Derrick N Ashong and Soulfège

Sweet Remix

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Love Rain Down - A Short Film "Love Rain Down" is a 2012 Official Entry in the Palm Beach International Film Festival

An animated film based on the song "Love Rain Down" from the album "AFropolitan" by Derrick N. Ashong (aka DNA) & Soulfège. The movie follows the tale of a little boy named "Johnny" who makes a trip to the legendary "Crossroads" of Robert Johnson fame, and stands down the Devil armed only with a song...


Check out this Unite Against The War on Women video using our song "Fight On" Then DOWNLOAD the Free mp3 of 'Fight On' via SoundCloud
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Sometimes The Race Goes to the Swift

I just read this piece by Taylor Swift and a sampling of the deluge of comments she sparked.  First of all I have to say I actually really dig her attitude here.  She begins her argument with this disclaimer:
"Before I tell you my thoughts on the matter, you should know that you're reading the opinion of an enthusiastic optimist: one of the few living souls in the music industry who still believes that the music industry is not dying…it's just coming alive."
Before even getting to the comments you could anticipate some of the inevitable shade that was about to be thrown her way. But by declaring her optimism out the gate she ever so slightly inoculates herself from some of the inevitable hammering that is sure to follow anyone claiming there is a future in selling recorded music.
Those of you who know me know I disagree with the prediction that people will continue to pay for albums,  or more specifically with the idea that this belief is a healthy one for those who want to survive & thrive in the music biz. I believe people will always pay for music, but fewer of them will spend a smaller amount of their discretionary income on "album" based products.
Whether I'm right or not is  actually not the point of this post.  The more interesting aspect of what Taylor is saying from my perspective is in her comments about the evolving relationship between artists & fans.  She believes that artists and fans will actually form deeper and stronger bonds, where fans become a more intimate part of an artist's success, and artists recognize them as such.
I think she's spot on in this regard.  And actually the trend she's predicting is already happening when you think of artists like Justin Bieber or Christina Grimme who were effectively discovered on YouTube.  The fans "made" these artists' success possible (P.S. they always do, they just don't usually get credit for it).  
I think we're going to see more & more artists bubble up online & that fans will not only continue to grow in their ability to determine who the next "it" artists will be, the most influential of those fans will take on a kind of "Rockstar" status themselves.  I would not only bet money on this, I left my day job to launch a venture built around recognizing & rewarding the "best fans" as this brave new world of Fandom continues to grow.  
Let's hope Taylor & I are right.  Maybe it will encourage more music optimists to come out of hiding. 

God is Not Laughing

After last week's Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling I couldn't help but see this AP article in a different light.  Apparently some mafia sympathisers in a Calabrian town made a detour of their church procession this Sunday, in order to pay homage to an 82-year old mafiosi on house arrest.  This was apperently a direct contradiction to a recent edict from the Pope himself, excommunicating the mafia.  
I have two thoughts - first, good to know criminals and murderers are still God-fearing in the 21st Century.  As long as they confess their sins to the church (not the cops), the Almighty has a way of letting a lot of that Old Testament "thou shalt not..." business slide for Christians (OT is so passé anyway).
Second thought - we're lucky to have companies like Hobby Lobby protecting the sanctity of our women's virtue here in the USA.  By denying them coverage for certain types of birth-control we severely reduce the likelihood that American women will wind up having sex and ergo, babies, with Italian mafia-types, who we know don't believe in abortions, only generic post-partem murders.  No Plan B = no sex with mafiosi = no problems.
I will sleep better this afternoon knowing this...and so should you.

Drawing Outside the Color Line

Cait Adkins/Weinstein Company
So I got invited into a brilliant email thread earlier today with some peeps from college including Baratunde Thurston, Franklin Leonard and Monica Henderson Beletsky about the state and future of Black film.  The conversation was inspired in part by this NYT article which raises some great points about what's happening with Black filmmakers and talent this year, and Melissa Harris-Perry's tackling of the issue on her show this morning.  I'll leave it to my friends to decide if they want to share their personal thoughts on this, and you should watch the episode to hear Baratunde and my boy Michael Skolnik give their insights, but here is a little of what I think on the topic:

"I've been away from Hollywood for a couple of years now, but this piece stirs a few thoughts based on what I'm up to now.  First off, I think it's great that a diversity of Black-influenced productions are getting made, and the fact that it's becoming more difficult to define what is a "Black film" is a good thing.

But being down in Miami and working on a specifically Hispanic-targeted project, I was struck by the statistics on the consumption rates of theatrical releases as compared to the actual population percentage.  The Hispanic community is at this point about 40% larger than the African-American population, and yet delivers more than double the percentage of ticket sales.

The thing that struck me about this statistic is that the article seems to have an underlying presumption that commercial forces are a significant portion of what drives the support, or lack thereof, of Black projects.  But I had a fascinating conversation earlier this week with a colleague about the ongoing debate around the upcoming release of the Eva Longoria and Mark Cherry produced series "Devious Maids."  Granted that is TV, and not a film project, but the source of the debate is salient - a powerful sense of alienation and misrepresentation of the Latin community in Hollywood productions, whether on the silver or small screen. 

If Latinos make up a full quarter of all ticket sales, why do they feel so poorly represented by Hollywood?  The implication in the article is that market forces are at play here.  If so, then there should be a flood of films portraying amazing Hispanic characters, since they are buying 1 in 4 movie tickets sold.

My point is, I think what's happening is based on another dynamic.  Hollywood has had a hard time embracing the idea of Black film, because Hollywood has had a hard time embracing Black people, not only as an audience, but as producers, writers, distributors, studio executives etc.  And I don't even know that this is because of some form of conscious or pernicious racism per say.  I think given the choice to take a chance on something unfamiliar or to go with the "tried & true," most people in a risk-averse industry would go with the latter. There is a world of evidence that mainstream America has a fascination with Black culture, whether we're talking about the works of James Brown or Ira Gershwin.

I don't think Black stories have had a hard time being made because audiences are not open to stories featuring Black characters, or produced by Black artists.  I think Black films have a tough time for the same reason, films not called "Transformers 22" or  "Die Harder Than You Died Before the Last Time You Were Dead: Starring the Ghost of Bruce Willis," have a hard time.  Hollywood is fundamentally risk-averse, and in an industry with such a relative paucity of Blacks with the power to greenlight projects, "Black projects" will be seen as disproportionately risky, regardless of whether there's demand for them in the marketplace.

This is why Latinos still wind up playing maids, even in a project Executive Produced by one of the most prominent Latina stars of our day.  Because Hollywood still hasn't figured out how to draw outside the color lines.  And it probably won't, until more people of color are doing the drawing..."



Pistorius - Stupid is as Stupid Does

Just about everyone I know has been gripped this morning by the South African bail hearing for Olympic and Paralympic athlete and global hero Oscar Pistorius.  Sadly the nature of the charges he's facing have largely erased that heroic image for many of us, and have permanently tarnished if not utterly destroyed much of his legacy.
The tragic shooting last week of Reeva Steenkamp - South African model, soon-to-be-reality-star and Pistorious' girlfriend of three months - shocked the world when it turned out that the man who purportedly loved her was admittedly the one who pulled the trigger.  He claims it was a terrible mistake, the prosecution claims it was cold-blooded murder.  Regardless of who's right here, what is clear is something is terribly wrong w Oscar Pistorius and it has nothing to do with his legs.
For any of you who have been sleeping under a rock for the last few days the basic facts of the case are:
-Reeva Steenkamp was shot through the door of Pistorius' bathroom
-Pistorius claims he thought there was an intruder in his bathroom and shot in self-defense
-Pistorius subsequently entered the bathroom, discovered his dying girlfriend & carried her downstairs
The prosecution asserts it has witnesses who will testify that they heard loud arguing prior to shots being fired.  The defense argues Pistorius had no idea his girlfriend was in the bathroom and fearing for his safety he put a few rounds through the door.  Then there's some drama about a bloody cricket bat and alleged steroid use and other stuff I'm not that interested in.
The bottom line for me is Oscar Pistorius is going to wind up in jail because he's stupid and for the sake of society that will be a good thing.  Why?  Because WTF shoots through a closed bathroom door because they fear an intruder is in there?  Particularly when you know that you are not home alone?  
Was he worried a dude was in there snatching up all his shampoo?  Were the Ogilvy products of such value that he needed to go full commando in order to protect them?  OR did he fear that having snuck into the bedroom without touching he or his sleeping girl, this particular miscreant was lying in wait hoping to have his way with them when they inevitably headed to the crapper?  I don't roll w/ a lot of would-be assasins, but I'm a' go out on a limb and say that sounds like a terrible approach to robbing or eliminating anyone.  
Furthermore, Pistorius claims he assumed his girl was sleeping in the bed next to him and didn't bother to check before busting a cap in the unseen ass of the bathroom bandit.  Seriously??  How big is your bed bro?  Even in the dark it doesn't take much to determine if there's a warm body lying next to you or not.  And if indeed the fear is that you and your lady might be in danger, wouldn't your FIRST concern be to ascertain whether or not your girl is safe??
The bottom line to me is that in the best-case-scenario this guy woke up in a panic, picked up his gun and fired blindly through the closed door of his own bathroom.  Even if there were an intruder in there, I'm not convinced that person would deserve to be gunned down like a dog for stopping to take a piss on his nightly murder/robbery/shampoo-sampling spree.  Calling the cops would be a great idea, particularly if you're armed and know that if things get drastic before they arrive, you've already brought a gun to the gunfight.
Put it another way: ladies, imagine you're at your boyfriend's house and you wake up in the middle of the night to relieve yourself.  While you're in there thinking about what a sweetie he is and how you plan to redecorate the place as soon as you get your own key, bruh gets up and starts blasting hot lead through the door because he heard you flush.  Does this seem plausible to you in your own life?  How many times have you unknowingly been in such mortal danger because you went to the bathroom when it was dark outside?  And of all the men you've ever had sleep-overs with (no judgments maam), how many do you consider capable of doing something like this?
That's why Oscar Pistorius has to go to jail.  As much as it pains me to consider what a waste he has made of his brilliant and inspirational life, it pains me even more to think of the foolishness and utter dumbfuckery with which he wasted the life of an innocent young woman.

The Empire Strikes Out

So the world didn't come to an end today.  This is kind of depressing for those of us who haven't bothered to do any Christmas shopping since it didn't really matter this year.  I also have no idea what I'm gonna' do with all these "The Mayans were right" T-Shirts I planned to share with my ancestors after the apocalypse (having cleverly bought them on a payment plan, it turns out I'm actually gonna' have to pay full-price for all this crap now).

At a mournful moment like this, where for once it looks like tomorrow actually IS promised, the only thing that cheers me up is reminiscing about the year gone by, and the magic and wonderment that the Republican party has brought to the unwashed masses of our nation in these difficult times.  

It all began with the presidential election season, which featured the surreal spectacle of the GOP primary debates in which grown men and woman showed the entire world why Saturday Night Live will never go off the air.  By the time the "inevitable-nominee" Mitt Romney emerged victorious, it was clear that the shining lights of the Republican Party would not be willing to accept a 10-to-1 package of spending reductions to tax increases, had little to no respect for the troops (if they happened to be gay), and were willing to consider "self-deportation" as a serious approach to solving our immigration problem.

Despite my own dashed hopes that a few of these candidates would engage in the age old practice of "self-shut-up-already," the general election revealed a GOP just as beholden to magical thinking as it was to invisible billionaires with bottomless checkbooks.  From fabricating imaginary attacks on welfare reform, to leveling incessant broadsides against an imaginary President Obama (and I'm not just talking about Eastwood), to the oft-repeated-never-proven assertion that lowering taxes for the wealthy increases revenues - embracing the GOP platform this year required a certain belief in elves and faeries, worthy of anyone embarking on a quest for the Ring of Sauron, or bipartisan compromise in Congress. 

And when that magical thinking failed to transform the president's persistent lead in the polls into a landslide victory for Mitt Romney, the world witnessed the meltdown of the modern-day Republican party personified in the antics of Karl Rove during FOX News' election night coverage.  Apparently the 47% of Americans comprised of women, youth, people of color, and all manner of other freeloaders - turned out to be a majority of the electorate.  It's the kind of math that only the GOP of 2012 could imagine.

And today, when the world should have been busy ending, we instead witnessed two more memorable moments.  First, House Speaker John Boehner's failure to win enough support from his own caucus to bring a vote on his proposed "Plan B" fiscal cliff solution to the floor of the House of Representatives.  While this was a surprise for most who've been observing the back & forth from a safe distance, in the end is it really so surprising that Congressional Republicans weren't willing to pass a bill that would put them on record as supporting a tax increase - a bill that could never become law even in the imaginings of its sponsor?

Yet the good times were only beginning to roll.  To cap it all off, this morning NRA chief sharpshooter Wayne Lapierre held a half-hour news conference in which he single-handedly managed to convince the entire nation of the absolute necessity of keeping firearms out of the hands of people as mentally disturbed as Wayne Lapierre.  After what many would argue to be the single most tragic mass shooting in our nation's history - it's horror marked not only by the number of people killed, but by the incomprehensible fact that most of them were children - the NRA declared it's position that in order to solve the problem of mass shootings at schools...we need to have more guns at schools.

I look at all of this and can't help but think that the imaginary world the GOP has created - one where brown people, women, gays and youth either don't exist or don't matter enough to speak to - is drifting apart before our eyes.  While most of the country is still pondering how we can sensibly preserve the rights guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment while keeping assault weapons off our streets, and out of our malls and schools, the Republican stalwarts at the NRA have determined that video games, movies, music and other fictional works are the sources of the real-life violence we've grown so accustomed to - which is clearly why video-game loving nations like Japan, the UK and the maple-syrup-snorting madmen to our North have a fraction of the gun-violence we do.

In the end it's been a big year for the American imagination.  And who would have thought that ultimately the Mayan calendar predicted not the end of the world...but the end of any connection the Republican Party once had with reality.