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Simi Valley mayor to hold Town Hall meeting

Ventura County Star - Local News - January 29, 2015 - 8:20am

From staff reports

Simi Valley Mayor Bob Huber will hold another one of his regular Town Hall meetings Saturday.

It will be from 10 a.m. to noon in the Community Room of the Simi Valley Town Center, 1551 Simi Town Center Way.

Simi Valley residents can discuss with Huber any issues or concerns they have about the city’s government.

Simi Valley mayor to hold Town Hall meeting

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 29, 2015 - 8:20am

From staff reports

Simi Valley Mayor Bob Huber will hold another one of his regular Town Hall meetings Saturday.

It will be from 10 a.m. to noon in the Community Room of the Simi Valley Town Center, 1551 Simi Town Center Way.

Simi Valley residents can discuss with Huber any issues or concerns they have about the city’s government.

Minority directors still struggling in Hollywood

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 29, 2015 - 6:52am

When director Steve McQueen accepted honors for best director and best picture at last year’s Academy Awards for his film “12 Years a Slave,” many applauded Hollywood for championing diversity. It was a fitting cap to a year that was called the “African-American film renaissance” by some media outlets.

But if you ask people inside the movie business, they’ll tell you it’s still a steep uphill climb for filmmakers of color.

“Hollywood is going to become a dinosaur if it doesn’t open itself up to more minorities,” said director Nailah Jefferson, an African-American woman, in an interview with the Scripps National Desk. “If you’re relying on a major studio, it’s hard to get a black film out there, unless you’re Tyler Perry or something.”

Jefferson’s debut film, “Vanishing Pearls: The Oystermen of Pointe á la Hache,” was released last year. The documentary centers on a small fishing village in Louisiana and its struggles after the 2010 BP oil spill. The 80-minute picture took Jefferson over three years to make.

“The stress came from raising the money and maintaining bills,” she said. “A lot of it is about who you know and sometimes (black directors) don’t know the right people.” Jefferson added that she loved every second of the actual filmmaking process, including editing the film in her mom’s attic and at a coffee shop in her native New Orleans.

Of course scraping together a budget and editing a movie in a closet or attic are practically rites of passage for any independent filmmaker, but ask other industry experts and they’ll tell you it was a minor miracle for “Vanishing Pearls” to have been released at all.

“It’s very tough today for black filmmakers but just as hard for female filmmakers,” said Tanya Kersey, executive director of the Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF). “There are plenty of ladies who aren’t getting through, both black and white.”

Director Nailah Jefferson, pictured in 2014. (Getty Images)

According to Kersey, the HBFF screens more than 100 films from black directors each year, leaving audiences confounded as to why so few of them end up in theaters.

“People walk away astonished wondering where these films come from,” Kersey said.

Kersey has decades of experience in Hollywood. Prior to founding the HBFF in 1998, she created and ran a trade publication called Black Talent News. She said the movie business isn’t run with an anti-black agenda but rather by studio executives who have many benefactors to please.

“I think if you had a black person running a major studio, they would be making the same decisions,” Kersey said. She said corporations — both foreign and domestic — have “certain people they want to see” in movies, often constricting a project’s cast and crew long before a camera ever rolls.

Both Jefferson and Kersey pointed to “Selma” director Ava DuVernay as a triumphant figure in the African-American filmmaking movement. In a landscape where hundreds of minority directors struggle to get a movie released, Kersey called DuVernay “the one who got through” in 2014.

To help black filmmakers get their projects in front of audiences, DuVernay founded the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement, which backed Jefferson’s “Vanishing Pearls.”

Director Ava DuVernay's AFFRM group helps get films by black directors released. (Getty Images)

“It should be all about entertainment and creativity at the end of the day,” Jefferson said, referring to her ideal version of the Hollywood system. “The number of remakes and reboots should tell you we need some new perspectives out there”

Of the 20 highest-grossing movies last year in the United States, only three were original stories not based on previously existing works or characters. Contrasting Jefferson’s view, Kersey estimated that the Hollywood status quo won’t change unless the box office demands it. “It’s up to what the audience wants to see,” she said.

But it’s often not that simple, as even popular black directors have run into issues getting studio support recently. Last year, writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood penned an open letter to the public asking for support of her film “Beyond the Lights,” despite her 2008 film “The Secret Life of Bees” collecting nearly $40 million at the box office.

The Washington Post reported that in 2013, director Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” was passed on by all the major studios because of the implication that “Black casts and films that deal with race don’t resonate with foreign audiences.” “The Butler” went on to earn $176.5 million worldwide.

The 14th HBFF will be in Los Angeles this October. “Vanishing Pearls: The Oystermen of Pointe á la Hache” is now streaming on Netflix.

Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.

Colleen McCullough, Author of ‘The Thorn Birds,’ Dies at 77

NY Times Books - January 29, 2015 - 6:38am
Ms. McCullough’s novel, set against the sweeping panorama of her native Australia, became one of the most-watched mini-series of all time.

A Trove of Vintage Counterculture Photographs Sees the Light of Day

New York Times - California News - January 29, 2015 - 6:00am
“The Family Acid,” debuting at this weekend’s L.A. Art Book Fair, compiles decades’ worth of psychedelic shots and features such figures as Peter Tosh and Ron Kovic.

Fans lament loss of museum's iconic Dippy

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 29, 2015 - 5:47am

LONDON (AP) - Dippy the dinosaur is being retired from London's Natural History Museum - and his fans aren't happy.

The museum announced Thursday that the 85-foot (26-meter) plaster skeleton, which has been on display for more than a century, is to be replaced in the main hall by the skeleton of a blue whale.

Dippy is a plaster replica of a diplodocus, a dinosaur that lived in North America 150 million years ago.

The original was unearthed in Wyoming in 1899 and is housed at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie gave Britain the plaster copy in 1905 after a request from King Edward VII.

Dippy is slated to be replaced in 2017 with a real 83-foot (25-meter) whale skeleton. Natural History Museum director Michael Dixon said the change was part of a 10-year overhaul of the museum, "focusing on the real and authentic."

"Much loved as Dippy is, he's a plaster cast replica of a diplodocus, and one of a number around the world," Dixon said.

The news drew protest from Britons who recalled childhood visits to the museum. Some expressed outrage on Twitter using the hashtag #savedippy, and an online petition called for the dinosaur to be spared.

"Nothing can quite capture the imagination of children in the same way that dinosaurs do," said children's author James Mayhew, whose book "Katie and the Dinosaurs" was inspired by a visit to the museum.

"It's a London landmark," Mayhew said.

The museum said it was looking into the possibility of sending Dippy on tour.

MH370: Search for survivors called off

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 29, 2015 - 5:29am

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been officially declared an "accident" and the search for survivors has been called off, authorities said Thursday.

Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation released a statement that said that all 239 people aboard the Boeing 777 were now presumed dead.

"It is therefore, with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that, on behalf of the government of Malaysia, we officially declare Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident," said Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation. "All 239 of the passengers and crew on board MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives."

The underwater search for wreckage in the Southern Indian Ocean will continue. Malaysia is pursuing criminal charges, according to Reuters.

Rahman acknowledged that the announcement would "be very difficult for the families and loved ones."

The announcement is intended to enable victims' relatives to begin the process of claiming compensation.

The announcement comes more than 10 months after MH370 vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014. 

The plane is believed to have crashed in the South Indian Ocean.

5 things stopping you from saving money

Ventura County Star Top Stories - January 29, 2015 - 4:32am

Spending comes easily to many of us, but learning how to save can help much more in the long run. One reason saving may seem more difficult is all the necessary expenses you incur like rent or mortgage payments and food. You may think you have heard it all before about cutting back spending, but everyday habits and attitudes may be keeping you from reaching your savings goals.

1. Not keeping track

One of the best ways to increase savings is tracking your costs and creating a budget every month. This way, you can see where your money is going and set attainable goals without totally compromising your lifestyle. It’s important to distinguish needs from wants so you can cut back on “extras” if need be.

2. Refusing to cut back

If you are not willing to cut costs to boost your savings, you will likely fail to see consistent growth in your savings. It’s a good idea to break any splurging habits you have (like if you can never stroll through a certain store without spending), create a more frugal budget and search for painless ways to spend less. Some ways to do this — ignore sales, eat out less, consider doing for yourself some of the things you currently pay others to do and switch to generic products. You can unsubscribe from retail emails and change your usual walking route so you aren’t tempted by the book or outfit in the window you pass.

3. Not being prepared

You cannot always predict what will happen to you and the costs you may face. The money you were socking away for savings may end up being swallowed up by an unexpected expense. Having an emergency fund separate from your savings will help insulate your savings goals against whatever may come. Every little bit helps but it’s a good idea to work toward having three to nine months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund. This can help ensure you don’t go into debt when one of these unexpected major expenses arise. The lifetime cost of debt is staggering, and a better credit score can help you lower that cost. You can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see where you stand.

4. Holding too much debt

If your debt load is siphoning your potential savings, you will likely stay in the red for a long time. As soon as you secure a reasonable emergency fund, it’s a good idea to aggressively tackle your debt. Whether you choose to pay off the highest-interest-rate debts first or pay down the smallest balances first, it’s important that you commit to paying it all off. The faster you free yourself of debt, the more money you will free up to meet your savings goals.

5. Making excuses

Last but certainly not least, your attitude may be holding you back from savings. It may be easy to think of reasons holding you back from saving but these are only mental roadblocks getting in the way of a secure financial future. Try to change how you view your fiscal priorities so you can focus on what actually gets you to your goals.

More from Credit.com

The Lifetime Cost of Debt Calculator
5 Steps to Get Control of Your Finances
How to Save Big Without Feeling Deprived

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Fed Flags Midyear Rate Hike---Or Later

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - January 29, 2015 - 3:32am
The Federal Reserve signaled it would keep short-term interest rates near zero at least until midyear, while also setting the stage for tough decisions in the coming weeks about whether it should wait even longer.

Margaret Bloy Graham, ‘Harry the Dirty Dog’ Illustrator, Dies at 94

NY Times Books - January 28, 2015 - 6:10pm
Ms. Graham was best known for the cautionary ablutionary tale from 1956 that remains a staple of childhood.

New Books by Yasmina Reza, Michael Crummey and Megan Mayhew Bergman

NY Times Books - January 28, 2015 - 3:15pm
Boualem Sansal, Magda Szabo, S. M. Hulse, Yasmina Reza, Michael Crummey and Megan Mayhew Bergman publish new books.

Books of The Times: Nick Hornby’s ‘Funny Girl,’ About a 1960s BBC Sitcom Star

NY Times Books - January 28, 2015 - 2:01pm
Nick Hornby’s “Funny Girl” traces a pivotal time in British comedy through the lens of a beauty queen who abandons her title to make her name on TV in the 1960s.

ArtsBeat: Snowed In? Here’s What to Watch, Read or Listen To

NY Times Books - January 28, 2015 - 10:59am
Streaming TV, movies, music and books to help you through a winter storm.

Board Books Roundup

NY Times Books - January 28, 2015 - 10:20am
New picture books include “Sally in the Snow” and “Fox on the Loose!”

By the Book: Kelly Link: By the Book

NY Times Books - January 28, 2015 - 7:00am
The author, most recently, of “Get in Trouble” asks: “Why is the prospect of hosting a dinner party for much-admired living writers so much more terrifying than the idea of hosting the dead?”

Yasmina Reza’s ‘Happy Are the Happy’

NY Times Books - January 28, 2015 - 5:00am
Yasmina Reza’s novel tells interlinked stories of yearning.

‘Gateway to Freedom,’ by Eric Foner

NY Times Books - January 28, 2015 - 5:00am
Mr. Foner, a historian, explores the network of blacks and whites who helped slaves escape to freedom.

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