National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

Today is the first day of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (November 16- 24, 2013).

“As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, people take time to consider what they’re thankful for and donate some of their time, attention and resources to those less fortunate. In the spirit of thankfulness and giving, each year the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness set aside the week prior to Thanksgiving to sponsor the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
One in six American families live below their respective poverty thresholds. Three out of four states saw an increase in both the number and percentage of people living in poverty. Fifty million Americans live in food insecure households, including more than seventy million children who go to bed hungry nightly. Three and a half Americans will experience homelessness this year. One hundred and seven thousand are United States military veterans.
This year, NCH recognizes its 30th Anniversary, marking a long and difficult road toward ending homelessness, but prompting even more substantial initiatives to address the root causes of homelessness.”

For a wealth of info and how you can help make others in your community aware of all the complicated aspects of this ever-growing problem, check out this link:



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Happy Trails

“Every person has the power to make others happy.
Some do it simply by entering a room
others by leaving the room.
Some individuals leave trails of gloom;
others, trails of joy.
Some leave trails of hate and bitterness;
others, trails of love and harmony.
Some leave trails of cynicism and pessimism;
others trails of faith and optimism.
Some leave trails of criticism and resignation;
others trails of gratitude and hope.
What kind of trails do you leave?”
― William Arthur Ward



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It’s Later Than You Think

Good morning time travelers. It’s not every day we get the chance to relive an hour in our lives. Make it count!!/s/Enjoy+Yourself+It+s+Later+Than+You+Think/33zeVY?src=5

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National Homeless Youth Awareness Month

This is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. A great time to find out more about an ever-growing problem — the causes, misconceptions and the solutions. The link below has a wealth of important info and resources that will educate and show how to help in your community.

“Each year more than 1.6 million children are homeless at some point in their lives, and that number is increasing (The National Center on Family Homelessness). Along with losing their home, community, friends, and routines as well as their sense of stability and safety, many homeless youth are also victims of trauma. While trying to survive on the streets, youth are exposed to countless dangers, with an increased likelihood of substance abuse, early parenthood, impulsivity, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and a vulnerability to being trafficked.”



“It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. Serve and thou shall be served.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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3 Non-Horror Scary Movies for Halloween Viewing

If you’re not exactly a fan of the horror film genre but want to watch something appropriate for Halloween-time, I recommend three films that are not technically horror films but nonetheless scary in their own right.

#1:  Can’t Stop The Music (1980)

‘Can’t Stop The Music’ is one of the worst films ever made. So incredibly bad in every possible way. That is not to say it isn’t entertaining…in the ultimate high-camp scariness/so-bad-it’s-good way.

The ‘plot’ is bascially the origin of the 70′s novelty group, The Village People…sort of. Steve Guttenberg in one of the most overacted performances of his or anyone’s career, plays a wannabe DJ who, with the help from his roomate Valerine Perrine and her dorky love interest Bruce Jenner (yes, that Bruce Jenner), discover the VP and set out to make them the supergroup of the 80s. As solid as that plot sounds, the film is full of unintentional humor and godawful and embarrassingly bad musical numbers and it’s excruciating long running time of 123 minutes seems more like 6 hours — it lives up to the trailer tagline, “Once it begins, you Can’t Stop The Music”.

There is so much ‘bad’ in this film it would take pages to name it all…but I would definitely recommend a viewing…but not alone. ‘Highlights’ include the infamous YMCA scene, Guttenberg roller-skating/dancing/convulsing through NYC in the opening credits, Bruce Jenner’s half-shirt and Daisy Dukes, the hilariously unsubtle gay subtext and the milk commercial. Dear God, the milk commercial. It’s almost impossible to watch the entire movie in one sitting — you will definitely need the support of a group, which makes it more enjoyable anyway.

#2:  Mommie Dearest (1981)

Meant to be a serious and accurate account of the childhood memoir of Christina Crawford, daughter of Joan, ‘Mommie Dearest’ instead is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes frightening yet always outrageous lesson in over-the-top acting. Heralded as the perfect choice to play Joan Crawford when the project was announced, Faye Dunnaway was at the top of her game when she was cast. She certainly looked the part — with expert makeup and clothing design, her resemblance to Crawford was uncanny. But the acting style she chose for the role was unconventional to say the least. High-camp (there’s that phrase again) is the best way to describe her performance — she’s not bad per se…but she’s just so…exaggerated and cartoonish. Dunnaway’s Crawford is a sadistic and scary monster who delights in verbally and physically abusing her daughter — prone to crazy, angry outbursts that are performed with wild and terrifying gestures and facial expressions that are reminiscent of Kabuki theater. Joan insanely axe-chopping rose bushes in the middle of the night in a formal ball gown and the infamous (and classic) wire-hanger scene are reasons enough to watch this film. Also a great film for group viewing.

#3:  Triumph of the Will (1935)

Getting a little more realistic and definitely less campy with this choice — ‘Triumph of the Will’ is the notorious Nazi propaganda film directed by controversial film director Leni Riefenstahl. The film chronicles the 1934 Nazi Party Congress and was made to boost the already high messianic feeling of Hitler and his ideals. According to Wikipedia: “Triumph of the Will was released in 1935 and became an example of propaganda in film history. Riefenstahl’s techniques, such as moving cameras, the use of long focus lenses to create a distorted perspective, aerial photography, and revolutionary approach to the use of music and cinematography, have earned Triumph of the Will recognition as one of the greatest films in history.” Similar to the complicated feelings associated with another controversial film, ‘Birth of a Nation’, ‘Triumph’ contains many innovative and revolutionary aspects of film technique that are still influencing filmmakers today. But, it’s the content of the film that is unnerving and disturbing. The images, for the most part, are not troubling to watch. There are no concentration camps shown, no deaths, no negativity — only positive and heroic images and footage of the party and its leaders. Beautiful shots of Germany before much of it was destroyed by war and uplifting shots of happy people paying homage to their adored fuhrer. What really gets me is seeing the children in this film — one simple shot of a adorable blond little girl giving the Nazi salute to a smiling Hitler is chilling and made me gasp the first time I saw it. And then seeing the huge throngs of soldiers and spectators at the rallies — the numbers of people attending are mind-boggling. All the while, behind this glorious and inspirational facade, Hitler’s persecutions and plans of war were slowly, yet surely beginning. ‘Triumph’ is a jarring film to watch but an important one — a film about real horror and real monsters.

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Puffins in Pink Shirts

I saw this photo meme floating around Facebook this week and I have a couple of questions about it. I don’t expect to get any answers and I have no idea who created it — but many people are ‘liking’ it and ‘sharing’ it. So, even though I am very curious about its creation, consider these inquiries strictly hypothetical.

I agree with the statement that bullying will most likely never go away — like racism, crime and war. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be against the action and try to figure out why it happens and how to prevent it. Why are some kids so troubled and angry that they have to intimidate others? Standing up for oneself is important also but if we make sure kids know bullying is wrong and unacceptable behavior, we may lessen it’s appearance…and that’s a good thing. The more roadblocks set up for bullying, the better.

Anyway, that’s not what I have questions about. Why the mention of pink shirts and why a picture of a puffin? Advocates of breast cancer awareness wear pink shirts…maybe the meme creator got mixed up and was thinking of the wrong advocacy group. Or maybe anti-bullying advocates wear pink too…but I don’t think so. Unless the person meant that wearing pink shirts is somehow wrong (and I’m assuming he/she means for guys). I’ve worn pink shirts. One of the best shirts I ever had was a pink Izod shirt from 1982…I miss that shirt. No matter what your gender, wearing pink is cool, in my book.

Now, about the puffin — I’ve done some quick research and cannot find any info that would connect puffins with bullying. Are they known to be bullied by other birds? Are they the unofficial symbol of someone who’s bullied? I’ve always loved puffins — they’re so unusual and different from other birds. Their appearance is so funky and a bit jarring but I think they’re cool. For me, like the penguin, they were the outsider bird and maybe that’s why I took to them.

Now that I’ve thought about it, maybe I’ve answered my own questions: I wore pink shirts when I was a kid and I loved puffins and I was bullied. Maybe there is a connection there. Instead of bullying, the puffin should become the mascot for uniqueness and originality — not everyone can be an eagle — ‘Be happy with yourself — like a puffin in a pink shirt’…I like that.


[Addendum: since writing the above, I did some more researching and found that the puffin pic is indeed an established meme — I still think it’s a bit strange though…]

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Don and Mark’s Thanksgiving Food Drive

My Dad (Don) and I (Mark) wanted to do something special to help our nation’s ever-growing problem of homelessness and hunger. The number of people affected each day by hunger issues is staggering for such a rich and bountiful country. According to the great organization Feeding America: “In 2012, 49.0 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children.”
Families unable to make ends meet; senior citizens having to choose between medicine or food; children having to rely on free school meals for nutrition — hunger in this country is an equal opportunity affliction and not isolated to certain economic demographics.
No matter what our national economic situation may be, we, as a nation, still have an abundance of food and there is no excuse why anyone should ever go hungry. Feeding America is making excellent strides in combating this problem (check out their website for more info).
We are asking for your help in this very winnable battle and our goal is to raise $500 by Thanksgiving Day — a national day for giving thanks and giving to others — thanks so much!

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My Six (because that’s an evil number) Essential Films for Halloween-time Viewing

A Halloween-time reblog:

Do Thy Worst

I’m not what you’d call a horror film fan. I tend to like fun with my scares and most of the modern horror fare is either too gory, too disturbing or too dark for my taste. I like the classics where atmosphere and suspense are more prominent than gratuitous violence and gore.

I think these six films are good representatives of the horror films I enjoy and I highly recommend one or all during this spooky time of year.

Number 6:  

Salem’s Lot (1979)

Directed by Tobe Hooper and based on the Stephen King novel, Salem’s Lot is still one of the creepiest and scariest TV movies ever made. First released in the fall of 1979 as a two-part miniseries for CBS, it still packs a wallop on the fright scale and is just great, old-fashioned scary fun. It has an excellent cast, atmospheric production values, creepy music and just-gory-enough-without-going-overboard…

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Ground Force

Despite it not being shown in 3D IMAX splendor at our only local IMAX theater (they’re showing the Tom Hanks pirate movie instead), ‘Gravity’ was still an incredible experience. I don’t remember the last time a film gave me such a visceral feeling while watching (‘Life of Pi’ came close) — the tension and raw emotion were palpable for me. I don’t even know what kind of movie ‘Gravity’ is — it’s an action adventure, it’s a drama, it’s science fiction…but, not to sound like a cheesy 90’s infomercial, it’s so much more — none of those labels really fit. The film’s use of sound and silence really stuck with me — Alfonso Cuarón’s direction and Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography are stellar and Steven Price’s score is haunting, jarring and beautiful. Sandra Bullock gives a very understated, delicate and absolutely believable performance — I think this film will be different things to different people (I realize how generically cliche-ish that sounds) but it hit me like a tons of bricks — like a therapeutic rollercoaster ride in some sort of psychiatric theme park…see, I’m starting to sound silly now but that’s the visceral reaction I mentioned earlier — no matter how you see this (IMAX or 3D or 2D) just go see it. I’m going again soon.

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Shutdown Education

A Presidential Dictator who shuts down the government and revels in preventing the general public (especially old war vets) access to national parks and laughs maniacally as he furloughs loyal government employees and cuts social benefits to children..?? Fear not! That character is but a fictional villain created out of fear and ignorance topped off by heaping spoonfuls of outrageously exaggerated or completely fictional effects of the shutdown (most of the horror stories currently in the interwebs are unsourced and untrue) — maybe the word ignorance is a bit harsh…but a simple info check regarding the Presidential powers in situations like this will easily quell dictatorship hysteria (that is, if you have an open mind for the truth).

The 143 year old Antideficiency Act clearly defines the rules of a shutdown, the consequences of breaking those rules and the powers that the government has and doesn’t have. Here’s a snippet: “Federal employees who violate the Antideficiency Act are subject to two types of sanctions: administrative and penal. Employees may be subject to appropriate administrative discipline including, when circumstances warrant, suspension from duty without pay or removal from office. In addition, employees may also be subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.”

Here’s another bit of info from a detailed article about the history of the act:

“The Act becomes especially significant when the Congress fails to provide appropriations. At that point, government employees are legally prohibited from spending money, because they haven’t been given any money to spend. So an agency head cannot authorize a government employee to come to work; that would be incurring a government obligation without having an appropriation. The law also prohibits accepting voluntary services for the government, so the agency head can’t even allow people to volunteer to do their jobs.”

You can pick and choose who is to blame for the cause of the shutdown, but to blame the shutdown rules and actions on a sitting President, administration or Congress is misguided and futile. The Constitution is the entity calling the shots during a government shutdown.

For more enlightening info:

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