Sunday, August 30, 2009

Film Recommendation of the Week...

Life and Debt-A film by Stephanie Black

Release Date-April 22, 2001.

Running time-1 hour 20 minutes.

Here is a description of this very deeply moving and thought-provoking documentary on the effects that globalization has had on Jamaica's economy, and the repercussions that have resonated across the whole island.

Life and Debt is a 2001 American documentary film directed by Stephanie Black. It examines the economic and social situation in Jamaica, and specifically the impact thereon of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank's globalization policies. Its' starting point is the award-winning non-fiction essay A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid.

Kathleen C. Fennessy's review of the documentary states:

“Set to a beguiling reggae beat, Life and Debt takes as its subject Jamaica's economic decline in the 20th century. The story has reverberations in the plight of other third-world nations blindsided by globalization, like Ghana and Haiti. After England granted Jamaica independence in 1962, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in with a series of loans.”

These loans were conditional on structural adjustment policies, which required Jamaica to enact economic reforms-trade liberalization, privatization, and deregulation. However, the reforms were unsuccessful and left the country with $4.6 billion dollars in debt. The film blames the IMF and the West for causing this situation.

The film features a number of interviews with former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley in which he critiques the system of International Financial Institution loans. He is particularly critical of required structural adjustments as an attack on the sovereignty of many former colonial nations and suggests the system is akin to imperialism or neocolonialism. Similar claims have been made popular by former Chief Economist of the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Babe of the Week for August 28, 2009 is...

Monica Bellucci!!!

This lovely woman began her career as a fashion model and eventually turned to actng. She is fluent in four languages and "looks mahvelous, dahling" speaking them all.

She signed with the Elite Modeling Agency in 1988 and has modeled all over the world. She is currently the face of Dior Cosmetics and is considered a sex symbol in Italy.

She first came to my attention in the 2001 Italian film "Maléna", where she plays a woman who recently moved to a small Italian village. Her husband has gone off to war and is presumed dead, much to the chagrin of the women of the town who have to cope with the erotic, hypnotic spell she has cast over their men. In all this there is the 14 year-old boy who has fallen madly in love with her. A wonderful film that should not be missed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Film Recommendation of the Week...

Assault in the Ring

HBO Documentary

Release Date- August 1st, 2009.

This documentary tells the story of the June 13, 1983 junior middleweight bout between journeyman Luis Resto and up-and-comer Billy Collins, Jr. This is one of the most infamous boxing matches in history, having altered the lives of many people as time went on. Whether you are a boxing fan or not, it definitely is interesting and very well-done.

Resto had his gloves tampered with by someone working his corner-the padding had been taken out and his hands were wrapped in plaster, making the force of his punches feel like anvils. Resto and his trainer Carlos "Panama" Lewis both did jail time and were banned from the sport, though Lewis continues a lucrative career as a trainer. To this day no one knows who was responsible, and one is left with the feeling that the guilty parties will take their secrets with them to the grave.

The huge controversy generated from this fight has had long-lasting ramifications for all parties involved. What followed was an investigation, criminal charges, convictions and jail time, unsuccessful lawsuits and the premature death of Billy Collins, Jr. Resto himself manages to come to grips with his role in the affair, but sometimes contrition comes too little too late to change the damage that's already been done.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

John Calipari, Pt. 1 of a 2-Part Series on College Coaches in the News

Ah, the world of big-time college athletics. I let these two incidents slide for a bit too long already, so now it's time to let these guys have it.

The first one involves John Calipari, the slick-haired, slick-talking dribble-drive offensive guru who can out-recruit just about anyone in the country. Officially he has no NCAA Final Four appearances on his resumé. ¿Como puede ser, you ask? NCAA violations, that's how. While he was at UMass, Marcus Camby was courted by two sports agents with hopes of signing him as a client when he went pro. "Mr. Marcus"(get the reference? If you don't you're a square) admitted to taking at least 28 grand from these two cats along with jewelery, free use of rental cars and of course the obligatory prostitutes (gotta love them whores-the world would stop rotating on it's axis if it weren't for them).

Kind of makes you wonder what was going on (or NOT going on) at UMass if Camby, the most popular basketball player on that campus since Julius "Dr. J" Erving, couldn't get laid for free from amongst the myriad of hoochies that constitute the female student body. UMass is crazy and full of the trashiest undergraduate broads this side of the Potomac River. I should know, I've visited the campus. If you can't get laid there you might as well pack it in, brother. WORD UP.

Aside from being a high-profile athlete on a campus full of party girls that are easier to lay than wholesale carpeting, I can only assume no one told Camby that all he needed was a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and a couple of nickel bags of weed to be the life of any party at the U of ASS.

Hey Camby, this is how you freak college coed hoochies, my son. Courtesy of the illustrious Greg Oden-

But this isn't about Camby, it's about Calipari. Actually, it's not. In both NCAA investigations (UMass and Memphis) he has been cleared of any wrongdoing while the programs have been hit with sanctions. Kind of makes you wonder what the fuck is going on, especially since he's been able to parlay his success into the highest profile, highest paying job in college basketball at Kentucky despite the trail of slime he's left in his wake. After the Camby revelations Calipari took off to coach the Nets and right after the Rose SAT fiasco Calipari took off again, leaving both programs to deal with the sanctions that occured under his watch.

And now the latest scandal, which has led to the elimination of the most successful season in Memphis basketball history from the record books, including their run in the NCAA Tournament. Derrick Rose, the phenom from Chicago, inexplicably took his SATs in Detroit. Why would he do this if he lives in Chicago? Was it too windy to take the test there? No, because it made it easier to have someone else take the test for him without anyone knowing (that is, until now).

By the way, those weren't gang signs Derrick Rose was flashing in this photo-

He was holding up his SAT prep book and someone photoshopped it out of the picture!!! Rep your set, motherfucker!!!

And just who lives in Detroit that would be in a position to facilitate this fraud? Why, none other than friend to college and NBA stars alike William Wesley, better known as "World Wide Wes". Who is he?

Here is an excerpt from a GQ article written about him-

In his March 2005 ESPN “Page 2” column, the well-known basketball writer Scoop Jackson wrote, “I believe Phil Knight is the most powerful man in sports next to Wes Wesley.” Eight months after Jackson’s column, New Jersey-based basketball journalist Henry Abbott mounted an obsessive open-source investigation on his blog, TrueHoop, that brilliantly illustrated how, if you look closely at the various forces at work in basketball at every level of the sport—the AAU programs that funnel players to college programs, the agents looking to land players as early as NBA rules allow, the shoe companies, coaches, franchise owners, front-office executives, players—it eventually dawns on you that they have one thing in common: William Wesley.

This weasel has ingratiated himself into every fabric of sports management without bothering to take out an agent's license. He is the man who guides top recruits through the various levels of competition from AAU programs and high school to high-powered D-1 programs (like Memphis and now Kentucky where Calipari currently coaches) and makes sure everyone gets paid, himself first and foremost, all the while lurking in the shadows and pulling strings like some Armani-clad Svengali. Calipari describes him a s a "friend of the program". Uh-huh.

Here is another excerpt from the same article describing what transpired during the infamous brawl at Auborn Hills-

Auburn Hills, Michigan, November 2004. William Wesley, a middle-aged mortgage broker (how's that line of business going right now, Wes?)
, runs onto the court to shield Ron Artest from a uniformed police officer wielding a can of pepper spray. Artest’s teammates are trading haymakers with fans; coaches and referees are struggling to restore order. The mortgage broker lunges forward and throws his hands in the cop’s face, and in the next instant, Pacers teammates Austin Croshere and Reggie Miller rush to restrain Artest. Through a tempest of tossed soda and popcorn, Wesley moves on to shepherding the Pacers’ Jermaine O’Neal on the court. Once in the tunnel, O’Neal breaks free, but Wesley wraps him in a bear hug and drags him to the locker room.

Two years later, when I ask Reggie Miller about Wesley’s presence on the court, he’ll say: “What the hell is he doing out there in the middle of all that? I mean, what is he doing? He has no business out there! He injects himself into the middle of everything!”

If you want to find out more about this guy, feel free to Google the online article. Getting back to Calipari, he has been known to do things that while not technically in violation of NCAA rules just seems dishonest. I highly doubt he would of landed prize recruit and Naismith Prep Player of the Year Dajuan Wagner in 2002 without offering his father the job of Coordinator of Basketball Operations for Memphis. He engages fiercely in recruiting "one and done" players who have no interest in academic life and doesn't care. Sure he wins, but he does so while making a mockery of what college athletics should be about.

Should he be excused because he wins? Let's ask the University of Kentucky in a couple of years when they inevitably face the same recruiting and illegal payment violations that will erase whatever success their basketball program will achieve under this polished, smooth talking snake. It should come as no surprise that Calipari majored in Marketing in college. He's been able to market himself flawlessly while leaving behind problems for his ex-employers to clean up as he's moved on to more lucrative positions. Adolf Rupp (not exactly an upstanding citizen himself) must be turning over in his grave right about now. Then again if Calipari gets Kentucky winning again no one will care.

Learning To Draw Pt.1

If anyone out there has an interest in art, here are a few things that will help guide you in the right direction. Before reaching for the pencil/pen/magic marker, realize that you can teach yourself how to draw. I will focus today on the human body, and there is no one better to get us started than George B. Bridgman.

George B. Bridgman (1865-1943)
taught at the Art Student's League in NYC for over 45 years. His legacy, aside from being a great teacher, were his series of books on human anatomy.

Bridgman used cubes and squares as his foundation and starting point in drawing the human figure, even for the human head, whereas other artists used spheres. This is evident in his book "Heads, Features and Faces"-

Included are over 200 drawings plus examples from masters such as Vermeer, Rembrandt and others. The written text enables a student to gain proper perspective and guidance. Bridgman shares his ideas on perspective, planes, and anatomy as they relate to portrait drawing.

"The Book of a Hundred Hands"
-the story goes that while at the Art Student's League Bridgman carried human bones from the hand and wrist around in his pocket, meticulously studying them wherever he went. He even kept an actual severed human hand in a jar of glycerin until it deteriorated and had to be buried in his back yard by his gardener.

One hundred illustrations plus instructional text covering all aspects of the human hand, from the back of the hand and palm, nails, bones, tendons, muscles, the arch, veins, and more.

Next up is "Bridgman's Life Drawing". Over 500 illustrations and text to teach the student to abstract the body into its' major masses. Describes the factors involved in sketching the human form in various positions.

"Constructive Anatomy" provides the student with almost 500 drawings depicting bone and muscle structure and human features. This book covers lessons in drawing human forms.
This invaluable anatomical reference shows important parts of the human body, both in motion and in repose: hand, wrist, fingers, forearm, neck, thigh, leg, and more. Drawings of bone and muscle structure are also covered in detail.

Last but certainly not least is Bridgmans' "The Human Machine". Here the human figure is broken down into it's dynamic moving parts, sketched like separate parts of one unified whole.

This should cover you for the time being. A few points to consider-there is no substitute for discipline. Even with minimal innate artistic talent, you can definitely improve your technique by focusing on the teachings of George Bridgman.

My suggestion would be to go through each book and see with which one you want to start. Whatever you do, begin each book on the first page, don't skip around and complete every assignment regardless of how tedious it may seem at the time.

You can purchase all the books at once (highly recommended for the sake of having them on hand whenever you need them-they are relatively inexpensive given the wealth of material they cover) and you should cover lessons from different books for variety. You will see improvement in your technique guaranteed.

In my next installment I will cover some of the basic materials you will need to get started.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Babe of the Week for August 21, 2009 is...

Paz Vega!!!

This beautiful young lady(and boy does she loook mahvelous) was born in Seville, Spain and began her acting career in the Spanish television series "Menudo es mi Padre". 1999 was her breakout year, where she starred in "7 Vidas", billed as the Spanish version of the successful American sitcom "Friends".

Her role in the 2001 erotic drama "Sex and Lucia"(for which she won Spain's Goya award for "Best Newcomer") won her much international acclaim. She and co-star Tristán Ulloa were excellent in it. It is a must-see for any fan of foreign cinema. Don't be fooled by the title nor the trailer-the story is excellent and very well-done. Kudos to director Julio Medem for adeptly intertwining eroticism within the plot line without letting it overpower the story.

Vega has also modeled for international fashion magazines such as GQ and ELLE. She is currently living somewhere in Hollywood, no doubt looking mahvelous, dahling. Absolutely mahvelous!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Big Brothers of Phi Slama Jama

Before Jerry Tarkanian's "Runnin' Rebels" of UNLV, before the "Fab Five" from the University of Michigan, there were the Cougars of the University of Houston-better known to the rest of the world as Phi Slama Jama.

Those were definitely some of the best college teams ever assembled, but the guys who set the trend for sheer athleticism and brought playground basketball to the collective hearts and minds of suburban and rural America (who had no idea such a game existed) were these cats right here.

Some crazy stories were bound to emerge from such a diverse collection of characters, such as-

-Clyde Drexler's high school coach setting the rims at 11 feet to discourage dunking, yet it didn't stop "The Glide" who continued to tear down the rim during practices.

-Drexler was considered a waste of an athletic scholarship when he arrived on campus. Lowly Rice University didn't even recruit him coming out of high school.

-Olajuwon was left stranded at the airport coming in from Nigeria as a freshman because he was not highly regarded as a recruit. When he did land in Houston coach Guy Lewis told him to take a cab to campus, not realizing that Akeem was indeed a 6'11" center as advertised(up to that point coach Lewis had never seen him).

-Coach Guy Lewis, who during the 1983 NCAA semi-finals against Louisville threw a towel at an opposing player who ran by him after stealing a pass.

-Lewis was famous for starting practices by yelling out, "Red team out"(he separated practice teams between red and white teams) and then letting the players go at each other without calling one play because he felt it encouraged improvisational, fast-paced action.

-Bennie Anders, the athletically gifted but erratic guard who had two cousins who played pro basketball-Orlando Woolridge and Willis Reed(how's that for a pedigree?). He left the squad in '84 and then disappeared, never to be heard from again. He had quit the team after a dispute with the coach over playing time, leaving behind the immortal phrase that is now part of his brief legacy at the school-"If you can't play, then why stay?"

-Incredibly, the team that sported two future NBA Hall of Famers and two of the 50 Best NBA Players (Olajuwon and Drexler) were lead in scoring by Michael Young, a 6'6" guard who never made the cut in the NBA after being drafted by Boston in 1984.

Here are excerpts from an interview with Guy Lewis from the archives of Sporting News magazine-

Phi Slama Jama part of Lewis' legend
By Jeff D'Alessio
The Sporting News

On the art of the dunk...
TSN: Did you teach the dunk?
GL: I sure did. We worked on it. I insisted on it. I think it's a very, very high-percentage shot and when you get around the basket, you ought to explode up there and stick it in the hole. We worked on it. It wasn't something that just happened. My post men had a three- or four-step movement. First, you've got to catch the ball. Then you've got to check the defense. Then you step to the basket. Then you dunk. We did that in practice over and over and over and over. Now, not all coaches agree with that, you know? A lot of coaches didn't even like the dunk. But I wasn't one of them. It wasn't for show. It's just a high-percentage shot. And I used to tell them, "You can't dunk without hustling."

On who was his best dunker...

TSN: Who's the best dunker you ever had?
GL: Oh, probably Elvin Hayes. But Akeem, Clyde . . . Man, I had a lot of guys who dunked. Dwight Davis. Dwight Jones. Ken Spain. I once had a white guy get 15 dunks in a half.

TSN: In a half?
GL: In a half.

TSN: Who?
GL: Lyle Harger. I don't remember who we were playing, but I know I got on him pretty good. He only had two points at the half. I told him not to do anything but dunk it the second half and he ended up with 41 points.

On the loss to NC State in the 1983 NCAA Tournament...

TSN: How tough was it to lose the way you did to NC State?
GL: Well, it was tough. But I'm different than most people, I guess. Losing is losing, to me. If I lose the first game of the year, I remember it all year. Most of the wins we've had, I don't pay much attention to. But I can tell you about every loss we ever had. Still can. Yeah, it was a tough loss. So was the one the year before and the one after. (NC State) just hung in there and won the game. We almost stole the ball -- we had it stolen, really -- and (Dereck Whittenburg) got it back and just threw it up there.

On Akeem Olajuwon...

TSN: Where'd you find Akeem?
GL: Akeem found me, really. He came from Africa. He came over here with the idea of visiting six or seven schools, and we were one of them. And when he got off the plane in New York there, it was cold. He went outside and went right back in and showed the people at the desk his list and said, "Where is the warmest place?" And they said, "Houston." So he called me and said he was coming. I said, "Well, do you have a ticket?" He said, "Yeah, I have a ticket." So I said, "Well, come on."

I actually didn't pay much attention to him. I didn't even meet him at the airport. He called me from the airport and I said, "Well, get you a cab and just come on in here." There's a reason for that. The guy who had put our name on the list had sent me a player from South America that was supposed to be 6-2 and he was 5-7, 8 or 9 and not only that, but he couldn't play. So I wasn't thinking too much about this kid. He told me he was 6-7 so I thought he'd really be 6-3. And the truth is, he was 6-11. So we changed in a hurry when he got here. I'll tell you, it was a gift.

*A side note-Just in case any of you ever wondered how Olajuwon got so good so fast after arriving from Nigeria, well wonder no more. First off, his remarkable footwork was the result of playing soccer as a youth.

Secondly, during the summers he played in a rec center in Houston where top-notch cats from major college programs and the NBA used to tear into each other. And the one guy who was always pitted against him was none other than Moses Malone. Their battles in the low post during these games are the stuff of legend, and it contributed greatly to Olajuwon's development as a player.

The Jammas were together from 1982 to 1984 in one form or another, but their breakout season was '82-'83 when they received their nickname from then-Houston Post reporter Thomas Bonk and even had it emblazoned on their warm-up uniforms. 1983 was the year they absolutely terrorized the NCAA tournament, with every game a virtual treatise on how to run a fast breaking, shot-blocking clinic. They originated the term "Shock and Awe" with their frenetic style of play, and if you don't believe me just ask Keith Lee of Memphis State or John Pinone of Villanova. Olajuwon and power forward Larry Micheaux absolutely tore them to shreds in the low post and I'll bet they STILL don't know what hit them. The ass kickings Houston administered were surgical in precision, and some of the best basketball that's ever been played at the college level.

I have a friend who worked at a television station and I was able to watch tapes of some of their regular and post season games from back in the day. Clyde Drexler dunking over Memphis State point guard Andre Turner stands out as one of the best I've ever seen. During the '83 Final Four Houston faced Denny Crum's Louisville Cardinals and their "Doctors of Dunk" in the semi-final game. The Cardinals kept it close but they had no answer to the unremitting onslaught of Houston.

Here is a clip of part of that game-

The final against cinderella NC State was an anti-climactic letdown, with Clyde Drexler hamstrung most of the game by 3 fouls he caught early in the first half (after the third foul picked up against guard Terry Gannon on a pull-up jumpshot in the paint that was called a charge, it was evident that that the fix was in) and the team collectively out of gas from the hammering they gave Louisville(the Final Four that year was played at altitude). Afterwards Drexler declared for the NBA draft as a junior and Larry Micheaux graduated. Even though Houston made it to the Final Four the next year they were a shadow of their former selves. Regardless, they will go down as one of the best college teams ever assembled. Their style of play was considered evolutionary but as of today no one team has managed to assemble the athletes and executed the style of play that Houston Cougars did during this brief but historic run.

There have been some great college teams in the past, but none quite like the Big Brothers of Phi Slama Jama-likely to be imitated but unlikely to ever be duplicated.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Film Recommendations of the week...

The Wages of Fear-(April 10, 1953)

French w/english subtitles.
Running time 2 hours 27 minutes.

In a small, impoverished South American town four desperate losers sign up to drive two truckloads of nitroglycerin across treacherous mountain roads for an American company who need it to put out an oil fire at one of their refineries. The dangers of handling this cargo over such terrible terrain puts an immense strain on all four of these characters, whose emotions run the gamut from cowardice to bravery to sheer stupidity until the bitter end. A great film.

Nights Of Cabiria-(Release date May 10, 1957)
Italian w/english subtitles.
Running time 1 hour 50 minutes.

A prostitute in post-war Italy tries desperately to find love, only to be thwarted time and time again. This film won the Academy Award for "Best Foreign Picture" and is one of Federico Fellini's most poignant films. This is another excellent example of the unsentimental neo-realism school of film making that took hold in post-war Italy.

The beautiful and talented Giulietta Masina (pictured below) won Best Actress at Cannes as the title character.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Babe of the Week for August 14, 2009 is...

Bárbara Mori!!!

Before I go on about this stunningly beautiful woman, let's get one thing out of the way-she loooks mahvelous, dahling. Absolutely Mahvelous!!! The photo below was taken at the Cannes Film Festival in May of this year.

Favor de Tocar? Como no, mi cielo!!!

Bárbara Mori was born in Montevideo, Uruguay but has spent most of her life in Mexico. She began her career as a model(hard to guess from looking at her, eh?) then moved on to spanish soap operas (telenovelas) and then graduated to the big screen. I first peeped her in the film "La Mujer de tu Hermano" and she is indeed as talented an actress as she is beautiful. A very worthy candidate for "Babe of the Week".

I'm speechless...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Heaven is a Playground...


Before Nike and Adidas began sponsoring AAU summer league teams that morphed into de facto farm systems for major colleges and the pros, there were guys like Rodney Parker. A ticket scalper from Brooklyn, this man made it his mission to develop players from his neighborhood and send them off to college.

He was the man with connections that ran the gamut from major college programs to small jucos in states as far away as Texas. If you were from Flatbush, Brooklyn and had a game, guaranteed Rodney could pull something off for you. This is clearly illustrated in Rick Telander's book "Heaven is a Playground".

There has never been a book written that captures the inner city streetball vibe like this one. Telander is a talented writer, a former senior writer for Sports Illustrated and current columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. What is amazing about his work is how he describes in intimate detail what life really is like for these inner-city youth and his honest portrayals of the characters and situations he encounters without a hint of condescension or pity.

Here is a list of some of the people featured in the book-

-Albert King, then a 14-year old prodigy from the projects and already 6'6" tall.

-James "Fly" Williams, voted one of the 50 best streetball players ever whose record-setting two years at Austin Peay State University put the small program on the map. Unfortunately he never made the jump to the NBA, and became more famous for the question "what might have been"...

-Earl "The Goat" Manigualt(above, left), THEE most famous Rucker Park streetball legend who ever lived and whose life story remains cautionary tale #1 for talented inner-city ball players everywhere.

-Rodney Parker(below, second from left), the man who helped so many young men from Brooklyn get into college. Some made it, others returned and fell right back into the streets. Many took advantage and remained ungrateful. But Rodney's enthusiasm never waned. RIP, brother-you will be missed.

-And last but not least is Rick Telander himself(pictured below, center). Telander spent the summer of 1974 living and breathing the environment in Flatbush, Brooklyn and even coached some of the guys he met at Foster Park as a team nicknamed "The Subway Stars". Telander returned the next year for a brief visit to see how the guys he wrote about had progressed. And as expected, Rodney was still out there-wheeling, dealing and just being himself. Telander captures Brooklyn like few lifelong residents ever could, and that is the biggest compliment I could pay him as a writer.