article here:
I believe the majority of Americans do care about the environment. Who doesn’t enjoy breathing fresh air? Though for many adults, I included, we have to go through a process of changing our habits, and understanding of environmental systems better. “Climate Change” is a film that can stir up some motivation. Fortunately, with children and teens, we have the opportunity to plant seeds of environmental awareness in their lives.
Everyone has the ability to do something. Check out this service announcement, "Athletes of the Earth" featuring world athletes who speak of how they are positively contributing to the environmental movement. They offer some good suggestions.

By the way, don’t know what to do with your old flip phone? Or, are you a part of the Smart Phone craze, and don’t know what to do with your original iPhone or BlackBerry?  As a part of National Phone Recycling Week, leading telephone companies are offering recycling programs. For more information, visit

Monday, March 28, 2011

My 2011 Palm Beach International Film Festival Favorite

On March 24 and 25 I attended screenings of a feature documentary and a feature film at the 16th Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival in Palm Beach County, Florida, March 24-31. I enjoy film festivals as they showcase independent films, and the filmmakers who really have a passion for the craft.  Being someone who appreciates how challenging it can be to maintain a career in the arts, I like to support those who continue to carry the torch.
Michael King

 The Rescuers  
 If the issue of genocide ever crossed your mind, you need to see the documentary, “The Rescuers” (90 minutes) directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Michael King. King's PBS documentary "Bangin," regarding youth violence in America, won the Emmy and International Television and Video Association Award for Best Documentary and Best Editing in 1999.
Previous to watching "The Rescuers," in regards to the Holocaust, I had only been educated on the atrocity of the genocide. The film helped confirm my belief that in the presence of evil there is always good to counteract it. Viewers learn, through the knowledge of Sir Martin Gilbert, a renowned 20th century and Holocaust historian who lost relatives during Holocaust, of 13 diplomats who saved tens of thousands of Jews during World War II. The diplomats were Polish, German, American and Japanese to name a few. But, the film doesn’t stop there. In order to get the audience to understand modern-day genocide, it includes the perspective of Stephanie Nyombayire, a young Rwandan anti-genocide activist who lost 100 members of her family in the Rwandan Genocide of the 1990s. Sir Martin Gilbert and Nyombayire travel across three continents and 15 countries where they interview survivors and descendants of the diplomats.

To describe the film in one word, three syllables: Pow-er-ful.
During the Q&A session after the film, producer Joyce D. Mandell asked how many people in the audience knew of the story of the diplomats prior to the screening. Only about 2 percent of the audience, in a packed theater, raised their hands. We also heard testimonials from two audience members who said if it were not for the courageous acts of the diplomats, their family would not have survived, they wouldn’t be here today. Mandell and King also shared the film was screened at the 2011 NAACP Image Awards, and the audience was really receptive. It also won Best of the Fest at the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival.
After the Q&A, I had the opportunity to meet King and express to him how I appreciated the film connecting the dots: Genocide is genocide whether it is in Darfur in 2011 or in eastern Europe 1944. The practice is horrific. Modern-day diplomats need to take a cue from those courageous 13.
For more information, and to see the trailer, visit:

Fully Loaded
I met director Shira Piven at the screening of “The Rescuers” when we both spoke with Michael King after the screening. She was really friendly, and had a great perspective on the film.
From our interaction, I definitely wanted to check out the world premiere of her film showing the following day, March 25, “Fully Loaded” (80 minutes). 
The film, a dark-comedy set in Los Angeles, is about two single mothers (Paula Killen and Lisa Orkin) who go out for a night on the town. The majority of the film takes place in the vehicle coming home, where they talk about the night at the bar, especially a chance encounter with a stranger (Dweezil Zappa), thoughts on relationships and personal issues, including surving breast cancer and how to break up with a guy. The two even manage to engage in a car chase during their talks. The screenplay is based on a two-person play staring Killen and Orkin, and directed by Piven. Piven, also an actress, comes from a theatrical background. She is on the Advisory Board of the Piven Theatre Workshop.
I thought the acting in the film was great. The chemistry between the two, and the quirky dialog, made me feel like I was on a three-person phone call, except I just listened, chuckling, while thinking to myself “No she just didn’t say that!” I enjoyed getting a feel for the late night/ early morning L.A. scene while the two chatted during the drive. I also liked the ‘70s influence throughout the film.
An interesting tidbit for HBO’s “Entourage” fans is co-producer of “Fully Loaded” is Piven’s brother, Jeremy Piven, “Ari Gold” on the series. If you’re in the area, “Fully Loaded” will be playing again at Muvico Parisian 20 at CityPlace in West Palm Beach at 2:15 p.m. today, March 28.
Visit the film's website at:

For more info on the Palm Beach International Film Festival, visit:

UPDATE:  The winners of the Palm Beach International Film Festival have been announced. “The Rescuers,” Michael King, was awarded Best Documentary Feature. And, “Fully Loaded,” Shira Piven, was awarded Audience Favorite Award for Best Feature