Saturday, August 20, 2005

Back At School - My Summer is Over

So sad to see it go. My summer break is over. And what a summer it was! I'm now back at school in NY. Wasn't really looking forward to coming back. But being as though it's my last year, why stop now? I'm actually back two weeks early. I have to start training for my graduate assistantship this upcoming week. I'll be working in my school's community service center. I'm really looking forward to it. After being a lab assistant in the multimedia labs last school year, this should be quite different. It'll be much more involved, more interactive, and I'm sure I'll have more than enough to do to keep me busy. The week following training I may have to help out with new student orientation. And on September 5th, classes begin. Yes, classes begin on Labor Day. So while everyone else enjoys BBQs and other celebrations, we'll have homework. But I'm quite sure some of the students will come to class (and work) under the influence of something anyway.

So goodbye summer. Amidst the family drama (and it seems like there's always some family drama every summer), the time was still well spent. I had the opportunity to intern at a top-rated news organization. While working, I had the opportunity to produce a story for a news magazine show and complete several projects for their IT department. This definitely was one of the most interesting, stimulating and fun working experiences I've had up to this point. I learned so much. I've grown. I had the opportunity to meet and work with so many dynamic, intelligent and talented people. I have a strong feeling that many of the people I've met and worked with will be lifelong friends as well. I also started my blog (finally). I wrote about 40 new poems and creative prose pieces. Additionally, I got word that some of my poetry may be featured in an upcoming anthology (more on this if and when everything is finalized). Got to hang out with and speak with new and old friends. I couldn't ask for too much more (except for the all the family drama to subside).

May the upcoming school year be fruitful and prosperous!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

And Then The Music Slumped

Amidst the moaning and groaning about the movie slump, reports have been surfacing about another slump. This time the slump deals with the music industry. You're probably saying, "Oh no! Not them again!" Yes, it's them again.'s weekly reports show that sales are down 8% from this time last year. This news comes after 2004 being a monumental year for the music industry. Sales were up tremendously after a three year decline. But at this point, should we really be concerned?

The music industry should really be happy that consumers are still buying music--period. If you ask me, a lot of crappy music has been released (the rise and fall of teen pop maybe?). Many releases not even worthy of browsing let alone purchasing. Thank god for a few stellar releases here and there. The current state of music could be a lot worse.

While talk about the music industry slump continues, label conglomerate Universal Music Group (UMG) is sitting pretty. With 36% of the music sales in the U.S., UMG is the leader amongst the four major labels. Three of this year's best selling albums are by artists on the UMG roster (50 Cent, Mariah Carey and The Game). Like the movie industry, the music industry is looking towards fall releases by Outkast, Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Santana, and Paul McCartney to name a few, to put a hike in sales. All I can say is these albums better be pretty damn good.

This discussion cannot go on without bringing up downloading. Industry leaders still point to piracy as one of the reasons for the slump. But this may not be as great of an issue as it was a few years ago. This due in large part to the industry cracking down on piracy with prosecution (and fines). All the while legal downloading has tripled this year. The International Federation of Phonograph Industries (IFPI) reports 180 million single tracks were downloaded in the first half of the year. Industry leaders also point to digital media (video games and DVDs in particular) as having adverse effects on music sales.

Regardless of this, the music industry might be in a better place if they had embraced mp3s much earlier on. The industry fell behind the technology and now they have to deal with the consequences. Consumers had been forced to buy CDs when they only desired a few singles. This came about as soon as the industry started cutting back on the release of radio singles to retail. If you liked the song or songs, you had to buy the entire CD. At least now with downloading you download and pay for only the songs you want. After all, there's nothing worse than spending $15 - $20 on a CD where only 4 out of 12 or 15 songs are decent.

This also brings up the decline in the quality of music. It's apparent that with many of the recent mergers, layoffs, and music being released, that the labels are only interested in making hits. They're doesn't seem to be an interest in helping artists maintain long-term recording careers. You're only as good as you're last hit. And if you haven't had a hit in a while, you will probably be dropped quicker than a black show on primetime TV (yet another pertinent issue for another post).

I'm a lover of music. Good music at that. And much of what is being released isn't all that great. So why waste my money? Contemporary music has been mediocre at best. If the focus was less on image and more so on the music and the talent, maybe the landscape wouldn't be so barren. And let's face facts--the CD has a limited shelf life. Music in a digital format is where it's at. But in the meantime, take heed and pay attention industry leaders (and consumers). Just maybe, things will look up.

The Year the Movies Slumped

A recent poll conducted by AOL/Associated Press said 73% of people prefer to view movies in the comfort of their own home. Could this be one of the main reasons for what the industry leaders and experts are calling a movie slump? Possibly.

The movie industry has been crying for attention after announcing a 19-week ticket sales slump earlier in the summer. Ticket sales have been sub-par in comparison with those of the same time period last year. But is there really a need to worry? People are still going to the movies in droves, right? Yes, but nowhere near as much as they used to.

I remember hearing stories from my mother and grandmother about their trips to the movie theaters. They would go just about every weekend. Several hours were spent in the theaters. Siblings and neighborhood pals would tag along with homemade snack bags in hand. I even recall pretty regular trips to the theaters with family and friends. This has since stopped. As far as my family and inner circle of friends are concerned, it seems that we are more inclined to wait for movies to come out on VHS or DVD than to go to the theaters. Judging from recent reports, we aren't alone. For the most part, the movie viewing experience is better at home. You can watch movies at your own leisure, with little or no interruptions, and without spending too much extra money (if any). For a group of 3 going to the movie theaters today, you're looking at about $50 dollars for tickets and food (and this maybe too cheap an estimate).

While the movie industry seems to use this trend as an excuse for why movies aren't doing as well, they seem to be forgetting something. And that is the role they play in the success or failure of movies. I can give another reason directly linked to the movie industry for this slump--the abundance of bad movies. Quality has been severly lacking.

Usually when I'm eating my breakfast in the morning, I tend to look at old movies until it's time to go to work. As of late, I've seen Jezebel, The Little Foxes, Carmen Jones, Casablanca, All About Eve, and a A Streetcar Named Desire to name a few. Many of these movies I've watched on more than one occasion. I fall in love with these movies even more after each viewing. I'd find myself not being able to take my eyes off of the screen. I was captivated by Old Hollywood's screen legends. Their talent, their beauty, their timeless appeal - totally amazing. These were movies with plots (yes, plots). No unnecessary violence and special effects. And little to no sex. Sex was often alluded to but it was never as forward or raunchy as it is in many movies today.

They just don't make movies like they used to. Today it seems like you can have all the star power, the special effects, the cinematography, and all the bells and whistles you could dream of....But if the movie is bad, it's bad. None of these features will save it. No amount of marketing or promotion can make up for it either. In the old days, the studios didn't need to spend as much to promote movies. People just went to the movies (and on more of a regular basis). Not to say that there weren't any bad movies then. Even then, bad movies were made. But just not as many as there are now in my opinion. For me, you can go back to the summer of 1997 when Batman & Robin and Speed 2: Cruise Control were released (two of the worst films ever made). From that point on, the quality of summer blockbusters and movies in general has declined. Ever since then, I could count on my hands how many times I'd go to the movies in year.

Another issue is the kinds of movies the studios are making. We've been witnessing the era of rehashes and remakes. Movies packaged as new films when they're nothing but updated versions of older and in some cases more recent movies. There's also movies inspired by TV shows (and often times mediocre TV shows at best). We also have a lot of movies that can be lumped into the same category with the same actors stuck in the same roles (typically these buppie, yuppie romantic comedies). And last but not least, we cannot forget about the sequels and prequels. Sometimes you've just got to say enough is enough. I'm probably not alone when I say I haven't been impresesed lately.

I say the same thing to Hollywood as I say to the music industry....Maybe if you stopped worrying about the money and put out more quality products, you wouldn't be in the predicament you're in now. If you did this then just maybe people might start going to the theaters a little bit more. Though this slump may be a major point of concern for the movie industry, there's no need for everyone to get their panties and jockstraps caught in a wad. Every industry has periods when sales don't match expectations. When this happens however, it's never a bright idea to put the blame completely on external factors. Especially when you have not looked at how you may have contributed to the situation at hand. In the meantime, get better screenplays. Start telling unconventional stories. Showcase stories with issues that touch on the multicultural and multiracial makeup of this world. Don't get too crazy with the graphics and the violence. Try to create movies with less violence, less sex, and more substance. Try to spread the wealth. Give some of these actors we see on screen all the time a run for their money. And maybe if you create better work, we'll see better performances all around. If you take all of these things into consideration, just maybe we'll see a change. Just maybe you'll be able to bring the people back into the movie theaters in droves again.

I'm not giving up hope though. The movie industry doesn't seem to be giving up hope either. There's a considerable amount of faith being put behind many of the fall movie releases like to Hong Kong and the fourth Harry Potter installment. There's hope that these movies will bring the industry out of its current slump. It's going to take more than just a few blockbusters to get out of this slump. You've got to start on the inside. Otherwise, that premier on cable or the sale at the home video store is going to become even more attractive.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

When Hate Kills

In loving tribute to Rashawn Brazell and other victims of heinous crimes

Too young
to be gone so soon,
The promise of life
and all of its joys and pains
taken away from you
By someone with no regard, no respect,
No appreciation
For the preciousness and value of life.
We don’t need a police report or investigation
to prove this was a hate crime.

Your death is an immense loss,
felt by your family, friends,
And by a community that often falls
off the radar when we are the victims of heinous
crimes like these.
But when hate kills, everyone’s
radar should be made aware.
Those so quick to shake it off
as insignificant or justified,
Or those that think events as such have
absolutely nothing to do with them,
have another thing coming.

When hate kills,
it’s not a black versus white issue.
When hate kills,
it’s not a gay versus straight issue.
When hate kills,
it’s not an us versus them issue.
When hate kills,
it’s not a Christian versus Muslim versus Jewish issue.
The effects impact all of us.
Hate serves to disrupt and divide our communities
By trying to eliminate the ties that bind
us together.
But our interconnectedness should
not let hate win.
In times like these it should help in
uniting us in love, understanding,
acceptance, and respect,
Because the remedy is love,
The remedy is understanding,
The remedy is acceptance,
The remedy is respect.
The remedy lies within us,
For the remedy is us.
We will be the ones who
Determine whether hate prevails or falters.
For when hate no longer kills,
We all will be in a much happier,
Better, safer place.

Hate may have taken you physically away,
But your spirit continues to go on freely,
Inspiring, uplifting,
And living within each and every one of us.
We honor you and your existence
By standing here now,
By coming together now
To raise awareness
And to combat the forces
that try to pit us against each other.
Hate must not win;
Humanity must not be disregarded.
Love must reign,
And life cannot be taken lightly

© 2012 BuddahDesmond

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mariah Carey - The Emancipation of Mimi: A Review

Say what you will about singer/songwriter/producer Mariah Carey, but she is one of the most successful and influential musical artists of the last 15 years. (Looking at the last few years of American Idol hopefuls during try-outs is enough to confirm this.) Actually, with her sales and chart history, Carey is one of the most successful artists of all time. If The Emancipation of Mimi is any indication, her reign will continue.

Mimi is Carey’s best and most consistent album since Butterfly. Mimi is not a pop record; it’s very much a R&B/Soul record. Carey and her team of producers (Jermaine Dupri, the Neptunes, Kanye West, and James Poyser to name a few) have crafted great songs that linger with you long after their conclusion. There’s a familiarity about this album that reminds you of old school 70s (and possibly 80s) R&B/Soul music. The ballads like "We Belong Together," "Mine Again" and "I Wish You Knew" are heartfelt, touching and beautiful. Up-tempo tracks like "Say Somethin’," "Shake It Off" and "Get Your Number" are hypnotic, catchy and lyrically clever.

Besides the music and production, Mimi reminds listeners what drew them to Carey initially—the voice. The passion and emotion in Carey’s voice draws you in, making each and every song convincing. Mimi is an excellent showcase of Carey’s artistic growth. Carey should be commended. Mimi is gearing up to be not only one of the best selling albums of the year, but one of the best selling albums of her career as well. It’s nice to see Carey back on the top—where she belongs.

Lizz Wright - Dreaming Wide Awake: A Review

2003 marked the music world’s introduction to Lizz Wright with the release of her first album entitled Salt. Reviewers and listeners confirmed that Wright was the next big jazz vocalist of note. But is it safe to call Wright a jazz singer? Probably not. Salt had a jazzy vibe, but also showcased Wright’s soul, gospel, folk, and blues leanings. Wright, like vocalists Cassandra Wilson and Dianne Reeves, is likely to defy categorization. Salt was the perfect segway to Dreaming Wide Awake.

Dreaming is a great collection of songs, mostly guitar driven, with more of a folk and blues appeal. The sparse production of Craig Street puts Wright’s voice center stage. The listener cannot help but be mesmerized by her vocal storytelling. She gets inside of each and every song. Her vocalizing is sincere and honest, never showy or overdone. She breathes new life into such classics like Neil Young’s "Old Man" and Youngbloods’ "Get Together." Wright also leaves you wanting more with her originals like "Trouble" and the title track.

Regardless of what genre of music Wright is singing, nothing can take away from the soul, richness, resonance, and versatility of her voice. Dreaming may not be jazz, but it’s great music—period.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Posts On The Way.....

Be on the lookout for a post addressing the recent movie and music slump (if you really want to call it a slump). I'll also put up a few music reviews. More poetry on the way too. I may also put up a listing of the my most anticipated music releases. Come back soon!

My Favorites for The Summer - Music

I've been listening to a lot of music this summer. Much of it has been very good. In no particular order, here what's been on my frequently played list for the last few months:
  1. Mariah Carey The Emancipation of Mimi
  2. Jill Scott Beautifully Human: Words & Sounds, Vol. II
  3. Lizz Wright Dreaming Wide Awake
  4. Raul Midon State of Mind
  5. Faith Evans The First Lady
  6. Zero 7 When It Falls
  7. Esthero We R In Need of a Musical Revolution!
  8. Amerie Touch
  9. Tweet It's Me Again
  10. Janet Jackson Control
  11. Shakira Laundry Service
  12. Brian McKnight Gemini
  13. Annie Lennox Bare
  14. Seal Seal IV
  15. John Legend Get Lifted
  16. Gwen Stefani Love.Angel.Music.Baby
  17. George Michael Patience
  18. Sweet Back Stage (2)
  19. Smokie Norful Nothing Without You
  20. Brandy Afrodisiac
  21. Anita Baker My Everything
  22. Lizz Wright Salt
  23. Floetry Floetic
  24. Alicia Keys The Diary of Alicia Keys
  25. Kem Kemistry

And Classics:

  1. The Best of Al Jarreau
  2. The Best of George Benson
  3. Dinah Washington The Diva Series
  4. Marvin Gaye Let's Get It On
  5. Marvin Gaye What's Goin' On
  6. The Best of Etta James
  7. Anything by Luther Vandross