Wednesday, January 29, 2014

“Laugh as much as you breathe and love as long as you live”

“If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane.” 
― Robert Frost

     One of the most enjoyable ways to spend a snow day is inside warm and toasty, cuddled up on the couch with a nice mug of hot something watching a few great movies. Unfortunately, if you have the flu you will be quarantined to your bedroom but don't despair. As long as you have access to a TV or the internets you can  relieve your crankiness quickly with a comforting dose of laughter . Want to view something completely new?  Recently, comedian, actor, writer and director Louis C.K released his 1998 black and white film, "Tomorrow Night" available to download  on his website for $5.  The movie showcases the pre-famed comedic performances of Conan O'Brien, Steve Carell, Robert Smigel and Wanda Sykes.

      Need more medicine? How about a loving spoonful of classic comedy?  Below is the Top Ten List of Funniest Comedy Movies of All Time as selected by the AFI (American Film Institute). Although comedy is highly subjective there are memorable movies all of us watch again and again as the humor and wit are timeless. One of my favorite classic comedies is the parody film Airplane! directed by the notorious Jim Abrahams and the fabulously insane Zucker Brothers. As a child, "Airplane!" was one of my first films viewed at a movie theater seated and surrounded by the infectious laughter of parents and hundreds of captivated adults. At the time most of the films sardonic humor was entirely over my head but I understood enough to know that comedy and listening to people laugh was delicious. After subsequent viewings and relentlessly quoting  "Airplane!" over the years ( "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.")  whenever it unexpectedly pops up on TV, I will always stop,  watch, giggle and appreciate something new. Feel better soon.

  10. AIRPLANE!. 1980



7. M*A*S*H. 1970


5. DUCK SOUP. 1933

4. ANNIE HALL. 1977


2. TOOTSIE. 1982


Saturday, January 25, 2014

“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.”

“Just as parents care for their children, you should bear in mind the whole universe.” ―  Dogen 
      When first being exposed and educated about the atrocities that animals suffer in mass producing factories, my feelings were of horror and outrage.  My thoughts were like millions of other concerned animal advocates and animal lovers, "How can human beings treat animals this way?" The passion to alleviate suffering was centered on my emotional pain. It was almost impossible for me to look at photo's or read articles without crying or feeling sick to my stomach. Even after many years of being exposed to first hand accounts, reports on abuse, starvation and torture it's still just as incredibly painful. But we cannot ignore or look away from suffering. Human or animal. Those of us who have owned, truly honor and love dogs cannot imagine inflicting cruelty or allowing our pets to be harmed. In order to understand the breeder/ owners, operators and workers of puppy mills, emotions have to be internalized in order to take effective action.  
      Most Americans find puppy mills deplorable, inhumane and want them completely eliminated. For the most part we are a culture of dog doting, pooch pampering pet parents and to me that is a beautiful thing. Hopefully, future generations of children will never be exposed to dogs as a mere money scamming commodity, soul less product or an object to be thrown away like trash. Dogs, cats and other companion animals are family, friends, guides, healers and especially heroes. Think of all the ways dogs and companion animals have saved and rescued human beings.
     So why are puppy mills still operating in the United States? What is the root cause of  over breeding, sickness and death of millions of innocent animals? The biggest factor and the main component in almost all corruption is greed.  What can you do to stop puppy mills?
        Many states have laws that regulate breeders and/or retail pet sellers.  Know your state laws. To find out how your state stacks up, click here  The people who run  puppy mills do not give a damn about the dogs and the conditions they live in. They care about the money they get from selling dogs. Running a puppy mill is a form of  animal cruelty. When puppy mills are discovered by authorities, they're shut down.

      Any breeder or shop that sells you a puppy that becomes ill or dies within a certain time frame is going to be held accountable and should be. Many of these puppies are bought and sold from puppy mills. The Puppy Lemon Law insures a time limit in which the puppy or dog may be returned due to certain problems but varies from state to state. In some states, the period for returning a dog with an infectious disease is 14 days. There are also 7, 10 and 15 day periods for infectious diseases. Any fees incurred will have to be paid by the breeder or dealer. The veterinary fees as well as the certification fees that are necessary to declare the dog as unfit for purchase are another expense that would be reimbursed. Typically, these range up to about 50% of the price paid for the puppy or dog. 

      It's up to the public to inform authorities if they know of a mill or even suspect that one is operating.
 If you suspect that a shop in your community is dealing or selling puppy mill dogs contact your local law enforcement or animal control. Together we can stop puppy mill operations in the US.  Each and every one of us has the power to take action. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Gardens are made of darkness and light entwined..."

“It’s lovely to know that the world can’t interfere with the inside of your head.” ― Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes

       Faith, forgiveness and balance are generously layered in an engaging ninety-eight minute quest of two   life paths entwined. The screenplay for  Philomena, co-written by the brilliantly perceptive British comedian, producer/ actor, Steve Coogan ( The Other Guys,Tropic Thunder) is based on the investigative book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith. Coogan portrays Sixsmith with the appropriate dash of cynicism, sprinkled with stinging wit opposite the legendary Golden Globes and Tony Award winning, Dame Judi Dench.  Philomena, the film focuses on the intense struggle of Philomena Lee,  who as a young Irish-Catholic teenager gave birth to a child conceived out of wedlock. Church doctrine forced the young Philomena to sign a contract that strictly denied her any type of inquiry into her son's adopted family. It is only later in her own life, after starting a family in England that Lee is introduced to the curious yet reluctant, Sixsmith. Together the ever hopeful Lee and the slightly skeptical BBC reporter set out to uncover the mystery of her long-lost son. Undoubtedly, tissues are required but there is also a beautiful balance of clever humor thanks to Coogan's insightful commentary and Dench's extraordinary performance. Although Philomena may have been overshadowed by bigger box office fare this year, don't miss this unforgettably powerful journey of the heart, mind and soul.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

"I am the captain of my soul."

“At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

      Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word which means to cause no harm or injury, a term interchangeable with non-violence. Non-violence is more than just the absence of violence;  it is a way of taking positive action to resist oppression or bring about meaningful change. Ahimsa is one of the cardinal virtues and important tenets of the major Indian religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism).  As a multidimensional concept ahimsa is inspired by the premise that all living beings (including animals) hold their own spark of divine spiritual energy. Essentially, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.
 ( Galatians 5:14 " For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." ) ( "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.")—Talmud, Shabbat 31a.
 Even the ancient Greeks followed a form of ahimsa- "What thou avoidest suffering thyself seek not to impose on others." – Epictetus. Why is it so easy to speak of such concepts but almost impossible to live by them?

      The formidable Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi strongly believed in the principle of ahimsa and the application of non-violent civil disobedience. As an American pastor, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using non-violent civil disobedience based on his own Christian beliefs. Why is non-violence the most difficult code to honor in the world when the majority of ethical beliefs, philosophies and major religions espouse we should love, respect  and live in peace with one another? Non-violence is not passivity but creative activity and a recognition of our shared humanity.

  MLK once stated -"The choice is not between violence and non-violence but between non-violence and nonexistence."   When you look into the eyes of another human being, what do you see?



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

“Those who get in the way of loves path will be kicked by horses."

“Humanity's true moral test, its fundamental test…consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.”
Milan Kundera

           80% of Americans are opposed to horse slaughter or brutally killing horses in slaughter houses and using their meat for human consumption. The United States Congress released on January 13th, 2014 a brand new funding bill for FY2014. Although this is still a controversial topic among many advocates-
here are a few points to ponder.
        Without inspectors horse meat will not pass USDA standards for human consumption. Processing plants that would have opened will no longer be profitable.  Does this resolve the entire horse slaughter problem? Not by a long shot. However, it does stop the processing of horse meat in the States. The reason your pet pooches dog food must pass USDA inspection is sadly because many poor hungry people eat it to survive in this country.  Given a choice most of us would rather eat dog food than dog meat which is why this bill is so crucial. If we allow the consumption and processing of horse meat then we will start to allow the import and export of other animal meat products such as dog, cat, fox, monkey, etc. There is much to examine and reflect when considering which animals are chosen for human consumption and which animals are not. As a society, as Americans, we cannot allow ourselves to continue on a barbaric path. What this legislation will do is ensure humane euthanasia for horses in this country, the way our canine and cat populations are humanely euthanized due to our senseless over breeding.
      A horses execution in a slaughter house is absolutely brutal, terrifying and most certainly not humane.  Typically shipped for more than 24 hours at a time, horses are left without food, water, or the ability to rest in over crowded transports. They are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Accurate stunning or (shots to the head with a bolt gun)  are difficult. Horses often endure repeated blows and sometimes remain conscious during dismemberment. They essentially could be skinned alive. There is no quick and painless death. Before the last domestic plant closed in 2007, the USDA documented unimaginable cruelty violations.

     The fact is we don't need horse, dog or monkey meat to survive in this country. Congress needs to examine why one of the most prosperous nations on Earth is allowing its poor and elderly to eat dog and cat food for sustenance in the first place.  Inspection legislation involves more than a trillion tax dollars. Numerous animal welfare organizations across the country including the Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, consumer safety groups and thousands of concerned citizens worked tirelessly for Congress to respond. Capitol Hill's message back to the American people was recognizing that our animal populations deserve better and the dangerous business of horse slaughter has no power here, now or ever.

   Advocates are now fighting hard to make sure Congress takes the final crucial step in protecting America’s horses by passing the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 1094 / S. 541) to prevent both the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in this country, and  preventing export abroad. Contact your own Congress members and ask them to cosponsor the SAFE ACT.

“Those who get in the way of loves path will be kicked by horses."
― Bisco Hatori, Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 17

Sunday, January 12, 2014

“One idea lights a thousand candles.”

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

     A few days ago Omaze "dream doctors", Matt Pohlson and Ryan Cummins  provided a temporary prescription for George Clooney love sickness. The delightfully delicious medicine is an over the top Omaze extravaganza as you "Walk the Red Carpet'" escorted arm in arm by the award winning actor/director/ activist.   Omaze is an incredible fundraising organization that sincerely believes in helping all of us achieve career altering goals and once in a lifetime dreams. You and a guest will have the opportunity to travel (all expenses paid) to New York City, chat with George Clooney backstage at the David Letterman show, ride in a VIP limo and walk the red carpet for the Monuments Men movie premiere on February 4th.

     All entries and donations for the "Red Carpet" experience are applied to the Satellite Sentinel Project. The SSP allows you to help monitor human rights abuses by funding satellites in the sky and field analysts on the ground. So whether you are a fan of  the handsome, talented Hollywood heart-throb or not your entry donation will further fund an operation formed to deter serious war crimes.

     Launched in December of 2010, SSP is the brain child of Clooney and co-founder (Enough Project) John Prendergast. SSP's  major goals were to deter mounting civil war campaigns between northern and southern areas of Sudan and documenting threats to civilians along both sides of the border. SSP continues to shine a much needed world spotlight on controversial atrocities in Sudan. Satellite imagery and analysis is used to generate rapid responses to human rights and human security concerns.  Among the mass abuses monitored, the SSP  tracks movements of animal poachers, the greatest threat to saving and preserving wildlife in Africa. 

     There are certainly many people on the global self-serving political stage that take offense to actors, musicians, authors or artists adopting a "cause" or promoting awareness of a critical social issue. Any person or organization helping to resolve or focus on human and animal rights abuses is being human. Those who are in a position to draw attention or provide money and resources are using their fame and fortune for a positive productive purpose. Compassion is the responsibility of all . It is our collective responsibility to ease the suffering of others and if we cannot ease suffering at least not add to others misery. There are a lot of really good, positive "ordinary" people in this world who want to make a difference. Not all of us have the same resources but we all have the ability to take some form of action and be of service. Whether you buy a book, watch a movie or build homes in your community, be conscious.

 My thoughts about personal responsibility and doing for others can be summed up in the following quote by the highly esteemed American astrophysicist, cosmologist and author, Neil deGrasse Tyson,

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.”


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

“I am interested in art as a means of living a life; not as a means of making a living.”  
― Robert Henri

      When your eyes well with tears during a movie preview you know you're going to see that film on it's premiere date. Watching a short clip of  The Monuments Men, (premiere date tentatively set for February 7th) was such an experience. The movie is based on the true story of  a World War II platoon, who President Franklin D. Roosevelt personally commissioned to infiltrate German territory and rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves, returning them to their rightful owners. The precious art trapped behind enemy lines was under German army authority to be destroyed.  Museum directors, historians and art curators from all over Europe were called upon to prevent the destruction of the world's priceless treasures. The Monuments Men, risked their own lives to protect and defend a thousand years of humankind's ultimate artistic achievements.

     The film features an all star ensemble cast assembled by and including George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchette and Bill Murray.  The screenplay was written and directed by Clooney and Grant Heslov  from captivating high drama crime stories by American writer Robert Edsel. Edsel is also the author of Rescuing Da Vinci and Saving Italy. Most American citizens are completely unaware of the events that transpired during World World II in regard to preserving and protecting priceless art pieces for future generations. The world must recognize, marvel  and pay tribute to the courage and bravery of all those who contributed to this incredible historic mission. 

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” Émile Zola

Monday, January 6, 2014

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

“We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.”

With That Moon Language
-Hafiz (Sufi poet)

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them,
"Love me."
Of course you do not do this out loud;
Someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us
To connect.
Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,
With that sweet moon
What every other eye in this world
Is dying to

Thursday, January 2, 2014

“Everything you can imagine is real.”

"Did you ever have to find a way to survive and you knew your choices were bad, but you had to survive?"
-Irving Rosenfeld (American Hustle)

     Aside from having an incredible cast, American Hustle possesses that elusive quality which  draws you into a film allowing you to feel genuinely concerned for characters normally considered sociopaths. Directed by the exceptional David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) and written by Russell and Eric Singer, American Hustle is an edgy fast paced glimpse into the life of small scale con man, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale).  The brilliant Bale is almost unrecognizable as the shifty, overweight, balding yet completely endearing business owner. Rosenfeld's slick seductive partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) becomes entangled with cocky, over confident FBI agent Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper) and Rosenfeld's erratic yet alluring wife played by the stunning Jennifer Lawrence. Prosser (Amy Adams) is a chameleon, a true survivor whose strength and adaptability are ice cold and captivating, piercing hearts with phrases like " You're nothing to me until you're everything."

     Set on the US East coast in the late seventies the plot is loosely based on tales of New Jersey crime bosses, mobsters and disco era political corruption. The movie features a savvy musical selection which adds even more depth and vulnerability to complex lives in unpredictable circumstances. The soundtrack includes everything from dance floor Diva Donna Summer, Duke Ellington, ELO to Elton John, Cole Porter, The Bee Gee's to America's " A Horse With No Name."

 Look for appearances by personal favorite, genius writer/director/comedian Louis CK as Bradley Coopers budget conscious FBI boss, Jeremy Renner as the family values pinnacle, soft-hearted Mayor, Carmine Polito and Boardwalk Empire's(HBO drama series) gorgeous Jack Huston as a dashing, smashingly smitten gangster.
      American Hustle is an exercise in honoring and observing our flawed and fragile human ego. It is an engaging cinematic reminder that we are all every day survivor's. We are who we pretend to be. A study of" passive- aggressive karate" at its finest. And who among us isn't made more interesting and remarkable by our imperfections?   American Hustle can be summed up with poignant lines from  Take the Cannoli,  a book by the sincerely astute author, Sarah Vowel.
 “We are flawed creatures, all of us. Some of us think that means we should fix our flaws. But get rid of my flaws and there would be no one left.”   
       Add a few more clever twists, turns and surprises and you will not be disappointed to tell the theater ticket clerk, "Here, take my money!"