Monday, November 30, 2009

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Some Assembly Required

This movie, much like the action figures that it is based upon, is sold only partially assembled. While the movie does offer cheap thrills and a few good laughs, the plot line of the movie is muddled and most of the characters are embodiments of gross stereotypes and largely forgettable. Between the funny and adorable sidekick, the Asian ninja character, and the emotionally detached yet super sexy redhead, this movie somehow managed to include every stock character in the book.

The female characters are clad in skintight leather, and the main female antagonist, Baroness, also sported traditional library glasses, clearly serving a select demographic. While the plot of the movie was straightforward enough – the bad guys got the really bad weapon and want to use it in bad ways and the good guys must stop them – the plot is as weakly developed as possible in order to leave as much time for fight scenes and B-rated special effects.

While some action adventure movies take some liberties with the basic principles of nature, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, goes too far. There's a Cobra-run military base under the polar ice cap! How exciting! While this is plausible, the movie ventures into even more exciting territory when it ignores the basic principles of density and gravity! When the Joe's take over this base and Rex Lewis, the evil scientist of the movie, needs to eradicate them, he orders the destruction of the polar ice cap above the military base in order to crush those still in the base. Now in the real world, a broken ice cap would just float away since ice is less dense than water, but not in this movie! Density, Shmensity! It's so much more exciting to see the ice magically crush the underwater military base. Wow!

But this isn't the only super exciting moment in this movie. One of the major chase scenes happens in Paris, where for some unexplained reason, the Baroness and the rest of the Cobra team must activate the nanomite weaponry in a particle accelerator run by the husband of the Baroness. A particle accelerator! And unexplained at that! Don't we all love it when random scientific nonsense is thrown in the movie with absolutely no explanation? It makes it super exciting! While this detour certainly provides ample opportunity for yet another fight scene, it doesn't seem to have any basis in the plot line of the movie.

Then again, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, doesn't exactly have a very complex plot line, and perhaps this is why the movie has enjoyed the modicum of success that it has. For a simple thriller, with obvious endings and a few good jokes along the way, this movie certainly entertains even if it fails to impress or comply with the laws of density. And for the twenty to thirty something male demographic, a ten dollar movie ticket is a small price to pay in order to relive the memories of a childhood with these action figures and their jet packs.

To see the trailer for GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra on YouTube, click here.

Trick-orTreaters Ransack Small Town When Offered Tricks Instead of Treats

“It was funny at first,” said Paul Stern a local resident in the town of Snickersville, Uessay, of Halloween night. “When the kids came to my door and shouted ‘trick or treat!’ I screamed ‘TRICK’ and threw baby powder at them.” Stern looked out over the field across the street from his house still smoldering from the previous night, “I’m not sure when or where they were at the moment the revolt began but we never saw it coming… we never saw it coming.”

It seems that with the recent downturn in the economy, residents of Snickersville decided that one way they would save a buck would be to pass on buying Halloween candy and decorations this year. “I hate that we have to buy candy every year for these kids that just come up and grab it without even a ‘thank you’,” Eleanor Pinch commented. “I jumped right on board when the suggestion that we give tricks instead of treats this year came up at town meeting last week,” she continued, “but had I known, I would have never…” Ms. Pinch’s voice trailed off as she turned quickly into her home and shut the door.

After conduction several interviews, most of which were cut short as the men and women of Snickersville remembered what happened on this particular evening, it became clear that stopping a tradition that belong solely to kids, was something that should not be messed with.

It seems that the decision to halt candy was kept a tight secret; no child in the town knew what was in store for them as they traveled eagerly from house to house that night. At first the kids thought it was just a joke, just one house. They laughed and moved on to the next house, then the next, trick after trick, again and again; rage was born. The children tore through the town leaving nothing but fire and dust in their wake.

“They got the fire from me,” said Stern, “that was my fault. I had been burning leaves in my backyard earlier that day. The kids got a hold of it and burnt up my field.”

As smoke curls up into the sky, ashes and debris litter the streets of Snickersville and the children are gone. “The noise quieted at around 3 AM. Betty Nose said she saw them heading towards the woods,” said Stern. It is unclear where the children went or when they will return.

You can’t take a tradition like candy on Halloween, something that belongs to kids, and change it.

I'd Rather Be Out...

by Shardae Jobson

The in crowd: we’ve all heard of it, maybe at one point wanted to be a part of it. This is of course if you weren’t anywhere near the production of the 2000, epitome of stupid, film The In Crowd, directed by Mary Lambert. I guess Lambert’s bills were really catching up with her if she agreed to direct this piece of utter idiocy. As you watch the movie, you see that if this is was what being a part of the in crowd was all about, I’m sure you would have preferred to be running for your life on Elm Street.

Let’s just keep to this hood and to the point: this movie is wack, a waste, not even the kind of movie that is so bad it’s good. This crap is just bad. To say the acting is uninspired wouldn’t hit the nail on the head. The acting here seems like an unintentional satire of the most popular kids on campus, or so they think. And what’s the big idea with the psycho bitch character Brittany (played by Susan Ward) re-applying her lip-gloss in slow motion every time she was scheming more misery for the new girl? I guess those scenes were supposed to be erotic. I can guarantee you’ll be more turned on watching a Seth McFarlane cartoon.
(Seth McFarlane animated creation, "Family Guy")

Because this movie sucks, I almost forgot to the give you the “plot” first. Please. You’ve heard this one before and The In Crowd doesn’t breathe any new life into it. New girl Adrien (played by Lori Heuring) gets a job at a rich, snazzy country club full of rich kids who have nothing else better to do with themselves (don’t they sound like fun!) Adrien soon meets queen bee Brittany who sets herself up as her new mentor--until Adrien gets all the attention, even from like the hottest guy in the club that Brittany was after. Of course Brittany eventually tries to kill Adrien at a pool party, is exposed as a fraud and sent to a mental hospital. Hey, wasn’t Adrien in a mental ward at the beginning of this film? Oh, lovely. Maybe these girls should get along. Yawn.

It’s unfortunate that The In Crowd couldn’t at least be decent. While features of the plot have been done in other films and television series, (new girl vs. popular girl, sabotaging anyone who gets in your way to make yourself look good), the essential ideas had potential and this film could have gained a cult following with better direction in its script and acting. This film is a hot mess. The finished product only musters two questions. 1--why did I watch this whole thing? 2—who would want to hang out with these egotistical, murdering freaks anyway? The similarly dreadful film New Best Friend was released two years later, which I also yawned off and on through, but at least Taye Diggs was a part of that cast to keep my attention. One word: yum.
(actor Taye Diggs: 'nuff said)

There is nothing (purposely) funny, amusing or suspenseful about this film. It’s just bad filmmaking. Again, let’s say it together--this film is wack. Once the credits start to roll (thank God) some of you may want to send apologies to the teen movies you thought were bad but secretly watched repeats off on cable like She’s All That. It’s films like The In Crowd that give teen films that actually have some kind of vivacity a bad rep.

At least in teen-oriented films of the past decade and 1999, there were characters you would’ve actually rooted for, like the nerdy art student in She’s All That, a sickness bringing out the best in a guy who was too afraid to show emotion before in A Walk to Remember, and the coupling of the loner and the hard ass in 10 Things I Hate About You. In The In Crowd, there are no characters worth liking, good or bad, and the only rooting you’ll be concerned with may be the drink in your hand.

Teen films have a reputation for being cheesy, melodramatic, a little indulgent, but they own up to it. From the screenwriters, director and actors, they know the problems of these brats are trivial and that they won’t matter in five years (hopefully). The In Crowd provides no connection with the audience and whatever else is going in the film. It feels like another world and we ain’t talking about something as awesome as the new Star Trek. It’s all about them and this time, we don’t care because they give us nothing worth saving. There is no real-ness executed in this life on where the grass is literally greener, but everyone should get a slice of humble pie. Cruel Intentions had more semi-witty humor and a conscious than this silly movie.

My last take on this aforementioned piece of trash film? You may at least get a laugh of it, but who knows. The In Crowd? I’m sorry. I’d rather be out.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What Happened in The Happening?

Let’s get this one thing straight. M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening is the worst movie I have ever seen. Ever
. The fact that this is an honest attempt at a major motion picture is baffling. I simply can’t believe an actor the likes of Mark Wahlberg went ahead with this movie after reading the script. Perhaps he never finished it, or he might have realized what a piece of garbage it really was. Otherwise, I question his judgment wholeheartedly. There are so many things I would rather do than participate in such a god-awful film.

Disclaimer: The following scenarios may offend even the most sadistic human being. If you feel you may be offended, please block your ears and skip the next paragraph. I would rather trade medication with Anna Nicole Smith than be apart of this movie. I would rather drag race with Stevie Wonder as my wheelman. I would rather trade bunks with Cliff Burton. I would rather be an offspring of Chris Benoit. I would rather be manning the second coming of the Challenger. I would rather swap beds with Terry Schiavo. I would rather have been Owen Hart’s stuntman than had my name associated with this so-called “movie.”

This drama-horror debacle is a terrible a
ttempt at artistic film-making. What is truly so sad is the level of potential the film has. As the story unfolds, we learn that an airborne neurotoxin has caused any human in contact to commit suicide. People being to stab themselves, cut their wrists, jump off scaffolding, and lie down in front of running lawnmowers. The mysterious epidemic is a first thought to be a terrorist attack, taking place initially in Central Park. But throughout the film, the real culprit becomes much more evident. And much more pathetic.

The film that could have been a well-written mystery-thriller about how humans are slowly destroying the earth—and how the earth is beginning to defend itself—quickly became a film with horrible dialogue about honey bees, Tiramisu, hot dogs, percentages and formulas, cheese and crackers, lemon drink, and roughly seventeen uses of the word “happening.” I’m not sure what is worse, the god-awful acting or the unforgivable screenplay. Mark Wahlberg’s overly polite attitude is far from believable, and Zooey Deschanel’s incredibly annoying personality throughout the film is deserving of air-punching and hair-pulling. Add to that the atrocious script delivering lines such as “You should really care about the science. You know why? Because your face is perfect” when referring to a 15-year old student, and you’ve got yourself a film that is simply laughable.

Actually, it is so laughable that this film is best watched with friends. With other viewers closeby, you could perhaps get some enjoyment out of the movie by pointing out the terrible dialogue, facial expressions and special effects.

How any person involved in this project didn't abort the mission half way through is beyond me. The payoff must have been phenomenal for anyone to risk ruining his or her career to this extent. Even Shyamalan must’ve realized what an awful movie this was, not making his usual cameo in the film, and stating that it was an attempt at a “B-Movie” days before release. The only thing is, B-Movies don’t have a $60 million dollar budget.

The truth is this is a Mystery Science Theater 300 ripping waiting to happen. If anything comes out of this movie, it is completely unintentional. In terms of fun, you’ll get a few enormous belly laughs from horribly delivered dialogue. It’s best watched when overtired or absolutely intoxicated. But in terms of actual artistic value, in a movie that’s supposed to be a groundbreaking, meaningful thriller, this film breaks records in falling short. This film should have never happened.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Davis Square: The Hidden Hometown Eatery

—While Harvard Square might have fast food heavyweights such as Bartley’s, Crazy Dough’s, Flat Patties and Wagamama, these establishments only hold a candle to what is offered down the M.B.T.A.’s red line; there is a finer, healthier, and cheaper selection at the underappreciated and lesser-populated Davis Square. Porter Square isn’t the only thing that separates Davis from Harvard; Harvard Square covers a much larger area, which allows for more business, and ultimately more foot traffic. However, unlike Harvard, Davis—a mere five-minute walk from Tufts University—maximizes its potential with the space given. I won’t even get into places such as the Joshua Tree, Diva, and Kickass Cupcakes—mainly because this is a cheap food piece, and these places, while great, are not as cheap as they could or should be—but nevertheless, the remainder of quality eateries is more than you’ll find in most small town squares.

Harvard Square can have its Uno’s Chicago Grill, I’d rather go to Spike’s Junkyard Dog, a hot dog fast food hole-in-the-wall based out of its Allston and Providence locations that has been recently expanding its front to cities such as Somerville and Brighton. Spike’s made-to-order hot dogs come packed on a bulky sub roll, and are topped with anything from chili and cheese to jalapenos and sauerkraut. Combine this with some of the best chicken fingers and curly fries around, and you’ve got yourself a fast food meal that’ll leave you full and satisfied. Price? No worries here, as you’re more likely to break your belt than your bank.

If you like American, but want a more cozy experience, try Redbones. This southern-style barbecue restaurant serves up delicatessen that’ll make you feel like you’re in Somerville, Alabama rather than five minutes north of Boston. The pulled-pork sandwich is one of their trademarks, and while it may be difficult to wrap your mitts around, it never disappoints. Just make sure you don’t fill up on sides like candied yams, the buttery garlic mashed potatoes, or the tangy dirty rice. Entrees aren’t that pricey comparatively, and Redbones also offers “easy-order” dinners, serving a group of four for $49.99, or a group of 6 for $79.99.

There is also a downstairs to Redbones, with a porn-shop décor pulled from a few Quentin Tarantino flicks. There you’ll find a beer wheel where you can win a free beer of your choice—think wheel of fortune, but full of brew. However, if it’s drinks you are looking for, I’d absolutely suggest Mike’s Food & Spirits, located in the heart of Davis Square. For a seemingly small restaurant, the bar is packed with nearly forty different brands of bottled beer, most of them being a mere $3.25, not to mention the rotating two-dollar “Beers of the Month.” Mike’s also serves up some strong cocktails at some respectable prices, and full bottles of wine for as low as $11. The food is basic Italian cuisine—nothing spectacular, but nonetheless this is the premier spot to grab a couple of beers and a couple of slices if you’re on the move.

If you’re looking for something a bit spicier, Davis Square offers up some Mexican powerhouses. Chipotle is a chain Mexican joint that delivers only three things—burritos, tacos, and salads—but does so exceptionally; I definitely recommend trying the spicy barbacoa. Just be sure to shed tears of joy with their extra hot salsa. Anna’s Taqueria is a more authentic Mexican restaurant, offering up nachos, quesadillas, burritos and tacos. The meat isn’t as good as Chipotle, however the beans and cheeses are far superior, and the Jarritos Mexican juice compliments the entire meal perfectly.

Finally, for dessert, you could do what most people would and head over to J.P Licks, the multi-year winner in the Phoenix’s Best of Boston awards for gourmet ice cream. But if you’d rather sit and digest with a cup of coffee and warm pastry, a more realistic option going into the winter months, then you’re dream location is Mr. Crepe. In the shadow of the town-favorite Someday Café, Mr. Crepe is in its third year at Davis, but has become a premier spot for creatively constructed crepes and sandwiches. Overall the selection is a little pricy, however the flaky pastries combined with the fillings that range from marshmallow fluff to Portobello mushroom make these crepes feel like an actual meal.

In addition to these establishments, there are several other locations such as the Diesel Café, Blue Shirt Café, Sagra, and the Burren; this essentially means that you could visit Davis every day of the week, have three meals a day, and never have the same meal twice. Davis square is truly a hidden gem. When it comes to quality and quantity, it has the best of both worlds.

Spike's Junkyard Dogs
217 Elm Street
Somerville, MA 02144
(617) 440-1010

(617) 628-2200
55 Chester St
Somerville, MA 02144

Food & Spirits
(617) 628-2379
9 Davis Sq. Somerville MA

270-276 Elm St
Somerville, MA 02144
(617) 623-1759
Anna's Taqueria
236 Elm St
Somerville, MA 02144
(617) 666-3900

Mr. Crepe
51 Davis Square
, MA 02144
(617) 623-0661

Psycho Killer Dad Does It Again

What exactly can be said about this utterly worthless, completely dull, and comically clumsy remake of the 1987 cult thriller? Only that’s it’s a total waste of 101 minutes and $11.00. David Harris, the homicidal nutcase, goes around marrying what he imagines to be perfect families –or families he can make “perfect”. When the family doesn’t meet his standards he casually kills them and moves on to the next one. That’s about it. Characters get startled but you don’t. You wait for everyone to realize what we figured out long ago –that Mr. Harris kills people- and Substitute Dad keeps coming back like an energizer zombie leaving you to question why the heck you went to the movies in the first place.

The main actor, Dylan Walsh from Nip Tuck, should’ve been a warning the movie would suck but the trailer actually looked convincing. After the first scene there’s not much surprise about where the movie is going. Harris is smart enough to cover his tracks after his last family killing but stupid enough to forget basic details of his fake back story, not erase a computer’s browser history, offer lies that can be easily checked by others, and build suspicious cabinets in the basement. Serial killers should seriously watch serial-killer movies.

Harris becomes engaged to divorcee Susan Harding (Sela Ward) less than six months after meeting her at the supermarket. When her son Michael (Penn Badgley) returns from military school things begin to slowly take off as he and his girlfriend, who were obviously cast for their hot bodies because they were naked half the time, begins to question the actions of Michael’s soon-to-be stepfather. When the less than perfect family begins to annoy Harris, his incomprehensible evilness mixed with complete idiocy begin to surface yet again.

The characters clearly have the Obviously Next Victim Syndrome. What else would explain the old lady who crosses the street to tell Susan that her fiancée looks like the man on America’s Most Wanted? Or the fact that Susan’s sister, who is also suspicious of Harris, feels the need to fish an umbrella out of her pool with a metal hook during a thunder storm instead of getting to the airport already for her Hawaii vacation? Somebody apparently forgot to read The Psycho Killer Manuel. In the end you’re left wondering what the point of this movie was and if you could possibly get a refund. Seriously, don’t waste your time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Maurice Hoxie: WWII Veteran

Veterans Day came and went this past week, and the nation paused to recognize those that have served and are currently serving in the armed forces. As a child, I would often spend Veteran's Day with my maternal grandfather, who had served in World War II. Usually these days were spent at the cemetery, making sure that the veteran's graves were properly adorned, and at the local high school for a small celebration for those veterans still around.

As the years went by, I began to notice a sobering trend: there were fewer and fewer veterans at these events, and my grandfather, though he was aging himself, was always the youngest among the crowd.

In 1944, at the age of seventeen, Maurice Hoxie walked into a recruiting office with his parental permission papers signed, determined to enter the Navy. “The war was on, everybody was joining. I could have taken a farm deferment, and be exempt from service if I stayed in Iowa and farmed, but I didn't want that. Everybody was going to the service and I didn't want to stay home. I wanted to get the war over and done with.” Because of his young age and later enlistment, Hoxie is one of the youngest surviving WWII veterans today.

Though he ended up in the Navy, Hoxie originally wanted to be in the Air Force. “I thought the Air Force was the place to be. I was going to go to the Air Force, but they were transferring a bunch of them into infantry, so I went into the Navy. I wanted the Air Force, but not infantry,” Hoxie said. Growing up on a poor farm in rural Southwestern Iowa, Hoxie felt as if he already knew too well the hard life he would have as a foot soldier. “I didn't want to walk in mud, and you're fighting in mud and snow trenches and what have you. I did that on the farm already.”

Though he was eligible for a farm deferment if he would have stayed in Iowa and kept working, Hoxie knew that he wanted to go to war with the other young men. “You'd be exempt from service if you stayed and farmed, but I didn't want that.” So on May 9th, 1944, Hoxie reported for active duty and went through boot camp before he was shipped out to California for his weather boat training.

After his training was complete, the teenager from Iowa that had never before seen the ocean was placed on a weather boat out in Hawaii and shipped out to the North Pacific. Though he was severely seasick for quite a bit of his time in the North Pacific, Hoxie claims that it had nothing to do with his lack of exposure to the ocean. “Everybody got sick; we were in rough water – really rough water.” And though they were a weather ship responsible for relaying current conditions back to Pearl Harbor, they had their own share of close calls. Floating mines that had been anchored closer to Japan would lose their tethers and float dangerously near their patrol area. “We'd sight them every now and then. Some of the times they would use 20 millimeter shells and try to blow them up. Some times they would blow them up, sometimes they would just sink and not blow up,” Hoxie said nonchalantly. Though they were surrounded by floating mines, Hoxie seemed more agitated when I asked him about the persistent rough weather they had to endure in the North Pacific: “We often had to stay down in the boat and the weather was real rough up there. The life rafts were ripped off one night.”

After coming back to Hawaii in May of 1946, Hoxie spent six months stationed in Hawaii before coming back to Iowa. Though he enjoyed living in Hawaii, “Iowa was where home was, even though it's cold there.” After farming for almost fifty years, Hoxie now is retired, and living in his farmhouse built in the same location as the house that he grew up in. Enormously proud to have served his country, Hoxie remains active with the American Legion and was asked to serve as the Grand Marshall for Shenandoah, Iowa's Fourth of July Parade this past summer.

When asked if he would sign up for service again, Hoxie was certain he would. “I imagine if I was twenty, yeah. Somebody has to keep the country free, hon. If you don't keep them over there, they'll come here. You can't stick your head in the sand. We boys had to fight for our freedom.”

To see Maurice Hoxie's Iowa Public Television interview about his time in the Navy during WWII:

Black Barbie: The Original B.A.P. (Black American Princess)

by Shardae Jobson

“Black Barbie, life of the party...I love to party just like the white one." These sarcastic lyrics are from the song “Black Barbie” by the music duo Little Jackie. The song is featured on their debut album The Stoop, chockfull of witty statements like the one sampled above. Like much of the album, the song discusses the frivolities and intriguing nature of being beautiful and adored. Little Jackie sardonically use the iconic doll Barbie, in this case black Barbie, as its muse. The song, even with its sarcastic and laugh out loud lyrics, is an ode to the plastic home-girl who maybe was one of the first images of black beauty in the public eye, as later displayed in a more prominent human form in the modeling careers of Naomi Sims and Beverly Johnson at the time of black Barbie’s first appearance. The Stoop had been out for a year or so before the release and near preternatural semi-controversy of the new set of black Barbies from the company Mattel, under the title of S.I.S.-So in Style. In general terms of race, both black and white members of the media and comments on various blogs have voiced their “concerns” on whether the S.I.S. dolls are a step up from the old black Barbies. The main question has been if the dolls really emulate what are the supposed common, physical characteristics of the”average” black woman. While the dolls do have wider noses, bigger eyes and lips and higher cheekbones-general attributes of the “African-American” person--some complain that the doll's are still perpetuating a more Eurocentric than Afrocentric ideal of beauty--despite the dolls initiation and creation by Stacie McBride-Irby, a black woman.

(Naomi Sims and Beverly Johnson)

I first heard about the dolls from websites and blogs I visit regularly. Some of the comments had merit, and observations from and were flat out hilarious. Yet, I felt overall frustrated by all the hoopla. When will the media and people just allow women of color to have some fun, whether plastic or made of skin and bones? The dolls are cute and appropriate for little girls. I saw the faults many pointed out. However, what intrigued me the most about these black Barbies in seemed nothing is ever good enough when representing black women (which has become a perpetual curiosity in my mind). When will being black enough be enough? It seems anything involving a black woman (apparently now whether real or fake) it seems everybody has an opinion on, though it would be really nice to see a show of hands if any of these opinionated individuals have actually heard of Angela Davis, Madame C.J. Walker or Nella Larsen.
(creator McBride-Irby with her S.I.S. dolls)

The release of Chris Rock’s comedic but half-truth documentary Good Hair, from its heavy promotion, brought women of color back into the culture spectrum and discussion--not just left to the pages of Essence, Vibe, Ebony and superstar Beyoncé doing most of the representation. The core of this discussion and how it relates to the new S.I.S. black Barbies is that while many liked seeing the array of skin tones and saw the dolls as reflections of a population full of multi and bi-racial children, in this new set of Barbie dolls, other features were deemed questionable. In plain English, some viewed the dolls as not black enough.

The way women of color have sometimes been presented others have seen as the results of inner self-hate, dissatisfaction or coercion and pressure from Western and European societies. Even something that should be ultimately viewed as mundane, like how a (black) woman wears her hair, has become the pinnacle topic of generalizing a whole categorical group’s self-esteem. Is this group continually influenced by and/or looking for acceptance from people who are nothing like them on the outside? That is a question that can only be answered on an individual basis, but let it be known that virtually everyone despite their coloring may essentially be multi-racial, especially if one was to research their hereditary history. “Issues” such as hair have always been a hot button issue in the “black community”, but from time to time the issues of this celebrated and often misunderstood community reaches the mouth and ears of those outside of it. Then along with accompanying questions and analysis, opinions and experiences become varied and interesting-and subjects becomes touchier than a hot comb.

The scrutiny that awaited the S.I.S. dolls has mostly been from online critics. Some examples of the S.I.S. dolls are Kara with a mocha brown skin color but blazing auburn straight hair; another has fairly dark brown skin and straight long dark brown hair; Grace has a lovely coffee skin tone…with blue eyes. There is also Trishelle with light skin and a head of big, curly hair, seen as the closest to imitating the “real hair” of black women.
In an article written by Seattle Slim for the blog Happy Nappy Head (also posted on titled Mattel Falls Short with S.I.S., gave a quick analysis on six of the dolls. Slim saw the dolls as barely living up to their expectations. Slim was especially peeved at Kara, describing her hair as a “busted ass Celebrity Seaborn wig." And Kara’s little sister Kianna wasn’t left out of Slim’s irritation as written below the picture of the two was: “I don’t EVEN want to get into what’s off with her little sister…" I guess Slim wasn’t feeling baby girl’s amber hair, cappuccino colored skin and bluish eyes.

I found myself laughing out loud at much of the criticism. Again, I could clearly see the faults, but a lot of the people I was encountering through the Internet--by reading their words-could’ve used an extra strength chill pill. Come on people. Didn’t you play with Barbie back in the day? Barbie--whether black, white, Latina, whatever--always had crazy colored eyes. And their hair? Mattel is just keeping up with the times. Weaves and wigs and clip-ons and clip-outs are now out in the open, no longer so taboo. All kinds of women love to touch up with their hair with a little something something. Mattel is just being modern. Some felt that the dolls, though an upgrade in some areas, may give little girls low self-esteem because most women of color while of course can have naturally long hair, a straight texture is not the natural norm and few are born with light eyes, but of course both physical attributes as straight hair and light eyes are possibilities left up to genes.

On, a short article was posted on October 21 about S.I.S., and the first sentence was: “Grace, Kara and Trichelle were created to fill a void for young black girls who for so long have been playing with dolls that don't look like them." Right away I thought--what they hell were they talking about? Was this based upon a new poll taken two weeks ago, or from a decade long evaluation? I had dolls that looked like me growing up. Had the doll and toy making industry gone so downhill, they forget about the little ones? Lately toys have become less of a pop culture fixture than they used to be, so maybe little girls, especially those of color, don’t have much dolls to play with…but still, I wasn’t sure. Reading further, what again got me going was the theory that Mattel never really cared or took notice of the black Barbie. This is not true.

Due to all the noise about the black Barbies online, I went in search of my own dolls that I still have and cherish. From the blog contributors to the comments, to an extent, I felt that many didn’t know what they were talking about. It didn’t take long to find my Barbies and when I did, I took a good look at them and again laughed. There they were. The crazy colored eyes that I don’t even think I give two cents about back in 1991.

The comments and blogs said that Mattel never really gave black Barbie her own look; she was just a literal "colored" version of the white one. I don’t think so. Well, yes, in the beginning when black Barbie first came out in 1967, she did have the same face as Barbie Millicent Roberts and her name was “Colored Francie”. Yet, I never knew this version of black Barbie until later by my growing interest in the dolls. When looking into the eight black Barbies I still have, each doll looks different from the other. There are slight alternations in nose; hair; mouths; even make-up. Maybe because I always saw my black Barbies as being different even amongst themselves (just like their white counterparts) while growing up I never had an issue with black Barbie and even being brown-skinned in America.

With fly black female role models like TLC, Salt N Pepa, Brandy and so many television shows and movies featuring black casts, I didn’t feel bad about who I was on the outside because I was being shown everyday I was capable and I looked fine just how I was. I would of found it hard to have such low self- esteem about being brown skinned because there was such a committed celebration of black culture in those days. It didn’t matter that every other black girl’s name in a show or cartoon may have always been Keisha. From the Magic School Bus, Rainbow Brite to Susie from Rugrats, the creators didn’t forget about me and I had unsung appreciation in being included. I acknowledge that some girls however do have this complex about in being black and female in America, which can extend even past childhood and I sympathize with their pain. This is a real issue for some, but please, this does not speak for all of us. We simply want dolls and characters that look like us because we walk this planet too.

(Susie from Rugrats, singer Brandy's 1994 self-titled debut album)

The faces of the S.I.S. Barbies even resemble the ones I grew up with, as the last Barbie I bought looked like she got an eyebrow lift. Heading back to my computer, had posted a picture of the doll with the long, straight dark brown hair. So while beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, I looked closer at the doll and I was myself in that S.I.S. doll. Her nose looked like mine, her eyes, her mouth…So In Style looked “black” to me.
(picture of S.I.S. doll posted on

I’ve actually found Mattel to be every respectful of the black Barbie. The images and features emulated have improved since “Colored Francie”, to Christie in 1968, and again re-launched officially in 1980. There was even an edition of black Barbie in which the doll not only had a great short Afro, written on the cardboard box in rousing words it said: “She’s black! She’s beautiful! She’s dynamite!” During the 1990s, Mattel had a “Dolls around the World” series with Filipino; Japanese; African and Swedish dolls, the list goes on. I give kudos to Mattel for recognizing all women around the world, unlike most drugstore makeup brands that despite hiring black models barely provide a color that would fit Beyoncé, never-mind the rest of us.

Based upon the blogs and the comments, people were giving way too much power to the dolls in breaking them down and treating Barbie as if she was some kind of pariah. She’s done more with her self than those awful Bratz dolls; it’s time to give Barbie some credit. The impression received was that strangely those who had something to say about the S.I.S. dolls were just pushing their own agenda, their militant behavior a little too unnecessary towards such cute dolls. Keep the pseudo theories on race and women away from the kids and let them have fun with their dolls. Would these same people who think Mattel is insensitive towards black women be as quick to discuss, let alone purchase dolls if they brought back the Barbie with a full and thick Afro?

The problem here (which acted as an undertone in the blogoshere) was another case of many victimizing themselves. Some argued that the dolls were going to give little girls low self-esteem because a majority of black girls don’t share the same features some of the dolls had. Yes, it would have been nice to see one doll with brown skin, black hair and brown or dark brown eyes, but have faith in the buyers and girls that will play with these dolls. While the dolls may not exactly look like every girl that holds them, it doesn’t mean they don’t represent them, or that they simply cannot play with them. As a girl grows up, hopefully she will have real, human role models to look up to, not just not Barbie--though we love her. Black Barbie is a Black American Princess because she is gorgeous, thin and seems to have it all and she doesn’t even have to work despite having been an astronaut, teacher and movie star. She’s always manages to stay employed which may be secretly why some women can’t stand her. She’s a princess because she belongs in a fairy tale and fairy tales are a part of childhood, even if this isn’t a reality for all children.

The S.I.S. dolls do represent women of color today, and may be by far some of the best and cutest Barbies I’ve seen in awhile. “These dolls are for girls all over the world,” McBride-Irby said in her CNN interview, which is a profound statement. So McBride-Irby, you're telling me that somewhere in suburbia there could be a little white girl playing with Kara and Kianna? Who would have thought? In December, the release of Walt Disney Pictures "The Princess and the Frog" (featuring the company's first African-American princess) follows a new day of continuing triumphs and existing questions about race, and it's time to take the racial baggage away from these dolls and influencing our kids. Let the kids play with S.I.S. as they are meant to be seen…as eternally positive pretty young things.

Veterans Day: Through the Arts

by Shardae Jobson

Ah, Veterans Day…one of those singular holidays that allows many of us a day off from school and work to catch up on our sleep and lingering assignments. Most of us will spend November 11 as extended leisure time, but this day became one a noted 24 hours of the 365 days of the year back in 1919 as Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson. We all know Veterans Day is in honor of the men and women that have served for the United States in the military. The day is celebrated worldwide, as other nations have a strong connection to November 11, too--making the holiday a rather special one. Since some of us don’t have a clue if we share blood with anyone who has fought U.S. battles, by way of the arts, there are ways to remember and honor our courageous men and women who are given this special day of accolade. We can at least try to sympathesize with them and acknowledge their courage, which shall always be held high.

The admittance of how many of us spend Veterans Day, by simply lounging, is not meant to be viewed as disrespectful. Our more indolent ways are indicative of the percentage of us who lack a personal connection to the holiday. November 11 means little except for the fact that we get to sleep in later. There are people out there who take this day seriously and likely appreciate these same men and women everyday of their lives. As November 9, 2009 marked the 20th anniversary of the first break in Germany’s Berlin Wall and the sudden tragedy at military base Fort Hood in Texas, this year’s Veterans Day is a bit more sentimental than years past. Veterans, whether deceased or alive, must be recognized. While opinions will vary on what is the best manner in protecting the freedom of the U.S., the military is used and will always be; so we must toss aside our beliefs as what happened on November 5 on Fort Hood is a reminder that these brave and adept persons can be gone in the seconds it takes to blink an eye. Veterans Day is their day to shine. So how exactly will you show your gratitude to this group of people that served the country your national pride is contained?

Veterans Day can mean a great deal to you even if you’re not a history major in college or in the military. There are ways to stay in the know of how individuals in war and military-related issues felt that will keep you intrigued and leave you pondering. What immediately comes to mind is the memoir and short stories book Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora by Andrew Lam. In Perfume Dreams, Lam reminisces about his family’s escape to America, as refugees from Vietnam. It was his father whom was the last to see the affects of the Vietnam War. As a veteran, the pain Lam’s father has of letting go of what was his country and America intruding and ripping apart its soul, is not only heartbreaking through his suffering-as Lam can imagine-but gives the reader a intimate look into the lasting affects a veteran carries with them. Lam’s father becomes distant and angry, and the author describes his off and on close relationship with him. His father often did not express himself clearly on what was bothering him, but at the same time, his loved ones knew where his hurt derived from. Lam discusses many aspects of growing up, his family and the differences in culture as he became quite the observant child when he first landed on U.S. soil in the 1970s, giving Perfume Dreams a broad appeal. Books, as always, are a great way to become exposed to the inner thoughts of experiences that seem insolated but are truly not.

Sitting back and watching a movie is also a way of escaping your usual occupations on November 11. While breezy, light comedies can be a solution, war movies tend to be the opposite--gritty and violent. The following movie is exactly one of those, as there is no happy go lucky message, but the message nonetheless is headstrong. This is showcased in the 1989 acclaimed film Born on the Fourth of July, directed by Oliver Stone and also Vietnam War related. The film shows what a war can do to a person; a person who not only participated but was otherwise confident in their efforts and the future beforehand. Starring a youthful Tom Cruise as Ron Kovic, the character of Kovic is shown at his deployment and his disillusionment when he comes back home paralyzed. Based on the autobiography by Ron Kovic, Born on the Fourth of July is powerful and what movie-making used to be all about.

For a more current choice in what’s still affecting us in 2009, there is the 2008 film Stop-Loss, directed by Boys Don’t Cry’s Kimberly Peirce. It is the story of young men who return home from serving in the Iraq War and again, the fragilities of adjusting to life and the severe agony of the perpetual image of torture-which the lead character Brandon King has, played by Ryan Philippe. Born on the Fourth of July and Stop-Loss show that regardless of the specific war at hand, Vietnam or Iraq, the pride one initially had in serving their country can be fleeting when the aftermath is emotionally, and in some cases physically, too harrowing.

Through the fields of film and literature, there are ways in honoring the men and women who are sometimes overlooked in their strength, but were so active in the agilities of the military. It is unfortunate that many veterans continue to struggle in obtaining their earned benefits from the government, but for what’s it worth, November 11 comes every year, and veterans will be honored once more. If anything, a moment of venerated silence is a nice and simple way to commemorate those that have done the kind of job most would rather shy away from.
(President Obama with Veteran Tammy Duckworth)

Here’s to Veterans Day and to each and every brave soul that fought for their countries worldwide.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Trauma of Weapon Experiments in Vietnam and Iraq

The Vietnam War sits uneasily in many Americans’ hearts as a conflict without pride or patriotism, a battle fought for unclear aims and ended without proper respect for the soldiers upon return. For the many thousands of them sent to foreign soil to combat the supposed Communist threat, their battlefield was a new kind of experience as Vietnamese hostiles openly employed guerrilla tactics utilizing their keen knowledge of the tricky jungle terrain. This same terrain would provide a serious strategic advantage/disadvantage depending on the situation, as forces both for and against the U.S. incursion were blanketed by the natural cover afforded by the foliage. This presented a unique opportunity for elements within the U.S. military to sanction the use of experimental herbicidal chemicals to do away with the jungle cover. The most famous of these defoliants was codenamed “Agent Orange” and was spread in upwards of 10,000,000 gallons over South Vietnam, in areas occupied by allied and enemy forces alike. Seen as a crucial new weapon in the ever-changing face of global warfare, the chemical agent instead wrecked havoc upon the bodies of innocents and armed forces alike, with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs claiming several different variations of cancer as side-effects, in addition to Type 2 Diabetes and two forms of leukemia.

And their report doesn’t even scratch the possible birth defects and mental disorders as a result of continued exposure, the research of which having been openly undertaken by Vietnamese scientists for years before the United States government acknowledged the deployment of Agent Orange. In the interim, many proud American soldiers came home after a long and grueling war to discover that their own government denied culpability in affecting them throughout the widespread use of the experimental herbicide. In fact, the debate over whether exposure to Agent Orange can be listed as a possible source of disability for veterans is still hotly contested, partially due to the overwhelming number of veterans suffering due to the decision to drown them in what essentially was a carcinogenic plantkiller.

Although this specter of government denial and lost well-being for American troops has since been relegated to just another tragedy of past wars, it is important for us to remember the danger as many members of this current generation are locked in an ongoing conflict to stabilize the Middle-East, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan. As military funding has opened the floodgates for more and more weapon experimentation, with a record breaking one trillion dollars being thrown at the problem abroad in weapon spending alone, the armed forces have already begun to create the weapons of tomorrow just as they did in Vietnam with biological deterrents. There exists news online that coming out of Iraq, there is a special “Tactical High Energy Laser” capable of cutting through buses like tissue paper, and a microwave gun capable of non-lethally heating the moisture underneath a human’s skin, the latter having even been demonstrated for media outlet NBC.

At least the military claims the so-called “microwave ray gun” only causes discomfort for the targets, as the weapon was specifically developed as non-fatal. But ask anyone suffering from Hodgkin’s Disease thanks to the deployment of the “non-fatal” Agent Orange, and I’m sure they would be dubious about these assurances. As the conflicts engaged by American forces become trickier and trickier to handle in the coming years (a series undoubtedly started with the Vietnamese and Korean wars and passed down to Operation: Iraqi Freedom), the military will be more and more eager to respond to these threats with more cutting edge technology. Although contemporary health care readily acknowledges the physical dangers associated with Agent Orange, it was a battle fought hard in getting the conditions recognized with the government denying its application. Nevertheless, the effects have taken root with the soldiers, and no medical treatment can undo the cancerous ills that have befallen many veterans already. As one can see,this inevitable march of progress tends to march all over the legacy of human sacrifice and labor, and as America desperately tries to end another controversial battle overseas, it is imperative for us to recognize the possible damage done to the new wave of veterans in the name of victory under any cost.

Blonde Ambition (2007)


One day I’d like to know what kind of leverage Executive Producer Joe Simpson--yes the father and failed manager to both Jessica and Ashlee Simpson--had on Scott Marshal that got him to direct the 2007 straight-to-DVD insta-bomb Blonde Ambition. Not that Marshal has found any recognition in the industry other than being the son of director Gary Marshall. But you have to be a complete toolshed to get hooked up on a project with the premiere dirtbag-dad--especially if Jessica Simpson was to play the lead. At the time, Jessica was haunted by movie-career-ending reviews from the 2006 lackluster Employee of the Month. But what I really want to know is, why Joe Simpson thinks he is qualified to produce movies? Joe has already lowered the standards of pop music (a hard feat in itself)--now he wants to do it to the film industry? I guess so, because, as far as acting, writing, directing, and editing is concerned, it seems like this movie had no standards at all.

First let’s talk about the story: What we have is your classic girl’s boyfriend moves to New York City, girl surprises boyfriend in New York only to find him in bed with another woman, girl stays in New York to prove herself and lands a job that she isn’t qualified for, and then gets a complete make over that she didn’t pay for, and begins to succeed professionally until two coworkers team up and begin to sabotage girl’s career, meanwhile girl meets new boy, forsakes old boy who then acts as a spoiler, so girl and new boy are star-crossed until they kiss and make up at the end, and, of course, she has to save her grandfather’s shop from the clutches of an evil business person. Considering that this sounds like a montage of about a hundred different movies that have been released over the past decade, the filmmakers had numerous choices, like The Devil Wears Prada, Legally Blonde (1 and 2), and Sweet Home Alabama, to emulate. Why did they get it so wrong?


With Jessica in the lead, it’s not like there was a lot of raw talent to work with. Even with the addition of Luke Wilson as the male lead, the acting was never there. It is easy to buy the air-head moments--Jessica has been known for these throughout her career, it’s her niche. But there has to be something else there. Incapable of showing emotion, it seems, Jessica sometimes just recited lines, not really knowing what to do with them, such as in the scene when her character, Katie, caught her boyfriend cheating. OK, it’s a romantic comedy, and it’s supposed to be funny. But you need inflection for comedy too; perhaps that’s why they never gave her any jokes. The real problem is the faces that Jessica makes, not one scene free of these odd contortions: eyebrow arching, forehead crinkling, lips snarling, eyes bulging. I’m not a fan of plastic surgery, but now I can think of at least one practical use for botox.
Wilson’s performance was lukewarm at best. He phoned it in, and why not? He’s been playing the same character his whole career. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes Luke Wilson’s Luke Wilson is pretty good. Just not in this movie. For one thing, he looked about forty years too old for Jessica. And too old to be playing the part of the underachieving, late bloomer guy with a big heart. At that age it isn’t endearing, it’s pathetic. And apparently his choice in movies is questionable.
There were overdone scenes, like when things weren’t going Katie’s way, her luggage opened up in the middle of the sidewalk, which just so happened to be over a steam grate, so of course there had to be a Marilyn Monroe dress moment--probably Papa Joe’s idea. Technically, every other scene had blatant editing botches, such as plot inversions, where something is referred to that hasn’t happened yet, and times where characters are holding something, then they’re not.

Sure Joe Simpson is a hack, and mostly Marshall plays non-speaking roles such as Skateboard Kid in daddy’s Pretty Woman, or as Man Kissing Dog in daddy’s Georgia Rule. But Joe did manage his daughters through the peak of their success, and movie making is in Marshall’s blood; between the two of them I would think they could get something right. But they don’t.

Images embedded from

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Paranormal Activity: A Waste of $10

So here’s the premise of Paranormal Activity. A couple decides to set up a video camera in their house to document all the instances of activity by a demon that has apparently been “haunting” this woman since she was a child. It’s supposed to be an actual account and all the footage was filmed by this couple, Micah and Katie. It sounds promising, but Paranormal Activity was beyond a let down. The only thing scary about this movie was the fact that it made over $100 million. Commercials showed people in the theatres jumping out of their seats and screaming while watching this; everything we want a scary movie to make us do. I was jumping out of my seat too; to run to the nearest exit. Paranormal Activity was a major fail in my book.

Did I mention that Paranormal Activity was the most boring movie I’ve seen all year? 95% of the movie was footage of the couple sleeping. If I wanted to see a couple record themselves in bed, I would go on Xtube. The extent of the haunting in this movie was footsteps outside the bedroom and some door slamming. Oh yeah and at the end of the movie Katie is possessed by the demon and kills Micah. To me, that’s too drastic of an end to a movie where the most exciting event was the Ouija board catching on fire. Speaking of Ouija boards, the fight scene between the couple over the Ouija board had to be what pushed me over the edge with this movie. It was so unrealistic. How is it possible that they storm out the house fighting and then come back 6 hours later picking up right where they left off? Shouldn’t the fight be over by then, especially if they left together? Katie and Micah are the most unrealistic couple ever. It’s like watching Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian pretend that their marriage is real.

My biggest question about Paranormal Activity other than why was the film wasted to make this, is why all the alternate endings? There were 3 different endings for this movie. If Spielberg was trying to “fix” Paranormal Activity, he shouldn’t have even tried. The best way to fix it would be to slap Micah and Katie and rewrite the whole thing from scratch…or not.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The NCLBA and America's Dropout Culture

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) is one of the largest education reforms in US history, and promised to reinvigorate the nation’s public school systems. However, the program was based on a flawed model, and has remained underfunded since its enactment. It is clear now that the program is failing, and US students and teachers are feeling the weight of the problems. This is particularly true in low-income areas, where sheer geography handicaps students’ chances at academic success.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush was running in part on an education ticket, and though he expressed faith in our public school system, he warned that “too many children in America are segregated by low expectations, illiteracy, and self-doubt.” Bush was right despite the 120 billion dollars a year spent on the thirty-nine federal agencies created by The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The NCLBA was to be the most controversial and sweeping education reform since then. So controversial that the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) had opposed it from the very beginning. Before being signed into law on January 8, 2002, it would come under intense political scrutiny. So much that the Department of Education (DoE) hired private publicists, like Ketchum Inc., in order to promote laws of reform for the bill.

The NCLBA has its roots in Texas, when then Governor Bush created a relationship of accountability between students, teachers, and administrators of the public school system. The framework for this system of accountability was based on a program that appeared to be successful in Houston--a brainchild of then superintendent of Houston public schools, Rod Paige. However, according to a 2006 Time magazine article, “Dropout Nation,” Houston was a main offender in using “leaver codes,” which are used to describe students who do not attend school but are not officially listed as dropouts. Paige had fudged the numbers, undermining his own program; a program that served as a model for national education reform. Not to mention, as US secretary of education under President Bush from 2001-2005, Paige had a great deal of influence on the the federal legislation as a main writer of the bill. When he joined the Bush administration, Paige had no experience in federal government; today he is a private consultant paid by academic institutions to deal with the legacy of problems from his very own bill (“Dropout”).

As it stands, the NCLBA requires that states create and maintain their own systems of accountability that would yield acceptable test scores. Schools have three years to get their test scores up to federal standards. After the second year of falling short of these standards, students and faculty are identified as “in need of improvement.” After that, the penalties are more drastic, and the federal government retains the right to acquire control. The repercussions are scaled according to how long the scores have been below the federal standard, but can lead up to termination for administrators and teachers, and the entire reconstruction of whole school districts. The school systems have until 2013 to bring all students up to the federal standard.

Several reforms have changed many aspects of the NCLBA, mostly in response to public out cry. These reforms have lessoned the states burden by weakening the standards. This is done in such a way that states are further unclear of expectations. In 2004, only 42 percent of teachers felt they understood federal expectations, and only 52 percent of them felt that they were prepared or qualified to implement these changes in a way that would improve test scores (Sunderman and Oldfield). However, even if teachers were prepared to handle the scope of the NCLBA, throughout the Bush administration it was never fully funded--when Bush left office, the AFT reports that the US education budget had been cut by 15.4 billion dollars. On November 5, 2009, in a speech at a Madison Wisconsin middle school highlighting his administration’s new talking points on education reform, President Barrack Obama promised full funding for the legislation for the first time since its 2002 enactment. The president also admitted that "it's time to stop just talking about education reform and start actually doing it. It's time to make education America's national mission.” The American people are likely not holding their breath; education seems to be an afterthought these days.

And this sentiment is penetrating US culture as young Americans have lost faith in the public school system. In fact, according to Matt Maurer in his 2006 article exploring the inadequacies of modern curricula, 40 percent of graduating seniors feel that they were not properly trained for college courses or entry level positions, and that there are clearly gaps in what they learned in high school and what is expected of them in the real world. The result of these feelings reflects a daunting statistic: one in three high school students do not graduate (“Dropout”). Despite 88 percent having the grades to graduate, dropouts felt that college was out of their reach and high school was a waste of time (“Dropout”).

In twenty-three states, students are allowed to withdraw from compulsory school as young as sixteen year old (“Dropout”). Other states, like Indiana, are passing laws in which the minimum age a student can withdraw is eighteen. In Indiana, industry towns that had relied on one factory to support their entire population are experiencing up to 50 percent drop out rates (“Dropout”). When these factories close and student’s parents are with out jobs, health care, and, in turn, medicine, children often have to go to work. For this reason, in 2005, Indiana state legislators increased the age students could drop out.

According to the National Center of Educational Statistics, students from lower income families are six times more likely to leave school without a diploma and very few go on to get an equivalent. Furthermore, children of high school dropouts are 50 percent more likely to follow suit (“Dropout”). Students from these communities have statistically-charged handicaps. However, Title 1 funding, a major provision of the NCLBA that is the sole measure that provides support for disadvantaged students like those who live below the poverty line, have to live up to the same standards as schools from affluent school districts where students statistically do well on standardized tests. This is out of touch; school systems in low-income areas require a long-term investment of resources in order to succeed. This is where are children are being left behind, still.

For years the national graduation rate has been between 85 and 95 percent. The DoE uses the US census as a means of determining dropout rates. The reality is that the census does not account for transients, military service, prisoners or teen pregnancies (“Dropout”). As Anya Kamenetz points out in her book Generation Debt, our country’s graduation rate peaked in 1970 at only 77 percent, and today the dropout rate of the United States is a whopping 30 percent, like it or not.

To complicate things, minority students, who consistently score low on standardized achievement tests, will account for 60 percent of the US’s projected 16 percent increase of college-age citizens by 2015. Considering that minorities are statistically from lower-income communities, and that the public school systems in these areas are being failed by the federal government, the gap in socioeconomic privilege is about to widen. For American workers, competing against the flexibility and diversity of the entire world for jobs, the shift in gears towards the nation’s workforce focusing on becoming knowledge workers is farcical at this point. It does not seem possible if there is not an academic foundation provided to young American students, and the country’s school systems as they stand are not doing that. How prepared will the next generation’s workforce actually be when competing in a global job market? Not very well indeed.