Ms. Geek Speaks: Avoiding violence at schools is a good thing

In 2010, Live Oak High School came under legal scrutiny when five white male students–Daniel Galli, Austin Carvalho, Matthew Dariano and Dominic Marciel and Clayton Howard–were asked to turn their US flag T-shirts inside out or go home. The administrative concern was campus safety.

The reason was, according to the Mercury News, “a history of threats and campus strife between Latino and Anglo students that raised fears of violence on the day the school was highlighting Cinco de Mayo.”

The parents of the students brought a lawsuit against the Morgan Hill Unified School District.

In February of last year, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously sided with the Morgan Hill Unified School District. Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote “Our role is not to second-guess the decision to have a Cinco de Mayo celebration or the precautions put in place to avoid violence” and that the past events “made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real.”

This affirmed the decision by former Chief US District Judge James Ware who had also sided with the school district. The decision is based on the 1969 US Supreme Court ruling of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. The Tinkers were siblings who planned on wearing armbands to protest the Vietnam War and support a Christmas Truce that then-Senator Robert F. Kennedy had called for.  The court found that the Tinkers wearing of armbands did not cause a disruption and their activity was protected free speech.  “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” however school officials can justify censoring free expressions if they can show “that [their] action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint,” and the forbidden conduct might “materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school.”

These are not the only aspects of student speech that can be censored. In 1986, Bethel School District v. Fraser found that speech before a student assembly that was filled with sexual innuendo was not constitutionally protected speech. School administrators could exercise prior restraint. The 1988 Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier decision by the Supreme Court held that in public high school curricular student newspapers, administrators of the school can exercise prior restraint of school-sponsored expression. Newspapers and assembly speeches are thus subject to censorship and are considered limited public forums and expression.

Because the US Supreme Court as denied an appeal, the appellate court ruling stands.

Cinco de Mayo has a long history in California.  California has a long and troubled history with Mexico and Mexican-Americans.  California was a Spanish colony from 1769-1821 and then part of Mexico from 1821 to 1848.It is believed to have been first celebrated in the 1860s in California when Mexican miners celebrated the defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla. In the 1940s, the Chicano movement promoted it as a means of embracing Mexican history at the same time where Los Angeles and other areas were experiencing Zoot Suit Riots.

According to the Oakland Museum of California, during the Great Depression, Mexican Americans were sometimes sent back to Mexico because there was “no differentiation between Mexican and Mexican American US citizens.”

The Morgan Hill School District is 49 percent Latino and 36 percent white for the 2013-2014 academic year. Of that school population only 10 percent were considered English language learners. the majority, 87 percent, understand some level of Spanish.  The city of Morgan Hill has about 37,000 residents and is located 70 mile south of San Francisco, between San Jose and Salinas. The whole district serves about 8,700 students. Live Oak High has school colors of yellow and green. The mascot is an acorn and the motto is “Go Nuts.”

In California, Latinos are the largest racial/ethnic group in California at 39 percent in 2014. That means California is the second state in the US in which people who self-identify as white are not the majority.

Yet when an article on this issue was posted on Yahoo, people really “Go Nuts.” The conversation quickly displays open prejudices against Latinos as many assume that this involves illegals or non-citizens. The love-it-or-leave it attitude is again brought up. Is it any wonder that there’s animosity between Latinos and whites when people so readily identify Latinos as non-citizens?

 Jackie wrote:

Not pandering to anything…just saying if we live and go to a school in another nation and start complaining about their people wearing a shirt with their flag on it, it could be considered offensive to them and they would not want to fund our education or pay for our food, medicine or housing. It’s one thing to wear it as a visitor to show who you are and that you are visiting. But to start fights over that or trying to change their right to wear their flag or say their allegiance or make them honor our country when in their country would be stupid and asking for trouble.

 JoshM complained:

So let me get this straight? The Mexican flag was allowed to be raised, my guess is there were kids with Mexican flag shirts, although that’s just a guess, yet those with the American flag shirts were told to flip their shirts inside out? This is the United States of America, go back to Mexico if you’re “offended” by the American flag, where you LIVE. Plus the message these school officials are sending is that these flags and therefore countries are rivals or oppositions, and therefore their flags can’t be seen together. Apparently it’s okay for one group to celebrate their heritage but not for another.

Don wrote:

Why in hell American schools have to celebrate a stupid Mexican 5 de Mayo day? This conflict arises because of more and more illegal alien Mexicans are allowed in our schools by the corrupted public servants we have in our government. I would not care what a traitor and coward school principal has to say; I will proudly display the American flag. It’s time to take a stand and don’t allow these ungrateful illegal alien taxpayers’ suckers disrespect our flag, our country and our values!!

Tricia commented:

We are rapidly losing our nation to an invasion of illegal foreigners who have no loyalty; or connection to our history, Constitution or anything else. California is just the beginning of what is going to happen; when these foreigners gain the majority. These types of rulings will become the norm. We will see our nation stripped of it’s Constitutional rights, our history, and way of life. The Mexican flags are the ones that should have been banned. They do not belong in American taxpayer funded schools. Forcing these American students to remove an American flag shirt; in favor of Mexican flags is an insult to every veteran who fought and died for it. The Supreme court should have sided with the students. There is no way a foreign flag should ever take precedence over an American. These judges and politicians are a disgrace to this nation.

My high school celebrating Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day. How about yours?

DVD/Blu-ray Review: ‘Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Never

The tale of fairies, “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Never Beast” is a DVD that definitely benefits from its features that will charm even some reluctant male adults.

If you only know Tinker Bell as Peter Pan’s companion from the 1953 Disney animated feature, “Peter Pan,” then you’ll need an update. Not only has Tinker Bell become a symbol of the magic of Disney, she’s also the center of a fairy world created and expended by the Disney company since 2005.  The Disney Fairies franchise gives them a place  to live: Pixie Hollow.

The land is matriarchal or at least most of the characters are female. Tinker Bell has friends and they come with different talents and in different ethnicities.

In this animated feature, “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast,” although Tinker Bell (voiced by Mae Whitman) is in the title, the main action focuses on Fawn (Ginnifer Goodwin).  Fawn is a Latina fairy who communicates with animals.

At the beginning Fawn has rescued a baby hawk but must now try to smuggle it out of Pixie Hollow. Hawks eat fairies and the scout fairies try to keep them out of Pixie Hollow. Fawn gets caught and the Queen, Clarion (Angelica Huston), admonishes her and instructs her to think with her head and not just her heart. Soon after, she hears a mysterious cry and investigates. She discovers the NeverBeast and befriends it, naming it Gruff.

A scout fairy Nyx (Rosario Dawson) also hears the strange beast’s cries and investigates. After she sees the beast she does research and determines that it will turn into a bigger beast that along with a mysterious storm could endanger Pixie Hollow. Between Fawn and Nyx, the mystery of the NeverBeast will be solved and, of course, Pixie Hollow, will be saved. The message is not to judge a book by its rough and big cover. It could be a fairy-eating hawk or it could be a gentle giant Gruff.

After watching this really female-positive feature (my husband groused about how few men there were and that they were geeky) we watched all the bonus features. The feature we loved was the “Tink’n About Animals” which reminds us that English does have specific words for animal groups. That piece was fun and educational and makes this DVD/Blu-ray worth having for all animal loves. It’s a win for girls and animal lovers everywhere.

Blu-ray Combo Pack, Digital HD & Disney Movies Anywhere

5 Essential Ingredients to Getting Gruff: Uncover the 5 Essential Ingredients in making “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast.” The 5 ingredients are story, design, animation, sound, and making Gruff.

My Dad’s Movie: The True Story of the NeverBeast: Director Steve Loter takes us on a personal journey of how his young daughter taught him life lessons that became the story for “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast”.

Jeff Corwin’s Guide to Real-World NeverBeasts: From high above the trees to the darkest depths of the ocean, Jeff Corwin takes you on a wild adventure around the world where you will discover some creatures that actually exist in the real world.

Deleted Scenes with Intro by Director Steve Loter

Tink’n About Animals: From a float of crocodiles to a mob of kangaroos, Fawn breaks down animal groupings by singing her own catchy song.

Gruff Love: Meet the big, lovable star of the movie with this musical montage featuring KT Tunstall’s heartwarming song, “Strange Sight.”

My Dad’s Movie: Hanging Out at the Premiere: Now that you know how I helped my Dad come up with the story for his movie, join me as I get to see it for the first time. (DMA Exclusive)


5 Essential Ingredients to Getting Gruff: Uncover the 5 Essential Ingredients in making “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast.” The 5 ingredients are story, design, animation, sound, and making Gruff.

Tink’n About Animals: From a float of crocodiles to a mob of kangaroos, Fawn breaks down animal groupings by singing her own catchy song.

Gruff Love: Meet the big, lovable star of the movie with this musical montage featuring KT Tunstall’s heartwarming song, “Strange Sight.”

*Digital bonus offerings may vary per retailer

Disc Specifications:

Feature Run Time: Approximately 76 minutes

Rating: Feature Film: “G” in U.S.; “G” in Canada (CE + CF)

Additional Bonus Features Not Rated

Aspect Ratio: Blu-ray Feature Film = 1.78:1

DVD = 1.78:1

Audio: Blu-ray Feature Film = English 7.1, Spanish 5.1, French 5.1

DVD = English 5.1, Spanish 5.1, French 5.1

Languages/Subtitles: English, Spanish, French



DVD/Blu-ray Review: ‘Into the Woods’ a Must-have

There should be no question about this. Disney’s version of “Into the Woods” might have softened and compressed the story telling of this musical, but both composer Stephen Sondheim and lyricist James Lapine were involved and appear on the bonus features. Yet the must-have part is a Sondheim and Lapine original song that had to be cut.

Director Rob Marshall introduces the song, “She’ll Be Back,” and there’s a bit about his angst at cutting a new Sondheim/Lapine song AND Streep’s moving performance. Yet the exclusion from the original film and the inclusion on the DVD/Blu-ray makes a fantastic selling point.

“Into the Woods” debuted in Southern California, at the San Diego Old Globe Theatre in 1986 to be exact. It’s original Broadway cast included Bernadette Peters as the Wtich and Joanna Gleason as the Baker’s Wife. Competing against “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Into the Woods” won Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress in a Musical at the Tony Awards.

The plot intertwines the fairy tales of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Cinderella, “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and “Rapunzel,” by using an original story about a childless baker and his wife. The couple (Emily Blunt and James Corden) live next door to a Witch (Meryl Streep) who has cursed them with infertility. She herself is cursed and needs them to get a cow as white as milk, a cloak as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a shoe as pure as gold. The cow belongs to Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) who will sell the cow for magic beans to the Baker’s wife. The cloak belongs to Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford). The hair belongs to Rapunzel. The shoe belongs to Cinderella (Anna Kendrick).  All of the tales will come to a happy ending half-way through the movie when things become unraveled. Everything won’t end happily ever after.

Yet for the Sondheim/Lapine fans, this DVD/Blu-ray ends happily with the aforementioned special feature–a new original song sung by Streep.

Other features help viewers better appreciate the art of movie making from the conceptualization to the construction of The Woods so the costuming. And just in time for Easter, this DVD/Blu-ray has five Golden (Easter) Eggs.

For those who feel that the musical is all about the music, a bonus feature gives direct access to the musical song segments from the film, with optional sing-along lyrics.

Bonus Features: 

  • Never-Before-Seen Sondheim Original Song: “She’ll Be Back”
  • There’s Something About The Woods
  • The Cast As Good As Gold
  • Deeper Into The Woods
  • o
  • Filmmaker Commentary (by Director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca)
  • Music & Lyrics
  • 5 Golden Eggs (Easter Eggs)

The Bonus feature “Deeper Into The Woods” includes:

  • From Stage To Screen
  • Magic of the Woods
  • Designing the Woods
  • The Costumes of the Woods

FEATURE RUN TIME:  Approximately 125 min.

 RATING:   Feature Film: PG in U.S.; PG in CE; G in CF


  • Blu-ray Feature Film = 1080p High Definition / 2.39:1
  • DVD Feature Film = 2.39:1


  • Blu-ray = 7.1 DTS
  • DVD = 5.1 Dolby

 LANGUAGES: English, French & Spanish

 SUBTITLES:  English SDH, French & Spanish

DWTS 20: Week 2 is #MyJamMonday and adieu to Redfoo

On Week 2 of Season 20, “Dancing with the Stars” said adieu to Redfoo. It was #MyJamMonday and Redfoo and his partner Emma Slater jammed to “My Sharona.” Bruno Tonioli said of their performance that they went from running on empty to running on plenty. They were best improved but Monday night’s score and the votes for him didn’t count. Topping the leader board was former Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin and her partner Derek Hough who received the first nines of the season. You can still vote online via the links listed below.

  1. Nastia Liukin & Derek Hough: 34 (9, 8, 8, 9) up from 30

  2. Rumer Willis & Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 32 (8, 8, 8, 8) same score/Riker Lynch & Allison Holker: 32 (8, 8, 8, 8) up from 31/Willow Shields & Mark Ballas: 32 (8, 8, 8, 8) up from 25

  3. Redfoo & Emma SlaterL 31 (8, 7, 8, 8) up from 22 ELIMINATED

  4. Patti LaBelle &Artem Chigvintsev: 28 (7, 7, 7, 7) up from 25/Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson: 28 (7, 7, 7, 7) same score/Suzanne Somers & Tony Dovolani: 28 (7, 7, 7, 7) up from 25
  5.  Michael Sam & Peta Muratroyd: 28 (7, 7, 7, 7) up from 26

  6. Noah Galloway & Sharna Burgess: 27 (7, 6, 7, 7) up from 26

  7. Charlotte McKinney &Keoikantse Motsepe: 26 (7, 6, 7, 6) up from 22

  8. Chris Soules & Witney Carson: 21 (5, 6, 5, 5) down from 26

Last week’s leader, Rumer Willis and her partner Valentine Chmerkovskiy were tied for second place with Riker Lynch (whose partner Allison Holker forced him to change his hairstyle) and “Hunger Games” star Willow Shields and her partner Mark Ballas.

Julianne Hough loved the choreography for Riker Lynch’s performance. Inaba said it was sexy and elegant, but still very Riker. Goodman asked him to refine his hold.

Rumer Wills had a “pin sharp sense of purpose” according to Tonioli who loved her attack. Inaba thought the choreography was hot.

Patti LaBelle, who at 70 is the oldest contestant, pulled off a smooth salsa performance with her partner Artem Chigvintsev despite an injured knee.

DWTS managed to pull off another touching moment: a reunion for Noah Galloway and his girlfriend. Galloway’s jam was a song he wanted to dance with his gal and the rehearsal footage showed him talking to her and her talking to him. It’s a great moment. His girlfriend scored his performance saying, “That’s an 11 in my book, baby.”

Not so great moments were reality TV star Chris Soules from “The Bachelor” with his partner Witney Carson who received the lowest score so far this season: 21. Only Len Goodman gave them a six. The other three judges gave them fives for their jive.

Second from the bottom was model and commercial actor Charlotte McKinney and her partner Keoikantse Motsepe. They moved up from their 22 from last week to 26. That wasn’t bad, but McKinney seems to have attracted mean girl attention and the judges pointed out she needs to learn how to move from position to position, something that the relatively inexperienced Motsepe needs to teach her. Motsepe is in his second season with the show, but last season he and his partner, Olympic track and field athlete Lolo Jones,  were the first eliminated.

Co-host Tom Bergeron noted, “One thing cyberbullying doesn’t take is courage.” Mean girls and boys, step down.

Suzanne Somers and Tony Dovolani had a fun and energetic performance with Somers “shaking upstairs and shaking downstairs” as Bruno Tonioli put it.

Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson were so cute together that it made judge Carrie Ann Inaba “nauseous.” Head judge Len Goodman thought the business man and shark panelist had panache. 

Although Willow Shields at 14 is the youngest competitor the judges found her Argentine tango mature. Mark Ballas and her apparently had fun putting on personal touches to the costumes. Something you might want to try at home with a lot of drop clothes.

Charlotte McKinney &Keoikantse Motsepe

Chris Soules & Witney Carson

Michael Sam & Peta Muratroyd

Nastia Liukin & Derek Hough

Noah Galloway & Sharna Burgess

Patti LaBelle & Artem Chigvintsev

Redfoo & Emma Slater

Riker Lynch & Allison Holker:

  • 32 (8, 8, 8, 8) up from 31
  • Foxtrot
  • Sugar“—Maroon 5
  • 1-855-234-5608

Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson

Rumer Willis & Valentin Chmerkovskiy

Suzanne Somers & Tony Dovolani

Willow Shields & Mark Ballas

Phone voting begins during the show on Mondays, and is open until 60 minutes after the conclusion of that show in your local time zone.

Online voting at both and Facebook opens each Monday when the show begins on the East Coast at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) and stays open until 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) the next day. During the season’s seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth week, online voting will open when the show begins on the East Coast at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) and will stay open until 11 a.m. ET (8 a.m. PT) the following morning.

Cinderella’s waist: Considering corsets with an expert

At lot of space has been wasted on the waspish waist of a Disney Princess. The waist of Lily James in the live-action “Cinderella” movie has caused more talk than I think it merits.  The controversy has people claiming CGI although this is denied by Lily James and the filmmakers.

AutumnInGreenI’ve long since said goodbye to my 21-inch waist. My husband blames belly dancing for building up my stomach muscles. I blame the three extra pounds I’ve gained and my battle to stay at 93 lbs. as well as my time away from ice skating. My mother tells me that when she was younger she had a 19-inch waist, not unlike Scarlet O’Hara in the movie “Gone with the Wind.”

I’m not sure if that is with or without a girdle although I recall in the 1959 Jimmy Stewart movie “Anatomy of  Murder,” much was made of the rape victim’s preference to be girdle-free because loose and jiggly flesh represented a loose woman. My mother is so conservative, I wasn’t allowed to wear boots and shorts were a controversial topic.

Lily James’ character Cinderella is decidedly not loose. She is sweet and determined. She’s brave under the unjust treatment of her stepmother. If she hadn’t met her prince, she might have become Mother Teresa or Sister Bernadette. She also is under the confines of the period, a period that rather loosely defined, sometime before the 1960s since her stepmother’s wardrobe seems to say 1940s, but the ballroom gowns seem to say Victorian-ish.   Let’s just call it a pre-girdle era. Cinderella’s stepsisters wear corsets and not girdles. Why wouldn’t we expect Cinderella to wear one as well?

I’ve seen the actual dress that Lily James wore. It was on display at the El Capitan. Perhaps with the current rate of obesity in America, that waistline may seem obscene, but it didn’t to me.

For the sake of full disclosure, I do own three corsets. Two have spandex content. One does not. I am not, however, a corset expert so I turned to someone who was: Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden Unique Corsetry. Adamme participates in the Edwardian Balls in both San Francisco (where she is based) and Los Angeles.

Q: What was your initial reaction to the images of Lily James’ Cinderella in her blue ballroom gown?

A: The first image I saw was a billboard, and I thought “Wow, that is a very slender girl in a very large dress. I wonder what the rest of the costumes are like.”
Q: How do you feel about the reaction some people are having to Lily James’ Cinderella in a corset (e.g.
A: I think there are far more important things in the world to be up at arms about than a fairytale brought to life on the big screen. I wasn’t paying attention to how people reacted to the facial prosthetics on Angelina Jolie in Maleficent, but one of the things about movies in general is that they’re not real life. Cinderella is a fairytale Princess, wearing a gown whipped up by her Godmother’s ingenuity and magic – why ever shouldn’t her waist be exceptionally small??
Q: What are common misperception you feel people have about corsets?
A: A lot of people believe you can’t breathe in a corset, or that you need to have ribs removed to achieve a small waist. It’s true that poorly fitted corsets can be quite uncomfortable, but corsets that have been made by someone experienced and knowledgeable are incredibly supportive and even comforting.
The myth that 19th Century women had  ribs removed is absurd, especially considering how rudimentary medicine was at the time. The basis of this myth probably has something to do with the fact that the vertical stays in corsets are also referred to as bones, which did break from time to time, and needed to be removed.
Q: What have you heard about the waist issue for this Cinderella.
A: Very little, other than some people are concerned about it
Q: If you have seen the movie, what’s your reaction to the fashion, to the themes and to the movie in general.
A: I haven’t seen it yet, but am looking forward to doing so, though mostly for the aesthetic aspect of it. Cinderella has never been inspiring for me, being one of the least substantial fairytale princesses. In addition, Kenneth Branagh isn’t well known for his depiction of strong female characters.
Q: How did you become interested in corsets?
A: As a child I read a lot of 19th century novels and biographies. While I don’t recall any specific passages about corset wearing, I certainly found the fashions to be compelling. I also think that Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman was inspiring on several levels – she was fierce and still feminine, *and* she had that little waist.
Q: What’s the narrowest your waist has been?
A: 23″
Q: What’s a reasonable expectation for size of a corseted waist?
A: Easily 2″ smaller than one’s natural waist, and as much as 5″ smaller, depending on the natural space between ribs and hips, and compressibility. Of course, there are extreme cases, but 2″-5″ smaller is safe, comfortable, and achievable the first time you put on a well-made corset.
Q: Can you be a feminist and love corsets?
A: You absolutely can be a feminist and love corsets. I don’t define feminism as a woman being masculine, but as a woman being equal to and having the same rights as privileges as men, while also being feminine. I don’t wear corsets to please anyone but myself.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: One of the things that most people don’t realize about corsets is that they create an optical illusion. Our bodies are generally ovals, wider from the front, thinner from the side. A corset redistributes the waistline, making it appear narrower and therefore smaller from the front than the eye expects it to be. When you then add an incredibly full skirt below the redistributed waist, the illusion is compounded.
I could go on for days about the joys and wonders of corsets, or compare them to any number of fads, but I’ll leave it with this: Corsets have a bad reputation because there are a lot of poorly made corsets in the world, and anything done to an extreme can be bad – but a lovingly and knowledgeably made corset is like a pretty back-brace, and can do wonders for your self-confidence.
You can see Autumn Adamme’s creations at Dark Garden.

Ms. Geek Speaks: Don’t ask to be LinkedIn with Email Enemies

This week, I got an invitation from a Mr. Salazar. The message was short and informal:

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

It was signed with his first name.

Sadly, I do not really know Mr. Salazar. He did have the opportunity to get to know me, but he made is painfully clear, through my husband, that he didn’t want to know me. He and his family were more than willing to accept tomatoes we had grown, but Mr. Salazar did not want to work me me.

When I initially contacted him several years ago, we were supposed to serve on a HOA board together. Mr. Salazar and the other male board member decided they would not serve on a board with me. He refused to return any of my emails and would only contact me via oral messages he delivered to my husband.

Both of these male board members were not fluent in English. Mr. Salazar’s first language is Spanish. The other board member’s first language was Korean. I had not chosen them. They had not chosen me. They did chose to publicly humiliate me by freezing me out. When they decided to resign rather than serve with me, they refused to do so in writing, a necessary legal step.

Why would anyone who refused to work with you decide they wanted you to be part of their professional network?

Before all this, I did not know Mr. Salazar at all. I had never spoken to him more than to say a greeting in passing. We had grown tomatoes and shared some with his family. I did not know him or his family. I had no opinion about him. Until this week, I did not know he was a manager. I did not know the company he worked for.

I would have been willing to work with him despite his clear language limitations as I would have been willing to work with any other person in the HOA. That is what a professional does and I tried to not be prejudiced. I thought it would have been a good opportunity to improve my Spanish.

Mr. Salazar was prejudiced against me. I suppose that people who are prejudiced consider that their decisions are not wrong.   Apparently neither he nor his wife consider his complete refusal to work with a woman to be something irregular or unacceptable in their lives. Mr. Salazar also sent a LinkedIn invitation to my husband.

Sure, he had a speaking relationship with my husband. Yet it was not a good one. My husband feels that Mr. Salazar lied to him. It was about something as non-controversial as the day that termite inspections were to be made. I had requested this at a meeting of the full membership. By the time my husband made the request to Mr. Salazar, we already knew that the elected HOA board was withholding information from us.  Basic things like when the meeting was and where. Mr. Salazar and his wife decided we did not need to know this or when the termite inspector was due. When the termite inspection people came, we could have had our private and common areas inspected for a nominal additional fee. The time came and passed. None of the three directors informed us. Neither did Mr. Salazar. A lie of omission is still a lie just as standing by while our legal rights are being ignored is tacit approval.

We sold our unit at a loss simply because after going to court three times in less than six months and winning all three cases before two different judges, and having our place burgled by a HOA board director who was forced to return objects stolen from our balcony using a ladder,  the majority of the HOA were unwilling to consider acting against their directors. Further, the directors and other members, including Mr. Salazar were unconcerned about matters like legal liability.

Only one person was willing to question the board of directors when we asked to get a copy of the HOA newsletter. We were the only unit out of ten who didn’t receive this information. Because of people like the Salazars, we had no rights and we had no privacy. We did, however, have termites.

Mr. Salazar was willing to speak with my husband and work with him. So I guess that makes his email invitation reasonable. Mr. Salazar and his family sold their unit at a profit and would surely have known at that time that we took a loss.

My husband believes that Mr. Salazar and his wife feel they have done nothing wrong, but sometimes doing nothing in itself is wrong.

After a discussion, we came up with a list of people one should not invite to connect into your LinkedIn network:

  1. People you’ve lied to, either directly or by omission. I’m not sure if anyone besides the Salazars considers the description “fair weather friend” as a positive personality trait. They have a very different interpretation of the Aesop fable than I do.
  2. People who you’ve refused to work with because most people won’t want to pretend they have worked with you. Yes, I attempted to make email contact with Mr. Salazar more than once and he never responded.  Even when I emailed him and told him to take me off of his list, he didn’t respond. His wife will respond. She claims he has never refused to work with a woman. She’s not his secretary and doesn’t work at the same workplace, but she will respond which is very different from being responsible.
  3. People who know you won’t help when they are under attack. What lynch mob victim wouldn’t want enough spectators to make the mob proud?
  4. People who know you don’t care about simple legalities like legal liability. Why wouldn’t you want to sign contracts with a person who doesn’t care about contract law? Mr. Salazar is a manager at his day job, but at home, he doesn’t care about legal liability and state laws. Can people really compartmentalize like that? And would you trust them?
  5. People who you’ve helped humiliate. Let’s see just how does Stockholm Syndrome work? Is this the business equivalent of an S&M relationship?
  6. Your exes after hostile breakups. If there wasn’t enough drama in your life, then start building up the possibility of a soap operatics.
  7. People who’ve caused you a financial loss.

According to, Mr. Salazar committed mistake #8. He tried to ask for a recommendation from someone he barely knows. He also committed mistake #15: Not personalizing his request. also considers the lack of personalizing a request as a mistake.

I asked Mr. Salazar to please refrain from contacting me. I do not belong to LinkedIn. I’m not interested in contact from Mr. Salazar or anyone who will only respond when they want something from me.

Now that I know Mr. Salazar is a manager, I feel sorry for the people he works with or hope to work with him. Mr. Salazar didn’t bother to apologize. His wife, however, did make a fuss. This is my reply to them both.


Celebrate the impossible with the Ahmanson’s ‘Cinderella’

When you listen to the advertisement for this version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” you’ll hear that Fran Drescher is in the cast. Drescher plays the evil stepmother in pushy purple social climbing fashions. Drescher isn’t as oozingly evil as Cate Blanchett in the recent live-action Disney movie, but this production at the Ahmanson doesn’t need CGI for its magic. The audience gasped at the fairy godmother’s first feat of magic and the music is melodic magic. With a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, this “Cinderella” has a few twists, a bit of revisionism and a lot more humor.

The original Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II production of “Cinderella” was made and performed on TV. That 1957 production featured the crystal clear tones of Julie Andrews as the titular character and Edie Adams was her fairy godmother (Jon Cypher was the Prince). The next woman to slip into the glass slipper and sing about what’s impossible was Lesley Ann Warren in 1965 with Celeste Holm as the fairy godmother and Stuart Damon as the Prince.  It was Warren’s first major success, preceding her joining the cast of the TV series “Mission: Impossible.” Warren would join Andrews on the movie “Victor/Victoria.”

Brandy (Norwood), then star of CBS’ “Moesha” was the next Cinderella with the late Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother. Paolo Montalbán was the Prince.

This stage version builds upon the TV version. Beane has added some modern elements to the original Rodgers and Hammerstein book by going back to the original source–the Charles Perrault French language version where he found that Cinderella has something more to commend her to the prince that an incredible glass slipper. She brought kindness to the court. By going back, Beane heard his version called everything from “feminist” to “revisionist.”

That’s all well and good but what had the audience gasping was William Ivey Long’s costume design. I foresaw the on-stage transformation of a beggar woman into the royally purple fairy godmother, but not the amazing transformation of Cinderella, on-stage, into her glorious white gown. For a glorious pumpkin-to-carriage transformation, you’ll have to watch the live-action Disney movie or the 1950 animated feature.

You do know the story, well, sort of. Ella (Paige Faure) lives with her stepmother Madame (Drescher) and her two stepsisters, the kind but timid Gabriel (Kaitlyn Davidson) and the garish and unpleasantly plump Charlotte (Aymee Garcia). Ella’s only friends as a fox and a raccoon. She does protect the local mad woman Marie (Kecia Lewis) from the mistakenly angry actions of the Prince Topher  (Andy Huntington Jones). Topher is a dragon-slayer and killer of many beasts, but he opines, “I just wish I was going something more important.” Topher was orphaned as a young child and is under the control of his regent, Sebastian (Branch Woodman).

Madame did marry for love and had two daughters and debt. She then married Cinderella’s father and got a house. Life is rough for a woman and she’s determined to have her daughters marry well.

When the Prince announces there will be a ball, Madame and her girls will attend. The famous dress ripping scene doesn’t come in now, but our girl Cinderella does make it to the ball in a glorious white gown and charms the Prince. She does flee the scene at midnight, resulting in the Prince searching for her.

Overall, this is an enjoyable musical that espouses old-fashioned values of being kind, being brave and even being revolutionary and democratic. As you might expect the mice don’t have a big role here as they do in the Disney animated feature, but they do become great horses for the pumpkin coach.

The creative team includes scenic design by Tony Award nominee Anna Louizos, costume design by six-time Tony Award-winner William Ivey Long, lighting design by Tony Award-winner Kenneth Posner and sound design by Tony Award nominee Nevin Steinberg.
The “Cinderella” tour is produced by Robyn Goodman, Jill Furman, Stephen Kocis, Edward Walson, Venetian Glass Productions, The Araca Group, Caiola Productions, Roy Furman, Peter May, Sanford Robertson, Eric Schmidt, James Spry and Blanket Fort Productions.
Tickets for “Cinderella” are available online at, by calling (213) 972-4400, and in person at the Center Theatre Group box office at the Ahmanson Theatre.
Tickets range from $25 – $130 (ticket prices are subject to change). Hot Tix,
at $25 each, may be purchased in advance by phone or, subject to availability, on the day of performance at the box office (no checks). Group tickets are available by calling (213) 972-7231. For the Deaf community: Information and charge, TDD (213) 680-4017.
The Ahmanson Theatre is located at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012



‘The Wrecking Crew,’ the Sixties and the Southern California Sound

Growing up in Southern California, I was raised on the Southern California sound of the sixties, including groups like The Beach Boys, The Mamas & the Papas, Jan and Dean, The Monkees and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Even my mom listens to Alpert and we weren’t that far from Tijuana. All of these musical groups have become the basis for elevator Muzak. What I didn’t know was that studio players helped create the sound. “The Wrecking Crew” is a documentary about the session musicians based in Los Angeles who helped define the SoCal sound. The documentary is opening this weekend at the Laemmle Playhouse 7.

I already had figured out that the Monkees didn’t play for themselves. Peter Tork and Mickey Dolenz describe their experiences with The Wrecking Crew and other professional musicians do as well, giving us some measure of the difference between these and other musicians. Most of the members were classically or jazz trained musicians. They had a higher level of expertise than many of the bands they helped make famous. And they were able to add musical flourishes that gave flavor to the songs they played.

This 101-minute documentary is directed by Denny Tedesco and premiered at the 2008 SXSW Film Festival. Making the festival rounds, the documentary won several awards:

Denny Tedesco is the son of Tommy Tedesco, Tommy died in 1997 from lung cancer, but during his lifetime, he was one of the top studio guitarists, particularly between 1960-1990.  Tommy recorded with the likes of the Beach Boys, the Mamas & the Papas, the Everly Brothers, the Association, Barbra Streisand, Jan and Dean, the 5th Dimension, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Ella Fitzgerald,Frank Zappa, Ricky Nelson, Cher, and Nancy and Frank Sinatra.

The title of the film comes from a name coined by drummer Hal Blaine and the entire Wrecking Crew was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007.  While Phil Spector used the Wrecking Crew to create his wall of sound, I don’t recall seeing him in this documentary. Spector was on trail in 2007 for the 2003 death of actress Lana Clarkson. Spector is currently serving time in a NorCal prison.

Interviews and archival archival footage are intermingled. You can see a shy 16-year-old Cher with the late Sonny Bono (1935-1998). Seeing Dick Clark (1929-2012), made me think it  was a shame this movie didn’t get a wide release until this year. Glen Campbell was one of the Wrecking Crew before he became a solo artist. His segments are almost painful to watch with the recent release of “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me” documentary detailing his last tour as Alzheimer’s.

You have to wonder why this movie didn’t come out earlier, say as late as 2009. With such an incredible soundtrack, the production needed a Kickstarter campaign to cover all the music licensing and production costs.  The 2013 campaign raised over $300,000.

The movie does clearly explain what the life of a freelance musician is like and why one should never marry a musician (insanely long hours). This documentary is a must-see for musicians and music lovers, particularly those interested in rock and roll. It is also of interest to those who too often hear the claim that SoCal and Los Angeles doesn’t have any culture. We created culture and “The Wrecking Crew” is just one aspect of California history.

For some cultural perspective, you might consider also viewing “Muscle Shoals,” a documentary, now available on Netflix which looks at session musicians from about the same time period in a small Alabama town that helped define the sound of American music beginning with people like Aretha Franklin and Etta James as well as the Rolling Stones and Bono.

(Not to be confused with the 1968 Dean Martin and Elke Sommer movie also called “The Wrecking Crew”)

‘Muscle Shoals': How White Musicians Changed the Musical Landscape, Crossing Racial Boundaries

Water. Is there magic in water? Is there magic in the singing Tennessee River near the small town of Muscle Shoals? This documentary looks how white musicians in a small Alabama town became the band that changed the musical landscape and brought America southern soul music with the Muscle Shoals sound produced by The Swampers.

This documentary begins with water, drops hitting a stone, small waves lapping on a rock shore.

“Magic is the world that comes to mind when I think of Muscle Shoals. It’s about alchemy; it’s about turning metal, the iron in the ground, the rust into gold ,” Bono tells us.  “You’re going to listen to the greatest voices that ever were.” He later comments, “It’s like the sound came out of the mud.”

To take us back, the soundtrack gives reminds us of a time when the popular dances included the Pony, the Bony Moronie, the Mash Potato, the Alligator and the Watusi. That would be Wilson Pickett and “Land of 1000 Dances.” Although that song was first recorded by its writer Chris Kenner in 1963, the best-known version is Pickett’s 1966 recording done during his first sessions at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

While Pickett supplied the vocals, Chips Moman and Jimmy Johnson were on guitar, Spooner Oldham on keyboard, Roger Hawkins on drums, Junior Lowe on bass, Charlie Chalmers and Andrew Love on tenor sax, Wayne Jackson on trumpet and Floyd Newman on baritone sax.

Yet it was the Jimmy Hughes 1964 “Steal Away” that signaled the birth of the Muscle Shoals sound.

In this documentary, director Greg “Freddy” Camalier tells us something about what makes Muscle Shoals special. This is the place that Helen Keller lived and first learned the word water. Long before that it was a special place for the Native Americans, the Euchee (also Yuchi). One man, Tom Hendrix,  recounts how his great, great grandmother was taken from these shores and forced to live in what is now Muskogee, OK where the Native Americans, “They couldn’t sing; they couldn’t dance; they couldn’t hold ceremonies.” The man’s great, great grandmother walked back on a journey that took her roughly five years.  In her memory for over 30 years,  Tom Hendrix built a stone wall he calls Ishatea.

Although the area first belonged to the Native Americans, it was dominated by the white population. Racism was an issue outside of the music studios and the musicians and the singers couldn’t necessarily dine together.

The man behind the Muscle Shoals sound was Rick Hall, a white man who grew up bitterly poor, but desperately determined to make something of his life. While some of the musicians feel they weren’t great players individually, they were great players together.

In 1966, Hall helped license Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” to Atlanta Records.  “I used to call them my family,”  Percy Sledge recalls.

Hall wasn’t always easy to get along with. An argument with Aretha Franklin’s husband resulted in a physical altercation with her husband Ted White in 1967.  Yet Hall produced Etta James.


Eventually, four musicians decided to move on, leaving FAME Studios for form their own studio, something Hall viewed as a betrayal.

The foursome–Barry Beckett on keyboards, Roger Hawkins on drums, Jimmy Johnson on guitar and David Hood on bass–formed the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama in 1969. They were the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, but also know as the Swampers.

Beckett (1943-2009) recorded with Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart, Duane Allman and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The other three are  still alive.

Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the acts that was ahead of their time. Hall eventually turned to mainstream pop and produced singers like Donny Osmond. In 1971 Billboard named him Producer of the Year.

A lot of famous names appear to give their opinions including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, Etta James and Alicia Keys.

This documentary gives an interesting perspective on how the integration and infiltration of black singers into the mainstream required a white man who appreciated black music and black musicians who could see beyond black and white. You’ll never be able to listen to “Sweet Home, Alabama” again without thinking about Hall and the men (and women) of Muscle Shoals and the famous artists who went there to record.

‘Tracers’ looks at traceurs in heist mode

Do you love bicycles? Do you love a little bit of risk? I knew more than a few adrenaline junkies when I was much younger, but none of them were leaping off of buildings and tumbling off of cars or playing tag with cars in the mean streets of New York. In other words, parkour was before my time and I never knew bicycle messengers. (California might be a harder territory for bicycle messengers and parkour runs with all of the long stretches of space between cities.) “Tracers” is about how one desperate and deeply in debt bicycle messenger is lured into the parkour world and gives a Twilight Saga alum a chance to be the kind of hero who doesn’t have superpowers.

The movie starts with a meet-cute. Our protagonist guy, Cam (Taylor Lautner who played Jacob Black in the Twilight Saga and Dale in the TV series “Cuckoo”) is dodging city traffic on his bike to make a delivery while four guys are jumping over rooftops. The cyclist and the four-hooded roof hoppers are on a collision course.  One of the hooded dudes ends up being a dudette. She bounces off of a parked car roof (car owners probably hate these people now) and lands in front of a yellow cab. In order to avoid killing her, the cab slides sideways and our boy Cam collides with the car. Up and over, he gets up close and personal with the hooded girl. Is there any way to more literally run into someone?

While the girl says she’s sorry about the bike, apparently this collision doesn’t count as workers comp for Cam and the cabbie doesn’t want to report the accident to his insurance.

“I need more runs,” Cam tells his boss. That won’t be easy without a bicycle.

Cam owes money and this is a multi-racial shake-down. Jerry (Johnny M. Wu) and his  enforcer (Sam Medina) are getting nervous because this is the second time Cam is late with the $1500 he owes them  on the first of each month, every month. He’s just crashed his bike and has no job.

Discouraged, Cam trashes his bike (Never hear of repair or recycle or scavenge?). Riding the bus home, he doesn’t have many prospects, but we’re wondering just what he needed that big hunk of change for. At home, Cam worries about paying rent and fixing up a car, a Pontiac GTO from between 1964-1972.

Cam sleeps in a garage that houses his broken down car. This is one of those super low-budget probably not quite legal rental situations. He’s renting this “room” from Angie (Amirah Vann), a single black mother with a skateboarding young boy (with bright yellow helmet), named Joey (Christian Steel).

Sleeping in the car instead of his cot, he’s awakened the next day to his cellphone ringing. He has a new bike that “his girlfriend” dropped off with a note “ride safe.” Going into work, he then tracks her down and asks her about parkour because she tells him a bike is “a ball and chain.”  What guy can back down from a challenge from a lovely woman? Locking his new bike up, he follows her challenge.

Cam learns if you want to vault the car, you have to look where the car isn’t. He returns for his brand-new bike to find it stolen. He’s again with no bike (and the movie leaves cycling behind). To pay his rent of $550, he sells his tools. And to deliver packages, he begins learning parkour. This is definitely a “do-not-try-at-home” type of movie.

Eventually, he comes to the attention of the gang of four or five. They invite him to their playground and he’s dared to keep up. The girl’s name is Nikki (Marie Avgeropoulos) and she has a brother, Dylan (Rafi Gavron). There’s also Jax (Josh Yadon) and Tate (Luciano Acuna Jr.).

Everyone on board seems to have a record, including Cam who was in juvy for boosting cars. The alpha dog of the gang, Miller know almost too much about Cam, but also not enough. Miller has an uncomfortable relationship with Nikki and Dylan which is not clear at first. We do learn now how this movie gets its name. Parkour is also called freelining and tracing.

According to Miller, they are a team that do work as couriers of sorts. “Want evidence to disappear? Want obstacles to disappear? We do our research, plan as a team, everybody knows there job.” And just what do they take? “Documents, chemicals, technology, anything thing. We don’t take sides.”

Miller has two rules: “If you get in trouble, I’m your first call.” and two, “Stay out of Chinatown, even if you’re off the job.”

We already know that Cam is in big trouble in New York Chinatown which he should but does not reveal to Miller. As it turns out Jerry and Hu work for Chen (Wai Ching Ho). While Cam owes money to Jerry, Jerry owes money to Chen.  Just what was all that money for? Cam’s back story is eventually revealed. Let that be a surprise. Let’s just say it has nothing to do with drugs or gambling. He’s a good kid caught in desperate circumstances.  Jerry puts the pressure on Cam by threatening Angie and her kid Joey. Jerry also takes Cam’s sweet ride and gives it a coat of paint.

Parkour was developed in France in the late 1980s according to Wikipedia. In the next two decades it grew in popularity. The name comes from French naval officer George Hébert’s proposed classic obstacle course, “parcours du combattant” that he taught during World War I and II. David Belle changed the name to parkour. A person who engages in parkour is called a traceur and the title uses the more American spelling: Tracer. Belle and his original group used the name traceur.

This isn’t the first film to feature parkour. The 2006 “Casino Royale,” the 2007 “The Bourne Ultimatum” and the 2010 “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” all have segments of parkour.

“Tracers” focuses more on parkour as a lifestyle choice and a method for a heist movie. The dialogue in this written by committee (Leslie Bohem, Matt Johnson, Kevin Lund and T.J. Scott) isn’t great, but Daniel Benmayor paces the action sequences well and the parkour sequences are believable, both scary and yet you think might be do-able after you’ve watched enough of “American Gladiator.”  The cycling sequences are also worth watching, reminding me of a time when cycling was my form of transportation although I never dodged cars like these guys. CSI, Castle and Law & Order fans might wonder just why there is so little concern for fingerprints but that might be a minor quibble, especially for Twilight Saga fans.






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