Saturday, October 31, 2015

"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 despite frightfully shouting it in your face. It's a common misconception. In Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley’s unprecedented horror novel, Frankenstein, Frankenstein is not the monster’s name. Actually, the monster was created by Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The poor mangled monster wasn't adorned a maniacal moniker. Frankenstein's name has become synonymous with the murderous villain -- and the wild ruckus of October 31st. Here are a few more little known facts regarding Frankenstein and the creepy creatures of Halloween.

     Vampires, witches, werewolves and goblins - 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 FrankensteinThe 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 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 quartet wanted to one up each other with spooky horror stories. 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 scary new 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. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"This is wrong...."

"I've never seen anything so nasty looking, so sick to the point that you know other students are turning away, don't know what to do and are scared for their lives." Tony Robinson Jr. -Spring Valley High School student who recorded assault video.

            Here is a link to the Richland County, South Carolina local news story (WLTX) hours after a school resource officer assaulted a young woman in a high school classroom. The incident occurred Monday, October 26th at Spring Valley High School.

                 After viewing the video several times and listening to recorded first hand accounts of student witnesses it's clear the resource officer, Deputy Ben Fields used excessive force against a minor who showed no sign of threatening behavior. Tony Robinson Jr. a classmate of the assault victim recorded the resource officers actions on his cell phone. The teacher who appears briefly in the video had requested the student leave the classroom. When the student refused the officer was asked to escort the child from the classroom. Deputy Fields, as of this writing, is on administrative leave.

          Personally, I feel adamant that Deputy Fields be charged and fired. The police department, school district or both should be sued. There is absolutely no excuse for this type of violence against children in our schools. As a former administrative assistant, substitute teacher and teachers aide for disabled students, I am deeply disturbed by the way this child was violated. Students in the classroom were stunned. The teacher stood silently watching the child brutalized. Another child was arrested for standing up for the abused student. Charges against both girls should be dropped.
          As a society are we giving away our rights and our power to live in fear of a police state?  Don't speak out when you see something wrong or you'll go to jail? Threatened with violence, don't we all become a little more quiet, a little more afraid until a part of us is diminished, unemotional, uncaring, numb. Is that what we want? Don't give a damn? There is no justification that warrants this type of violent force against a young, defenseless child who was terrified and half the size of a brutal grown adult. If you're not disturbed by the level of violence in the video then you need to examine your conscience.




Thursday, October 22, 2015

"Memories are made of this..."

   Smell my feet.
   Give me something good to eat."-  Mary Wollstonecraft 

          My earliest  trick-or-treat memory was when at the age of three my Mom dressed me up as mini- Santa Claus including makeshift beard stretched from cotton balls attached with Scotch tape and a big jelly belly of rolled up winter scarves. In full action mode, pillowcase slung over my back, we were off on an incredible spooky adventure.  With my two older sisters in tow, we trekked miles through our neighborhood and beyond gathering our massive bounty of sweet treat treasures. Upon returning home we dumped our overflowing goody bags scattering their contents on our groovy green shag carpet. Admiring its luscious beauty we longed to roll around in our candy crush as if we were the greedy Three Little Pigs in a luxurious chocolate mud bath. Our own personal pots of child's gold. Eyes wide as the moon, we stared salivating over the mouth watering deliciousness of every variety of snack bar, Sweet Tarts, Smarties, Pixie Sticks, gross Necco Wafers, caramels, candy necklaces, wax bottles of  drinkable goo and the occasional sad box of raisins plastic encased popcorn ball. No rocks.

     The day after Halloween, stuffing my face with Snickers bars and Jolly Ranchers, I manically rode my tricycle on our front porch for thirty minutes like the little boy from The Shining, "Redrum! Redrum!"  My energy level measured  Breaking Bad, "meth addict" on the uncontrollable kid scale. This was soon followed by collapsing into a long sugar induced slumber while watching Sesame Street. C-is for cookie, C- is for coma. Candy wrappers littered our living room like the  driveway of a  Dixie trailer park. Next thing I remember was slowly waking up with sticky orange drool running down my chin. My stomach felt like it had been gut checked by Ronda Rousey and I had a Tootsie Roll lollipop suspended in my ponytail. So once a year let your mischievous monsters and ghostly goblins imagine they inherited Willy Wonka's factory and let it rain M&M's and Skittles. The memories are sure to haunt them forever.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

"Won't you come out to play..."

"The Smiths was an incredibly personal thing to me. It was like launching your own diary to music." - Steven Morrissey, current artist, musician, former singer/lyricist for The Smiths.

            The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame located in Cleveland, Ohio announced their list of 2016      nominees earlier in October. The 15 candidates in alphabetical order:
The Cars,  Chic,  Chicago,  Cheap Trick,  Deep Purple,  Janet Jackson,  The J.B's,                 Chaka Khan, Los Lobos,  Steve Miller,  Nine Inch Nails,  N.W.A,                                                   The Smiths,  The Spinners,  Yes

        Music aficionados are still surprised that a band with such great influence, longevity and commercial success as Chicago has yet to be inducted. Still others are wondering how quickly time passes when musicians such as R&B, pop diva Janet Jackson, Cleveland's own Trent Reznor's Industrial rock pioneers Nine Inch Nails or Indie icons, The Smiths are being nominated so soon. Learn how nominees are selected and vote for your favorite artists before December 9th at the official Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website here :

        A love of music surrounds every memory of my childhood. My parents and siblings genuinely delighted in listening to their favorite bands and playing musical instruments.Tuned in and turned on, music and song lyrics constantly filled my ears, heart and soul. There isn't a composition I'll refuse to listen to at least once. We make the mistake of cutting ourselves off from different types of music because of our culture or an ego driven need to "appear" current. You will only succeed in doing the opposite. Know your music history. Listen to artists produced today, 25 years ago or even a 100 years ago if it gives you pleasure. When you have the opportunity to introduce new genres of music to people of all ages a natural love and enthusiasm immediately brings connection. Remove the limits. There is an overwhelming beauty and power which unites us behind our immersion in music, especially rock n' roll. Enjoy the discovery.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"What you seek is seeking you."

"Sometimes change is too much to bear, but most of the time change is the only thing saving your life."- Unknown

             October has been designated national  Adopt-A-Shelter- Dog Month. Why is adopting from a rescue or shelter so critical right now? The facts are heartbreaking. Approximately 2.7 million  perfectly healthy animals are euthanized in this country every year. Companion animals like dogs and cats are killed when there isn't enough room to house them in shelters. Most dogs are surrendered  or disturbingly dumped at shelters by previous owners for reasons such as aging, medical expenses or grooming costs, families having children, relocation's or re-trainable behavioral issues. A surprising 25% of dogs surrendered to shelters are purebred. Many rescues are so full of unwanted animals, dogs and cats placed in a shelter have as little as one week to be adopted before they're killed. Despite the success of spaying and neutering programs in the past ten years homeless animals outnumber homeless people 5 to 1. This statistic is tragic for both homeless families and homeless animals. How do we consider this acceptable in one of the most prosperous nations in the world?
          Every year I've tried to share as much information as possible on my blog regarding animal rescues, shelters and the sheer richness and pleasure dogs bring to our lives. From personal experience and avid research, as rescue, police, military, therapy and family companions these incredible animals are intelligent, capable,  protective, trusting and unrivaled in loving their humans. They provide physical health and mental benefits beyond  what we can statistically measure. What can we all do in October and all year long to help these beautiful animals?

         *    Decide if adopting a dog is right for you. Do your research. Dogs require time, affection, exercise and grooming attention but like any thing we love they are worth the effort. Check with your local shelter today. Once you adopt make sure the animal is spayed or neutered.

         *    If you're unable to adopt do whatever you can to help animals in shelters such as donate supplies or volunteer your time. Call your local shelters and ask them what they need most.

         *    Remember if you're looking for a purebred dog such as a Golden Retriever or Beagle 25% of dogs in shelters are purebred. Find a breed specific rescue in your area. Please- don't buy puppies from pet stores or pet shops online. Puppies bought and sold in stores and online are more likely raised in illegal puppy mills.

         *    Support spaying and neutering programs in your city and state. Population control is critical to preventing overcrowded shelters and senselessly killing healthy animals later.

          *   Use your own resources to help animals in need such as posting information on your Facebook, blog or Twitter page. Urge communities to offer programs which spay and neuter animals for reduced price or free. Population control is key.

        *  Teach children the importance of compassion and care for all animals. Dogs rely on our love and kindness for their survival. Please, do whatever you can to help even if you're unable to bring a new canine companion into your home this month.

     *  Please, take time to thank those brave enough to work in shelters and rescue organizations  every day. Most of us can't even imagine the amount of courage it takes to desperately try and negotiate temporary foster or permanent homes before an animals time runs out. Please, think of those doing a job most of us could never bear to do but what must be done. 



            " What you seek is seeking you."- Rumi


Thursday, October 8, 2015

"Our voices are our most powerful weapons."

"There is a moment when you have to choose whether to be silent or to stand up."
 Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, author, activist.

                        Opening Friday, October 9th at the "Hamptons International Film Festival" and everywhere worldwide, He Named Me Malala is the anticipated documentary of  Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousefzai. Directed by acclaimed producer Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, 2006), (Waiting for Superman, 2010) the film has been described as a compliment to Malala's  2013 autobiography, I Am Malala (Little Brown & Company 2013) with author Christina Lamb. October 9th is a significant date for Yousefzai. It is the day she almost paid the ultimate price for speaking out against the atrocities the Taliban were committing in her homeland. Having taken control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, the Taliban violently enforced uncompromising restrictions on families, especially the rights of women and girls to receive an education. In 2012 the courageous young woman who stood up in protest for her independence was callously shot in the face by a group of global terrorists who wanted Malala silenced forever.

            Critics of the documentary which opened in limited release on October 2nd commented that the film appears to be more promotional than educational. There are memorable scenes where the truly amazing, wise yet playful personality of a young woman emerges. Malala Yousefzai is nothing short of an extraordinarily resilient and brave activist who continues her fight for women and girls not only in Pakistan but all over the world. The story needs to be told again and again and perhaps the criticism of  some writers and reviewers in the US is either due to our arrogance or our ignorance.
 He Named Me Malala is rated PG-13.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Something incredible is waiting to be known."

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known,"- Carl Sagan, astrophysicist, cosmologist, astronomer, author

        The Martian opened to excellent  reviews  Friday, October 2nd topping all other movies at the box office this weekend. Legendary director, Ridley Scott's sci-fi epic is based on novelist Andy Weir's incredible story of The Martian (Crown 2011) number one on the New York Times Best Sellers fiction book list for the week of October 11th.
       Not all space-exploration fiction translates well to film but in the case of  The Martian starring Matt Damon (Mark Wagner) and Jessica Chastain, both featured in director Christopher Nolan's impressive intergalactic thriller, Interstellar (2014) the survival saga is already earning award worthy buzz.  As a novel, The Martian was well received due to the imposing amount of meticulous research double checked by author Weir himself. In the video above NASA scientists confirm the films attention to detail. Whether audiences choose to watch an impactful movie, read an inspiring novel or both, The Martian franchise promises to transport us on an unforgettable journey of discovery.

 Actor, writer and sci-fi icon, Will Wheaton provided his own accolades for The Martian novel by awarding it five out of five stars on Good Reads website:

    "Andy Weir does this incredible thing where he makes the reader feel the isolation that Mark Wagner feels, and he does it so subtly, we don't even realize that he's doing it until it's done."