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14
Apr
10

The Not-est Things Smokin’ on Four Wheels

So, uh…

These American cars are garbage, according to Forbes.com’s “worst cars on the road” list for the year 2010. All seven of the vehicles which comprised the list are made in the U.S.. Four are built by General Motors, two by Chrysler, and one by Ford, and each company has offered a public response to their respective brand slam.

The blacklist was determined by a number of factors:

“To determine our list of the worst-made cars on the road, we started with the lowest-rated vehicles from four reliability and performance studies conducted this year. Those studies are all fromConsumer Reports: The Most Reliable Cars Report; Best and Worst Values Report; Best and Worst Safety Performance Survey; and the CR overall scores for 2010 vehicles.

We then added to the list any vehicles that received fewer than three out of five power circles in this year’s Vehicle Dependability Study from J.D. Power and Associates. Any car, truck or SUV named among the worst in at least three of those five total studies made the final cut to be on the “Worst-Made” list.”

Fair enough. The criteria seem reasonable and universally important. Now to see the cars, eh?

7 . Cadillac Escalade – $62,495

6. Chevrolet Aveo – $11,965

5. Chevrolet Colorado – $29,695

4. Dodge Nitro – $22,335

3. Ford F-250 – $28,020

2. GMC Canyon – $16,985

1. Jeep Wrangler – $21,915

.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                .

Buyers beware! If you’re like me and are starting to scope the car market, make sure you pay attention to articles like these– especially the reputable ones. Don’t be the fool whose pride and joy winds up on Forbes 2011 worst-cars-ever-made list. Apparently, the makers featured here are revamping their lineup for next year. We’ll see if they can avoid the critical scythe of Forbes magazine on the next go-round.

14
Apr
10

A Spectacularly Sad Situation

Alright. I’m giving in. I’ve already talked this one into the ground with my close friends, but I decided this morning that I would share it with those of you who, by some miracle, have avoided all the internet “head shakes” and “laugh-out-louds” surrounding this music video.

I present to you: Kiely Williams (of former “Cheetah Girl” and “3LW” fame) and her first single, “Spectacular,” off of her new solo venture.

NOTE: This video is NSFW… Or really for any environment involving respectable people.

First of all, yuck. Everything about that song and video felt like I imagine a night with a hooker would… unfulfilling and regrettable. Second, what in the world is going on here? I understand the jump that so many artists who have catered to younger crowds attempt to make in order to break into the world of “mature” music. But making that jump and jumping the shark are two entirely different things. If it was internet fame she wanted, however, it was internet fame she got. Even Kiely’s harshest critics are, no doubt, anxiously waiting to devour her next single–and probably hoping somewhere deep down inside that it’s twice as objectionable as the first. And Kiely’s response to the critics?

“I am an actor and performer. I have been so since my first role in a television pilot at five years old. I played a character when I was a “Cheetah Girl.” I am playing a character in the music video for the song “Spectacular,” as I did in the “Cheetah Girl” movies. Young women across the country get intoxicated and have unprotected sex. That’s a fact. I recorded the song to bring attention to this frighteningly prevalent activity. It is absurd to infer or suggest that I am condoning this behavior.

Are Lady Gaga and Beyonce advocating murder with the “Telephone” video? Of, course not. Was Rihanna encouraging suicide with “Russian Roulette?” No. Was Madonna suggesting that young unmarried girls get pregnant with “Papa Don’t Preach?” I don’t think so. Is Academy Award winner Monique a proponent of incest because of her portrayal of Mary in the movie “Precious.” Clearly, the answer is no.

I wrote “Spectacular” and made the video to bring attention to a serious women’s health and safety issue.
Please don’t shoot the messenger.”

I mean, sure. If you feel that way, Kiely. But you forgot to mention the fact that it’s also just a pretty awful song/video. (When I first saw it, I thought it was an SNL spoof)

I’m not so much disappointed in Kiely as I am disgusted. I was never a fan of hers to begin with, so I don’t feel the betrayal that some of her followers probably did when they saw that she abandoned her traditional “girl power” mode. Or maybe some will see this video is a testament to girl power. I mean hey, a lady who gets what she wants must be in some type of control of a situation in which a nameless man scoops her up and takes her home to his place– even while shes under the intoxication of alcohol and possible drugs. Right? Right. However you want to see it, here it is in front of you– raw and uncut, like a pile of fish heads on a nickel-plated platter. Dig in, if that’s your thing. I think they’re considered a delicacy somewhere.

Here are the lyrics below:

Last night I was drunk
I don’t remember much
But what’d I do? Constant pictures
Thats how going I was
But he was tall and he was buying
So I gave him a trying
Said he was like a stallion
And the man wasn’t lying
Last I remember I was face down
Ass up clothes off broke off dozed off
Even though I’m not sure of his name
He could get it again if he wanted
Cause the sex was spectacular
The sex was spectacular (yeaaah)
The sex was spectacular
The sex was spectacular

So it was the morning after

I couldn’t get home faster

Doing the walk of shame

In the same clothes from yesterday
I think he pulled a track out
When he was blowing my back out
What was I drinking
I cant believe I blacked out

Last I remember I was face down
Ass up clothes off broke off dozed off
Even though I’m not sure of his name
He could get it again if he wanted

Cause the sex was spectacular
The sex was spectacular (yeaaah)
The sex was spectacular
The sex was spectacular

You can say what you want but
You can call me a slut but
What he did to me last night felt so good
I must have been on drugs
I hope he used a rubber
Or I’mma be in trouble
Promise I don’t remember
Except for
Give it to me give it to me
Ooh baby what a ride ride
Oh ride ride

So smooth like it beats
I like the heat
Ooh baby what a night night
Right right

Cause the sex was spectacular
The sex was spectacular (yeaaah)
The sex was spectacular
The sex was spectacular

14
Apr
10

Keep Your Child, Not Your Receipt pt.2

I’m no parent, so I couldn’t begin to comment on, or even hypothesize the difficulties of raising a child. I imagine that caring for an adopted child presents twice as many difficulties– and raising one that has been institutionalized for almost any amount of time will only add to the challenge. I’m also the product of an organic, two-parent household which never encountered such issues as psychological dysfunction or social deviance. All that aside, I still feel like good parenting(i.e. the occasional butt-whippin, grounding, yelling — with positive reinforcement following) will shake even the worst out of some kids.
I won’t deny that complications stemming from things that may have effected a child during the formative stages –especially inside the womb– are much more deeply rooted than bad behavior. I wont. But I think that the best place to start “therapy” is, in many cases, over the knee of an adult with a leather belt. Professional analysis comes second to solid parenting. Parents who adopt and feel out of place acting as the enforcer of rules or punishment like this, I feel, need to seriously reexamine the responsibilities that raising a child calls for.

I understand that in the case of a post-institutionalized child, it may take more than common sense to provide a suitable environment that takes into account the experience that the child has already had. Because the institutions offered in other countries like Russia are unlike the foster homes or boarding houses scattered here across the U.S., the experience that children have in them is very different than the typical American orphan.

Enter, the Ranch for Kids, a registered non-profit corporation in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Maryland.  The ranch, which features rideable horses and other farm life is designed to provide a unique form of therapy for troubled adoptees. It is one that relies heavily on equine interaction, wide open spaces, and a laid-back atmosphere. Christian values underly every day living. Alternative schooling is also offered to keep the children on track with their counterparts.

What do you think? Would you feel guilty sending your troubled adopted child anywhere else for professional help, or even back to the agency from which he/she came?

14
Apr
10

Keep Your Child, Not Your Receipt. pt. 1

Russia Today’s gotta have plenty to say about this one…

The video’s a little lengthy, but if you watch just the first few minutes, you’ll get the idea of this headline shocker pretty quickly. I’ll sum it up for you below.

To make a long story short; Torry Hansen of Shelbyville, Tennessee adopted Artyem Saviliev from Russia approximately six months ago. Artyem had been institutionalized in Russia for some years before Hansen showed interest in bringing him into their home, but claimed she was never made aware of any psychological or emotional instability the boy may have had. (Many Russian orphans, as a matter of fact, are institutionalized indefinitely while adoption agencies and representatives attempt to match them with interested families.) So then, Artyem arrives in America under the care of his new mother, Hansen, who renames him Justin. Artyem/Justin then proceeds to raise apparent hell for the next six months straight. In January, Hansen determines that 7-year-old Artyem is violent, troubled, and a general threat to herself and her household. Hansen claims that Justin drew pictures of her house burning, and promised to set fire to it with Hansen and her mother(Justin’s foster grandmother) inside of it. Ultimately, Hansen and Grandma Hansen get fed up this weekend and put Justin on a plane back to Russia alone and holding a note that reads:

“I no longer wish to parent this child… This child is mentally unstable. He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues/behaviours. I was lied to and misled by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and other issues.”

Artyem Savilev (Justin Hansen)

Now, the entire planet is mad at the Hansen’s. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called Justin’s unsupervised return a “monstrous deed,” and Russian officials are urging him to place an indefinite freeze on orphans out of the country to America. Recently, a handful of publicized cases involving “troubled” Russian youth whom American parents have found “too difficult” to raise have shed a bad light on the country’s orphanage system. Couple that with the fact that, according to ABCnews.com, there have been 15 reported cases of  murders of adopted Russian youth by American parents since the early nineties. Other stateside advocates are drafting petitions which ask President Obama to fight to keep adoption lines with Russia open.  It’s all pretty tricky diplomacy, I’d say– especially with innocent kids at stake.

13
Apr
10

He Just Did…Sort of.

This weekend, Tiger Woods made a hesitant return to the green under the competing spotlights of the media and the baking Augusta sun at the 74th Masters Tournament in Georgia. After a stellar start on Thursday, Woods’ five months of down-time may have caught up to his keenness on the course.  Placing fourth on Sunday– five strokes behind winner Phil Mickelson– Woods claimed that he “made too many mistakes,” and that his efforts to regain a foothold were ultimately “unsuccessful.” In reference to a few poor shots, Woods added that “these are not things I normally do. So I’m not going to be smiling and not going to be happy.” Woods has won four Masters Tournaments in the past.

It has always been impossible to tell by focusing on Tiger’s “game face” whether he is sad, happy, or in the least bit emotional about his game. It is only after sinking tough shots that spectators are able to witness Wood’s overwhelming display of accomplishment. Alternately, when he falls short, Wood’s frustration leaks from his pores like the sweat on his face.  As of late, especially, the media circus surrounding Wood’s marital infidelity have landed him in front of even more camera lenses than before, and it seems as though everybody has a different take on how Tiger “should” be handling his personal issues, or how his expression “should” appear on the cover of so many tabloids. Either way, since Woods recognized the relentlessness of the press months ago, he has opted to attempt speaking for himself on a number of occasions in an attempt to suffocate a few of the flames.

Tiger’s latest move? An endorsement with Nike in the form of a television advertisement that has everybody feeling some way or another about it. Just in case you haven’t seen the commercial, here it is:

The voice you hear is an audio excerpt from an interview with Tiger’s late father, who passed away four years ago. Earl Woods coached Tiger exclusively during his beginning years in the sport, and grew to be his lifetime mentor and inspiration. In this commercial, a deceased Woods appears to provide posthumous questioning concerning the unnamed issues in his son’s personal life.

I won’t say whether or not I “approve” of the advertisement, simply because it is effective beyond its actual content in a way that Nike has seemingly perfected. Regardless of whether Woods is taking a selfish approach by misappropriating the words of his deceased father while simultaneous making money off of a supposedly serious issue, or simply displaying vulnerability with the help of a Nike marketing scheme, this commercial is powerful. Unsettling, even.

For as long as I can remember, Nike has been uncannily good at making television spots that we watch from beginning to end. For the 30 to 60 second window of a commercial, Nike transforms the whole world of sports into a thing of epic proportion, and athletes into modern-day deities of Grecian caliber. And the thing is, Nike rarely uses these commercials to push any specific product.  They’re all about branding– in hopes of finding a permanent spot in the universe’s collective conscience. I compiled a few of my favorite Nike adds here. What do you think?

LaDainian Tomlinson and Troy Polamalu’s fates collide. Great concept and feel. This might as well be a movie preview.

Incredible editing. Synchronized to “Ali in the Jungle” by the Hours. Powerfully motivating stuff.

Any commercial featuring the GOAT doing what he did beat is classic. This is just one of many Nike ads featuring Jordan, but I chose it because of its speechlessness. Nike loves to let the subject of their commercials tell a story with little to no narration.

More MJ. Years after Gatorade’s “Be Like Mike” campaign, the world still wants to live the dream.

I think this one aired during a Superbowl in the last three or four years. Clever and lighthearted, Nike shows us its humorous side with this one.

Last but not least, a classic featuring MJ and Spike Lee from 1991. This one’s got plenty of dialogue, but it’s all for a good cause. I mean, it’s the shoes.

Did I leave any off this list that I should have mentioned? Do you have a personal favorite?

12
Apr
10

Prepped for Success

As I sat watching television this weekend, most news coverage was devoted–and rightly so– to the recent deaths of the the Polish President, his wife, and among over 90 other politicians and military leaders in a horrific plane crash near Smolensk, Russia. It was early Saturday morning when the news broke, sending alerts to the Iphones of friends who were present with me at the time. Immediately, we felt a sense of grief. The mere thought of the loss of human life is saddening, but an accident such as this that claimed the lives of so many that an entire country look to for leadership–and above all, their most iconic figure? I couldn’t imagine the sense of loss.

In looking for some brighter news, however, I came across this story watching CNN last night, which apparently ran in the Chicago Tribune last month.

At Englewood’s Urban Prep Academy for Young Men in Chicago, 100% of 2010’s graduating seniors have all been accepted into a four-year college. The school, which was opened in 2006  is the first of its kind. It is public, non-selective, and targets only African-American males based on a random lottery of applicants. This year’s graduating class contained only 107 seniors, but the school has grown in size since this year’s graduating class began matriculating through the first four years of its existence. The school is currently negotiating charters for other academies in locations that Tim King and its other community founders deem in need.

A location like Englewood is an unlikely for the success that the prep school has seen. The community, which suffers from high crime rates, gangs, poverty, drugs, teen pregnancy, and low high school graduation rates provided the Urban Prep Academy with a freshman class in 2006 in which only 4 percent of students read at their grade level.

This year, each and every senior will stand against statistics which claim only 1 in 40 young black men complete college. According the Academy’s home page, however, all 107 college-bound graduates will earn degrees at the the completion of their prospective university’s requirements. By assisting in ways that very few other high schools do, such as assigning every freshman a college advisor, providing a mandatory advanced-placement course-load, and providing tutoring around the clock, this school has clearly developed a model that gets results. A strict dress code provides a final coat of polish for the young professionals.

The reward for their news-breaking accomplishment? A future that many may not have seen or even imagined possible otherwise. Oh! And this year’s senior prom will be free for all graduates.

09
Apr
10

Confederate History Month

As instituted by my great state’s very own governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, the month of April has officially been named “Confederate History Month” in Virginia. If you reside in the state, I’m guessing that this is practically old news to you by now, seeing as the combination of local coverage and online social network chatter over the past three days has generated a national buzz that went so far as to land the story in top slots on national news broadcasts. In my classes on campus, discussion has ranged from general reactions to generous ranting about whether or not this declaration will drive a wedge between black and whites in the state. Some have even said that this development has gone so far as to set the nation back 200 years.

What they may not know, however, is that the idea of claiming a Confederate History Month was not pioneered by a Virginian law-maker. Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and even Virginia (before the year 1994) have recognized the occasion for years.

There is no question of Virginia’s cemented history within the Confederacy– as Richmond, the current state capital, was also the capital of the Confederate States from 1861-1865. In my opinion, Virginia is still a southern state, though I can think of some friends who would disagree, refusing to accept it as the “real” South. But who knows what that means. Either way, Virginia’s previous two governors, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, chose, during their administrations, not to recognize Confederate History Month when April rolled around. And now it’s back– and as I said, not without its dissenters. Beyond the expected backlash from a state containing a population who’s 20% of African Americans would more than likely have been enslaved under the Confederate ideology of the time, Governor McDonnell initially neglected to mention this glaring truth in his official Confederate History Month decree.

A day after the first proclamation, so many civil rights watchdogs and individuals decried McDonnell’s statement that he publicly apologized and added the following paragraph to the original document (which you can read here):

“WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history; and…”

So. What’s my take on it all? Simply (or not so simply) this:

The Confederate States of America and its historical culture are inextricably bound to the nationally-recognized evil that was slavery. These same states advocated a rebellion against the unified establishment of America and its federal government. The ideology which drove certain Southern States to secede, however, was just as deeply rooted as the other facets of “Dixie” culture which were inarguably less destructive. In the context of America’s history, southern culture is celebrated and commemorate even beyond the borders of such southern states. And as it should be, the sacrifice of blood that so many Confederates put forth towards little more than an idea– but as largely important as livelihood or lifestyle– should be recognized by the America that exists today as a result. However, it should not be overlooked that in retrospect, the then-ideology of the Confederate States currently stands in blatant defiance of the moral standards we have since developed as as country, or even the fundamental cornerstone of freedom upon which the country was originally founded.

That being said, if one state wishes to recognize Confederate History Month, then the entire nation must commit to its commemoration. And the month should not be called Confederate History Month– but Civil War History Month– or something along those lines which implies that the Confederacy was not established as an entity excused of the bitter and bloody consequence of its treason. However, its existence was not a part our history that should be ignored or overlooked, as the citizens of the Confederacy played just as important a role in the rich history of the U.S. as the North.

As much as a I hate to say it, the other condition which must exist before the U.S. can begin to extract anything from the Civil War Era for commemoration is one of political correctness. It cannot be ignored that the reasonable black or white feels either one way or another about the country’s past in slavery. And these feelings currently range from indifference to bitterness and anger. The Civil War and its surrounding climate left a bloody stain on the American timeline. Such a stain may never truly lift from this fabric, but neither dressing it up as a decorative mark nor cutting it from the surrounding cloth will make for a very appealing outfit.




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