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.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lucy and the Brain

Written by Nicole Richards-Sharpe

What would happen if you could use more than 10% of your brain? This is the interesting question posed by the newly released film, "Lucy", starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. Due to popular belief, humans are not allowed to use more than this amount.  The problem with this belief is that it is fictional, an urban legend. Humans, at different times, use all of our brain matter.  American writer, Lowell Thomas, misquoted psychologist Dr. William James and was the first to pen 10% as the capacity of human brain use.  Now back to Lucy. 

Scarlett Johansson stars as Lucy, a woman who ends up forcibly transformed into a literal pack mule for a Chinese drug lord. When the drug bag she is carrying in her abdomen tears and releases the drug into her system, she is placed on a collision course where her brain gradually unlocks to its full potential.

While the film has an interesting premise, too many times I thought I was watching the Exorcist meets Paranormal Activity meets Salt.  While separate, these three movies might have been entertaining.  Together, it was just a mess. The choices of the director made the film come off fascinating at times and just plain wacky at others.  Also, the hyper-focused look on Scarlett Johansson’s face appeared to be more of a dumb, blank stare than one of a super smart person.  I read that Angelina Jolie was originally signed as Lucy but she later dropped out of the project.  She must have read the full script.

Morgan Freeman plays the scientist with the foremost knowledge of unlocking the brain’s potential whom Lucy tracks down to help her.  He was well casted but his part was minimal at best.  I know that the writers wanted to make a profound statement about humans and our potential to stop all wars and injustice as we allow our minds to develop to its full capacity in knowledge but that message was lost in translation.  The whole film was a convoluted mess.  I was excited about Lucy ever since I first saw the trailer months ago.  Boy was I disappointed.  After I saw the film, my brain activity decreased to 2%.  Be warned.                     

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cupcakes Grow In Brooklyn

 by Nicole Richards-Sharpe

So I finally made my way to Williamsburg to try out the new sensation-Brooklyn Cupcake.  I have seen it before and heard of it but I didn't have an inclination to jump on the bandwagon. Why? Because as a born and bred Brooklynite, I have built up a distaste for every business that I see popping up with the word Brooklyn in its name.  Non-Brooklynite entrepreneurs throw the name of my hometown around so loosely that it comes across as a cheap gimmick.

Upon watching a Sunny Anderson (Food Network chef) interview with the owners of Brooklyn Cupcake, I was happily surprised to find out that they were actually from Brooklyn. Carmen Rodriguez started the business with the help of her family when she was abruptly laid off from her job.  It is a heart-warming story of beating the odds and turning lemons into lemonade.  See the link to the interview below.

Now, to the Cupcakes!

There are over 20 flavors of cupcakes and I wanted to try them all, but alas, I narrowed it down to a few flavors - French Toast, Vanilla, Flan, Tres Leche and Coquito. I must tell you that when you bite into one, there is a burst of rich flavor that you are not expecting. I first tried the Tres Leche. It was heaven! Then the Coquito. The scent of rum is unmistakable. Of course heat kills the toxicity but it leaves behind that flavorful rummy taste. This cupcake was delectable. I bit into the Vanilla which was okay and then the French Toast.  It definitely lived up to its cinnamony name.

My favorite? Tres Leche! Coquito is a close second. Interestingly, Tres Leche is a popular Latin cake made of 3 milks, as its name indicates. Coquito is a legendary Puerto Rican drink made of, among other ingredients, coconut milk and rum. Yum!

My little outing to Brooklyn Cupcake was well worth the visit.  I will return to tackle the other flavors (after a little jog and a push up or two that is). Enjoy!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lots of Fires and Lots of Howling!!

Blood Moons and Other Natural Things

When we look at the full spectrum of human life and universal existence, we see over the time of humankind on earth the great influence of nature upon that relatively short span of time.

Taking the Blood Moons as just one example and working back, we know there is a natural phenomenon that causes the moon to take on certain appearances at certain times.  We also know that certain appearances of the moon evoke certain reactions or contribute to the understanding of certain people of events in the movement of humankind through time.  So, the rare occurrence of a Blood Moon Tetrad (or other types of moon configurations and colors) signals a reaction which stems from a belief system, a culture or way of thinking that has been passed down as religious doctrine, historical association or folk lore.

What makes such natural events so intriguing is that there have been and probably will be actual events that coincide with these natural events.  Is this happenstance, religious inflection, nature's actual influence on life or an interpretation of ongoing man-made issues arriving at a certain point in their genesis as natural events arriving at the same time? 

I think if one looks at the development of humankind from small foraging groups to incredibly large, distinct and diverse societies, it is a clue to the dependence of man upon nature for life and guidance.

Earth's creatures preceding man in all likelihood did not look to the sky for signs or guidance.  Once humankind evolved and began to think cognitively, the sky became the mystery it remains today.  Tribes became kingdoms, villages became cities, and soon man was looking to the stars for gods and legends.  The sky influenced seasons, traditions and behavior.  Man moved away from mythology to prophets and from prophets to a singular concept of an all-powerful God, and then to many, many sects that each interpreted that one God differently.

There is a competition of thought or belief, if you will, like money or land or resources, beliefs create lines between people and lines lead to political struggle, prejudice, hatred and war and we still look to the sky for signs of warning and signs of hope.

We have not completely shed our pagan ways.  A Blood Moon in the sky stirs in some emotions, remembrances and fears.  In others, it stirs scientific curiosity.

Nevertheless, one thing it does in all of us, no matter our beliefs or preconceived notions; it makes us look to the sky and wonder.

Photo credit: "lunar eclipse of 10-27-04" - the blood moon by Peter Gustafson, Colorado
Links - read more about the Red Moon theories:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Game of Thrones:The Death of the King

Nicole Richards-Sharpe

Spoiler Alert!
If you have not seen tonight's episode of Game of Thrones, read no further.

Tonight, the moment I have been waiting for, and no doubt, every other GOT addict, has finally happened. It might sound heartless and vile but the king of Westeros, King Joffrey, is finally dead; by poisoning no less.  I have thought about this day and how it would play out.  Tonight took me by surprise though, as so many moments have in the Game of Thrones tradition.  Being unable to predict outcomes is one of the many great features of the series. 

At last, a murderous, cowardly and abusive character that is deserving of all the evil he has dished out, is killed. Now the question is, who dun it?  For the moment, his uncle, Lord Tyrion Lannister was seized as the murderer but I don't think he is guilty.

There are a host of characters who fit the description.  My line up of suspects are as follows:

1) Shae
 90 percent of me believes that Tyrion's former whore turned Love of his Life, is the culprit.  She has a fiery disposition that can not be quenched.  Even Tyrion didn't believe that she went quietly on the boat that he prepared to send her away on. For her to leave, she would have to go out with a bang.  Poisoning the king and having Tyrion's head roll for the murder would be the perfect revenge for a woman scorned.

2) The former Knight forced to be the king's fool-I don't know his name but he has an axe to grind on Joffrey's head for stripping his noble title as Knight and forcing him to be his fool, subjected to his abuse in front of throngs of mocking idiots.  In the last episode, he returned to give Sansa a beautiful heirloom necklace for saving his life from Joffrey.  In an earlier episode, Joffrey forced him to drink wine to his death until Sansa stepped in and stopped it.  In tonight's episode, immediately after Joffrey dies, he shows up to offer Sansa safe passage away from King's Landing. Suspect...

3) Sansa
 She has many reasons to get rid of Joffrey, including beheading her father and forcing her to stare at the head as it rotted on a spike in the heat of the day. Also, being a conspirator in the murder of her mother, brother and his pregnant wife at the infamous "Red Wedding". 

4) Arya 
Let us not forget the young dire wolf who has a very peculiar friend (indebted to her for saving his life) with the power to kill at her will. In the last episode, she whispered the name of her next victim for him to take care of as she did twice before.  This was inaudible, which leads me to believe that Joffrey was that name. 

5) Prince Oberyn of House Martel

He took his brother's invitation to Joffrey's wedding and basically crashed it.  Every moment he got to speak, he spewed hatred for the Lannister's for killing his young Targaryan niece and nephew.  Unknown to him, his niece, Danerys is still alive and well across the Narrow sea.  His "Hotspur" like spirit and thirst for vengeance dominates every scene he is a part of.

Although there are many who would love to see Joffrey dead, these are my suspects.  And The Game continues...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring is here so get Coat!

Ahhhhhhhhh....Mother Nature.

Spring is here and it is still ((Brrrrrrr)) outside. You've just gotta love Mother Nature's sense of humor.

May the spirit of spring and all things brand new bring you a multitude of blessings and happiness.

Welcome Spring!!

Photo: "Spring" by Radoslava Todorova

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Foggy Tuesday

Time sprung forward last week and my mind is still in a fog. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Don't forget to wear GREEN today because...

Gra' agus Suiamhneas  
(A wish of love and peace on this St. Patrick's Day.)

More about St. Patrick's Day
Photo "Irish at Guinness Museum" by Mark McGrath, Barrie, Canada

It's HOLI - Let Celebrate

Wishing everyone a Happy and Colorful (rainbow filled) HOLI.

Holi Dates
Festival of Colors 
What is HOLI 

1st Photo "Paint People" by Shadow 567
2nd Photo "Natural Dry Pigments" by Nikita Golovanov, Moscow