Hollywood – Martial Arts – And The World Of Hip Hop

Now brewing beer for almost 250 years and served in some 150 countries, Guinness Stout was founded as a family-owned brewery in Dublin, Ireland by Arthur Guinness. Not only is Guinness a top beverage in its own country, but even down in Jamaica the dreads swear by it, serve it up, and sip it down; ice cold, or at room temperature. Lots of big business has come out of ‘Sir Arthur’s’ product, which is known the world over, and spreading…

Truthfully, many affiliations between big business and the music industry have netted fruitful endeavors for all parties involved. And now, a university-level homework assignment: see if you can use a keen eye to find a few more examples of relationships between big business, government, or social organizations with the Rap community. Chances are, there’s probably some right around you; you may not have even been aware of them before. Hint: Take a good look at those motion pictures hitting the big screen. Here’s an interesting scenario for you to sink your teeth into…action!

Celebrity Will Smith laughed his way straight to the bank when many Rap fans wrote “DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince” off as lame. But before ‘the show’ was over, Smith got the starring role on TV sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” which debuted in 1990. The show had a long successful run, and continues running in syndication. Will Smith ‘the rapper’ performed the theme song, while Will Smith ‘the actor’ made sure his Rap music homey Jazzy Jeff was also cast in some shows; but Mr. Smith did not stop there. He went on to star in movies which earned him as much as $10 million a pop. There is no need to mention his list of credits; just go to Blockbuster Video or the Internet and type in the ‘search.’

Finding a need to outdo ‘himself,’ Smith’s fee went from $10 million to 20 big ones, then from 20 large to $25 million per, before he dived into the big ‘M’ and ‘super-sized’ his life by marrying Jada Pinkett. She paved her own way as an impressive actress on shows like “A Different World,” “The Cosby Show,” and in blockbuster films such as “Ali,” “Jason’s Lyric,” “Menace To Society,” “Woo,” “Set It Off,” the “Matrix” spinoffs, “The Nutty Professor,” “Scream 2,” “Collateral,” and who knows what else by now. I heard a rumor that the pair might have to buy a continent to use as a tax shelter. Wow – that’s big enough to get on the Oprah list! Combined, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith account for about two dozen top films of the 20th and now, 21st centuries. And these films usually came with hot music soundtracks, too. This is another example of the deepening relationship between Hollywood and the Rap/Hip-Hop world. For the purpose of fun, let’s call their happy union “Holly-hood.” Watch out–more fun’s on the way!

But hold up and wait a minute: before we dig in any further, let’s pull over at a local Asian restaurant for some grub–we’ll need it for our next stop. My fingers tingle from all this typing action on the laptop, sitting here in the ‘time out’ corner of the classroom. Where’s my Dragon voice recognition program when I need it? At home parked on the desktop computer – what a bummer!

Please note that things have changed with regards to technology, folks. Not only does my voice recognition program type as I talk into a microphone, it’ll read it back to me, too. When my editorial consultant Ms. Melilli (also known as the infamous ‘XoxoJean’) sends e-mails to a friend with a text recognition program, it recognizes her name by saying “Socks-a-Jean.” I’m just happy she likes my smoked turkeys. According to information obtained from my old friend B.Brown of Bar-Red Entertainment, my confidential Author Code Name is: ‘Turkey Smoker of the Stars.’ His mother Ms. Lydia works for the Atlanta Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. Both she and Miss Jean can keep getting the big birds too, as long as their taste buds approve of the transaction.

Data: A new development has just occurred. I heard a growl; my tummy’s empty from tapping into extra neurological cells to use a special, limited resource: my natural ‘superior intellect.’ I guess I owe my nephew Dez a fortune for this term–his invoice may be the death of me yet!

So what’s your taste buds say? Anyone that knows me will tell you I get a little grumpy when I’m hungry. Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Thai, Vietnamese; whatever you want–it’ll be on me. Plus, we’re about to run into a whole bunch of people, and some of them may be hungry too. I’m not feeling like sharing plates today though, hence I’m buying with my per diem money. So go ahead and keep your ‘cream’ (dolla-dolla bills) in your pockets.

According to our itinerary, one colorful group that is listed as being capable of running circles around the proverbial ‘viper’s pit’ has the letters “WTC” engraved in the minds of its constituents. This could mean trouble, ’cause the paperwork says they’re some kinda ‘clan.’ But as long as there’s no “K” up in the mix, I’m good. I wonder if they look alike; you know what some people can say without meeting someone first. Maybe we can all blend in and “just get along” if we’re eating some food representing the region. We’ll be having hot, buttered popcorn for desert, though. (You may see where I’m going with this in a minute – I’ll remind you.) Both Asia and the Far East are known for their delectable dishes and many forms of cultural stimuli. On our next stop, you’ll see that cultures from the Pacific Rim have plenty of interesting offerings with regards to the consumable entertainment they produce, too.

Similar to us westerners, Asian food and entertainment go well together, just like popcorn and movies. One American network calls it “Dinner And A Movie.” Lots of popular flicks include what are known as ‘action movies.’ Many film buffs enjoy action movies about world destruction, extra-terrestrial invasions, espionage, crooked government officials, dirty cops, gun-slinging cliques, posses, gangsters and the mafia; in short, these subjects and characters make up good thematic content for stories about extinction-level events and the underworld. Film buffs take to action films that come loaded with explosions, chase scenes, aerial shots, fight sequences, hand-to-hand-combat, and cutting-edge weapons. I know I do. Speaking of cutting-edge weapons, New York’s Wu Tang Clan uses one as a logo. What appears to be a rounded, sharply bladed, boomerang/disk is actually the “W” in Wu Tang. From looking at the weapon however, I don’t think I’d be likely to wake up some morning with a notion of getting cut by one of those things. Ever.

There are those ‘action movie heads’ who would agree that some pretty exciting films feature martial arts. Back in the 70s, we called them “Kung Fu movies.” After Carl Carlton busted out with the hit song “Kung Fu Fighting,” I built myself a pair of chuck sticks. But after a few displaced pops to the back of the head, I retired them. Alas, my dreams of becoming a ‘Samurai Ninja Martial Arts Fighter’ were shattered; but that was better than having a self-inflicted busted cranium. I went on to other things; mainly, watching martial arts movies. By the way, that minute’s ’bout up. If you know the deal, you can keep on reading. If you don’t know, you might want to ask somebody, get a map, or keep on reading, too. Whatever’s clever!

It’s no secret that cultures like the Chinese have been known for their long-standing empires. They also developed a highly disciplined way to defend their ‘valuable assets’ that were stored in huge, heavily protected fortresses. Martial arts gave fighters an opportunity to go mano-a-mano in sometimes brutal displays of precision and brute strength. This Spanish term is also known as hand-to-hand, head-to-head, one-on-one, and single combat.

Historic teachings show that great forces were often referred to as being god-like. Some were also referenced through vicious man-killing beasts such as lions, tigers and bears. Oh my–did you know that ancient Chinese dynasties developed many institutions or schools of thought and defense? Some were based on a mystical creature known as the dragon. One group that acknowledged “the way of the dragon” broke ground by doing it all. Setting up a great and powerful Hip-Hop dynasty along the way, they’ve been long known for their tight embrace on the discipline of building rock-solid empires. Pioneering Hip-Hop supergroup Wu Tang Clan has built upon their image of being an invincible clan of talented MCs and producers. Chief knob-twister RZA orchestrated the rise of an original, three-man group; an entire planetary movement followed.

Originally synergized through a nucleus composed of RZA, GZA and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the Wu Tang Clan produced sound recordings with themes based on Hong Kong’s martial arts and Samurai movies. Along with references to the Five Percent Nation, strategic moves, chess and other thematic subject matter, the influence of ancient Chinese dynasties flowed through The Clan like a river.

Soon after the original members crunk up the machine, more warriors jumped on board. The Wu Tang Clan ended up with 9 MCS, to qualify for labeling as a Hip-Hop supergroup, just on G.P. (general principle). As a producer, RZA later got a bigger break by acting in, but more importantly, composing music for the soundtrack of Forrest Whitacker’s “Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai” and “Kill Bill, Volume 1.” (I wonder if he can hook me up with Lucy Liu and her friend from the Crazy 88’s.) These movies have some great on-location scenes, and the fighting sequences are just what the doctor ordered. To kick off 2007, Spike TV offered up some new programming content. On New Year’s Eve, they unveiled “Afro Samurai,” featuring Samuel L. Jackson as a ‘superior fighting intellect.’ The great and powerful RZA popped up once again, doing the music. This concoction totally made sense to me, by this point. If you haven’t seen these visual elixirs yet, what are you waiting for, a prescription?

Originating in the Far East, martial arts flicks somehow found a home in the world of American Rap music. It’s no doubt that Bruce Lee is the #1 martial artist to affect the 70s film world. Americans like Chuck “Walker, Texas Ranger” Norris, John Saxon, and Karate-chop brother Jim “Black Belt Jones” Kelly became martial arts film stars; even basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got a piece of the action in Bruce Lee’s personal project, “Game Of Death.” When Lee got offered crazy money to star in the first Hollywood-backed martial arts film (“Enter The Dragon”), he did what any red-blooded entrepreneur would have done: he put the brakes on his project and began production on the new movie.

It became the biggest budget film in this genre’s history, and featured a young Jackie Chan as a stuntman. Bruce Lee’s untimely death, however, closed out an important chapter of martial art’s epic rise to fame, but Rap artists like the Wu Tang Clan used samples from “Enter The Dragon” on their debut album, opening up a whole new episode. Both of Bruce Lee’s final martial arts films went on to spread the word about this growing faction of the movie and music (more simply put: entertainment) industries. Rap artists listened and responded; they would ‘holla back’ in their own unique, urban way.

On TV, David Carradine starred in the long-running, “Kung Fu.” From Belgium, Jean Claude Van Damme made his mark in ‘the arts,’ too. While Jackie Chan headed into a ‘funny-bone’ crushing direction with comedian Chris Tucker in “Rush Hour,” Jet Li got serious with Aaliyah and DMX in “Romeo Must Die” (2000). Li also teamed up again with DMX in “Cradle to the Grave” (2003). A multi-dimensional Jet Li film called “The One” blended sci-fi with martial arts. This would not be the only flick with such a combustible mixture. There’s a long-awaited 2007 film featuring Jet Li and Jackie Chan now being completed. All of these urban-based action movies featured lots of martial arts moves; more were on the way.

Send requests for the conclusion of this story to me anytime.

Top 10 Cooking Schools Around the World

What better way to top off your luxurious travel experience than by joining in the fun at a cooking school, learning to create divine meals using fresh local flavours and traditions? Cooking schools are a popular choice of holiday with a wide variety of choices available. Here are our suggestions for the top 10 cooking schools around the world.

1. Dar Liqama, Morocco

To experience the rich spices of Morocco you can’t get any better than the Dar Liqama in Palmeraie, near Marrakesh. This exotic hotel is a fascinating feature in itself, complete with marble floors, antiques and a terrace to sit and idly watch the amazing view. At the Dar Liqama cooking classes you can learn to prepare traditional fare such as lamb dishes, tagines and almond pastries.

2. Le Baou d’Infer, France

In the beautiful countryside of southern France, Le Baou d’Infer teaches confidence in the kitchen rather than precise technique. Guests here will discover how to create the perfect bouillabaisse, aioli and divine French desserts, along with experimenting with local herbs.

3. Rustic Sicilian, Italy

Italians are well-known to love their fresh food and to love cooking, so it’s no surprise that Italy has countless cooking schools scattered throughout the country. One of the most famous is the Rustic Sicilian. Prepare and savour the most delicious Italian cuisine, just like Mama makes it, using ingredients — including vegetables, herbs, cheese and meat — from the rustic 1000 acre estate.

4. Four Seasons, Thailand

The Four Seasons hotel in Chiang Mai offers excellent cooking classes, lead by head chef Pitak Srichan. In this open hilltop cooking classroom, with view of paddy fields, you can experiment with the unique Thai flavours. Signature dishes you could perfect here include Chiang Mai curry noodle soup with chicken and dry spiced curry with pork and pickled garlic.

5. Samp and Soufflé, South Africa

The Samp and Soufflé is a mobile cooking school that roams around the Cape Town region, offering cooking classes for one day to five days. Guests can even experience preparing and barbecuing an impala on a game reserve along with tasting local wines, cheese, fish and herbs.

6. Ballymaloe Cookery School, Ireland

The Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, is the oldest established private cooking school in all of Ireland. Courses here range from simple demonstrations to small group classes on basic fare to preparing gourmet dinner party cuisine. The school focuses on food that can be obtained direct from the garden.

7. Swinton Park, United Kingdom

The exquisite Swinton Park in North Yorkshire is a castle hotel that is surrounded by 200 acres of pristine park. Your luxury cooking holiday can be combined with activities such as golf, riding and fishing. The famous Swinton Park Cooking School is run by celebrity chef, Rosemary Shrager.

8. Kea Artisanal, Greece

Located near the sea on the superb island of Kea is the home of award-winning cookbook author, Aglaia Kremezi. Surrounded by almond and olive trees and a beautiful vegetable garden guests learn to prepare delicious Mediterranean cuisine from one of the best, with a focus on seafood, octopus and garlic. Sip wine with your meals while taking in the amazing views and nature on this beautiful island.

9. Kerala Cooking Residency, India

The Kerala Cooking Residency is an Indian home surrounded by a bio-organic garden of spices. Guests can enjoy preparing traditional Indian dishes, including breakfasts, lunches and dinners. When you’re not learning about the delicious Indian fare you can indulge in a relaxing Ayurvedic massage.

10. Casa de Sierra Nevada, Mexico

This cooking school is located in a collection of six magnificent mansions from the colonial era, over 6000 feet high in the central highlands of Mexico. Guests here can learn to prepare traditional Mexican meals and sensational margaritas from one of the best Latin America chefs, Sazon.

Whether you prefer the rich flavours of Tuscany, spicy Mexican fare or the heady aroma of Moroccan spices, a luxury cooking holiday makes a perfect getaway at any time of the year.

The New Classroom Technologies Were Out of the World And About to Get Even Better

Stan was a high-school French teacher, he liked to teach, and he was good at it, he’d better be after nearly 15-years. Thankfully, he’d been a teacher that long, as even teachers with 10-12 year tenure had been laid off recently with all the budget cuts, scary stuff. Luckily, he was still working, because he had a daughter who’d cost him a pretty penny in the next 4-6 years. Yes, he enjoyed the world of education, but he also liked being a father, but was somewhat apprehensive of his daughter going away to school in Palo Alto, CA at Stanford University.

That was pretty far away from home, his daughter was not a party type, never did drugs, and she had a knack for computers amongst other things. His daughter was a lot like his wife, sassy, commanding, but smart as a whip, and she had all his attributes as well; hard work ethic, perfectionism, respect for authority, athleticism, and was totally goal oriented, so she’d do fine, which of course, was the “only option” because those student loans would have to be paid back, and daddy wasn’t going to slave away, deplete his savings if his daughter wasn’t serious.

Of course, he wanted his daughter to be able succeed on her own, even if she’d probably find a wealthy Silicon Valley startup millionaire to marry along the way. Although, she wasn’t too into social networking, she certainly could be if Facebook wanted her to intern there next summer. She was leaving all her options open. She loved Apple, and Google, and well, things were beginning to hop again in the Valley at IBM, Intel, as well. Just about everywhere along the 101 corridor, and First Street in San Jose was hiring too.

Meanwhile, across the street from the University, the old Venture Capital crowd was back hanging out, making plans, and yes, making money too. This second life for Silicon Valley was good, in the real world, academic domain, and in the virtual one as well. Stan wished he was in on the next new thing, he very much missed being in on the action, but he was far away from Silicon Valley, and was doing okay, perhaps even living through the eyes of his daughter, wanting her to succeed where he hadn’t. Oh sure, he was successful, for a French Teacher, but he had really hoped for more.

Stan and his wife got their daughter into her dorm room at Stanford and headed back, for Stan school started in less than a week. The school was brand new, built on the same property, just all new buildings. The old ones were still there too. On the new buildings he lamented; “the paint isn’t even dry yet, literally,” as he stopped in at Starbucks after a round of teacher meetings, on-going education, and familiarization with the latest in school technologies. The new school was state-of-the-art, digital blackboards, WiFi enabled, digital text-books, you name it, they had it.

“Wow,” he thought, “this is going to be really cool indeed,” and it was all of that and more as the school year started. It was easier to keep the kids’ attention with all the multi-media, easier to present class lectures, power-points, use the Internet. What a difference. Still, he felt, it was an experienced teacher that would really be able to make use of all this, as it takes teaching experience to make it all work. As he got extremely proficient, half the school year was already over. His daughter couldn’t come home for Spring Break, as she’d taken on a job at IBM as an intern and would be going to orientation over the holiday.

That’s okay Stan thought, he missed his daughter, and so too did his wife, but he was very excited for her success, and now with the new iPhone App, they often text-messaged back-and-forth and did video feed family phone calls too. Turns out his daughter scored so high on the IBM intern tests, they put her on the research team working on Holographic Spectral Imaging, for none other than classroom applications in education, and she’d be working on the testing phase, using the technology. She was so blown away by the technology that she called her dad and asked if he’d like to try it in his French Class?

“Absolument, je veux l’essayer,” he said, and since she was heading up the intern team and they’d decided to try it out in various parts of the country, she made it so. She told her father, “Dad, I don’t know about the rest of the world but IBM is winning the future, I mean they are bringing the future like, des mainenant!”

As her dad was using the system, he made several recommendations, and even re-wrote the manual in French for IBM, which was so impressed they hired him as a part-time consultant at $100,000 per year. Now he was making a difference again in Silicon Valley, bringing the virtual world into the academic world, while planning the future in the real world. IBM donated more gear to his high-school as well, every classroom, and he won “Teacher of the Year” for the entire district, “imagine that,” he thought, “a lowly French teacher.” Stan never lost his sense of humor.

He got with the computer science teacher and they came up with a new scheme, the computer science teacher also got a $100,000 per year consulting contract and four of the kids in each of their classes got partial scholarships to Stanford, with intern opportunities at IBM of course. In fact, IBM named their new virtual teacher assistant, 3D Stanley, a pun on the old “Flat Stanley” 2D avatar, as well as a tribute to Stan.

Stanley 3D was soon teaching French and English all over the world. Some 400 million Chinese Students are learning from English from Stanley, the VR assistant hologram of Stan’s image, in China. In India, there were already 200 million students watching him every day and learning English, and he lost count of the total number of countries learning either French or English from his virtual self, and contributing royalties to IBM and his retirement account, the whole family was smiling now.

At Thanksgiving, his daughter, said, “Dad, I hope you are proud of me, I am working so hard, Stanford is really tough,” and Stan just looked at her and said, “you are greatest daughter in the world, you did good, Je suis fier de vous.”