Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Shakes on a plane are now no-no's

Shakes on a plane are now no-no's. Some other liquids and solids are, too. Security measures have been constricted to better deter terrorists.

Q: What could be more rattling than watching a movie about slithering, hissing, scaly reptilians battling with passengers aboard Pacific Flight 121?

A: The prospect of flying with true-life, cold-blooded terrorists.

Recently, both stripes of snakes on a plane have generated substantial media coverage. However, the creepiness of the campy 2006 movie pales in comparison to the terrorist plot surfaced by a British undercover agent on August 10.

Terrorists were in the "final stages: of a plot to simultaneously blow up as many as 10 jets leaving Britain for the U.S., sending the planes and thousands of passengers into the Atlantic Ocean, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday. British and Pakistani authorities teamed up to thwart the attacks, and 24 men were arrested in overnight raids in Britain, authorities said.

An undercover British agent infiltrated the group, giving the authorities intelligence on the alleged plan, several U.S. government officials said. (Watch as neighbors describe the dramatic arrests -- 2:18

Source: CNN.com - Agent infiltrated terror cell, U.S. says - Aug. 11, 2006

In response, British, Pakistani and American authorities have taken drastic measures to shed - or at least downscale - the probability of terrorist activity on airliners. Most liquids, gels, creams and lotions are now carry-on no-no's when departing or arriving at American airports. Consequently, many items popularly carried aboard, such as beverages, duty free liquids and personal care items, must now be checked with baggage or get grounded. Only baby formula and medicines that pass checkpoint inspection will be welcome in airplane cabins.

New restrictions affect departures from Great Britain, too. In the U.K., CNN reports, no hand luggage or electronic keyfobs may be carried onto a plane until further notice. The crackdown on keyfobs will likely shift the types and termini of ground traffic around airports away from personal vehciles and self-park-and-lock facilities toward alternatives.

Thisss circling of wagons may be inconvenient, yesss. But tightening security to keep snakes off planes works for me.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Followup to Lisa Tolliver On Air and Online: ON SCREEN:Watching snakes on a screen issss not my kind of fun

The following links might be of interest:

Sunday, August 20, 2006

More culture comes to Harlem this summer and fall

As I previously posted at BlogCritics.org: Snakes on a Plane Isss Box Office King and at Lisa Tolliver On Air and Online, "Watching snakes on a screen issss not my kind of fun." But Harlem-based ArtMattan Productions - which "distributes films that focus on the human experience of black people in Africa, the Caribbean, North and South America and Europe" and which presented several films at Cannes 2006 - has organized two film festivals that I find are worth watching. Here's what's going on:

  • The First Annual African Diaspora Summer Film Series in New York City is, fittingly, screening movies uptown during Harlem Week. [Read on to learn why Harlem Week is misnamed.] WHERE: At The Theatre of the Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Avenue at 120th Street, Telephone: 212-870-6784. WHEN: The series opened with a champagne reception on Friday, August 4 and will close next Sunday, August 27. HOW MUCH: General Admission is $10, the Family Film discount for children 12 or younger is $7, and a Hot Summer Pass entitles those who purchase tickets for four films, at $40, to attend another film of their choice free or to bring a friend to one of their four selections. LOGISTICS: To purchase tickets, telephone (212) 870-6784 or visit ticketweb.

"Harlem Week," by the way, is a misnomer. Harlem Week History: How it All Began describes the annual tribute to Harlem's "glorious history and community," which "highlights the many positive positive and relevant aspects of the African-American, Latino, Caribbean-American, and European-American cultures of Harlem," and its expansion - in both duration and reputation - from Harlem Day in August 1974 to an internationally recognized celebration, "which now covers most of the month of August."

Across 110th Street (the informal boundary between Harlem and the rest of NYC memorialized in a 1972 movie and theme song) the joint is jumpin' practically 24/7. That's true not just on screen and not just in August. Whether you're seeking a great day in Harlem or entertaining Harlem nights, you can get a piece of the action by coming uptown Saturday night and just about any other time. HarlemDiscover.com (maintained by the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce) provides cornucopia of information about Harlem Week and other uptown doings year-round.

Here's a sampling of what you'll find at HarlemDiscover.com:

Another good source of information about NYC cultural and seasonal events is Time Out New York magazine.

The images above link to books addressing the African Diaspora.

You can find other books about the African Diaspora here.

The images below link to music and 1970's "blaxploitation" movies referred to throughout this post and to books, DVDs and music retrieved via the keywords: African Diaspora and Harlem Week.###

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

ON SCREEN:Watching snakes on a screen issss not my kind of fun

By targeting common phobias, Snakes on a Plane may scare away some moviegoers but filmmakers have nothing to fear at the box office.

I really like Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Flex Alexander and Bobby Cannavale but can't support their latest movie project: Snakes on a Plane (2006, alternative title: Pacific Air 121). Like slithery predecessors Anaconda (1997, alternative title: Anacondas - Hunt for the Blood Orchid), King Cobra (1998), Silent Predators (1999), Python (2000), Boa (2001), Fangs (2001), Venomous (2001), Python II (2002), and Boa vs. Python (2004), Snakes on a Plane is one movie I couldn't stand to sit through. The movie trailers alone make my skin crawl. So do Snakes on a Plane reviews, this portion of the film's Motion Picture Association of America rating: "intense sequences of terror and violence", and the plot outline posted at Amazon.com:

On board a flight over the Pacific Ocean, an assassin, bent on killing a passenger who's a witness in protective custody, lets loose a crate full of deadly snakes.

Snakes rattle me, wherever I encounter them, although finding them repulsive and frightening does not consitute a full-blown phobia. However, Snakes on a Plane targets several common, clinically diagnosed, fears - most notably, fear of flying (aviatophobia), fear of snakes (ophidiophobia), and fear of enclosed/confined spaces (claustrophobia) - and it's a safe bet that bona fide phobics will sit out this movie with me.

Nevertheless, the filmmakers need not fear. We squeamish, who can't stomach slithering serpents (and other aspects of the movie) and will steer clear, are barely biting into box office revenues. Snakes' Rottentomatoes.com Box Office History reports the film ranked #1 in week one and grossed $15,250,000. Apparently, Snakes' sales are charmed by three factors that give the film legs: a lengthy marketing campaign boosted by online hype (that grew legs of its own among bloggers and fan sites, independently of the filmmakers and movie marketers), its summer debut, and its appeal among moviegoers who crave Action & Adventure, Campy Classics, Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Special Effects. ###

Friday, August 11, 2006

The CDC's calculation of multiple sex partners throws me off balance

the number of teens ever having had sexual intercourse decreased from 54.1 to 46.8 percent; the prevalence of multiple (four or more) sex partners [emphasis is mine] decreased from 18.7 to 14.3 percent; the prevalence of current sexual activity (within the past three months) decreased from 37.4 percent to 33.9 percent; and the prevalence of condom use increased from 46.2 percent to 62.8 percent.

- "Fewer Teens Engage in Risky Sexual Behavior," HealthDay News, THURSDAY, Aug. 10, 2006 by Amanda Gardner, HealthDay Reporter

This is common knowledge and not contraversial: it takes two to tango and three's a crowd. But I'm thrown off balance by one of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s calculations of "Priority health-risk behaviors" among students in grades 9 through 12. In my estimation, "Had Sexual Intercourse with Four or More Persons During Their Life" is a high number when talking about teens. Without further explantion, the feds' choice of that figure (as opposed to two or three) doesn't add up.

Nonetheless, four was the score that counted in eight national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys that examined recent trends in American teen behavior. The data, collected anonymously from private and public school students between 1991 and 2005, reflected both bad news and good news and raised some questions.

Ms. Gardner's article sums up the findings. To see the work behind it, one can access MMWR Surveillance Summaries: June 9, 2006 / 55(SS05);1-108: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance --- United States, 2005 and other resources at YRBSS: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System - DASH/Healthy Youth or order CDC Youth Risk Behavior resources from Amazon.com.###

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Researchers reveal two paths to living a longer, healthier, sexier, richer life: get insured and get married - PART I (Get insured)

Research abounds that promises eating well, exercising regularly, getting sufficient sleep and indulging (in almost everything) in moderation can extend and improve one's life. Apparently, two more keys to living longer and better are financial and legal: getting insured and getting married.

PART I (Get insured)

The more than 45 million Americans without [health and medical] coverage will get sick more, earn less and die earlier than those with insurance. Here's where to find help if you're caught without it.
SOURCE: Personal finance expert Liz Pulliam Weston. (August 2000). "A survival guide for the uninsured" - MSN Money"
CONTEXT: Ms. Weston's article caught my eye because I frequently encounter people who are under- and uninsured. They include the usual suspects (e.g., starving artists and entrepreneurs, dislocated workers, poor people and those in high-risk categories) as well as some who surprised me (i.e., some well-heeled celebrities and business moguls).

REVIEW: This article highlights the gory reasons why lacking sufficient health coverage puts people in precarious positions and why large and increasing numbers are woefully underinsured. The read is easy - if discomfiting - and, as the included blurb states, offers extremely helpful resources and survival strategies.

RELATED READING: In addition to writing for MSN Money, personal finance expert Liz Pulliam Weston has published two books: Deal with Your Debt and Your Credit Score: How to Fix, Protect and Improve the 3-Digit Number that Shapes Your Financial Future. Other books addressing keywords: health insurance for dummies live longer medicare medicaid are listed here.

PERSONAL TESTIMONIAL: Several years ago, I was crossing a busy city street on foot when a big boat of a car piloted by an unlicensed driver plowed into me. The car weighed 1 1/2 tons, unladen; I barely moved the scale past 100 pounds, soaking wet. Although I was injured and went into shock, it didn't escape me that I was lying on a double line midway between one of the best and one of the worst hospitals in town, and that the EMTs decided where (and perhaps whether or not) to transport me based on my personal health insurance plan. Blessedly, my group plan was top of the line and covered high quality, soup-to-nuts care.

Interestingly, although the offending driver's and my auto insurance policies actually covered my medical costs, it was the contents of my personal health insurance card that determined how I was handled by the healthcare system. That surprised me, because victims of vehicular accidents, at least those who carry New York State auto insurance, are covered by their auto insurance policies even when not driving.

NEXT: PART II (Get married)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

ON TV - The Flavor of Love: Season 2 digs deeper, scrapes bottom

It's clear, right off the bat; VH1 execs dug deeper in celebreality show Flavor of Love season 2 - premiering tonight at 10/9c - than they did in season 1. Some might daresay they scraped bottom with regard to both casting and setting permissible standards of decorum (definition), even though some have observed that the second crop of contestants is prettier, overall, than the first was.

Whether or not this season sports a bigger bevy (definition) of beauties, I can't get past the following facts:

Full disclosure requires acknowledging that: in season 1, Episode 1: Fifteen Beds and a Bucket of Puke, Goldie drank too much champagne but escaped elimination; and in season 1, Episode 2: Rub a Dub Flav, fur flew between New York and Pumkin [sic].

No doubt, season 2 of VH1's The Flavor of Love should meet or exceed the popularity record set by season 1. As I discussed in "Lisa Tolliver On Air and Online - Lettin' you know what time it is: Flav postpones April 26 Lisa Tolliver Show appearance until June to promote new project," Flavor of Love 1 was VH1's highest-rated show ever.

Access Flavor of Love - The Complete First Season on DVD featuring the unrated version of the show, the Reunion Special, Flav's Filosophies and Pumkin's [sic] Blac-u-cation.

To whet (definition) viewers' already-voracious appetites for the long-awaited return of Black-chelor Flavor Flav's quest for love among 20 catty, battling contenders, VH1 released three womens' "screen test" videos on their broadband site and at iFilm: Flavor of Love Auditions [2006]. As if that were not enough, on Wednesday - four days early - VH1 also released the 90-minute Flavor of Love season premiere on V-Spot. In addition, to ensure no one misses a morsel, a press release announced that VH1 will make each episode "available on VSPOT in its entirety for 48 hours every Wednesday following its Sunday night broadcast," and will heap on dessert, comprised of such weekly "extras" as post-show footage and never-before-seen clips from each segment.

The Flavor of Love 2 appetizers also included promotional trailers. These teasers were peppered throughout yesterday's marathon of season 1 reruns. The resulting viewing experience was akin to gorging at a multi-course sit-down spread that would please both Jack and Mrs. Spratt*. The spread featured bawdy entertainment; a succession of naughty, but nice-to-look-at, multicultural offerings; and service that was regularly interrupted by samplings of the coarser, greasier fare to be served at an upcoming feeding frenzy.

* "Jack Spratt" is title and subject of this Mother Goose rhyme:

Jack Spratt could eat no fat. His wife would eat no lean. And so you see, betwixt them both they licked the platter clean. - Author anonymous

If asked to recommend a theme song befitting Flavor of Love 2, I would recommend either the forthcoming CD - Flavor Flav: Rise, Fall, Rise - or something by Rick James (e.g., "Super Freak"), Whodini (""Freaks Come Out at Night"), or one of the many artists or groups who released songs about gold diggers. Of course, my recommendation is based solely on the trailers I've seen and press that I've read. I won't watch the premier until tonight.

Throughout season 1, the behavior of most The Flavor of Love cast members (except Flav's towering, coolly distant major domo/chauffeur, Big Rick) became increasingly extreme - extremely antisocial, extremely brazen, extremely competitive, extremely desperate, extremely dysfunctional, extremely exploitative, extremely pathetic, extremely unseemly, extremely violent, and extremely vulgar (not necessarily in that order) - bringing to mind this line from Purlie Victorious:
"How low can you git, Gitlow?"
As participants sank deeper into depravity in successive segments of season 1, coming attractions for season 2 reminded that there were depths yet to be plumbed. Depths, perhaps, where few women on unscripted primetime shows had boldly gone before. (Now that's low!)

I envision this pitch for The Flavor of Love 2:
"Star F**k": A hip hop Bachelor seeks 1 true love among 20 Girlz 'N the Hood who harbor Pretty Woman delusions. Casting palette: In Living Color.###


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Gang up against bad guys in tonight's National Night Out Against Crime


Calling all residents, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses, neighborhood organizations, local officials and military bases throughout the USA, Canada, and military bases worldwide!


All day today North Americans will be participating in the 23rd Annual National Night Out Against Crime (a.k.a. "National Night Out"). Gang up with over 34 million neighbors to show you're mad as hell about crime, drugs and violence and unwilling to take it any more.

The National Night Out Website describes the campaign as "a unique crime/drug prevention event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW)." NATW is a nonprofit, crime prevention organization which works in cooperation with over 6,000 crime, drug and violence prevention organizations and law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

National Night Out objectives are to:

  • Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness;
  • Generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs;
  • Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and
  • Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

Who could disagree with New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis' statement, "Every night needs to be a Night Out Against Crime" (in "ON CRIME: One night must shed light")?

However, as The History of NATW and National Night Out explains, NATW Executive Director Matt A. Peskin founded the annual police-community collaboration because "he noted that in a typical 'crime watch community', only 5 to 7% of the residents were participating actively. Due to the growth and success of these programs, he felt this percentage was too low. " Consequently, he felt that "a high-profile, high-impact type of crime event was needed nationally" to:

heighten awareness and strengthen participation in local anticrime efforts. Subsequently, he proposed a national program which would be coordinated by local crime prevention agencies and organizations - but that would involve entire communities at one time. The first National Night Out was introduced early in 1984 - with the event culminating on the first Tuesday in August.

According to Mr. Peskin:

[National Night Out is] a wonderful opportunity for communities nationwide to promote police-community partnerships, crime prevention, and neighborhood camaraderie. While the one night is certainly not an answer to crime, drugs and violence, National Night Out does represent the kind of spirit, energy and determination that is helping to make many neighborhoods safer places throughout the year. It [NNO] is a night to celebrate crime prevention successes - and to expand and strengthen programs for the next 364 days.


Annually on August 1, National Night Out events are scheduled throughout the day. For example, at nearby Riverbank State Park in New York City (Phone: (212) 694-3633), the 30th Precinct is hosting an "all day family event" complete with "food, music, raffles, 12:00 PM - 9 PM." One hour earlier, Community Board 8 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn will kick off another local National Night Out commemoration in Brower Park. The Crown Heights affair will also last until 9:00 PM. Read the announcement here.


Email info@NATW.org, contact an organization listed here, phone 1-800-NITE-OUT or check with your local police department or media to see what's happening in your neck of the woods. Alternatively, you could search Google; feel free to customize my NYC National Night Out search.


Well before nightfall, over 34 million North Americans will congregate in a demonstration of united strength and defiance of fear and violence. The History of NATW and National Night Out and National Night Out Photo Gallery document such daytime activities as "block parties, cookouts, parades, visits from police, festivals, neighborhood walks, safety fairs, contests, rallies and meetings." Then, starting at sundown, those activities will be supplemented with lights-on campaigns, front porch vigils and speak-outs.

Power outages have short-circuited lights-on activities in many neighborhoods hit by heat waves. All the more reason to grab torches and candles and take to the streets en masse - which makes a stronger statement than porch lights anyway.

Mr. Louis contends that today's rallies must focus on the serious subjects at hand if they are "going to rout the criminals and predators." I concur. He correctly assesses that family-friendly "feel-good measures" (such as health fairs), fun and games merely amuse perpetrators. I add that they blur distinctions between Nights Out Against Crime and festive family outings. Events focused on fanfare, refreshments and face paint (as Mr. Louis eloquently describes them), will not achieve the desired outcome: perpetrators "trembling in fear over what will be going on [...] today."

To be effective, National Night Out daytime events should feature impassioned speak-outs and workshops teaching self-defense, home security, gang-busting, organizing neighborhood watch groups, reducing domestic violence and other crime-prevention topics. Evening events should be more reminiscent of the annual Take Back the Night (a.k.a. Reclaim the Night) rallies that protest violence against women. [Access National Night Out resources, best practices and case studies, Wikipedia: Take Back the Night and Take Back the Night resources.]

Mr. Louis paints the appropriate picture in "One night must shed some light":

An angry nighttime march through the streets with torches and pitchforks would be more like what the situation calls for - something like the first Take Back the Night marches organized by women in Germany in 1973 after a string of rapes and assaults.

The idea of the marches, which came to the U.S. in 1978, was to have women boldly walk through darkened streets, chanting and blowing whistles to prove they would not succumb to fear.

New York needs that kind of spirit in our neighborhoods today.