Author Archives: Lisa

Posts: 15 (archived below)
Comments: 16

About Lisa

As editor for the Weissman Center, Lisa received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Creative Writing from Baruch College in June 2011. She co-founded the school's sole creative writing club, Writers' Society in 2010. When not working on the blog, Lisa explores interest in local reporting. She has interned at Bronxnet, the New York Daily News, and the L Magazine.

Realizing a Dream

“It was all a dream…” Notorious B.I.G. begins his iconic song, “Juicy,” an homage to the hip hop American dream – something Manuel Silva would like to achieve someday soon.

Weaving unconventional sounds with fresh beats (he recently captured an audio recording of children playing in a park for a song) and thought-provoking lyrics, Silva strives to create original content that is as euphonious as it is meaningful. Penning socially conscious lyrics and matching them with his crafted beats, he still hopes to maintain the delicate balance between sending a message and sounding preachy. “I want [my music] to sound good so people don’t say ‘I don’t want to listen to this guy, he’s too positive’,”he jokes.


The humble 21-year-old Baruch junior has been writing songs since the age of eight. Growing up in a poor community in Far Rockaway, Queens, rap and hip hop was a predominant feature of the neighborhood culture.

Silva released his first project when he was in the ninth grade. He hesitates to say it was outright terrible, but notes that a girl from his high school threatened to have her brother shoot him if he continued to make music.

Despite this, he continued and about two years ago became even more proactive about his future in hip hop. “It’s a career people can do. You can make money and you can make a living off of it,” he says. For his most recent project, The Dopeness Part II,  Silva invested money in a professional studio and is currently searching for a manager.

Sunshine by Manuel Silva

He had his first big break last October when he decided on a whim to enter a showcase hosted by Hot 97’s Monse.  Beating out 22 artists from around the city, he won a media blast of one of his songs, a professional photo shoot, studio time, and a meeting with Bad Boy Records. However, after a series of miscommunications, all Silva reaped from the contest was the media blast of a song he admits wasn’t his best work. He didn’t let this put a damper on his creativity, though.

Currently, he’s focusing on building a fan base by performing shows around the city and connecting with other artists, such as Scribe the Verbalist who is featured on one of the songs on The Dopeness Part II.

In preparing for his next project, Silva wants to increase his mainstream appeal by tinkering with commercial sounds and incorporating new subject matter. While a lot of his previous work has been about love or other personal issues, he hopes to experiment with fiction and fantasy (“like dragons and unicorns,” he says). He hopes to include influences from indie rock, digital sounds, and sampling.  Silva wants to give the project a summer-like feel and include vivid imagery, while still keeping true to his hop hop roots and fan base.  He feels that with all of the changes in hip hop music brought on by artists like Drake, experimentation and genre-mixing is more encouraged and accepted.

However, Silva doesn’t just create music, he has a strong appreciation of art as well. His blog serves as a platform for all of his forms of expression. He recently took up photography, which is clear from the number of vibrant pictures adorning the site. His goal is to get into film. Silva considers himself “an idea man,” something that is evident in his versatility.

While his main concern is funding his projects, he hopes to continue building his fan base and getting his music out there so that it “spreads like a virus.” With his determination and the quality of his work, he may very well be on his way.




Posted in Music | 3 Comments

The REEL World Says Goodbye

Five enthusiastic individuals joined forces three months ago to form The REEL World, embarking on a journey to explore film, food, and music.

The road was not always easy and not everyone made it to the end, but for the rest of us survivors, we have become immersed in the world of blogging.

We would like to thank the many visitors who provided us with honest advice and knowledge about the blogosphere along our trek.

With our blogs, we hope to have provided new insight to the cultural scene of New York City.

“What happens next?”

“I’m not sure exactly. But this world is ours now. It’s what we make of it.”     – 9 (2009)


Posted in Who We Are | 4 Comments

MVP, Still a ‘Baadasssss’

Melvin Van Peebles is cooler than your grandfather.

Case in point, the controversial 78 year old singer/director/actor/writer still regularly performs with his band, cheekily named Laxative (because, according to their Facebook page, “they’re a crew of musicians who make sh** happen and get sh** done”).

The show opened with a masterful  jazz-funk cover of the song “Won’t Bleed Me” from Van Peebles’ notable 1971 Blaxploitation film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.  Armed with a large book, literally of Biblical proportions, Van Peebles took the stage.

Laxative provided smooth (pun slightly intended) background music complimentary to Van Peebles’ contrasting raspy vocals. Using a sprechgesang style of performing, each song was like an intimate storytelling session with a respected elder.

Encouraging audience participation and often referring to his band members as “brothers and sisters,” Van Peebles created a sense of community while sharing songs about relatable struggles such as heartbreak and financial hardships. The venue, Zebulon, instantly transformed from a standard Williamsburg bar into what felt like an intimate gathering in someone’s living room.

Though Earth, Wind, and Fire famously performed the soundtrack for Sweetback, Laxative does not possess their same finesse. While including a similar fusion of funk, soul, and blues, the band is more subtle and consists of a calculated roughness.

Performing regularly at local venues such as Zebulon, Laxative also plays internationally, having recently done a show in Paris in February. The audience consisted  mostly of 30-somethings and hipsters who just happened to stroll into the bar.

During intermission, Van Peebles mingled with members of the audience and his girlfriend, who, he joked on stage, was not his niece, but his “squeeze”.

A true character, Melvin Van Peebles himself is almost more entertaining than the band’s music.

During one of the songs, the band crooned, “We’re all just actors in life’s play” and going to see Laxative is like being a part of an underrated off-Broadway play- unexpectedly fun and entertaining.


Posted in Music, music reviews | 2 Comments

Making Classics

Can you see yourself at 50 willingly listening to a Soulja Boy song? I hope not.

They don’t make ’em like they used to – music, that is.  I grew up sitting in the backseat of my mother’s Buick singing along to The O’Jays, The Delfonics, and Earth, Wind, and Fire – all which currently reside on my ipod.

I’ve always wondered if there was an exact formula to determine how much time must go by in order for something to be considered an ‘oldie’. I wondered what those oldies might be. Will I want to listen to 50 Cent or Spice Girls twenty years down the line? (The answer is only “In Da Club” and yes, any Spice Girls song.)

However, I can’t help but grimace when I hear the music that my 14 year old sister listens to – Justin Bieber, Big Time Rush, or…well, I can’t even think of a third act, which proves how forgettable they all are. Today’s musicians are more caught up with catchy beats and superficial lyrics. Everyone was in an uproar over Rebecca Black’s simple minded lyrics, but this trend has been going on for years.

The quality of songwriting has decreased tremendously and music lovers are the ones who suffer. Music artists should strive to be memorable and create songs that are not only catchy, but meaningful as well.

All hope is not lost, though. Artists like Aloe Blacc and Miguel seem to still know the value of selecting crafted songs.

We’re all entitled to listen to a song with uninspired lyrics for the sole purpose of enjoying the rhythm, but for musicians, this should never be the norm.  Anyone can be a one hit wonder, but isn’t it worth more to be remembered 50 years later?

Posted in Music, Music Rant/ love song | 5 Comments

Lotus Flower Opens Up a Psychedelic World

Radiohead’s laidback ambient single, “Lotus Flower”  is an infectious journey though a psychedelic realm.  Maracas and layers of different sound effects coupled with Thom York’s falsetto crooning create a depth unique and true to the band’s former songs.  York writhes throughout an empty studio like Charlie Chaplin on Ecstacy in the minimalist music video for the single. But is there any other way to move to a song this catchy and bizarre?

Posted in Independent Film | Comments Off on Lotus Flower Opens Up a Psychedelic World

Bass Overpowers Pearl

The bass pumping beat and screeching guitars of Tamar Kali’s “Pearl” remix featuring Jean Grae features strong and powerful vocals to a danceable beat. What the songs is about, however, I couldn’t tell you. Tamar Kali’s evocative voice sounds great, but the beat is too strong to make out any of the lyrics. Jean Grae’s unfortunately brief appearance on the song made me want to hear more of her quick-spitting lines.

Posted in Independent Film | Comments Off on Bass Overpowers Pearl

PeaceLove: A Small Cafe with a lot of Soul

It’s Friday night in the Melrose section of the Bronx and the smooth sounds of jazz music spill out onto the sidewalk at the corner of 151st St. and Melrose Ave.  No, it’s not 1920, this is what every Friday night sounds like at PeaceLove Cafe.

Few people would think that one of the poorest communities in the country would be the perfect location for an organic cafe, but Darada David isn’t one of them. Having grown up in the adjacent Mott Haven area, David walked along Melrose Avenue every Sunday to get to church and thought that something was missing.

” Seeing a lack of positive activities and cultural events… I wanted to create a place where people would feel good entering that also had great service,” David says.

Darada David, Owner of PeaceLove Cafe

In August 2009, her dreams were realized when PeaceLove celebrated its grand opening.

The cafe, a cozy space with colorful mosaic tables and wooden chairs, features portraits of influential African American leaders, many of them musicians.  This is representative of David’s own musical background. Having gone to LaGuardia High School for music and receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Music from City College, David spent her time working on various art projects and singing in jazz clubs with the PeaceLove band, the inspiration for the name of the cafe.

The cafe’s menu features all organic fare, including items like fruit smoothies and okra chick pea soup. In line with the financial situations with most of the people in the area, nothing on the menu is more than $6.  David says that the cafe is her attempt at provoking change in a neighborhood and borough where healthy food options are limited.

A recent study found that the Bronx is the unhealthiest county in the entire state. Though the city has attempted to create programs to change this, including incentive-based programs such as the Healthy Bodegas Initiative which encourages bodega owners in low income neighborhoods to sell fresh produce and low fat products.  An increase in the amount of farmer’s markets in the Bronx has increased, but with many of them only open during the summer and fall, access to fresh produce for many of the borough’s residents is restricted.  However, David found that a lack of strong support from local politicians and city officials makes getting proper nutritional information to residents more difficult.

“It’s not that people don’t want to eat healthily, it’s the environment they’re in,” she says.

David hopes that her petition to city officials to put tax dollars towards incentives for business owners to open locations in the Bronx will be approved to help stimulate the area and create economic growth.

By participating in the Bronx Culture Trolley tours, hosting open mics and poetry jams on Thursdays, and featuring live jazz music on Fridays, David is creating a buzz for PeaceLove as a cultural hot spot or a place “where Bronx socialites go” as the cafe’s slogan proudly boasts. It hosts events for influential members of the community and borough, such as February’s Bronx Social Media Week which invited Bronx bloggers and television personalities to participate on an informational panel.

PeaceLove also offers computer access and resume writing workshops for local residents who might not have access to Internet resources.

For it’s efforts and positive influence in the neighborhood, the cafe earned a Certificate of Merit from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

David says she would love to expand the cafe to other areas in the Bronx if resources and the opportunity to do so arose.

Alvin Rogers, a saxophonist who often plays at the cafe  during jazz nights, has been playing at PeaceLove since it opened.

Alvin Rogers, Saxaphonist

“It’s a treasure for the Bronx,” he says. “It plays a big role in the community… I wish it were embraced more.”

Posted in Food | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Pongal Camouflages in Curry Hill

Accompanying the slew of Indian restaurants in “Curry Hill” , sits the small, intimate vegetarian and kosher Indian restaurant, Pongal.

Upon entering the restaurant, visitors are greeted by a large blue cow in the corner. Stringed lights adorn the ceiling, while worn bamboo-like place mats sit on the tables. The decor is low-key, but could use an update.

Named after the period in South India celebrating the end of monsoon season and the beginning of the harvest festival, Pongal attempts to mimic the harvest-like environment by serving up dishes from various parts of India with entrees such as Madras Thali ($7.95), Undhiyu ($9.95), and Malai Kofta ($9.95).

The Madras Thali is an assortment of seven portions of two types of rice, eggplant, spiced potatoes, soup, and two dipping sauces.  A slightly greasy piece of poori bread and papad. The eggplant, which had an unexpected tanginess to it, and the potatoes were easily the most flavorful and memorable parts of the meal.

Madras Thali

One of Pongal’s most impressive dishes are their dosais.  The Masala dosai ($8.45) is a stunning wrap-like meal filled with potatoes and onions. Made from rice flour and lentils, the dough of the dosai is light and flaky, yet still satisfying.  The mildly spicy sambar soup and coconut chutney are served alongside it. The dish would benefit from a bit more filling inside, but the excess can easily be used to dip inside of the soup or coconut chutney.

For dessert, subtly sweet badam halwa ($5.45) provides a nice balance to the spices of Pongal’s entree. With the look and consistency of apple sauce, the thick almond fudge is a filling addition to any meal.

The efforts of the waitstaff can be a little hit or miss. Sometimes slightly pushy and at others kind and patient, the one positive thing to mention is that the food is served very quickly.

Overall, Pongal is a decent dining experience, but lacks the necessary elements to make it stand out in an area saturated with similar cuisine.

Posted in Food, restaurant reviews | 2 Comments

La Bruja Casts a Spell on Baruch

La Bruja Performing at Baruch 3/22/11

While my classmates were munching on baked goods and listening to this semester’s Harman Writer-in-Residence, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, I was busy laying out table cloths and tea light candles in the multipurpose room.

As president of Writers’ Society, I was setting up the room for a performance by Def Poet, La Bruja. After a month of tedious logistics and paperwork, I was glad for the event to finally take place.

After some technical difficulties, La Bruja (which means witch in Spanish) took the stage gracing the audience with tracks from her latest two albums. Her style fuses elements from her Puerto Rican culture, humor, and socio-political messages. By the end of the night, she had everyone singing the hook to her parody of Rhianna’s “Umbrella”, entitled “Arroz con Habichuelas.”

Posted in LeBlanc Talk | 3 Comments

Restauranteurs -Patience is a Virtue

Photo by Renjith Krishnan

Absorbing the warmth in a small cafe in Amsterdam, I  desperately searched for our waiter. This was my first time being in Europe and among taking in the full experience, there were some cultural norms that I needed to get used to.

Apparently, it’s customary to take your time eating and digesting your food before the waitstaff approach and hand you the bill. Unfortunately, that’s not the norm here in the U.S.

I’ve lost count of how many times that I’ve been out dining and magically the check appears on the table without any of my dining companions having summoned for it.  Even when accompanied by a well-meaning, “For when you’re ready” still comes off as unwelcoming and pushy.

There’s got to be a happy medium between waiting an hour for a check and getting it while I am still chewing my food. I don’t know too much about business, but basic logic makes me think that the happier I, the customer, am, the more money you, the business, will make. If I have a great experience at a restaurant, I will write about it on Yelp, tell my friends about it, and visit frequently.

I know that time and space are very important, especially in a city like New York, but if allowed more time, I could order more food and most likely give a bigger tip. Restaurants in New York, take heed, an extra ten minutes could mean an extra $10! I’ve noticed this particularly in chain restaurants, such as T.G.I. Friday’s and Applebee’s.

My college roommate in freshman year was a waitress at Friendly’s and told me about their rule of thumb for checking in with customers. About two bites into their meal, waitstaff are expected to check in with diners to see if they’re enjoying their food. To know that there’s an actual formula to this bothers me. “After x amount of bites, hand diners the check whether or not they actually asked for it”.

I know that some people would just sit around forever, but I think a humble balance and a bit of common decency would solve this problem and make a better dining experience all around.

Posted in Food, Food Rant / love song | 2 Comments