January 28th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

While some journalists are content to investigate things like iPad factories and Mitt Romney’s tax situation, it’s heartening to know that there are still a few out there researching the real issues. Like, for instance, when exactly was Ice Cube’s famous “Good Day“?

According to Gawker, Murk Avenue’s Donovan Strain has not just undertaken this weighty assignment, but—after exhaustive cross-referencing of sporting events, weather, technology and media—actually discovered the date in question.

According to Strain:

The ONLY day where:
Yo MTV Raps was on air
It was a clear and smogless day
Beepers were commercially sold
Lakers beat the SuperSonics
and Ice Cube had no events to attend was…

JANUARY 20 1992

So there you have it, folks. We can put that one to rest. Or maybe not. Either way, darn good song.

SEEN & HEARD
January 27th, 2012, by Staff

Each week, we will bring you sights and sounds from our studio as guests sit in the chair to have a conversation with Tavis.

Our inaugural “Seen and Heard” is a special one, as it includes an image and quote from Tavis’ 2007 conversation with soul singer Etta James, who recently passed away in Los Angeles.

Check out images of and quotes from Sean Penn, Etta James, Terrence Howard, Kathleen Turner and Seal.

All images by Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

 

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
January 23rd, 2012, by Guest Blogger

January is National Mentoring Month. In honor of the occasion, we take a look at mentoring organization, WriteGirl.

BY KARI ADWELL

Current WriteGirl mentees. Photo by Thomas Hargis.

This is my first year working as a staff member and writing mentor for WriteGirl – a creative writing and mentoring organization for teen girls, ages 13-18.

Every week, more than 75 professional women writers work one-on-one with girls on creative writing projects.

Every month, WriteGirl hosts a creative writing workshop for over 150 girls and professional women writers in all genres, including poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, songwriting, journalism, screenwriting, playwriting, persuasive writing, journal-writing, editing and more.

Every year, WriteGirl publishes an anthology of outstanding work, compiled throughout the school year, by both the mentees and their mentors.

On Sunday, January 15th,  we launched our award-winning, 10-year anniversary anthology, Intensity. In this new book, more than 140 teen girls and women writers from the L.A. area share their creative stories, poetry, lyrics, novel excerpts and perspectives.

__

Menudo

“I know this girl. Her name
is Joanna, Mexican-Honduran
Beauty Queen, mother of one at fourteen
I know this girl. She made me chorizos,
she introduced me to my first pupusa,
she was the first girl I kissed.
I know her; she’s walking up right now
in a skin-tight black V-neck, skinny jeans
and Vans, eyeliner, a precise silhouette of her
top lid. I know Iris, palms sweaty,
hair crinkled with Aquanet hairspray and mousse.
I know mi hermana, my tan sister, a subdued,
superb shade of brown. I know Coralia, she
has Jose tattooed on her neck, her Baby Daddy, her love.
I know Barbie/Eeyore/Droopy/Bianca/Flaca/
Skittles, I know how R’s roll off her tongue,
I know the sound of one dollar rosaries
hitting her chest, I know the click clack
clang bang of her silver hoops, I know her.
She is my best friend; she is my childhood confidante.
She is old news, new tears.
Forgotten girl, formed by corroding,
rooftops, infantile screams,
menudo and premature motherhood.”

- J. Curtis, age 15 (excerpt from Intensity)

__

We are going, boldly, into our 11th season with many awards under our belt and a 100% success rate of our senior girls going to college!

On a personal note, our girls continue to be an endless inspiration to me. Shining when they read aloud, they find a place in the world.

Current WriteGirl mentees and alumna. Photo by Thomas Hargis.

When we held our mentee interview day in November, I was so pleased to see the girls come in, sit down, take an object to write about and work quietly. They were respectful of one another’s space and, when it came time to read their work, they all listened patiently, applauding when each reader concluded.

It gives me chills to recount that experience, for we have all been young, awkward teens, competing for space, and we all know how girls can be exceedingly cruel; however, there is something about WriteGirl that inspires camaraderie and human appreciation like I have never seen before. I dare say it is like they are on sacred ground.

Kids want guidance. They need mentors. No matter how much they may look at you like you are crazy, when their friends aren’t looking they will soften and say things like, “Is this good enough? I want to make sure it’s right.” To which I respond, “I let that question hold me back from experiencing my own writing for a long, long time. I don’t want you to fall into the same trap. There is no right, and there is no good enough. There is only what is right for YOU. If it comes out of YOU, it is right, and it is always good enough.”

This was a specific incident. The girl was a talented writer with beautiful penmanship and a want in her eyes to express herself.  To be heard. All she needed was a little cajoling.

And, most times, a little cajoling is all it takes. It is amazing how quickly the girls can go from being reticent, hiding behind their journals and saying they don’t have anything to say, to having a (friendly) rap battle across the room. I have seen it take less than 20 minutes! And THAT makes mentoring fun and rewarding for us all.

Mentoring has changed my life for the better. I found WriteGirl by doing a Volunteer Match search. If you  feel you have any wisdom to impart or just time to give someone an ear, I highly suggest being a mentor. You’ll be glad you did it.

Happy Mentoring Month!

Kari Adwell is the Events Coordinator at WriteGirl. She mentors (when time allows) with the In-Schools program offered by WriteGirl at Camp Scudder in Santa Clarita, CA. She is also an essayist and aspiring screenwriter. She too loves to read aloud. [Photo by Brad Carter Photography.]

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
January 19th, 2012, by Staff

Welcome to our 9th season on PBS!

The first week of Season 9 is off to a wonderful start, with our recent three-part “Remaking America” panel discussion and two full nights of our conversation with Academy Award-winning actor and tireless human rights activist Sean Penn.

In addition to our Season 9 launch, we’ve got fresh digs, as our show is now housed in L.A.’s state-of-the-art Encompass Digital Media Studios, just minutes from downtown Los Angeles.

On-set photo. Encompass Digital Media Studios. Photo courtesy: Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

Photo courtesy: Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

Hope you’ve been watching this week and will continue to tune in each night throughout the season.

And remember, as always, episodes are available on our site the day after they have aired on your local PBS station.

PRIMER
January 17th, 2012, by Staff

Photo by: Seher Sikander for Rehes Creative, WikiMedia Commons

Airdate(s) | January 19-20, 2012

Hometown | Santa Monica, California

Parents | Actress Eileen Ryan, Director Leo Penn

Awards and honors | The two-time Academy Award-winning actor (Mystic River and Milk) and critically acclaimed director (Into the Wild) was named ambassador at large to Haiti by Laurent Lamothe, the Haitian Minister of Foreign and Religious Affairs, in January 2012.

Political and social activism | The veteran actor is a dogged political activist, who was critical of the Bush administration and drew criticism for meetings with Cuban and Venezuelan leaders. Penn co-founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization after the devastating 2010 earthquake.

The mission of J/P Haitian Relief Organization:

[P]roviding emergency medical and primary care services, delivering badly needed medical equipment and medicine, rubble removal facilitating community regeneration, management of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, distributing food and water purification systems, improving communication systems, and developing housing and education facilities.

Penn also used his Academy Award acceptance speech for Milk – the 2008 film in which he portrayed slain San Francisco politician Harvey Milk – to speak out about gay rights:

I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.

Selection of performances and projects

Actor
1981 Taps
1982 Fast Times at Ridgemont High
1983 Bad Boys
1984 Racing With the Moon
1985 The Falcon and the Snowman
1986 At Close Range
1988 Colors
1989 Casualties of War
1990 State of Grace
1993 Carlito’s Way
1995 Dead Man Walking (Academy Award nomination for Best Actor)
1997 The Game
1997 She’s So Lovely
1997 U-Turn
1998 Hurlyburly
1998 The Thin Red Line
1999 Sweet and Lowdown (Academy Award nomination for Best Actor)
2000 Up in the Villa
2000 Before Night Falls
2000 The Weight of Water
2001 I Am Sam (Academy Award nomination for Best Actor)
2003 Mystic River (Academy Award for Best Actor)
2003 21 Grams
2004 The Assassination of Richard Nixon
2005 The Interpreter
2006 All the King’s Men
2008 Milk (Academy Award for Best Actor)
2010 Fair Game
2011 The Tree of Life

Director
1991 The Indian Runner
1995 The Crossing Guard
2001 The Pledge
2007 Into the Wild

What is your favorite Sean Penn film or television performance? Share your thoughts below.

PRIMER
January 17th, 2012, by Staff

Welcome to Season 9 of Tavis Smiley on PBS. Each week, we will use the “Primer” to highlight the works of one or more of our upcoming guests, including their films, books, albums and television projects.

We intend for the lists to be collaborative, so please add your favorites if we do not include them, or tell us why one or more of the works on our list has captured your heart or mind.

First up, Sean Penn.

January 16th, 2012, by Sean Nixon

Mitt Romney's recent remarks on economic equality could prove costly. Photo: Gage Skidmore

As the nation celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. King, today’s political landscape underscores just how far America has to go in realizing so much more of Dr. King’s dream of social and economic equality.

With one in two Americans living at or near poverty, you would think a presidential candidate would be in tune enough with the circumstances and conditions of the country and begin proposing ideas or solutions to help solve the problem.

Not Mitt Romney. His poor choice of words, or perhaps, brutal honesty in telling NBC’s Matt Lauer that issues of economic inequality should be discussed in quiet rooms suggests that he’s out of touch with everyday Americans.

As a result, he’s created a huge stir across the airwaves and is being lambasted in the media for his remarks and potentially running voters away from his campaign.

Dr. King spent his last days fighting for the economic rights of American citizens. He wasn’t an elected official, a mayor or even a presidential candidate, and yet, he recognized the needs of people and fought for them.

In economic terms, when you have half of any country’s population in or at poverty, you’re talking about a national crisis. And from a leadership standpoint, when a presidential candidate, running for the highest office in the land, state that conversations concerning these problems should merely be discussed in quiet rooms alongside issues of tax policy, on both counts, it shows a lack of moral conviction and an extremely large dose of cowardice.

If Mitt Romney wants to be a truly great leader for his party and this nation, he should want to move conversations like these from the quiet rooms to the public square. No apparent frontrunner, GOP or otherwise, should ever appear to have their head in the sand on issues like these.

TALK BACK: Do you agree with Romney’s statement that discussions of economic inequity should be discussed in quiet rooms?  You can respond with a Y or N in our comments section.

January 15th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

As you may know, this past week saw the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the world’s biggest annual gathering of all that is magical and new in the world of technology. While, as many of us do, I have some reservations about things like the conditions under which this stuff is made and the source of the materials involved, not to mention what happens to our gadgets once they’re obsolete in six months’ time, I do enjoy reading about the scene on the ground there.

As my go-to site for all things techie, Gawker Media’s Gizmodo covered the Show admirably this year, with a nice mix of informative, funny and just plain bizarre. My favorite post from the latest batch, however, has got to be Mat Honan’s Fever Dream of a Guilt-Ridden Gadget Reporter. While it has little to say about the products on display (at least specifically), it does what the best narrative journalism does, which is to convey the significance of a place and time through the experience of being there, as depressing and loathing-filled as that may actually be. It’s also pretty durn funny.

January 11th, 2012, by Sean Nixon

George Foreman Photo By Paul Dickover (Flickr) via Wikimedia Commons.

Before he was a lean mean grilling machine salesman, he was a 2-time boxing Heavyweight Champion of the World. But, as George Foreman points out, it’s his faith and serving God that he cherishes most in his life. Now he’s sharing both his spiritual and business advice with entrepreneurs in one of his latest works.

Foreman talks about his faith, business life and much more in his book, Knockout Entrepreneur. The book touches on his life, spirituality and Christian faith. He also shares how principles of hard work, integrity and perseverance have made him the accomplished athlete and businessman he is today.

While Foreman, nowadays, is a celebrated figure in boxing and business, it’s a lifetime away from where he was years ago. He credits his transformation to a key fight in 1977 that changed his life. As he recalled in an interview with Guideposts.org:

I was on the comeback trail, fighting my way back to a rematch with Muhammad, when I lost to a journeyman fighter named Jimmy Young in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In the dressing room after the fight, I was taken out of my body. I met God, and realized the life I’d been living without him had been empty.”

From that point on, Foreman’s life changed in a monumental way. He began reading and studying the Bible, preaching to men and women on street corners and even opened a church in his hometown of Houston. His accomplishments continued to grow, including the opening of his youth and community center in Houston, a triumphant return to boxing, and having his name associated with one of the most popular selling cooking items in the nation.

Knockout Entrepreneur draws on Foreman’s life experiences and pearls of wisdom he’s learned in business from being a faithful believer. From family to finances, accountability to achievement, along with dreaming big and the power of hard work, the book is a great read. For those looking to make it in the business world and seeking to find harmony between their spiritual lives and professional paths, this book is a must-have.

January 9th, 2012, by Jeremy Freed

Photo: Trés Bien Shop via Flickr

Every year in January, Florence, Italy becomes the most important place in the world for anyone interested in men’s fashion. This is the direct result of Pitti Uomo, the giant men’s clothing and accessories trade show that takes place there, drawing the world’s most influential designers and peddlers of high-style garments.

I’ve never been to Pitti (as it’s called within the fashion world), but I hope to make it there someday; in the meantime, I enjoy the street-style photography that comes out of it. Not only is it an opportunity to observe some of the world’s most stylish men on parade, it’s always a sure-fire indicator of where men’s fashion will be a year from now.

Check out some great shots from previous years below:

 

Tommy Ton for GQ

Hypebeast

The Sartorialist

 

 

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