Thursday, March 31, 2011

De-Lovely DVD

Blu-Ray Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Kevin Kline as Cole Porter in Bio-Pic Released on Blu-Ray

Cole Porter (1891-1964) was one of America's most gifted and prolific songwriters of all time. He enjoyed an enduring career during which he produced such beloved classics as Let's Do It, Night and Day, I Get a Kick Out of You, I Love Paris, Anything Goes, In the Still of the Night, You're the Top, I've Got You Under My Skin, Just One of Those Things and From This Moment On, to name a few.
Starting with America First in 1916, Porter authored more than a dozen Broadway productions (not counting his numerous posthumous revivals), including The New Yorkers (1930), The Gay Divorce (1932), and Anything Goes (1934). He met with just as much success in Hollywood, where the four-time Oscar-nominee adapted many of his plays to the big screen, charting original scores for memorable musicals like Paris (1929), Rosalie (1937), Silk Stockings (1957), and Kiss Me Kate (1953).
Furthermore, the Cole Porter songbook has figured prominently in over 100 additional films such as The Singing Marine (1937), High Sierra (1941), Don't Fence Me In (1945), Night and Day (1946), Adam's Rib (1949), Sunny Side of the Street (1951), and Can-Can (1960). Given his substantial contribution to this country's cultural legacy, it is understandable that there might be interest in the details of his private life, especially since he was homosexual in days when gay men married mostly for respectability.
De-Lovely, however, as directed by Irwin Winkler (Life as a House), is less a revealing bio-pic than a highly-romanticized version of actual events. Thus, this sanitized tale tends to pander to the mores of the less tolerant times in which it is set. The story seems superficial as a result, for it fails to do much more than scratch the surface, at least in terms of its protagonist's admittedly self-indulgent affairs with a never-ending string of male lovers.
Disclaimers aside, De-Lovely is still an engaging mix of fond remembrances and nostalgic musical numbers. Academy Award-winner Kevin Kline (for A Fish Called Wanda) delivers a sterling performance as the conflicted Cole opposite Ashley Judd as his long-suffering, socialite spouse, Linda. Courtesy of revisionist history, their sexless understanding is plasticized beyond recognition in order to make Porter's song lyrics appear as though they had been consciously designed as a thinly-veiled running commentary on a meaningful marriage.
Taking substantial liberties with the truth, Winkler's Linda is presented as irresistibly attractive and much younger than her husband, when in fact the fifty-something divorcée was considerably older. Plus, while the film suggests that Cole might have married for money, he was already the filthy-rich, only son of the wealthiest man in the entire State of Indiana.
If you ignore the plot and just approach the flick merely as a 21st Century Busby Berkeley-style musical, you will not be disappointed. The film arrives replete with elaborate dance numbers and about 25 on-screen renditions of Cole Porter's greatest hits by exceptional singers such as Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morisette, and Simply Red's Mick Hucknall who manage to breathe new life into the much-beloved standards.
Although the doors to Mr. Porter¹s closet are merely cracked open here, nobody probably really really wants to see an unexpurgated tell-all tarnish the name of a genius who ought to remain best remembered for his enviable ability to combine clever lyrics with unforgettable melodies. De-Lovely? De-Lightful!

Excellent (4 stars) Rated PG-13 for sexuality.
Running time: 125 minutes
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment Blu-ray\
Extras: Audio commentary by director Irwin Winkler and Kevin Kline, audio commentary by Director Irwin Winkler and scriptwriter Jay Cocks, “The Making of De-Lovely,” “The Music of De-Lovely,” “Anatomy of a Scene: Be a Clown” and “Anatomy of a Scene: Love for Sale” featurettes, deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.

Casino Jack DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features Kevin Spacey in Bio-Pic Revisiting Abramoff Scandal

Jack Abramoff (Kevin Spacey) was a veteran Washington, D.C. lobbyist whose outrageous exploits made even members of his own profession blush. In the Nineties, the services of the shameless attorney, along with those of his equally-unscrupulous business partner, Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper), were retained by seven different Native American tribes interested in opening gambling casinos on their reservations.
The notorious pair collected over $100 million in fees by pretending to approach powerful politicians like President G.W. Bush (Brent Mendenhall) and Speaker of the House Tom DeLay (Spencer Garrett) on their behalf. But truth be told, they were only playing the Indians off against each other in a case of corruption so flagrant it eventually caught the attention of the authorities.
For Jack was a boorish bloviator predestined to meet with an ignominious end given his flamboyant lifestyle and his stabbing so many people in the back. And by 2006 he had pled guilty to fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion, before serving a six-year sentence in Federal prison.
Directed by George Hickenlooper, Casino Jack offers a seriocomic take on all of the above. The picture stars Kevin Spacey, who plays the title character as more of a lovable rogue than a despicable figure deserving to be shunned by polite society. After all, Jack does have his plusses, such as being a big supporter of Israel and an observant, orthodox Jew who tries to stop his wife (Kelly Preston) from smoking on the Sabbath.
Still, the sleazy smooth operator seems oblivious of his own culpability to the very end, whether he’s lamenting an ill-advised liaison with the mob-connected, mattress salesman (Jon Lovitz) who brought down his empire or channeling Al Pacino (from “And Justice for All”) by yelling “You’re out of order!” at a judge during a climactic moment in a packed courtroom.
A revisionist history bio-pic, reminiscent of Charlie Wilson’s War, which recasts an arrogant influence-peddler behaving like he’s above the law as merely a bad-boy bon vivant with the best of intentions.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for violence, brief nudity and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 108 Minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes and director George Hickenlooper’s photo journal.

Little Fockers DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Meet the Parents 3 Released on DVD

Since we last saw Greg (Ben Stiller) and Pam Focker (Teri Polo), the couple has been blessed with twins, Samantha (Daisy Tahan) and Henry (Colin Baiocchi), who are already five years-old. The terminally-cute pair are driving their parents crazy with hijinks ranging from projectile vomiting to posing precocious questions about whether women can poop out of their vaginas.
Their antics, however, are merely a sideshow to daddy’s ever-strained relationship with his father-in-law, Jack (Robert De Niro). If you recall, the bulk of the humor in the original, Meet the Parents, revolved around the tension between overprotective Jack and the unworthy suitor seeking to marry his daughter.
In the first sequel, Meet the Fockers, the addition of Greg’s eccentric folks, Roz and Bernie (Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman), to the mix meant half the humor took a turn towards tawdry double entendres. This installment is more of a kitchen sink comedy, with a little of something for everybody.
For instance, you have nurse Greg being pressured at work by a seductive pharmaceutical company rep (Jessica Alba) to promote Sustengo, the latest erectile dysfunction drug. Unfortunately, the transparent script telegraphs that someone might accidentally ingest a pill or two, so that by the time that finally transpires, it’s all oh so anticlimactic.
Meanwhile, on the home front, Pam wants to send the twins to the exclusive and expensive Early Human School. As for the grandparents, Jack has developed heart problems, and love guru Roz is having a blast hosting her own hit TV show called “Sexpress Yourself.”
The extended clan convenes in Chicago for the twins’ birthday celebration, which gives the flick the semblance of a structured storyline. Still, it’s essentially a collection of loosely-connected skits, most of which fall flat. Consequently, the laughs are few and far between, with the one-dimensional characters predictably finding excuses to behave in accordance with their limited personas.
A lackluster effort suggesting that the flagging franchise might have just “jumped the shark.”

Fair (1.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, drug use and pervasive sexual humor.
Running time: 98 Minutes
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes, two behind-the-scenes featurettes, alternate opening and ending, a string of “Focker” clips from the film, theatrical trailers and more.

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening April 8, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening April 8, 2011


Arthur (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and pervasive substance abuse) Russell Brand stars in this bawdy remake of the Dudley Moore classic about an alcoholic playboy at risk of being disinherited for falling in love with a woman (Greta Gerwig) his snobby mom (Geraldine James) disapproves of. With Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner, Nick Nolte and Luiz Guzman.

Hannah (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and intense violence) Action thriller about a 16 year-old (Saoirse Ronan), raised like a soldier by her CIA Agent father (Erik Bana), whose survival skills get tested when she’s abducted and has to brave the elements and assassins during a daring, cross-continental escape. With Cate Blanchett, Tom Hodgkins and Vicky Krieps.

Soul Surfer (PG for mature themes and an a graphic accident) Overcoming-the- odds bio-pic recounting the real-life ordeal of Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb), the 13 year-old surfer who found the courage to swim in the ocean again after losing an arm in a shark attack off the coast of Hawaii. Supporting cast includes Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Chris Brochu, Carrie Underwood and Irie Driscoll.

Your Highness (R for nudity, violence, drug use, sexuality, crude humor and pervasive profanity) Medieval farce revolving around a couple of knights (James Franco and Danny McBride) who embark on an epic adventure with an elusive warrior (Natalie Portman) in order to rescue a damsel-in-distress (Zooey Deschanel) kidnapped by an evil wizard (Justin Theroux).


American: The Bill Hicks Story (Unrated) Still photo-animated bio-pic about Bill Hicks (1962-1994) narrated by ten of the friends and family members who knew the late comedian the best.

Blank City (Unrated) History of cinema documentary recounting the renaissance of low-budget movies shot around lower Manhattan by guerilla filmmakers during the late Seventies. With appearances by Jim Jarmusch, John Waters, Debbie Harry and Ann Magnuson.

Born to Be Wild 3-D (Unrated) Endangered species documentary, narrated by Morgan Freeman, chronicling the extraordinary efforts of renowned scientist Daphne Sheldrick and prominent primatologist Birute Galdikas to save orphaned elephants and orangutans in Borneo and Kenya, respectively

Ceremony (R for profanity, sexual references and drug use) Romantic comedy about a jilted young man (Sam Angarano) who dupes his best friend (Reece Thompson) into crashing the weekend wedding reception of the older woman he still loves (Uma Thurman) in order to thwart her impending marriage to an undeserving documentary filmmaker (Lee Pace).

Henry’s Crime (R for profanity) Crime comedy about a parolee (Keanu Reeves) convicted of a crime he didn’t commit who hatches a plan to knock off the same bank he’d been unfairly accused of robbing. With Vera Farmiga, James Caan and Bill Duke.

Meek’s Cutoff (PG for violence, smoking, and brief profanity) Bruce Greenwood handles the title role in this high plains Western, set in 1845, about a mountain man guiding a wagon train of settlers which becomes stranded in the desert along the Oregon Trail. Ensemble includes Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson, Zoe Kazan, Will Patton,

Meet Monica Velour (R for nudity, profanity, drug use and graphic sexuality) Romantic comedy about the unlikely relationship which develops when a down-and-out, former porn star (Kim Catrall) finds herself pursued by an awkward, 18 year-old fan (Dustin Ingram) of her films. Cast includes Keith David, Brian Dennehy and Jamie Tisdale.

Meeting Spencer (R for profanity) Showbiz comedy about a Hollywood director (Jeffrey Tambor) who decides to move to New York after a series of flops to try to revitalize his career on Broadway. With Jesse Plemons, Melinda McGraw and John Prudhont.

Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer (Unrated) Faith-based documentary highlighting the ascetic religious practices of monks, nuns and desert hermits living in monasteries, caves, sanctuaries and cells scattered around the Middle East and Europe.

To Die Like a Man (Unrated) Genderbending drama about an aging drag queen’s (Fernando Santos) desperate effort to erase any evidence that he was once a man before he dies of silicone poisoning from his leaking breast implants. (In Portuguese, German and English with subtitles)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Hood Health Handbook (BOOK REVIEW)

The Hood Health Handbook
Volume One
Edited by C’BS Alife Allah and Supreme Understanding
Foreword by Dick Gregory
Supreme Design Publishing
Paperback, $19.95
480 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-935721-32-1

Book Review by Kam Williams

“In all my world travels, never have I picked up a book with the kind of love, concern and information that I’ve seen put into this book... Information is power.
The power in this book is unimaginable. I thank the editors for taking the time and effort to teach the masses the truth about how important diet and nutrition are… Some of you aren’t even aware that you’re eating badly or living unhealthily… On every page, there’s something you must know.
When I look at the state of health in America, particularly African-Americans’, I say, ‘My God, we need a shift in the wind.’ I believe this book is the shift in the wind we’ve been waiting for.”

-Excerpted from the Preface by Dick Gregory (pgs. 3-4)

You can’t help but take notice when Dick Gregory gives a how-to book promoting health a ringing endorsement. After all, the well-preserved, 78 year-old comedian is almost as well known as a health food advocate as he is for his acerbic wit. Furthermore, he’s even written his own cookbook and stands as a shining testament to the virtues of longevity via a nutritious dietary regimen.
What makes “The Hood Health Handbook” unique is not just its sound advice but the way in which the authors have carefully couched their pearls of wisdom in street vernacular to grab the attention of their target audience. In order to interest members of the Hip-Hop Generation, the chapters have been given catchy titles like “Teefus,” “When Gold Grills Go Bad,” “11 Things Not to Get from the Dollar Store,” “Keep Your Coochie Right,” “Junk Food Is Crack,” “The Def Jam Detox,” “Don’t Be a Booty Scratcher,” “How to Not Have a Rotten Face,” “At Least Try This, You Chump” and “K.O the B.O.”
While many of the headings are admittedly hilarious, they merely serve as attention grabbers to get folks absorbed by an array of serious subjects of concern to the black community. Edited by C’BS Alife Allah and Supreme Understanding, “The Hood Health Handbook” features contributions from over 20 experts in fields ranging from diet to hygiene to exercise to psychology to massage to reproduction to money management to pollution and beyond.
Weighing in at a hefty 480 pages, pound-for-pound, this encyclopedic manual for urban survival in the 21st Century just might be the best investment you could make this year in your mental and physical health.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lillian McEwen: The “D.C. Unmasked & Undressed” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Clarence Thomas’ Ex Expounds on Steamy Memoir Vindicating Anita Hill

Retired Justice Lillian McEwen was born, raised and educated in Washington, D.C. Her stellar legal career there spanned several decades, including stints as a prosecutor, Capitol Hill staff counsel, criminal defense attorney, law professor and federal judge. Judge McEwen recently published her memoir, “D.C. Unmasked & Undressed,” a steamy tell-all chronicling her sexually-adventurous private life, paying particular attention to her longtime relationship with a prominent colleague, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
In the process, McEwen belatedly resurrects the reputation of Anita Hill by offering proof that the disgraced law professor was telling the truth 20 years ago when she testified against Thomas during his controversial confirmation hearings.

Kam Williams: Hello, Your Honor, thanks for the interview. How are you?
Lillian McEwen: Hi Kam. I’m good.

KW: How’d you like my review of the book?
LE: [Chuckles] My PR guy loved it, and we both thank you.

KW: That sounds like you had some issues with it, but I have so many questions from readers, I better get right to them rather than pursue that line of questioning. Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: 'What's it all about Lillie?' Why now? Why not then, when Dr. Hill needed your support in her testimony against Clarence Thomas?
LE: I was counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee under Joe Biden, so I knew pretty much what the process was. What happens when people make offers to testify, the committee’s role is to advise and consent as part of its Constitutional mandate. Typically, these letters are anonymous, and they’re taken to the nominee who then has a choice of withdrawing their name from nomination or otherwise risk having that person testify against you at the hearing. Quite frankly, the reason that I didn’t come forward at the time that Clarence’s name was before the committee was because I knew from my experience on Capitol Hill that it really wouldn’t make any difference. What happens is that the party in power will nominate whomever they want. In Clarence’s case, he was nominated, of course, as a result of our having a Republican president. And neither Joe Biden nor any of the other Democratic senators wanted to risk being labeled as racist or thought of as being against a black nominee after Clarence played the race card.

KW: That leads me to a question from Kola Boof: Why didn't you go to the media back then when the case was such a media circus? We all know that the Democrat males were just as sexist and fearful as the Republicans of sexual harassment being taken seriously. So, they all, as men, took Clarence's side. Lillian, your story would have gotten Clarence dismissed because having a person of your stature speak up at that time in the heat of it would have been too damaging. LE: Because it wouldn’t have made any difference whether I went to the media or not. But most importantly, Clarence and I had a conversation before he was nominated in which he informed me that it was his desire that I always say “No comment!” and not give any interviews at all. I regarded that wish as something I pretty much owed him as a friend and as someone who cared about him. My hope was that he would have a conscience and be compassionate while on the bench of the Supreme Court.

KW: With legal minds who might have approached Thurgood Marshall's greatness, why did you stand by and let someone be appointed who will be remembered for less rather than more of what Justice Marshall represented in this court's history.
LE: First of all, I had no power to prevent him from being appointed. I didn’t have a vote. And secondly, I hoped that he would transform himself back into a person who did the right thing. Besides, there were many other witnesses available to the Senate Judiciary Committee. But I did write a note to Senator Biden around the time of the hearing him reminding him that I had had a close relationship with Clarence Thomas. I would have appeared, had I been subpoenaed to testify.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Why didn’t you approach Anita Hill to support her allegations in her time of need? Were you afraid of possible repercussions respecting your career?
LE: There were other individuals who had worked with Clarence who were willing to testify at the confirmation hearings. So, I wasn’t the only one who could have corroborated Anita Hill’s testimony. Furthermore, long before the nomination, I was utterly convinced that she and Clarence had had a sexual relationship.

KW: Why so?
LE: There came a time during his tenure as Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that he began to complain vociferously about the behavior of Anita Hill at the office. He would whine about it every day. He even asked me on several occasions to come to the office to wait for him, because “Anita Hill has to see that I have another woman in my life now. It has to be made plain to her that we don’t have the same type of relationship we once had.”

KW: So, do you think Anita testified out of bitterness as a woman scorned?
LE: I think it’s more complicated than that. I think Anita Hill never imagined that she would be the only person testifying against the man who had given her her job, who had been at her beck and call, and who had made sure that she was a successful attorney.

KW: Have you had any contact with her?
LE: No, other than being introduced to her when Clarence became Chairman of the EEOC, and the times when I went sat around the office to send her a message for him. [Chuckles]

KW: Have you considered leaving a message on her answering machine like Clarence’s wife, Ginny, did last fall?
LE: That’s never occurred to me.

KW: Bernadette asks: do you respect his intellect?
LE: When I left him, Clarence said he was envious and resentful of my ability to read for pleasure. It had been obvious to me that he had no real intellectual curiosity whatsoever and that the material he had to handle at the EEOC was fairly difficult for him to handle. At that time, he was making speeches all over the country in support of the Republican agenda, and he always employed a speechwriter to help him. It was very difficult for him to process, focus on or to grasp complex ideas. This was a man who prided himself on his perceiving the world in very stark terms.

KW: In your opinion, is he arrogant or racist?
LE: As you quoted rather courageously in your review, one of his favorite sayings (“[N-words] and flies, I do despise. The more I see [N-words], the more I like flies.”) is a chant that racist white people used to say while sitting on their porches to frighten and intimidate black people passing by on the sidewalk. I regard that as self-hating, and a legacy of slavery.

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: Did you ever consider Clarence Thomas as a future husband and father of your children?
LE: No, he had already had a vasectomy, and I had no interest in getting remarried or having more children.

KW: Irene also asks: Do you think that Clarence Thomas' choice of a white wife reflects his politics or his looking upon Black women as lesser than?
LE: Something I learned while socializing with Clarence was that black Republican men generally had white wives, almost as if it was a litmus test, a way of assuring white men that they could be counted on to be consistent politically.

KW: Irene’s final question is: Do you have any regrets over being silent for so long?
LE: I always felt like I was on a precipice, as if I would be punished if I said anything negative about him. I was also in great fear of how people would view me in respect to hurting him or how they might judge my behavior as immoral. I was in fear because I felt that if I tarnished his image, I would be hurt in return.

KW: Lee Bailey asks: Just how freaky-deaky did you and Clarence get? What was the freakiest thing he wanted to do to you?
LE: Regarding the first question -- I never thought of anything we did as freaky. “D.C. Unmasked and Undressed” does, however, describe in great detail sexual encounters with four different women who shared our bed. Clarence contributed two and I contributed two. The book also describes in detail the "see and be-seen" atmosphere at Plato's Retreat. This was my lifestyle and this was my world before I met him. I enthusiastically introduced him to these adventures. One of the reasons I eventually left him was my assumption that Clarence's new false religiosity and courtship of the new Evangelical Christian wing of the Republican Party would eliminate sexual activity or adventures in the future. I was not insatiable, but I knew what I wanted from the relationship. As far as the freakiest thing he ever wanted to do to me --I never regarded any request Clarence made or any activity we engaged in as freaky, but I do not recall saying no to any suggestion he made, either. Sex was just good, clean fun and an important part of my life before and after Clarence, as I attempt to make clear throughout my memoir.

KW: Yale Grad Tommy Russell: Ms. McEwen. First, I want to say thank you! Kudos to you for being such a brave woman as to share so much of your sexual history. We still live in a very Puritanical society when it comes to being open and honest about our sexual lives. We have great difficulty sharing our experiences, desires, and what we consider "normative" with others, even with family/friends let alone strangers. My first question: What do you think the reason was for Sen. Biden, now Vice President, to disallow your voice in the Senate confirmation hearings? Did he feel pressure from Republicans in the administration and Congress not to keep up the pressure? Or was it deeper and darker?
LE: I wasn’t prevented from testifying at all. I simply reminded Joe Biden of the fact that Clarence and I had been close for several years, and that members of his staff knew him.

KW: Tommy’s second question is: Where do we go from here? Do you think this will open up a larger dialogue about sexual mores in our society or do you think your book and its message of openness and honesty will be panned as liberal, wackado-nonsense as I imagine it may?
LE: [LOL] It is my hope that my memoir might help some people imagine that their lives could be different. Perhaps, by honestly relating a truthful narrative, my book will illustrate a possible way of going through the world that is not harmful and which is consistent and compatible with being sane, normal and successful. You may not like this life or think there’s something wrong with it, but you cannot deny the fact that I have lived this life. If the book explodes some myths, then it is valuable as a narrative and as a way of looking at the world that you might never have thought possible.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: When you talk about sharing porno and multiple sex partners with Clarence Thomas, are these things inherently wrong or is it just the hypocrisy that makes them an issue?
LE: The fact that I wasn’t parented and went to a Catholic school resulted in my realizing that there is huge difference between right and wrong. Also, for some reason, I don’t share the same inhibitions of people who have been parented. I’ve gone through life just doing what seems natural to me. I’ve tried really, really hard to take pleasure in something that’s fairly simple whenever I can. I’ve never attached moralistic terms to sexual acts or preferences, unless they harmed someone. [Laughs] It never occurred to me when I wrote the book that my sex life was unusual at all. To the degree that you can eliminate stifling masks, you’ll lead a more honest life, you’ll be more content in life, and it’ll be easier for you to go through life. And conversely, the more you firmly affix that mask to your face and convolute your own values to conform, the more confused and crazier you’ll get. [LOL]

KW: Peter Keough: Ask her what's really going on under that robe. And why she thinks Justice Thomas has hardly said one word since being on the court.
LE: Five years ago, Clarence stopped asking questions during oral arguments, and has taken to criticizing his fellow justices for wasting time grandstanding. I believe that another reason he’s quiet is because he’s had to overcome his Geechee roots. He often lapses back into Geechee way of pronouncing words and an ungrammatical sentence structure, which is embarrassing to him. He is fundamentally a very shy person, and is very sensitive about any criticism about his manner of speaking. And it would be a great source of embarrassment if leveled in the context of a Supreme Court argument.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What message do you want the readers to take away from your book?
LE: An appreciation for truth-telling. I tried to communicate that it’s really important for us to go through life guiding our behavior and standards based not only on knowledge and reason but on the pleasures and serendipity of life. I don’t know whether I’ve achieved that, but I gave it my best shot.

KW: Will Cooper asks: What’s the real reason you waited so long to come out with these accusations? Are you having financial problems and so you’re suddenly making these accusations because you need the money?
LE: I didn’t write the book to make money, but because I needed to evaluate what was going with my own self with respect to the world. When I finished writing it, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. This was before I got a PR person, an agent or a publisher. It was important to me to get my own life down on paper in my own words. I never thought about how much money I could make from it, because I retired in 2007 and have an income for the rest of my life, thanks to your tax dollars. [Chuckles]

KW: Will continues: Why didn't any of these revelations come out over the past 20+ years, given the amount of digging and scrutiny that Clarence Thomas has
received? Why didn't any other people who saw you at these places ever say
anything during Thomas' hearings or over the past 20 years?
LE: There are dozens of people who are aware of the events that are described in my book. And I actually expected some of them to come forward at any minute and to reveal these matters, and it might happen next week.

KW: Will persists with: How could you be the only one holding this secret if much of it was done in somewhat public places? Does this mean there are hundreds of other people out there who know the same information but are just remaining silent?
LE: It’s certainly something that the participants knew about. I’m not talking about 1-on-1 experiences. [Laughs]

KW: Was Clarence discreet when you two went to a public sex palace like Plato’s Retreat?
LE: He would put his real name on the list.

KW: Was he the head of the EEOC at the time?
LE: For much of it, yes. [LOL]

KW: When you went to Plato’s Retreat, was that your idea or his?
LE: I pulled him there. I had already lived my life that way well before I met him, and had been involved in threesomes for several years. Without realizing it, I had a totally different view from the majority of Americans of what human sexuality should look like.

KW: Aren't you afraid of any retaliation from Thomas in the way of a defamation of character or libel lawsuit?
LE: The best defense against any accusation like that is truth. The general rule is, as long as you’re telling the truth, they’re wasting a lot of time and energy coming after you. And there’s nothing in my memoir that is not true.

KW: Do you think the Ginny Thomas phone call to Anita Hill last fall is what interested publishers in your book?
LE: Yes, that’s correct. That call by Ginny Thomas was the catalyst. Otherwise, it might have just stayed in the closet for some time longer. I wasn’t yet comfortable approaching publishers myself, because of the nature of the book.

KW: Do you think your memoir will be made into a movie?
LE: I think that would be great. I wouldn’t say “No.”

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
LE: No.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
LE: I had always been terrified that somebody would talk to the press or find some film footage of me from Plato’s Retreat. But now that the book is out, I have a completely different view of my relationship with Clarence. It’s liberating and almost funny to see people’s reactions. It’s almost like a different chapter of my life has been opened for me. I’m not really accustomed to it yet, but there isn’t any part of it that says “Be scared!”

KW: Did you have sex with other people besides Clarence at Plato’s?
LE: I’m pretty sure that’s true. But he liked to watch and to be watched.

KW: In the book, you said that he was so popular at the porn shop that the clerks would call to let him know when they got a new shipment of his favorite stuff. What did he have a taste for?
LE: His preferences were for large penises, ejaculation scenes with men erupting like volcanoes, and also huge breasts on obese women. It bored me to tears, personally, but it was extremely important to him.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
LE: Happiness is overrated. I would call myself content at this point in my life.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
LE: [LOL] I fell on the floor hearing Joan Rivers tell this joke: “My vagina is like Newark, New Jersey. Men know where it’s located, but they don’t want to visit.”

KW: Why did you find it so funny?. Did it resonate with you in some way?
LE: [Chuckles] Yeah, it really did.

KW: But I would guess that a lot of friends and acquaintances might like to relate to you in a new way after reading all the lurid revelations in this book.
LE: No, they want to stay as far away from me as possible. I imagine I’m going to lose a lot of friends over the book. I already have.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
LE: Watching black and white movies on TCM, the Turner Classic Movie Channel, at night.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
LE: I’m reading two at once, “On Human Nature” by Edward O. Wilson and “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea” by Chelsea Handler.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What have you been listening to lately?
LE: I like Mozart, Frank Sinatra, and some of the rap artists.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
LE: I love crispy duck.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
LE: Prada.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
LE: I’m always surprised, because the older I get, the more I look like my mother. But I’m always hoping that it’s somebody else, because I’ve always wanted to be a brown or dark-skinned black woman, to match what I feel like inside.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
LE: It certainly would be to remove evil from the world.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
LE: Playing in the back yard at about two or three years-old, being pushed by my brothers in a red wagon.

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
LE: By reading books and listening to music to remind myself that the future is going to be very different from what is happening right then.

KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
LE: Martin Luther King, a man who spoke for all of humanity.

KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
LE: My two parents who were not only physically abusive, but also verbally, mentally and emotionally abusive. I almost did not survive my childhood, and two of my siblings were destroyed right in front of my eyes by them.

KW: The Dr. Cornel West question: What price are you willing to pay for a cause that is bigger than your own self interest?
LE: I would give my life.

KW: The Taboo question: What’s the best thing about being a parent?
LE: Learning what love is like. I had no clue what it truly meant to love another human being until my daughter was born.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
LE: Read, so that you can figure out how to reason your way out of situations. Secondly, don’t compromise. Don’t do something for a living that you know you’re not suited for, that’s not going to bring you happiness or challenge you. And don’t stay in a relationship that’s not allowing you to be the way you want to be.

KW: The Zane Question: Do you have any regrets?
LE: Regret is the most futile of human emotions. I really mean that.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
LE: As a person who told the truth about a life that was unusual and important in certain respects. And as a person who showed that Clarence should have withdrawn his name from the nomination process. Of course, he wouldn’t have been able to reward his friends and punish his enemies as he is now able to do sitting on the Supreme Court bench.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Your Honor, and best of luck with the book.
LE: Thank you, Kam, my pleasure.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Adolescent Angst and Sibling Rivalry Escalate in Fun-Filled Sequel

Geeky Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) has resigned himself to returning to Westmore Middle School after spending most of the 6th grade getting picked-on by bullies. At least the scrawny, 98-pound weakling and his beefier best friend, Rowley (Robert Capron), have buried the hatchet, even if they remain social outcasts as they start the 7th. Nevertheless, they’re not quite as ostracized as some of their fellow nerds, like the totally-clueless Fregley (Grayson Russell) and the equally-odd Chirag Gupta (Karan Brar).
At the beginning of the fall semester, Greg, who reached puberty over vacation, develops a crush on a cute classmate, Holly Hills (Peyton List). Unfortunately, the object of his affection, barely notices her awkward admirer, a sign that Greg could be in for another, very long school year.
Meanwhile, the lovesick lad is just as miserable at home, between being tormented mercilessly by his older brother, Rodrick (Devon Bostick), and being tattled on by his younger one, Manny (Connor Fielding). Compounding the problem is their meddling mother’s (Rachael Harris) futile attempt to discourage sibling rivalry by rewarding her sons with “Mom Bucks” for spending time with each other.
“Now, Rodrick can get paid for beating me up!” an exasperated Greg complains about the big brother he says is “The King of Laziness, except when it comes to torturing me.” Is it any wonder, then, that when their misguided mom’s pressure to bond backfires, Greg retreats to his bedroom to fantasize about being adopted by a billionaire couple?
Such frustrations ought to sound familiar to fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise, for this rib-tickling sequel reestablishes the original’s premise. And it also trades in the same sort of teasing, slapstick and bodily-function humor most likely to resonate with the ‘tweener demographic.
Directed by David Bowers (Astro Boy), the movie is based on the second installment of the best-selling series of children’s novels written and illustrated by cartoonist Jeff Kinney. To his credit, Bowers managed to reassemble the principal cast, most notably, Zachary Gordon and Devon Bostick, as the ever-antagonistic siblings at the heart of the tale.
This go-round, Rodrick enjoys center stage, literally and figuratively, as the drummer of a heavy metal, garage band called Loded Diper. The group is gearing up to compete for the $1,000 grand prize in their hometown of Plainview’s Most Talented contest.
However, when Rod throws a wild party in the house while his parents are out of town, the proverbial fly lands in the ointment after Greg inadvertently lets the cat out of the bag upon their return. Rodrick blames his brother when he’s subsequently grounded, and the tension builds as the day of the concert approaches.
Will Rod be granted an 11th hour reprieve and be permitted to perform or will he remain angry at Greg forever after? Far be it from this critic to spoil a cliffhanger beyond a reminder that this flick is rated PG. Let’s just say, that wimps still rule in this upside-down universe where it’s cool to be square!

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG for mischief and rude humor.
Running time: 90 Minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Top Ten DVD List for March 29th

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for March 29th

Black Swan

Mad Men – Season Four

The Civil War – A Film by Ken Burns [150th Anniversary Edition]

Eastern Mystics

Teenage Paparazzo

The Ten Commandments [2-Disc Special Edition]

Fair Game

Heaven Ain’t Hard to Find


Treme – The Complete First Season

Honorable Mention

Truth in Numbers

IMAX: Hubble

The Swimsuit Issue

Anything Goes

The Restaurateur

Those Three

Loving Lamposts: Living Autistic


The Capture of the Green River Killer

Apocalypse: World War II

My Time Will Come

Debbie and Friends


The Resident

The Human Experience

Colony: The Endangered World of Bees

Ingredients: The Local Food Movement Takes Root

Who's the Caboose?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Black Swan DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Portman’s Oscar-Winning Performance Arriving on DVD

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a dancer with a leading New York City ballet troupe preparing a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Although previously just a member of the chorus, Nina’s recently learned from her director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), that he’d like to feature her as the face of the company during the upcoming season.
She’s getting a shot because he’s decided it’s time to replace his aging prima ballerina, Beth (Winona Ryder). So, Nina is among the handful of promising aspirants invited to audition for the split role of the White/Black Swan.
She proceeds to perform flawlessly as the former, effortlessly exhibiting the innocence called upon to play that part. But Thomas has reservations about casting Nina when she fails to display the requisite sensuality expected of the character’s seductive alter ego post-metamorphosis.
Therefore, to test whether or not Nina has the mettle to capture the carnality of the Black Swan, he pressures her sexually on ballet’s equivalent of the casting couch. Instead of filing harassment charges, shocked Nina opts to internalize the angst generated by the violation. After all, she senses that if she fails to accommodate his advances, there are others just waiting to jump at the opportunity, especially her primary rival, Lily (Mila Kunis).
Nina’s already fragile psyche is further compromised by the omnipresence of her overbearing stage-mom (Barbara Hershey) who can’t help but live vicariously through her daughter, employing reminders about “the career I gave up to have you” to motivate by guilt. As if all of the above weren’t enough, when Nina is announced as Beth’s replacement, the recently-demoted diva asks, “What did you do to get the role?” insinuating that she must have slept her way to the top.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler), Black Swan is a harrowing psychological thriller which paints a surreal portrait of the chilling consequences of compromising one’s values in quest of success. For the closer our heroine gets to the realization of her lifelong dream, the more we bear witness to the gradual disintegration of a tormented soul swallowed whole by blind ambition.
Beyond the freaky front story, the film features an abundance of breathtaking dance sequences, thanks to a splendid combination of costuming, sound, lighting and choreography as executed by a score of professionals courtesy of the Pennsylvania Ballet and the American Ballet Theater. But make no mistake, the best reason to recommend Black Swan is for the performance of cynosure Natalie Portman who earned an Academy Award for her spellbinding portrayal of the troubled diva at the center of this intriguing mindbender.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, graphic sexuality, and drug use and disturbing violent images.
Running time: 108 Minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Trailers and a featurette entitled “Black Swan Metamorphosis.”

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening April 1, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening April 1, 2011


Hop (PG for mild rude humor) Mixed live-action/animated adventure about a teenager (Russell Brand) who runs away to Hollywood to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a drummer rather than replace his retiring father (Hugh Laurie) as the Easter Bunny. However, the rebellious rabbit comes to reassess his options while being nursed back to health by the slacker (James Marsden) who accidentally hit him with an automobile. Voice cast includes Chelsea Handler, Elizabeth Perkins and David Hasselhoff.

Insidious (PG-13 for violence, terror, mature themes, frightening images and brief profanity) Horror flick about a couple (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) desperate to prevent evil spirits from inhabiting the body of their son (Ty Simpkins) who can’t be roused from a coma after hitting his head. With Barbara Hershey, Angus Sampson and Andrew Astor.

Source Code (PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and profanity) Sci-fi thriller about a highly-decorated soldier (Jake Gyllenhaal) who discovers that he’s on a mission to find the terrorist bomber of a Chicago commuter train when he suddenly wakes up in someone else’s body. Cast includes Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright and Michelle Monaghan.


Cat Run (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and graphic violence) Paz Vega stars in the title role of this action comedy as a call girl who enlists the assistance of a couple of bumbling private eyes (Alphonso McAuley and Scott Mechlowicz) while on the run from a ruthless assassin (Janet McTeer) after overhearing an incriminating secret about a crooked politician (Christopher McDonald). Cast includes D.L. Hughley, Bill Perkins and Karel Roden.

Circo (Unrated) Dysfunctional family documentary about the diminishing returns of a mom-and-pop, traveling circus which has been crisscrossing the Mexican countryside since the 19th Century. (In Spanish with subtitles)

The Elephant in the Room (Unrated) Suburbia meets the jungle expose’ examining the increasing popularity of raising exotic, deadly and dangerous animals as pets.

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Unrated) Biggest loser bio-pic about Joe Cross, a morbidly-obese Aussie who shed over a hundred pounds and cured himself of a host of health issues in the U.S. in just 60 days by adopting a fruit and vegetable juice regimen.

The Last Godfather (PG-13 for brief sexuality) Mafia comedy about a mob boss (Harvey Keitel) whose mentally-challenged heir apparent (Hyung-rae-Shim) unwittingly ignites a turf war with a rival gang. With Jason Mewes, Blake Clark and Jon Polito.

Queen to Play (Unrated) Corsican comedy about a middle-aged chambermaid (Sandrine Bonnaire) who prevails upon a reclusive American expatriate (Kevin Kline) to teach her how to play chess. Supporting cast includes Jennifer Beals, Alice Pol and Didier Ferrari. (In French and English with subtitles)

Rubber (R for violence and profanity) Horror comedy about a tire that comes to life and starts slaughtering people after discovering its telekinetic powers. With David Bowie, Wings Hauser and Ethan Cohn.

Super (Unrated) Action comedy about an Average Joe (Rainn Wilson) who transforms himself into a wrench-wielding, crime-fighting superhero after his wife (Liv Tyler) comes under the influence of a smooth-talking drug dealer (Kevin Bacon). With Ellen Page, Rob Zombie and Michael Rooker.

Trust (R for profanity, sexuality, violence, rape and disturbing images) Revenge thriller starring Clive Owen and Catherine Keener as the parents of a 14 year-old girl (Liana Liberato) seduced over the internet by a middle-aged, sexual predator (Chris Henry Coffey) posing as a boy her own age. With Viola Davis, Noah Emmerich and Garrett Ryan.

Two Gates of Sleep (Unrated) Visually-captivating mood piece, set in Mississippi, about two brothers (Brady Corbet and David Call) who embark on an arduous journey upriver into the wilderness in order to honor their recently-deceased mother’s (Karen Young) last request.

Wretches and Jabberers (Unrated) Tolerance is the theme of this enlightening documentary chronicling two autistic friends’ (Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher) cross-country mission to change the prevailing public opinion about their affliction.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pass It Down Cookbook (BOOK REVIEW)

Pass It Down Cookbook
Edited by Chef Jeff Henderson
With Ramin Ganeshram
Smiley Books
Paperback, $16.95
334 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-4019-3135-3

Book Review by Kam Williams

“The Pass It Down Cookbook is filled with recipes that reflect the generations-long need to document and share our history and culture… The recipes in this book are accompanied by personal stories that provide us with a unique opportunity to preserve our cooking heritage…
Filled with poignant memories of the past, and the present triumphs of both the acclaimed and unknown black Americans who impacted the way the whole nation eats, this book gives voice to everyday people and their triumphs in the kitchen… [It] also explores how African-Americans have impacted the economy, the iconography, the preparation, and the very spirit of American foods…
Our goal was to create a collection that is both a cookbook and community memoir filled with great food and even better stories… We hope, as you read this book, it will become a way to learn about and share the bounty that is the African-American contribution, not just to food, but to the very identity of this nation."

-- Excerpted from the Preface (pgs. xii-xiv)

Last year, love advice books were all the rage in publishing, at least in terms of the African-American demographic. But judging from the early offerings of 2011, it looks like the how-to focus has shifted from the bedroom to the kitchen.
After all, it’s only March, and the Pass It Down Cookbook already represents the fourth opus I’ve reviewed with a heavy focus on food. Granted the previous tomes, such as Culinary Professor Jessica B. Harris’ “High on the Hog,” and Janet Jackson’s memoir “True You,” only had a modest number of recipes, while this one prominently features in excess of 130. Nonetheless, in this reporter’s humble opinion, the sudden attention to the black diet is indicative of a trend worth noting.
The Pass It Down Cookbook is the latest in Tavis Smiley’s “America I Am” series celebrating 400 years of African-American cultural contributions in a variety of fields. Augmenting the assorted texts is a touring museum exhibition highlighting the undeniable black imprint upon the nation.
Edited by Jeff Henderson, Executive Chef at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Pass It Down is pretty evenly divided between mouth-watering menus and informative history lessons. In terms of the latter, I found former Clinton aide Adrian Miller’s chapter on Presidential Chefs quite enlightening. From George Washington’s slave Hercules who broke Martha’s heart when he ran away, to FDR’s head chef Ida Allen, who prepared his boss’ favorite dish, pigs’ feet, with a Southern flair for guest of honor, Winston Churchill, each entry proved to be fairly fascinating.
As for the recipes revealed here, they include not only traditional soul food like barbecued ribs and fried chicken, but also some heavenly haute cuisine such as blackened salmon and saporous strawberry cheesecake. Overall, Pass It Down stands as an overdue testament to the legacy of legions of underappreciated culinary greats henceforth apt to inspire the next generation of African-American chefs endeavoring to stand on the shoulders of giants.

Top Ten DVD List for March 22nd

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for March 22nd

The Secrets to Distribution: Get Your Film Distributed Now!

The People I’ve Slept With

The Tourist

See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainers’ Documentary

Psych: Complete First Season

Yogi Bear

Looking for Palladin

Bratz: Good Vibes


How Do You Know

Monday, March 21, 2011

Taboo: The “Fallin’ Up” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo Gets the Party Started

Jaime Luis Gonzalez, aka Taboo, was born in the barrio of East Los Angeles on July 14, 1975 to parents of Latino and Native-American ancestry. But he credits his beloved grandmother, Aurora, with nourishing his dream of becoming an entertainer from an early age.
In 1995, Taboo was approached by to form the Black Eyed Peas, the legendary hip-hop group which headlined at halftime at this year’s Superbowl and whose neverending string of hits includes such Grammy-winners as “I Gotta Feeling,” “Let’s Get It Started,” “Boom Boom Pow” and “My Humps,” to name a few.
A versatile talent, Taboo is not only a multilingual rapper, singer, dancer and mc, but also the designer of Taboo Deltah, a line of footwear found at Foot Action stores. Here, the devoted husband and father of two talks about “Fallin’ Up,” his recently-released autobiography.

Kam Williams: Hi Taboo, thanks for the time.
Taboo: Thank you, Kam, I appreciate it.

KW: This is my first time interviewing you, but I had a nice chat with when he was in the film Star Trek a couple of years ago.
T: [LOL] Did you say Star Trek? I haven’t heard that one before, but I’m gonna start spreading the rumor. [Laughs some more] I think you meant to say Wolverine.

KW: My bad. Sorry, I did mean Wolverine. Anyway, I really enjoyed reading your autobiography, “Fallin’ Up.” It was so brutally-honest, especially where you talked about bottoming out in your battle with substance abuse after becoming famous. I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I have a mix of my own and questions from fans for you.
T: Cool.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What is the main message do you want people to take away from the book?
T: The main message is that the camaraderie you see between will, apl and me onstage is a direct reflection of the friendship we’ve enjoyed over the years. We’ve overcome a lot through good times and bad times. It’s an uplifting memoir with a lot of anecdotes telling you to dream big and to follow your dreams, because the sky’s the limit, no matter what you want out of life

KW: The sky may be the limit for others, but are there any challenges left for the Black Eyed Peas to conquer after performing in front of over a hundred million people at the Superbowl?
T: Yes, we’re in talks with NASA about doing a free concert on the moon in 2014. [Chuckles] The truth is we’ve been blessed with so many opportunities that the time has arrived for each us to bring some notoriety to ourselves, individually, and to explore whatever we’ve ever wanted to do artistically on our own, but always knowing that that in turn will ultimately reflect on the mother ship, which is the Black Eyed Peas.

KW: Being familiar with your book, Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: How do we issue 'dreamcatchers' -- or their equivalent -- to youngsters so they don't get their dreams dashed?
T: I think it all starts with a flame that burns within each of us. The dreamcatcher my grandmother placed over my bed as a child simply served as a metaphor. It doesn’t have to be a dreamcatcher, literally. The dreamcatcher could be the people you surround yourself with. Or it could be you motivating yourself to pursue a passion like music or another form of artistic expression.

KW: Harriet also asks: Where do we find more grandmothers like yours?
T: Gee, that’s kind of hard to say. My grandmother was one-of-a-kind. Like I said in the book, she was the most influential person in my life. She was the motivating force for me to become the performer that I am today. She really lit the fire inside me which inspired the desire to become who I am. The beauty of it is that she believed in me even when other people didn’t. The fact that my grandmother always had my back was pivotal because she also taught me a lot about values and about life in the process.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Where do you think you would be without the support of your grandmother growing up?
T: Well, I really doubt that I’d be speaking to you right now, if my grandmother hadn’t been in my life. She really knew how to nurture my talent, whether it was dancing, writing music, or performing. She pushed me. She wanted to see me succeed at it. Now, she is like my angel. Every time I step onstage, I feel like she’s shining there with me and celebrating the good times.

KW: Bernadette has a follow-up: What would you say to encourage young boys in similar circumstances who do not have an intact traditional family to help them achieve their dreams?
T: To those kids who don’t have a solid support system at home, I would just say, “Surround yourself with good friends who share your passion and drive. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t let anybody extinguish your light.”

KW: Professor/Author/Filmmaker Hisani Dubose asks: How do you combine the rhythms and music of your Mexican and Native-American backgrounds with R&B and hip-hop?
T: Well, we’ve gotten into a lot of Latin rhythms in the past on songs like “Latin Girls” and “Sexy” where we sampled Sergio Mendes’ Bossa Nova. And I do mix in a little Spanish rap on some of the songs. It’s part of my culture and I’m able to represent it in the same way that Apl is able to represent the Filipino culture. We have several songs where he’s actually rapping in his native tongue which is Tagalog.

KW: I love all those collaborations with Sergio Mendes.
T: Thanks, we were lucky to have an opportunity to work with him when we were in Brazil on a South American tour.

KW: Which of the Black Eyed Peas’ songs is your favorite?
T: “I Gotta Feeling.”

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
T: That’s one of the best questions I’ve ever been asked. Here’s one: What’s the best thing about being a parent?

KW: Okay, what’s the best thing about being a parent?
T: Appreciating every moment you get to spend with your children, really absorbing their growth, their innocence, and the happiness they exude. I really appreciate the beauty I see in them whether I’m changing diapers, feeding them or taking them to school. It’s never a dull moment when you have kids. And we’re expecting another baby on May 3rd.

KW: What a blessing! Congratulations! The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
T: I was afraid about performing at the Superbowl, because we had to rappel down 300 feet from the Jumbotron, and I’m not really too keen about heights. You can be the most athletic and acrobatic dude, but that doesn’t help, if you’re scared of heights. So, I was definitely nervous, at first. But after doing it a half-dozen times during rehearsal, I was able to get all the jitters out by show time. Being high on adrenaline helped. It was very nerve-wracking, but I’m glad that we conquered our fears, and that the performance went really well.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
T: I am so happy! Very happy!

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
T: A few minutes ago when you thought will was in Stare Trek.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
T: Chocolate chip cookies.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
T: “Fallin Up.”

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod?
T: Missy Elliott.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
T: Spanish rice and carne asada.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
T: That’s a good one. Hmm… I have two favorites: Rick Owens and Gucci.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
T: A loving husband and a devoted father.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
T: For financial stability for my family.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
T: It’s of my grandmother sitting in her chair in the living room, as she introduced me by saying, “From Los Angeles, California, give it up for Jimmy Gomez!” even though it was just the two of us there. I remember the happiness and joy in her face while watching me which let me know it was okay that that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I owe it all to her for always believing in me, and for bringing out the best in me.

KW: The Nancy Lovell Question: Why do you love doing what you do?
T: Because I’m good at it, and I always dreamed of doing it.

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
T: Family.

KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
T: My grandmother.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
T: Don’t follow in my footsteps

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
T: As a loving father and husband, and as a great entertainer and entrepreneur.

KW: Thanks again for the interview, Taboo, and best of luck with the book and all your endeavors.
T: Alright Kam, thank you so much.

The Lincoln Lawyer

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Disgraced Attorney Seeks Redemption in Riveting Crime Thriller

If you enjoy trying to solve a cerebral, multi-layered mystery, then get yourself to a theater to see this cleverly-concealed whodunit before anybody has a chance to spoil it for you. Based on Michael Connelly’s best-seller of the same name, this intricate thriller was directed by Brad Furman (The Take) and stars Matthew McConaughey in the title role. He plays the sort of down on his luck attorney audiences just love to root for, an empathetic underdog in need of redemption reminiscent of the recovering alcoholic Paul Newman portrayed in The Verdict in an Oscar-winning performance.
McConaughey’s character, Mick Haller, is a likable lush whose driver’s license was suspended for operating under the influence. But because his Ford Lincoln functions both as a means of transportation and as an office, he now has a delinquent client (Laurence Mason) chauffeuring him around L.A. as a way of paying off the debt. Besides booze, he’s battling his ex-wife, Margaret (Marisa Tomei), not only because they have a child (Mackenzie Aladjem) together, but because, as a criminal prosecutor, she works on the opposite side of the law.
As a defense attorney who makes “house calls” right on the street with the miscreants he’s stuck with representing, mobility is critical to Mick. Given that low grade of clientele, he thanks his lucky stars the day he’s told by a bail bondsman (John Leguizamo) that Louis Roulet (Ryan Philippe), the son of a Beverly Hills real estate tycoon (Frances Fisher), wants to hire him.
Mick learns that the 32 year-old heir has just been arrested for the attempted murder of a badly-bruised woman (Margarita Levieva) he picked up at a nightclub. In a meeting behind bars, Louis claims that he’s being framed by a money-hungry liar who staged the attack with a couple of confederates. According to his version of what transpired, someone standing behind the alleged victim’s apartment door knocked him unconscious as soon as he entered, and then planted a knife and her blood on him.
Seeing Louis’ as his ticket to a higher tax bracket, Mick arranges for his release on a million-dollar bond, insisting on a six-figure retainer for what he reasonably expects to be an open and shut case. His clean-cut client’s alibi is subsequently essentially corroborated by a key piece of evidence, the bar’s surveillance videotape showing the accuser slipping Louis her phone number on a napkin on the night in question.
But when the assistant D.A. (Josh Lucas) sticks with his plans to put the defendant on trial, Mick asks his trusty private investigator, Frank (William H. Macy), to dig a little deeper. Soon, the plot thickens deliciously in myriad ways which it would be unfair to divulge. Suffice to say that what ensues is a deceptively-complex game of cat and mouse that’s a pure delight to observe as it unravels.
Easily, the best blockbuster of the year thus far!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for violence, sexuality and profanity.
Running time: 119 Minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Films

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The People I've Slept With DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Sitcom Features Sexaholic’s Frantic Search for Baby-Daddy

Angela Yang (Karin Anna Cheung) is so promiscuous that the only way she can remember her lovers is by taking photos of them with her cell phone after making love. And the happily-in-heat hedonist has accumulated quite an impressive collection lately, scribbling a nickname on the picture of each of her conquests.
Unlike her very conventional sister (Lynn Chen) who has already settled down and started a family, Angela has no plans to marry anytime soon. After all, she doesn’t see herself as a slut, but merely as a female version of a testosterone-driven male with an insatiable sexual appetite.
However, Angela’s free love philosophy comes apart at the seams when a visit to the obstetrician (Sherry Weston) confirms her suspicion that she’s pregnant. With no idea who the sperm donor is, she consults those headshots from her one-night stands to narrow down the list of potential fathers.
She soon settles on four viable candidates: “Five-Second Guy” (Danny Vasquez), a smooth-talking Latino who turned out to be a disappointing premature ejaculator; “Mystery Man” (Archie Kao), an image-conscious, Chinese-American politician running for city council; “Mr. Hottie” (Chris Zylka), a barely-legal, Caucasian college kid whose bones she’d jumped in a dormitory; and “Nice but Boring Guy” (Randall Park), an awkward nerd of Korean extraction she’d slept with more out of sympathy than lust.
So, with the help of her best friend, Gabriel (Wilson Cruz), Angela dreams up a variety of creative ways to obtain DNA samples without triggering any baby-daddy drama. The tension builds along with her swelling belly as the once-wanton sexaholic suddenly finds herself feeling marriage-minded.
But not only does she need to find her fetus’ genetic match first, she’s hoping for a whirlwind romance and a wedding, too, all before the arrival of their little bundle of joy. That’s an awful lot of dominoes that need to topple before that storybook ending.
Directed by Quentin Lee, The People I've Slept With takes an alternately jaw-dropping and lighthearted look at 21st Century mating habits. Accolades are in order for the attractive and talented Karin Anna Cheung for rising to the challenge of the demanding role of Angela with an admirable gusto, whether she’s shedding her clothing to assume a compromising position or convincingly conveying the emotional arc of her rapidly-maturing character.
A two-fisted female who takes responsibility for her own orgasm (ala Teri Garr in Tootsie), as well as for its sobering consequences (ala Ellen Page in Juno).

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 89 Minutes
Distributor: Maya Entertainment
DVD Extras: Alternate openings, an alternate ending, and “The Making of” documentary.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening March 25, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening March 25, 2011


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (PG for mischief and rude humor) Sibling-oriented sequel finds the former nerd (Zachary Gordon) resisting pressure from his well-meaning parents (Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn) to bond with his big brother/chief tormenter (Devon Bostick). With Robert Capron, Peyton List and Grayson Russell.

Sucker Punch (PG-13 for mature themes, sexuality, profanity and violence) Fantasy thriller starring Emily Browning as a teenager institutionalized by her evil stepfather (Gerald Plunkett) who has five days to escape from an insane asylum with the help of four other female inmates (Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone and Jamie Chung) before having to undergo a lobotomy. With Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm and Scott Glenn.


The 5th Quarter (PG-13 for mature themes) Bittersweet bio-pic recounting the gridiron exploits of a grieving college football star (Ryan Merriman) who led the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to their best record ever after dedicating the 2006 season to the memory of his younger brother (Stefan Guy) who perished in a tragic car accident. With Aidan Quinn, Andie MacDowell and Andrea Powell.

Drawing with Chalk (Unrated) Diminished dreams drama about a couple of middle-aged, wannabe rock stars’ (Todd Giglio and Christopher Springer) readjustment to life in their working-class hometown after fifteen years of trying to land a record deal in New York City. Cast includes Michael Gentile, Kapil Bawa and Pooja Kumar.

I Travel Because I Have to, I Come Back Because I Love You (Unrated)
Melancholy character study revolving around a government geologist (Irandhir Santos) who becomes consumed by loneliness while away from his girlfriend on assignment in a remote region of Northeastern Brazil. (In Portuguese with subtitles)

Korkoro (Unrated) World War II drama about a band of gypsies being followed as the roam around France by a young orphan (Mathias Laliberte) in need of a new family after the disappearance of his parents. With Marc Lavoine, James Thierree and Carlo Brandt. (In French and German with subtitles)

Miral (PG-13 for violence, rape and mature themes) Middle East drama, set in 1948, recounting the real-life effort of a young Arab woman (Freida Pinto) to open an orphanage in Jerusalem following the partitioning of Palestine which created the State of Israel. Cast includes Willem Dafoe, Vanessa Redgrave and Hiam Abbass.

My Perestroika (Unrated) Post-Cold War documentary examining the fortunes of the final generation raised behind the Iron Curtain as seen through the eyes of five Muscovites who were schoolmates at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. (In Russian with subtitles)

Peep World (Unrated) Dysfunctional family comedy, set during a patriarch’s (Ron Rifkin) 70th birthday party where his offspring struggle to come to terms with the skeletons divulged by their youngest sibling’s (Ben Schwartz) recently-published novel. Narrated by Lewis Black, and co-starring Michael C. Hall, Sarah Silverman, Rainn Wilson, Late Mara, Leslie Ann Warren

Potiche (Unrated) French farce, set in 1977, about a trophy wife (Catherine Deneuve) who steps in to run her husband’s (Fabrice Luchini) umbrella factory after he’s been taken hostage by striking employees led by her ex-lover (Gerard Depardieu). With Sergi Lopez, Karin Viard and Judith Godreche. (In French with subtitles)

Thunder Soul (PG for smoking and mild epithets) Musical documentary chronicling the 35th reunion of members of Houston’s history-making, Kashmere High School Band with 92 year-old Conrad “Prof” Johnson, the legendary coach who led the ensemble of African-American, inner-city kids to a number of championship titles in nationwide competitions during the Seventies.

White Irish Drinkers (R for sexuality, violence and pervasive profanity) Crime caper, set in Brooklyn in the fall of ’75, about a couple of struggling siblings (Nick Thurston and Geoff Wigdor) who hatch a plan to rob a theater on the night of a Rolling Stones concert. With Karen Allen, Jimmy Palumbo and Lizzy Grant.

D.C. Unmasked & Undressed: A Memoir (BOOK REVIEW)

D.C. Unmasked & Undressed
A Memoir
by Lillian McEwen
TitleTown Publishing
Hardcover, $25.95
260 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-9820009-9-1

Book Review by Kam Williams

“D.C. Unmasked & Undressed is a memoir. The story of my life includes events, characters and insights related to my miserable childhood, my legal career, and my varied sexual adventures. It can be summarized as: Girl from dysfunctional family meets boy from same…
I worked hard and played hard, too. Along the way, and for several years, I was the not-so-secret lover of a sitting Supreme Court Justice who has recently published his own memoir… His name is Clarence Thomas.”
-Excerpted from the Introduction - “Rules Rule” (pg. xiii)

When Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni, placed a phone call to Anita Hill last
fall asking for an apology for the tawdry testimony during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings which had almost torpedoed her husband’s candidacy, little did she know the extent to which the ill-advised request would only open up a can of worms. For, not only did Dr. Hill reaffirm her allegations of sexual harassment, but the rekindled controversy inspired another credible witness to step forward finally in defense of the sister.
That would be Lillian McEwen, a retired federal judge who broke a 20-year silence to announce that she’d dated Justice Thomas for many years and that her esteemed colleague and boyfriend had indeed been addicted to pornography as alleged by Anita under oath. In fact, Lillian even went further, confessing that she and Clarence had both been sex freaks back in the day, indulging in threesomes together, and even copulating in front of strangers at swingers’ clubs like the legendary Plato’s Retreat.
What makes Ms. McEwen’s revelations so damning of Thomas is that at the time that they were an item, he was serving as Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at the pleasure of President Reagan.
In that capacity, ironically, he was presumably the top federal official charged with fielding complaints of sexual harassment. Yet, according to his ex-lover, he hired and fired his own female staff members based on their appeal as prospective sex partners and their tolerance of his awkward advances.
Curiously, back in 1991, then Senator Joe Biden declined McEwen’s offer to appear before the Judiciary Committee investigating Clarence. Today, she still feels that the nation would’ve been spared the arch-conservative’s serving as the swing vote on so many the Supreme Court decisions had Committee Chairman Biden merely opted to allow her to testify about the “real Clarence” rather than inexplicably run interference for the embattled nominee.
Consequently, the previously-promiscuous jurist has had to settle for belatedly publishing this juicy memoir which blows the sheets off her lascivious liaisons with Clarence as well as a number of other District of Columbia political power brokers. The jaw-dropping tell-all is reminiscent of Karrine Steffans’ “Confessions of a Video Vixen” which exposed the wanton debauchery of many a Hollywood icon.
Here, hedonistic Judge McEwen recounts raunchy romps ranging from the conventional to the kinky, including wife-swapping, threesomes, group gropes, and even a homoerotic session with a couple of brothers ostensibly on the down-low. As if on truth serum, the author almost compulsively admits to such conduct unbecoming as cheating on her first husband while she was pregnant and climaxing a half-dozen times in a strip club while receiving a lesbian lap dance and being pawed by aroused customers.
To her literary credit, Judge McEwen does exhibit a romance novelist’s flair for the sensual, deftly turning a profusion of titillating euphemisms, whether she’s being “kissed into oblivion” or inducing “a symphony of soft moans” from a satisfied lover. When not imaginatively invoking readers to the point of arousal, she devotes considerable time to reflecting upon the abusive childhood which apparently triggered the insatiable, lifelong lust in her loins.
This trait might have made the similarly-damaged and sex-driven Clarence Thomas her ideal mate had it not been for his right-wing political philosophy. Instead, despite his prodigious performance in the sack courtesy of an elephantine, ever-erect phallus which felt like “velvet-covered cement”, McEwen regrettably decided to decline further stud service when she could no longer ignore “the speeches you give all over the country.”
She especially didn’t care for “The Republican’s” (as she referred to him) contempt for his own kind, evident in his favorite saying: “[N-words] and flies, I do despise. The more I see [N-words], the more I like flies.” The African-American community owes a debt of gratitude to Lillian McEwen for correcting the historical record with this salacious page-turner confirming most folks’ suspicions regarding a self-hating Uncle Tom whose sordid sexcapades give a whole new meaning to the phrase “Here come da judge!”

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Soledad O’Brien: The “Japan Earthquake” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Soledad at Ground Zero

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien has staked her career on reporting breaking news from domestic disasters like Hurricane Katrina as well as on location at international hotspots ranging from the sites of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict to the terrorist attacks in London to the tsunami in Thailand. She has also hosted a number of critically-acclaimed documentaries for the news network, including “Black in America,” “Latino in America,” “Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination,” “Pictures Don’t Lie,” and the upcoming “Muslims in America,” to name a few.
Peripatetic Soledad is currently, where else, but in Japan, where she is covering the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown which have devastated the country. She was gracious enough to grant me an exclusive interview from the midst of the disaster, checking in by cell to share her eyewitness perspective of the state of affairs in the crippled region.

Kam Williams: Hey Soledad, thanks so much for the time.
Soledad O’Brien: No problem, Kam.

KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so let me get right to their questions. Tracy Ertl asks: Do you worry about being exposed to nuclear radiation? I know that isn’t a sophisticated question, but there isn’t a person out there watching your coverage who is not wondering what I just asked. SO: No, I don’t worry. We’re careful. We don’t stand downwind. We haven’t been hanging out near the reactors in question, etcetera, etcetera. And there is a great deal of constant concern at very high levels about where every single person on our team is at any moment. So, we don’t go anywhere blindly without a lot of thought or without taking the proper precautions. Right now, I’m up in the North, way out of the range. Safety’s always in the back of your mind whenever you’re reporting from a potentially-dangerous location which is pretty much every story we’re covering here. But if I were really worried about it, I’d get on a plane and go home.

KW: Well according to attorney Bernadette Beekman, some journalists have been called back because of aftershocks and the escalating danger of radiation.
SO: Called back by CNN? I haven’t heard about anybody being called back by this network. That doesn’t make sense, honestly. Anyone who’s covered an earthquake knows that you’re going to have aftershocks. Although I still find them absolutely terrifying, you know you’re going to experience them if you visit an area that’s just experienced some substantial seismic activity. But in every disaster I’ve covered, CNN has quite frankly always been great. They’ll say, “Listen, anybody who wants to go, can go,” if there’s a sense that a story might be emotionally-devastating, physically-grueling, very challenging or just plain scary. There are certain stories I won’t cover, like wars. That’s where I draw a line. But no one I know has been called back.

KW: Wesley Derbyshire asks: What are the mid to long-term estimates on the range of danger from the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station? How far has the immediate evacuation zone been extended?
SO: We have a team of experts who are in the business of calculating that, not just for our on-air coverage, but also for all the journalists. No one is taking this lightly and there are some feverish email exchanges going back-and-forth among us. My strategy is to avoid the affected area. I’m not near it.

KW: Steve Gertz asks: Are Japanese people allowed by their society to cry and mourn openly in the way that we are in Western culture? Are there mental health professionals available to treat post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues? SO: Absolutely! I’ve seen places set up for victims at evacuation centers where they’re dealing with the first wave of help which is usually food, water and a place to sleep. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there are also going to be mental health facilities, because they’re set up similarly to many other organized disaster situations I’ve covered, where they make sure that people’s needs are being addressed, clearly including mental health issues. But Steve’s other question about culture and society is interesting, because you do not see a lot of open weeping. I do believe that it’s a cultural thing here to be relatively quiet and to keep to yourself. In some other societies, you find people running up to the camera to share their stories, almost eager to feel like they’re speaking out to the world. I’ve already had some excellent opportunities to interview people since arriving, but Japan’s is a much more reserved culture, for sure.

KW: Both Steve and Bernadette want to know what you think they can do on an individual basis to aid the Japanese people most effectively? People who live near the nuclear reactors have had to abandon everything. In so many instances in recent years, the world immediately reacts by a humanitarian response to a natural disaster, yet the goods or funds collected do not reach the intended beneficiaries due to politics or mismanagement.
SO: I’ve always been a big believer in finding a local charity that you like, read about, or that people you know have recommended, and help them, whether it’s the American Red Cross or somebody else. Just give what you can. The amount doesn’t matter. It’s about making the gesture of reaching out to your fellow human beings to let them know that we’re here to support them. That’s what a donation is. It’s a way of saying “We’re rooting for you and we care about you.” That message is what’s most important.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: Is there a possibility that Americans are becoming “tragedy weary,” and that it will be hard for you as a reporter on the ground to rekindle our willingness to contribute and help out yet another nation in truly earth-shattering, dire straights?
SO: No, I really don’t sense that. My job is to find important stories and to flesh them out in a way to make them relatable and bigger than the individuals I may be talking to. And if I do my job well, viewers won’t feel “tragedy weary.” You want to see tragedy weary? Come live here for a couple days. I’ll show you tragedy weary The people I’ve been spending time with are completely tragedy weary. Why? Because when they wake up in the morning, they have to look for a place to go to the bathroom, then go fill buckets with water and scrounge for food to eat just to get through another day.

KW: Rudy Lewis says that this disaster reminds him of New Orleans and Haiti. Will they be setting up tent cities as in Haiti? Or will they be shipping people to other parts of Japan for resettlement?
SO: That’s a really good question, Rudy. I’m sure there are plenty of people already relocated. But the scope of the damage varies. For instance, some towns are just gone. In that case, the inhabitants who survived have to move because the village doesn’t exist anymore. However, there are some cities where there are evacuation centers, so people won’t have to leave. They’ll be able to rebuild or have other options. But I do know that they’ve started shipping in family tents and structures for use as shelters in areas that were really hard-hit.

KW: Alan Gray asks: What did you learn about the Japanese or Japan that you didn't know before?
SO: That’s an excellent question. Something that I’ve seen frequently is survivors stopping rescuers from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces who are searching for bodies to say “Thank you for doing good work,” or “Thank you for helping us.” It is a very polite society. Everybody thanks them for just being there.
Another thing I’ve witnessed is people who’ve lost everything and who are trying to hold themselves together come up to us and say, “We don’t know what to do next,” and ask us if we know anything. Sometimes, we in the media become a font of information, so people become willing to talk to us because they want some help.
KW: Alan also asks: Are the Japanese opening their homes to people in need?
SO: That’s another really good question, Alan. Yes, I’ve been told about some folks who have taken in many homeless family and friends. But I haven’t seen it yet, because the places I’ve visited are so devastated. Any homes still standing are uninhabitable because there’s no power or water. So, all the residents are going to shelters.

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What is the culture like during a disaster? Is it people helping people? People helping themselves? People forming groups? Or people waiting for the government?
SO: All of the above, depending on the disaster. Human beings are different. Some rise to the challenge and become the heroes, and others fall and become the looters and the criminals.

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson says: I'm sure that it takes a huge amount of courage to be in Japan right now. Who or what at is your source of faith and courage, Soledad. And what emotions do you feel walking through the wreckage there in Japan?
SO: I think the emotions are always the same. It’s a real sense of sadness and palpable loss. The scope of it is always overwhelming to me. And I’m always awed by the power of a natural disaster, say, to deposit a large boat on top of a building. I’ve covered numerous tsunamis, yet I’m always stunned by something like that, no matter how many times I’ve seen it before. For me, my motivation is to tell the people’s story well, and to be part of a team that’s parachuting in to do just that. With the first few disasters I covered, I found myself asking, “Where is God?” “How does God allow small children to be swept out of their parents arms in the middle of a tsunami?” And thanks to shooting the special “Almighty Debt,” I had a chance to spend a lot a time with some pastors who really helped me a lot with sorting that out. Now, I see it less as a question of faith, and more as just my job.

KW: Reverend Thompson also would like to know whether you had any reservations about leaving your family for such an unstable danger zone.
SO: You always have reservations. I have reservations about leaving my family in general whenever I get on a plane to go anywhere. That’s just the nature of the business. I think we take very calculated risks. Another tsunami could come through, and if you’re not prepared for it, you could be in trouble. So, we prepare as much as is feasible, given the possibility of things going awry. But yeah, sometimes I find myself really missing my family. That’s the way it works.

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls: How does the devastation in Japan differ from the disaster in Banda Aceh, New Orleans or Haiti?
SO: It varies. What’s different here is that there’s a lot of debris scattered across rice paddies, which are big open spaces. You didn’t see that in Haiti or New Orleans. But I’ve also seen a lot of damage that reminded me of Katrina, like the pancaking of buildings. And of Haiti and Thailand where everything was literally just flattened out. Rubble… rubble… rubble… everywhere. Once a storm or a tsunami is powerful enough, it just shreds everything in its path. The damage looks very similar.

KW: Teresa Emerson: asks if there any blacks in Japan, whether in interracial marriages to Japanese or working as business people, and how they've been affected?
SO: I’m sure the answer is yes, but I haven’t seen any. Remember, I’m not in a big city, but in these small fishing villages.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What message do you want the public to take away from your book The Next Big Story: My Journey through the Land of Possibilities?
SO: In a way, I think we’re in the next big story, and I think that story is the story of the opportunity for some human beings to decide how they’re going to live their lives. Are you going to be a looter or a lifeline? Are you going to be the person who takes 20 people into your house? Or are you the person who breaks into stores. It’s really up to you. That’s what I’m here to witness and to tell stories about.

KW: Debrah Mitchell asks: How did you like becoming a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority last month?
SO: The Deltas are most giftgiving-est bunch of people I ever met in my whole life. I shoulda been a Delta 20 years ago, Debrah. [Chuckles]

KW: Kent State journalism major Joey Pompignano, wants to know about your upcoming documentary, “Muslims in America,” and the challenge of doing a special report about an entire race, religion or ethnicity. He asks: Because there's so much diversity within the underserved groups, how do you aim to portray a particular subgroup without making them seem like a monolithic people? Do you feel any pressure to present a representative sample of the subgroup on the program?
SO: I’d like to answer that at length, but oh, my gosh! I have to go do a live shot right this instant.

KW: I understand. Thanks for the time, Soledad. Take care, be safe, and maybe we can do a separate interview about “Muslims in America” after you get back.
SO: I’d love to. It’s an excellent documentary. I think everyone will find it absolutely riveting whether they’re Muslim or not. But, sorry, I gotta run. Bye, Kam.