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Thursday, September 29, 2016
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Young actor uses spray paint to reveal his Latino roots3Photos

Young actor uses spray paint to reveal his Latino roots

Jeffrey Wahlberg has been very busy carving out a Hollywood career. The dark-haired, brooding nephew of A-lister Mark Wahlberg stars in the upcoming post-apocalyptic indie thriller Future World alongside Lucy Liu, Snoop Dogg and James Franco—who is also the movie’s co-director with Bruce Thierry Cheung—due out January 2017. (Uncle Mark also has a movie about to drop. Disaster-drama "Deepwater Horizon" about the 2010 oil-rig explosion premieres this Friday). Despite his super-nova dreams and having just turned 20, Wahlberg is still close to his roots as a deeply creative kid and half-Irish, half-Domincan American. Though he’s always wanted to act, his first obsessions were drawing, sculpting and graffiti art—something that once figured strongly in Latin-American street culture as a form of identity and expression, particularly in New York City, and in Miami where he grew up. “I went through a phase where graffiti was my obsession and my passion,” Wahlberg told Metro. “It was a 3- to 4-year period where I would do it every day. I went through multiple art phases like that. At first I was obsessed with drawing. Then I went through the graffiti phase. Then I painted. Then I went to making sculpture.” Graffiti is the subject of his latest project with Emmy-award winning director Jorge "Jokes" Yanes, which screened at New York’s Latin American Film Festival this month. TOYED, set in the 1990s, is about a teen who becomes embroiled in inter-gang conflict involving tagging and pride in graffiti. TOYED is a 22-minute short that Yanes is adapting into a feature-length film starring Wahlberg. While growing up in Miami, Yanes, a renowned Cuban-American director known for major contributions to Latino TV, was himself heavily involved in graffiti art phenomenon in the hip-hop dominated 90s. Even as the murals are torn down and replaced by urban renewal, Yanes said, graffiti’s significance to the Latinos of New York City and Miami remains. For many, grafitti was and is the way to connect to society when there is a language divide, Yanes said. He also notes that some of the iconic graffiti style can be traced to Hispanic artists. And those who travel to Spanish-speaking countries will see many murals on buildings that bring art-viewing into the public space. “Because of the language barrier you want to express yourself in picture rather than language. It’s its own language in a sense. Amongst Hispanics having a skill in art is very respectable and almost expected of you,” Yanes said. For others, graffiti is part of the battle to overcome hard life-circumstances in unforgiving neighborhoods. Richy Rodriguez, a.k.a. TatOver, a Puerto-Rican American and major New York graffiti artist, grew up in the Bronx and ran into trouble with the law for pushing the envelope on freedom of expression on properties. After serving time, he is more empowered to use his art to make a better life. "In many ways TOYED is for all of those Hispanic kids that have to battle to let the art out, but that's what winning takes, stepping up and making art, whatever that means to you," Rodriquez told Metro. But the way that graffiti artists get their message across is different these days, says Yanes.   “It’s totally changed. It used to be about stumbling into it, seeing it from a distance. It was more about the live experience,” Yanes said. “Something could be up for two years. Now if something illegal goes up it will come down in two days.” Now, “it’s all about Instagram,” he said. 
'Bridgegate' witness casts more doubt on Gov. Christie's denials

'Bridgegate' witness casts more doubt on Gov. Christie's denials

In December 2013, as the "Bridgegate" scandal was unraveling, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's chief spokesman learned the truth: that lanes had been closed at the George Washington Bridge to punish a local mayor for political reasons. That was the testimony from former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive David Wildstein on Wednesday, who told jurors in Newark federal court he informed Christie's press secretary Michael Drewniak that he executed the scheme with the approval of Christie aides. Wildstein has said several key figures in Christie's inner circle knew about the plot as it was occurring or soon afterward - including Christie himself, who was told of the closures by Wildstein as they unfolded in September 2013, according to Wildstein's testimony on Tuesday. Christie, who is not accused of wrongdoing, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the plot at the time, but Wildstein's testimony has bolstered the government's assertion the governor knew about the scandal earlier than he has acknowledged. The scandal helped derail Christie's bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and could endanger his best chance at a political future: a role in Donald Trump's administration should the Republican presidential candidate win a Nov. 8 election. The governor's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and a former Port Authority executive, Bill Baroni, are charged with deliberately creating gridlock in Fort Lee, New Jersey, after the town's mayor declined to endorse Christie's 2013 re-election bid. Wildstein said on Wednesday he met with Drewniak on Dec. 4 and offered to resign. "I told him the stories were out of control," Wildstein said. "This wasn't going away." Drewniak has previously confirmed that Wildstein told him of the closures, but has denied knowing it was political payback. Wildstein also said he met with Christie's chief counsel, Charlie McKenna, two days later and told him about the scheme, though he did not say whether he disclosed the motivation for the plot. Wildstein previously said he informed Michael DuHaime, a Christie adviser, in November. He has also testified that Christie's campaign manager, Bill Stepien; David Samson, the chairman of the Port Authority; and a board member, Pat Schuber, were aware of the plot beforehand. Stepien's lawyer has said he had no role in the scheme, while Samson and Schuber have denied advance knowledge. Defense lawyers began questioning Wildstein on Wednesday and sought to portray him as the true mastermind of the scheme, even though Baroni was nominally his superior. Michael Baldassare, a lawyer for Baroni, also suggested Wildstein's testimony was biased because he is seeking a reduced sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy. (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Alan Crosby)
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