Sunday, October 05, 2008


Saturday, Oct. 4, @ Cobo Arena, Detroit, MI. The crowd was about 10,000 people. Tickets were free, mostly secured from Obama campaign offices throughout the Metro area. T-shirt vendors were perched outside the venue, hawking Obama shirts and more. The show was set up to raise awareness for voter registration- the deadline being Monday, October 6. Local radio personalities hosted the introductory segment- an African-American Iraq veteran leads the pedge of allegiance; local singer and Oprah Winfrey Show-singing-contest winner Lashell Griffin sang the Star Spangled Banner; a judge running for michigan's supreme court said some brief remarks; finally a trio of Obama campaign workers urged the audience to engage their friends and family members to be registered and to vote on November 4th. Finally the main event: wearing a T-shirt, jeans, gymshoes and a NY Yankees cap, Jay-Z took the stage around 9:30, and did an hour-long set, no guest performers, just Shawn Carter and his band.

Songs where he performed at least two verses:
Roc Boys; Blue Magic; Jigga my Ni**a; 99 Problems; Show Me What You Got; Give it to Me; What More Can I Say; Encore; Dirt on Your Shoulder; Excuse Me Miss; Izzo/Hova; Big Pimpin; Jigga-What-Jigga-Who; Dead Presidents II; Minority Report

Jay Z took the time out to give several shouts out to Senator Barack Obama, "I'm not telling you who to vote for, but I'm telling you who i'm voting for".. "when they tell kids that you can grow up to be" (anything they want), it comes across as a "cliche', but now I believe it.." Jay remarked about his childhood in Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, and how now (the system) "finally include us" in this election; "the most important election in our lifetimes". The giant video screen behind him on the stage flashed imagery from various things from song to song, in particular when he was performing "minority report" he showed footage of katrina, and recurring images of President George W. Bush, at the end of the song, the screen stopped at a close-up of Bush looking pensive, to massive boos from the audience.. he included a couple songs from his upcoming album, 'Swagger Like Us' and 'Jockin' Jay-Z'.. After the main set was over, he came back and stood next to the DJ to run through brief snippets of various other songs, including "Who Ya with", "Can I get a..", "Hard Knock Life", "Crazy in Love", "Money, Cash, H*es", "The City is Mine", "Money Ain't a Thing", "What We Do", "Ain't no Ni**a", etc.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Miracle at St. Anna is the latest film from director Spike Lee. It is his first war movie, and arguably only the second action-based thriller after 2007’s Inside Man. The WWII period film actually opens in the early 80’s: A post-office clerk (Laz Alonso) abruptly shoots a customer with a vintage military pistol. An ensuing police investigation finds an Italian stone bust worth millions in the suspect’s apartment. A rookie reporter (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) prods him about it, and the main narrative begins: in 1944, four black men, members of the 92nd Infantry "Buffalo Soldiers" fight their way behind enemy lines in Axis-controlled Italy. They include the towering Train (Omar Benson Miller), level-headed Stamps (Derek Luke), preacher turned apostate Bishop (Michael Ealy), and Afro-Latin/de facto translator Hector (Alonso). Train obsessively carries the aforementioned bust, retrieved from a previous battle.

The quartet manages to find shelter in the Italian village of St. Anna- locals there include partisans who fight against the Nazis. The group also looks after an injured Italian boy (Matteo Sciabordi) with a dark secret, whose foreign tongue and vivid imagination endears him to the God-fearing Train. Meanwhile, resident cynic Bishop frequently butts heads with Stamps, not just over orders but in getting the attention of the pretty Renata (Valentina Cervi).

The narrative touches on the conflict and the comfort that the soldiers manage to find in the sleepy village: A Nazi radio broadcast mocks the soldiers’ plight as they fight for a country that won’t allow them to be served at a restaurant (a scene at an American ice cream parlor illustrates this, with a twist); the group openly dance and flirt with local women, and debate whether their efforts will truly have any impact back home. Conflict with a racist commanding officer threatens to undermine everything as Nazis march toward the town.

Lee adapted Miracle at St. Anna from James McBride’s 2004 novel, who also wrote the screenplay. The film even manages to offer some quasi-sympathetic Nazis- one, an officer (who likes to read poetry) whose complaints about lack of food and supplies falls on deaf ears; another, a soldier who balks at slaughter of civilians. The cinematography from Matthew J. Libatique is at least as sympathetic as Ernest Dickerson’s was to Lee’s early work. Lots of wide shots are seen of the Italian countryside, giving scope to how overwhelmed and isolated the four protagonists are.

The film lingers a little too long in a few scenes with the villagers and a sub-plot involving a traitor among the partisans, and a court trial epilogue ends rather abruptly, but overall the story is extremely engaging, a portrait of men who sacrificed greatly not only for their country but for a community that was not afforded the same human rights that were being defended on the world stage.