Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Photo Montage: My Year in Review

Another year bites the dust. This is my final blog post for 2013! I’m happy to have made it through another year. I thought it would be both fun and reflective to recap with photos of some of the people, places, and special events that made my year memorable. They say pictures say a thousand words. Enjoy the montage and feel free to post a comment on one of your special moments in 2013! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Where's the Money?: My Personal Gripe with the U.S. Department of Education

Today I must vent! I'm pretty pissed with the U.S. Department of Education at the moment. Why? I'm pissed because they have no record of my $5309.00 loan repayment that I made last January, I had the blessing to be able to repay my undergraduate and graduate loans thanks to my severance from my former employee. While I wasn't have to be leaving the organization, it was a definite plus that I could be college debt free as a result of it.

I paid off all my loans in January of 2013. I made the payments online through Chase Bank and have the transaction statements to prove it. Thank goodness I do because a couple of months ago the U.S Department of Education sent me a letter saying I owed interest on a loan of $5,200.00. That caught me off guard because I had paid it with the accrued interest back in January. I do my due diligence and call them to find out what is going on and to my dismay they have no record of my payment. I don't understand how this is possible when a check was sent from my online banking account and there's a record from Chase that the payment was received. How does that amount of money get lost?

I call and open up an investigation with the Department of Education and they ask me to send them documents from my bank that I made the payment. I send them the forms over a month ago and no word from them about the investigation, instead I get a bill with a total principal interest of $432.73 due. Since I took this semester off, the customer service rep explained that my loan would have to go into forbearance, while the department was investigating. Going into forbearance means I'm still accruing interest on the loan, the loan that I paid in full! Can you say hot mess?

Since I received a statement with a principal interest of $423.73 I decide see what's the status of the investigation and give the department a call. Long story short there is no change since I last called.

The customer service rep tells me that the information I faxed was not enough. Although I faxed a bill confirmation from Chase that states the U.S. Department of Education received the payment, they need an AC ID or trace number to track the payment and that wasn't on the document. As the rep is explaining this, I feel like I'm about to explode. I want to scream but of course I keep my composure. I was then told I need to get this number from my bank and send it to them via fax to move my investigation forward. What I find really frustrating about this process is that I wouldn't have found out this information if I didn't call. Glass half-full, at least I know my next steps.

Before I get off the phone the service rep asked my if I'm satisfied with my call. I know she's doing her job, but it felt like a slap in the face considering I paid my loan in full. Unfortunately for me the department has no record of it. No, I'm am not at all satisfied with my call! I'm now wondering who else this may be happening to!

I went to a Chase branch and explained my problem. The Chase representative helped me file an online bill payment inquiry for proof of payment. I should have it in 24 to 48 hours. I will then need to fax that back to the Department of Education and hope the tracking information they need is there. I'm not sure what I will do if it's not.

One thing I am certain of  is in my next follow-up I will request a supervisor, but for now I have to accept although I paid the U.S. Department of  Education they have no record of it. I'm grateful for the help I received from Chase and while  I'm not at all happy about the situation venting does help.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why? Because Ben Righter's Single Has Dropped

Yesterday my cousin Benjamin Rhodes III aka Ben Righter dropped his single WHY! Congratulations are in order! I would be remiss if I didn't plug him and his hard work as a singer and songwriter.

He has been singing all his life and I've watched him grow as an artist over the years. It's really impressive to see his evolution! I also admire the fact that he hasn't giving up on his gift, passion for music and continues to hustle! The writer in me can identify with that struggle.

I love the single and just had to share it with you! Check out his video below! If you like it, you can download the single on iTunes and Spotify. It will make a great gift for the holidays, trust me and don't ask why!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday's Flashback: A Christmas Story

Are you in the holiday spirit with Christmas only 13 days away? Despite the fact that I don't celebrate the religious parts of the holiday, I do enjoy holiday commercialism. Funny how that works out. I'm happy to report my holiday shopping is almost done. I'll be wrapping and mailing out packages next week. While I'm wrapping and bagging gifts I enjoy watching holiday films too. One of my favorite Christmas films is The Christmas Story. Absolutely classic!

I can watch it again and again and again. Today's Friday Flashback is a short clip from the film. In the scene below Ralphie proves he's no punk. Enjoy and happy watching!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Aaliyah's Top 10 Selfies for 2013

The term "selfie" made a big splash in 2013. It was officially anointed when the Oxford dictionary added it this year. Pope John Francis may be Time magazines man of the year but I would have to say "selfie" is the word of the year, even if my spell check doesn't recognize it. The Oxford Dictionary and Lakeshore Public Media made it their word of the year. Everyone from your average Joe to President Obama is snapping one. It's the in thing.

I've done my share. Have you? With my personal need to reflect as this year comes to a close I've decided start my process with a fun "selfie" recap. I've to combed through mountains of "selfie" photos online and bring you my top ten. The word is here to stay but I'm already wondering what next year's created word will take us and the media by storm.

Aaliyah's Top 10 Selfies for 2013

10. Kim Kardashian. Where would my list be without the infamous Kim? I'm no fan but this selfie did catch my eye. Sorry Kanye, you're not on my list. Please don't hate.

9. Geraldo Rivera. I can't believe I once interned for Geraldo's daytime talk show. People used to think his talk show was bad. I find this selfie much worse. Hot mess!!

8. Mom and I at the 2013 New Haven Open at Yale women semi-finales. (Yes, I decided to add my own, lol!)

7. Pope Francis with teenage travelers. This Pope has been a game changer for the Catholic church I wasn't expecting. Enough said!

6. Malia and Sasha Obama. I love these two and they make the list because they are too cute.

5. Madonna. Definitely not the icon at her best, but she gets a pass due to her iconic status. Courtesy of her Instagram :)

4. A father from Ontario with his 4-week old daughter. I'm still puzzled on how the baby made that face.This is one of my favs.

3. Snoop Dog. Snoop makes the list because he was bold enough to take a selfie with a hair bonnet on his head, but then again he's that type of guy.

2. John Hodgins. My former Casey colleague and friend. I'm normally not into beards but his is a list maker.

1. President Obama. No explanation needed!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Remembering Mandela

Yesterday the world lost Nelson Mandela. He was an activist, freedom fighter, father, humanitarian, leader, who was also pragmatic and a forward thinker. These past couple of years he had many health struggles and although I wasn't surprised by the announcement of his passing, I still felt a tremendous sense of loss. I believe Mandela was an exceptional human being. I would place him on a humanitarian list that would include Mother Theresa, Oskar Schindler, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and others. This Flashback Friday I'm remembering the life and accomplishments of Nelson Mandela. A 1961 video interview with a young Mandela is at the end of the post for your viewing.

I get angry when I think about his early life and the pain, suffering and injustice he and many other black and colored South Africans endured for more than 40 years because of apartheid. It reminds me of the United States "Jim Crow" days in the south. The two discriminatory systems are practically brother and sister. Architects of apartheid visited the United States in the 1940s and based their system off our "Jim Crow" laws, but made it much more heinous in its implementation and practice in South Africa.

If I grew up during apartheid I would have had to carried an ID card that listed my race as black. I would only be able to live with other blacks. I wouldn't have had white friends, nor would I have married my husband who would have been classified as colored. No one should have to live under such conditions.

I understand why Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid and at times used violence to combat violence. What still mystifies me about him is that he served almost 30 years in prison for his convictions and was willing do die for it, even die in prison. He's beliefs and his convictions about freedom and democracy for all South Africans did not waiver and he didn't give up. When Mandela was released from prison he wasn't angry and vengeful, he believed the only way to move himself and his country forward was through forgiveness. I find that astonishing and tells me a lot about his character.

Like King, his vision of democracy and freedom isn't fully realized. The remnants of apartheid still linger in many areas within the country. I think economic disparities between whites and people of color are a result of the inequities apartheid created. The country has faced its demons through the reconciliation process, but the struggle continues. It's a global struggle. Injustice in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Saudi Arabia, the United States and others parts of the globe matter and we need to make others aware of these struggle. Like it or not, we are all connected.

Over the next few days much will be said about Mandela as he is remembered. There are so many things to take away from his life, but for me one of the most important was his ability to forgive. There are many horrible things happening in our world, but we all have the capacity to forgive those who wrong us. To be able to forgive requires a great inner strength. Mandela had it and I will never forget it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks

Tomorrow we will celebrate Thanksgiving as a nation. It's my favorite holiday of the year because it's a time when I get to reconnect with family and friends as well as begin my year-end reflection process. Despite the ups and downs I face in  life I am thankful for every day I'm granted on this earth. In today's post I'm going to share the five things I am most thankful for.

My top five list of what I am thankful for this year:

1. Karim HadjSalem (the hubby). He helps keep me grounded and tries to keep me focused on my personal goals as well as our goals as husband and wife. It's an added bonus that he's a programmer and handyman! I'm a very lucky girl.

2. My family and friends. I consider my friends a part of my extended family. I have a few special shout outs. My first is to my mom. Even though I'm grown, there are so many ways that she still helps me today and I know I wouldn't be the person I am without her love and support. Shout out to Dawn, my older sister! Growing up we were like oil and water, but today I can't imagine my life without her. She's smart, tough and keeps it real (sometimes too real, lol). I love that we both share a passion for interesting films and television shows that help expand our thinking. Smooches to my besties, you know who you are. You are the sisters I wished for growing up. I count my blessings that are paths crossed and that I have each of you in my life today. To Michelle, my mother-in-law; Salem, my father-in-law; and Faten (Karim's step-mom), thank you for all the dinners you host throughout the year and for your constant love and support to Karim and I. To the Thomas, Reeves and Rhodes families, although I don't get to see you all as much as I would like, I'm glad we are still connected and I love spending time with the next generation. I'm also very thankful for my writing mentor Louisa Burns-Bisgno, she continues to inspire and encourage me with her wisdom and ability to tell meaningful stories.

3. My blog. Sharing is caring, plus a writer needs to write. This blog is a reminder that I have stories I want to tell and share with others and that I have other vehicles I need to continue to hone and develop like my screenwriting. I appreciate all of you who read it!

4. Finishing my master's degree. I have one more semester to go and I will graduate Gonzaga University's Communication and Leadership Program. This two years program has helped me grow both professionally and personally. My final semester is going to be my hardest yet as I work on my thesis project, but I ready for the challenge and feel both prepared and ready.

5. My new job, although it's not so new anymore. This time last year I was preparing to leave the Annie E. Casey Foundation (Shout out to my Casey family)  and join UIL Holding Corporation. I was happy to have another job, but didn't know what to expect and had some anxiety about that. I jumped in ready to learn and a year later I still have a job. Yeah! I have a much better understanding of the utility industry then I did a year ago and I look forward to continuing to grow and learn as I approach year two.

I wish you and your families a happy and safe Thanksgiving and feel free to let me know what you are thankful for in the comments section! I want to know!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday's Flashback: Dirty Dancing's Final Dance

Happy Friday everyone,

We made it through another week. Yeah. I don't know about you, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I'm looking forward to a short week that will officially kick-off our holiday season.

It's time for me to switch things up! You're going to get a flashback, just a different type of flashback video. Instead of picking a music video that I love, I decided to share one of my favorite movie scenes.This week's flashback is the final dancing scene in Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayzee (RIP) and Jennifer Gray. Remember Johnny's line, "Nobody puts baby in the corner!" How can you not? It's classic! 

When I heard Hollywood was remaking the film I was very disappointed along with many other fans of the film. If my memory serves me right, I believe there was some national outage, even if it was mostly on Facebook, lol. I felt the same about Footloose. I have yet to see either and am not sure if I ever will. I'm sure the casts were equally talented but some things should be left alone. On that note I wish you a wonderful weekend. Enjoy the scene. 

Don't be scared to sing and dance along!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday's Flashback: Cyndi's Lauper "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"

Happy Friday everyone! My bad on missing last week's flashback post. Time got away from me and when I remembered it was Saturday. Glad to be back. I'm feeling upbeat this week and thought this week's flashback video should be also be. Before the Spice Girls indoctrinated a generation of tweeners and teenage girls with marketed ideas of girl power, there was a quirky, off-beat singer whose song resonated women across the globe and made them feel empowered. If it's not fun, then it's done and it's why I've selected Cyndi Lauper's, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" for this week's Friday Flashback.

I love this song because it makes me feel good from the inside out. I can be having the worse day, but when I play this song I seem to be able to let go over my negative feelings and remind myself to take a page from Ms. Lauper's book and try to have fun. The single was Lauper's breakthrough hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming a worldwide hit throughout late 1983 and early 1984.

Last week Lauper was in Connecticut and performed at the Ridgefield Playhouse. I'm sorry I missed that. This song and video is more than two decades old, but I find it timeless and a reminder that no matter what I have on my plate, I just want to have fun. Thanks Cyndi!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Where There is Breath There is Hope

Documentary poster
Where there is breath, there is hope. Today I was left with those words from Tonier "Neen" Cain, a trauma survivor that endured two full decades of sexual and physical assaults, homelessness, mental abuse and many other ills that come with being a part of our broken, social, mental health and criminal justice systems. She was the keynote speaker at Clifford Beers Clinic's 11th Annual Builders of Hope Breakfast. Even as I write this post, her words "Where there is breath, there is hope," still resonate with me. The short but powerful phase is a personal reminder to me why I love stories and believe in the power of one person's story.

I was invited to the event as a guest of a colleague and while I'm familiar with Clifford Beers and what they do, I wasn't sure what to expect from the speaker. I wasn't familiar with her story. The moment she stepped up to the podium she had a strong presence.  She captivated me, and I think the greater audience as well. 

On all accounts her story was a tragic one. She grew up in an abusive home with an alcoholic mother that was more concerned with getting her liquor fix and pleasing the men that came in and out her bed then raising the multiple children she birthed. Her mother's neglect also lead to physical and sexual abuse that would put a nine year-old child on a path to seek a temporary escape through alcohol that she found left over from her mother's parties and eventually to an addiction of crack-cocaine that would engulf her in life of crime, putting her in and out of our criminal justice system.

Her story is familiar, at least familiar to me. I've heard it before as it has become a common story within our urban cities. On occasion it may draw attention in a news headline or a segment on the five or six o'clock news as a breaking story. While her story is a tragic one as a society we have come to accept it as a norm and move on with our lives. The truth is that we don't really move on.

The destruction that drug addiction has in our cities and towns is epidemic and the connection they have to mental illness is often overlooked and not addressed and if it is, many times its too late. Luckily that wasn't the case for Tonier.

She stood on a stage, confident, engaged and despite the trauma she has endured she was able to talk about it. It took her more than 20 years to get the help she needed, but she got it and reminded the audience the need for change. In my short life I've come to learn that we talk a lot about change, but when push comes to shove, many people aren't willing or ready to embrace it. That's a major problem because if we don't change we become the victims of our own actions.

In Tonier's story I was also stuck with how she continued to slip through our systems. No one ever asked her why or what is going on? Where do the bruises come from, instead they checked off lists as if the job was done and she continued to spiral downward. To deal with her trauma, drugs became her outlet, her way to numb the pain. Can you imagine how different her life may have been if someone actually cared about a nine year-old black girl being neglected and showing clear signs of abuse and actually did something about it? I can.

I take solace in the fact that she made it from the darkness to the light and can share her empowering story with others. I commend the mental health practitioners that got it right after 20 years and helped her work through the trauma. 

In all accounts, she should have been a lost cause and as a society we would have accepted the fact that she is a crack-head that is never going to change. 

However, "Where there is breath there is hope." Tonier's words are a reminder that as a society, while it's easier to dismiss drug addicts and crazy people, as a society we pay when we refuse to help people deal with their trauma, mental health issues or drug addiction. It costs the individual, their families and has an even more devastating impact in our communities.

None of us in this world can fix our problems alone. It takes support. Our systems and services have to work together. We have to stop turning a blind eye and start asking the right questions. If we don't how can we expect to find the right answers. 

Below is Tonier's story and I hope it continues to have the power to inspire and give hope to others as it did me. Where there is breath there is hope!

Healing Neen - feature length from Gallery144 Productions on Vimeo.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday's Flashback: Red Hot Chilli Peppers "Under the Bridge"

It's late, but I wanted to squeak in this blog post. I'm not going to let Friday past without getting my flashback video out there. I really like this feature and sharing some of my favorite videos and songs with you. I feel like I bring you into the things that help to shape my opinions and how I view the world at large.

This week's Friday Flashback is Red Hot Chilli Peppers "Under the Bridge." I apologize for not sharing upbeat and happy-go-lucky video in advance, but I have to be real about why I choose this video to post.

When this song came out I was in eighth grade. I loved the smooth and calming rock melody, but at the time I didn't realize the song was about heroin use. Initially, I think I connected to the message of loneliness and wanting to be taken away. A few years later and wiser I got the song's real message about heroin, aka  H, white-horse, candy, an alluring and secretive killer drug. What I know realize is that the message of loneliness and the feeling of wanting to be taken away I connected to, is why many people try and then become addicted to heroin. It temporarily fills a void or the sense of emptiness the user feels. In recent months I've come to see the power of this addictive drug and its ability to rob an individual of their job, dignity, trust, soul, and by the grace of God not yet their life.

The drug deceives and makes those who fall under its influence deceptive. The drug offers the false illusion that it will take the pain away and when you think you can quit, you're hooked, you're and addict!

It's in our big cities, our suburbs, and our small and rural towns. All walks of life from business men to college students are seeking out the drug and fall victim to its deceptive allure. There are a lot of people who are "under the bridge" and struggling with heroin addiction. It's very unfortunate and sad, but it's a reality that is out there. If you know or suspect that someone your life is using heroin, try to help them get clean. You may be that individual's last hope.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday's Flashback: Back to Life, Back to Reality

I made it through my first week back from vacation. It wasn't as tough as I thought it was going to be, but I definitely miss the relaxation and ease I felt was on the island of Sint Maarten. I'm back to life and back to the reality that is my life, which comes with it's ups and downs. Luckily, I have my memories and photos to bring me back even if it's just for a few moments.

Since I spent the week getting back into the work groove I thought it's fitting to have Soul II Soul's video "Back to Life Back to Reality" be Friday's Flashback. Back in 1989 this song brought Soul II Soul international fame. The group won two Grammy awards; Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals for "Back To Life," and Best R&B Instrumental for "African Dance." I love this song. It's smooth, sensual and has a great beat you can two step to. All you have to do is flow with it.Classic!

Well, I'm back to my life post-vacation and moving forward. Have a good weekend and enjoy the video.

The Tillinghast Nightmare Premiere Movie Screenings

Halloween will be here before we know it. Did you know the holiday originated in Europe ad was brought to the United States by immigrants from Scotland and Ireland? Don't believe me check TimeandDate.com.

This time of year you'll find many people embracing  creepy and scary allure of the holiday. There are haunted houses, fright nights and if you turn on your TV, your sure to find a classic horror film on one of the cable networks, not to mention trailers for horror or thriller themed movies now at the box office. 

In the world of indie cinema we have a team of talented and creative Connecticut artists ready to make the most of this Halloween with their premiere screenings of The Tillinghast Nightmare, directed by Alec Asten. The documentary film is based on seven members of the Tillinghast family mysteriously died in 1799. Through re-enactments, artwork and interviews with experts from different fields, The Tillinghast Nightmare makes surprising connections to give insight into the practice of vampire exorcism in eighteenth and nineteenth century New England.

Colonial Vampire's Invade New London
(Tim Bonavita, Magda Grover, Kat McNiff, & Amy Gott)

There will be four screenings of The Tillinghast Nightmare thanks to community support within the Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Screening Schedule:

October 27, 2013
Gardening Arts Center
325 State Street, New London, CT
7 to 9 p.m.

Signature Caption:
Signature of Stukely and Honor Tillinghast
October 28, 2013
Columbus Theater
270 Broadway, Providence, RI
7 to 9 p.m.

October 29, 2013
Jane Picken's Theater & Event Center
49 Touro Street, Newport, RI
7 to 9 p.m.

October 30, 2013
Mark Twain House & Museum
351 Farmington Ave., Hartford, CT
7 to 8:30 p.m.

“We are based in New London, so naturally we wanted our Premiere to be in New London. We reached out to the Garde and they were excited about having a fun event," said Magda Grover, producer on the project. “Especially with us bringing Dacre Stoker to talk about his Great Uncle, Bram Stoker, and how he was inspired to create Dracula based on "New England Vampire" accounts.The bonus was when we reached out to The Mark Twain house and they informed us that Mark Twain had actually critiqued Dracula to Bram so they partnered with us for the Screening Event. That was really fascinating.The legend is based in Rhode Island, we reached out to several venues in the state and were very pleased that Jane Pickens Theater and The Columbus Theatre both were interested and agreed to let us screen there. 

If you're looking for a fright night in New England I'm recommending The Tillinghast Nightmare screenings. It's not everyday you get to see a film written, directed and produced come to the screen! Don't miss it!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Back from Sint Maarten

Cupecoy Beach, Sint Maarten
I'm home sweet home and am glad to see our government saw fit to raise the debt ceiling although I still can't believe it came to the wire like it did. Hot mess. This post was meant to be a greetings from Sint Maarten, but I forgot to post while on vacation.

I can't believe my week on the lovely island of  is almost over. I'm kind of bummed about that. It was a relaxing week. I really enjoyed the down time with family and friends. It's only Monday and I already miss the laid-back and blissful vibe of the island, let me not forget their tasty Caribbean food, the people, the beautiful blue beaches, and last but not least, the weather (I love the hot sunny days and warm nights. This climate is great for my skin.)

Since I missed Friday's Flashback last feature week, here is a Monday recap that features the Oh Sweet Sint Maarten Land video and some of the photos from my trip. It was a very good vacation. Time well spent.

Shoreline of Cupecoy Beach
Balcony view from the Atrium resort.

My mom (in the middle) with her friends Agatha (left) and Sheila (right).

Sunset at the Simpson Bay resort.

Enjoying my coconut water.

Sint Maarten country side

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday's Flashback: Madonna's "Holiday"

Happy Friday, you and I made it through yet another work week. I'm also excited to report that I'm one day away from a much needed vacation to the island of St.Martin, also known as St. MaartenThe tiny French-Dutch island of Saint-Martin, covering just 88 km², is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The island is known for its beautiful beaches, shopping, outdoor excursions, casinos and bingo (a local favorite). It will be a second visit for my mom, sister and I and is part of birthday getaway for my mom. 

While I do enjoy the fall season, it will be nice to relax and enjoy 80 degree days and be thrown back into summer mode even if it us just for a week.

Planning for this vacation, got me to thinking about the fact that most Americans don't go away for vacation and that many people in the U.S. only get two weeks a year compared to our European counterparts who get a least a month. Part of this has to do with our value system. Europeans get more time off, but make less money (seems like they place a higher value on time outside of work) compared to Americans who typically earn more money, but take less time off even when they have it.

I personally value both and struggle to find a happy medium. I wish I had more vacation time. I want to have a strong income  and grow it, but I've come to realize that money isn't everything and at the end of the day you can't take it with you.

In honor of my vacation I have to shout out my girl Madonna! Even though she's been a Friday Flashback her song "Holiday" fits perfectly for this week's flashback. Have a great weekend and see you back here next week!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday's Flashback Video: Sinead O' Conner's "Nothing Compares 2 U"

It's Friday and I'm happy to say I'm pleased to have made it through another week. I'm officially in countdown mode. A week from tomorrow I'll be on the beautiful island of St. Martin with my mom and sister for a birthday vacation celebration with my mom. She is yet another year older (won't say her age), but she still looks fabulous and I hope that I'm working it like her when I'm her age.

Ms. Miley Cyrus seems to still be on the minds of folks in the world of celebrity weeks after her disturbing VMA performance with Robin Thick last month. I know they say that even bad press is good (I wholeheartedly disagree because it's no fun to watch people publicly fall apart.) Towards the end of this week, even Sinead O'Connor had words of advice for Miley Cyrus. Sinead knows what it's like to be ridiculed in the media. I found her advice to be right on point, but it looks like Miley would prefer she kept her opinions to herself. Read it here. I applaud her open letter and it's why I've select Nothing Compare 2U" as Friday's Flashback video. In my opinion this is one of the best covers that comes close to being better then the original that was song by Prince.

Nothing compares to Sinead. I love that she is still vocal in and out of the world of music! Have a good weekend and see you back here next week!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday's Flashback: Pearl Jam's "Jeremy"

Happy Friday! I don't know about all of you, but I'm ready for the weekend. While I look forward to most weekends I feel the need to embrace the ones that bring moderately warm temperatures as I make my way through the fall season. 

Since I've started this feature I realized that I haven't posted any alternative/rock videos. Today will change that. I'm bringing you back to 1992, when Pearl Jam released Jeremy. The song quickly rose to the top of the "alternative/rock" music charts thanks in part to the heavy rotation of the video on MTV (ah the good ole' days when MTV still aired videos).

According to Wikipedia, The song was inspired by a newspaper article Vedder read about a high school student that shot himself in front of his English class.

I selected this video for this week's Friday's Flashback because although the video is 10 plus years old, the topic is still very relevant, especially when you think about issues like cyber bulling (an epidemic with young people) or our nation's mental health crisis. Thanks to a plethora of tragic news stories on television, radio and in social media, we know that both adults and children are falling through the cracks.

It's easy to say it's not my problem, but if we keep on doing that, eventually it will become our problem. As you get ready for the weekend, think about people you may know who struggle with mental illness. If you recognize a problem with a friend or family member, don't ignore it. Below are some online resources that can help. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday's Flashback: Alanis Morissette "You Oughta Know"

TGIF! It's been a long week for me. I'm so glad it's Friday and am thrilled to share Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know for this Friday's Flashback video. This video was a wake-up call for the opposite sex! I remember how it touched a cord with women of all ages and across the globe. Daytime and night time shows were talking about it and it made Morissette a star. Her candidness shocked many while others thought it was long over due. I fall in the latter camp.

If you dated a douche bag, were recently dumped, or headed to divorce court, you probably connected with this song on a personal level. If not, the song is still kick-ass! Today, you may be going through any of the above and if that is the case this song will still speak to you. It still speaks to me! It's timeless because whether we like it or not, most women experience relationship drama and Morissette reminds us that it is okay to be angry and let the world know!

It looks like it is going to be another warm weekend here in the northeast. YEAH! I say keep the warm days coming. Enjoy the video and have a good weekend. Remember, that while we think people "oughta know" sometimes they need a reminder.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The ProduceHERS Fall Women's Artists Showcase Call to Artists

The ProduceHERS, a collaborative effort created by Halima Flynn and Aaliyah Miller aimed at producing new works and building audiences for female theatre artists - will be back with a Women's Artist Showcase on Sunday, October 27, 2013. 

Last November 17, The ProduceHERS presented their first Women’s Artist Showcase featuring the work of Anne Witkavitch, author of Press Pause Moments: Essays about Life Transitions and Women Writers; Dana Astmann, photographer, musician and writer; and Aaliyah Miller, author of Quarter Year Dilemmas

ProduceHERS Women's Artist Showcase
at the New Haven Public Library (March 2012).
The theme of this year’s showcase is to raise awareness about domestic violence and is presented as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, men whose work addresses Domestic Violence Awareness are also invited to participate as feature artists. 

We are seeking powerful, motivated and dynamic men and women who are visual artists, poets, actors, solo musicians, acoustic singers, actors, crafts people and writers to participate in an artistic showcase and networking opportunity. It is our goal to open the ears and hearts of our community to powerful, poignant, and passionate artists who are hard at work, writing their own destinies! Share your passion, dream, and process with the community and fellow artists. 

  • Are you working on a book?
  • Do you have a chapter you want to share, a selection of songs, poems or a monologue, you would like an audience to hear?
  • Are you a visual artist who would like to share your latest works?
  • Are you an artist or crafts person interested in presenting your works for sale?
  • Other? 
If you answered yes to one or all questions, we encourage you to submit your work! Send us the following materials to ProduceHER@FDPOnStage.com or online at www.fdponstage.com/WAS/2013Call2Artists.html: 

  • Short Bio – Max 75 words
  • Sample of your work
  • Relevant media coverage about your work 
Don't forget to Save-the Date: 

Event: The ProduceHERS Women’s Artistic Showcase
Time: 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Date: Sunday October 27, 2013
Location: Yale Health, 55 Lock Street, New Haven

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday's Flashback: Janet Jackson's "That's the Way Love Goes"

My godsons outside of Boston's Museum of Science.
Happy Friday everyone! Sorry I missed last week's Friday's Flashback. I was busy gearing up for a weekend with my two godsons Malakai and Noah and I let the time get away from me. I  started the post but didn't finish it. While I enjoyed the quality time I spent with both boys, I'm glad to be back this week.

Janet Jackson hasn't topped the music chart in recent years, but it doesn't stop her from being a pop star icon. The last major media coverage you may remember on her was the infamous wardrobe malfunction at the half-time performance with Justin Timberlake at Super Bowl 38. I believe the incident was planned and not a a malfunction but it doesn't really matter at this point. Janet like the predecessors before her (Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, etc.) have laid a strong foundation for today's pop solo female artists like, Britney Spears, Ciara, and others.

While I have many favorite songs and videos from Janet, Ms. Jackson if your nasty, I've decided to select "That's the Way Love Goes" as this week's Friday flashback. I love the song and video because Janet reintroduced a more sensual and smooth, yet fun-loving and still sexy self. I feel like she was telling the world she grew up and wasn't ashamed of her evolution. It was tasteful unlike the recent Miley Cyrus' performance on MTV's VMA show that showcased her evolution from kid superstar to adult female artist coming into her own. While I get where Miley was going, she really missed the mark in my opinion.

The video also features a cameo from Jennifer Lopez who was coming up in entertainment and pushing past her Living Color "fly girl" persona.Well that's all for now. Enjoy the video and have a good weekend!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday's Flashback Music Video: Tupac's "Changes"

Last week's blog post received some positive feedback. Thanks for the email comments but I much prefer to see them in the comment section, hint...hint. My older sister Dawn also recommended I call it Friday's Flashback. I like it. Moving forward that's the new title for this feature.

This week's video feature is Tupac Shakur's "Changes." This track was recorded in 1992, that year I was in eighth grade. This is one of my favorites from Tupac because he drops some serious "food for thought," with a smooth flow. Today, I can listen to this song and think about how much has changed, but I can also see what hasn't. While we do have a black president, the issues of  poverty, racial profiling, black on black crime, and discrimination are still prevalent in black urban communities across our nation. People are still struggling day in and day out and all our politicians can seem to do is offer budget cuts to federal programs that help our impoverished citizens as solutions. Cities that come to mind our Chicago, D.C., Detroit and my very own Hartford, Connecticut.

We need to do better and we can do better. The changes we want to see are the changes we have to make. Thanks for the reminder Tupac. RIP!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday's Music Video Throwback: Madonna's Like a Prayer

I've decided to add a new feature called Friday's Music Video Throwback since I've been lagging in writing blog posts these past few weeks. Starting today and moving forward I will post one of my favorite videos from "back in the days."

These days I'm not a video watcher, but I grew up embracing MTV. My love of music and television was brought together. There was a time when it was the all I watched. I looked forward to world premieres of videos and knowing the "Top 10" videos of the week. I grew up in the days when the network actually showed videos and had shows that were centered around the world of music like MTV News, MTV Jams, Headbangers Ball, and Yo' MTV Raps. I miss the days of Kurt Loder reporting music news.

These days if I watch a music video it us usually on YouTube and it's only because there is some buzz about it I hear from friends. While I hardly watch new music videos these days, I love watching videos from the "good ole'" days because it 1.) brings me back to memories of my youth, 2.) and it reminds me of the evolution of music merging with television, both are worth noting and remembering.

Today, the iconic Madonna turns 55. In honor of her birthday I've decided to post her video "Like a Prayer." It's one of my favorites! I love this song and think the video tells an interesting and compelling story that was cutting edge back in the 90s. Pepsi dropped after the video premiered and I remember leaders of the Catholic and Evangelical churches wanting the video banned. I think the big issue was Madonna kissing Leon Robinson, the black saint in the video.

While Madonna isn't on the pop charts these day, it's clear to see why see is a music icon. Don't forget to let me know what you think of the video in the comments section and make sure you log-in and post a comment! Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why I'm a Super Fan of Netflix's Orange is the New Black

Orange is my signature color. It looks lovely on me and really compliments my skin tone or so I have been told. As a result, I keep a lot of it in my closet and around the house whether it be candles, shoes, bags, cloth napkins, jewelry, my laptop and soon to be new luggage set. 

So when my sister told me about Netflix's new original series, Orange is the New Black (OITNB), they had me at Orange, but on a more serious note my interest was definitely peaked. 

Dawn and I started watching the show three hours before we were going to see Taylor Swift perform at MetLife Stadium. As our departure time approached, I found myself not wanting to leave, but common sense prevailed. When we got back to my sister's place, which was around midnight, we watch three more episodes. It was that good!

, a cable veteran, known for her success with Showtime's original series Weeds created OITNB. The show's premise centers around the character Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a woman from Connecticut, living in New York City who is sent to the women's Litchfield, NY federal prison for 15 months for transporting a suitcase full of drug money for Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), an international drug smuggler and Chapman's one-time lover. Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs), plays Piper's accepting Jewish husband that is willing to stay with her during her prison sentence. While the show has an interesting premise, it's not the premise that gripped and entertained me. 
The fabulous cast of Orange is the New Black.

The show's growing popularity and successful debut can be attributed to its excellent character development. I'm all about characters whether its film or a television show. The characters pull me into the story and as the stakes intensify for them, they intensify for me as a viewer. OITNB has  characters I instantly connected with.They aren't glossy or superficial. I find them flawed, personable and they personify life's struggles in a way that juxtaposes tragedy with comedy. In many ways the show reminds me a lot of HBO's Oz because the writers take audiences from the present to the past and back to the present in each episode giving a back story that gives insight into how each character ends up at Litchfield. While Oz helped reinforce many stereotypes about prison and our criminal justice system, OITNB brings a subtle humanity to the characters while portraying life behind federal prison bars. 

I finished viewing the series in three days and the last episode has me already counting down to season two. 

These days I find a lot of junk on television. I'm still in shock by the viral Internet buzz that Syfy's Sharknado invoked a couple of week's ago. I loved House of Cards and Netflix has another winner with OITNB. Don't take my word for it, sign-up for Netflix and check out the show!