Saturday, December 28, 2013

"Bliss is when every atom of your body is buzzing"... George Harrison

How often does one feel bliss?  Not happiness, not joy, feelings in themselves not to be underestimated, but bliss.  I'd say not too often.  I believe I can speak not only for myself, but most...unless, perhaps, one is the Dalai Lama or a highly evolved individual, consciously and spiritually. 

However, when I've felt bliss, it's been through music.  The following ALWAYS makes every atom of my body dance or "buzz..."

The Balalaika

The Bouzouki

The Mandolin

The Singing Bowls of Tibet

The Spanish Guitar

Over the holiday, I've been introduced to the Bouzouki to Ellhnikon: 

currently listening, and every atom of my body is still dancing...

George's all within...the whole of creation is perfect...
we are made of that perfect knowledge and perfect consciousness...
but we have to tap into that within and turn off your mind, relax,
and float downstream...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Babes in Toyland and Scrooge

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Joan Fontaine
 October 22, 1917 − December 15, 2013


Peter O'Toole
August 2, 1932 - December 14, 2013


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cecil B. DeMille in his epic glory

1934's Cleopatra with a young and feisty, Claudette Colbert

From their 2012 CD "A Thing Called Divine Fits" with apologies to Federico Fellini

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18, 1918-December 5, 2013)

The South African activist and former president, Nelson Mandela helped bring an end to apartheid and had been a global advocate for human rights.

A member of the African National Congress party beginning in the 1940s, he was a leader of both peaceful protests and armed resistance in a racially divided South Africa. His actions landed him in prison for nearly three decades and made him the face of the antiapartheid movement both within his country and internationally. Released in 1990, he participated in the eradication of apartheid and in 1994 became the first black president of South Africa, forming a multiethnic government to oversee the country’s transition.

Since retiring from politics in 1999, he had remained a devoted champion for peace and social justice in his own nation and around the world.


In my opinion, Nelson Mandela is one of the most important in modern history.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Totti dancing with my niece, Jamie, at Janie's wedding, 1988
Luckily, my father got to enjoy my nephew's visit home from the Navy, and the family's Thanksgiving, before going into the hospital Friday.  In my opinion, having been his caregiver since he was diagnosed with dementia, it was another mini-stroke, symptomatic of vascular dementia and causing further decline.  The neurologist will confirm.

Our love and prayers are with you, totti. 

My father's favorite classical piece, Symphony No. 9, from Dvorjak's
New World Symphony.

Monday, November 25, 2013

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - Break out the menurkeys and sweet potato latkes, people, it's time to celebrate Thanksgivukkah, a once-in-a-lifetime holiday.

A calendrical quirk brings Hanukkah and Thanksgiving together this Thursday for the first time since 1888. Scientists say the confluence won't occur again for another 70,000 years, give or take a century.

Dana Gitell, a 37-year-old marketing manager for a Jewish nonprofit in Massachusetts, is the mind behind the mashup "Thanksgivukkah." (If you think that's a mouthful, her other ideas were "Thanksgiving-ukkah" and "Hanukkahgiving," both of which caused our spellchecker to sputter and die.)

With the mix of words in place, the idea caught fire like a deep-fried turkey.
Gitell is gathering an online album of Thanksgivukkah celebrations, and says she's received submissions from places like South Dakota and Anchorage, Alaska outposts not typically known for their large Jewish communities. Even rabbis from ultra-Orthodox sects like Chabad have jumped on board the Thanksgivukkah bandwagon.

"At first I didn't know how rabbis would respond to something as irreverent as a mashup," Gittel says, "but they almost uniformly embraced it. It's completely kosher."

We don't know if the rabbis approve of everything on our list, because people are going kinda nuts. Must be that once-in-an-eon thing. But without further ado (and with a nod toward Adam Sandler's "Eight Crazy Nights"), here are eight ways to celebrate Thanksgivukkah.

1. Light a menurkey
Leave it to a fourth-grader to create the ultimate Thanksgivukkah icon.
Asher Weintraub came up with the idea during a family trip to Florida last year. The little genius from New York City thought it'd be really cool to have a menorah, the nine-branched candelabrum used to mark Hanukkah, in the shape of a turkey.
Weintraub created a Kickstarter account, raised $50,000, made a 3-D prototype and heroically fended off his father's attempt to rename the thing a "menorkey." Nice job, kiddo.
The father in question, Anthony Weintraub, says he's sold between 6,000 and 7,000 menurkeys, including a few to famous finance experts and owners of National Football League teams.
"I'm beginning to think my life as a menorah salesman isn't over," says Anthony Weintraub.

2. Make a nice Turbrisket 
Let's face it, Thanksgiving was getting pretty gonzo even before meeting Hanukkah. I mean, turducken? But Thanksgivukkah has taken crazy to a new level.
You've got your Turbrisket (turkey filled with brisket), your deep-fried turkey, your sweet potato latkes, your cranberry-stuffed knishes, your pumpkin kugel, your pecan pie rugelach I could go on, I'd get fat just by typing the rest of the list.

Marlene Eldemire of Cincinnati says her family wanted to make the huge mashup menu Buzzfeed posted earlier this month. "I told them they can go ahead and make it," Eldemire says with a laugh."There's no way."So her family is settling for a few Hanukkah standbys like brisket that'll sit next to the turkey and sweet potatoes this Thursday.

3. Deck the halls for the Challahday
This is another spot where people are getting really creative, says Kali Brodsky, editor of They're making pumpkin menorahs, Thanksgivukkah coloring books for kids, and table settings that mix and match Hanukkah and Thanksgiving themes.

Rabbi Rachel Silverman of Boston says she's decorating her table with Thanksgiving symbols (a cornucopia, pumpkins, harvest bouquet) and Hanukkah items (a menorah, gold-colored coins called "gelt"). If you're feeling lazy, Brodsky says, you can just print out the Thanksgivukkah place cards Jewish Boston has created and set a place for Bubbe.

4. Watch a HUGE dreidel spin down the streets of New York 
To honor the confluence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, Macy's has created a 25-foot-tall, 21-foot-wide dreidel for its iconic parade. The "balloonicle" (part balloon, part vehicle) will spin just like a real dreidel, and it's the first time the parade has included a Jewish symbol, according to Macy's.
"Inclusion of the dreidel balloonicle is indicative of both a nod to the rare occasion in which Hanukkah's first day falls on Thanksgiving and of the dreidel's inherent entertainment value," says Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras.

5. Party like it's 165 BC (and 1621 CE) 
Hanukkah, for those who need a refresher course, marks the miracle of the successful defense of the Jewish temple by the Maccabees, an army of Jewish rebels, against the Goliath-like Syrian-Greek army in 165 BC. One day's supply of oil somehow lit the temple's menorah for eight days, and the rest is history.
The Jewish event and the Pilgrims' arrival in America are both celebrations of religious freedom, says Sherry Kuiper. At Kuiper's synagogue, Temple Israel in Columbus, Georgia, the kids led a service in which they dressed up like the Maccabees and Pilgrims, traveled in a make-believe time machine, and celebrated Thanksgivukkah together.

The parallel isn't perfect, Kuiper acknowledges. After all, the Native Americans certainly don't celebrate Thanksgiving as the birth of their religious freedom.
But Thanksgivukkah offers a reminder that the more things change, the more some things like the human need to express gratitude stay the same, Kuiper said
6. Kvetch about Thanksgivukkah 
Okay, this one isn't exactly "crazy." But it must be acknowledged, some folks just can't get into the Thanksgivukkah spirit.

Thanksgiving was one of the few holidays on which interfaith families didn't have to explain to the kids "why mom believes this and dad believes that," argues Allison Benedikt in a recent Slate column. "I cannot tell you what a relief it is to have this one major holiday—the best one!—that isn’t in some part about what I am and my husband is not (Jewish), or what he is and I’m not (Christmas-celebrating)," Benedikt says. (And for just the record, sweet and sour braised brisket with cranberry sauce is an abomination, she says.)

Jennie Rivlin Roberts, whose Judaica store, Modern Tribe, is selling Thanksgivukkah gear like hotcakes, says she understands some of the kvetching. But a mashup of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah is so much better than the usual "December dilemma," the overlap of the eight-day Jewish holiday and the cultural behemoth know as Christmas, Roberts says. "With Thanksgivukkah, you're not really mixing two religions, so you can really go for it. People may say it's silly, and yeah, some of it is, but it's also full of fun and joy."

7. Watch a rap battle between a turkey and a dreidel
Julie Benko was stuck on the subway in New York City for two hours, and she was bored. So, she did what any sane person would do - she wrote a song about Thanksgivukkah. OK, Benko is not your average straphanger. She's something of a Broadway belle, having just returned from playing Cosette on a national tour of "Les Miserables." But that doesn't mean it's any easier to find a rhyme for "Thanksgivukkah."

Still, Benko's klezmer-inspired tune has lots of YouTube competition. There's the rap battle between a turkey and a dreidel sponsored by Manischewitz. (Yes, they rock it old shul.)  There's the slickly produced "Oils: A Thanksgivukkah Miracle." And there's this cute little number from the the Kehillah Schechter Academy in Norwood, Massachusetts, called "The Ballad of Thanksgivukkah."

8. Watch a scary movie about stereotypes
After all the candle-lighting and the decorating and eating and the kvetching and the singing, let's face it, you're probably going to be pretty tired.

So why not plop down on the couch to watch the trailer for a Thanksgivukkah-themed horror movie?
"Thanksgivukkah: The Movie" is about a nice gentile family who find their Thanksgiving celebration invaded by a family of ultra-Orthodox Jews. Jokes about religious stereotypes ensue. We don't know if the trailer, which is made by Jewish filmmakers, is completely kosher, but we guess there's enough time for the rabbis to sort it out in time for the next Thanksgivukkah.

So, with that, we see you in 70,000 years for another Thanksgivukkah. Gobble tov, my friends!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

50th Anniversary of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's Death

On the morning of November 22, 1963, my classmates and I waited for our 7th grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Doyle, to appear as she did every day to officially begin our school day. We waited longer than usual that morning.  Eventually, she entered the classroom closing the door behind her slowly. She appeared shaken, her eyes swollen and red.  Instinctively, we knew something was wrong as the class glimpsed at each other then back to Mrs. Doyle. When she finally spoke, it was with such deep sorrow with which I wasn't familiar.

"Children...", she stopped to regain what composure she had. "Children, President Kennedy has been critically wounded." She began crying. On cue, we did too. "There will be no further classes. You're dismissed." I don't think we quite understood what it meant for President Kennedy to be "critically wounded."  We walked out confused.  When I arrived home, my parents and siblings were glued to the television.  The news of the President's condition remained a secret for what seemed forever until news anchor, Walter Cronkite, with noted emotion, announced President Kennedy had died. We all sobbed. I knew why I did. I'm pretty sure why my parents, who adored him, did. As for the rest of my younger siblings, I could only imagine, while I tried to comprehend the enormity of his death. I couldn't. I didn't even understand the change in power to Vice President Lyndon Johnson.

What I kept thinking is how President Kennedy cared about us.  He wanted us to be the best we could be. You see, the girls' gym teacher, Mrs. Coony, along with Mrs. Doyle, my homeroom teacher, were Irish Catholics. The Irish Catholics adored President Kennedy who, being Irish Catholic, helped raise their heritage to higher grounds. The bagpipes, for which I have a deep affinity, seemed to have played more frequently at parades, at school functions, almost everywhere, louder, prouder.

But returning to Mrs. Coony.  She insisted that her gym classes would include President Kennedy's Physical Fitness Program for children. I'd always been enthusiastic about sports, perhaps because of my father's love of swimming, I too loved to swim; perhaps due to my younger brothers who enjoyed all sports, I too participated.

But performing sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, and running weren't my cup of tea. However, this was a gym teacher's dream; an Irish-Catholic gym teacher's dream; Mrs. Coony's dream that we be the best we could be because President Kennedy wanted it that way. 

With time and certificates later, I literally felt more fit, more alive.  I was a healthy, robust twelve year old thanks to her, thanks to President Kennedy.  Then, I felt the connection to him.  I haven't since President Kennedy felt that connection again.  Perhaps I'd grown more cynical over the years; perhaps less enthusiastic about politics.  I believe his youth reflected the idealism of the baby boomer generation. We sought to understand the world, and try and make a difference. "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country;" a statement made famous from his inaugural address; one which would remain as we continued to search and waited for the return of Camelot.

Monday, November 18, 2013

My father sang along while watching Pavarotti to Bixio's "Mamma," in Italian!  This is short of a miracle! 

It was nearly 3:00 p.m. while the asparagus were cooking for dinner.  My father was listening quietly to Pavarotti.   Suddenly, through the usual sobs while listening to songs from his home country of Yugoslavia, he sang along with Pavarotti to Mamma in Italian!   I couldn't believe my ears!   How did he know the words?  Yes, we had Italian friends and neighbors since childhood from whom he may have been exposed to the song.  I, too, am familiar with Mamma, but don't know Italian except for my feeble attempts to learn the language.  Or he'd heard it before the war as Yugoslavia shared a border with Italy. 

An 85 year-old with vascular dementia, my father sits quietly and calmly with conversations of yes, no, sure, with an occasional simple question.  He recognizes all of us.  He offers very little conversation but can play melodies he'd known since he was young, including Christmas songs, on the harmonica which in itself is truly surprising considering his inability to express himself verbally.  I think of his post-war days serving in the British army while stationed in Germany where he met my mother; both playing the accordion together and with family.  Was Mamma known in post-war Germany?  I have to doubt it, but who can verify?

What I have learned about dementia (my mother too had Alzheimers) is that the medical community doesn't yet understand the complexity of the disease.  Most agree that short-term memory seems to be affected first, and long-term memory remains somewhat intact until the disease is more advanced.  So, it wouldn't be surprising if he'd remember his youth, but Italian?

Although the mystery remains, I will treasure sharing this moment of tremendous joy with my totti. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wishing the Filipino people strength and courage

Coritha was the first musical artist in the history of popular Pinoy music to experiment with Philippine native instruments in her music. Rondalla instruments such as the Banduria, Octavina and Laud were used in the songs "Awit Kay Leandro," "Bilanggo" and her biggest hit song "Oras Na." Although the singer-songwriter felt her experimentations were not as successful as she had wanted them to be due perhaps to the novel idea of trying to merge native Filipino music, Coritha's pioneering efforts have enriched Pinoy music and kept Pinoy culture alive in the hearts and minds of many Filipinos.

Coritha was the first musical performer and recording artist to work with blind musicians utilizing their talents as banduria players for her live performances and recordings during the early part of her career? Ruben Mueco, Ramon Valentero and Catalino Lazo were three of the blind musicians who contributed their unique talents to Coritha's musical endeavors.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

  • Simple ways to help veterans that can make an impact
  • You don't have to spend a lot of money to show gratitude for veterans
  • Just saying "thank you" can go a long way

(CNN) -- Veterans Day is a day to honor and celebrate the military veterans who have served our country, but if you don't have a veteran in your family or even know one, the meaning of the day may be lost.

The Veterans Administration says there are 23 million living U.S. Veterans. A veteran could be your neighbor, your co-worker or the person sitting next to you on the train. They are silent heroes we may run into every day and while we may appreciate their service, many people are not quite sure exactly how to help a veteran.

Historically, Veterans Day is marked by parades, official ceremonies and events, but many Americans only know it as a day off work or school. Since the 1950s, Veterans Day has been the day to honor veterans of all wars. Here are some ideas if you want to do something more for a veteran:

1) Write a letter

Many organizations, including California-based Operation Gratitude, sponsor letter writing campaigns for veterans. It's never too late to write a letter of gratitude to a Veteran.


1. Please make sure your letters will fit in a standard size envelope
2. Include your own name and address in the body of the letter
3. Do not write about politics, religion, death or killing
4. Please do not use glitter
5. This is strictly a letter-writing effort to thank Veterans; please do not send any care package items for Veterans
6. All letters will be screened
7. Send multiple letters together in one large mailing envelope or box

Please send as many letters (or copies with original signature) as you would like by regular mail only to:

Thank a Veteran
c/o Penny Alfonso
1970 Rangeview Drive
Glendale, CA 91201

2) Volunteer at a VA hospital

Veterans of all wars seek health care at the nation's many VA hospitals. And more than likely, there is a VA hospital in your community.

Cathy Pratt of veterans organization Freedom is not Free says visiting a VA hospital can make a big difference for a veteran. Many of those hospitalized may not have family or anyone to visit them. Taking a couple hours every week or month to volunteer can make a huge impact on your life and a veteran's life. This would also be a great way to teach children American history by introducing them to the people who have preserved America's freedom.

If you go to the Veterans Administration website, there is a way to sign up volunteer at your local VA hospital.

3) Donate simple things

Not money, but donating small items can help make some lonely lives better. Small donations to VA Hospitals are always welcome. Many patients are on fixed incomes and unable to buy some of the things that could make their recoveries better.

Check with your local VA Hospital, but here are some items they are looking for:

• Magazines
• Coffee and cookies
• New or gently used clothing
• Telephone cards

4) Help the homeless

According to VA, a little more than a fifth of the adult homeless population has served their country. The VA has founded a National Call Center for Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, that provides free, 24/7 access to trained counselors. Call 1-877-4AID VET (1-877-424-3838).

The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars also have homeless programs to assist veterans and several charities are dedicated to helping wounded service members and their families. Coming home from war and returning to the workforce while dealing with the wounds of war can also be economically challenging.

If you are going to donate money to help a homeless or struggling veteran, make sure you pick a reputable charity or organization that has 501(c)(3) designation. Contact your local VFW or American Legion to find out how to make sure your money stays in your community.

5) Say thank you

This may be the simplest and maybe the most effective way to make an immediate impact for a veteran. Many veterans may feel disenfranchised and forgotten by a nation. If you see a veteran or know of one, take a moment to say thank you.

"Thank you for your service," is a simple statement that can go a long way.

Veterans have given up a lot to serve their country, and many will deal with emotional and physical wounds for the rest of their lives. Knowing that we appreciate their service and their sacrifice can help.

And don't forget about the veterans still serving. Many of our active duty military personnel have served multiple tours in Afghanistan or Iraq. If you see a person in uniform in public, say thank you -- two words that can make a big difference.

These are just five simple ways to help a veteran, but there are hundreds more ways to make an impact.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Can Running Help the World Achieve Peace?

Editor's note: May El-Khalil is the founder and president of the Beirut Marathon Association. She spoke at TEDGlobal 2013 in June. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to "ideas worth spreading," which it makes available through talks posted on its website.

(CNN) -- The sports world was shaken this past year by violence at the Boston Marathon, reminding us of the fragility of peace no matter the place and time. However, marathons in the United States, and the world for that matter, rallied -- bouncing back as they defied fear through running.

The drive to keep moving forward is at the very heart of marathon running, and nothing is better than large-scale sports events when it comes to helping people to overcome insecurities and fears together.

Peace is an emotionally charged word. It is something that everyone wants, and it is so elusive to so many. I come from Lebanon, a country that has seen more than its share of conflict and war, but it is also a country that embraces life and peace.

Many underestimate the power of sports to create real change in society. But in Lebanon, we have seen how sports, and especially running, can have a positive impact on individuals and ultimately on communities and countries.

May El-Khalil: Making peace is a marathon

I founded the Beirut Marathon Association 11 years ago and had a firsthand look at how people can unite if given the right platform and a safe, inclusive environment where every individual feels that he or she is a true partner -- a stakeholder -- in the event.

I used to be a marathon runner; running to me came naturally and helped me stay balanced and focused mentally and physically. That all ended on a day in 2001 when I was training with my husband and some friends in Lebanon to participate in the Dubai Marathon. As our run took us to a street filled with traffic, I was hit by a truck and pinned to the pavement. The accident left me hanging between life and death for a while: I was in coma, and came out of it only to spend two years in the hospital. After 36 surgeries, I was able to walk again, but running was no longer possible.

As I convalesced in the hospital, the only thought that kept me excited and hopeful was the idea of creating an international running event for Lebanon. If I was not to run again, I wanted others in my country to know the rush of being part of a large-scale running event, to share all the inspiration and positive feelings that result from such an experience.

This was my big dream -- to bring my country together, to concentrate on something much bigger than myself and my pain. The Beirut Marathon Association was created while I was still in the hospital, with the help of supportive family and friends, and the first international Beirut Marathon was held in 2003. That year over 6,000 runners took to the streets of the city and its surrounding area. It was the first time that Lebanon witnessed such a large-scale running event. People took notice.

That first race showed that everyone was looking for a way to participate in a national event that did not fall under any specific political affiliation. People were willing to leave their differences behind and to come run together through the culturally diverse neighborhoods of the city and its vicinity.

My vision and that of the Beirut Marathon team grew, and we resolved to continue, no matter what the circumstances, because we were excited. We also realized that we were setting an example. This kind of harmony created through sport could extend even further, to other places and to other times.

Organizing such an unprecedented running event in Lebanon was not easy. We confronted political and cultural obstacles, among others. We had to build trust and interest little by little. We had to coordinate closely with parties all over the country; we worked with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, with the Lebanese army, and with all political parties, many private organizations, like municipalities, the Lebanese Red Cross, and others. Through it all, we got a surprising amount of support from public and private institutions and individuals.

Many troubles have plagued Lebanon over the past 11 years of our work, but on Marathon Day we always managed to bring people together in spite of their differences.

Of course organizing our events during those times of conflict required a lot of flexibility and contingency planning. In one instance, we turned protesters who were sitting in protest tents in the heart of the city into spectators who cheered the runners on and who offered them refreshments and water. We were only able to do it because we had earned the trust of all parties in the country and had the support of all the Lebanese. The lesson we learned from all of this is that peace is possible!

This year the slogan of our Banque du Liban Beirut Marathon, which will take place on November 10, is "Run for Lebanon." It is an affirmation of the power of sport to create a better country, one where differences are tossed aside and similarities are embraced for a more prosperous future. This has been as challenging a year as any other, with the whole region around us going through war and turmoil and with internal political conflicts unresolved.

In times of such uncertainty, it is more important than ever to remind people of what is good, and what is important: healthy competition, unity, prosperity, growth, joy, and most of all peace.

As in previous years, people responded, and our registration for this year's races has reached more than 36,600 participants from all over Lebanon and the world.

Peacemaking is not a sprint, it is more of a marathon. We cannot expect any major change to happen overnight. Strength, stamina and resolve are needed to finish long runs, but the human spirit is capable of great things. I have seen the elusive peace, and I believe that it can become evident to all, one steady step at a time.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TRICK: House on Haunted Hill? Mini-Script; TREAT: To soften facial wrinkles and skin, apply castor oil.


FREDERICK LOREN, and his wife, ANNABELLE, have invited several GUESTS to spend the night in their old mansion situated atop a hill.


Each guest arrives at the desolate mansion in a limousine provided by Mr. Loren and are attended to by his BUTLER.


Good evening, Sir.  Mr. Loren will be with you shortly.


Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. Addams.


MORTICIA and GOMEZ ADDAMS join Frankenstein who bends over to kiss Morticia's extended hand, then shakes Gomez's hand and offers a cigar.

What's the old boy up to?

Frankenstein GRUNTS, shaking his head as he lights Gomez's cigar.

It's all very mysterious, cherie.

As Gomez is about to smother her arm in kisses, the doorbell HOLLERS, distracting him. The threesome's glances follow the butler as he opens the door.

Good evening, Count.

As Gomez steps towards Dracula,

You're looking well, Count.

Thank you. Where is your beautiful wife?

Gracefully walking towards him,

Dear Count.

As she extends her hand, Dracula eyes her neck. All are once again distracted by the doorbell.

Good evening, Madam.

ELVIRA embraces Morticia as each air kiss one another.

Whatever Frederick is up to, it's fabulous to see you all.

You're looking more lovely than ever, my dear.

Dracula salivates as he glances between Elvira's and Morticia's necks. Looking dashing and stunning, Frederick and Annabelle suddenly appear.

How gracious of you for coming tonight.

Don't give it a thought, my friend. But what is the occasion? You're famous for your tricks, old chap.

I'm happy to announce Annabelle's birthday.

The group offer her hugs, kisses, and best wishes. As they do, Frederick steps towards the light switch unnoticed, and shuts off the lights. In the darkness, a SCREAM and a THUMP are heard. Frederick switches the lights on. Dracula's fangs drip with blood.

What have you done, Count?

He rushes to Annabelle squirming on the floor, her hand covered with blood trying to soothe the bite on her neck.

What you told me to do. To bite Annabelle.

Everyone turns to Frederick questioningly. As he assists Annabelle to her feet and tends to her wound,

No, no, no, dear Count. I told you to sing to Annabelle.

I do not sing. I bite.

ANNABELLE (crying)
I am a lady of darkness now.

I beg your pardon, Annabelle, but I am the lady of darkness.

Mon ami, you are mistaken for it is I, the lady of darkness.

Once again, the lights go out. A spotlight flashes on Frederick.

For you, my darling. Happy birthday.

Frankenstein appears on a makeshift stage in a yellow, sequined jacket and black sequined pants holding a cane. As he clumsily dances, he belts out "Puttin on the Ritz." Annabelle thoroughly enjoys his performance, blowing him a kiss. He nearly stumbles offstage as Morticia and Elvira, dressed as Flappers, sing "All That Jazz," dancing on and around their chair props. Annabelle CLAPS enthusiastically. Gomez then appears and recites quite eloquently, Edgar Allan Poe's poem, "Annabel Lee." Last, Dracula appears adorned in a red and black cape.

For this act, I will need your assistance, dearest Annabelle.

Annabelle joins him exuberantly.

With one swoop of my cape, I will make Annabelle disappear.

Dracula covers Annabelle with his cape and to everyone's delight, Annabelle disappears.

Bravo, Count!

But where did she go?

As everyone surrounds Dracula in curious search of Annabelle, he disappears in a ball of smoke. The stunned group blinks at the stain on the floor and exchange concerned glances.

He has abducted her!

As he rushes to the door,

I will search high and low. Use all of my resources. Do anything to find her. If it takes forever!


Are you comfortable, dearest Annabelle?

Yes, I am, Count. But where are we going?


There's no place like home.

Cut! This is not the Wizard of Oz!

To the director,

And this is House on Haunted Hill?


**petra michelle**

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed
(March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hurricane Sandy victims in New Jersey bemoan red tape

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) -- Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy, victims of the storm told a state panel that insurance woes and bureaucratic red tape are doing just as much damage as the storm.

At a state Senate hearing Monday in Toms River, one of the hardest hit communities at the Jersey shore, many residents complained of insurance companies trying to low-ball them on payouts, and stringent aid rules that are delaying them from rebuilding.

Michael Mazzucca of Stafford Township says his family is split up all along the eastern seaboard while they wait for repairs to be authorized. He says his 15-year-old daughter, staying in North Carolina with a relative, keeps asking when she can go home. "Our goal is to connect once a week, let alone live in the same home," he said. "It's hard when your 15-year-old daughter keeps asking, ‘Dad, when can I come home and live with you?' and you don't have an answer."

Diane Mazzacca, also of Stafford, says she's ready to turn in the keys and walk away from her storm-damaged home. She said she has no choice but to elevate her home, which she can't afford, to a height at which she'll soon no longer be able to climb the stairs to enter. "God forbid I have another issue, because I'm done," she said. "We are up to our limits. Our money is tied up trying to get back in our home, fighting with insurance, fighting with FEMA. Nobody has done anything to help. You've got to help. Otherwise I'm just turning over the keys."

New Jersey has estimated the Oct. 29, 2012, storm damaged or destroyed 360,000 homes or businesses. Monday's hearing was the fourth held in recent months on the pace of post-Sandy recovery. Tom Sheralis of Toms River said the bureaucracy has been impenetrable. He said he was one of the first homeowners approved for a state grant, but still has not gotten any money from it. "I get bounced from one case manager to another," he said. "Nobody seems to know what they're doing."

Danielle Vaz of Toms River brought her 4 year old autistic son to the hearing to say how severely being displaced by the storm has affected them both  "After a year I'm tired. Instead of being a 36-year-old single mother, I feel like I'm 76. It's not getting any easier; it's getting harder by the day," she said. "When I needed my government -- the people I voted for -- they failed me."

Vincent Giglio, a doctor from the Ortley Beach section of Toms River, which was devastated by the storm and remains sparsely populated a year later, said getting insurance payouts and government aid has been daunting. "These programs are intended to help; they're not," he said. "They're just putting more obstacles on you."

He and others complained about the rules for a rebuilding grant that forbids applicants from doing repair work on their homes after applying for the grant because they need to go through an environmental review and be checked to make sure they are not historic structures before repairs can be done.

"To expect people to sit and do nothing is inexcusable," Giglio said.

North Jersey restaurants hardest hit by storm recover from Sandy

Watching customers stream in for heaping plates of pasta and chats with Aldo Bazzarelli and his daughters, you'd never know that almost a year ago, Superstorm Sandy soaked their landmark Moonachie restaurant with waist-high floodwater.

Business has boomed since the 42-year-old Bazzarelli restaurant reopened in January — many first-timers said they dropped in to support the rebuilding efforts, while hundreds of regulars missed their second kitchen during the two months it was closed. "It was definitely a lesson that you mean more to people than you thought you did," says Aldo's daughter, Susanna Bazzarelli Teixeira.

The Bazzarellis' other lesson: that they can depend on the little people so much more than the big. They are still struggling with an insurance company for payments, but another insurance broker was so moved by their plight that he threw a benefit party at the restaurant and handed them the $2,000 in proceeds.

Despite the swarm of federal and state elected officials at their reopening, the family ultimately applied for no public money. They say they were turned off by the tedious paperwork process and interest rate of the loans offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Instead, they opted to raid Aldo's retirement account and remortgage his house (at a lower rate) to finance most of their $300,000 in repairs.

"If we would have waited, we would still not be open," said daughter Denise Bazzarelli. After her boyfriend, Carlos Moscoso, received one of the so-called recoupment letters from FEMA, demanding back money it said it erroneously paid him after a disaster (in his case, Hurricane Irene), the family decided to steer clear of the federal grant process altogether.

They did get one grant from a private group — The Bergen County Community Action Partnership, whose $3,000 they used to replace their ruined chairs — as well as donations from friends and neighbors. Home Depot employees who saw Aldo coming in for construction supplies later became dinner customers. Some of Aldo's staff even told him that he didn't have to pay them right away when the restaurant first opened. Aldo said that without his customers and friends, "I don't think we would have been able to do anything. I wouldn't be able to pay my bills."

While Bazzarelli suffered some of the most significant losses of any local restaurant during Superstorm Sandy, its publicity and long, loyal following helped it rebound the fastest.

One restaurant in Little Ferry, Il Cinghiale, had been open just 18 months and had just started to build a following when Sandy destroyed it. Without flood insurance, owner Nicola Moncada knew he couldn't recover, and opted to leave. He now runs Ristorante Benissimo in Madison, where he says he occasionally gets customers from the Bergen County area.

Bazzarelli's neighbor, the 8-year-old Dolce Novita, was closed for 18 days after Sandy. But upon reopening, owners soon realized that many of their regulars had been flooded out of their houses and were nowhere to be found at dinnertime.

Business plummeted 40 percent from this time last year. Owner Richard Vukaj said he received some insurance money, for which he was able to fix his dining room, but his roof is leaking and he has no more money for repairs. "I need another $50,000 to $100,000 to make the place what it was before Sandy," he said. Thankfully, Vukaj has been starting to see more familiar faces in the dining room. "Most of the people are moving back, now [that] their houses are fixed. They come in more often to eat."

In Carlstadt, Sandy covered the 14-year-old Gianna's Restaurant with eight inches of water. Owners got up and running after three weeks, but the usual busy holiday season was a wash — many of the nearby companies who always held Christmas parties there were flooded and couldn't afford to celebrate. Even now, "I think a lot of people are having a hard time from being closed so long," said owner Paula Graziano. Business remains hit or miss.

The one bright spot: With its location near the Meadowlands, the Italian restaurant is already getting business from those working on the Super Bowl. Graziano hopes they spread the word. "During the Super Bowl, I think we're going to be crazy busy," she says. "I hope so."

Email: Blog: Twitter: @elisaung

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday is for Poetry: LIFE

Minimal possessions --

Splashes of rainforests

Panoramic heavens

Oceans of desert

Stampeding animals

Trees of music

All of creation.


petra michelle

MY SCHISM WITH ISM, a personal essay

"Formalism, by being an 'ism' kills form by hugging it to death." Peter Viereck, American Poet/Writer.

In my opinion, ism is the most powerful word in the English language in its ability to transform an ordinary word into the extraordinary. Consider absolute to absolutism or person versus personalism. In my life, isms impelled a gamut of emotions and circumstances ranging from paranoia to pleasure, and instability to success.


Fascism loomed before I was born. During WWII, my father, then an athletic 16-year-old, had been captured by the Nazis during their invasion of Yugoslavia, imprisoned in a labor camp in Germany, and at the end of the war, freed by British forces. For years thereafter, my family was subjected to his waves of neuroticism.  "Nazism is an acronym for the National Armed Zealots in the Slaughter of Mankind,"or some version of that, he'd rant.

I was born in the wake of McCarthyism when my parents emigrated to the United States. In our search for Americanism, my siblings and I ducked and covered from communism and nuclear fallout. I prayed catechism would allay my fears of an apocalypse, only to conclude after having been born in sin which would evoke God's wrath to condemn me to burn in hell eternally, that religious fundamentalism was a euphemism for sadism.

I sought solace in aestheticism, and felt blessed when I found Emily. "Wild Nights - Wild Nights!" I wished were mine, but plagiarism weighed heavily on my consciousness thanks to my English teacher's fanaticism regarding the subject. "Perhaps she'd been incarcerated for same?" I often wondered. Surely, it was no coincidence she took the class on a field trip to our local prison to watch the cell doors slam shut. "From all the Jails the Boys and Girls ecstatically leap..."

I threw in my pen and replaced it with a brush of Cubism, Pointillism, too. In my Junior year of high school, I explored eroticism, not with boys but by painting noses in every conceivable position. When a friend asked about one in particular, I replied, "Isn't it obvious? World peace through nudism."

In the 1960's, hipsterism surfaced. Through Allen Ginsberg's poems of freedom and Bob Dylan's songs of protest along with Dr. Martin Luther King's and the Beatles' chants of love and peace, plus a pinch of Timothy Leary's "turn on, tune in, drop out," revolution was in the air.  Many chose activism over pacifism. I, along with my college sisters, protested the Vietnam War with love-ins and flowers, while striving for equality in feminism. That I could choose whether to burn my bra may now seem trivial, but considering I could finally declare my cup size with some degree of certainty, was truly liberating.

Violence grew domestically, some resorting to militantism in fighting against racism. The line between occultism and amoralism grew faint as the fallout of the sixties rendered hundreds following gurus and teenagers starring in porn flicks. Just as quickly as they were shacking up, couples were breaking up; marriages seemingly coming to a standstill. Colloquialisms alluding to sexism and chauvinism were exchanged between heterosexuals while homosexualism strove for its own identity.

By the time I married, my generation turned its attention to pragmatism and materialism. Should a woman wait until after a career to have children? A house before children? Become a millionaire before children? Buy mutual funds or government bonds? Open an IRA or a CD? What awards...excuse me, returns could I expect if I'd invest in one thousand shares of MTV stocks? Just a few blue chips off the old block of capitalism.

While factories belched wealth in the production of computers and Nikes worldwide, globalism was reduced to a simplism by Bell Atlantic's "We're all connected." Environmentalism burst forth with urgency to the realism of acid rain, irradiated foods, and global warming. Greenpeace was on the march and I joined in, aghast as rain forests fell prey to expansionism.

Not normally affable to narcissism, I admit to Petraisms which affirm endearments which Gracie Allen could only have understood.  Gracie: "George, wasn't the Phil Risutto delicious?" Cigar in hand, George: "You mean the shrimp risotto?" Yes, George, the Phil Risutto with Pataki mushrooms." "Say good night, Gracie." "Good night."

But to quote a Yogism, "it ain't over til it's over," realizes the journey can be excruciating. My divorce was less painful than the tortuous political climate between conservatism and liberalism. Constitutionalism tolerates freedom of speech and expression, not indifference to the poor and inequality. Has altruism become an anachronism? Or is humanitarianism, merely, just another ism.

Copyright 2011
Petra Michelle

Saturday, September 21, 2013

                                         Happy Autumn

Monday, September 16, 2013

Based upon James Balog's time-lapse photos depicting erosion and disappearance of enormous, ancient glaciers, CHASING ICE is knowledge for every skeptic on climate change

I'm reflecting upon just several of the storms this past year alone: Hurricane Sandy, the likes of which New Jersey has ever seen; tornado after tornado in Oklahoma and throughout the United States; and currently hundreds unaccounted for and thousands displaced due to flash floods throughout Colorado. Has this become the new normal? If we tend to the planet, what is the worst that can happen?


Acclaimed geomorphologist and environmental photographer James Balog heads to the Arctic in order to capture images that will help to convey the effects of global warming.

Balog was initially skeptical about climate change when the issue entered scientific discussion, but after his first trip north, he becomes convinced of the impact that humans have on the planet and becomes committed to bringing the story to the public.

Within months of the first trip to Iceland, Balog initiates The Extreme Ice Survey - an expedition to collect data on the seasonal changes of glaciers. Balog and his team deploy cameras that utilize time-lapse photography across various places in the Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s glaciers.  Despite camera malfunctions and Balog's knee surgery, Balog and his team are able to collect time-lapse photos that depict the drastic erosion and disappearance of enormous, ancient glaciers.

"Climate sticker shock: Arctic thaw could cost $60 trillion and 'could be the canary in the coal mine..."

(CNN) -- Scientists look at a warming Arctic and see a shift from white to green, as tundra gives way to new plant life. Governments and corporations are also seeing green, as receding ice cover opens new shipping routes and opportunities to get at long-hidden natural resources. But the downside of those opportunities is the risk that the current pace of climate change could be sped up dramatically by the release of long-trapped methane gas in the region's permafrost -- a risk to which a new study has attached an eye-popping price tag of $60 trillion in the next several decades, on top of previous estimates.

That's trillion, with a "T," a figure rivaling the entire globe's economic output in 2012. And it's a tab that's far more likely to be paid by people living in the latitudes far below the Arctic Circle, said Gail Whiteman, a researcher at Erasmus University in the Netherlands. The developing nations of Asia and Africa face more risk of bigger storms, worse flooding and more intense droughts, she said. "It will have gains for some countries," Whiteman told CNN. "But as we can see, if 80% of the impacts are going to be borne by developing regions, they're not getting any of the benefits."

Scientists have long worried that thawing the permafrost soil of the high northern latitudes could release large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. U.S. and Russian scientists who study the region say methane has already started bubbling up from the floor of the East Siberian Sea -- a region believed to hold to 50 billion tons of the gas. "Everybody should be trying to pay attention to the shifts that are happening in the Arctic, and not just leave that up to the Arctic countries and not just to some crazy researchers that are in that beautiful white space," Whiteman said. "We all need to pay attention to what's happening, because the Arctic is the canary in the coal mine."

Using a British computer model, Whiteman and two scientists at Britain's Cambridge University estimated what would happen if the store of methane currently locked into the East Siberian Arctic Shelf were released over a 10-year period, without any other reductions in carbon emissions. The results, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, indicated that global average temperatures could hit 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels by 2035 -- 15 years earlier than currently predicted. Even if other emissions were limited, the 2-degree mark would still be reached by about 2040, they wrote. The same model had previously computed the costs of climate change at $400 trillion by 2200. Adding a decade-long rush of methane to the atmosphere would boost that by $60 trillion, mostly between 2050 and 2075, said Chris Hope, a modeling expert at Cambridge's Judge Business School. Even a slower release, dampened by other cuts in emissions, could cost $37 trillion -- a figure that dwarfs the $100 billion that Lloyds of London estimates will be invested in the Arctic over the next decade.

The model includes the estimated effects of human health impacts and sea-level rise. Richer countries are better able to adapt to those changing conditions, but developing countries "will suffer most of the extra impact," Hope said. And while the brunt of the damage will be inflicted closer to the Equator, Northern Hemisphere nations aren't likely to escape unscathed. "Mid-latitude economies such as those in Europe and the United States could be threatened, for example, by a suggested link between sea-ice retreat and the strength and position of the jet stream, bringing extreme winter and spring weather," the paper states. Cambridge ocean physicist Peter Wadhams said receding sea ice cover in the Arctic has allowed summer temperatures in the East Siberian Sea to rise several degrees above freezing. "Up to now, you've had offshore permafrost, which is a relic of the last ice age. And that's only been kept in place by the fact that the water is roundabout the freezing point," Wadhams said. But as the water over it warms, that permafrost has been thawing --"and what's been released from it have been huge plumes of methane gas."

How much methane is being released is still under study, Wadhams said. But atmospheric methane levels rose about 1% last year, and "We think that the source is primarily this offshore methane plume from the Siberian sea," he said. While the idea of long-term, human-generated climate change is a controversial notion politically, it's accepted as fact by most researchers. Global average temperatures are up about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) since the 1880s, according to NASA. The concentration of heat-trapping carbon dioxide hit a concentration unseen since prehistoric times at the benchmark Mauna Loa observatory in May, and scientists reported in November that the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica were losing mass at an accelerating rate.

Researchers can't pin any particular storm on climate change, but say the warming of the air and oceans "loads the dice" in favor of more extreme weather. Whiteman said she hopes putting a price tag on one facet of the issue will spur debate and new action. The authors urged the World Economic Forum to support development of new economic models and press world leaders "to consider the economic time bomb beyond short-term gains from shipping and extraction." "We need to get our act together globally, and if we can't do it globally, we need to do it more regionally," she said. And she said there may be opportunities for business, such as finding ways to capture the methane -- it's natural gas, after all. "The story is not doom and gloom," she said. "We're hoping that we can use this to kick-start some innovative discussions."