Off Broadway Review: ‘Pipeline’ by Dominique Morisseau

Pipeline review

Karen Pittman is giving a sensational performance in the new play at Lincoln Center Theater, “Pipeline,” starring as a mother who fights tooth and nail to save her son from the “school-to-prison pipeline” that bedevils students of inner-city public high schools. Dominique Morisseau has written some quietly devastating social dramas (“Skeleton Crew”) on her way up, but now the playwright has definitely arrived with this emotionally harrowing, ethically ambiguous drama that raises barbed questions about class, race, parental duty, and the state of American education.

Credit Lileana Blain-Cruz, who recently directly “The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World” at the Signature Theater, for the excellent tech work, as well as for the terrific ensemble work of a small, tight company starring the underappreciated Pittman (“Disgraced”).  The actress plays Nya, a dedicated African-American teacher at an overcrowded public school that looks totally menacing in the giant projections that Hannah Wasileski splashes across the cinderblock back wall of Matt Saunders’ barely-there set. As for the costumes, Montana Levi Blanco has found casual but elegant work outfits to flatter Pittman’s tall, lean frame, and make the point that teachers don’t dress to be dowdy.

The congested, dangerous, mostly black high school where Nya teaches has its share of committed teachers like herself. Tasha Lawrence is painfully funny as Laurie, a seasoned veteran of the public school system. “I’m a white chick who has never had the luxury of winning over a class full of black and Latino kids,” she says. Having just returned to the classroom from a long absence for reconstructive face surgery (the family of a failing student cut her up), this tough cookie has no illusions about race relations in public schools. “This is war,” she says of the hostilities between white educators like herself and their black and brown students.

It’s a war that Nya is determined to keep her own teenaged son, Omari (Namir Smallwood, a find) from fighting on his own home turf. But Omari has carried his seething rage all the way upstate, to the expensive private academy where his protective mother enrolled him. A sensitive kid, he’s picked up the unacknowledged but ingrained racism of his privileged environment — and now he’s in danger of being expelled for hitting a teacher.

Omari tries to explain to his girlfriend Jasmine (Heather Velazquez, a jolt of pure energy) why he’s so edgy and tense. “Truth is, I got too many worries,” he tells her. “You feel me?” But she’s so keen, this little bombshell, that she gets right to the heart of the issue. “You sayin’ I’m addin’ to your stress level?” she demands. “I’m sayin’ I got stresses,” Omari snaps back. “Real ones. And hidin’ out in your dorm ain’t doin’ nothin’ but prolonging the inevitable.” The kicker to this fantastic exchange of idiomatic teen talk comes from Jasmine. “Maybe you your own stress problem,” she smartly throws at Omari, “and I ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.”

It’s no wonder that Morisseau is a co-producer on Showtime’s bleak comedy series “Shameless.” She respects the raw power of the emotionally loaded street language that she puts into the mouths of young people like Omari and Jasmine.

Although Nya teaches English, not Drama, some of her desperate pleas to Omari feel self-consciously literary. But for the most part, Nya loves the language of poetry and is determined to unlock its beauty and pain to her students. It was Morisseau’s brilliant idea to have Nya teach Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool: The Pool Players Seven at the Golden Shovel,” a poem so powerful it shocks the class into paying attention.

In a less excoriating tone, the play also picks at the painful scab of social class. There’s a sense of insecurity about Nya, who lives with the constant threat that a poorly paid teacher, a divorcee, and the single mother of a kid with big problems could lose her own middle-class professional status. She visibly shrinks when her ex-husband, Xavier, makes an entrance in the formidable person of Morocco Omari. The classy suit helps, but his deep voice and overpowering stature clearly announce that his job is to make money. Nya needs some of that money, which makes her financially dependent on her ex-husband and emotionally in thrall to her son. No wonder she has a panic attack.

[“Source-variety”]

Lights off, coffee: How IIT Kharagpur aims to tackle student depression

IIT

 

Every now and then, one of India’s most prestigious engineering colleges cuts off power to its hostels for an hour in the evening.

The practice, at IIT Kharagpur, is not to save electricity or cut costs. It is instead part of efforts to get students to mingle — contact that officials hope will help cut stress after three of its students killed themselves between January and April this year.

IIT Kharagpur is part of the country’s marquee Indian Institutes of Technology colleges that lakhs vie for each year. Only a few thousands make it, entering a college of intense competition with some of the best minds to vie for top jobs at the end of their four-year course.

“Students are meeting increasingly less. This naturally creates a lot of problems as they end up being alone. This small step will help them connect when they take a 10-minute coffee or tea break,” said Manish Bhattacharya, dean of students affairs of IIT Kharagpur, while explaining another effort to draw students out by installing vending machines for free tea and coffee.

The machines, for which a Japanese company has been roped in, will be in place from the academic year beginning this summer.

The blackout hours are helping, students say. “It was like an outreach programme where the administration wanted to speak to us… tell us what had happened and how it was important to be connected with fellow students. Many came out of compulsion but realised that it helped. Students interacted with each other, even discussing the suicides that had been troubling for many of us,” said Anisha Sharma, a student.

The latest suicide was on April 8, when a fourth-year student was found hanging in his hostel room.

Other efforts include a programme for parents with psychiatric professionals, courses on happiness mental well-being, and reaching out to alumni who faced depression during their college days.

Depression is seen as among the main reasons and students say the institute lacks adequate number of counsellors.

Mental health professionals on campus reported depression, adjustment disorders and, in some cases, personality disorders as among the cases they often come across.

“The first thing that parents ask us when they come to drop their children to the institute is about placements and package. They need to stop this. It puts unnecessary pressure on the students. This is the reason we have decided to have an orientation programme with the parents too,” said PP Chakrabarti, IIT Kharagpur’s director.

Officials said they will also turn a microcredit elective on “the science of happiness well-being” into a 3-credit course for all students from the next academic year.

“We are evolving more courses so students will be able to go for micro-specialisation in science and happiness. The subjects that they take up include depression, grief, so these projects that they take up to engineer happiness are meaningful,” said Prof P Patnaik, IIT Kharagpur.

The courses are run by the institute’s Rekhi Centre of Excellence for the Science of Happiness.

IIT Kharagpur has also decided to collaborate with an agency to identify the strength of students instead of their weaknesses, as is the case with current evaluation systems.

Officials are in touch with alumni for campaigns that will prod students to open up.

“Some of the alumni have approached us and they will share their experiences by recording it and circulating it on the website and Facebook page of the institute. There is a stigma attached with depression and this will address that,” the spokesperson said.

 

 

[“source-hindustantimes”]

Easyjet forced couple off overbooked flight

An Easyjet plane

Two Easyjet passengers were removed from an overbooked flight and not offered compensation a day after a United Airlines passenger was dragged off a plane in the US.

The British couple were due to fly from Luton Airport to Catania in Sicily on Monday last week.

After boarding the aircraft they were asked to leave by staff because the plane had been overbooked.

Easyjet has apologised and blamed human error for the situation.

The two passengers, who had booked non-refundable accommodation in Italy, were told that the next available Easyjet flight was four days later.

The airline failed to tell them they were entitled to a flight the same day with another airline, or to compensation as stipulated under EU rules.

easyjet plane

Easyjet admits that this incident involved two distinct cases of human error. The final two passengers should not have been issued boarding passes at the bag-drop area in Luton airport. Their tickets had not been properly scanned and so the system thought there were enough seats on the plane.

The second human error was not telling their freshly deplaned and doubtless livid customers that they were entitled to compensation or indeed a free flight with a rival airline to their final destination.

But as United Airlines discovered last week, small human errors can cause big reputational damage.

This incident might never have been reported but for the United debacle, which will surely became a textbook example for aspiring public relations types of how not to do it.


The couple, who had planned a six-day break, then decided to cancel the trip.

Easyjet said the passengers should not have been cleared to board and that its staff had not provided the correct information.

It said it was “genuinely sorry” for what had happened and would be providing additional training for staff.

“Whilst [the passengers] were emailed a link to the web page for EU261 compensation applications and the website clearly outlines our policies, we accept that our agents could have pointed this out more explicitly,” Easyjet said.

“The circumstances were very unusual and resulted from a manual error at the gate.”

The airline said that any customers who had been in a similar situation and felt their case had not been handled appropriately should contact Easyjet.

A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said the rights of passengers denied boarding, including overbooking, were protected under European law.

“Passengers are entitled to a minimum level of compensation, and must be offered an alternative flight, or ‘re-route’, at the earliest opportunity or at a date that suits you, or offered a full refund, if the passenger no longer wants to fly.”

The incident followed the forcible removal of a passenger last Sunday from a United Airlines flight that had also been overbooked.

David Dao lost two front teeth and suffered a broken nose as law enforcement officials dragged him from the plane at Chicago O’Hare airport.

The situation escalated when a response from the airline’s chief executive, Oscar Munoz, failed to mention any use of excessive force.

Mr Munoz has since said he felt “shame and embarrassment” about the incident and vowed it would never happen again.

The airline also promised to change its policy on giving staff last-minute seats on full flights.

[Source:- BBC]

Mozilla Lays Off Employees Working on Firefox-Powered Connected Devices: Report

Mozilla Lays Off Employees Working on Firefox-Powered Connected Devices: Report

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Mozilla dissolves team behind connected devices initiative
  • The company has reportedly laid off a team of 50
  • Mozilla ended development of its Firefox OS for smartphones in 2015

Mozilla, the non-profit company popular for its Firefox browser, has given up on its dream of expanding into connected devices. The company has confirmed that it is dissolving its connected devices initiative after failing to make an impact after all.

Separately, CNET reports that the company is eliminating the team working on Firefox-enabled connected devices initiative. It adds that this affects roughly 50 employees citing people familiar with the situation. The report claims that Ari Jaaksi, Senior Vice President, Connected Devices at Mozilla, is also leaving the company alongside Bertrand Neveux, Director, Connected Devices at Mozilla. Mozilla reportedly had about 1,000 employees at the end of 2016.

In a statement to CNET, Mozilla confirmed it’s dissolving the team tasked to work connected devices initiative. It said, “We have shifted our internal approach to the internet-of-things opportunity to step back from a focus on launching and scaling commercial products to one focused on research and advanced development, dissolving our connected devices initiative and incorporating our internet-of-things explorations into an increased focus on emerging technologies.”

Notably, this is not the first time Mozilla has failed trying to do something more than its browser success. In 2015, Mozilla killed its smartphone operating system citing it was not “able to offer the best user experience possible” in its Firefox OS on smartphones. Some smartphones with Firefox OS did make it to the market in 2013 and 2014 though were able to gain any positive response from the Indian market. Over time Mozilla collaborated with OEMs to launch several low-budget smartphones including Spice Fire One, and Intex Cloud FX in India.

Early last year, Mozilla revealed that it was ending development on Firefox OS for smartphones. The operating system created by Mozilla developer community as an open-source system failed to gain traction in mobile devices.

Tags: Mozilla, Firefox, Firefox OS, IoT, Internet of Things
[“Source-Gadgets”]