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Tracee Ellis Ross and Creator Kenya Barris Talk ‘Black-ish’

On closing night of the American Black Film Festival actor Tracee Ellis Ross and Kenya Barris, writer and creator of Black-ish engaged in candid panel discussion about the first season and what’s next for this groundbreaking show.


Moderating the discussion was executive producer as well as writer and political commentator Larry Wilmore.  Kenya talked about pitching Black-ish to networks and Tracee talked about the audition process. Check out highlights below:


Larry: How hard was it to pitch your story to networks?  Did you pitch your story for a number of years, how did that work out?


Kenya: It was weird.  This show was has probably been sold four times. I had different versions of it.  This time I didn’t pull back.  A lot of times we’re sorta taught to try to make it palatable for everyone.


Larry: “Un-blacken” it a little bit?


Kenya: Yes. It was about telling a story that was specific to my life and to a lot of people’s lives that I knew. The biggest thing we got comparison of when we were doing the show was The Cosby Show.  The Cosby Show was a show about a family that happened to be black. I decided to create a show about a family that was absolutely black.


Larry: Right because when that show came on there were many racial stories about black that were being told. Although Good Times had some of it but that was more about class struggle but certainly The Jefferson’s did a lot about race.


Kenya: The story behind this was that after the pilot was written, the network really liked it and they asked would you like someone to shepherd you in and show you the ropes.  They were like what about Larry Wilmore and I was like ‘yeah’.  Larry’s very picky and he does not take a lot of projects and he seemed to respond to it.  I’ve been a huge fan and Larry was like you had me the first ten pages.


Larry:  Kenya’s script popped up on the page.  If you’re every written a pilot especially in Hollywood, you want that script to pop in the first 3 pages.


Tracee:  I will also say this, Kenya’s material has always popped off the page.  I’ve read lots of your scripts.  Kenya’s is an amazing writer. One of the things you do incredibly well is dialog of that sounds like actual human’s speaking and there’s a specific sense of humor that’s really key.  He always pops off the page but this was particularly poppy.


Larry:  How do you go from seeing yourself as an actor playing a part to bringing yourself into that part?


Tracee:  I think that’s the hardest part of the journey, I really do and once you cross the line and get to the other side there’s a whole bunch of fun and freedom but in the beginning it’s terrifying.  When you cross the line is when you stop caring.  There’s all these things that come up during auditioning. For me the link in, is I finally gave myself the permission to be as bad as I needed to be and to go in and my only feasible goal was to take on conscious breath. To be present.

-Yanique Bourjolly


Top 10 restaurants in Barcelona for great value set lunches

Pick the menú del día and lunch in Barcelona will become a tasty adventure in the best of Catalan cooking in the city’s most interesting quarters – and a more affordable experience too

Everyone loves tapas but sometimes you can’t face another plate of patatas bravas. Forget standing in a crowded bar trying to avoid being stabbed in the eye by a tourist wielding a cocktail stick loaded with chorizo: it’s time for a proper meal, with chairs, and tables. But restaurants in a place such as Barcelona can empty your wallet quickly; the answer is a menú del día, the ubiquitous set lunch. The best offer good value and quality and they’ll see you through to the evening and back on the tapas trail.

All menús here include three courses, a drink and bread unless stated

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HBO Hosts Annual Short Film Competition

On Saturday, June 13, five talented filmmakers competed for the opportunity to have their film broadcast on one of HBO’s programming services and a $10,000 cash prize at the 18th annual HBO Short Film Competition as apart of ABFF.

Lauded as one of the most prestigious short film showcases in the nation, the screening was held at the AMC Empire in Times Square. The finalists this year included Chaining Day written and produced by Chris Bailey and directed by Dominic Haxton. Black Card, directed and produced by Premium filmmaker Pete Chatmon, written by Tony Patrick and starring actor Dorian Missick.

Joy written and directed by Solomon Onita, Jr. Stanhope, directed, written and produced by Solvan Naim. First Date, Last Date written by E.V. Anderson and directed by Derege Harding.  The winner of the competition Stanhope was announced Sunday, June 14 at “The Best of ABFF” Awards Ceremony.

Check out our Q and A with this year’s host Bevy Smith from Bravo’s Fashion and Black Card team, Pete Chatmon and Tony Patrick:

Q:  Watching the film this is so timely because right now we are battling with the question in pop culture ‘What connotes Blackness?’  Is it because you can identify with behaviors, habits, follow the ‘code’ because if that’s the case then I think Black Rachel has a blackcard?


Pete: I think Rachel has a card that’s vanilla with little sprinkles of chocolate chip.


Tony: I think this is a question and I thought about it- What is “Black?” and all of a sudden it turns into one of those slam poems “Black is, Black was…” But I don’t think there is a definitive answer to the question.  I think the physical manifestation of the card is something we wanted to play around with and create a universe around.  I think it is something that every culture deals with but in this case- as African American’s we’re always kind of running the checklist to try to figure out if this something we always do to each other and we kind of please each other to see how “Black” you are.


Q: Pete I know you’ve been doing this for a little while now.  I know you started out very young.  I know you started out using the super 8 format and now you’re really working the digital.  I would love you to actually talk about how you actually funded this film through new media in an innovative ways.


P: About 5 years ago I started making videos for other companies and it wasn’t the most beautiful stuff in the world but I saw an opportunity to do what I have done in communicating, I was raising a half a million dollars for my first feature and figured there were other people had that gap in media assets to communicate what they wanted to accomplish.  We partly funded this project by going instagram videos for major fortune five hundred clients.

-Yanique Bourjolly

Cavaliers vs. Warriors: Game 5 Video Highlights and Recap from 2015 NBA Finals

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors had battled through four games to a 2-2 series tie in the 2015 NBA Finals.

Despite injuries to Kyrie Irving (knee) and Kevin Love (shoulder), LeBron James and Co. have managed to keep pace with Stephen Curry and the silky-smooth Warriors offense.

However, the Warriors took a giant step closer to a championship Sunday night, winning Game 5 by a score of 104-91. Watch the video for full highlights.

Persistence is everything

Gummer’s How, Lake District It was here that physiotherapist Heather Rhodes had agreed to check my progress after a year of using her trekking poles

The summit of Gummer’s How rises above the fresh Lincoln-green of the larches overhanging the path from Astley’s Plantation car park. Nearby is Fell Foot Brow road over to Strawberry Bank. Several kestrel falcon’s plummets below are the wooded shores of the southern end of England’s longest lake, resplendent with its Windermere “steamers” (actually motor-driven) tethered for the evening to the Lakeside Pier like ocean-going liners compared with the yachts sailing nearby.

It was here on the Gummer’s How path that physiotherapist Heather Rhodes had agreed to check my progress after a year of my using the trekking poles she designed with their contoured handles. How they have helped me to learn to walk again following my hip revision procedure of two and a half years ago.

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So Sweet! Sofia Vergara & Joe Manganiello Celebrate Their One Year Anniversary!

Well this explains why Joe Manganiello wasn’t at LA’s gay pride with the rest of his cast mates!

On Sunday, Sofia Vergara shared an adorable snap of herself and her fiance Joe in celebration of their one year anniversary. The pair looked absolutely perfect and in love as the El Lay illuminated their hot bods!

[ Related: Sofia & Joe Are Getting Married 'Soon'! Deets HERE! ]

Wow, we can’t believe it has been a year already! With all of that egg drama with Sofia’s ex, Nick Loeb, it feels like a lot has gone down in just 365 days!

Vergara captioned the sweet snap:

“Happy 1st Anniversary love of my life!!! Never been so happy!!#lucky @joemanganiello.”

Aww! It’s clear these two are sooo in love!

Congrats, you guys!!

[Image via Instagram.]

A Hawk’s Eye View of Climate Change

April 24, at the Defense, National Security, and Climate Change Symposium in Washington, D.C., Brigadier General Stephen Cheney stepped up to the podium to discuss “conflict and climate change.” Although Cheney is CEO of the American Security Project think tank, he identifies first as a retired Marine who likes to talk about “war fighting.” That’s fitting for a gathering that revolved around the “war on climate change”—a phrase used by journalist Cyril Mychalejko to describe the tendency to fit the world’s coming climatological upheavals into a “national security framework.”

Denialism still holds some sway in Congress, with seven GOP senators expressing outrage in May that FEMA asked states to plan for climate change, but among the military and defense technology elites gathered at the symposium, no time was wasted on debating the science. Instead, the Obama administration’s warning in February that the warming of the planet is “an urgent and growing threat to our national security” set the agenda.

Much of the talk revolved around beefing up military infrastructure at home and abroad to be resistant to harsher climates. The army has embarked on a “Net Zero” initiative to make its U.S. bases water-and energy-independent through green technology, and it is conducting a review to assess the vulnerability of its 7,000-some overseas bases to climate change.

However, it didn’t take long for Cheney, like many speakers at the twoday event, to zero in on migration. “We know for a fact that [climate change] is already driving internal and cross-border migration,” Cheney said to his audience of government officials—heavy on the Department of Defense—and industry reps from military contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen Hamilton.

That’s true: Scientists estimate that in Bangladesh, the “ground zero” of global warming, rising sea levels could displace 15 million people by 2050.Oxford University’s Norman Myers has projected that there could be as many as 200 million “climate refugees” by mid-century, though other researchers have argued that this number is inflated.

It’s not just that climate change displaces people through floods, storms and rising sea levels; it also displaces them through scarcity of food and water, and by the conflicts that are in turn sparked by scarcity and migration. Sociologist Christian Parenti calls this “collision” of political, economic and ecological disasters the “catastrophic convergence.”

Cheney’s symposium presentation could have been billed as a PowerPoint tour of the world’s catastrophic convergences. The desertification in the borderlands between Chad and Nigeria “has caused a lot of migration,” Cheney said, and the terror organization Boko Haram “is simply taking advantage of that.”

“One of the important drivers of strife,” he noted, is “high prices and drought.” A drought of “unparalleled length and severity” in Syria in the mid- 2000s, he explained, led to the mass internal migration of 1.5 million people from rural to urban areas, such as Damascus, “where they had no jobs, no food—that’s what started and fomented the civil war.” Now, Syrian refugees are flooding into Europe.

Currently, international law does not grant refugee status to those driven from their homes by disasters or climate change. Jane McAdam, an expert on refugee law at the University of New South Wales in Sydney told Bloomberg News in March that there is “little political will among governments to create new categories of people requiring protection.” She noted that a 2011 effort by the UN refugee agency to craft a global framework for handling climate change and disaster-driven displacement went nowhere. However, some see a hopeful legal precedent in a 2014 case in which New Zealand granted residency to a refugee family from the island nation of Tuvalu, which is being swallowed by rising seas.

Many at the Defense, National Security & Climate Change Symposium showed sympathy for those whose massive displacement seems inevitable. However, for the most part, this climate refugee upsurge was presented as one national security menace, among many, to be managed.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Climate Action Plan, in effect since 2013, acknowledges that it may be necessary to prepare U.S. borders for “frequent, short-term, disaster-driven migration.” The plan anticipates increased population movements, “both legal and illegal, across the U.S. border,” because of “severe droughts and tropical storms,” particularly in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. The ongoing drought in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, for example, caused massive crop failures this year, likely adding to the influx of migrants already heading for the United States to escape extreme violence and poverty.

In the post-9/11 era, the Mexican border has been a place where three key U.S. foreign policy initiatives have converged: the war on drugs, the war on terror and the war on immigrants. To those a fourth can be added: the war on climate refugees.

Is that a camera in your cactus? 

For companies like Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics Mission Systems attending the ninth annual Border Security Expo in Phoenix in April, that war on climate refugees spells a profitable business opportunity. The expo offered a dizzying look at our sprawling border-security industry.

More than 100 vendors filled a crowded exhibition hall in Phoenix with gadgets and displays that look like science fiction. Technologies range from miniature drones to motion sensors to mounted machine guns to spherical robots (originally designed by NASA to explore the planet Mars). This is where Homeland Security high brass meets private industry, and where a developing government-industry nexus envisions the future of the U.S. borderlands.

What looks like a pile of rocks on one table is actually a surveillance camera. And rocks are just a small sample of what the engineering company Gans & Pugh Associates can create from fiberglass to disguise surveillance equipment.

“[A] log, all kinds of things. You name it. We basically need a sample or a picture … and you tell us what you want to put in it,” said the company’s vendor. He declined to name a specific price, saying it ranges depending on the order size.

TimberSpy’s specialty is the surveillance-camera tree stump, perfect for patrolling the deforested “Montana border” against encroaching Canadians. At the Expo, TimberSpy employee Kurt Ludwigsen told Fox10 local news that two of their tree stump models are large enough for agents to hide inside.

Eyesight Surveillance has manufactured wireless cameras and motion sensors that can be concealed in, for example, one of Arizona’s majestic saguaro cacti. “We just had some Border Patrol guys through here looking at this stuff say, ‘Why don’t we have this?’ ” said Eyesight’s vendor.

No panels focused on climate change, but there were many references to increases in migration. Former Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner David Aguilar told an audience of industry representatives during a panel, “Don’t forget to look at what’s happening tomorrow,” citing the possibility of “imminent” and “dramatic” cross-border traffic.

Later, in the keynote speech, Mark Borkowski, CBP’s assistant commissioner and chief acquisition executive, told the audience of industry reps that the agency is “interested in [their] ideas on how to innovate.”

Those innovations will add to what is already the most massive border enforcement apparatus in U.S. history. Never before have there been so many hundreds of miles of walls and barriers and concentrated surveillance technologies on the U.S.-Mexico border. Never before have so many U.S. Border Patrol agents policed that border: Their ranks have swelled from 3,500 in the early 1990s to more than 18,000 today. During the past decade, the combined annual U.S. budgets for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and CBP have increased from $9.5 billion ($11.5 billion in today’s dollars) in 2005 to more than $18 billion in 2015. The fiscal year 2015 budget request includes an increase of $90 million to upgrade remote and video surveillance programs. All of this spells a windfall for companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which have received tens of millions of dollars in border-security contracts.

With denialism still ruling the day in Congress, the words “climate change” don’t appear anywhere in the FY2015 budget request for CBP or ICE, but it appears that at least some parts of the federal government are taking measures to prepare for our rapidly changing weather patterns. Unfortunately, those preparations are most likely to benefit the likes of Boeing—not the millions worldwide who are most vulnerable. 

NBA Finals: Stephen Curry Leads Warriors to Series Lead – New York Times

New York Times
NBA Finals: Stephen Curry Leads Warriors to Series Lead
New York Times
OAKLAND, Calif. — Finally, for the Golden State Warriors, it felt like the regular season and the early rounds of the playoffs. Everything loosened up. The shots started to fall. The fans started to roar. Stephen Curry looked every bit the N.B.A.'s most valuable …
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