Monday, May 29, 2017

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Gregg Allman: The King and Legend of Southern 


When it was announced that Gregg Allman had died after a brief battle from the complication of liver cancer, he joined a long list of my childhood memories of fallen musicians who have left an indelible mark on my psychic. Al Jarreau, Chris Cornell, Chuck Berry, J. Geils, all left something good within me that marked the time in which I lived in. Chris Cornell and Soundgarden were my radio days as a head comedy writer and executive producer. Chuck berry was a different variety of a seedling that became rock and roll in all of it’s variations. But Gregg Allman was a different variety, a different species, if you will, on the musical apple tree. Why did this long blond haired kid with the pussy tickler growing underneath his mouth had such a lasting impression on a poor black kid growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois?

Plain and simple, it was his music and the way he sounded as the words flowed from his lungs and out of his mouth. He had an impressive discography of hits. Everyone has their favorites, Midnight Rider, Ramblin’ Man, Whipping Post are the fan favorites. Midnight Rider had an edge to it with a layer of darkness sewn around the seams. I have this image of Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler doing a skit on the show when she was fully pregnant and dancing to I’m No Angel as she tries to seduce Josh Brolin. That was good and funny and disturbing and they somehow picked the appropriate song to enhance the comedy. I hope Gregg enjoyed the bit.

I was collecting my thoughts to see which of his many tunes that left that special mark on me. Midnight Rider was a very good song that I enjoyed for a long time but that wasn’t it. For me, it was a song written by Jackson Browne. Jackson Browne, for whatever reason, decided to let Gregg take it and make it his own. The song was called These Days. It was a song written for young people with old souls. For a young kid the words had impact and the music, the vocals that was sung by Gregg just added significance to a life yet life and to a life well lived.

The first two lines of the song begins with someone’s truth to life, “Well I’ve been out walking, I don’t do that much talking these days.” As a kid, this became my future. I don’t talk to many these days. It usually comes with the fact that the people that I used to talk with have nothing really important to say. It’s the same thing that I have no interest in, gossip, alcohol, sports, who they are fucking, who they’d like to fuck, who’s fucking who, money, blah, blah, blah. So I just keep to myself and keep the conversation down to a minimum. I’m happier for it.

Further down the song are the lyrics, “Well I had a lover, I don’t think I’ll risk another these days”, is such a powerful statement that I give Mr. Browne credit for even putting these words together. It’s such a simple line to lay upon the soul, to risk a lover, and all that it encompass. You step back and assess the ramification of what all of that entails. Will you or can you make that person happy? Will you or can you draw this person into your life in such a way that makes sense? It’s a complicated proposition of emotions, of commitment, of jealousy, of boredom, of pain, of happiness, of sadness that these simple words have induced.

For me, it’s the last two lines of the song that have stayed with me for all of these years. I have sang this song in butchered form with missed words from a fragmented memory and the bombardment of other visual stimulants that have diluted those selected brain cells that retain memory by a few degrees. The final line to this song is, “Please don’t confront me with my failures, I’m aware of them.” is a line for everyone and anyone who has lived life. We all have had some sort of failure that we need no reminding of, marriage, business, friendship, children, you name it, we’ve got your failure on that list. For a long time, this has been one of my mantras to life, that failures are inevitable and that given the chance, people will throw it back in your face as a form of control or to put you down. It’s just the mechanism of the beast and we must deal with it.

But Gregg Allman prepared you for it. I was thinking about where he might be if we had social media doing his heyday. And I was thinking about the artists of today and who he might be equivalent with? Well, that’s a hard call. Artist like Adele, Katie Perry, Beyonce, Justin Beiber and the like have a strong social media presence. For some, Gregg Allman had his moment in the sun at the right time. He also had his moments of pain as with anybody who’s dealt with pain. It is not forgiving and unceasing at times. He came along when he did, along with Duane, his brother, at a time where the music wasn’t digitized, manipulated, autotuned, Melodyne, and lacquered with 200 other layers just to create a song. We talk about a simpler time, who knows, it’s the generation we live in that wants those reminders of those moments, moments that are lost in the passing of people like Gregg Allman. These Days.

Well I've been out walking
I don't do that much talking these days
These days
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
For you
And all the times I had the chance to

Well I had a lover
I don't think I'll risk another these days
These days
These days I seem to be afraid
To live the life that I have made in song
But it's just that I have been losing
For so long

These days I sit on cornerstones
Count the time in quarter tones 'till ten
My friend
And now I believe I've come
To see myself again

These days I sit on cornerstones 
Count the time in quarter tones 'till ten
My friend
Please don't confront me with my failure
I'm aware of them

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

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Guardians of The Galaxy – Vol. 2 Review

Pass The Popcorn and The Milk Duds for A Fun 


When a film comes out, the studio rolls the dice and sometimes it’s 

snake eyes and sometimes it’s a seven. The Marvel Film Universe 

and Disney have managed to roll out a hit with the first Guardians 

of The Galaxy starring an unproven leading man, Chris Pratt and 

the more proven Zoe Saldana. The first film was an unqualified 

success with a domestic box office take of over $333 million 

dollars. With this type of domestic haul, it was a given that number 

two would be in the works. Sequels are a tricky business. We have 

sat through countless sequels, sometimes based of studio greed 

with movies that stray away from the original content and intent 

and sometimes they get it right as with The Godfather and 

Godfather II. We’re not going to discuss Godfather III.

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So here we have Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2. A science fiction 

fun ride destined to be an amusement theme park attraction 

somewhere in the future. The film starts off with our illustrious rag 

tag team of crusaders assisting in helping out a somewhat overly 

sensitive culture with getting some type of unique batteries. The 

only problem is that Rocket does his five finger discount and 

walks away with a few of them and that is before he sort of insults 

the inhabitants with a crude comment. And before you know it, 

they come under attack by the habitats and the ride begins.

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Your time sitting in the seats isn’t long when the action begins. We 

get to know some of the old characters a little better with a few 

back stories to flesh out their characters even more so. We still do 

not know a lot about some of them, one would suggest that this 

will be coming in the next incarnation of Guardians. We also get to 

see some new characters as well. Kurt Russell’s Ego, the space 

absence father of Star Lord makes his appearance known upfront. 

He gives this character the right amount of edge that doesn’t 

involve chewing up the scenery given that his name in the film is 

Ego. We also have a new character named Mantis played by 

relatively unknown actress, Pom Klementieff. Her character is 

interesting as is the real person behind her. Pom Klementieff’s real 

story is one beset with unfortunate tragedies, her father died when 

she was five, her brother committed suicide when she was 22, her 

mother is schizophrenic, her aunt and uncle raised her, her uncle 

died when she was 18. That is a lot for one person to go through 

and come out ahead in a film like this. The character is an added 

form of comic relief that punches up the dialogue between her and 

Drax played by Dave Bautista.

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And with the addition of her, we say goodbye to a fan favorite. I 

won’t say who so as not to spoil the fun but the sendoff is 

memorable with a key role played by Sylvester Stallone. How they 

got him must have been a fun shot. And does what it looks like, a 

fun shoot. You get that sense as you watched it. It shows up on the 

faces of everyone, including the CGI creatures.

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It has a PG-13 rating. Some death scenes were a little more intense 

and may have rode close to the edge with that intensity. You are 

going to have to judge that for yourself. Otherwise, go make some 

movie history and turn it into another box office juggernaut. The 

Milk Duds are waiting.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

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Modern Family: The Formerly Fresh Out of The Stove, Piping Hot Pumpernickel Bread of A Show Has Turned Into Stale Three Day Old White Bread

There use to be a formula in making television sitcoms. Take a little bit from here, mix in a little bit from over there, pour in just a little bit from over there and wallah, you've got a sitcom. Over the course of time, that formula is still being used and on occasion, there have been a few shows that have altered the ingredients by one or two elements. Such as the case with Modern Family, an ABC sitcom that's been around since 2009 and is in it's eighth season. It's the sitcom formulaic show done up in the pseudo faux documentary style of comedy similar to the fashion of the former NBC sitcoms The Office and Parks and Rec employed when these shows were on the air. Both The Office and Parks and Rec took their bows at their respective times. The Office lead actor, Steve Carell, parted ways with the show early and his absence was felt tremendously with his departure. He did return for the series finale of the show that gave it a respectable and decent, if not pretty, close to the show and some of the most enjoyable characters to grace the small screen. And Parks and Rec took it’s final bow as well, even though there was still life in the show. This was a show built around Amy Pohler and an ensemble of characters that were truly unique oddballs. These shows took a cue from the old Seinfeld show by deciding when it was time to exit the arena rather than waiting for the network to give them their walking papers. It is a testament to the better shows when they decides that they don’t want to wear out their welcome and opt for leaving while the audience screams for more. And while The Office and Parks and Rec are missed and much of the gag reels can be found on YouTube, check them out and discover your old friend or if you haven’t seen them, a missed opportunity to be with that friend. But what about Modern Family? What happened to this show?

Modern Family has been chugging along with the same main characters with no signs of any significant disruption or alteration. They've changed out one character in the beginning, the toddler Lilly with an older more animated version who would respond to verbal commands and not look as if she’s a mute doll. They had no choice in the matter as the original Lilly didn’t emote or have any facial expressions except for one and that was the look of seemingly being lost. If you have someone, even a small child, who has only one dour look, it doesn’t bode well when you act out a scene and the kid is giving you a zombie look straight out of the Walking Dead. They needed a new Lilly. And they've replaced the toddler, Joe, with a new speaking version as Gloria and Jay's son. The Joe character has been played by three different actors, infant, non-speaking toddler, and speaking toddler . Other than that, we still have Jay, Gloria, Manny, Luke, Phil, Claire, Alex, Haley, Lilly, Mitchell and Cameron. With the possible exception of one, there hasn't been any clear sign of progressive growth with these characters. Here is the character development of each:

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Gloria Pritchett: She comes from a large extended family from her country of origin, Columbia. To have her tell it, Columbia is a lawless country controlled mainly by the drug cartel. When she talks about Columbia, it is always laced with elements of the criminal underworld with a tinge of perverse pride in the telling of the tales. She has stated that she had other reasons that attracted her to Jay. However, if a cartel boss ever had her in his sights, there would not be a Jay. She gained her US. citizenship a few seasons back which they made it appear to be a cakewalk in gaining one’s citizenship when in reality, immigration policies and obtaining citizenship have more restrictions in place for qualification. If it was that easy for undocumented citizens to waltz in and answer softball questions to a citizenship exam, then the 10 million illegal immigrants would have done so immediately. Aside from popping out another child, Gloria has been a stay at home mom for eight seasons. She has explored marketing her salsa recipe for sale with mix results but she has done little else in between outside the home. Gloria’s past job was that of a hair stylist as explored in brief from a past episode. Since marrying Jay, her quality of life has improved and to she has no reason to be at home anymore as she has had nannies and babysitters for Joe. She has gotten lazy and comfortable and has turned in to be nothing more that the atypical trophy wife to an economically successful business man. Jay did do that to her in a past episode when he wanted to show her off to his old buddies and she readily agreed to somewhat deplorable stereotype. She could have taken the position that she is not a trophy wive to be put a display for Jay’s friends. In fact, she did voice her dissatisfaction with Claire because the assumption was that she was a gold digger from Claire’s point of view in the beginning of Jay and Gloria’s courtship. But somehow, this characterization of Gloria going along with this facade somehow feels as an inappropriate back handed compliment. Gloria has the smarts but she doesn’t apply herself. Grade B-.

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Jay Pritchett: Jay is a self made entrepreneur specializing in the manufactured closet industry. He's been plying his trade for a while and has been successful in doing so and this has led him to live a well earned comfortable life in a comfortable home with a comfortable swimming pool. Jay represents a different generation of men from the early baby boom generation. Yes means yes and no means no, there is none of this double meanings or alternate definitions to words. He would be the guy who would say “Are you shitting me!” during the impeachment proceedings with President Bill Clinton when Clinton said in a deposition, “It depends whet the meaning of “is” is.” He has two grown children, one stepson and a toddler that he accepts and tolerate in the same breath. He is the patriarch to his family, no ifs ands or buts. He knows that times have changed and as much as he fights change, he has slowly resign himself to the fact that this is the world that we live in now. He footed the cost to his gay son's wedding demonstrates one of the changes he has undertaken. He was retired from the closet industry but retirement didn't suit him as he had imagined so now he's back but in a different capacity. He had too much time on his hands with doing nothing except going stir crazy. Jay is still Jay. He has lived his life by his own terms and a lot of him has been set in concrete. With a toddler son however, some of his traditionalist ways may have been introduced to a chisel hammering on the edge of that concrete. Jay's growth has been progressive in the past eight seasons. Grade B+

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Manny Delgado: The once cute and precocious child is a young man now. Living a life of comfort with financial access has given him some advantages. He has not want for anything as he has said, “grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle”, we've constantly observed Manny sipping espressos and lattes and enjoying hotel stays and spa retreats to no end all on Jay’s dime. There has never been a discussion on whether or not Manny is financially supported by is biological father, Javier? He doesn't seem to appreciate the fact that someone else worked hard to have the money that he readily spends on himself. He has forgotten his humble beginnings and roots. He has placed too many memories far in the rear view mirror that when he looks back, he sees only small dots on the horizon. Jay sometimes remind him that all of what he's come to know and have wasn't there at the start. Manny has become the quintessential privilege class who has set the lines of demarcation between the working class blue collar people and the professional class white collar people. Manny has evolved into a young Republican. It could be a good thing or it could be a bad thing. Only Manny will have to decide which way he wants to go. As for his character, Grade C.

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Phil Dunphy: Father of three, Phil is a Realtor by profession. We often see Phil at his practice and by all appearances, he makes a decent living with it as he has purchased vehicles over the years for himself, his wife, Claire, and for his daughter, Haley. The thing about Phil is that you sometimes question his focus. On more than one occasion, he has referred to himself as “the cool dad”. Why is that so important to him? Dads are never cool with their kids and dads should never want to be cool with their kids. You are the parent. They look to you as the authoritarian figure, not the let's drink a beer and smoke some weed figure. He feels that if he “speak their language” then he stays in touch on a certain level with his kids. His technique has been a disaster in the case with his oldest daughter, Haley And you can also see the results in his other children as well. Nobody is perfect but Phil is, not Phyllis, but Phil is a person stuck with rose colored glasses permanently attached to his face. If you are a father, you can't go through life thinking you have perfect children. They will test your boundaries and your resolve. For the most part, Phil has stayed in his lane. He never ventures far at all. He's comfortable and conservative. He sells real estate conservatively. You can almost see that he likes that about himself. He laughs at his own jokes. However, he places too much concern on what his colleagues think about him and what they do. Gil Thorpe, his real estate colleague, is his forever nemesis. It was only recently, after seven seasons, that he did venture out from his comfort zone and into a real estate venture with a lot of trepidation. He brought in Jay as an investor on a piece of property that proved to be an environmental disaster. Why didn't he get a soil report from the very beginning? This is a fundamental first step to take and a bonehead move not to make when purchasing land. He would have known right away what the property could be used for. This was a calculated failure on his part and a lost leader for his investment partner, Jay. While Phil may be a consistent middle of the road real estate agent in the residential market, he should have been in the commercial market a long time ago. For Phil, growth has been stagnant. Grade C.

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Claire Dunphy: Claire started off as a stay at home mom in the beginning. She is a seriously serious Type A personality. She has to be right all the time and she has to prove that why she is right by providing supporting documentation and proof. Even when she was pregnant in college, she managed to finish and get a degree. That is something they never have explored, how did she manage to do that especially with having Phil around. In addressing this aspect of Claire’s life, if would be good to go back in time and watch a young Claire and Phil before marriage. Somehow, Claire had the wherefore all to get through college. Maybe if Claire would have exposed this aspect of her life with Haley, she would have had a different outcome instead of just having experienced one semester of college and being expelled? Claire definitely has develop the same type of behavior as her father when it comes to getting things done. She doesn't let her insecurities overwhelm her, at least, not when she's around her father. When he's in her presence and should things be slightly off centered, then the insecurities come out. She wants to be perfect but she knows that it's an impossible task. As her children have gotten older, Claire found herself at a crossroad. She needed to be back in the work force and she did that in increments. She ran for city council and lost but the loss gave her some meaning and purpose. She found her way back among the nine to fivers by working for her father. She has flourished even with a few stumbles with her coworkers. Of all the characters within this show, Claire has had the most significant gains in development. Grade A+.

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Haley Dunphy: First impressions are important sometimes. Haley, the eldest child of Claire and Phil, started off as the rebel when she really didn't need to be. A lot of the issues that she put Claire and Phil through were just trivial nonsense taken from a person who thinks on the level of a ten year old. Her entire existence was orbiting around popularity, partying and with the loser boyfriend, Dylan. She should be the poster child for all young girls on how not to act privileged and when you take advantage of a father who wants to be your peer. Haley’s character is drawn as an insult to all teenage girls. She's not an excellent student, oh hell, she's not even a good C student. Of all the time Haley was in school, she had no favorite subject whatsoever. They didn't even attempt to show where this girl had at least one subject she cared about. She was nothing more than just a popularity queen, living on empty accolades from Snapchat. Twitter, and Instagram followers. And then she is accepted to college which lasted all of five minutes because she, like a typical street junkie, falls back into her old ways and attends a party where she falls into trouble with the university and gets promptly expelled. Now this may seem a stretch and highly improbable but the writers took the easy way out and once again, Haley Dunphy is a screw up in the eyes of her parents. All of the effort and money it took to get her off to college and she takes three steps back and winds up living in the basement of her parents home. She meanders about finding menial jobs and to date she really doesn't have a definitive career to speak of other than some made up job she created for herself. And then there are her past relationships and current relationship. With Dylan, every teenage girl should look at that for what it was worth, as a stupid high school no nothing romance. With Andy, at least, it was more honest and genuine. For the first time Haley was in a relationship where she was equal. You started to believe that there was hope for this woman, that she was finally leaning in a direction that was positive. This relationship wasn’t built on superficiality. Haley even expressed her desire about being with Andy made her want to stop doing the stupid things. But then, the relationship ended without ceremony. One day she was single again. Now she hooks up with someone who is more superficial than she is, Rainier. Okay, so here is the thing, why was it necessary for her to be back in a relationship? It is normal for someone to not be in a relationship but Haley can’t go two weeks without her being defined by the relationship she’s in. With Rainier., it appears as if she's stumbling down a rabbit hole and she is lost trying to find herself and this relationship is lined with twenty feet deep potholes and she is barely hanging on the edge by her press on nails. Andy was good to her and for her. They need to bring him back. Haley is not only stagnating, she's stuck. Grade C-

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Alex Dunphy: The golden middle child of the Dunphy clan showed promise to a world of recent beleaguered sitcom kids. She was smart, she was focused and she had excelled past her parents in competency even though she was worldly naive having lived a sheltered life. We watched as Alex moved effortlessly in obtaining her educational objectives and faced the realities that schools of higher education of your choice sometimes fall away from you and that you often have to kick the field goal and settle for the three point schools instead of the seven point schools. Sometimes it's not a bad thing because it's up to you to make something out of yourself in the final conclusion. So she enters college and after that first year, she either drops out or take a hiatus and we find her working in some coffee shop as a host. Did not her parents give her enough preparation about the rigors of college? Did they not attend college and endure the stay without taking any breaks? Surely they've coddled their children to the point where hard work and sacrifice is not a part of their structured DNA. What's at stake here? Couldn't she just reduce her course load and take only the basic courses needed to maintain enrollment? Are Claire and Phil's parenting approach coming back to haunt them when they have two children not doing the college journey? Or maybe it is honest approach when you look at the cost for higher education and newer types of jobs that are being created that don't need a degree? Seeing Alex as a coffee hostess however, doesn't conform to the person who was a champion for education, a skating on the edge feminist and questioning the status quo type of individual. Alex's status is in flux and could go either way. She’s a smart kid and shouldn’t be boxed in by imposed constraints. She’s Type A like her mother. Having her doing grunge work may be good for her character in the short term but if this goes on too long, it becomes a detriment. Grade B+.

Luke Dunphy: There is a famous quote from a famous movie where this old weathered guy says to another old weathered person, “No, there is another”. And like that famous movie, this Luke started off with wide eyed optimism. But somewhere in this journey, a course correction was made and the ship took a blast to the right starboard engine. They decided to turn Luke into a debonair idiot and not the kind of lovable idiot that grows on you. He has not come close to reaching his academic or human potential and appears to be skating on the edge of failure. Now this type of kid has been seen before and done with spectacular diminishing brain cells by the kid from Two and a Half Men. I never could understand why that show took that route with the kid? He started off pleasantly as an average cute kid with great prospects. In fact, in this opinion, it would have played better against type as the one person who was totally opposed to his father's scheming ways and his uncle's misogynist behavior. But they chose to take the kid down a road of moronically stupid weed smoking loser. It became a show that was not fun to watch and opens up a discussion about reverse sexism but that is another discussion at a later time. But this Luke seems lost and unsure about himself as he is set to graduate from high school. It seems as if his parents haven't fully explored the challenges that is about to visit upon Luke. Much like is older sisters, Luke's world has no road maps for him to take, he is destined to be wandering for a while. So, why was it important to turn Luke into another adolescent moron? Most teenagers are not this stupid or unsure of themselves. I was a teenager and was about the graduate high school at the age of 17. My focus was on the ritual passage of graduation and the prospects of entering college from out of state. Nowhere is this equation was there any angst about grabbing on some ass like they’ve treated Luke and Manny. Luke’s ficus should have been on getting into college from a male point of view. We’ve already experienced Haley and Alex situation and the challenge would have been to show Luke’s take from his world. It seems like he is the forgotten child in this transition and for them to lightly skim over it show that no thought has been taken into play with Manny or Luke where it had any substance. Sure, they showed Alex’s breakdown on the academics with her therapist and eventually her mother and that was good but males have been discounted at the expense of the female empowerment battle cry that’s been in play for many years now. His parent’s aren’t giving him the necessary tools that he is desperately trying to keep his head above the emotional waterline. He is becoming a man and he has no life line support. Grade C+.

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Mitchell Pritchett: At some point, Mitchell Pritchett must come to the realization that the world doesn’t revolve around him. He took every word that was pointed in his direction as some sort of attack of his lifestyle or relationship. He had contempt for his father and found ways to sabotage his father’s friendship with long time friends. Was he justified? Absolutely not. His relationship with his father was no that of someone who was abusive, verbally or physically. Jay had made the claim that he stayed married to Dee Dee because he thought they needed to emotional support at a young age. So why does Mitchell carried so much angst towards his father versus Claire’s not so much angst? Mitchell is gay. For him, that is the ultimate defining factor as to crux of his relationship with his father. Jay grew up in an era where men weren’t told or allowed to express those other human feelings. He was punished by Mitchell for not having those feelings but Mitchell was too stubborn and pigheaded to understand who he lived with and what his father had experienced. As Jay once expressed to Mitchell one day at his home, “Why do you get to say what you want and I can’t?’ on the eve of Mitchell and Cameron’s wedding. That was a good point. Mitchell has used his sexuality as a baton against his father and for those around him that may disagree with the lifestyle. He had inadvertently spoke way too soon and a flight fill with passengers when a passenger said something that was taken out of context. Mitchell responded aggressively but found out afterwards that the comment was made to their newly adopted child. Mitchell also is prudish, standoffish and doesn’t like to be bested by someone who’s station in life is underneath him. He has demonstrated this on more than one occasion with the most glaring one being in Australia with their celebrity friend. Mitchell has profound daddy issues when he shouldn’t. Jay has some issues but not caring for his kids is not one of them. Grade C.

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Lilly Tucker Pritchett: They’ve never really done much with Lilly. She lives in a child’s world and elementary school. Much of her story is joined to Mitch and Cameron so any development with her is mainly muted which is unfortunate because it maybe good to see her world perspective for a change. It would certainly make her character balance out the outrageous of her obnoxious fathers. Grade- Incomplete.

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Cameron Tucker: Sometimes saving the best for last is not always a good thing. Cameron Tucker is an unprecedented bore. He wants to be worldly when he’s not. He wants to be sophisticated when he foppish and vain at best. Over the course of this show, he has been the most annoying characters to hit the screen. Yes, he won n Emmy for the role and perhaps because it was new and it was at the beginning of this series but now it’s no longer interesting. And he cries ALL THE TIME. Can we stop with the excessive crying? Yeah, they addressed his excessive crying but it hasn’t let up. It’s gotten to the point where you have taken Lilly’s place and you empathize with her that this dude cries way too much. He wants to be something that he’s not and the bragging just got to stop too. It’s gotten to the point now where I just hit the mute button whenever he’s about to put on airs or cry. You just have had enough of Cameron Tucker. As Lilly got older, it was a good move to transition Cameron into the workforce. One would think that having him as a coach of a high school football team would expand his repertoire but unfortunately they’ve mucked that up by focusing on the wrong thing. With Mitch and Cameron, is all about the agenda and not about the comedy. There’s too much anger in them that needs to be set aside or relaxed. You have an intelligent audience, you don’t need to keep hitting us over the head with some superfluous agenda. Sitcoms used to be about laughs, now we have agendas. Grade D-.

The show is in syndication across the land. It’s a popular show. But can it hold up like Seinfeld? Well, there are a lot of pop cultural references in the show and elements like those tends to date the show whenever it goes out of style. And in these days of pop culture references, they could have a shelf life equivalent to the time of an in-flight movie. The first show had pop jargon laced in the show that’s now when you look back on it, it’s prehistoric ancient. In wanting to be the “cool” show, they’ve sacrifice good stories for idol worshiping status. Idols sometimes fall down a lot and fashions go out of style. Gangnam style anyone?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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The Handsome Man

The grays have filtered through his once golden fleece
Time had etched more lines of wisdom across his furrowed brow
The sun had seasoned his skin to an auburn leather
Muscles, full and robust, morphed into sinewy unfamiliar appendages
That Rolling Stone's passage of what a drag it is getting old
His inner voice screams with rage in silent protest
Once standing tall, the mirror now gaze upon a reflection past gone
His collection of memories have become moth eaten and tattered
Friends have become fewer as they are consumed with each passing year
Growing new ones is harder than he fears
The once youthful eyes never looked foward to this inevitable future
And with a blink and a wink, the time is nearer to the door
Everybody will answer when the bell tolls
Rich and poor and black and white and all the colors in his sight
Mark his time as he look back on his life
Remembering the moments that meant the most to him
And not the superficial, the materialistic, the monetary fuss
As light begins to fall, it will arrive in the most unlikely fashion

Honor his values of what makes him more than just the handsome man

Monday, April 17, 2017

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Who Should Take Responsibility for The Ghost In the Shell Failure?

Like many of a sci-fi fan, you wait with so much anticipation for a film to come out that as each day draws nearer for the premiere, you find yourself salivating with primal behavior as all logic and rational thought takes a back seat. The film, Logan, was one of those films that many were anticipating and it lived up to caliber everyone had expected and then some. The Fast and The Furious was another film that lived up to the hype and it hit some impressive numbers in its opening weekend. Such was not the case for the Scarlett Johansson vehicle, Ghost In the Shell or GiTS as it is referred to. Ghost in The Shell is a Japanese anime that came out in 1995 and became a cult hit with the fan boys. It was unique with its story line, with its music and with its breathtaking anime that defied the conventional elements for this type of art. For a long time, fanboys have wanted a live action version of GiTS and finally that day came. A GiTS would be coming in 2017 so who will star in it? For the fanboys, picking the right actress would be key in making this a successful venture. But the gods did not smile on the fanboys as word came down that an actress had been selected and her name was Scarlett Johansson.

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Scarlett Johansson got her start in the Robert Redford film, The Horse Whisperer. Throughout her career, Ms. Johansson has had some hits and misses along the way. She has found success in the Marvel Avengers series movies as well as the independent film, Lucy, a sci-fi thriller that apparently the producers of GiTS thought would make her a better candidate than others. The problem with her selection with the fanboys was that she was not Asian. And this became a problem from the very beginning with this film. The producers of this film had made the assumption that Scarlett Johansson is a big name star and that her presence alone would enhance the marketability of the film.

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There was an immediate outcry from across the board with allegations of whitewashing. Whitewashing is a term used in the Hollywood industry of having a white person plays an Asian or other minority characters where clearly there is a history of appropriation after a character has been defined by other media sources or historical facts. Hollywood has a long history of whitewashing starting with Birth of A Nation where white men in black face depicted blacks as caricatures who were lazy, scheming and nefarious villains who couldn't be trusted. Warner Oland AND Sydney Toler, white actors, portrayed a Chinese detective named Charlie Chan for many years in several movies helmed under that name. Mickey Rooney played a Japanese man in the film, Breakfast At Tiffany's that was so blatantly over the top that it was not only racist but insulting as well.  And the numbers of white actors portraying Native Americans in the 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's is too numerous.

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Enter Scarlett Johansson into the controversy that is GiTS and whitewashing. On numerous interviews she had stated that “she would never presume to play the race of another person.” But play another race she did and you can't help but not see that even with her ineffectual protest. Just like with the Pepsi commercial that starred Kendall Jenner, there is a tone deafness with this situation. Ms. Johansson appears to be a reasonably sophisticated woman in interviews. But because the film, Lucy, did well does not translate into playing a role designed for an Asian woman. Hollywood has taken the approach the big nae actors will bring in the big bucks. That theory has been disproved many time over with films helmed by Tom Cruise and Will Smith failing miserably. Now Ms. Johnasson has added her name to another failed film. There have been films with no named stars that became blockbusters like The Blair Witch and Napoleon Dynamite and Paranormal Activity to name a few.

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So, what went wrong with the film itself? Well, you could tell that many of the scenes that were filmed were done on green screen because the quality of matting was not good. They tried to make her and mold her into some amalgamation of something with feelings. The original character had no feelings and was steadfast in her determination as a police officer. And as I kept looking at the film and at Scarlett Johansson's performance, the Asian thing kept creeping back into my consciousness. I had selected several Asian actresses that could have played the part of Major. There was Rila Fukishima, known for her work in the 2013 Wolverine movie, would have been an excellent choice. She has training to do the stunt work as well. Maggie Q is another one who has the training to do the stunt work in these films. So the argument that there weren't any to choose from doesn't meet the smell test. The film just seems to lay there and some of the elements are nothing like the original anime. They do put some of the original in this film but overall, the film just lay there. There is too much visual pollution with so much stuff going on in the background that your visual senses become overloaded with what's going on. The most obtuse thing I saw with this film and this was my last straw was when her boss unloads a revolver into the bad guy and he empties it out over the body like he's a gangster from some 1940's era. Was that really necessary?

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There are some lessons to be learned from this. One of them is to listen to your core fan base. If they want an Asian playing an Asian, perhaps it is a good idea to trust their instincts. Fans no longer sit on the side anymore like they did 15 years ago. Social media has changed that dynamic tremendously. The fans made their own protest statement by steering clear from this film. The film has made to date, only $37 million on a budget of $110,000,000. By comparison, Fast and The Furious has name over $100 million in three days in its initial release and overall a whopping $538 million worldwide. The moral to this story? Nerds and fanboys rule.
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Aly Raisman Raised the Taboo Topic That No Guy Will Touch

There are times in our lives that we must talk to one another about a variety of things. Sometimes it's a conversation about a relationship, sometimes it's a conversation about a family matter, it can be about one to a thousand things we have to have a conversation about. Sometimes we dread hearing those four words that strike fear in your heart when the other person says, “We have to talk.” And sometimes there are conversations that can only be discussed among women that only can be talked about because you are women.

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U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist, Aly Raisman, did such that recently when she raised the topic about her period and added a term I never heard of, free flowing and free bleeding. Now I am a hetero guy and I must admit that I am vagina-centric and I am a lover of the vagina. I will caress it, kiss it, talk to it, explore it, examine it like most hetero guys would normally do to a vagina. So when Aly Raisman wanted to talk about free flowing/bleeding, my ears wanted to shut down. This is a foreign language now. A lot of guys don't want to hear about your period. Sure, they will listen to you talk about it but , for real, deep down inside the guy is praying for temporary deafness. It's just not a topic we are comfortable in hearing. It's not you, it's your period, that thing that has no control and bleeds for so many days. We have nothing to compare it to. We know it comes once a month and it bleeds for x-amount of days. We both have hearts, lungs, eyes, teeth, a pair of arms and legs but this one singular item is just baffling to us. We know you spend a small fortune on tampons, pads, sprays that make your vagina smell pretty but you can't deduct that from your taxes every years. There should be a vagina exemption on tax forms, something that has been approached before in other areas.

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There are a myriad of commercials floating across the airwaves dealing with the vagina. I keep my TV remote close at hand because whenever these commercials come on, I hit the mute button. Over the course of time, I've caught the beginning of commercials that discussed women having to wear adult diaper type garmets to control leaking from bladder issues. There are the usual tampon commercials but now women are having meetings sitting around in a circle discussing their tampons. There was even on commercial that ran that discussed women having dry vaginas and there was some new medication for that. Well, I guess it replaces restless leg syndrome as the new affliction of the moment? I even imagined a scenario where Archie Bunker was dealing with Edith Bunker as she yelled at him from the second floor about this, “ARCHIE! My vagina is dry! “Oh, geez Edith, why are you telling me this?”, said an uncomfortable Archie. “Because we are out of the KY-Gel. We need some KY-Gel, Archie!” said Edith. By the way, there is a commercial for KY-Gel with a couple in bed talking about it and I don't want to hear about that because now you make me imagine them having sex and I won't let my imagination be corrupted by that visualization. I don't want to hear about your yeast infections, your discharges, your bloating or cramping. Tampon commercials show women riding horses, playing tennis, running along the beach in all white but I never hear anything about toxic shock syndrome as a disclaimer to the product.

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And it's not just the vagina commercials that I don't want to hear about, it's the penis commercials as well. I don't want to hear about your jock itch, I don't want to hear from those blue pill prostitutes discussing curling up in bed with your man who has an erectile wang dysfunction. I don't believe that any guy wants to hear from a woman discussing his dysfunctional wang. It would be humiliating. “Honey, can we talk about a remedy to your broke dick problem?”, said she. “No. no, nooooo,” said the crying husband. I don't want to see the bathtub people looking at each other either because I don't want to imagine them having sex because it goes back to my imagination and they are not porn worthy. I don't see why there is a need for them to advertise these erectile pills since anything dealing with the penis that will make it concrete hard will spread like wildfire and people will want it more. You have to give the impression that this product is hard to get which makes people want it more. Does anyone remember the so called drug, “Spanish Fly”? I don't know if it was real or not but it was the supposed wonder drug that made you horny. It still carries a bit of mystery about it because in some places it is banned which makes it enticing.

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I even don't want to see those cartoon bears hawking toilet paper because if a bear goes in the woods and take a dump, he would destroy that two-ply toilet paper if he were to wipe. I think they should have a real person sitting on the toilet trying to hawk toilet paper instead of the cartoon bears. Or better yet, have a person demonstrate the strength of the TP with another brand by wiping a wet block of chocolate squares and then hold it up to the camera. Show one TP intact and the other not so intact with the finger torn through to the chocolate. A little humor will go a long way.

I know that for many years when it came to women and the issues surrounding their vaginas, it was always described as “female problems”. That was such a vague blanket statement that could have meant she was having problems coordinating a blouse with a skirt and shoes. I realize that we've come a long way from those dark ages and women need to discuss these things among each other because it can become an important health issue. And at the same time, to be honest and frank, there are a lot of guys who just want to steer clear of the topic as long as they can. Sure, we'll go out and buy you your tampons and a pint of Hagen-Daz because we are trying to be supportive but please understand, anything beyond that point will be a challenge.

I do know that certain couples do have sex when a woman is on her period and if you are horny enough, a warm towel afterwards would be nice. Of course your sheets would look like Ted Bundy payed you a visit and that's the price that you pay. I'm neutral to the concept of disseminating so much information about the vagina in various health related forums but sometimes the timing of when the commercials air can be a bit treacherous when I hear one talking about discharges and yeast infections just when I am about to eat a spoonful of cottage cheese. Never mind.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The most recent episode of "This Is Us" centered on Ron Cephas Jones' William.
What William from “This Is Us” Taught America
About the Struggles of Black Fatherhood

William Hill has come and gone. He died Tuesday night after a short battle with Stage 4 cancer. William is a fictional character created from the minds of Dan Fogelman who created the NBC show, This Is Us. It is a show about a young couple who birth triplets but one died at birth unfortunately but fate stepped in and they adopted a newborn who was left at a fire station by William Hill, the biological father. We are drawn into this scenario for several reasons, the young couple is adorable, the multiple births are a challenge, the loss of a newborn is dramatic, the chance of being adopted immediately is rare and that adoptive newborn happens to be black that will be joining a white family when such a union during that time was not talked about or condoned. We become fixated to see this journey unfold in ever so slow disbursement of intricate layers.

The adoptive baby is given the christian name of Randall. He grows into a fine man, a family man having a wife and two daughters. He has a fine job and should be content with what he has but he isn't. You see, Randall has a demon. This demon lies within us all who never known who their father was. It haunts us, it drives us. We need to know only for the sake of who this person was. Will it answer the question of who am I, why am I here, why do I do the things that I do? Randall has asked these questions all of his life and he has the financial resources to find out and he does.

He meets William when he goes by Williams's apartment and introduces himself. It is a bold and scary moment all rolled into one gut twisting ball. There is anger but there is also resolution with Randall's emotions. He said what he needed to say for so long and now he waits for the verdict. William is patently taken aback and stunned but he is also honest. And so it begins, the short journey of son and father.

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Randall takes him back home to met his wife and daughters. Over the duration, Randall will get to discover a little about who his father is. Trying to pack in thirty plus years of absence is a daunting challenge. There are only so many hours in a day that can be devoted to discussing the past. But some where in that time frame, Randall begins to bond with his father. He finds out that William is either bisexual or gay, he doesn't really know. He finds out his father writes poetry and is good playing chess and is a musician and is dying from cancer. And it is Stage 4 cancer at that. William is terminal. And if you've ever had a family member or friend have that disease, you know how devastating a disease it is.

Randall is now faced with the challenge of trying to fit as much life as he can with his father. He must face the challenge of not just losing an adoptive father who raised him from birth but also a biological father whom he has yet to know and come to love. This takes an emotional toll on Randall and he places this burden of work and family and William squarely on his shoulders and it collapses down on him hard. You just feel oh so sad for Randall. You think about being in his shoes and wonder if you could take on so much? Perhaps you did with a variation of the same results?

So we enter into this road trip to Memphis, a journey to William's hometown. Along the way, Randall wants to control the journey by ignoring his on-board GPS system and rely on conventional paper road maps. William takes them and tosses them out the window. Just drive. William seems to be taking in everything that he sees along the way. His mind is recording every curve, every tree, every moment and you get the sense that he already knows why he needed to make this trip to Memphis.

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William brings up Randall's father. He's accepting of that term and admiration with Randall when Randall talks about his father. Randall describes the moments in which his father calmed his anxiety by holding his face in his hands and having him breath slowly until his anxiety fears slowly goes away. William would like to go see where his ashes were spread but Randall says that they could do it at another time. William know that this will not be as you see on his face. He insist that Randall make a detour to see his father's resting place. It's the first of so many moving moments. They arrive and William walks over to the bench and says some kind words to Jack and thanked him for raising a good son. As he gets up, he tells Randall to say a few words himself and as he walks away, you see the pain on his face that he hides from Randall.

They arrive in Memphis and the history floods back into William's mind. His days in the club were important days. It is there that we see him as a songwriter and musician. He was good. He didn't smoke, he didn't drink, he didn't party. It was all about the music and writing for him. But then things happened. He left to go take care of his mother he met a girl who was into drugs who would eventually be Randall's mother and she turned William on to drugs. He walked back into that club to find his cousin was still there, sitting at the bar. Randall is excited because he meets a cousin, a family member for the very first time. But William is trying to make amends for not coming back and we get a better understanding as to why. Forgiving someone for altering your life can be formidable sometimes but we do and we move on, it's sometimes the most human thing to do.

And so they go on. William and Randall bond over going to the barbershop getting their hair cut and talking about Afros. They go to the club and watch William perform on the keyboard playing alongside his cousin. Randall is meeting more cousins and talking to his wife about the experience and joy he is having knowing that he has another side to his history. And the next day, Randall is up, making his bed with gleeful abandon because he likes doing it. And when he rounds that door, he finds William not doing well.

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At the hospital, the doctor explains to Randall that William's organs are failing and he doesn't have long to live. Randall finds himself at another crossroad in his life. He goes in and begins his final conversation with William. He wants to call his wife and have the kids say goodbye to William but William explains that he has already said goodbye to the girls. He's rather have him looking down at them than with them looking down at him. He leave words to the oldest girl to continue playing chess. But then William turns back the conversation on Randall and then you realize that all the moments he had with his son were played back for Randall to let him know that the short journey had not been forgotten and that the life they briefly shared was perfect. When William said let your hair grow out and not to make up the bed in the morning, it was his way of letting Randall off the hook, to not let things overwhelm you and somewhere in Randall's head, he finally understood that. William said he was scared as death approached. Me made mistakes and bad decisions in his life. Randall, being the good son, did what his father did for him. He climbed on the bed and took William's face in his hands and told him to breathe slowly and William complied. And as this flawed man looked back into the face of his son, he breathed slowly and slower and slower until there was no breath to exhale. And the journey ends.

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So, how do we eulogize Mr. William Hill? Well, you could say that here lies William Hill, a man who made a sacrifice to give up his son because the life he was facing was a dismal one. He gave his son the opportunity to grow into an exceptional human being instead of living in a life of despair, poverty, drugs and crime. He showed him that love has no boundaries and that love can be selfish for a good reason. He showed him that no matter how long you think it is, life is short so enjoy the moments because when the time comes, it will be the one you'll remember and cherish the most. Let's go see the ducks.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

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The Trump Takeaway Behind the Movie, Hidden Figures

Ever so often a film comes out that carries more meaning, more weight, more value than any other films regardless of its genre. Such is the case of the movie, Hidden Figures, the true story about three black American women working for the National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA) during the early part of the 1960's. The women, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, played respectively by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, were the women who were in a collective with other black American women in NASA's computer service pool that many of them were support personnel for their white contemporaries. Jackson, Vaughan and Johnson were the exceptional ones. They had become the standard bearers to a whole other world that black women were not suppose to be a part of and that was in the field of science and mathematics. They were the unrecognized heroes during the heyday of the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. But before the film jumped to this time frame, it first took us back to an earlier time of a younger Katherine Johnson nay Katherine Coleman, when she was an eight or ten year old child.

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The younger Katherine, played graciously by Lidya Jewett, explores a time in our history and with black youth that is total unrecognizable and foreign to the senses. We get to witness the younger version of Katherine having this gift for math and geometry. Image result for Lidya Jewett

 What is also remarkable is seeing how the class reacts to her prowess as a mathematician. There was no snide comments , bitterness or pettiness we've come to expect with this generation of Twitter battles over the most stupid and agonizingly insipid things. Of course you also had to accept the fact that it was in the late 1920's and pettiness wasn't born into black culture then. Blacks were dealing with the Jim Crow laws that were oppressing many blacks during that time. But still, the behavior is what I took away from that scene. There was truly a sense of wonder because the vehicle in that scene was about attaining one's education. It was a moment where you would mourn for the loss to knowledge that today's youth just don't have a tolerance for and would rather have the heads bent forward into their smartphones or tablets.

Fast forward and Katherine is a widowed mother of three girls in 1961. She, along with her two cohorts, are broke down on the road to work and a white police officer pulls up and harass them just to flex his authority. Mary Jackson, the more vocally assertive of the three, wants to push back on the authoritarianism but the other two encourage her to restrain her efforts and she takes a more submissive tone with the police officer. And as she does, the tone shifts a bit from a viewer's point of view. This scene represents the first symbol of racism, the bigoted white police officer flexing his power as he laud over three black women. But this racism is diffused by all three women who allow themselves to be humble in his presence and not escalate the situation and they do so effectively by demonstrating their intelligence in very subtle tones. And as I watched this scene, I felt a twinge of moral outrage that even though this happened so many years ago, the impact still hold a weight on your consciousness.

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As we start to get into the heart of the film, Katherine is selected to do mathematical computations as a backup to the other NASA scientist just to provide a security backup in the initial limited capacity that was doled out to her. Under redacted reports, her job became frustrating as she could not fully perform the assignment that was given to her. Compounding this effort was the fact that NASA had a policy of segregation within its workforce. Restrooms and drinking fountains were assigned as “colored” and “whites”. The only restroom Katherine could use was a long way from where she was assigned and she had to trek a great distance just to use the “colored” restrooms. This brings up another racist vestige to the forefront, the specter of separating the water fountains and the restrooms has more significance over another. They same labeling was applied to the coffee pots as well with the “colored” one not even being made ready for coffee. But I must remember that these were the times that they lived in.

Mary Jackson, the woman who would become the first black female engineer at NASA had her share of discrimination as well. There were policies in place that stated that blacks, and especially a female black, could not advance to be an engineer without certain qualifications even with a degree and she held a Bachelor of Science degree. She had to sue to go back to high school to earn the course curriculum needed in order for her to become an engineer.

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I was getting more incensed by the moment with every racist slight these women endured. And I was generally shocked that these women's story never graced the history pages during my formative years and that other films like The Right Stuff,  failed to give them their acknowledgment and contribution to the space program. Two of the three women have died without receiving any noteworthy praise for their part in contributing to the NASA environment. And my outrage grows.

Dorothy Vaughan role is NASA was just as remarkable. With NASA's introduction of the IBM mainframe computers of the time that were Fortran computer based language, Dorothy had the foresight to learn the language and teach it to the other women in the computer pool. As I watched her story, I couldn't believe that even the public library was segregated. She had to “appropriate”, I will not use the word 'steal', a book on the Fortran language and she learned it all on her own without any assistance or guidance from anyone.

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And while NASA was and is a part of the U.S. government, it was the first institution mandated to hire minorities. And even though it did, racism and sexism still rule the order of life. When Katherine made attempts to be included in the proceedings with the NASA program, her gender played more against her than her race. As she had each obstacle removed, the perceptions were also removed when she demonstrated her ability to do the work. She was a pioneer in that regard and every woman in the space program have her to thank for that.

Keven Costner said that his role was an amalgamation of several people so I do not know if there ever was a person who took a crowbar and tore down the colored restroom sign or that this person served as the metaphorical crowbar for Katherine Johnson to get through those doors. If there ever was such a real person, they should acknowledge him as being a contributing agent because one person does not go into battle alone.

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So, what does this film about three black American women have to do with Donald Trump? In a nutshell, it has a lot to with with being disappointed and facing stumbling blocks and doing what you have to do and persevering in spite of your circumstances. I find it interesting that mostly the liberal white Americans are losing their mind over Trump's victory in the general election. There have been protests, fights, smear tactics and the like over his election to the highest office in the land. And as I watched this film, I began to put it into a perspective that perhaps the liberal white Americans should accept and acknowledge. For a long time in the history of this country, minorities have accepted the brunt of social ills for generations. It took 55 years for us to hear about this remarkable achievement of three minority women in the space program and yet a film entitled Sid & Nancy, about punk rockers Sid Vicious and his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, was made five years after his death.

The minority community have come to accept the dysfunctional, apathetic, disenfranchising, maligning approach to what is considered fairness in this country. Donald Trump, a billionaire, won over Hillary Clinton, a millionaire. So why are the white liberals losing their minds over this? Perhaps because they do not understand what it feels like to be on the losing in for so many things. They don't know how to accept defeat in such glorious terms. Everyone ones to point blame at this or that and totally ignore the root cause to their defeat. They need to understand what it means to be a person of color. They need to take a cue from Barack Obama, from Deepak Chopra, from Cesar Chavez, from Booker T. Washington, from Madame C.J. Walker, from Rita Morena, people who understand what the obstacles are from being a person of color in America and what it took to overcome those barriers. And just because people of color have been forced to deal with these barriers, it does not mean that all hope is lost, it just mean that another approach needs to be made in order to overcome these barriers.

President Obama had to prove everyday to the American people and to the conservative arm of Congress that he was entitled to the job and he had to work twice as hard to prove it. This perception and attitude is with every person of color. It is the unwritten rule that is never discussed in polite company but it is always there underneath every thing that is expected with a person of color and this is reflected in quiet tomes in the film.

When Katherine Johnson finally explodes in the film about what she has to do to get to the restroom, it was something her white counterparts couldn't fathom doing and wouldn't do if the situation were on the other foot. This slice represents more than just a bathroom break, it represents the nature of what people of color endure. So Hillary lost and Donald won, get over yourselves. The country wasn't founded on a bunch of whiners. We have other better things to do, to accomplish, as did these women. These were real American women who happened to be black and who faced racism and misogyny and sexism and took it with their heads held high. Why can't we learn from them?
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