Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ode to Clint

There's a place where over educated 27 year old virgins and Hmong (the Hmong is a people group comprising people from China, Laos, and Thailand) gangbangers converge. Where a grumpy recently widowed veteran and an Asian immigrant trade chicken dumplings for tools. It isn't quite common to find a movie that beautifully and almost quite perfectly captures the essence of what it is to be American today. But far beyond that, there's also the beauty in capturing what it means to be human, to empathize, to show tremendous courage, qualities which we are made to believe are fast vanishing from our world. Hence, to visit that bygone era we go to the movies for there we hope to find dramatized the world as it should be or as it could be. Tonight, I went for more than that. I went out of respect for a man who has brought to the silver screen some movies that have changed the way I view motion pictures. I respect actors but I respect directors even more. For they have the responsibility of setting the tone for how the movie comes across. No one has done this more beautifully in the last few years than Clint Eastwood. I know there have been several great directors over the past few years but Mr. Eastwood's movies have had the greatest impact on me. First it was Mystic River, then Letters from Iwo Jima and tonight Gran Torino which arguably is the best movie I have seen in a long while.

I saw Mystic River almost four years after a college professor recommended it. If you haven't seen Mystic River then you perhaps may not understand why I think it's one of the finest movies ever. Set in Boston, the movie begins with three young boys trying to etch their names onto a freshly laid cement side walk. The first two finish without any incidence but as the last young man tries to he is stopped midway. He is abducted, molested and returned back to his neighborhood to fight the demons that never stop tormenting him. The three friends are brought together again by a murder that impacts them all. The acting in Mystic River is phenomenal but so also is Mr. Eastwood's performance as director. The scenes in the movie are woven into a fabric that tells a story that is compelling but also well connected. What's interesting about the movie is its ability to capture the city, weaving elements from the distinct accents to the actual Mystic River that the movie derives its title from. The movie is beautifully made. No scenes are wasted. It is compelling and very engaging, testament to a great director. Interpretation in a city such as Boston is easy, but creating a war movie is a different ball game as can be observed in Letters from Iwo Jima, but Mr. Eastwood pulls it off well.

Letters from Iwo Jima was poignant and very significant. It was significant because at the time we were and still remain a nation at war. War creates two kinds of people; us and them. This war was not any different. As Americans battled Japanese soldiers there was little room to see any common ties, all that existed beyond the front lines was the threat of danger the enemy presented. And just like any other war the goal was to destroy the enemy. The goal remained the same until a young American soldier is captured by a Japanese general. The general spares the life of this young man. However he later dies from the injuries he sustained. When he is searched the Japanese soldier find a letter written to him from his mother and realize that mother is the same in every language. I say this not so much in reference to the word mother but rather to the sentiment this word evokes. The love of a mother is universal and this movie builds on this theme in a subtle manner. It invites the viewers to consider for a second the enemy in a war. It makes the argument that the Iraqi and Afghan soldiers are just as human as Americans. They have mothers, sisters, wives, and cousins. Whether we agree with their cause or not they are fighting in a war to defend their country just like Americans. Mr. Eastwood's ability to show the human side of a war makes Letters from Iwo Jima the best war movie ever made. It's unlike other war movies because it's not just about a bunch or grenades and gun fire. It's about the beauty of being human in an environment where the essence of such is all but thwarted. This is what makes Mr. Eastwood one of the finest directors of our time.

I heard about Gran Torino three days before I saw it. Gran Torino seemed like an unlikely movie to watch on Christmas Day. A more obvious choice would have been some of the light hearted fodder about a dog and his master or an old man who becomes an infant. Set in Detroit, the movie manages to weave together as its themes the failing auto industry, immigration, gangs, friendship, courage, and death. If movie going America wanted a slice of patriotic pie a huge chunk was served by Mr. Eastwood. Scenes of a city on the verge of a breakdown were well woven with personal triumph and tragedy. In the movie, widower Mr. Walt Kowalski forms a friendhip with his young Hmong neighbor after the young man attempts to steal his Gran Torino as part of a gang initiaiton. The robbery is foiled, the Hmong family is humiliated and their young son is forced to work for Mr. Kowalski as his punishment. Mr. Kowalski is constantly irritated by his "Chinese" neighbors and wonders what they are doing in his neighborhood. It's ironical that Walt cannot stand his annoying neighbors forgetting that the name Kowalski doesn't hint at Irish or English ancestry. However, a few dumplings and beers later Mr. Kowalski is willing to let his guard down and show his human side. He mentors the young Hmong man, Tao and teaches him true courage, the kind that doesn't come from stealing or initiation to a gang. Gran Torino will resound with all Americans in a personal way. For new Americans it details the struggle most immigrant families are all too familiar with. For seasoned Americans - for we truly are all immigrants- its evokes the nostalgia of great American cities. With all the bad press the city of Detroit has suffered, first with Kwame Kilpatrick and then with the auto industry, Gran Torino is patriotism at its best.

Mr. Eastwood's movies have a common thread, they challenge us to embrace our humanity. But also, his movies inspire, evoke memories and importantly are just plain great movies. From Mystic River to Iwo Jima, Flags of our Fathers, Million Dollar Baby and now Gran Torino Mr. Eastwood has served up some of the greatest movies of this decade and has set the tone for what a great movie should aspire to be.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Barack the Abs

Not since a picture of a shirtless Vladimir Putin was published has the picture of a shirtless man caused as much a stir as that of Barack Obama's. The President Elect is currently on vacation with his family in Hawaii and a picture of Barack in his swimming trunks and sunglasses has been causing quite a sensation. I first saw the picture along with others of the Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and Obama's sister on a popular African-American gossip site. Then on AC 360 the pictures came up again. Currently, these pictures are on the cover of a few tabloids and all over blogosphere. What's interesting about these pictures is not just Barack barring his chest, but the celebrity of it all. The hounding of the Obamas by the paparazzi is akin to the treatment the likes of Britney Spears, Kanye West or Paris Hilton may get. Also, it's quite interesting how the photographer was able to get that close to the Obamas considering the level of security detail they have.

Whatever the case might be I really like this picture a lot. Despite his nicotine addiction, it's a known fact that Barack Obama is some thing of a health nut and his abs are proof that he's being hitting the gym and we can bet he'll put this same fervor to restoring the economy. Unfortunately, my favorite phrase lately has been "it's a recession jack," and no kidding it is! I went to the mall today and I was quite disappointed at how empty it was. But in the midst of it all, there is some measure of comfort knowing that just a little off the shores, there's a man with abs to put a college quarter back to shame and he'll soon be President. So I'm getting a new favorite phrase, "My President is blazing HOT!" He has the swagger and the abs to back up that new phrase. Further, he can give the entire cast of Bay Watch a run for their money and if that isn't reassuring I don't know what is.

So as you unwrap your presents tomorrow, do not be sad if you don't get what you hoped. In a shirtless Barack America got the best Christmas present anyone could ever ask for, at least I did!
With much gratitude I wish you all a Merry Christmas and don't forget to Barack the Abs!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Living in Reverse

I heart Charlie Rose. Some of the most inspiring conversations I've heard have come from the desk of Mr. Rose. I got to know Mr. Rose by accident. My mother was out garage sale shopping and brought back home a small, old wooden television set. It had all these interesting buttons and knobs and looked like something Archie Bunker would probably own, only that it was in color. The new television found a home in my room upstairs. We didn't get that many channels, but one of the few we had was Public Broadcasting Atlanta. Charlie came on at midnight and the first Charlie Rose Show I saw intrigued me. I loved his conversational style and for a long time I had a crush on Mr. Rose. I've always looked to Charlie as I fondly call him for inspiration and tonight was one of those nights.

I had just finished watching what I considered one of the best sports matches in all of history; Gentlemen's Final at Wimbledon 2008 between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It was the longest final in men's tennis. I was watching the match thinking about drive and dreams. Then I remembered an incident that happened last year. I was still living in Denver at the time and Barack Obama came to visit. He had only announced his decision to run for office a few weeks before and I was ecstatic when I heard he would be in town. To begin with, I shouldn't have been in Denver. It was spring break and I should have been back home but for the fact that plane ticket prices were sky high that time of the year. So there I was stuck in Denver when I got the invite.

I made sure I got to the venue early. I waited for so long to get into the hall that held a few hundred people. Once inside, I heard Barack speak about his plans for America and his vision of change. After he was done speaking he stayed for a while to shake hands with his supporters. Some lady behind me kept hounding me to shake his hand. I wanted to so badly but I was miles away from him. Long story short, I didn't get to shake his hand in the hall. I was pissed. I was really pissed. I had come with the intent of talking to him. I wanted to so badly. So, I sat down in a chair and watched the hall empty out. I was so angry I didn't push my way to the front of the crowd. Finally there were only a handful of people in the hall and my sulking was not helping my cause. The only bright moment in all my misery was when some lady admired my shoes. At least I thought, it wasn't all in vain.

When I realized that I wasn't going to meet Barack, I decided to head home. When I got out I noticed a small crowd gathering at the steps because supposedly, Barack was coming down to address them. I hung there for a while but then he never came. I then decided it was all a waste and started heading for my car. I planned to stop by Ben and Jerry's, at least I would be consoled there. On my way to the car I saw a black van in the alley. There was a small crowd as Barack was supposed to be getting into the car to perhaps head over to the airport. I still wanted to meet him so I hung around. As soon as I spotted him, I called him by his first name and he stopped and looked up. I broke past security and walked up to him to talk just like I knew him. I told him I had applied for an internship the previous year and let him know I supported his decision to run for office. However, what I really wanted to tell him was I wanted to work for his campaign. I wanted to hound him there and convince him to hire me but I never did.

It's been a while since that Sunday in March, but I haven't forgotten or forgiven myself for what I considered a missed opportunity. It is often said that in life we regret the things we did not do more than those we did. I wish I had asked him but I did not. Sometimes, I console myself by thinking he might have turned me down, but what if he did not? I have let the memory of that day haunt me more than should be legally allowed and tonight was another one of those days. Then I came upstairs to get over my misery and I turned on the television. It's a totally different house and television set, but I am still quite passionate about Public Broadcasting. First Tavis Smiley came on with Seal as his guest. They talked about everything and yes, about Barack Obama. Then Charlie came up next. His second guest was the famous editor behind several great books and memoirs including Bill Clinton's; Robert Gottlieb. Mr. Gottlieb said something that resonated with me tonight; "don't live in self reproach."

He made this remark when Charlie asked if he had any regrets. His view on life was that if you feel you've made a difference then self reproach should not be your companion. I am not as advanced in age as Mr. Gottlieb so I cannot evaluate the change or difference I've made. I am quite hard on myself and I'm sometimes not aware of my accomplishment so I allow myself to wallow in self reproach if only momentarily. I am not quite sure where I am going with this post but I remember telling my career counsellor that more than anything else I wanted to live a life with no regrets at the end of the day. So, for the things I haven't done there's so much I have. For the mountains I haven't climbed there are hills I have overcome. For the lands I have not seen there are others I have and I am truly thankful. It's the holiday season and Christmas inspires hope for hope dispels shame. I do not know why I did not engage Obama in what might have been the opportunity of a life time but opportunity only knocks once for those who think it does.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bringing His A-Game?

I have a love-hate relationship with Kanye West. He's one of the most acclaimed artists of this decade and ranks among the few in the industry who have made the transition from producer to singer successfully. I love Kanye as a performer, however most times I find him a lot unbearable. The first time I heard about Kanye West was shortly after he released his first single "Through the Wire." Then began a journey with this artist Kanye West. He was much hyped but he didn't translate the fervor in his music when he gave interviews. He seemed distant and perturbed. I really wasn't sold after the release of "College Dropout" so I didn't purchase the album. Besides, from the start of his career Mr. West seemed to be marred in a series of controversy. There was the Rolling Stone cover that was a play on his controversial song "Jesus Walk" that caused quite a stir and his misbehavior at concerts. Hence, from the start I got the impression of a border line sociopath who had some monsters underneath his bed.

Besides his tantrums, there was a lot to observe about Kanye. He had his own unique sense of style or you may call it non-style. Kanye's style did not necessarily pop. It was not that spectacular, but it was just Kanye. I remember trying to help my brother decide on a costume for a party and I suggested he go as Kanye. Back then, going as Kanye meant wearing a polo shirt and glasses that screamed "weirdo." The look did not really have a name. It was not laid back swagger or suave but when you saw it, you knew it. It didn't look as though he was trying. It looked effortless but it was painfully so. There are those artists who just have style. But in Kanye's case it was clear that it had taken some blood and tears to craft the persona that he wanted to convince people represented the guy spitting all these rhymes. He didn't look comfortable in his clothes or even his own skin.

That was the early Kanye. Over time though he evolved; regressively evolved if I must add. We got introduced to the spoiled kid who wanted everything and wouldn't take "no" for an answer. There was this brat who threw a fit every time his work was not recognized the way he wanted it to be. There's a lesson in this for most artists. That you think a work is your best doesn't mean the critics or your fan base needs to share your sentiment. Pushing an audience to agree with your work steals from true artistry. Let the work speak for itself. I've heard some artists talk about how a particular song on their album is their favorite. Then I listen to the song and I don't feel a thing. Then there are those songs I really do like. Kanye failed to understand this concept. His audience had to like him, had to celebrate every song even though they honestly considered it "crap." Kanye didn't want any dissidents. I couldn't stand his arrogance and his ego. In the black community image is everything and to be honest Kanye's attitude wasn't a good look. He was always running off at the mouth and talking sideways. He deserved everything. He deserved to have every accolade because in his words no award show was authentic or valid if Kanye did not receive an award. Added to his arrogance was all the MySpace drama with his soror sister girlfriend and their ensuing ugly break-up.

Kanye only started to grow on me after the release of Graduation. I heard "Can't tell me Nothing," and became a believer. Then came "Stronger," and I was sold. I bought the album and played it over and over. My favorites on the album though are "Champion" and "Everything I Am." When tickets for the "Glow in the Dark" tour went on sale my siblings and I bought them. We payed a good bit for them but they were worth every dime. Although the concert showed Kanye at his best, it was a dark, dark concert. The tour coincided with his mother's passing and he could not pull himself from the abyss he had fallen in since she died. Kanye performed solo for almost an hour and then was joined on stage by Lupe Fiasco for the last song. Honestly, I expected Kanye to do something sinister after his mother passed. That he didn't was and still remains shocking. I always said back then that there were only two people in Kanye's world; Kanye and Donda. I didn't think he loved any one outside of himself and Mother Dearest. I really felt so much for him and I always wish she hadn't died the way she did. I don't know if Kanye is ever going to fully recover from his mother's passing except if he finds God. However, I rarely hear Kanye talk about God or about the "Universe" like some other people I know.

Now Kanye seems to be moving on. At least he's talking and that might be a good sign. He's always talked so no big surprise there but now he's talking about his Mother. There's something else he's talking about, his break up with his fiance, not the soror sister but Alexis Phifer. I can't imagine what must have happened in their relationship but his latest album "808s and Heartbreak" speaks volumes. I feel sorry for Kanye West a lot of the time. It's sad because Kanye doesn't seem like the kind who likes to be pitied. But you've got to feel bad for a guy who seems like he's had some bad breaks. He has admitted that he's suicidal, has a porn addiction, and God knows what else.

I hear now that Kanye is trying to intern for Louis Vuitton. It's ironic because Marc Jacobs is also a major designer for the label. It's kind of interesting how Louis Vuitton seems to attract these troubled men. It's likely that both men may never work together but the irony of it all is hard to gloss over. Every time I read an article about Marc Jacobs I cringe at how disturbed he is. There's always all this talk about his struggle with addiction and his loss of zest for life. Kanye comes across as a young Marc. When March Jacobs pens "A Letter to his Younger Self," he'll be speaking to Kanye. It can be argued that both men have different backgrounds, yet they're so alike. 2009 will be an interesting year for Kanye West. At least if not for anything, he'll finally evolve into his stylish self. I am already starting to see signs based on the picture above. When I saw the picture I noticed the oversized bow-tie first and knew we were on to something. Finally, Kanye may be coming into his own.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Kids Say The Darndest Things

I've spent a great deal of time working with children. Its work I enjoy because children are so innocent and unassuming. Oftentimes, I've heard some very funny things. On some ocassions though I've heard some not so colorful things and wanted to bury my head in the sand like an ostrich. I can recall those moments so vividly when the child starts to speak and in a few seconds, Mom and Dad's secrets are not so secret anymore. It's easy to excuse 4 year olds, but what do you do when an 18 year old kid says the darndest thing?

Not too long ago kid rapper Soulja Boy gave a shout out to the Slave Masters. He thanked them because without them he would still be in Africa without diamonds and tattoos. When I heard I was in shock. It was by far the dumbest thing I had ever heard. He had nothing on Theo Huxtable really. It's like Steven Spielberg or Elie Wiesel thanking Adolf Hitler for the Holocaust. Had it not been for Hitler, Spielberg would not have won an Oscar and Wiesel wouldn't have had a chance to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The gross ignorance behind Soulja Boy's comment is disappointing but expected. I didn't expect much from a young boy who sang about dousing and super soaking so called "hos" with God knows what.

What's even sad is the air time the Soulja Boy song received. Everyone was trying to do the Soulja Boy just like they are Beyonce's Single Ladies. Barney, Dora the Explorer and even Winnie the Pooh were all manipulated. I have always screened the songs I listen to and refuse to listen to what I consider rubbish. I respect a lot of artists even though I may not agree with their lyrics. Hustle and Flow which is one of my favorite movies gave me a new found respect for these artists. I admire the work they put into their craft and their drive to succeed. They sell their grandmama's trinket and their Uncle's sofa. There is no cost too great to pay all for the price of fame. Nonetheless, I still refuse to listen to what I consider classless stupidity, even if you had to sell your kidney. So, at first I thought the Soulja Boy song was a joke until I sat down to really listen to the lyrics of the song.

I can imagine being thankful for education, a working democracy, responsive government...but come on, diamonds and tattoos? There is a lot wrong with the mind of an individual who would hail a system that was cruel and inhuman. I don't know which is worse though, Soulja Boy hailing the Slave Masters or some of the songs Plies and the likes of him put on our airwaves. We cannot regulate speech. Doing so would be UnAmerican. However, we can demand responsible behavior from celebrities because they are unfortunately "role models." God forbid that Soulja Boy or Lil' Wayne be any young child's role model. That would be utterly tragic.

So, earlier this week with a smirk on his face Soulja Boy made a public apology for any offensive statements he may have made. It's almost Christmas and those albums have to get out as stocking stuffers. Don't worry about his remarks, Soulja Boy is just a kid who thought out loud in real time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shoes Over Baghdad

"Don't pull the thang out, unless you plan to bang, Bombs over Baghdad. Don't even bang unless you plan to hit something...Bombs over Baghdad."


I remember the days leading up to the war in Iraq. It was in the fall of 2003. I was a junior. My political science professor at the time made us write papers supporting our views on the preemptive attack on Iraq. I opposed the war in Iraq. I opposed it because I did not believe that the United States should be the world police or in the case of Iraq some sort of moral police. I read every article the New York Times published in the days leading up to the first strikes. I kept every newspaper copy. I didn't want to be anti-war just because. I wanted to have the facts. I did my research and I was convinced that Iraq did not have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. Hence, no amount of yelling and fist thumping by Colin Powell or Bush mispronouncing the word "nuclear" was going to convince me otherwise. The International Atomic and Energy Agency was already on the ground and I almost wished that the IAEA would be allowed to do their job without interference and that a war would be avoided. The Iraqi people had already endured enough cruel sanctions they needn't be punished any more. That we were on the verge of another Gulf War was to say the least unsettling.

If Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons it was not the duty of the United States to make him give them up or in this case show where he "hid" them. He did not invent nuclear weapons. They had existed since the United States chose to use them on unsuspecting Japanese civilians. There was no moral police to stop the United States. So bombs fell over Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Then the United States decided that they were an evil, these bombs were. Hence, they had to be owned only by governments who would have the wisdom to know when to use them, like there ever was or would be a time to do so. The United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and a few others could have them. But Saddam couldn't. What deprivation! Other countries seeing this felt like kids in a candy store who could have a taffy but not the candied apple. No fair!

I turned in my paper just in time to go hear the Emory Symphony Orchestra play. It was the last concert for the year. I remember that moment as I sat in the Symphony Hall and the sounds of the strings filled the hall. It was so poignant. The next day, bombs fell over Baghdad. It was clear that the invasion had occurred and we were a nation at war. Then the news was filled with the escapades of Chemical Ali and the Hussein children. Politicians in Washington threw punches and at dinner tables and diners all across the nation people debated for hours the rationale behind the invasion. I heard all kinds of theories about the war. The clergy had their theory. Southern Confederate loyalists and liberals took their jab. Then, it was Sunday morning and in came the news that Saddam had been captured. But the war had not ended, was not ending. Then there was a farewell tour and shoes were hurled.

It's 2011, and perhaps the war is "over" in Iraq. So what's next...a Marshall Plan of some sort? Remember the final scene from Charlie Wilson's War? Afghans and Americans battle invasion from the Soviet Union in the movie which is based on a true story. The Soviet Union is defeated and the invasion is stalled. In the end, Mr. Wilson tries to negotiate for some money to build a school for the Afghan children. There had to be some surplus for this was a costly effort. See, billions of dollars had been spent fueling a war but in the end, the United States government did not have a mere million dollars to open up a school. It was too damn expensive and strictly not part of the budget. But the bombs that fell were.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Do convicted criminals deserve a second chance? I've been thinking about this particular issue for a while. I felt so strongly about convicts and the prison system after the murders of three members of singer Jennifer Hudson's family. The accused killer William Balfour had just completed a 7 year sentence for attempted murder, car-jacking, and stolen property charges in 2006. He had only been out for a short while and still on probation when he befriended and married Jennifer's sister Julia. I am not quite concerned about Julia Hudson's poor choice in a husband. I have talked about that topic endlessly and my conclusion was she chose to marry him because men of his sort were familiar. She probably didn't know any better. Her Myspace page which remained public days after the murders showed her to be a deeply disturbed individual who probably had identity issues. However, Julia Hudson is a story for another day.

Around the same time period as the Hudson murders, another somewhat D-List celebrity was in the news; Lyfe Jennings. Lyfe Jennings born Chester Jennings is currently facing two felony and three misdemeanor charges after leading police on a high speed chase on October 19. It is alleged that after having an altercation with the mother of his children, Jennings jumped into his car inebriated and led police on a chase that would result in him crashing his car. Now Jennings' stage name "Lyfe" is somewhat awkward. It is rumored that the name came about after he served a ten year felony arson sentence. Serving ten years seemed like a life time hence the nickname. Nonetheless, after his release and sudden rise to fame as a singer, I thought Jennings had changed his ways. His songs although somewhat preachy at times gave us a glimpse into the soul of a reformed man. So what happened on that fateful night? Unless the charges against Jennings are either dropped or reduced another stay in a state run facility is definitely in his future.

Then how about the Paper Trail man? I can't deny T.I? He's from my adopted home town. Everyone loves the "Rubber Band Man." He put Bank Head Highway on the map. Even my Mom thinks T.I is cute. My good friend who is a die hard neo-soul fan recently confessed that she can't get T.I's latest song "Anything you like" out of her head. For some reason she said she just can't stop singing the song. Despite T.I's so called swagger and the love the A town has for him he has not had a clean past. T.I has a litany of charges and run-ins with the law to his name. He has violated his parole in the past, has numerous arrest records in Georgia, and has earned a reputation as a drug dealer. Then it all seemed like he had an epiphany. He came clean from his drug-related past, cut some records settled into family life with his long time girlfriend and it seemed the king of Bank Head Highway was done with his soiled past. All was going well until Ashton Kutcher decided to Punk T.I. Who would have thought that Kutcher's Punk'd scene would play out in real life a few years later? Unable to leave his past behind, T.I. is about to return to an all too familiar place to serve a sentence for trying to purchase firearms with silencers a few hours before he was scheduled to perform at the 2007 BET Awards. T.I is a true Atalian [pronounced A-T-Alian (an urban slang for a true bred Atlanta native)] in every sense of the word and our city wishes him well.

Then how about Orenthal James Simpson? Oh I forgot! He was never arrested the first time. The second arrest however if I must comment is just a simple hoax and a joke to punish him for escaping the penitentiary for the murders of his wife and her friend.

But seriously, what should be done about people who break the law? Do they deserve a second chance? If you are a serious fan of A&E's "First 48" you will understand where I am coming from. The show chronicles the first 48 hours after a homicide is reported. Everything happens in real time. There are no simulations. The cameras keep rolling from when the body is found until the crime is solved. Sometimes it's solved other times the criminal is not brought to justice. However, if you are a fan of the show you'll concur that 95% of the time the assailant is usually someone who has a long history of past crimes. I remember watching a show from Miami last week. The guy who was a person of interest in a particular homicide had over 20 pages of past criminal records. Most of the criminals on the show and in our streets fit this same profile. Somehow, the system fails to punish them effectively the first time. As a result, they fall through the cracks and become miscreants in society and commit even worse crimes second time around. If they're convicted for attempted murder the first time, the next time it's homicide.

The prison system in the United States has earned the reputation as the go to place for people who disturb the peace. Should the prison system be more than a holding place? Why do certain individuals commit worse crimes after serving a sentence? Do they learn the new behavior while incarcerated or do they commit these new crimes because they are thrown out of the prison into a system that cringes at the mention of the word "convict?" I have not had the chance to interact with an ex-con on a personal level but I would like to at some point, not romantically though! I want to hear first hand the experiences of living in a United States prison. There are all these stories of torture, abuse, and molestation in the prisons. Most prison cells have a hierarchical system I've been told. It's like the jungle and survival is not guaranteed. Those who make it do so after under going a selection process that weeds out "sissies," making sure only the strong survive. The strong come out with vengeance in their hearts and a desire to beat their first record. Then there are some who return because once they are out they find reintegration a daunting task. They've been gone for so long and the prison cells are familiar. They can't find gainful employment and long for the meals and camaraderie of jail. But, there are others who come out reformed. They become religious while in jail and even manage to get some form of education. Regardless of the state of former convicts I believe there is still general consensus that the judicial system in this country is broken.

The coming year promises to be a year of change. Change was the operative word for the Barack Obama campaign and hopefully will be so during the Obama White House years. If our prison systems do not reform convicted criminals it might be time for alternatives. Guantanamo Bay is not the only broken facility. There are several others here on American soil that need to be closed or closely monitored. President-elect Barack Obama's background in the Law is quite reassuring, so also is his experience as a professor of Constitutional Law. Our judicial system needs to be overhauled from the way we make arrests to how we sentence so called convicts. The system has so many flaws the biggest being the fact that it is not color blind. Further, not everyone in jail needs to be there. We have a looming problem, it is more than celebrity convicts who don't have the common sense to stay out of trouble, although they were good for illustrative reasons. It involves promising minorities who are in jail because they live on the wrong side of town or are just out of luck! However you see it, we have a problem on our hands that needs urgent attention.