Monday, August 25, 2014

The MTV VMA's - What They're Calling Music Now


Written by Nicole Richards-Sharpe

The VMA’s began with a Bang Bang with the unholy trilogy of Arianna Grande, Nicki Minaj and Jesse J.  All three performed a snippet of their current hit songs and then culminated in the Bang Bang performance where Nicki Minaj, trying to salvage her wardrobe malfunction, took the attention off the group.  I mean, if you are wearing a piece of cloth complete with holes, it is kind of difficult to hold it together with one hand and perform at the same time.  That’s talent right?  I don’t even want to get into her reanimation of Sir Mix-A-Lots, “Baby got Back”.  Her “Anaconda” performance  showed that there are whole new levels to tackiness that we have not yet discovered!
 Arianna Grande has a great voice but of course in this business, that is just not enough.  The media machine has obviously made their decision to transform her from sweet Nickelodeon girl to slutty Nickelodeon girl, yet leaving the innocent look to appease their audience of pedophiles. The same people who Wow’d over Brittany Spears’ school girl video for “Hit Me Baby One More Time”. 

Even the host, Jay Pharaoh had to comment that he feels weird watching her perform.  He also mentioned grown men who probably watch her on her Nickelodeon show, “Sam and Kat”, along with their kids. Their wardrobe choice for Grande? Think Beyonce’s second rate throw-away leotards cut just close enough to be allowed on television.  And television is quickly losing any type of limits.  The third performer, Jesse J, a fleeting memory, opted for a piece of Reynolds wrap with a slit up both sides.  Classy huh? 

Taylor Swift, fresh off her announcement that she will be leaving the Country genre and entering the Pop world (Uhhhh I thought she already did but anyway), decided on a performance that was a flash back to the 1930/40’s art deco Gatsby-styled dance film. Somehow her song, “Shake it off” sounded so familiar.  I wonder why? When one of the lines was, “Hella Good” an ode to Gwen Stefani whom the cameraman coincidentally focused on, then it hit me! This beat is Bananas-“B-A-N-A-N-A-S”, Stefani’s old hit.  Too soon? Although it was unoriginal, it was a cute performance especially when the scripted Swift, high on a platform, refused to jump into the arms of the suited dancer men who playfully coaxed her from below, saying this is just too dangerous as she alluded to Nikki Minaj getting bitten by a snake during rehearsal. 

Thank you to Common for bringing back the media circus known as the VMA’s to reality. He poignantly reminded us of the Ferguson, Missouri police department’s years of injustice culminating in the murder of 18 year old Michael Brown by doing a moment of silence in the middle of the broadcast.
I appreciated Usher’s live band but can someone please inform him that he may be a little out of shape to be doing double duty as a singer and a dancer?  James Brown did it in his 70’s.  Why can’t he? And his back up dancers dressed in all white seemed so unnecessary. It was like a GLOW party gone wrong.  But of course, the carefully selected mosh pit of screaming MTV fans always make everything to the viewing audience feel oh so right.

I was happily surprised when Miley Cyrus who won for best Video of the Year with “Wrecking Ball”, had Jesse, a formerly homeless man, read a statement enlightening us of the 1.6 million homeless youths in America. I never knew that Los Angeles has the largest population of homeless kids, over 54,000.  As Jesse works to help these youths, he encouraged viewers to remember the invisible and help as well.  Congratulations to Miley Cyrus for retiring twerking and being an advocate for change.  Log on to this link for more information on how to help.

That was the first of two tear-jerking moments.  The second was the last performance of the night, Beyonce’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award performance.  It was a sultry, high-energy medley of songs off her most recent album.  The last song was a tribute to her beautiful daughter, Blue Ivy, which she sang facing the massive screen behind her that depicted endearing family scenes. When it was all done, her husband, Jay Z and little Blue Ivy presented her with the Moon Man.  She burst into tears and the little one, already showing a natural comfort with the stage spoke into the mic after applauding Beyonce, “That’s my mommy.”  What an Awwwwww moment. Overcome with emotion, Beyonce’s acceptance speech was short and sweet as she embraced her family and shared a heartfelt kiss with Jay.  Maybe this will quell rumors of an impending divorce? Nah.  Gossip mongers will never stop.

Did I see Katy Perry lovey dovey  and in matching denim with the rainbow braided, cubic-zirconian grilled, YouTube sensation, Riff Raff?  I thought she was with that boy, John Mayer.  Oh well…

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals
Honestly, I was bored for most of the VMA broadcast so I constantly flipped channels, missing some of the performances.  Am I wrong or did they not mention the Legendary Michael Jackson whose birthday happened to be yesterday?  Not even a mention, especially when Beyonce won the MICHAEL JACKSON Video Vanguard Award? No tribute performance?  Very suspect. 

It just goes to show that the music industry will never be the same again where real music is encouraged.  The King of Pop was the end of that era.  Manufactured images, voice enhancement and sex, sex, sex – this is what pop music is all about and if you don’t fall in line with the fakeness, no one will ever know you exist, except on YouTube of course!  The MTV VMA’s show is just one of many platforms for glorified self promotion where the shock factor is supposed to influence you to dig into your pockets and give the circus monkey a coin while another steals the rest out of your wallet. 


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

 by Nicole Richards-Sharpe

 How could I forget to write about the newest installment in the Marvel film Universe-Guardians of the Galaxy? It was on my mind but I never got a chance to jot down a few words. Since it’s never too late, here we go.

Now, I didn’t plan on watching Guardians of the Galaxy since I’m not familiar with the comic book story line.  As a result, the trailer looked weird to me.  I wasn’t expecting much but this is one time I was glad to be wrong. 
From beginning to end Guardians drew me in, from the heart wrenching opening scene when young Starlord’s mom (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Angelina Jolie) passes away, to the heart wrenching last scene when Groot sacrifices himself to save the team.  “We are Groot!” Still gives me goosebumps. Trees are our friends!

 Zoe Saldana traded the Avatar blue skin for green as Gamora and still rocked it well with great fighting moves.  Chris Pratt was the perfect casting as the wise-cracking, trouble-teasing Starlord and wrestler, David Bautista was made for the character Drax-big muscles, big heart and big vocabulary.  Vin Diesel was unrecognizable as the loving but tough Groot and the same can be said of Bradley Cooper’s voice as the badass genetically re-engineered raccoon, Rocket.  This is actually a plus for an actor to disappear into their character.  Of course it does help if the character is computer generated! 
Each part of the team was so well developed, it is near to impossible to imagine a character missing.  And the 80’s music that permeated the entire movie was a breath of fresh air, bringing back real music. Ah Nostalgia!  Guardians of the Galaxy is a light-hearted film packed with action and laughs and tear jerking moments-The complete package.  This was a great addition to the Marvel Universe film invasion and the best film I have seen for 2014 to date.  I can’t wait to see this colorful team interact with the Avengers.  It is going to be epic! So good I saw it twice!  If you haven’t seen it, check it out! (despite the spoiler moments above. Sorry J)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Metro Mess

MetroCard Fare Collector
Written by Nicole Richards-Sharpe

Have you noticed the metal metrocard boxes installed on New York City sidewalks lately?  These Sesame Street-colored eyesores are the MTA’s solution to the problem of overcrowded subways, congested streets and slow bus speeds - a direct result of a rapidly-growing city.  Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or Select bus service tickets are bought at these kiosks which, according to the MTA, will improve the transit’s speed and reliability in the following ways:

  • Frequent service: on high readership BRT corridors buses arrive every five to ten minutes or more frequently.
  • Station spacing: BRT stops are spaced about every half a mile, reducing travel time.
  • Off-board fare payment: riders pay their fares at stations before boarding, reducing stop time.
  • Traffic Signal Priority (TSP): BRT buses receive an extended green at traffic signals.
  • Bus lanes: BRT buses operate in their own bus lane or busway, bypassing congestion.
    I have ridden on four of these buses on the Lexington Avenue line in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and on the Nostrand Avenue line in Brooklyn, New York.  Many problems punch holes in the MTA’s claims for improving bus service. 

  1. Discrimination – The two times I rode the Select Bus in Brooklyn, MTA cops boarded and took their time checking everyone’s tickets to make sure they paid.  In Manhattan, this never occurred. Does “Select” really mean discrimination?  Are the poorer people in South Brooklyn being selected out to make sure that they are not fare beaters, while the more affluent riders in the Upper East Side of Manhattan enjoy a smooth ride without a planned search from the Transit Gestapo?  How is a search by police supposed to help you get to your destination faster?  Is this truly a part of Bus Rapid Transit?
  2. Slower Ride -The second time I rode the B44 bus on Nostrand Avenue, the driver actually crawled, slower than I would if I decided to walk.  Anyway, when I finally got to my destination (which was only one express stop away and took about 13 minutes), I realized the driver did this to meet up with not 1 but 4 Transit police officers.  They boarded the back doors and the front.  I felt like we were under attack.  It was pretty weird.  Although I was walking down the steps of the bus, one officer demanded that I show him my ticket.  I told him I needed to step out in order to find it.  I stepped out onto the sidewalk so I could leave the narrow stairwell of the bus and get some elbow room so I could search for this golden ticket which already skipped its way to the bottom of my woman bag along with some paper clips, crumbs and old bank receipts. When I finally found it, I told him he could keep it, but after examining it, he gave it back to me and said, “You keep it.” What will happen in the winter when snow is piled halfway up these machines and everyone is lined up, shivering in front of them for a chance to get a receipt? The  commute will undoubtedly slow down.
  3. Killing Trees – If you already bought a metrocard in advance as most strap hangers do, be it unlimited or what have you, you will still have to feed it to the magic Select Bus Service, Sesame Street box and get a ticket to show to the Gestapo. “Here. Look. I paid. I really, really paid.” How many trees have died and will die in the future so we could fill our bags with these extra pieces of paper?
    Can we come up with some better ideas for improving the commute in New York City?  I honestly believe that this Select Bus Service/Bus Rapid Transit system has been put in place to crack down on people who ride the bus for free.  Not once does the MTA list this as a reason for this new system but it is there between the lines.  Why aren't the MTA police searching riders in the Upper East Side too?  And if they do, it doesn’t seem as often as in poorer neighborhoods. If the MTA keeps raising the fare and people keep losing their jobs, what do they expect people to do when the money dries up?  Something has to be done about our community which is so lopsided, in favor of the rich. 
    When I was searching for my metrocard receipt, I wondered, ‘What would they do to me if I didn’t have it?’ The MTA website, cited below in the FAQ’s portion, states clearly that the penalty is a fare evasion summons. Now, I have not witnessed this but might it entail having the rider present their ID for the officers?  What if they don’t have an ID on them? Doesn’t this process take time during Bus Rapid Transit?  Will we soon have to wear immovable bar code tattoos to be identified?  This reminds me of the film, In Time, starring Justin Timberlake. A movie depicting a city, just like New York, where Time is Money and Money is Life.  Timberlake’s mother in the film did not have enough time/money for the bus and the driver refused to let her ride.  She died on the sidewalk as a result.  You might see this as a stretch but every oppressive law has a beginning.