Rights Law Deepens Political Rifts in North Carolina

12carolina-web1-sub-master675RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina has been pummeled with boycotts, criticism and cancellations in the wake of its new law on gay and transgender rights. Now liberals and conservatives in the state have turned to pummeling one another.

For North Carolina, a state that has long been considered one of the South’s most moderate, the intense reaction to the law, especially from business interests, has provided an ego-bruising moment.

But beyond ego and self-image, the legislation is exacerbating the political divisions in a state almost evenly divided between conservative and liberal forces. The acrimony is certain to play out not just in one of the nation’s most closely contested races for governor but also in the rare Southern state that can be up for grabs in presidential politics.

And while the state has been pilloried from the left, it is not at all clear who will be the ultimate winner in the battle set in motion by the law, which restricts transgender bathroom use and pre-empts local governments from creating their own anti-discrimination policies.

Democrats inside and outside North Carolina have been supported by a number of corporations, and the opposition looms large in a state with a long pro-business tradition.

Over the weekend, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., vowed that the Moral Mondays movement, which flooded the State Capitol with liberal activists in the past to protest the policies of the Republican-controlled legislature, would begin “a campaign of mass sit-ins at the General Assembly.” The protesters plan to take the action if the General Assembly does not repeal the bill before it meets again in regular session on April 25.

But Republicans have been sweepingly dismissive of the fallout. When PayPal said it would cancel its plan to open a global operations center in Charlotte and employ more than 400 people there, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said, “If our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, it was worth it.”

With a New ‘Barbershop,’ Malcolm D. Lee Blends Comedy and Commentary

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — In the 2002 comedy “Barbershop,” the most worrisome problem facing the shop owner Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube) is a duplicitous loan shark who wants to turn the neighborhood fixture into a strip club. Two years later, in “Barbershop 2: Back in Business,” Calvin’s biggest headache is competition frlightbulbom Nappy Cutz, a national franchise opening up across the street that, according to Calvin’s own clients, boasts “honeys in bikinis” serving wine to clients and live fish in the floor that customers can have fried, grilled or “fondued.”

In “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” which opens this week, Calvin’s problems are considerably worse than just evil moneylenders and rival shops. Money is still tight; to make ends meet, he’s sharing space and chairs with a beauty salon run by Angie (Regina Hall). But larger troubles are looming right outside the barbershop’s doors, on the streets of Chicago’s South Side. Kids and cashiers are getting shot over trifles; in one darkly comic scene, the denizens of the shop try to one-up one another over who’s been robbed most often.

“I wanted to do a movie about what’s really going on in Chicago,” Ice Cube explained.

But how does one begin to make a funny movie about gun violence, a devastating problem in Chicago, which has experienced a sharp rise in shootings this year? The “Barbershop” franchise (two movies and a 2005 TV series) has occasionally glanced at serious subjects. When the shop’s elder, Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), poked fun at Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. in the first film, black leaders, including Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, called for a public apology from the studio MGM. But the franchise seemed an unlikely vehicle to address the topic of gun violence on Chicago’s South Side — even if the shop’s location is at ground zero of the conflict.

To take on the challenge — and revive the series after a 12-year hiatus — a producer, Robert Teitel, turned to Malcolm D. Lee, the director of “The Best Man,” the 1999 ensemble movie, and its 2013 sequel, “The Best Man Holiday.” Both films had been box-office hits, and both required Mr. Lee to mesh comic moments with dramatic scenes revolving around topics like infidelity, work woes and cancer. “If you look at the actors that I cast in ‘Best Man,’ Terrence Howard, Harold Perrineau, they’re not comedic actors,” he said. “But they’re great actors who can embody a role and make it funny.”

He had also directed large ensemble casts on both “Best Man” films — handy experience for the latest “Barbershop,” which, at any given moment, might have more than a dozen actors (including Nicki Minaj in a major role) vying for lines in a confined space. “You’re talking about 75 percent of your movie being in one room,” Mr. Lee said. “That’s a lot of time to be in a shop with 15 people in a single scene.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Lee was in a suite at the Beverly Hilton here talking about the challenges of directing “Barbershop: The Next Cut.” In a crisp white T-shirt and black jeans, tall and goateed and (fittingly) freshly shorn, the 46-year-old director might easily be mistaken for one of the dapper, lovelorn characters in his films.

One of Mr. Lee’s main concerns was finding the right balance between humor and drama. “Tone was big,” he said. “I wanted to make sure the emotional spine was right. But I also wanted to make sure we never let the audience forget that they’re in a comedy.”

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Although the film is an ode of sorts to Chicago, with shout-outs to deep dish pizza and Oprah Winfrey, Mr. Lee is a proud New Yorker, born in Queens in 1970 and raised in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “I claim Brooklyn more than anyplace else,” he said. Growing up, he watched a lot of movies. “I was a big John Hughes fan, and I remember seeing those quirky coming-of-age movies where I wasn’t represented. I’d see that little black extra that’s walking by and go, what’s that kid’s story? That’s probably my story.”

As Campaigns Seek Delegates, Ordinary Voters Feel Sidelined

WASHINGTON — When it comes to nominating presidential candidates, it turns out the world’s foremost democracy is not so purely democratic.

For decades, both major parties have used a somewhat convoluted process for picking their nominees, one that involves ordinary voters in only an indirect way. As Americans flock this year to outsider candidates, the kind most hindered by these rules, they are suddenly waking up to this reality. And their confusion and anger are adding another volatile element to an election being waged over questions of fairness and equality.

In Nashville a week ago, supporters of Donald J. Trump accused Republican leaders of trying to stack the state’s delegate slate with people who were anti-Trump. The Trump campaign posted the cellphone number of the state party chairman on Twitter, leading him to be inundated with calls. Several dozen people showed up at the meeting at which delegates were being named, banged on the windows and demanded to be let in.

Backers of Senator Bernie Sanders, bewildered at why he keeps winning states but cannot seem to cut into Hillary Clinton’s delegate count because of her overwhelming lead with “superdelegates,” have used Reddit and Twitter to start an aggressive pressure campaign to flip votes.

Javier Morillo, a member of the Democratic National Committee and a superdelegate from Minnesota, said he discovered his email posted on a website called a “Superdelegate Hit List.”The list had an illustration of a donkey, the party’s symbol, with two crossbow arrows behind its head. “I was a little annoyed,” he said.

In Miami, Cuban Culture, No Passport Required

Just when I thought I’d had enough for one evening, an Afro-Cuban-American gentleman pulled me off the bustling Calle Ocho and into a room jammed with dancers bouncing up and down to the beat of congas. No, this wasn’t a ’90s-style rave; this was the normally unassuming lounge at Top Cigars, a cigar shop in Miami’s Little Havana. I recognized the owner, Cristobal Mena, from an exchange we’d had that morning at a Cuban restaurant across the street about what constitutes a classic Cuban dish. Now, I was hopping in a sea of his patrons on the famous boulevard that is the social and commercial hub of Little Havana.

The occasion was Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays), the last Friday of each month when the storied neighborhood hosts what feels like a block party on Calle Ocho (actually Southwest Eighth Street) between 13th and 17th Avenues. The monthly festival serves as a showcase of what this Cuban-American enclave has to offer. Painters and artisans mingle with the crowds. Music from Latin bands intermixes, and double-decker buses unpack tourists while the smells of arroz con pollo, fried plantains and cafe Cubano drift from restaurants and cafecito windows. As soon as you step onto the street, lined with wide sidewalks and colorful facades, the music fairly insists that either your shoulders or your hips move, not necessarily together.

Here in this adaptation of Havana, where the thrum of the old country persists, proposed zoning changes have led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to place a portion of Little Havana on its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2015.

Review: ‘The Girlfriend Experience’

The Girlfriend Experience” is a show about selling flesh, but its true fetish is for glass.

Set in the law offices, restaurants and pricey hotels of Chicago, this half-hour drama is in love, or lust, with glass-walled dining rooms, translucent office partitions, shimmering skyscraper exteriors. It relishes the gleaming curve of fine stemware; there are more crystal goblets filled with red wine than on “The Good Wife,” “Scandal” and the fourth hour of “Today” put together

That aesthetic — seductive and cool and expensive — captures both the tone and the subject of this icy but intriguing limited series, beginning on Sunday on Starz, about a law student who becomes an elite prostitute. (The full 13-episode series will be available to subscribers the same day, online and on demand.)

“The Girlfriend Experience” is “suggested by” the 2009 Steven Soderbergh film of the same title, but although Mr. Soderbergh is an executive producer, it’s no remake. Mr. Soderbergh’s slice of life was set amid the financial collapse of 2008, with the porn star Sasha Grey as an escort contemplating the next stage of her career. It was a moody, flat-affect film about money having its way even as money was losing its way.

For TV, Mr. Soderbergh handed off the title to the indie filmmakers Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz, who shared writing and directing duties. They’ve kept some of the art house sensibility but reconceived the story as a business-of-pleasure bildungsroman.

Christine Reade, played by Riley Keough (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), starts an internship at a law firm, where she’s quickly caught up in office politics involving two ambitious partners, David (Paul Sparks, “Boardwalk Empire”) and Erin (Mary Lynn Rajskub, “24”). Her law school friend Avery (Kate Lyn Sheil) has taken an alternative career track in the sex trade, specializing in a “girlfriend experience” or “GFE”— the temporary, bespoke semblance of a relationship.

American Crime Story: People vs. O.J. Simpson

Tuesday’s finale of “American Crime Story: The People vs. O. J. Simpson” on FX wrapped up an addictive, multifaceted look at “the trial of the century” and how its lessons on race, gender, celebrity and social class still haunt the country more than 20 year later. It also brought a blessed end to the weekly torments visited upon Christopher Darden, the co-prosecutor who, along with Marcia Clark, fails to convict Mr. Simpson of double homicide in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

[Recap: “The People v. O.J. Simpson” Finale]

As Mr. Darden, the actor Sterling K. Brown has been the agonized face of a sure-thing prosecution gone horribly awry. Mr. Brown exposes the raw emotions of a man whose commitment to justice was answered by setbacks, ridicule and, finally, a “not guilty” verdict after only four hours of deliberation.

Though Mr. Brown has found consistent work in television and film for more than a decade, his performance stands to be the one true breakthrough in a cast loaded with familiar faces. On the weekend before the finale, Mr. Brown chatted on the telephone about Mr. Darden’s terrible poker face and the experience of being part of a water-cooler show. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Turf Dancing From Street To Subway

Published on Dec 22, 2014

The Bay Area may be the birthplace of Uber, but here’s something you’d never see while ride sharing: the mad Turf Dancing skills of iDummy, Slow Motion, C4 Boom, Kidd Strobe, No Noize, Turf Bieber, Torch and Phil Of The Future. Together they are TURF NATION. Watch as they turn BART trains into showcases for their mad skills.

Produced by: Chaz Hubbard, Ike Sriskandarajah
Filmed by: Luis Flores, Chaz Hubbard, Mikey Prizmich
Edited by: Chaz Hubbard, Luis Flores, Denise Tejada
Audio Mixed by: Luis Flores

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