Sunday, November 15, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Only Champions Understand that Look


Photograph courtesy of the Kanye blog.

Harriet Project's Top Ten Destinations for 2010

1. New Year's Eve, South Beach, January 1
The numero uno spot for 2010 belongs to the New Year's Eve celebration going down in South Beach. What better way to bring in the New Year than with great music, good drinks, and festive people? The night will be filled with open bars, champagne toasts and celebrity hosts. Maxim magazine rates Miami as the number one party city and certainly the place to be to bring in the next decades in the new millenium. Miami is giving a party so large that clubs in South Beach actually have a website with a ticker counting down to the new year. The parties are going to be hosted by some of Miami's hottest party spots, including Mansion, Set, Louis, Cameo, and Wall. To find out more about the hottest party for NYE visit South Beach's own countdown to party website here.

2. Passion :: Twenty-Ten, Atlanta Georgia, Philips Arena and Georgia World Congress Center, January 2-5
But the party doesn't have to end in Miami does it? The next top destination for the new year is the Passion 2010 conference sponsored by Louis Giglio and the Passion Network. The Passion Network and Louis Giglio exist for one reason; to spread the fame and the name of the only one who matters the most, God. If you've ever visited 7:22, the mega Bible study of almost three thousand young adults that was initially at North Point Community Church and then finally at the Buckhead Church, you'll understand why this event must be tagged in your PDA or marked on your calendar under "must attend." Louis will be speaking and he always has a fresh word from God. Never stale. He's like the guy next door who wants to draw you into an intimate relationship with the Master. Registration for the event starts at $179 through December 1, 2009 but will be $209 at the door. The speakers and performers besides the inspiring Louis Giglio are Matt Redman, John Piper, Charlie Hall, Chris Tomlin, Andy Stanley, Fee, Francis Chan, and Beth Moore amongst others. Information about Louis Giglio and the Passion Network can be found by visiting their website.

3. Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah, January 21-31
One of my all time favorite film festivals rolls through Utah, for an exciting eleven days. For anyone who's about as crazy about indie films and great movies and documentaries, Sundance is the place to be. Think about Sundance as not just a place to peruse what movies might be contenders for awards and such, but see it as a prelude to fashion week. Sundance is the place to strut glamourous boots and those furs that will certainly drive PETA wild. The line up for the movies that will be showcased will be launched in December, so keep checking their website for more updates.

4. Mercedes Benz Fall Fashion Week, New York, February 11-18
For those still recovering from spring fashion week, there's more to drool over as fall fashion week takes over Bryant Park for one week plus a day. The line up as always is very exciting and promises to deliver on what trends will be hot in the fall of twenty-ten. At spring fashion week just a weeks ago, the hottest accesory of course was the Amber Rose, something Kanye West wears frequently like an amulet. Hopefully, Amber will be there to spice things up again under the tents come February. The line up of designers has not been published yet, however, registration for the event begins December 7th.

5. 82nd Academy Awards, Los Angeles, March 7
Next year, the Oscars will be moving to March instead of late February, to avoid competing for ratings with the Winter Olympics taking place in Vancouver. The hosts for the awards ceremony will be Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Although Baldwin and Martin make a remarkable comedic team, they score low marks on the sex appeal radar and pale in comparison to the previous host, the uber sexy Aussie, Hugh Jackman. Nonetheless, the hopefuls in all categories will be fierce. So far, the pictures generating tremendous Oscar buzz are Lee Daniel's movie "Precious" starring Monique, Gabourey Sidibe, Paula Patton, and Mariah Carey. Other notable mentions include Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," The Princess and the Frog, Public Enemies, The Lovely Bones, Up, A Serious Man, Amelia, Coraline, Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces," and the Clint Eastwood epic about Nelson Mandela starring Morgan Freeman. The Oscars are my favorite award and I can't wait until I actually make it to the red carpet at the Kodak Theatre.

6. SXSW 2010, Austin, Texas, March 12-21
The biggest media event comes to honky tonk country, Texas! South by Southwest rocked the socks off Austin this year and 2010 will be no exception. The buzz generated by the event this year was incredible. The performances and the showcases were top notch. Southwest is the ultimate destination to showcase music, films, and other interactive media. If I don't make it to any other event, I need to make it to SXSW 2010.

7. Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, Kentucky, May 1
There's nothing like the Derby to bring out the belle in any well heeled southern lady. The Derby has become more than about horse races. The races while exhilarating are secondary. The fashion at the Derby takes the cake. The outfits are glamourous and the hats well perched atop the heads of the ladies are even more glamourous. The history of the Derby is quite interesting and worth studying for anyone interested in horses and horse racing. The Derby opens the triple crown series. Following on the heels of the Derby come the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. The book "Black Beauty" made me an avid horse lover. I may not make it to the Derby next year, but when I do make it to the Derby I will go in grand style.

8. World Cup, South Africa, June 11-July 11
Ole, ole, ole, ole...
Leave it to FIFA and the South Africans to throw the largest party of the summer. From Polokwane, to Durban, to Capetown, football teams from all over the world will vie for the World Cup title. The last title was taken home by the French, led by their captain Zinedine Zidane. Zidane, unfortunately received a red card after the bull type head butt, marking a sad end to what should have been a joyous moment. Hopefully, the event next year will be incident free. For those heading down to Zululand for the event, there's more than football to look forward to. There are great resorts, delectable food, amazing sights, great music, and an exciting night scene. But don't forget to be on your guard as the crime rate in South Africa is at an all time high and poverty is rife. Also, prepare to be shocked by the juxtaposition of great wealth against the poor shanty towns; the unfortunate legacy of apartheid. Either way, get some boboti, great South African local brew, and some grilled zebra and oh, practice the Mexican wave before you leave.

9. U.S. Open, Flushing Meadows, New York, Late Summer
Three words: Must for tennis lunatics. No, that was four words.

10. Atlanta Half Marathon, Thanksgiving Day, 2010
Nikes, check. Gatorade, check, Meet me at the finish line. 13.1 miles and yes, I'll kick ass.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Understanding Fort Hood

Deconstructing the shooting that occurred earlier today in Fort Hood Texas involves a lot. Was this a case of abuse of Second Amendment Rights, Jihad, untreated post traumatic stress disorder or just a case of outright brutality? Although the details of the shooting are still hazy, the known facts are that the primary perpetrator Nidal Malik Hasan a military psychiatrist walked into a readiness facility and opened fire, killing 11 and injuring 31 people. Hasan who was born and raised in Virginia is the son of Palestinian immigrants. From what is known, Hasan was a devout Muslim who embraced Islam after the passing of both his parents.

The ramifications of the attack are especially grave for Muslims living in the United States. Since the attacks on Manhattan on September 11, 2001, the discussion over whether moderate Islam exists has consumed the media and everyday folk in the United States. While it is still unclear if Hasan's motives were motivated by a Jihadist mentality, the fact still remains that he is a Muslim and this alone will lead many to conclusions that may not be altogether accurate. When the name of the killer got into the hands of reporters on Fox news, a comment was made about how the name of the killer explains a lot. Do actions of people like Hasan and Osama bin Laden decry the truth of moderate Islam, or should they be viewed as sociopaths like Timothy McVeigh and Eric Klebold. Either way, the issue of gun laws and gun control come into play, but who would consider gun laws for those who know all too well the danger of firearm abuse?

One thing is certain though, the mentality of shooting sprees is slowly becoming as American as McDonalds. Divorce, anger, betrayal, unemployment...open fire in public spaces and kill en masse. There is no other developed country that has the rate of homicide due to gun violence that comes close to that of the United States. Our culture has slowly become obsesively trigger happy and it doesn't seem like any action is been taken. Isn't it ironic that for a country where little boys are not allowed to paly with toy guns, there is so much gun violence? Just a thought, but if little American boys are allowed to play with toy guns will they be less obssessed with them as adults? Let's think about gun violence and our Second Amendment rights a little more. The killings are senseless and we do not need any more bloodbaths.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fame Kills: We Were Once a Fairytale



So yes, fame does indeed kill. I have a lot of thoughts on this video, Spike Jonze's directing, and Kanye's crazy antics. But for now, I'll let them stew. To watch the video, click here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Oslo's Ambivalent Bequest


A day can make a difference. President Barack Obama is no stranger to this cliché. This past year has brought about interesting episodes in his life. However, all such occurrences have not been complete surprises. When he won several key primaries, it came as no surprise. When he clinched the Democratic nomination, it perhaps was not much of a surprise either. Even the Presidency I doubt was a surprise. After a few key states closed their polling stations and the votes were tallied, it was pretty obvious that he had won the Presidency, and by a wide margin.

However, nothing could have prepared the President for the news he received this morning, that he had won the coveted and extremely prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Obama is the fourth American President to win the award. Other Presidents who have been thus honored include Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter, Carter having received the award years after he left office. Obama not only joins the ranks of American Presidents who have received this award, but also enters an exclusive club that boasts members from the Dalai Lama to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

Founded in 1901 by Alfred Nobel, the prize awards men and women across the globe for outstanding contributions to physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for works in peace. Alfred Nobel whose riches came primarily from oil left much of his wealth to the establishment of the prize. While he lived, Nobel was an accomplished scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, author, and pacifist. The prize over the years has gone to several men and women for outstanding contributions that run the gamut from creating the Grameen Bank to improving empirical economic analysis.

Invitations for nominations are sent to previous Nobel Prize winners, individuals in academia, scientists, and members of Parliament from different countries. The nominators are chosen so that the nominees are from a varied pool, representing as many countries and universities as possible. Obama was selected as winner from a pool of 205 names that included 33 organizations. The names of nominees are kept secret and it will not be known whom the President was up against until 2059.

The reaction of the White House to Obama’s win was one of shock. The White House staff admits that the news was initially received as a joke; an Ashton Kutcher type stunt. However, it seems that a few phone calls might have confirmed that the President was not about to be Punk’d, and that he had indeed won the prize.

Upon hearing that the President had won, the most popular question that followed was “for what?” This question asked by numerous Americans will be visited countless times over the next couple of days and for several years to come.
The President’s win is severely premature. This is not intended to suggest that he is not deserving of the award or that he could never win the award. For the feats he has accomplished, there is no question that given a few years he would merit the prize, but coming at this time, it is unquestionably rash and could perhaps create for the President an ideal to which he will be forced to live up to. President Obama clearly has no fault in being chosen for the award just like Taylor Swift couldn’t help that she won the award for best video. He perhaps is just about as shocked as the rest of the world.

However, it is safe to conclude that for all the President embodies, the nominators and the committee should have exercised better judgment in making their selection. Information on the website of the Nobel Prize notes that Obama was awarded the Prize for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people. It is unfair to trivialize his win, but when held against other winners like Dr. King or Mother Teresa, it seems as though the committee may have unfairly passed up individuals or organizations that have labored in very convincing ways for peace.

The President’s speeches in Germany, Cairo and Turkey were inspiring, but rhetoric should not be the basis for the selection. Dr. King gave speeches but his speeches were backed by marches, imprisonment, and his willingness to die for the cause. Elie Wiesel was interned in a concentration camp and watched his family die. Rhetoric therefore cannot be a measure for determining eligibility; it takes away from the effort of individuals and groups for whom the win was about more than that. Could it be that the Committee were under the spell of what the popular media has labeled as the Obama star power and wanted to buy into sensationalism of some sort?

Despite, the reasons the committee will put forward, I have not seen Americans so polarized on an issue since Bush decided to declare war on Iraq. The rhetoric from the right has been loaded with vitriol. Rush Limbaugh criticized the President as though he were responsible for the nomination or had bribed the committee to earn the award. On his popular radio talk show, Limbaugh noted that Obama is “not only the nation’s post racial President but is also the nation’s post accomplishment President.” He went further to assert that the win was a greater embarrassment than the United States losing the Olympic bid.

The reason the United States is where she is today is because the country has embraced democracy and other such freedoms. Dissent is good. Healthy discourse is great. However, dissent that is loaded with vitriol and hate, the like that spews from individuals such as Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Michael Steele do not have a place in a democracy. Their comments are the fuel that power hate groups. Regardless of how Limbaugh’s comments are analyzed, it is clear that his rhetoric is laced with hate and reminiscent of white supremacist group type monologue.

That the news of the win was greeted more favorably abroad than it was domestically is not an indictment of the President, but rather is only a testament to how human are apt to act, embracing the other and turning away from self. While it is laudatory that the President won, the award is certainly too much too soon. The risk of the award is that the President may be lampooned and severely so if he fails to live up to the expectations the prize puts on him. In his speech today at the White House he was quick to note that the prize was given for inherent potential and not so much his present accomplishments. The debates over Afghanistan this week and the Saturday Night Live skit are just a glimpse into how vindictive society can be.

Hopefully, as much as this is a great honor for the President and a testament to what potential he has in creating an atmosphere that tends towards peace, the President will be better served by remembering this day as Bo’s birthday and preparing for the three day weekend his daughters have.

The world is becoming increasingly complex even though it seems technology may have made it simpler. Peace is not about what electrons flow where or about forecasting and prose, it’s about the deep ravine that is the human mind. Capable of selfless acts and at the same time able to scheme mass genocides and holocausts. This is the Prize Obama has just been awarded. Making man think in ways that tend him toward been benevolent with a hint of great pacifism. Unlike past winners who may choose to bask in their accomplishments because their work speaks for them, the President has his work cut out for him and will have to work twice as hard to prove that he does indeed merit the prize.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What is Amber Rose?


Mercedes Benz Fashion Week kicks off next week with the Michael Angel show. The fashion will be hot but the accessories will be even hotter. The most talked about accessory will be Amber Rose. The tall female with the blonde buzz cut will be the boldest piece that will furnish Kanye West’s look this fall. With boobs hanging out and her pout polished a dark shade of crimson, Rose will take the place of the Jesus necklace.

Just a few months ago, Rose was a little known bi-sexual stripper and exotic dancer. Her credits before meeting West included appearances in some music videos and a gynecological spread she did for Smooth magazine. By her account she met West after she was hired to appear in one of his videos. The two developed a bond over the course of the shoot and that bond has been nurtured into a relationship.

At first, Rose seemed like a joke, another of West’s publicity stunts, one of his incessant failed attempt at attention. Then he took her to the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute Gala. That was a big deal. Is Rose West’s muse; his little human mannequin that he could exert over and dress up like a little Bratz doll? Perhaps she dresses herself up, but she so expertly channels the bane of West’s ideals.

She’s been referred to as an android from outer space and by other not-so-flattering adjectives, but whatever the case, it seems like Rose’s fifteen minutes just started and could probably be extending into an hour of pained fame whoring.

Rose is certainly a hip-hop fairy tale. Kanye, modern day fairy godmother. How does one go from being a dancer at Delilah’s Den, a famous strip club, to the arm of West? Not that West is celestial that a girl like Rose cannot desire or have him or vice-versa, but she gives new life to the hundreds of opportunists who are looking to score an athlete or entertainer and squeeze out a celebrity offspring.

Like her lover, Amber has a penchant for outlandish clothes. She’s been spotted wearing leopard print leggings, extremely short shorts, Doc Martens, and her signature dark glasses. But she went the clothing optional route this summer when she showed up on a beach in Miami naked save for the barely there thongs she had on.

By all accounts, Rose is a fame whore. While she sunbathed topless on the beach, her beau West was fully clad in clothes. As Rose tried different poses for her adoring fans and the paparazzi West doled out scowls and gave the finger to a camera hugging human at some point.

According to Wikipedia, the south Philadelphia born Rose is of Italian-American and Cape Verdean heritage. A mutt, that is right up West's alley. Finally his fantasies have caught up with him and he truly is now living his dreams. His incessant chatter about his obsession with pornography has finally turned into reality. This accessory seems to think she is a porn star.

Rose is a departure from West’s previous public relationships, the first with Brooke Crittendon, which supposedly ended over a botched MySpace war and the most recent with Alexis Phifer, the designer to whom he was briefly engaged.

Rose breaks the mold, not just in her personality but also in her appearance. She is a stark departure from what had seemed to be West’s preference for darker skinned moderately tame women. Rose has got both bite and bark in her and she's been vocal about whom or what she is. Never shying away from the camera, Rose might be what Kanye always wanted but was afraid to go after.

Could Mommy Dearest’s presence have been a deterrent? Without doubt, because it seems unlikely that Kanye would have brought anyone the likes of Rose around his mother while she still lived. Yeah, it’s old news that she is probably rolling in her grave, but Rose could care less, this is the stage she’s always wanted.

Is Rose just a fad or has she come to stay?

Might Rose become a classic like Ray-Ban wayfarers or is she going to take on the quality of those pesky colorful resin jewelry that never just seem right. Always tacky and overdone. Or will she become a refreshing staple that never goes out of style?

She is fun to watch because she keeps her look interesting. She is also raw and speaks her mind (when she does speak), a marked departure from most fame whores who often come off as robotic, constantly looking for the always elusive right words. West too doesn’t seem to care about public opinion anymore. It’s as though he’s found his soul mate in Rose. She is his fashion equivalent and seems to be just as brash as he is.

Paradoxically, Rose is one of those girls that West can’t stop singing about. The gold digger girls who ride on the coattails of athletes and singer types like West, riding them into fame and fortune. Already, Rose has scored a modeling contract by association and who knows what else she has planned to get out of the relationship before it’s all over, if ever. West’s always been prophetic, he foretold the coming of Rose, review his lyrics for his anthem Gold Digger, or better yet those for Stronger:

Heard they’d do anything for a Klondike
Well I’d do anything for a blond dyke
And she’ll do anything for the limelight
And we’ll do anything when the time’s right

So the time’s probably right, for West has scored his blond whatever she is. Rose is loving the limelight, and could care less. The rest of the world can jump off a cliff. West’s loving it and doesn’t give a damn.

Photograph courtesy of Complex Magazine

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Come out and play in New Orleans...?





This week marks the fourth anniversary since the great deluge reduced New Orleans from the diadem of the Gulf to the shame of a nation. Katrina did not only destroy New Orleans and especially the Ninth Ward, it did far more. It exposed the recesses of this country that we’d rather hide; the dark corners we like to forget do exist. I still remember the day the levees broke. From my apartment in Denver, I watched as news coverage showed the water levels rising until the entire Ninth Ward and most of the city was under several feet of water.

My first thoughts went to the White House. Where was the President? In days following the incidence, I had to debate staunch Bush supporters who told me it was in the best interest of the nation that the President did not come on the scene immediately. There would be too much at stake if he did. There was too much at stake for George W. Bush to visit and stand in solidarity with the people of New Orleans, but there wasn’t much at stake for the hundreds of New Orleanians who were crouched in attics, on rooftops and in the Super Dome.

In the final weeks of August 2005, Hurricane Katrina a Category 5 storm battered the Gulf Coast of the United States. The devastation that followed led several to conclude that the Hurricane was the worse natural disaster that had ever occurred in the United States. The tragedy was not in the hurricane that destroyed millions of homes and shattered many lives, the tragedy was in the response and recovery that followed in the aftermath. Why were the residents of the city not evacuated quickly or at all and why was the response poorly executed?

In retrospect, it’s easy to dismiss the dismal response with the excuse that it was an incidence out of the ordinary. Modern day Americans had never witnessed such a bizarre occurrence. Fires, bombings, shootings, but not hurricanes. Certainly not a disaster in a poor city. What if the Upper East Side in New York City got flooded? Or maybe Georgetown? Would the response have been any different? There are still many questions swirling about why New Orleaneans were left to die. Was it because the majority of the victims were poor blacks? Did authorities assume that poor blacks were used to hardship and would know what to do?

Obviously, the aftermath and the death toll showed that poor black Americans in the city of New Orleans did not know what to do. Although footage from the deluge would show an America that in many ways resembled Haiti more that the United States, the victims were every inch as American as residents of San Diego. For one thing, this was a case in point of underdevelopment in a developed country. There was no difference between New Orleans and developing countries mired in squalor, save for running water and electricity. The residents of New Orleans were poor, mostly uneducated, riddled with terminal and long term debilitating and chronic illnesses, they battled sexually transmitted diseases, they confronted drug and alcohol abuse on a level that was unprecedented in most parts of the country.

How did New Orleans get to become the armpit of the United States? How did neglect and social vices find a haven in the city of New Orleans? How did New Orleanians fall through the cracks? The history of the city will point to the present but it does not sufficiently explain the "how" or answer the "why."

The response has been criticized. FEMA has been scorned. Michael Brown has stepped down but the questions still echo. Questions of abandonment, assisted suicide at Memorial Medical Center, those trailers, the thousands of FEMA dollars that were doled out; some of the monies going to imposters who did not suffer any loss or damage. Then we wonder why there’s a recession. Were the Levees bombed to save Uptown, does George Bush not care about black people like Kanye West suggested, was the Hurricane an act of a just God, punishing a sinful city?

While these questions go unanswered or only partially so, Katrina certainly was a wakeup call to the fact that America is far from the promise of liberty and justice for all. The Hurricane showed that there’s a lot wrong with this country than corrupt politicians and banks. New Orleans is a development crisis. America’s dirty little secret. Sure the Hurricane unwittingly was a blessing. Go ask Anderson Cooper or some journalists at the Times-Picayune or Mayor Nagin, whose fortunes were set by the misfortunes of others, although unintentionally.

The city is still in ruins, partially rebuilt. The New Orleanians are in other cities, some vowing never to return. For most there’s not much to come back to. But that little city that sits below sea level must be rebuilt, must be preserved. If there’s one lesson to be learned from all this, it’s that New Orleanians are Americans too, although some Americans are more equal than others.

But, New Orleans is America, in a very un-American way. There is a quality to the city that is idyllic and quaint. New Orleans is not your average Chicago or your Portland. New Orleans is beignets, costumes and parades, crawfish and andouille. New Orleans is Canal Street, and Tulane. New Orleans is beads, and roux. New Orleans is not your average city. Perhaps New Orleans is your chocolate city or New Orleans is dirty politicking. But New Orleans is not New York. New Orleans is big band and second line; New Orleans is parasols and voodoo. New Orleans is…But New Orleans will never be the same again.

Photographs by Bruce Weber for W Magazine

Kennedy Family Patriarch Dies


Ted Kennedy, the patriarch of the Kennedy family has died. He died in his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts after a lengthy battle with a malignant brain tumor. He will be fondly remembered for the indelible mark he left on American politics. He died fighting until the end and was indeed one of those rare individuals who truly embodied the American spirit. He was 77.

For all his accomplishments, Ted Kennedy battled so many demons. He battled an alcohol addiction and was a rabid womanizer. His flaws severely detracted from his many talents and often cost him dearly. Nonetheless, he was driven not so much by political ambition, but rather by the desire to be a good man and a great American. His cancer diagnosis did not prevent him from making his presence felt, especially on the issue of health care. His death is bittersweet, coming at this juncture in history, where health care has taken center stage in a period the outcome of which could change the landscape of this nation for a long time.

Ted’s health scare, the tumor, was made public in May of 2008 after doctors discovered an inoperable tumor in his brain. Despite the prognosis and the advice that he received from his doctors, Ted still sought out help and insisted on under going and operation at Duke Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Although the surgery was successful, Ted’s prognosis remained grim. He would endure chemotherapy after the surgery, which was quite inconsequential.

Managing to remain in the public eye, Ted’s most recent appearance was at the signing of a health care bill named in the honor of his family. In spite of his privilege, he struggled for the down trodden and fought bravely for equality for all. His desire was to see healthcare become a right and not a privilege. He called his ardent struggle for affordable healthcare for all the “cause of my life.”

Ted’s presence in the Senate will be greatly missed, after 46 years of service on the floor. His service puts him in the ranks as one the longest serving Senator in the history of the United States, his tenure rivaled by that of Strom Thurmond from South Carolina and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia.

Like his brothers John and Robert, Ted had tried to win the presidency, but his bid was colored by what came to be known as the Chappaquiddick incidence, where Ted fled the scene of an accident. He had been driving a car that had swerved and fallen into a lake with his brother, Robert’s aide, the 28 year-old Mary Jo, Kopechne strapped inside. Ted failed to report the incident to the police until several hours had elapsed. The accident raised many questions and also raised the issue of privilege considering Ted got a mere slap on the wrist.

His poor judgment in the matter led many to question his character. He would pay dearly for the infraction, losing his bid for the presidency to fellow Democrat Jimmy Carter. Had Ted won his party’s nomination, it is almost certain that he would have won the presidency and perhaps might have changed the landscape of American history.

Born Edward Moore Kennedy on February 22, 1932 in Brookline, Massachusetts to John P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald, Ted was the last of nine children and the fourth son. He was born into a family where talk of political ambition and power dominated and into the affluence and trappings of what would become known as the “Kennedy curse.” His parents were influential Irish Roman Catholics whose stake in American politics bequeathed their children the wings and roots necessary for pursuit of whatever political office they desired both in the state of Massachusetts and in the nation’s capital. Ted attended Harvard College and the University of Virginia School of Law. He fathered three children, Kara Anne Kennedy, Edward Moore Kennedy, and John Patrick Kennedy, products of his first marriage to socialite Virginia Joan Kennedy. The marriage ended in divorce. Kennedy then married Washington lawyer Victoria Reggie Kennedy who is often credited with bringing stability to his life.

At the Democratic National Convention last August in Denver, Colorado, Ted made a surprise appearance and gave a speech that electrified the crowd. Following an introduction by his niece Caroline Kennedy, he gave a speech that was reminiscent of one he had given several years ago at the Democratic Convention in 1980. His speech was significant because he was passing on the torch to Barack Obama, a civil rights victory, and a testament to the Act his brother John had signed several years before. But importantly, Obama embodied the charm and the essence of Camelot and can be described as the last of the Kennedy brothers.

Though living to old age, Ted’s life was often peppered with tragedy. He had to endure the death of his eldest brother Jack, who died in a plane crash, and then the assassinations of his brothers, John and Robert. Ted had his own brush with death on several occasions, managing to escape a drowning accident and then a plane crash that left him with a bad back that forced to walk with a gait. The untimely death of his brothers would spur Ted into the role of patriarch, as he became a surrogate father to his numerous nieces and nephews.

Known for being polarizing at times, Kennedy was often known to work across party lines, making friends of foes and brokering deals that were in the best interest of the nation. He battled a host of demons that included womanizing, alcoholism, weight problems and several health challenges. His final demon was his battle with the tumor that sought to snuff out his life. For all his demons, Ted did achieve over his brothers, for he lived to old age, a feat that his brothers Jack, John, and Robert never accomplished. He not only outlive his brothers, but unfortunately attended the funerals of a number of nieces and nephews, including that of the prince of Camelot, his nephew, John F. Kennedy Jr.

John M. Broder writes: “Teddy was the youngest, the little bear whom everyone cuddled, whom no one took seriously and from whom little was expected. He reluctantly and at times awkwardly carried the Kennedy standard, with all it implied and all it required. And yet, some scholars contend, he may have proved himself the most worthy.”

Norman J. Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute writes: “He was a quintessential Kennedy, in the sense that he had all the warts as well as all the charisma and a lot of the strengths…If his father, Joe, had surveyed, from an early age up to the time of his death, all of his children, his sons in particular, and asked to rank them on talents, effectiveness, likelihood to have an impact on the world, Ted would have been a very poor fourth. Joe, John, Bobby ... Ted.”

For all his imperfections, Ted was a fighter and a survivor. He managed to escape the Kennedy curse, dying from what kills even the best of us: cancer. He did not die in a plane crash like his brother Jack or even like his sister Kathleen. He managed to escape the assassin’s bullet that felled his brothers John and Robert and lived to be an old man. He is indeed in the words of President Barack Obama, "the greatest Senator of our time." He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered as the great American who died fighting.

Photograph courtesy of The Huffington Post.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Georgia Implants

I've been flirting with the idea of short stories lately. So here's one...

The bus drove by the stadium swiftly. Brent looked out of the window, fighting the urge to press his lips against the glass. He had done so many times in his Grandpa’s truck, for which he received a thrashing each time. He picked up the book he had been reading and opened to the middle, staring vaguely at the pages. He looked out of the window a second time, and let his nose touch the warm glass lightly at first, then he pressed his lips against the glass. His face was against the glass when he saw the girl from his class. He retreated, hoping she hadn’t recognized him. He let his head fall back quickly and snapped his book shut.

As the bus rolled on, he looked at his reflection in the glass. His brown hair stuck limply to his forehead. His hair was wiry and dry, and now his perspiration made it limp and stringy. In the seventh grade, he shaved his hair, but then his teeth stood out. Then in the eight grade, Alfonso told him that if he tried to kiss a girl, her tongue would get caught between his teeth. Either that, or his teeth would rip her tongue. Hamidou once told him that he didn’t have good white boy hair. Good hair was Patrick Dempsey’s, Hamidou explained.

Brent didn’t know he had bad teeth, until the summer he got sent to Albany. It was the summer he turned six. The kids told him he looked like an aardvark. Some said a hare. Others said a gorilla. His upper jaw stuck out. It seemed as though an invisible force was pulling his upper jaw forward, causing his teeth to spread out like the prongs of a rake. His lower jaw was constantly playing catch up and failing miserably.

When the bus pulled to the front of his dorm, he picked his book bag and prepared to get off. He walked across the lawn quickly, kicking a stray pinecone in his path. He went into his room and threw his book bag on the bed. He took off his hoodie and grabbed the first shirt his eyes fell on. He held the shirt to his nose for a little while. No matter how many times he ran it through the washer, it still had his smell. He opened the refrigerator and reached for a ham and cheese snack. He took off the packaging, wrapped the pastry in a paper napkin and put it in the microwave. He almost felt like he could predict what the pastries contained by pressing them. He had eaten enough frozen pastry snacks to feed his entire dorm at least three time over.

He pulled out his chair and sat in it upright. He reached for his notebook and began reading his notes, circling every other word. He read the first page and then flipped over to the next page. He read quickly and was on the last page of notes when he heard the key turn in the lock. Etienne walked in. His voice loud as he talked on the phone in heavily accented English. Etienne gave Brent a heavy pat on the back as he walked by him. He put his books on his desk, picked up the remote control and turned on the television as walked over to the refrigerator. He returned with a soda can and a paper plate wrapped in foil. As he struggled with the foil wrapper, grains of rice fell freely to the floor. He dropped the plate on his chair, picked up the soda can and tried to open it. The top of the can broke off and the phone fell from where it had been lodged between his ear and shoulder.

“Damn, soda. Damn American soda, why can’t they sell it in a bottle?” He hissed loudly.

He picked up the phone and spoke into it. The other end was silent. He flung the phone on the bed carelessly, walking toward the sink, soda can in hand. He reached for a spoon and used the end to punch a hole through the top of the can, spilling the soda on the floor.

“Man, I’m just tired. I didn’t eat any breakfast this morning. No lunch too. I’m just really hungry man, really, really, hungry,” he said.

He took a long swig from the can before setting it on the desk. He reached for the foil-covered plate, this time peeling the layers of foil gently. He took off the last roll of foil, crumpled it into a ball and tossed it into the trashcan. He warmed the food in the microwave and began stuffing his mouth with the spicy jollof rice and oxtail. Afterwards, he picked up the remote control and began flipping through the channels, settling on the local news.

“What’s that you’re watching?” Brent asked finally.

“Nothing man, just the news. Let’s see whose house got burned in Athens today or who stole their grandma’s cigarettes,” Etienne joked.

Brent laughed nervously and turned around to pick up his notebook. He pretended to study for a few minutes.
“So, when are you leaving for Cameroon?” Brent asked.

“Oh, three days before Christmas,” Etienne replied, with a stuffed mouth. “I want to spend sometime with my aunty in Douglasville. My cousins are coming into town and I want to see them before I leave for home” he continued.

“Cool.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be coming home with me this holiday?”

“Am I…?”

“Trust me my mother won’t be serving grilled monkey this Christmas, we eat chicken during the holidays.”

“I don’t mind trying monkey, really. I heard it’s flavorful…I saw it on PBS.”

“Oh, I was just pulling your legs, I’ve never tasted monkey meat…”

“I’m sorry Etienne.”

“That’s alright, so when are you moving your stuff out of this place?”

“I’ll move the last day of class, I think I’ll just go back home and hang for a while until I hear back from Wal-Mart.”

“Wow, man with your degree, Wal-Mart?”

“Yeah, I’ll take whatever and then find something else. The economy is still shitty, I’ll be lucky if Wal-Mart even calls me back.”
“Dieu d’Abraham.”

“What was that?”

“Oh nothing, I just said ‘God of Abraham.’ My grandmother used to say that a lot.”

“Okay.”

“Alright, I think I’ll take a short nap. If you’re awake, wake me up at 8:00pm.”

“Sure.”

Brent settled back into his chair and turned on his laptop. The screen lit up slowly. He spent half his life watching Japanese anime. When he wasn’t in class, he was either studying in his room or watching anime. He got up and took out another frozen snack from the freezer. It was a broccoli and cheese pastry. He wrapped the pastry in a paper towel and set the microwave timer for six minutes. He liked when the broccoli was limp and dark. It was easier to chew. When the timer went off, he got the snack out of the oven and bit the edge of the crust. He heard a sound and looked over his shoulder. Etienne had rolled over and now lay in the bed with his feet planted, while his knees pointed up to the ceiling. Brent reminded himself to wake Etienne up at 7:45pm. It usually took at least twenty minutes to rouse him from sleep. Early in the semester, Etienne overslept and missed a biology lab examination. That was the day they had their first argument. After that argument, Brent always made sure to start the process of waking Etienne minutes ahead of time.

---

Etienne was the first roommate Brent got along with. Brent had spent the last three years in the same dorm, in the same room. The roommates came and went, each worse than the last. In his junior year, his roommate was Obadiah Durbin, a sophomore from Ludowici. Obadiah made sense of the world only as it applied to football. He had come to Georgia just for football. Everything else was secondary. He described colors using the names of school. Apples weren’t just red, they were Georgia red. Salmon was Gator orange. His life revolved around football and sex. Obadiah wasn’t particularly attractive or bright but very out going. He was the poster child for small town celebrity gone wild.

Brent’s freshman roommate was Tanner Pierce from South Carolina. Tanner got to the room first and picked the bed by the window. He was the first person Brent had ever seen apply shaving cream with a brush. Tanner had rows of brightly colored shirts, each shirt had a logo of a lamb hanging from a ribbon. Brent couldn’t remember where he had seen that logo, but it looked familiar. Tanner was patronizing. He considered Brent stupid and perhaps inbred. He rarely spoke to Brent, and when he did he stared at Brent’s teeth, as though he was talking to them.

In Brent’s sophomore year, it was some kid from Pakistan, Sulman. Brent and Sulman never spoke. Sulman had a habit of leaving his shoes by the door. By the end of the first week, he had four shoes by the door. Brent arranged the shoes back in Sulman’s closet. When Sulman returned, he put the shoes by the door. Thus began the silent ritual. Sulman left the shoes by the door and Brent put them back in the closet. They were the perfect odd couple. They just came and went like zombies unaware of the other.

Brent met Etienne during the African Students Association sponsored event; Africa Week. Etienne was standing outside the Student Center passing out flyers for an event. Etienne stopped Brent as he walked by and convinced him to come to a panel discussion the next day. At the event, there were only two white kids in the audience besides Brent. The girl had a piece of African fabric wrapped around her waist over her jeans. She perfectly channeled the typical returning Peace Corps volunteer and seemed to be the “Africa” expert. When she spoke about white people, she didn’t say “we,” instead she said “they.” Brent was astonished, she had said she was from Virginia. The other white kid was a boy from South Africa.

The following day, Brent ran into Etienne at the library and mumbled some words about how informative the discussion had been.

“Do you have a Facebook account?” Etienne asked, falling in step with Brent.

“No, I don’t,” Brent replied.

“No Facebook? How do you keep in touch?”

It was hard understanding Etienne because of his thick French accent. Brent listened and nodded even when he didn’t understand what Etienne was saying. Etienne talked and laughed a lot. He didn’t care that he had an accent. He made American friends because he wanted his English to improve. Brent still had not found a roommate for the fall and Etienne wanted an American roommate.

Etienne went back to Douala for the summer. Brent sent him messages on Facebook. At the end of the summer, Brent had only forty-three Facebook friends compared to the almost nine hundred Etienne had. Brent still didn’t have a profile picture and his Facebook friends were mostly his cousins and random kids from high school. Etienne was Brent’s only Facebook friend from college.

---

At 7:45pm, Brent walked over to Etienne’s bed and shook him lightly.

“Wake up,” Brent said, standing over Etienne.

Etienne turned over lazily.

“Is it eight yet?” He asked.

“Will be when you get out of bed,” Brent replied.

Etienne understood Brent’s routine.

“Okay, let me sleep for five more minutes, please,” he begged.

“If you go back to sleep, you’ll be sleeping until tomorrow,” Brent replied.

“Please, just five minutes.”

Brent turned away and headed for his chair. As he sat down, a knock came at the door.
He walked up to the door and looked through the peephole. Etienne’s friends were at the door. He opened the door and Hamidou and Emmanuel walked in, talking loudly.

Emmanuel was Nigerian and had perfected his American accent. Hamidou was a freshman from Senegal.

“Etienne, wake up, sleeping like a pregnant woman,” Hamidou said walking over to where Etienne lay.

Etienne gave Hamidou the finger and turned to face the wall. Emmanuel pulled up Etienne’s chair and sat in it.

Hamidou grabbed Etienne’s comforter and yanked it off his body.

“Etienne, stop this bullshit and wake up man, you’ve got all night to sleep,” Hamidou said loudly.

Etienne finally sat up in bed his comforter pulled up to his knees.

“What’s going on?” Emmanuel asked reverting to his Nigerian accent.

“Nothing much man, just trying to get some sleep. I didn’t sleep last night, studying for that stupid Organic Chemistry test,” Etienne replied.

“Oh, thank God I don’t have to deal with that,” Emmanuel laughed. “All you Africans want to be doctors.”

“Man, I can’t come to America to learn business. I gotta do something profitable. There are hundreds of successful business men in Douala who never saw a classroom, but there are no Douala doctors who never went to med school,” Etienne replied, looking serious.

Hamidou and Brent laughed at the same time.

“Do Cameroonian witch doctors go to school?” Emmanuel asked.

“Man, they go to the one that’s greater than school, Douala witch doctors don’t play,” Etienne responded.

“Is witchcraft real… I mean is it real?” Brent asked, with restrained excitement.

Hamidou looked at Etienne and they both burst out laughing at the same time.

Etienne started to say something but couldn’t for the laughter that now shook his body.

“Witchcraft is real. It happens everywhere,” Hamidou finally said.

“But have you seen it happen?” Brent asked.

“I mean I guess American witchcraft is different, but in Africa, witchcraft is no joke. Witch doctors do all sorts of things. They make amulets, provide fertility potions, they can turn…I mean they do everything. They can cure illness, make money…” Hamidou continued.

“Really?” Brent asked a look of comical surprise on his face.

“Seeing is believing. When you see a witch you’ll believe,” Emmanuel added.

“But how can you believe in witchcraft? That’s just dumb,” Brent argued.

“Americans believe in Santa Claus and fairies. Fairies are emissaries of witches, does that make them dumb? How about Harry Potter? Isn’t he a wizard?” Emmanuel asked.

“Well, that ‘s all make believe. It’s entertainment,” Brent continued.

“Oh really,” Emmanuel said, his voice rising. “So, American witches are now special or what?” He asked a look of sarcasm on his face.

“Damn you and those teeth,” Emmanuel continued.

“Damn you too,” Brent yelled.

“Alright, it’s too late for all this, break this up, at least neither of you has seen a witch for real,” Etienne said. “Brent, common it’s alright,” he added.

“Your white boy is getting red,” Hamidou laughed.

“What did you just say?” Brent asked furiously.

“He didn’t say anything,” Etienne replied quickly, coming to Hamidou’s defense.

“So, when are you buying your ticket?” Etienne asked Hamidou.

“Ticket for what?” Hamidou replied.

“Dummy, world cup,” Etienne replied. “We have to buy them at the same time so we can get on the same flight,” he continued.
“Either that, or whoever gets to Johannesburg first will have to wait at the airport for the rest,” Hamidou added.
“I am not doing that waiting deal,” Emmanuel replied.

Hamidou looked at Etienne and motioned towards Brent. He didn’t want to speak French so Brent wouldn’t get suspicious.
“Hey Brent, do you want to come with us to South Africa?” Etienne asked.

Brent was hesitant for a while. He was still sulking and was upset with Etienne for not defending him against Emmanuel.
“I’ll think about it,” he mumbled, his face glued to his laptop screen.

“You should come with us, it’ll be fun. We can go on a Safari afterwards, go to Robben Island…” Emmanuel added.
Brent pretended not to hear and continued watching his movie.

Etienne looked in Emmanuel’s direction and made eye contact, pointing his head in Brent’s direction. Emmanuel got up and walked over to Brent and held out his hand. Brent looked aside at first until Hamidou prodded him. Finally, he got up and took Emmanuel’s hand in his. Emmanuel grasp was firm. He pulled Brent in, patting him on the back.

“How much is the ticket to Johannesburg?” Brent asked as Emmanuel walked away.

“Right now, it’s about $2,100,” Hamidou responded.

“I don’t know if I can make it. I don’t have that kind of money. I don’t even have a passport.” Brent replied.

“It’s that pricey with a major airline, it should be cheaper if you search other outlets, say $1,600. You can come up with that right?” Hamidou asked.

“Not really,” Brent replied.

Etienne got off his bed and walked over to his desk. He got his Biology textbook and headed back for his bed. He sat down and opened the book, signaling that the night was over. Emmanuel got up and headed for the door, Hamidou trailing him.
When Hamidou and Emmanuel left Etienne shut his textbook.

“How about the money for your implants?” He asked Brent.

“I can’t spend that money, I need to get my implants next year. I’m starting a new job and I might meet someone. I also need to move to Atlanta. I can’t go back to Dawson.” Brent said.

“But you don’t know if you even have the job yet. Come with us to South Africa. It’s going to be amazing. Just us guys. You can route your flight through Cameroon so you can meet my family. The trip won’t cost that much. We can travel with Pavle, the white South African. Remember him? You already interviewed without implants, it won’t make much of a difference if you begin the job without them,” Etienne said.

“I really want to transform myself next year. I’m graduating in two months, the first in my family to do so. Getting out of Dawson, implants, a girl on the side…”

“Skip the implants and take the trip of a lifetime. You’ve never even been to New York!”

“I really need to fix my teeth.”

At 11:00pm Brent turned off his laptop and crawled into bed. Etienne got out his Organic Chemistry notes and began flipping through. He wanted to cover four chapters before going to bed. He stretched and looked over to where Brent lay asleep. He felt sorry for him. In four years in college, Brent had almost no friends and had never had a girlfriend. The last time he took Brent downtown Athens with some friends, Brent sat down at the end of the bar, looking into his drink, avoiding conversation. Living with Brent this past semester had helped him improve his accent and English. Brent talked and laughed around him but was moody and withdrawn around other people. Etienne looked away and shook his head. He felt like he had tried to get Brent to come out of his shell. In December Brent would be on his own navigating life solo. Brent had done more in Athens these last few months than he had done since his freshman year.

---

Brent got back from class exhausted. He had been thinking hard all day. He wanted to go to South Africa with Etienne and the other guys but he wanted to fix his teeth. He had saved the money, working hard at the library, but he had never left the country. He didn’t care for soccer that much but he wanted to go to Africa with Etienne. He would not only be the first to go to college, but the first to travel overseas. He figured he could save up more money to fix his teeth before he traveled in the summer. If he did.

He turned on his laptop as he nursed a pepperoni snack in his hand. He reclined his chair while the computer booted, chewing noisily on his snack. He sat back up in a few minutes wiping both palms down the front of his pants. Etienne and the others bought their tickets the previous week. They pleaded with him to come but he was adamant. Now, Brent took a deep breath and began searching for flights. He only had $2,000 in savings and the flights he found were unaffordable, so he finally decided to do a random search. The words almost jumped in his face. CHEAP TICKETS TO AFRICA. He clicked on the link nervously, trying to contain his excitement. . There were price listings to almost every country in Africa, and an offer to Johannesburg for $1,300. He figured he could use the extra $700 to get an apartment in January until his first paycheck came in. He sent an email to the travel agent and the reply came almost at once advising him to send the money by Western Union.
The next morning, Brent woke up with anticipation and left the room in a rush without breakfast. The ticket prices were subject to change and he didn’t want to take the chance.

On Thursday, the ticket came. It was the day before Brent’s big exam. He had spent the entire night studying for his final. He pulled out the envelope from his mailbox and stuck it in the middle of a notebook in his bag. He was going to let Etienne open the envelope. As he waited for the bus he looked around. For the first time, he noticed a name that was etched into the oak tree that shaded the bus stop. He noticed that the roots of the tree had almost displaced the black wrought iron fence. He noticed the beautiful spires the fence ended in, for the first time.

When Brent walked into the room, Etienne was sitting at the edge of the bed talking on the phone. His voice was soft and feathery. Brent guessed it was Georgette, Etienne’s girlfriend on the other end of the phone. When Etienne got off the phone, Brent handed him the brown envelope.

“What’s inside?” Etienne asked.

“Turn it over,” Brent said, almost giggling.

Etienne turned the envelope over and mouthed the words, “Blessed Travel Agency, Salina KS. KS?”

“That’s Kansas. KS,” Brent replied. Etienne carefully opened the envelope and pulled the ticket out.

“Johannesburg?” he screamed out. “Man so you’re coming right? Sweet. How much did you pay?”
“Only $1,300,” Brent replied.

“That’s crazy,“ Etienne said, grabbing Brent’s shoulder.

Etienne looked down at the ticket one more time. When he looked up, Brent knew something was wrong.
“Why is the travel date for twenty-eleven?” Etienne asked.

Brent snatched the ticket out of Etienne’s hand. The travel dates were indeed for twenty-eleven.

“I told him twenty ten,” he cried in horror. “I told the damned fool twenty-ten. What part of twenty-ten didn’t he understand?”

“It’s alright, calm down and call him,” Etienne suggested.

Brent raced for his laptop and sent the travel agent an email.

“He replies rather quickly,” Brent said as he tapped the table nervously.

“Hit refresh,” Etienne said.

Brent obeyed, his hands shaking as he did.

A new unread email was at the top of the list. The subject read, “ALL SALES ARE FINAL.” Etienne clicked on the message, it contained no text.

“Call the agent,” Etienne said, his voice rising.

“I can’t,” Brent said softly, fighting back tears. “They don’t have a number listed.”

Etienne picked up the envelope and looked at the postage stamp. The letter was mailed from Houston. He put the envelope on the desk and let his hand rest on Brent’s shoulder.

On Friday, Wal-Mart called. Brent did not get the job. He did not go for his final. As he lay in bed, he let the tears fall. He had not cried since his Aunt Sally died. His life was supposed to begin in twenty-ten. New job, South Africa, and his new teeth. As he cried, he sucked in air between his teeth.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Word du Jour: Sotomayor

Today, Sonia Sotomayor made history, becoming the first Latina to be confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Following the hearings held a few weeks ago, she was confirmed by a bipartisan vote of 68-31, becoming the third woman to grace the bench. With the announcement for her nomination coinciding with the annual Scripps National Spelling held in Washington D.C., it was only expected to imagine what the candidates and the rest of the nation would make of the word, "Sotomayor."

Born on June 25, 1954 to Puerto Rican immigrants, Sotomayor rose from the projects of Bronx, New York, living in a single parent home headed by her mother, after her father died when she was only nine. Following his passing, her mother raised Sonia and her brother, Juan, seeking out educational opportunities for them and for herself. Her mother would study to become a nurse while Sotomayor's pursuit of educational excellence would lead her first to Princeton University and then to Yale Law School where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Review. Her brother would go on to become a physician and medical professor.

The Sotomayor's meteoric rise amid hard times and obstacles in many ways mirrors that of the Robinson family. The Robinsons like the Sotomayors raised their children, Michelle and Craig, giving them the foundation that would steer them both towards Princeton University and then Harvard Law School for Michelle Obama. The story of these two families merging at this confluence in history is a reminder that there is no substitute for hard work and that perseverance always leads to success in the end.

When Sotomayor is sworn into office, she will replace the retired Justice David Souter who stepped down after nineteen years on the bench. Sotomayor's appointment is indeed significant not just because she is a female, but especially because she is a minority and Latina. Sotomayor has been championed by Latinas all over the United States who have given her almost unanimous support. Hence, it will be interesting to note the effects if any that her appointment will have on Latino consciousness in the United States.

Latinos are increasing becoming the biggest minority group in the United States, but their growth has not come with much success in the public arena. Latinos are still under represented in educational institutions and in public office. However, they have become and economic force to reckon with, as well as major players with respect to increasing crime rates and social vices in most major urban cities. The rate of Latino incarceration is increasing as more young Latino males and females participate in gang activity and crime.

Will Sotomayor's appointment to office awaken the Latino consciousness and steer most inner city Latinos who would otherwise be given to crime in a positive direction?

It is without doubt that when push comes to shove, Justice Sotomayor will side with Latinos, but will her presence be a force enough to bring about a positive influence? Now, this raises questions of bias as it relates to the law. We are constantly reminded that Lady Liberty is blind folded, alluding to the notion that she metes out justice without preference. However, precedent shows that the justice system in the United States is not blind. For if the justice system were blind, Presidents when nominating individuals to the office of the Supreme Court will not factor in the candidates opinion on issues such as abortion or the death penalty.

For if the law were blind, Barack Obama would have nominated a hard-core Republican whose views on abortion ran along the lines of fire and brimstone. Further, in his search for Supreme Court justices, George W. Bush would have never nominated Samuel Alito, John Roberts, or Harriet Miers. So, we do see that even with the nominations there is a deep level of bias, with Presidents making nominations of people who are sympathetic to the ideals of their parties.

So, if the nominations are made with bias, is it not a stretch to expect the Justices to be impartial?

When Sotomayor takes the office, she will bring a wealth of legal experience and the head of a very wise Latina who will vie to leave her imprint on the justice system of the Unites States of America.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Love!


To the man I met two years ago. I met him on a Sunday. The first time I met him, I wore a black Catherine Malandrino dress and pink and black python Stuart Weitzman shoes. I heard he would be in town and I showed up early. I stood in those shoes for a long while. The shoes hurt my feet so bad...

Finally, he heard I had been waiting and came out. The applause was thundering. I don't believe he saw me, but I was his only audience. He gave the same speech. He spoke and I listened. He gave the charge and I was ready to obey. Finally, he gave the final word, and invited the crowd to press forward. They moved as though drawn to a light. As though it was Buddha with a halo. He shook hands and hearts swooned. I walked up, but he was gone.

My feet still hurt and a hand shake I did not receive. I sat and sulked, mad that he did not see I had come just for him. After all, I was his only audience. I waited a while because I was told he knew I was there and would come out just to see me. He didn't. I decided to leave, when I saw him in the alley. He was thinner than I thought. I called his first name, and his head spun around. My eyes seemed to say, "didn't you know I came just for you?" I pressed forward and Reggie told me not to. I didn't care what Reggie said. I pressed on.

I gained his audience and we spoke for a while.

I wish I were giddy. I wasn't. It was more triumph, and knowing that he knew I was there. That I had come just for him. The road ahead was tough and he needed to know that I cared. That I was in his corner.

I remember the rough days. The mud slinging. The name calling. He looked at the camera, all the while seeming to say, "do you hear McCain, do you hear Hillary? Do you still believe in my dream, the dreams from my father?" I let him know I did.

Then came Super Tuesday and he trumped her; he trumped them. Then he called Biden. Then a little known lady crawled out of nowhere. Said she was from Wasilla and had come to visit Washington. But she forgot to do her laundry. She wore those square frames and really expensive suits. Little lady Alaska had to get all dolled up. But she was no match, for she saw Russia from her window. Alas, she got undone as she sat before Katie Couric. Who said Dave Chappelle was master of spoof? This lady got it down packed, she should have been Tina Fey

But then, you knew I was there and you stood strong, taking it all. You crossed the first hurdle. I remember Chicago that night.

Then Grandma passed.

I remember November 4th. I saw you wait. I felt the tension in the room. The air was taut. Then, I heard Roland Martin call it. I saw that tear drop. You weren't the only one who cried. I cried too. It had finally happened. For they said that day would never come, but it did.

Then you called up Lincoln's Bible, and you took the oath of office. Sure the road's been bumpy, but then even Roosevelt didn't have it easy. But there you are on Pennsylvania Avenue, making things happen. From the auto industry to healthcare. You are bringing about Change. Sure, you're smoking your Marlboros and having your beer parties, but heck, you sure can. There's been no lady in a blue dress and no mispronoucing the word "nuclear."

Walking Bo and shooting hoops. Tucking Sasha and Malia in and well Michelle too...

But hey, you know I am still watching and hopefully you won't let me down. I'll be there the next time you're in town and this time we'll paint Georgia blue. I promise we will, and it won't be the last thing we do. We'll bring Change. Lasting Change. Yes we will and we sure can. You and I, hand in hand.

Happy Birthday to the 44th President of the United States of America.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Not My Kind of Black

I once left my desk for some coffee. When I returned, a Caucasian co-worker informed me that a black female had stopped by. After exhausting all possible descriptive adjectives, I asked about the woman’s skin tone. The response was a blank stare. Although he said nothing, I guessed his thoughts. How do you tell one black person from another? Aren’t they all the same?

To most non-blacks, there is no difference between blacks. The absence of Caucasoid features is all that is needed to categorize an individual as fitting in the black box. But most blacks can upon first glance spot differences that are of ethnic significance. Broadly speaking, blacks in the United States fit into two categories: African-Americans and other black immigrants. More narrowly, there are African-Americans and new black American immigrants, primarily from Africa. It is the relationship between these two groups that is shaping race-relations in the black community and essentially defining how blacks perceive other blacks.

The legacy of slavery and the long-standing consequences has made the relationship between both groups tense. African-Americans almost single handedly fought for their liberation. From Sojourner Truth, to Rosa Parks and then Martin Luther King Jr. African-American pioneers paved the way and opened doors that have essentially granted minorities in the United States access to unlimited freedom and resources. But the civil liberties and doors of opportunity were not open without a cost. African-Americans paid their fare from Africa to the shores of the United States with their blood and used that same blood as currency to negotiate the liberties they enjoy today.

Although slavery has long been abolished and it has been a while since a fire hydrant served as a weapon to quell perceived civil disobedience, the vestige of that era still remains. Hence, for a number of African-Americans it is a slap in the face to observe African immigrants enjoy the privileges their forefathers fought so hard to obtain. Even more disturbing is the knowledge that their fellow Africans played a role in their enslavement.

It is no wonder then that some African-Americans view Africans with a measure of suspicion. Africans they claim are to blame for the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. If not for the slave trade, perhaps they would not have suffered the harsh consequences of slavery and ensuing Jim Crow laws. Or maybe not, because for a young man named Soulja Boy, the slave trade was beneficial. For without it he wouldn’t have tattoos or bling.

However, the anger some African-Americans feel goes beyond slavery. Africans are blamed for taking jobs that would otherwise go to them. But are Africans really taking the jobs or are they simply embracing opportunities absent in their countries?

A hiring manager once told me he’d rather hire Africans because they didn’t complain and did whatever tasks they were given. It could simply be because Africans are used to a system of deference and our cultures have taught us to obey before complaining or not to complain at all. After all, with the structure of most African governments, reprisal or complaint is met with reproof. So, Africans perhaps might be victims of circumstance, using a crutch to their advantage.

Then there are the stories I have heard of African-American women who have married African men to realize they were not wives but rather access to American citizenship. My hairdresser unfortunately was a victim. The sad part is her ex-husband claimed to be a prince. Blame it on Eddie Murphy and his portrayal of Prince Hakeem in the movie “Coming to America.” Undoubtedly, there are several immensely wealthy Africans and the King in the movie is comparable to a modern day Mobutu Sese Seko. But I bet even Mobutu did not walk on rose petals.

Equally, some Africans deride African-Americans. As a young child, I watched endless hours of The Cosby Show and other African-American shows. I had access to copies of Ebony magazine and was acquainted with African-American accomplishments. Not all Africans have had the opportunity to read about a Frederick Douglass or Ursula Burns, thus their opinions about African-Americans are tainted. For them African Americans are associated with social vices and fall into the category of either drug dealer or gang member.

While the representation of African-Americans in the popular media does not adequately reflect their accomplishments, African-American owned media has not always helped to shape perceptions either and several Africans find BET and other such outlets odious. The portrayal of blacks as modern day minstrels is a tough pill to swallow for especially conservative Africans and an effort is made to avoid unnecessary mixing with African-Americans.

As a result, some Africans are scared of living in predominantly African-American neighborhoods. The consequence of such is that their children will attend schools populated by African-American children. The last thing they want is for their children to sound African-American. Also, they do not want their children to sag their pants or pop, lock and drop anything or imitate other behavior they consider despicable. It’s preferable for their children to sound white and wear Abercrombie and Fitch. So, most Africans will pay any price to live in white neighborhoods where they are not always welcome.

But beyond schooling, God forbid their child brings home an akata love interest. Literally, the word akata refers to a bush animal of some sort. I’ve had the meaning confirmed by indigenous Yorubas from different states in Nigeria, and there is consensus that the word is derogatory and debasing. Yet, it’s not uncommon for some to claim that it’s a term of endearment. The word is derogatory and will only be a term of endearment when the word nigger becomes such.

Nonetheless, there’ve been some unifying moments. During the last presidential election, I hardly met an African who didn’t support Barack Obama. But could it be because he is indeed African? His father was Kenyan and his mother white. To most Africans, he simply was an African child raised in America. It was gratifying knowing that the first black president of the United States was African.

Further, when hate crimes occur like the Jena 6 incidence or incidents like Sean Bell’s unfortunate murder, there is a sense of solidarity because we know that the racist or bigot does not confirm ethnicity before pulling the trigger. Other collective victories and successes are shared. All blacks own Oprah Winfrey and are proud of Michael Jordan. Importantly we all agree Michael Jackson is our brother and was black first.

So how does one define what it means to be black in America? Is there just one type of black or several types? Do Africans and African-Americans in the United States still share a common heritage, or have they become completely disparate? Can we essentially get along?

Solidarity is important, but it is also essential that we maintain our unique cultural identities while working towards the goal of unity in diversity. As more Africans seek out greener pasture, the influx into the United States is going to increase. Hence, it is essential that we initiate dialogue of some sorts within our spheres of influence regarding race relations and start to collectively define what it truly means to be black in America.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

They Always Go in Threes

It is quite extraordinary, but whenever famous people die, they always go in threes. When Ray Charles died, his death was about the same time as that of Ronald Reagan and Marlon Brando. James Brown's death occurred in the same week as that of Gerald Ford, and Saddam Hussein. I remember chiding James Brown for passing away on Christmas day. I wished he had "picked" a different day to die. Nonetheless, while I was yet mourning the passing of the King of Soul, I received the news while out bowling that Gerald Ford had passed. There have been others who have died in the same pattern. Isaac Hayes, Bernie Mac, and Stephanie Tubbs Jones all died within days of each other. The deaths of Hayes and Mac were quite ironic and caused a stir because they had both starred in a movie together along with Samuel Jackson. After the passing of these actors, it was feared that Jackson would follow next completing the deadly triad.

The old adage that death comes in threes holds true. Early in the week, it was announced that Ed McMahon had died. I awoke this morning to the news that Farrah Fawcett the original Charlie's Angel had died. Fawcett’s death however was overshadowed later in the day by the demise of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop. Michael's death comes as a shock because it was unexpected. More than any of the deaths and the adage of deaths in threes, the passing of Michael Jackson at 50 is epic and truly touching. He had just announced the line up for his last performance scheduled to begin early in July. His passing is quite tragic because it seems as though his life was unfairly truncated and he did not get to see the final curtain call on his last act.

Is this triad mere coincidence or is there something more to the number three? The number three is significant in many cultures and religions, permeating folklore, the Bible and literature. In the Bible three represents the Holy Trinity, comprising the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Besides signifying the holy deity, Jesus suffered three temptations, there were three wise men present at this birth in the manger and Noah had three sons. In folklore, the significance of the number is played on again. There were three little pigs, Goldilocks and the three bears, and there were three musketeers. Also, In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book the Scarlet Letter, the number three is symbolic of redemption, representing the relationship between self, other and God. Further, in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, the number three is often interpreted to be symbolic of the trinity and unifies the characters and events that occur. From folklore, to religion and ancient culture the number three often serves as a unifying force. Three does what one and two are unable to do, and makes up for the insufficiency of four.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Do The Right Thing: Race Relations Twenty Years Later


"Those that will tell don't know, and those that know don't tell."

This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of director Spike Lee's defining movie, "Do The Right Thing." Released on June 30, 1989, the movie boasted a cast of very talented thespians, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson, Rosie Perez, Martin Lawrence, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Bill Nunn, Spike Lee amongst others. The movie was received critically and scored two Oscar nominations in the categories for best actor and best screenplay. When the movie was released, there was concern over its contents being too incendiary and capable of inciting violence. However, the fears of violence were not realized and the movie was important then and still is relevant in initiating dialogue between different racial groups.

Set in the multiethnic Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in New York, the events in the movie take place on the hottest day of the summer. For a younger audience not familiar with the movie, the key events in the movie take place in a single day just like in the Friday trilogy. The movie examines racial tensions between Sal, the owner of an Italian pizzeria, his employee Mookie, Korean immigrants who own a fruit stand, Puerto Ricans, Caribbean immigrants, and other African-Americans in the neighborhood.

The plot of the movie revolves around Sal and his sons and their relationship with their predominantly black clientele. Tensions in the movie rise when an African-American customer Buggin Out demands that Sal add pictures of African-American heroes to his wall of fame that up till that point only had pictures of renowned Italian Americans. Sal refuses to comply and charges Buggin Out to leave his store and not return. In another scene, Sal gets into an altercation with another young man, Radio Raheem, who walks around with a radio that constantly plays the Public Enemy anthem, "Fight the Power." In order to receive service Sal orders the young man to turn off his radio. Feeling scorned both Radio Raheem and Buggin Out return to the pizzeria after hours with the intent of having a show down with Sal. A fight breaks out between Sal and Raheem, the police gets called in and asphyxiate Raheem in attempt to quell the fight.

The tensions in the movie are so important in understanding race relations and perceptions shared by certain ethnic groups about other cultures. In one scene, Mookie who works as a delivery boy for Sal gets into an argument with Sal's son, Pino. Pino is extremely racists, however he lists Magic Johnson, Eddie Murphy and Prince as his favorite athlete and entertainers. When he is made to realize that his roll call included only African-Americans, he makes the argument that these individuals are not African-American. Or even if they are, they were a different kind of African-American. They weren't like the thugs he had to deal with in his neighborhood. It's llike most Caucasians and other non-blacks today who revere Oprah but will not have a conversation with their African-American neighbors. For most Caucasians, because Oprah is rich and influential, she is seen as not black, less black, more than black, or not as black as perhaps the young kid who sags his pants on his knees. In order words, her social status, affects her race, making her "white" since of course someone as successful could certainly not be black because being black is often associated with malign forces.

The movie also helps to re-examine some of the unrealistic expectations certain cultural groups hold other groups to. When Buggin Out, challenges Sal over the wall of fame, did it not ever occur to him to open up his own establishment if he wanted to see African-American revolutionaries honored? There is hardly an African-American hairdresser who will put up a picture of Marilyn Munroe on the wall of her salon. Whatever happened to Madame C.J. Walker? Too often African-Americans pull the race card and engage in unforgiving self pity. However, this behavior is often not addressed for fear of being labelled a bigot. Using slavery as a crutch, there is a reluctance to contribute actively to society and instead a prevalence of social ills. Examine most major inner cities in the United States and the rise in gang violence, teenage pregnancies, and high school drop-out rates are shocking. Nonetheless, there is the ever increasing demand in most African-American communities that the government meet certain needs because of a feeling of entitlement.

Common themes explored in the movie that still remain relevant today are the power of a mob to incite a fight. In the scene where a Caucasian bicyclist steps on Buggin Out's shoes, he gives in to pressure from the crowd and challenges the man for the infraction. It's not quite clear if the action was intentional or an innocent accident. Police brutality especially towards African-Americans is also examined. Interestingly, Spike Lee weaves two disparate reactions of the police into the movie. In one scene where a man makes a complaint about his car geting soaked, the police do not press charges. It should be noted that the police could have decided to arrest everyone on the scene if not for getting the car wet, then for tampering with a fire hydrant. But in the final scene, the police kill Radio Raheem in an attempt to break up his fight with Sal. Police brutality still has not ended and New York's finest still haven't paid the full costs for the deaths of Ahmadu Diallo or Sean Bell.

In the end, the movie raises the age old question of the place of violence in race relations. When is violence necessary and do some people ever have it coming? Over the past weekend celebrity blogger Perez Hilton was assaulted by the manager of the group Black-Eyed Peas. Many argued that Hilton deserved the beating because he constantly antagonized celebrities on his ride to fame. In the same vein it can be argued that Radio Raheem had it coming. If he respected Sal and turned his radio off he would not have suffered Sal's wrath. But is violence ever the solution? As the anniversary of this ground breaking movie is celebrated it is imperative that Americans once again examine race-relations with meaningful dialogue.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jon Minus Kate Plus Eight

The announcement that had a bunch of televsion fans of the series Jon and Kate plus Eight spellbound has been made. After five seasons, the couple decided that they were seeking a permanent separation following reports of Jon's infidelity. The couple who met in 1997 and have been married since 1999 have eight children, a set of fraternal twins and sextuplets.

In a broadcast on Sunday morning on CNN a report showed that in the past few years between 10-12 contestants or participants in television reality shows had either killed themselves or at least attempted suicide. The dialogue was over if involvement in a reality series increased the propensity for suicide or if reality shows intentionally preyed on and attracted individuals who were already on the brink and likely to take their own lives.

The series catapulted Jon and Kate Gosselin, ordinary surbuban parents with children born of extra ordinary circumstances into the spotlight. The spotlight unfortunatley brought with it pressures they were ill equipped to handle. Although admittedly the divorce rate is three times as high for parents with multiple birth, is it possible that the show added to that pressure? When will society draw the line and stop this madness called reality television?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Iran: On the Brink of Another Revolution?


The instability in Iran could worsen over the next couple of days and become something short of revolution if the mandate of the people is not upheld. The mandate of the people is hard to decipher because it seems as though there are as many protesters for the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as there are for the opposition Mir Hossain Moussavi. Currently, the situation in Iran is very tense and has been marked by several violent and non-violent protests resulting in a number of casualties. The marches in Iran were precipitated by what many viewed as a rigged election. Going into the election Moussavi was the favored candidate in a country hungry for reform and economic change. The reform movement was spear-headed by the youth of the country who make up 60% of the population in Iran.

Iran's voting system is different from that in the United States and other western countries where electronic ballot boxes are used. In Iran, paper ballots that have to be counted individually are used instead. In an election that brought out several millions to the polls, the result of the election was announced two hours after the polls closed and the incumbent Ahmadinejad was declared the new Prime Minister of Iran. Ahmadinejad did not only win most major battlegrounds in the election, but he also won the popular vote in Moussavi's hometown of ethnic Azeri Turks. Previously, the electoral commission had announced that the vote count would require several days, so it came as a shock when the results were announced the same day as the elections.

Ahmadinejad, is no stranger to politics nor the international stage. He was previously mayor of Tehran and was catapulted to world prominence as a result of his anti-Semitic views and nuclear weapons program. Ahmadinejad however is in a favored position, because unlike his opponent he has the support of the Supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Guardian Council as well. Khamenei who is the supreme authority in Iran came into power in 1989 following the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khomeini came to power after the Iranian Revolution in the 1970s that deposed the United States backed Shah of Iran.

The Iranian Revolution of the 1970s also known as the Islamic Revolution was precipitated by several events. The primary event that drove the Revolution was the fear that that Shah of Iran in response to a western influence was turning Iran to a completely secular nation. In an attempt to preserve whatever relics of Islam were left, the Ayatollah organized a coup that seized power and installed an Islamic regime while the Shah was away from the country. The new Islamic regime rewrote the Constitution of Iran and remains the chief governing body of Iran along with the Guardian Council, a group of men appointed by the Supreme leader.

Khamenei and the Guardian Council are the authority responsible for the vote recount. This is were an impasse will be reached because it is quite unlikely that the Ayatollah will decide on a ruling in favor of Moussavi. Although Ahmadinejad has several supporters, Moussavi also has about a comparable number most of whom are young people who are beginning to view the Islamists who govern the nation as more of a liability than an asset. Most young people are burdened by the heavy handedness of Shari'a Law and the economic crisis in the country. Real estate and other commodities have become almost completely unaffordable and Ahmadinejad's priorities seem to lie elsewhere.

The next few days in Iran might be extremely volatile and the country could break out in a revolution that might decide the future of the Iranian people. The role of the international community and of the United States will become clearer in the coming days. What role if any will Russia play in the events and will true reform come to Iran finally?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer of the Westerns


For as long as I can remember, every summer has always had a theme. The summer after my freshman year in college was devoted to reading plays. I did almost all of Shakespeare's works, several works by August Wilson, Anton Chekov and several playwrights I don't remember anymore. That was the same summer I read Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun." The next summer I read short stories. I did several short stories by Flannery O'Connor. I needed the diversion these short stories created because that was the summer I took the dreaded Organic Chemistry.

That perhaps was the summer I learned to hate my life, momentarily. I dreaded the class and feared the lab even more. Just when I thought my life couldn't get any worse, my lab partner bailed out on me. I still remember her full name and middle initial and the look on her face when she told me she didn't want to work with me anymore. Imagine my angst. Nonetheless, in spite of the themes I chose, every summer ended with me hugging a copy of my favorite book, "Things Fall Apart." Did my life come undone in those labs or was it just my imagination? But suffice it to say I haven't passed a single summer yet without Chinua Achebe's classic.

I've long ditched reading in favor of movies. Not! I'm still an avid reader. But I love a good movie. So, this summer I've decided on a theme. I'll watch sixty western movies from now until the last day of the summer. I watched the first today, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." I saw that movie many years ago in grade school. Yes, I was watching rated R movies in grade school and I turned out right. However, I was a different breed and I don't endorse such movies for anyone under the age of twenty one.

Watching the movie now again as an older twenty-someone was a great experience. It was a combination of some things I really love. Clint Eastwood, the American West, the Civil War, fantastic directing and photography, and a great score. I didn't realize how sexy Clint Eastwood was as a young man. To an eight year old in the eighties, he was just an American cowboy. But now in the words of Perez Hilton, "completely gratuitious."

The movie falls into the genre of Western movies known as Spaghetti Westerns. Spaghetti Westerns are a sub-genre of Western movies that were chiefly directed by Italian directors usually with a Spanish partner and a Spanish technical crew. The movie was written primary by Italians and was released in Italy under the name, Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo. The release of the movie in the United States was preceeded by the Italian release by a few days. Although the movie is violent, the violence portrayed adequately the desperation that was a hallmark of those times, when survival was utmost. Conquering the American West fits the clichéd "desperate times call for desperate measures." The movie is arguably one of the finest movies I have seen, especially for that time period.

For reasons I cannot explain, I am quite nostalgic about America before the twentieth century. I sometimes get lost in this fantasy that I forget how opressive this period was for minorities. From the Native Americans, to people of African descent, early European and Asian immigrants, and Mexican in the South, the early years of this country was oppression personified. For poor white Americans, the terrain was tasking. I've read stories of American families who suffered poverty, disease, and hardship as they tried to conquer this untamed land. Yet, this oppressive landscape is the backdrop to some the best stories. Writers and playwrights alike have capitalized on this fact and have woven stories that qualify both as historical fiction and fictional history. While I enjoyed "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," I couldn't help but notice that African-Americans were conspicuously absent from the movie, especially the battles during the War.

The beauty of movies for me is in the analysis. I bring all my senses to a movie, and there's nothing as a good as a well-written and produced movie. Oh, the joy! So, I have fifty nine more westerns to watch before the last day of the summer. Next on my list, "The Outlaw Josey Wales." Then I'll be entertained by "3:10 to Yuma," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," and then "Brokeback Mountain." If you have a suggestion for a great western, please leave me a comment and tell me why it's a good movie.