Thursday, October 31, 2013

" Here we are now, entertain us......"

“I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.”
― Kurt Cobain
If I had a Hot Tub Time Machine I would travel back twenty years and be a professional musician. In the present, I would like to beat out my nephew for a chance at an internship with the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. Currently, he is a communications major and fellow music connoisseur.  He has performed in marching and concert band and plays guitar. Like his auntie he prefers alternative rock music but he is definitely open and aware of all genres. He would be the most knowledgeable, entertaining and professional rock guide on the planet. So lets take a brief journey to the shores of beautiful Lake Erie in Cleveland, OH  and examine the 2014 inductee nominations:

Nirvana- My own college memories are closely tied to the music and lyrics of Nevermind, Nirvana's most successful album. Nirvana's arrival on the scene with "Smells like Teen Spirit" added much needed zest to a world of stale and complacent pop music. Until Nirvana, my friends and I were still reminiscing with The Smiths and the Pixies because everything else was crap besides the Beastie Boys and Alice in Chains.

KISS-  Say what you will about rock gods Kiss but anyone who grew up in the 70's dressed like Gene Simmons or Peter Criss for Halloween. You can't stop yourself from shouting the anthem, "I want to rock n' roll all night and party every day!"  My parents thought it was perfectly acceptable for their second grader to dress up as Paul Stanley, starry-eyed and all.

The Replacements-  Considered pioneers of alternative rock, Paul Westerburg and The Replacements have influenced hundreds of "indie" musicians including Gaslight Anthem.

YES- Believe it or not the English rock band Yes has been assembled in one form or another since 1969. They are known for elaborate symphonic compositions and a brilliant stage presence. Yes is a band that not everyone recognizes right away but we've all heard their music. "Owner of a Lonely Heart" was one of their more commercially successful hits but listen to their earlier material such as  "Round About".
Other inductee nominations include the well known and loved Hall and Oates, rapper turned actor LL Cool J and hip-hop legends N.W.A.

For the complete list of nominees visit the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame website or if you see my handsome nephew Andrew he will happily answer any of your music related questions.

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Strewn with time's dead flowers. Bereft in deathly bloom..."

“It's better to die laughing than to live each moment in fear.”
― Michael Crichton

Why do we love vampires? What is our obvious obsession with blood sucking creatures of the night? With just a few more days until Halloween I thought it would be interesting to delve into a scary monster mystery and get us in the mood. Of course not all vampires give us nightmares. Take for example three of my favorite; the sweetly delicious Count Chocula, everyone's first spirited math instructor Count von Count. How can we possibly fear a vampire that taught us the value of addition and subtraction?  And the handsome howling host of  Monster Chiller Horror Theater, SCTV's Joe Flaherty as Count Floyd.
So, why are we so fascinated by Twilight's Edward Cullen and Anne Rice's' Lestat de Lioncourt? (Interview with the Vampire)? Psychologists speculate we may associate vampires with healthy rebellion. They are the "bad boys"(or girls) of ghoul, the masters of the undead. The blood thirsty adventurers that tempt our imaginations. Most vampires are portrayed as misunderstood loners who seek out their long lost eternal companions.
Vampires can be seen as dashing and sexy, the favorable ones like Twilight's Edward and True Blood's (HBO drama series)'Bill Compton love so passionately. They are flawed. They aren't fake, goody two shoes or respectable. They definitely struggle with being good over being bad. Most people desire a type of dramatic love story. Many couples live for the drama they create in their own relationships. Deep down when we get our fangs into the matter, none of us are perfect. Do we really want a perfect mate? Well, let that be your own mystery.

Vampires through time:
The historic first film vampire was portrayed by Max Schreck in Nosferatu, 1922.
 Charismatic British actor Christpher Lee played a vampire ten times in film and television movies.
Barnabas Collins of the '70's soap opera, "Dark Shadows" was recreated for the film of the same name by Johnny Depp in 2012.
Bram Stoker's Dracula - Gary Oldman

Hungarian born actor, Bela Lugosi was the inspiration for the brilliant, British Goth punk band Bauhaus's eerily defining tribute, "Bela Lugosi's Dead". This is one of my all time favorite hauntingly creepy songs. First released in 1979 the tune has stood the test of time and it's always perfect for Halloween. Portraying the character most notably, Lugosi played Count Dracula beginning in 1931 with the movie Dracula.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

“A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home.”

“So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist     

 Once again as a reminder to all, October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog month.  The video above was discovered posted on YouTube by a fellow writer.  Please, take a moment to watch.  Dog lovers, pet parents and potential adopters around the world will be smacked warmly right in the feels. Dawg lovers already know the endless benefits of owning a furry friend/child but what happy waggin' "tails" would you tell prospective pet parents? 
 A dog is always there for you. When no one else listens or seems to care about your awful day, your dog will run straight to the bathroom and retrieve a wad of dirty old snot-dried Kleenex from the garbage can. "Here, let it all out", they sympathetically encourage." I've only been staring out this window waiting for you to come home since 9:00am." Your dog will be all ears, lick salty tear stained cheeks. Hugs. Hugs. Kisses. More hugs. Treats.
Dogs need exercise and so do you. Studies show pet parents are healthier, less prone to symptoms of depression, disease and allergies. You will be walking, running, chasing, throwing, dancing and possibly being dragged down a sidewalk on a daily basis. Believe me, this is a beautiful thing. Exercise boosts your own mood, allows you to meet neighbors and ensures your dog is releasing enough energy for a peaceful nights slumber. A dog will alert you when strangers stop by   and will sound the alarm when the door bell rings in case you didn't hear it the first time.
All dog owners can testify  that your dog will writhe in ecstasy at the mere hint of jangling car keys. A ride in the car for most dogs is like a human finding a long forgotten twenty dollar bill in the pocket of an overcoat. "YESSSSSSSSSSSS!" Not only do they LIVE to accompany you on the front seat, your dog wants to steer, navigate, enter GPS information and choose the satellite radio station. But of course the biggest thrill, as Frank Sinatra once crooned in "The Lady is a Tramp".... they" love the free fresh wind in their hair. Life without care."  Dog's love feeling the caress of a cool breeze, sniffing the air, catching the scent of a million fast forwarded stories dripping from a windy trail. And you will want to give them every opportunity to have the experience once you witness their pure pleasure and sheer joy! Most importantly, a dog is sharing a poignant moment with their best friend. Moments, though the length of their lives will sadly never match our own, are intense dog moments.  Dogs live in the now. You will treasure those memories in your heart forever. So to sum up why you should adopt a dog this month, a former boyfriend once joked  he wanted to come back as my dog in his next life. It's the love. It's all about the LOVE!

Please, save a dog's life by giving them a forever home. Adopt from a shelter today.

Monday, October 21, 2013

" We're fascinated by the words--but where we meet is in the silence behind them..."

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”
Leonard Cohen

      At a previous job about ten years ago my co-workers entertained each other with daily creative team chat room conversations. All  of us would agree on a thought provoking topic such as our favorite comedy movie quotes, hottest male/female athletes with foreign accents or "finish this 80's hair metal band song lyric". One evening the selected subject was  "Choose Your Fantasy Parental Unit". We speculated about our fantasy football teams and fantasy rock band musicians so this wasn't too much of a mind stretch. Realistically, most people love their own parents or at least tolerate them until adulthood. Granted we were all in our twenties, thirties or older, some teammates were parents a few grandparents and we all encouraged relieving stress and expanding our imaginations. We were working for a technology company so Bill Gates, Tim Berners-Lee and Fujio Masuoka "fathered" quite a few of my associates. At the time my chosen parents were Oprah Winfrey and the Dalai Lama. One can only imagine the philosophical punishment lectures that may have transpired  in my youth after "Mom" and "Dad" discover a bottle of Peach Schnapps my best friend stashed in my book bag or the time I "earned" a big fat "F" in my high school trigonometry class. So my fantasy parents selection was based on the multitude of admirable qualities Oprah and the Dalai Lama possess including resilience, kindness, compassion, tolerance, a love of books and animals

     Every now and then you have to let go. Let yourself imagine you can do or be anything. Why wouldn't you? As children we did this every single day. It's how we discover why we are here. Author and theologian, Albert Schweitzer once brilliantly observed, "At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."  In life you will encounter other people, watch films, hear music, taste food and read novels that inspire you to reach far beyond the self imposed limits of your day to day comfort zone. One such author of an extraordinary book I read inspired me to follow my true passions. I felt so motivated by this writers journey that I wanted to show my great appreciation by contributing in some way to an emerging idea so much greater than myself. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm wasn't shared or supported by as many people as I had hoped, putting myself in a self inflicted financial bind, missing out and messing up a new adventure.  Although my generosity was well intentioned, nothing went according to  my six month action plan. There is no one to blame but myself. Lessons learned. Looking at the big picture with gratitude I still crossed my finish line. Be aware, be awake, be conscious and always be grateful for those who reignite your flame.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.”

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl (author Charlie and the Chocolate Factory )
Want to prevent streams of toilet paper hanging in your oak trees, smashed pumpkins in the driveway, farm fresh eggs splashed on the windshield of your Toyota or bags of flaming dog poo on your front steps? Now I'm about as far from emulating Martha Stewart as Lady Gaga but it's real simple to curtail nasty tricks on October 31st. Just be aware of what little merry pranksters crave most on All Hallows Eve. 
  Warning: If you're contemplating passing out something lame like apples, boxes of raisins, toothbrushes or homemade popcorn balls you will find them hiding in your rose bushes the next morning. Last year due to lack of careful pre-planning you got away with cleverly flinging Ludens cherry cough drops into open candy sacks -or worse you turned off your porch light and crouched in the darkness with a flashlight and your confused dog. "... but the doorbell keeps ringing... it's my job to bark. Damn it!"
 Luckily, you still have plenty of time before the greedy neighborhood monsters arrive. Be prepared this year. Are you willing to risk a lawn full of lush Ultra-Soft Charmin? Follow this real simple "tricks or treats" survival guide. Children will love you and you won't be held hostage for two hours in your own home. Here is your arsenal.
 Compiled from over five years of intensive survey data ranging from school polls, radio stations and children's educational websites here are the TOP TEN BEST and  TOP TEN WORST  treats to pass out on Halloween.
10. Twizzlers
9. Skittles
8. Nerds 
7. M&M's
6. Twix candy bars
5. Hershey's Miniature candy bars
4. Snickers bars
3. Baby Ruth candy bars
2.  Kit Kat's
1. Reese's Peanutbutter Cups
10. hard pink bubblegum (i.e Bazooka or gumballs )
9. homemade cookies or baked goods (Halloween is not about all the love you baked into each treat. Kids just want some chocolate!)
8. candy corn (no explanation necessary)
7. hard candy or peppermints (leftovers from last year?)
6. Tootsie Rolls
5. granola bars (not even in California)
4. jelly beans (just don't)
3. York Peppermint Patties (treat is too sophisticated for children, only parents eat these.)
2. fruit of any kind (One night a year. Let your kid live a little!)
1. stickers, pencils or anything not EDIBLE (Were you even a child? Why not give them rocks?)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"in this time of monsters and magic...."

“It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein     
     Little candy begging monsters named Frankenstein won't be knocking at your door this Halloween, even if they proclaim to be. It's a common misconception, in Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley’s unprecedented horror novel, Frankenstein is not the monster’s name. Actually, the monster was created by Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The poor mangled monster was never adorned a maniacal moniker. Frankenstein's name has become synonymous with the monster -- and the wild ruckus of October 31st. Here are a few more little known facts regarding Frankenstein and the monsters of Halloween.

     Vampires, witches, werewolves and goblins gather. Halloween is celebrated in countries around the world as a festival for the dead with origins in Celtic and Druid lore. The boundaries between the natural world and afterworld blurred as spirits roamed the earth freely to celebrate harvest season among the living. By dressing up as ghosts and zombies we control or eliminate some of the fear we may have with our own mortality. Like Dr. Frankenstein, we create our own monsters. The holiday allows us to celebrate the complex mystery of what terrifies us.
      What frightens us so much about the story of Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus? Despite his brutish appearance, angry tormented attitude and intimidating eight foot stature formed from various stolen human and animal body parts, the novel's monster was portrayed as having a formidable intellect. His unrelenting request for the manufacturing of a romantic partner makes him appear needy rather than vicious. He scares us because he is us. At the time the novel was written, it was widely believed that humans could manipulate and mimic natural reproductive processes. 1818- biological science was still in it's infancy. Humanity's first breakthroughs came in the form of machines or monster machines created in a lab.
     Mary Shelley was only nineteen years of age when she began writing the story of Frankenstein. The novel was finally completed and published anonymously at the age of twenty-one. The story began as a challenge by her soon to be husband writer Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Polidori and the author/poet George Gordon or Lord Byron. The highly creative eclectic group wanted to one up each other with scary horror stories. ( In the present day imagine Tim Burton, Helena Bonham-Carter and Johnny Depp). Since that time period, Frankenstein has inspired more than 130 films, beginning with the silent Frankenstein in 1910 and including the 1974, Mel Brooks crafted comedy classic, Young Frankenstein starring Gene Wilder.
      It is said that the plot for Frankenstein came to Mary Shelley in a dream about a scientist who created a life form. Dr. Victor Frankenstein was based on a real person named Johann Dippel, who was an actual physician and kooky chemist obsessed with creating life through scientific means. His birthplace was Castle Frankenstein, which is near Darmstadt, Germany. So if you harvested and stitched together some old body parts like a mad scientist could you really create a modern day "Frankenstein" monster? The answer is no.  When your heart stops, blood flow stops, cells run out of energy, and things fall apart. No amount of electric shocks can restore dead tissue, DNA isn't eternal and then there is the big brain dilemma. So we are all safe, for now. However, please feel free to dress up as your own favorite monster in a few weeks time.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

“I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world...."

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches     

      Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel. Since 1901 the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to 124 Nobel Laureates.  Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Alfred Nobel's (1833-1896) family was descended from Olof Rudbeck, the best-known technical genius in Sweden of the 17th century. This was the era in which Sweden was the greatest power in northern Europe. Nobel was fluent in several languages and wrote poetry and drama. He was interested in social and peace-related issues and held views that were considered radical during his time. Nobel's interests are reflected in the prizes he later established - science, inventions, entrepreneurship, literature and peace work.
     Nobel Laureates are chosen at the beginning of October, the Nobel Committee chooses the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates through a majority vote. The decision is final and without appeal. The names of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates are then announced. A nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize may be submitted by any person who meets the nomination criteria. A letter of invitation to submit is not required. The names of the nominees and other information about the nominations cannot be revealed until 50 years later.
     Contenders for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize include Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai who survived being shot by the Taliban and ushered in a new age of activism for women in her region. In fact Malala’s only crime was that she wanted the right to an education and attend school. She survived the shooting and bravely continues to stand up for women who seek education. Her story was communicated to the world through the BBC blog, "Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl."  Today the Taliban continues to threaten Malala's voice. Her nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize would bring further awareness and understanding for her cause. Other noteworthy Prize contenders are Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist from the Congo who has dedicated his life to helping rape victims and courageous organized crime fighting Guatemalan attorney general, Dr. Claudia Paz y Paz.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"the first time ever I saw your face....."

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you...I could walk through my garden forever.”
― Alfred Tennyson

     The first time I watched the movie Hachi: A Dog's Tale, I was in my sisters living room with her family and my dog, Maddie ( pictured above) who was eight years old at the time. Have you ever cried so hard you gave yourself a severe headache?  Have you watched a movie or read a story that turned you into a quivering mass of tears and snot and unbearable sadness? Remember the final scenes of Marley and Me? All Dogs Go to HeavenOld Yeller? My nephews still make fun of me for crying over the animated canine tale, Bolt. While watching Hachi I imagined what it would be like when Maddie and I would have to say good-bye.  You know a story moves you when you cry so hard your eyes become swollen and start to resemble a boxer who just went ten rounds with Manny Pacquiao. When a film touches your heart so deeply it is generally a variation on one theme. And that theme is LOVE. Many of us have loved animals; cats, birds, horses but few of us who have ever owned and loved a dog will ever forget such a rare unconditional bond. Like Maddie and Hachi, they become a part of us. They become a part of our history.

      Unlike Hachi, Maddie wasn't found wandering a train station as a puppy. Maddie wasn't rescued from a shelter or bought from a breeder. She was a purebred one year old cocker spaniel who needed a forever home after her family decided to have more children. They believed they wouldn't be able to give her the love and attention she deserved. My brother was getting a five hundred dollar dog who might have ended up in a shelter for free. The day I went with him to pick her up it was love at first sight. The gorgeous gentleness of her expression and the loving gaze of those beautiful brown eyes melted my heart. We connected immediately and she was mine. Homeless? Not any more! Alone, never! Loved? 150%  ..forever. The reason I share my stories about Maddie is to focus awareness on how much dogs enrich our lives. They are members of the family. In some countries such as Nepal, dogs are honored just like siblings or an aunt or uncle. Dogs teach us responsibility, compassion, protect us, make us laugh, get us moving and shift our minds away from ourselves. Up until her death last year, my merry, affable, affectionate, full of kisses, meditation instructor, Master Maddie Mooshie Diamond Lotus Buddha always reminded me to be in the moment.

       Roger Caras , American wildlife photographer, writer, wildlife preservationist, television personality and former president of the ASPCA who dedicated his life to educating us about animals once profoundly stated, "“If you don't own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.” 
It's cruel and really difficult to comprehend but by the time you finish reading this blog over 1,000 perfectly healthy dogs and cats have been euthanized in shelters due to ruthless over breeding in puppy mills or irresponsible human neglect. If you are unable to adopt a dog this month consider promoting your favorite shelter on Facebook, Google or Twitter. There are numerous pure breed rescue operations if you are looking to adopt a specific breed such as an English bull dog or Golden Retriever. Another way you can help shelters is to donate money, supplies or volunteer your time.  Visit  Petfinder.com
 to find a shelter dog in your area.  Human beings need to be reminded what  love really is and..... all dogs are love.

For information about the importance of adopting shelter dogs and controlling the US pet population, please click here:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"What will your verse be?"

“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.         
     And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. 
To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”  -John Keating "Dead Poets Society"- author N.H. Kleinbaum
 Poetry is a special form of language written by the heart and soul. Poetry is an intense expression of feeling and ideas and like music it has a distinctive style and rhythm. October 3rd was once designated not only National Poetry Day but also World Poetry Day. Since 1994 National Poetry Day has engaged millions of people with poetry through a range of live events and web-based activities for people young and old throughout the United Kingdom. World Poetry Day is now celebrated in March although it used to be celebrated on or around October 5th here in the States. No matter the day or month we can all use a little more beauty and inspiration in our lives. Think of your favorite poem or verse. Who is your favorite poet and why? Pull out and pour over a childhood school journal or fondly reminisce as you reread an old love letter. Seize the day and write your verse now or relive a moment in time.
Each minute cell holds cosmic soul
Our fragile frame of fragmented stars
explodes on dusty brain, DNA debris

a blueprint of the universe

buried deep in the nucleus of being

We carouse distant galaxies

revolve about illusion sun

Illumined sparks as comets

glaze midnight skies.

Asleep, we are space travelers

with passports to the moon

dreaming reality.