Tuesday, January 28, 2014

AB.com State Of The Union Open Mic.

You'll watch it. You'll have opinions. You should leave them here.

Question: What did you think of the POTUS SOTU speech? Did you know State Of The Union was a pretty awesome underground hip-hop club on U Street (DC) in the mid 90's?

Low Cost Cigars That Will Make You Feel Like a King.

Whether you just recently had your first cigar or have been enjoying them for years, everyone can appreciate the feeling of sitting down with your friends for a night of good conversation, drinks and flavorful puffs of smoke. Made of dried, fermented and tightly bundled tobacco leaves, they are a great way to relax and feel luxurious. Cigars can be expensive and, for some budding enthusiasts, a stick that sets them back $15-20 or more is just not an option with available resources. Of course, many of us are aware of the options often sold at convenient stores that cost only a buck and feel like a downright chore to smoke. Luckily, there are plenty of options that gracefully walk the line so they are both reasonably priced and pleasantly spiced. Below we will highlight some of these low cost cigars that will make you feel like a king!

Cohiba (Dominican Republic) – For those of you living in the US, the Dominican Republic variety of Cohiba brand cigars is all you know. This Dominican Brand is owned by the General Cigar Company, whereas Cohiba branded cigars made in the island nation of Cuba are banned from import into the United States due to the embargo. For traditionalist, the self-titled “Cohiba” cigar is the name sake of the company and is sure to please with its Dominican filler, Cameroon wrapper and Jember binder. For the cigar purist, the “Puro Dominicana” offers up a distinct Dominican wrapper, binding, and filler. For something a little more exotic the Cohiba XV is sure to deliver.

Macanudo (Dominican Republic) – Nearly everyone who enjoys the experience of a good cigar has heard of this iconic brand. With a history dating back to 1968, this Dominican company has been offering reasonably priced, quality cigars to the U.S. market for decades. With its light Connecticut shade wrapper and Mexican San Andrean binder, the Macanudo CafĂ© is a classic and smooth choice, with a mild flavor. This is a great choice for anyone that is new to the cigar world. For a more medium bodied experience the Macanudo Robusto might be a good choice. This cigar lives up to its namesake and offers a Havana Seed wrap along with filler blended from Mexican and Dominican tobacco.

Montecristo (Dominican Republic) – Just as with Cohiba, Montecristo also has both a Cuban and Dominican variant. The Dominican Montecristo is owned by the Franco-Spanish company Altadis. The Montecristo Classic is the namesake cigar and boasts all Dominican filler and binding with a select Connecticut wrapper. The Montecristo White is an excellent choice for a smooth and subtle experience with a filler blended from Dominican and Nicaraguan tobacco, a Nicaraguan binder, and an Ecuadorian Connecticut shade wrapper. The Montecristo Yellow line is a mild cigar that any smoker will want to keep around.

Acid by Drew Estate (Dominican Republic) – If the other three cigar companies listed are the stalwarts in the American Cigar world, the Acid line by Drew Estate is the edgy (relative) new-comer. Drew Estate claims to utilize newer and revolutionary curing and blending techniques to produce their Acid Line. The small cigar simply dubbed “Blondie” has a light Connecticut Wrap and is slightly sweet. For a medium bodies smoke, the fat robust shaped Kuba Kuba with its Sumatra wrapper is an excellent choice. The Acid Toast, which has a deep maduro wrapper offers a richer experience with a deep tobacco flavor. Acid also offers a line of cigarillo, ACID crush, which allows anyone to enjoy the full flavors of the larger cigars in a quicker experience. The ACID crush cigars are offered in 10-pack tins which also lend themselves to travel.

Each of these cigars would be a great pick for the smoker that is on a budget. If you are interested in purchasing a Cohiba or any of the other brands mentioned, make sure to visit your local tobacco shop or browse online with cigar shops like JRCigars.com. Keep in mind that not every great cigar costs an arm and a leg, so find one that fits your needs and enjoy.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Columbia Mall Shooting: The Black Guy Did It.

This story is still unfolding, and it only gets eerier by the moment. This happened at a mall my family frequents, in a town just to the north of mine, and the deceased suspect grew up not far from my neighborhood. None of this adds up, it's all strange, it's all scary, and it's all going to happen again.
Darion Marcus Aguilar liked cooking shows. He wanted to be a chef. He liked to spend summer afternoons at the Martin Luther King Jr. Swim Center in Silver Spring. Harmless. That’s what his friends say. Unremarkable.

He has no criminal record that police or online court records can turn up. He’s had no contact with Maryland’s mental health system that authorities have found, law enforcement officials said.

But on Saturday, Aguilar, 19, who graduated from James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring in June, shot and killed two people and himself at a skateboarding and surfing clothing store at the Mall in Columbia.

Aguilar’s friends are trying to figure out what they missed or whether they should have seen the violence coming.

Police also are trying to figure out why Aguilar walked into the Zumiez store, pulled a shotgun and killed two employees: Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25. He then killed himself in the store, never going back out into the mall or threatening anyone else, even though he was laden with ammunition. Authorities said they have found no connection between Aguilar and the people he shot.

Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon said at a news conference Sunday night that authorities had discovered a journal in a search of the College Park home Aguilar shared with his mother. McMahon said the teenager had written about his “general unhappiness” in life.

Aguilar’s parents, who do not appear to live together, declined to comment by hanging up or did not return calls. No one was at his house. Neighbors in Aguilar’s College Park community said they knew little to nothing about him or his living circumstances. On Sunday, after authorities released his name, reporters swarmed to his family’s white two-story home with green shutters, where a Christmas wreath still hangs on the front door and the welcome mat reads “Bless this Home.”

Police searched the home Saturday, and one official said they took the journal, computers and ammunition, among other items. McMahon said investigators are still going through the journal and computer files.

Aguilar had attended schools in Anne Arundel County before going to Blake. After high school, he was admitted to Montgomery College but did not attend.
I don't have much to add to this, but I'd like to know your comments and thoughts.

Question: What do you make of this? How can such incidents be prevented, when there are few, if any, warning signs?

The AB.Com Post-Grammy Open Mic.

Yeah, I watched it. So did you. Here's a few very random observations. Add yours below.

Social Activism Disguised As An Awards Show - I'm for marriage equality. I voted for it. If you want to join the ranks of the married, you're more than willing to take the same 50/50 chance the rest of us are. That said, when I tune into a music awards show, I expect music and awards. Not a mass wedding ceremony president over by Bishop Dana Owens, and fiftyeleven songs about alternate lifestyles. There is such a thing as too much, and last night was too damn much. Enough already. And yes, I understand that given who runs Hollywood and the music industry, this was the perfect time for such ceremonies. I get all that. Still, just too much. Stop it.

Wacklemore Wins Everything - I'm no fan of Macklemore and his oddly mute partner Ryan Lewis. I do understand their appeal. They make catchy pop tunes. They're cleancut. They made that really lame, but really timely "Same Love" song. They more or less ran 2013, and they deserved some acknowledgement for that. But seriously: best Rap Album? Are you f*ckin' kidding me?

Kendrick Won, Even If He Lost - With the exception of a pretty good musical performance, 2013's most talented breakout artist won nothing, but won everything. What he didn't gain in awards, he more than gained in name/face recognition. And in the entertainment world, that currency matters more than anything.

Are The Beattles Gods Or Something? - Look, I grew up with a father with some ecclectic listening habits, so I'm well versed in all things Beattles. I acknowledge their artistry and contributions to the world of music. Still, people treat Paul and Ringo like they here's to forgive us of all our sins. Reality is, they're just two supremely talented guys that haven't made a good new song since the Carter Administration. The truth hurts. Own it.

Beyonce And Jay-Z - I didn't see much of this performance, but my wife did and kept talking about how sloppy/unpolished this was. What did ya'll think?

I Actually Like Taylor Swift Now - No, I don't like her music. And no, I'm not picking on her for thinking she won an award that she actually didn't. I like her because she seemed to be the only person in the entire building actually having fun, appreciating the musical acts, and generally appreciating what she was experiencing. Call that whatever you want, but I like it.

I Don't Like Lordes - No need to lie, I hadn't heard "Royals" before last night, and I think it's a terrible overhyped song. What's so great about it? Real talk, I didn't know 90% of the songs, or artists last night? I was just tuned in for the latest Miley Cyrus trainwreck, which oddly didn't even materialize.

Question: I know you watched it. What did you think?

Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK Day Open Mic.

Have at it...

Ashy Or Classy?!? Richard Sherman's Postgame Interview.

I didn't catch much of yesterday's NFL games, but of course what happened after the Seahawks/49ers game is arguably more newsworthy than the outcome itself.
Richard Sherman didn't go into details about what happened, but somewhere during the offseason he felt slighted by San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree.

It made his final play of Sunday's NFC championship game that much more special for Seattle's All-Pro cornerback. It was one of the few moments that San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to challenge Sherman, trying to find Crabtree on a throw to the end zone in the final minute.

And Sherman was up to the challenge, deflecting the pass into the air long enough for teammate Malcolm Smith to race over and intercept the pass to clinch Seattle's 23-17 win and the second Super Bowl trip in franchise history.

"I think everybody in the stadium was surprised," Sherman said. "You throw that, that's just a mistake."

Sherman stole the spotlight of the NFC title game between his athletic deflection, his taunting of Crabtree that followed and his television rant on the field after Russell Wilson took a knee to run off the final seconds.

While Smith was celebrating the interception, Sherman exchanged words with Crabtree, got shoved in the face as a rebuttal then made a choking gesture toward the San Francisco bench that he said was intended for Kaepernick.

Sherman ran over to Crabtree and gave him a pat on the backside, then appeared to extend his arm for a handshake. Instead, Sherman got shoved in the face before picking up his personal foul as his celebration continued.

Asked about the incident afterward by Fox reporter Erin Andrews, Sherman lit up Twitter with a rant that began: "I'm the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you gonna get. Don't you ever talk about me!"

Sherman didn't back down even after getting some time to collect his thoughts. He apologized to Andrews, then proceeded to call Crabtree "mediocre," making sure to annunciate each syllable of the word.

"I was making sure everybody knew Crabtree was a mediocre receiver," Sherman said. "And when you try the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver that's what happens."

It was a fiery, emotional rant from Sherman, who celebrated his first conference title by racing around the field after Wilson took the final knee, then leaping into the first row of seats in the south end zone to celebrate with fans.
Here's the video.



Since the interview (obviously) has gone viral, lots of people have (predictably) pelted Sherman with racist comments, questioning his intelligence and class. I personally found it rather hilarious.

We always complain about pro athletes speaking in cliches and granting interview after interview in which they say absolutely nothing. And here's a guy, just moments after probably his greatest professional accomplishment, speaking frankly and honestly, and people absolutely hate him for it.

Could Sherman have been a bit more tactful? Sure. But I'm gonna label this one Classy. Because tactful is boring. And a guy who does sh*t like this sorta deserves to be called out.

Question: Ashy Or Classy?!? Was this merely an athlete emoting in the heat of the moment, or a classless ignorant thug?

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Devil Baby Attack Prank.

I watch a lot of horror movies, usually within the comfy confines of my own home. So I probably won't be seeing "Devil's Due" anytime soon, but I gotta admit, this is a darn clever way to virally market your movie. Of course, 99% of people who watch this probably think the movie's called "Devil's Baby", so....



Bonus, here's a similar viral prank for 387th remake of the movie "Carrie" a few months ago.[1]



Question: How do you think you'd respond to this prank?!?

[1] I'm not 100% sure the participants (including the "customers") in this one aren't all actors. They all just look a bit too "polished". Maybe that's just me.

Monday, January 13, 2014

AB.com Monday NewsBriefs.

The blog will be back to normal soon. Here's a few stories that might interest you.
Father pays overpaying outstanding child support, gets jail time [FoxHouston] - Read this one fully before commenting, please.

Swearing toddler in 'thug' video taken into protective custody [CNN] - I'll reserve judgement on this one for now.

Federal auditors launch inquiry into $23M Christie-approved ad contract [WashPost] - I thought Christie's presser last week was terribly defensive and deflected any personal responsibility. That said, from a damage control standpoint, it was spot on. It addressed the story and changed the narrative, even if only momentarily. For Big C.H.R.I.S. to emphatically say he had nothing to do with this was a ballsy statement that will deep six his career should the ongoing investigation prove otherwise.

'12 Years A Slave' Wins Best Picture Drama At 2014 Golden Globe Awards [HuffPost] - I have 3 young kids, which is a nice way of saying I don't see any movies until about 6 months after release. That said, I'm happy to see this movie win the Golden Globe, and hope it spurs more substantive movies about the black experience. On a somewhat unrelated note, Tyler Perry's last few movies have tanked at the box office. Coincidence? Ionno.
Question: What's on your mind today? Drop some links, start a convo.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fear Of A Black Football Coach: Charlie Strong Gets The UT Job And Someone's Not Happy.

In what's turning out to be a darn good week for black people in general, the college football season culminated with a thrilling BCS title game last night. The game was notable because both Auburn and Florida State started black QB's. It's hard to believe that not long ago, college teams wouldn't even consider putting a black guy behind center because it was widely assumed that they weren't "smart" enough to make decisions. Oddly, the same logic was once employed to prevent black coaches from assuming the helm of non-HBCU teams. Sure, we could coach positions, maybe run a defense, but lead the whole damn team? No way.

Thanks to some aggressive lobbying, black coaches have finally gotten a handful of head jobs at major colleges. Charlie Strong, who just jumped from Louisville to the University of Texas is the latest such example. But not everyone's happy.
Longtime booster Red McCombs is not a fan of Texas' decision to hire coach Charlie Strong away from Louisville, calling it a "kick in the face" during a radio interview Monday.

The hiring of Charlie Strong, Texas' first African-American head football coach, is critical to the growth of the sport and our culture, writes Jean-Jacques Taylor. Column

"I think the whole thing is a bit sideways," McCombs said of the selection process during an interview with ESPN 1250 San Antonio. "I don't have any doubt that Charlie is a fine coach. I think he would make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator.

"But I don't believe [he belongs at] what should be one of the three most powerful university programs in the world right now at UT-Austin. I don't think it adds up."

McCombs, the former owner of the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Vikings and co-founder of Clear Channel Communications, said on "The Blitz with Dat Nguyen and Jason Minnix" that he was stunned to learn Strong was the choice to replace Mack Brown.

He publicly lobbied last week for Texas to hire former NFL coach and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden.

"I think it is a kick in the face," McCombs said. "Beyond the fact of what actually happened. We have boosters that have a lot of knowledge about the game. When we decided to go get Mack -- from the time we decided to go get Mack to about 30 hours later to have a press conference here and it was done -- we had a lot of input before we went after him.

"So I don't know what the big rush was. I was kind of pleased that [Texas athletic director Steve] Patterson already said that he'd like to get it done in the middle of January. That seemed logical to me. I'm a team player, but I think they went about it wrong and made the selection wrong."

Texas named its McCombs School of Business after the benefactor, and he has a statue inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. McCombs has donated more than $100 million to UT and is a close friend to Brown.

McCombs said he was certain Patterson couldn't go wrong on the hire during an interview with the San Antonio Express-News last week.

"I don't see how they can miss," McCombs told the paper. "They can get anyone they want. They can close their eyes and go 'Eeny-meeny-miny-moe' and end up with someone good."
I don't know exactly how to read this. McCombs, on the surface, comes across as a little butthurt about not having any input into the decision to hire Strong. If I cut a check for a cool $100M, I'd prolly want some say-so as well. It's also clear McCombs didn't like seeing his buddy, recently fired Mack Brown, to leave. He's also got some weird wet dream for John Gruden, but we all know that's never happening.

Still, I can't hate but notice this line:
"I think the whole thing is a bit sideways," McCombs said of the selection process during an interview with ESPN 1250 San Antonio. "I don't have any doubt that Charlie is a fine coach. I think he would make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator. But I don't believe [he belongs at] what should be one of the three most powerful university programs in the world right now at UT-Austin. I don't think it adds up."
Strong, it should be noted, took a UofL program from garbage to relevance, just won a huge bowl game, and was a hot prospect. Texas made the move to hire him quickly, and despite what some critics think, I think he's a good fit.

That doesn't matter, because qualifications be damned, McCombs just didn't think Strong was "ready".

Hmmmm, where have we heard that before?!?

Question: What do you think about this? Is Strong "ready"? How much more "ready" does one need to be?

Meet Sasheer Zamata, The Sista SNL (Finally) Just Hired.

I guess we can finally stick a fork in this one. After years!!!! months of ignoring public pressure, most notably from its only two current black castmembers, Saturday Night Live finally did the right thing and hired a sista. She will join the cast in a few weeks, and yes, she is funny.
“Saturday Night Live” concluded its search for a black female cast member on Monday when it hired Sasheer Zamata, a young sketch comedian who has been performing in the New York area for the last four years.

The selection of Ms. Zamata came at the conclusion of what amounted to a midseason talent search by “S.N.L.,” which had been criticized for what was described as a glaring omission in the show’s cast.

Ms. Zamata will be what the show calls a “featured player,” the conventional post for new cast members. She is scheduled to make her first appearance on Jan. 18, the next new edition of the show. (It will be hosted by the singer Drake.) The news of Ms. Zamata’s hiring was first posted by the Deadline Hollywood website.

Ms. Zamata, who is 27, is from Indianapolis and attended the University of Virginia. She came to New York in 2009 and began working with the improvisational group Upright Citizens Brigade.

She has performed stand-up comedy in New York and around the country and has also appeared in online videos for sites like College Humor. She has appeared in sketches on the Comedy Central series “Inside Amy Schumer” and “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell” on FX.

The addition of Ms. Zamata will bring the current cast of “S.N.L.” to 17 players, seven of them women.
If you're not familiar with Ms. Zamata's brand of comedy, get familiar. She's funny, versatile, can write as well as act, and I thinks she could be a breakout star on SNL if given good material. Again, that's a huge if.

The truly odd thing here is that Zamata's hiring flies completely in the face of SNL Head Lorne Michaels' prior assertion that SNL simply couldn't find any black women that met their criteria. While I'll admit I hadn't heard of Ms. Zamata before now, it's insane for Michaels to make his statement given the fact that Ms. Zamata was a member of UCB (which is essentially SNL's talent incubator) and has been in New York for damn near 5 years. Seriously, how hard would it have been to find this clearly qualified woman? Black women can run Ivy League universities and Fortune 500 companies, but you can't find one who can read jokes off a cue card? Really?

In a strange way, this whole story is eerily reminiscent of the very same excuses we hear when corporations don't hire people of color. If you value something, you invest the time and energy in cultivating it. Any company that wants black talent simply needs to go where it exists. In this case, Zamata was in all the right places and had all the right contacts. SNL clearly didn't hire her (or anyone else similarly qualified) because they simply didn't want to.

So props to Jay Pharoah for putting his neck on the line and going public with his (then) controversial comments about SNL. And props to Keenan Thompson, whose "they aren't ready" comment was taken waaaay out of context, for also weighing in on the matter and refusing to dress up as a woman anymore. Those guys both put their necks on the line to make this happen, and that, probably more than any other factor, is why SNL is finally balancing out their roster a bit. Too bad they pissed away 5 perfectly good years of Michelle Obama sketches in the interim. But I digress.

I'm sure plenty of people are now gonna complain that SNL needs to hire a Hispanic woman, an Asian male, and a bisexual Eastern European hermaphrodite. And on all accounts (does that 3rd one exist?) I would agree. Michaels doesn't really care about ratings, and he doesn't have to because the show is an American institution and will air as long as it wants. But if Michaels cares about comedy, he'd realize that a more diverse cast (and writing room) gives the show more limitless comedic potential. Which could presumably mean a better show and better ratings. So there's that.

In any event, congrats to Mr. Zamata, whose celebration might be shortlived. Let's face it: 75% of America is convinced she was only hired because she's black. Not because she had the exact same (or better) pedigree as the rest of the current cast. The minute she flubs a cue card, the criticism is on the way. To succeed, she's gonna need to be the Lebron James of sketch comedy.

And in a strange way, those of us who work daily in a workplace in which we haven't traditionally succeeded know exactly how that feels.

Best of luck, Ms. Zamata. Something tells me you'll do just fine.

Question: Did SNL bow to public pressure or merely hire someone qualified for the job in the first damn place? Do you see any parallels between this story and the affirmative action battle that goes on in corporations every day?

The Polar Vortex Has Taken Over.

It's cold out there. How cold is it?!?
Americans in two dozen states from the Midwest to the Southeast and Northeast are shivering this week courtesy of a distorted polar vortex. The rush of cold air it's sending southward is the biggest visitor from the North Pole since Santa Claus. The gifts it brings, however, are chilling and generally unwelcome. Much of the United States has plunged into a deep freeze from record low temperatures.

The polar vortex, as it sounds, is circulation of strong, upper-level winds that normally surround the northern pole in a counterclockwise direction -- a polar low-pressure system. These winds tend to keep the bitter cold air locked in the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It is not a single storm. On occasion, this vortex can become distorted and dip much farther south than you would normally find it, allowing cold air to spill southward.

The upper-level winds that make up the polar vortex change in intensity from time to time. When those winds decrease significantly, it can allow the vortex to become distorted, and the result is a jet stream that plunges deep into southern latitudes, bringing the cold, dense Arctic air spilling down with it. This oscillation is known as the Arctic Oscillation and it can switch from a positive phase to negative phase a few times per year. This oscillation -- namely the negative phase where the polar winds are weaker -- tends to lead to major cold air outbreaks in one or more regions of the planet.

The polar vortex can lead to major cold air outbreaks in any portion of the Northern Hemisphere -- North America, Europe and Asia. This will lead to cold snaps in multiple locations, though not always.
Polar Vortex would make an awesome SyFy flick. Eff' a Snarknado.

It was 45 degrees in suburban DC when I woke up yesterday. Today, it's 9. Nine!

Sadly, it's not cold enough to try this.



#Science

Question: How cold is it where you live? Do you despise people who complain about how cold it is in the winter, or is that just met?

Friday, January 3, 2014

AB.com Friday NewsBriefs.

So yeah, he sorta got hit with a blizzard yesterday. Digging out, so ya'll play nicely. Here's a few stories that might interest you.
Strong winter storm pushes into the Northeast [WashPost]

Missing Doctor's Video Raises More Questions About Teleka Patrick [ABC News]

'Wanted' Banker Who Faked His Suicide Captured After Cops Stop Him For Tinted Windows [Yahoo!]

New report says 4.7-inch and 5.7-inch iPhones both coming this year [Yahoo!]

With Teams Unable To Sell Out, NFL extends Playoff ticket-sale deadlines [ESPN]

Fox Airs Inaccurate Report on Media-Fueled ‘Knockout Game’ Hate Crime Against Elderly Black Man [Mediaite]
Question: What's on your mind today? Drop some links, start a convo.