Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays

This is the time of year to reflect, enjoy your family or friends who are family and practice gratitude.
Happy Holidays from me to you!

Downtown West Palm Beach, Fla. December 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I've Got 'Pi' on My Mind

It’s been more than 12 hours, yet I still can’t stop thinking about Pi.
I’m not a mathematician; I’m a moviegoer who’s got the fictional story of a 16-year-old boy, the only human survivor of a sinking freighter traveling from India to Canada, on my mind.

Last night I attended an advance screening of "Life of Pi" at the Regal Royal Palm Beach Stadium 18 in West Palm Beach, Fla. The film is directed by Ang Lee, director of Academy Award-winning films "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000) and "Brokeback Mountain" (2005), and distributed by 20th Century Fox. Based on and using the same name as the 2001 novel by Yann Martel, the film centers around the journey of Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel as a 16-year-old, played by Suraj Sharma. As I stated, he is the only human survivor. A hyena, orangutan, a zebra and a Bengal tiger that were a part of his family’s zoo being shipped on the freighter also managed to get into the lifeboat.  However, in a short period of time due to animal instincts, it was just Pi and the tiger, Thirsty a.k.a. Richard Parker, navigating the deep, blue sea for 227 days.

Recently I’ve seen films using 3D technology, which really did not enhance the product at all, only hiked the ticket price. That isn't the case with this film. As soon as “Life of Pi” began, sitting with my 3D glasses on, I was whisked away into a zoo in Pondicherry, India with exotic and beautiful animals -- stunning. We then begin to hear Piscine as an adult (played by Irrfan Khan) living in Montreal, Canada, tell his remarkable story to a writer.

Piscine called “Pi” for short is named after a swimming pool in France by his father who lived life by scientific reason, which is the opposite of Pi’s mother, who raised Hindu, had a strong spiritual foundation. As a teen, Pi begins to explore spirituality outside of his Hindu roots leading him to Christianity and Islam. Because of his profound love of God, he decides to try and incorporate all three religions in his life. 

In my opinion, the story offers that different religions are really not that different as the goal of all is to lead one to enlightenment and a closer relationship with God. For Pi, elements of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam offer him the wisdom and guidance to survive losing his family and more than half a year on a lifeboat with Richard Parker. And it is through dealing with an often tumultuous tiger, he would learn courage and hear echoes of the lessons his father taught him.

The scenes with Pi and Richard Parker on the lifeboat are compelling, and sometimes had me at the edge of my seat.  There are so many scenes that affected me through the visual aspect, the acting or both. From the vicious storm that causes the ship’s demise to jellyfish glowing in the night sea to Pi making a plea with God during a thunderstorm, all unforgettable. I think the directing by Lee, cinematography by Claudio Miranda, Sharma’s acting skills and the apparent talent of everyone involved makes this film an absolute triumph. It’s hard to believe this is Sharma’s debut; he seems like a pro. I highly recommend this film.

“Life of Pi” is rated PG for the emotional content and there are some frightening sequences. It opens in theaters Nov. 21.

View the official trailer:
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Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy and My Close Ties to the Northeast

Union City, N.J. at night, 10/30/12. Photo by Steven Estrada 
"Still no power."

That's been my brother Steven's response to my asking him each day if he has electricity since Hurricane Sandy reached the shores of New Jersey Monday.

He lives in Union city, N.J., a short commute into New York City via the Holland Tunnel. His community is one of many across the tri-state area still reeling from the hurricane that really wasn't hyped after all. I know a lot about hurricanes as I've lived in South Florida for the past seven years.

I arrived a few months after the destructive Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004 while many areas were still in recovery. And, just in time to experience Hurricane Wilma in 2005, where I had to help my parents hold their front door closed for hours. They were prepared; doors and windows boarded and all. Wilma was just insistent to get in. Thankfully she didn't. It's almost as if hurricanes have their own agenda; selectively choosing areas in which to wreak havoc the most and areas to leave be.

I grew up in Freeport, Long Island, N.Y. living there for 26 years. Yes, I pronounce "mall" "mawl." I used to walk on the boardwalk in Long Beach with my friends, take frequent trips with my mom into Manhattan, or what Long Islanders always refer to as "The City," as that's where she worked, and frequent The Nautical Mile. So even though the effects of Hurricane Sandy damage in the northeast are hundreds of miles away from my physical location, it is definitely close to my heart.

I have family and friends who still live in Long Island and in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and New Jersey. It's surreal looking at photos posted on Facebook and Twitter of areas severely affected by Sandy. It’s devastating reading about the loss of life, and uplifting at the same time when reading about the courage of the first-responders.
It's times like these when technology, social media, etc. is at its best. If they're able to keep their smartphones charged, we can stay connected to the ones we love by not only hearing their voice, but seeing their circumstances. My brother sends me photos via his iPhone to show me what's going on in his neighborhood.

After such a tremendous storm, the hardest part is wanting desperately for life to return to normal, quickly. Having experienced living in the aftermath, I know that will take time and a whole lot of patience. The good thing is that many, even without power and being uncomfortable, understand this and are working together. What is a constant is a sense of hope.

Let's keep all those from the Caribbean to the East Coast of the U.S. affected by Sandy in our prayers.
Click here for info on Ways to donate to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

UPDATE: As of 1 p.m. Nov. 4 power was restored in my brother's Union City, N.J. apartment.

Monday, September 17, 2012

President Obama Visits West Palm Beach

Waiting for President Obama inside the PBC Convention Center, attendees sing,
"Let's Stay Together" by Al Green. 

Attendees wave "Forward" signs
in support of President Obama.
Click here to view more pictures.

On a Sunday, Sept. 9, President Barack Obama made a stop on the campaign trail at  the Palm Beach County Convention Center on Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach, Fla, the final stop of his two-day bus tour. Local Organizing for America offices offered free tickets to the event. As, I waited in line that Sunday with many people to be let into the convention center (it's estimated nearly 6,000 people were in attendance), the temperature was indeed hot, but everyone was friendly, helpful. and cool. The wait was worth it in my opinion. For the first time, I had the opportunity to see and hear a sitting U.S. president in person, a president I highly respect. The experience created a memory for a lifetime.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Film Review: 'Sparkle'

Wednesday night I saw an advance screening of “Sparkle” at the Regal Royal Palm Stadium 18 in Royal Palm Beach, Fla. I knew what to expect, and I didn’t know what to expect. Let me explain.
Produced by Stage 6 Films and released by Sony/Tri Star "Sparkle," directed by Salim Akil ("Jumping the Broom"), is a remake of the 1976 film by Sam O’Steen inspired by The Supremes, starring Irene Cara and Philip Michael Thomas.  I expected to see the story of main character, Sparkle and her two sisters, Sister and Delores, attempt to pursue a music career amongst the pitfalls of the entertainment industry. Being a remake I expected there might be changes to the storyline. For example, the 1976 version is set in Harlem, N.Y. in the 1950s, the 2012 version in an affluent area of Detroit, Mich. during the Motown era in the 1960s.  And the soundtrack, with the songs composed and produced by Curtis Mayfield, also included new music, much by R. Kelly, the executive music consultant. 
In the 2012 version, I did not know what to expect in terms of the performances of the two headliners, one’s first and the other’s final performance. “Sparkle” is the late Ms. Whitney Houston’s final film performance, and “American Idol” winner, Pop/R&B singer Jordin Sparks’ first performance in a lead role in a feature film. 
Houston, who died Feb. 11, 2012 at the age of 48, hasn’t been seen by audiences on the silver screen since her role as Julia Biggs in “The Preacher’s Wife” in 1996. For Houston fans, like me, “Sparkle” was to be the debut of her new life, so to speak.  To see her in her first scene in “Sparkle,” with rollers in her hair, a scarf tied around her head and in a robe and slippers opening the door to the bedroom of her daughters knowing they were up to shenanigans, made me gasp and say softly, “I miss you, Whitney.” Since her death, especially right afterwards, we have seen constant images of the multiple Grammy Award-winning artist and actress from her triumphant recording years, to images taken during her struggles with addiction. Seeing her in a film she was excited about and even serving as executive producer, was like seeing her without a filter of controversy.
She is convincing as Emma, a strong-willed religious single mother who wanted to steer her daughters in the right direction, keeping them away from the perils of the entertainment industry, ultimately not wanting them to make the same mistakes she did. Houston has “the look” down pat. As the daughter of a black mother, I know the look well; the look, which speaks volumes without saying a word. Houston is not in many scenes, though, the ones where she is present, she is dominant. There is a scene where she sings the Gospel hymn, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” in a church, in front of the altar looking radiant in a deep purple dress and short cape around her shoulders. Houston’s voice still sent chills down my spine. She sings, “I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free…” Bring a tissue for that.
Sparks portrays Sparkle, a shy songwriter who realizes she is a born performer. Her best scenes, where she appears most comfortable, are the musical numbers, and scenes dedicated to Sparkle's song writing. Sparks, who has a great voice, has more experience as a singer than an actress, so it will be interesting to see how she develops going forward with her onscreen career. Stix, "Sister and the Sister's" music manager and Sparkle's love interest is played by Derek Luke, well known for his role in "Antwone Fisher.” Luke adds genuineness to his character. He does well in making Stix very likable.
The performance by Carmen Ejogo as Sister is terrific; she kind of steals almost every scene she’s in. One of my favorite performances of Ejogo is as the late Mrs. Coretta Scott King, in HBO’s “Boycott.” It's so fascinating seeing her portray a completely opposite character.  She truly took this role, and played the heck out of it. Ejogo's Sister isn’t simply a typical “bad girl," but she gives her character depth. She's mesmerizing. A performance that surprised me, in a good way, is that of Mike Epps as Satin, Sister’s love interest, the conflicted comedian, with a dark, abusive side, which is not Epps’ usual type of role. This is a far stretch from Epps as Day-Day Jones in “Next Friday.” He does a good job.
The film also offers noteworthy performances by Tika Sumpter as Sparkle’s straight-laced no nonsense sister, Delores, and Omari Hardwick as Levi, who tries to win Sister’s love. The cutest scene between Sister and Levi is in a diner. You’ll see. And, Cee Lo Green makes an appearance in the beginning of the film as an entertainer named, Black, with waves in hair.
I enjoyed the film. It appears to be a production where everyone put in the effort, and put their best foot forward. From adding a different spin to the original story by Howard Rosenman, co-executive producer, (the 2012 screenplay is by Mara Brock Akil), to the wardrobe, cinematography, the performances of new and more seasoned actors, no one wanted this to be just another remake.
“Sparkle” (producers Debra Martin Chase, T.D. Jakes and Curits Wallace) will open in theaters nationwide Friday, Aug. 17.

Take a look at the trailer:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Society and Technology

I read an interesting blog post today by Dominic Basulto, "Are we building a techno dystopia?" in Washington Post's ideas@innovations. Basulto explores the phenomenon that as U.S. poverty rates continue to rise, most Americans, regardless of income status use advanced technologies.

Back in 2002, I was a writer for the technology section of Black Issues Book Review. In the section we focused on the use of the Internet in book publishing, which was a new frontier at the time.  For an article, I interviewed Alondra Nelson, then a graduate student in the American Studies Program at New York University, and co-editor of the anthology, "Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life." At the time, the Digital Divide was significant for many people of color who did not own PCs or have access to the Internet. The goal of "Technicolor" was to illustrate that although the Digital Divide existed, people of color still were innovative in other areas of technology.

Ten years later, the Digital Divide has narrowed. Basulto mentions in the blog this narrowing might be due to more affordable, accessible technology, like smartphones, yet the economic divide and the War on Poverty still exists.  He offered our society might be moving toward "techno dystopia," a term coined by science fiction writers in which he states, "...individuals find themselves marginalized and alienated from society at the same time that digital technology surrounds them."

Techo dystopia reminds me of the theory I studied as a Media Ecology student at NYU called “technological determinism,” which affirms technology steers the social structure and cultural values of society. In short, technology is inherently the dictator of human activity. Think Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," the creation taking over the creator.

One can argue that we've allowed technology, namely the Internet, to dictate our retreat from print publishing, for example. As someone who has worked in both book and newspaper publishing, I've seen and experienced the drastic change first-hand. However, I don't peg technology as negative. I like my smartphone.

What we need to do with digital technology is use it for what the primary purpose of all technology should be -- to make life better. Not better in the sense someone can have over 300 "friends", but for something like offering free-online classes on social entrepreneurship that can be accessible through a hand-held device.

In my opinion, social media is not really a social experience, it's a tool for sharing information, product promotion or self-promotion, which is why social entrepreneurship makes sense. Though, the War on Poverty in America needs to be fought from every angle. We also need to do what the editors of "Technicolor" did and focus on innovative technologies, other than the Internet that can produce job growth.


Friday, July 20, 2012

'Music From the Big House'

Award-winning Canadian blues singer Rita Chiarelli

Last night I attended a screening of Cache Film & Television’s “Music From the Big House” directed by Bruce McDonald, at Muvico Parisian 20 and IMAX at City Place in West Palm Beach.  It’s a documentary about a blues singer, known as "Canada’s Queen of Blues," Rita Chiarelli, who in her journey to find authentic blues music along Route 61, discovered it at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Many men there serving life sentences for crimes they committed at a young age, are participating in a music program and finding redemption.
The cinematography by Steve Cosens is very well-done. The film is shown in black and white, which Chiarelli, who spoke with us after the screening, shared was originally filmed in color, then the color removed. In my opinion, this gave the film the appearance of a sharp, crisp black and white photograph.
Chiarelli decided to perform with four of the musical groups formed in the prison touching the genres of country, R&B/Jazz, blues, and gospel. Many of the men were musicians, singers, even a former radio DJ, now only performing within the prison walls due to the violent crimes they committed.  
“In Louisiana state, life means life,” Chiarelli said. “The parole board can reduce the sentence, but that rarely happens.”
For peace of mind, many inmates turn to music and their spirituality. Music making has a long history at the once notorious penitentiary and former slave plantation, going back to the 1920s. Leadbelly was pardoned from there, for example.
The stories of those performing with Chiarelli, most appearing to be in their 40s and 50s, reflect their willingness to change. One inmate serving a 30-year sentence explained the positive change as a “moral maturity.”  He said they learned if you begin to make moral decisions you'll see your life change. Which made me think, would their lives, the lives of victims and the families of their victims be drastically different if someone cared enough to instill morality in them at an early age? Perhaps someone did, but poverty, racism, mental illness, drugs or alcohol were the deterrents. Or, maybe some were simply not good people.
An inmate named Ray, at the time of the filming, had been imprisoned 30 years serving out a life sentence for murder. He attributed drugs and alcohol to his downfall. During his time at Angola, he’s found Christ and a call to ministry. He runs the inmates law library, and is sort of a mentor to the inmates within his reach.

Chiarelli speaks with audience following the film.

“One good choice I made is Christ as my Lord and savior,” Ray said in the film. “Love, peace and joy, money can’t buy it.”
As you watch the documentary, it’s evident the faith Ray and many of the other inmates have found, as well as the ability to perform music, gives them hope each day, necessary to survive. But, the thought then quickly becomes, what about their victims?
You have to think about the victims, too, Chiarelli said. These men did commit crimes, forever changing the lives of the loved ones left behind. Though, she also added, there comes a time for forgiveness and keeping people angry and resentful at those who commit crimes affects all. For her, being a part of the film was a lesson in forgiveness.
After the film, myself and a few others talked with Chiarelli about how the men had potential for good in their youth. One women appearing in her 60s said she is the mother of three sons and expressed we need to care for boys, “…they’re a lot more fragile then we think,” she said.
Today I learn moviegoers in Aurora, Colo. attending a 12:05 a.m. showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” were either a witness or victim of murder at the hands of alleged 24-year-old gunman James Holmes, who I’m sure if convicted will face a life sentence.  Similar to how the men shown in “Music From the Big House” were in their 20s, morality isn’t a part of Holmes’ being. Will it ever be? Only God knows.
I do think “Music From the Big House” is effective in showing what can happen to criminals or anyone who ventures on a lengthy journey to redemption and a life of faith; young men are indeed fragile; and music has the ability to uplift, minister and heal, Chiarelli has a nice voice by the way. Though I believe we should see the humanity in all people, incidences like in Aurora, Colo. reinforce we should never forget about the victims. I’m leaning hard on my faith today, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families in Colorado.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pondering Posting Practices on Social Media

Your face could be in a photo gracing the page of someone's Facebook timeline right now and you don't even know it.  Depending upon the number of "Likes" or comments on the photo, your face could be a part of a popular item.  You could have social media celebrity status.
Think about it.  You attended an event where taking photos or video was allowed.  The person standing next to you, let's say on your right-hand side, is using their smartphone to take video of the happenings.  You're dancing or singing or clapping, or maybe even yawning if the event is boring.  The person turns to their left, still recording with their phone, and whatever you're doing at that very moment is being documented.  If he or she is a social media buff with an account and lots and lots of followers on YouTube, you will be in a video that becomes popular.

Verizon DJ booth at SunFest
(Yes, I asked if I could take his photo and use.)

Last month I attended SunFest in West Palm Beach, Fla., an annual celebration featuring national recording artists, a juried art show and lots of food.  Verizon had a DJ booth where contestants danced, and the audience favorite won a new smartphone.  My friend, Kyoto, had the guts to compete.  I knew I had to document this for her using my iPhone.  She along with five other contestants danced to a mix of songs and they were eliminated by round. 
Kyoto survived two rounds, and was eliminated. The final two contestants were a male, who looked to be in his late 20s and a young lady about 14 or 15-years-old.  The last song they battled to was "You Can't Touch This" by M.C. Hammer. Yes, old school music is essential in any dance-off. At this point, I was done recording, but turned the video option on my phone back on because the dude's dancing was hilarious. He truly thought he was dancing, while it just looked like he was trying to catch a beat.  He was the audience favorite and won a Verizon smartphone, I think due to sheer effort.
I was tempted to upload the short, 19-second video of the guy “dancing” on social media. But, I'm not his friend.  I don't know him at all.  So I'd be strictly laughing at him, not with him.  And, sharing the video clip would make others laugh at him, too. 

I decided not to share, even though he was in public and knew being recorded was a possibility, and someone else in the audience was most likely recording him at the same time. I think my choice not to post was a combination of what I learned in my ethics class in grad school, and my grandmother’s advice in the back my mind, “Baby, what goes around, comes around.” Maybe one day if someone I don’t know takes a goofy photo of me, they’ll decide not to post it.  Or, at least I’ll hopefully never know the photo exists.
Nowadays, it seems John and Jane Doe watching more than "Big Brother."  Does that mean we should walk around in fear of being someone's latest social media post?  No.  Does that mean you should be aware if you do anything remotely weird, crazy or are simply within range of someone’s smartphone or tablet PC, a photo or video with you in it can be shared with all inhabitants of earth who are plugged-in?  Yes.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Shopping With Dr. Oz in Mind

Yesterday I went with my mom to a health food market to find parsley tea because "it helps reduce inflammation," she tells me.
How does she know this? Well, Dr. Oz of course.  My mom, Sandra, along with millions of other Americans, watches "The Dr. Oz Show," the award-winning TV program of cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz.  Oz is also the director of New York-Presbyterian Hospital's Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program, a best-selling author and vice-chair and professor of surgery at Columbia University, a few of his many accomplishments.  On TV, he offers advice on everything from remedies for ailments to the types of foods that will slim your bottom.
When we found the aisle with herbal teas and asked the saleswoman to point out the parsley tea, she walked over to where it's kept, and the spot on the shelf was empty.
"Did Dr. Oz recommend this?" she said peering at us above her eye glasses.
"Yes!" my mom enthusiastically answered.
"Well, that's why we're out of it, for now," she said.
The expression on my mom's face kind of reminded me of mine when I buy raffle tickets at an event and later find out during the drawing that I missed the grand prize by only one number. Rats!
The saleswoman appeared to be a Dr. Oz skeptic as she encouraged my mom to use common sense when purchasing his recommendations.
While the saleswoman was talking, if a bubble could have appeared on the side of my mom's head with one of her thoughts, like in comic strips, it would have read, "You probably follow Dr. Oz's recommendations, too."
And that's just what my mom said to me as we left the aisle.  Yes, I know her well.
We wound up perusing another aisle with dried fruit and the tart dried cherries jumped out at me.  Why?  Two days prior I watched "The Dr. Oz Show" with my mom.  He took the cameras into his home to reveal his health secrets.  I remembered he said tart dried cherries are a good nighttime snack because it contains melatonin.
Wow.  I don't know Dr. Oz personally, but I don't think he's into mind control.  What then makes viewers retain his suggestions?  He appears to be that really, really sincere physician who genuinely cares about your well-being.  He's an affable, family man and seems to practice what he preaches.
In a time when there's rising costs in health care and health insurance, increased rates of diabetes and breast cancer cases and other diet related diseases, it's great many Americans are becoming proactive in maintaining good health.  Even if it makes Dr. Oz recommended items fly off the shelves.
My mom doesn't fill her kitchen cabinets with everything mentioned on the show, and does use common sense when purchasing.  She's a smart cookie, surviving a more than 30-year career in the U.S. Postal Service.  She actually keeps a notebook full of useful information learned from the show, and is able to discuss with her own doctor.  So the fact Dr. Oz is in a sense empowering or at least sharing information viewers might not have known, is a good thing.
Yes, my mom is a determined woman, so she'll go to another store to find the parsley tea.  I think I'll give the tart cherries a try.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Greenwich Village and '7 Years Underground'

Greenwich Village or what native New Yorkers call “the Village” is well-known for being the artistic hub of Lower Manhattan going back to the 1930s, and invigorated by the “Beat Movement” of the 1950s-1960s. To this day, from fashion to art to music, many current celebrities have gotten their start there.
I can remember in the mid-‘90s going to Café Wha? on Macdougal Street one night and seeing a comedian perform.  My friends and I never heard of him, but he was pretty funny.  When the film “Half Baked” came out in 1998, I realized that comedian was Dave Chappelle.  Years later as grad student at New York University, located in the Village, I would often sit in Washington Square Park and was inspired by music of a guitar player or an artist painting. Or, I’d be sitting on a bench next to someone practicing their lines and later find out they're a Broadway actor. Lots of interesting encounters. 
So when I perused the website of the 2012 Palm Beach International Film Festival, April 12-19, the feature film “7 Years Underground: A 60’s Tale” (2011) immediately interested me.  I caught a showing April 14 at the Muvico Parisian 20 theatre at CityPlace in West Palm Beach.  It’s a documentary by Jason M. Solomon about his parents Howard and Elly Solomon, who opened Café Au Go Go in 1964 at 152 Bleeker St., Greenwich Village -- a cabaret-style venue, not licensed to serve liquor. 
Through Solomon’s interviews with his mother, Elly, who definitely would win “The Coolest Mom Award” if one existed, and previously recorded interviews of his father, Howard, now deceased; the film offers that from 1964 to 1969 Café Au Go Go was the place where careers of musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, and comedians including George Carlin and Richard Pryor, were launched. The nightclub was also the site where then popular comedian Lenny Bruce performed and was later arrested and booked for obscenity charges, resulting in a landmark case. Though, competition from other up and coming nightclubs, which did sell liquor, eventually caused Café Au Go Go to close its doors. 
I really enjoyed looking at a slice of music history through the eyes of club owners that mingled with great performers who were then disenfranchised performers.  It was the 1960s when segregation was law in many parts of the country, yet watching the film it seemed like race wasn’t an issue in the community, which showcased performers from all different backgrounds in an underground place of creative solace.  There’s a part in the film where Elly Solomon addresses drug use, as drugs were abused rampantly by musicians during that time.  She discussed how she never allowed drugs into her club.  If the performers were using, it wasn’t under her watch, and would throw out anyone ever caught using.  A poignant story is when Solomon recalled being with Janis Joplin in her dressing room.  When Joplin changed her clothes, Solomon could see the track marks from intravenous drug use on Joplin’s arms.  Solomon lamented that performers like Joplin and Hendrix had tremendous talent, but had a deep struggle between their talent and the drugs. There are so many interesting anecdotes in this film, like the Solomon’s daughter recalling being babysat by Frank Zappa. Yeah, imagine that. Through photos and audio, you also take a look inside of the Solomon family life.  
I think anyone from a former “hippie” to someone like me who didn’t grow up in the era, would enjoy learning about those who have become icons in popular American culture. If you're in the area, there’s another showing of “7 Years Underground” at 8:30 p.m. April 17 at the Cobb Downtown theatre at the Gardens in Palm Beach Gardens.
Check out the trailer:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

African-American Film Festival in West Palm Beach Aims to Educate

The seventh annual African-American Film Festival at The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach begins at 7 p.m. March 22 and continues March 29 and April 5. James Drayton, founder and producer, has used the event to celebrate the arts by highlighting contemporary and classic films he believes effectively examine black history.
Read more of my article in The South Florida Times here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Music Industry: Your History Says, 'Say No to SOPA'

I remember as an adjunct instructor in 2007 in the Communications department at Indian River State College discussing with students the obscenity case in 1990 in Fort Lauderdale dealing with Skywalker Records and 2 Live Crew’s album "As Nasty As They Wanna Be.”   Judge Jose Gonzalez ruled the album obscene, and illegal to sell.  He ineffectively used the Miller test of obscenity to determine this.  Though in 1992, the United States Court of Appeals decided to reverse the decision.  The idea of censoring music in such a way was absurd to the 18 and 19-year-old students in my class.

Now, members of the music industry including organizations such as A2IM and the Recording Industry Association of America, an industry that condemns censorship, are in support of the proposed bills Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, and Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate. The purpose of both is to prevent piracy of copyrighted music, television shows and movies by websites hosted or registered outside the U.S.

How can an industry, which has a long history of fighting for its freedom of expression, now support cumbersome legislation to combat piracy, which could then censor the Internet?  That’s a total 180 degree turn in my opinion.

Copyright and trademark infringement online is terrible for industries trying to receive income for their creations; yes.  The Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act of The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 already holds Internet providers accountable for copyright infringement.  However, to want the government to ensure and impose now super-sized penalties for Internet service providers and advertisers is not a good strategy.  It's not realistic for the Internet provider to do all of the policing. Under SOPA, if there is a suspicion of piracy, what will most likely happen is the website will be blocked to U.S. users – guilty until proven innocent.  And, if innocent, by the time the site can recover, it will be irrelevant.

In a nod to themes of technological determinism, the Internet is a creative form of technology that has engulfed every aspect of life for advanced societies.  It’s too late to try and put it in a box and control how it evolves.  Of course, blatant online piracy and infringement should be dealt with, legally.  Though, in order to defeat pirates on their own playing field, we must invent solutions to make their pursuits irrelevant.  A lot has been done since the Napster case; the music industry has become proactive, has adapted and has not died.

These are the signs of the time.  Passing legislation such as SOPA and PIPA only puts a used Band-Aid that has lost its adhesiveness, on a matter that requires innovative surgery.