at the heart…of the storm…

 

Following is the low down behind the now infamous YouTube video that has wrecked havoc in the Middle East.

“U.S. Probes Alleged Video Producer”
by Devlin Barrett, Tamara Audi and Erica Orden

Federal authorities are investigating whether the man allegedly behind a video insulting to Muslims violated the terms of his probation by using computers and the Internet, according to two U.S. officials.

The man in question, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, was arrested in 2009 and was convicted of bank fraud a year later for a scheme in which he defrauded banks of thousands of dollars, according to documents from Los Angeles federal court.

The law-enforcement officials say they believe Mr. Nakoula is the same man who in recent days has been identifying himself as Sam Bacile, declining to say how they have drawn the connection.

A man calling himself Sam Bacile said in interviews, including a telephone conversation Tuesday with The Wall Street Journal, that he directed a film called “Innocence of Muslims.” A clip posted to Google Inc.’s YouTube by one Sam Bacile in July, which purported to be a trailer for a film about the Prophet Muhammad, has sparked angry protests in the Middle East.

The movie has its roots with a Southern California group of Egyptian Christians associated with extremist critics of Islam. The film’s assistant director, Jeffrey Robinson, said its production budget was just $250,000.

Media for Christ, a nonprofit religious organization in the city of Duarte, about 20 miles northeast of Los Angeles, took out a permit to film the movie that came to be called “Innocence of Muslims” according to Film LA Inc., which coordinates permits.

Media for Christ produces Christian television programming and broadcasts it abroad in Arabic and English, some of it highly critical of Islam.

Duarte officials said the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is providing extra patrols of the group’s facilities, which include a television production house called “The Way TV.”

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Southern California, said the Christian group in Duarte was “well-known for being Coptic,” the term for Egyptian Christians. Mr. Ayloush said some local Muslims have complained to him that some of its shows are spreading anti-Muslim propaganda.

Several women who answered the phone at Media for Christ and The way TV, who declined to identify themselves, said they didn’t know anything about the movie.

The Way TV aims to “use Christian satellite television to transform the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, American and Canada,” says its website.

The views espoused by The Way TV and Media for Christ appear to be far from the norm among Egyptian Christians, known as Copts–a mainstream group of Christians with moderate views similar to those of other major Christian religions. The Coptic Church, like the Greek Orthodox Church, has its own hierarchy and leadership.

There are small communities of Copts in the U.S., including in Southern California. They have denounced the film, and in recent days some have expressed fears it would spur retaliations against Coptic communities overseas. Mr. Nakoula told the Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that he, too, was a Christian Copt.

In recent years, well-known extreme anti-Islamists like Steve Klein, an insurance salesman from Southern California, have linked with a few Coptic Christians, said Muslim civil-rights groups monitoring the situation. These loosely formed alliances have produced protests at Islamic centers and events in the last few years. Mr. Klein, who didn’t return calls seeking comment, has said in media reports that he served as a consultant on the film.

“There are built-in tensions between Muslims and Copts,” said Mr. Ayloush, whose group put out a statement before the deadly embassy assault in Libya urging Muslims to ignore the film. “It just takes a few extremists to throw fuel on the fire and then other extremists to take the bait, and suddenly the entire world is dealing with a crisis.”

In the AP interview, a person identifying himself as Mr. Nakoula said he had managed the film’s production but denied he was Mr. Bacile. Attempts to identify a Nakoula B. Nakoula at the address were unsuccessful.

The creation of the film itself is unlikely to have violated any laws. The First Amendment and subsequent Supreme Court decisions specifically protect speech even if it is offensive.

However, under Mr. Nakoula’s terms of probation, he can’t access online services without the approval of a probation officer.

Of particular interest to officials now is that someone claiming to be Sam Bacile has repeatedly used the Internet in recent weeks, including to post the 14-minute trailer to YouTube. The U.S. Probation Office in Los Angeles declined to comment.

(Wall Street Journal, Friday, 9/14/12)

…all it takes…is one bad apple…

…hugmamma………

 

Advertisements

“approachable,” ellen de generes

Saw Zorianna today, my hair stylist. As is commonplace among stylists and their customers, we chatted about this, that, and the other thing. I told her what happened when I clicked onto Ellen de Generes‘ website. How I was excited, though flummoxed, at winning a grand prize of $1,000 gift cards for Wal Mart or Best Buy, or an IPad. And then how I thought I might be scammed if I followed through on the contest, by having to pay $9.99 a month for some cell phone product.

Our conversation led to our commiserating that Ellen seemed a genuinely nice person, approachable, unlike other celebrities. There’s no knowing for sure. But she hugs as many normal people as she does famous ones. Audience members, contestant winners, guests who are not widely known, all get the same treatment from Ellen. Her smiles are huge, her words are reassuring, her laughter infectious, and her hugs, real. No “air kisses” from this down-to-earth Hollywood personality.

Ellen DeGeneres in 2009.

Image via Wikipedia

Ellen’s shows are fun, upbeat. Even an elder stateswoman like me “gets” her humor. Don’t know if I’d play her games. They can be high energy, scream fests. I mightn’t have the energy, but my screams would be heard all around LA. Falling through a hole carved out of a prop that stands 6 feet above the stage is not how I’d want to end my life. And believe me, I’d have a heart attack going down.

One of my favorite segments of Ellen’s show is the giveaway. Fans write in with stories of their misfortunes, and Ellen gifts them with what it is they might need. The segments I’ve seen involved people whose cars were ready for the junk yard. Of course, they were thrilled to be the recipients of brand, new cars donated by local dealerships. It is usually accompanied by a $10,000 check to take care of other problems. Today’s giveaway was to a single mom of 17 years, who raised 2 teenage daughters wonderfully. The girls seemed a tribute to their mom’s upbringing. These moments always bring tears to my eyes.

helping one person at a time…hugs for…hugmamma.

creative passion, “fountain of youth”

I’m living proof of AARP’s recent article GENIUS! Not that I’m a genius, but I can vouch for the fact that “our creative horizons need not narrow with age” as the article states. Gay Hanna, head of the National Center for Creative Aging says “We never lose the potential to learn new things as we grow older…In fact, we can master new skills and be creative all our lives.” So the old adage IS true “You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.” Contributing to the discussion is David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, “Genes impact our lives,…but our lives also impact our genes–the brain changes shape according to the experiences it has. …Most of us don’t understand that our true inner potential is quite extraordinary. Not just at age 20 or 40 but well into our elder years. The main reason people stagnate is that they limit themselves through their mind-set or habits. Or they simply set their sights too low.”

Sixty-five-year old Mack Orr had been a cotton picker in Mississippi in the 50’s, as well as a heavy-equipment operator when he moved to Memphis in 1965. Along the way he became a husband, father of 4, and the owner of Mack’s Auto Repair. At 45 he “…was listening to the radio in my auto-repair shop,…They were playing an Albert King song–‘Walkin’ the Back Streets and Cryin’–and it sounded real good. …I went down to the pawn shop, got me a guitar and amp, …And I carried that guitar everywhere I went. If I went to work, I carried it with me. If I went fishing, I carried it. I stayed on it day and night.” Within 3 years his hard work got him gigs as a blues guitarist around Memphis. Daddy Mack, as he is known to friends and fans, has since jammed with Keith Richards and Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones, performed at festivals across America and Europe, and recorded 4 CDs–including Bluesfinger, his latest. Daddy Mack confesses “I never dreamed I’d go to the places I’ve been…”

In the 60’s and 70’s, Judithe Hernandez was known in Los Angeles for her murals. Resettling in Chicago in 1984, marriage, motherhood and a position as a university art instructor sidelined her artwork. Her creative passion took a back seat but she continued to draw, though infrequently, she “…had all these ideas stored away in file drawers–and in my head. And I never let go of the dream that someday I’d come back to it.” At 62, with the end of her marriage and her only child off to college, Hernandez returned to L.A. and resumed her artistic career with renderings of symbol-rich pastel drawings. Evidently she made the right move for in January 2011, Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art will feature her as a solo artist. Hernandez compares herself to an artist years younger “It’s the difference between a sauce you make in five minutes and one that you reduce and reduce and the flavor gets more intense and deeper. You’re left with a smaller amount, but the flavor is amazing.”

Painting literally saved 54-year-old, abstract painter Audrey Phillips. Losing her mother to a brutal murder traumatized Phillips so that in the years that followed she lost her job, her faith, her second marriage. In 2000, a friend with whom she was visiting in New Mexico urged Phillips to start drawing, since she’d been a student of graphic design. “Abruptly, the pictures tumbled forth. The subject: the killer’s face–one version after another in wild, furious, almost brutal renditions. ‘I had been thinking about it a long time,…And it came out with such energy–I probably had 30 pieces of art when I was done. I was like, ‘Thank God that’s out on the page and not inside me anymore!’ ” Phillips, an award-winning abstract artist, living in New Smyrna Beach, Florida confirms that “Painting catapulted me through my final phase of grieving and loss…It basically saved my life.”

According to the article “Of all the qualities that distinguish older artists, perseverance may be the most vital.” In her 9th decade, author Eugenia Lovett West had her first novel, Without Warning, published in 2007 and its sequel, Overkill, came out in 2009. Two more books are in the works. West hopes her story “…inspires older writers to persevere. It’s a blessing to wake up in the morning with the urge to create.”

So here I sit at 12:31 a.m. still typing away at the keyboard, husband snoring in his favorite recliner, with the TV “watching” him, and pets slumbering comfortably nearby. Will I too be allowed to rest, or am I doomed to give voice to the “genius” of my old age without let up?

 “fountain of youth,” may be the death of me yet…hugmamma.

cemetery scavenger hunt

On a recent trip to California’s Orange County, to see our daughter perform as part of the National Choreographer’s Initiative, my husband granted my only wish for my 61st birthday, which occurred while we were there. We visited Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. I wanted to see Michael Jackson’s burial site, but also glimpse where stars of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” were buried. I’d picked up a thick paperback from Barnes and Noble, which was like an encyclopedic “map” of historical celebrity sites, hangouts, studios, homes. Hollywood: The Movie lover’s Guide – The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A. by Richard Alleman, even detailed the specific locations where the famous were entombed. Book in hand we went on our very own scavenger hunt, seeking out dead people.

Pulling through the enormous wrought iron gates of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, we were taken aback by the serenity that greeted us. Yes it’s a resting place for the deceased, but it looked like a park with acres of lush, green grass. It seemed like an oasis in the midst of Los Angeles, for right outside the gates were strip malls as far as the eye could see in all directions. Just inside the entrance was a Tudor style building which lodged a combination floral/gift shop, as well as an information desk and restrooms. From what little I saw during MJ’s private burial ceremony on TV, I expected more security and less warmth from staff members. To my amazement there were no security guards patrolling the compound, and the few workers with whom I spoke, were pleasant and forthcoming with answers to my questions.

Driving on in our rental car, we meandered along tree-lined roads that wound their way through the verdant landscape. I could not stop “oohing” and “aahing.” Along the way we saw a few cars and other tourists, but luckily nothing compared to the likes of Universal Studios and Disneyland, which we vowed not to go near. In his book, Alleman describes Forest Lawn where “there are no rows of ordinary tombstones. Instead, there are acres of gardens and courts, with names such as Slumberland, Lullabyland, Everlasting Love, Inspiration Slope, and Babyland, where flat stone markers scarcely alter the smooth contours of the green lawn. There is a swan lake. There are two mausoleums—one of which resembles a great sprawling Medieval abbey. There are churches that are full-sized reproductions of churches in England and Scotland. Not only used for funerals, these are sometimes the scenes of weddings. In 1940, for example, Ronald Reagan married Jane Wyman in Forest Lawn’s Wee Kirk of the Heather.”

After visiting a couple of the churches and a museum showing works by artist Paul Gauguin, we finally went on the hunt for movie stars, albeit dead ones. At the Court of Freedom, we viewed a 20-by-30 foot mosaic replicating John Trumbull’s famous painting, “The Signing of the Declaration of Independence.” In the nearby Freedom Mausoleum I spied my first celebrity crypts, those of Alan Ladd, Nat King Cole, Jeanette MacDonald and Clara Bow. On the lower level, Gummo and Chico Marx were laid to rest, as was Larry Fine, one of the Three Stooges. Back outside I went in search of Walt Disney’s resting place without success. According to Alleman, “Whether Disney is here or not (and it appears highly likely that he is at Forest Lawn), it seems fitting that he should be remembered in a place that has the same fantasy/reality quality of the great park that his own dreams created: Disneyland.”

The “piece de resistance,” Jackson’s burial site was off-limits to the viewing public. Set apart from the main section of the Great Mausoleum, his body rests in an annex with a guard posted outside the wrought-iron gate. Keeping watch with him the day of my visit, were 3 women in their late 30’s, early 40’s. They seemed contemporary counterparts of the women who watched and prayed on the ground outside Jesus’ tomb. Their eyes hid behind dark glasses. One had brought sunflowers, placing them against a column at the corner of the building where they would go undetected by the guard. I inadvertently drew attention to them when I asked if I could snap a picture, knowing they were MJ’s favorite flowers. Flummoxed, the guard nodded his assent, but added he would need to remove them to another area where well-wishers left keepsakes in memory of the entertainer. I think the woman who brought the flowers was upset that I had pointed them out. Turning on my heel, I heard her plead to have them remain put.

Inside the Mausoleum we were directed to a viewing of the gigantic stained-glass version of The Last Supper, “which is unveiled several times a day at regular intervals complete with special lighting effects, music, and ‘dramatic narration.’” In the same room are reproductions of Michelangelo’s Pieta, Madonna in Bruges, Medici Madonna and Child among others. With a handful or more in the audience, I listened to the beginning of the narration. Antsy to hunt down the stars, I quietly stepped away into the nearby Court of Honor. Unfortunately a metal link chain kept me from moving through the hall for a better view of the names inscribed on the bronze plaques, vertically lining the walls on either side.

Scared that someone would come along, particularly the woman standing at the entrance of the building, I paced the length of the chain struggling to make out names as far as I could, squinting my eyes. I made a preliminary attempt to go around the chain but thought better of it, and returned to where I’d stood. Extremely frustrated to be so close, and yet so far, I tiptoed back to peek at the audience still seated on the other side of the wall from where I was. Hurrying back I sucked in my breath, passed around the chain and raced with determination through the narrow hall, glancing furiously at all the bronze plaques. At the other end was a smaller, separate room where “Gone with the Wind’s” famous director David O’Selznick was buried. Slowly retracing my steps I almost leapt out of my skin with joy, for in front of me were the names of Clark Gable and his wife Carole Lombard. I was in Heaven, absolute Heaven! I raced back out to where I’d left my husband, heart pounding, grinning from ear to ear. He, of course, was not surprised at my antics, but playfully scolded me nonetheless.

As we all moved to leave the building I stopped at the nearby Sanctuary of Benediction where I could see, leaning over the chain this time, the crypts of Red Skelton and Sid Grauman (of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre). I was unable to see around a wall to the crypts of Jean Harlow and others, who were mentioned in Alleman’s book. During the few hours I was at Forest Lawn, I felt I’d made a special trip to Heaven to meet some of my favorite Hollywood movie stars.

Except for the traffic, I had a “maavalous” birthday,“daahhling”…hugmamma.

cemetery parties

“More than a century ago, cemeteries were social hubs. They were often the greenest spots around. Families would visit on weekends for carriage rides, boating, or picnics by a loved one’s grave. Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery drew half a million visitors a year in the mid-19th century, on par with Niagara Falls.” According to an 8/12 Wall Street Journal article, cemetery socials are experiencing a resurgence. With more Americans opting for cremation, sales of burial plots are on the wane. All around the country prospective buyers have been lured to events on cemetery gounds, in the hopes that they might one day be chosen as final resting places. “In a marketing move that has drawn some criticism, graveyards across the nation are opening their grounds to concerts and clowns, barbecues and dance performances–anything that might bring happy families through the wrought-iron gates.”

At the Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, Colorado, Big Band tune “Swinging at the Savoy” rocks out while couples boogie in the aisles, chowing down  hot dogs, fried chicken and brownies. Cedar Hill Cemetery of Hartford, Connecticut “holds regular scavenger hunts.” Hollywood Forever in Los Angeles projects films on mausoleum walls during the summer, drawing thousands. Disabled children are invited to fish in “a serene pond amid the headstones” at Michigan Memorial Park in Flat Rock, Michigan. “So Davis Cemetery in Davis, Calif., plans poetry workshops, bird walks and art shows. Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln, Neb., hosts a Shakespeare festival and rents its quaint chapel for weddings. In Wheat Ridge, Colo., Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery staged a Memorial Day party with fireworks and sky divers. And Evergreen Memorial Historic Cemetery in Riverside, Calif., recently hosted its first fair, drawing a crowd of 700 for face painting, live rock and In-N-Out burgers.”

While cemetery superintendents want to become a greater presence in their communities, there are naysayers who feel that cemeteries are strictly for the dead. But with very few complaints being registered, festivities on burial grounds seem destined to remain a permanent fixture. As an attendee at a recent concert at Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery, entrepeneur Ken Katuin explained ” ‘People tend to go to places they’re familiar with…That’s why McDonald’s has Happy Meals. You start out there as a kid, you have a happy memory of the place, and then when you’re an adult, you keep coming back.’ …Standing outside the mortuary, Mr. Katuin looked at the couples strolling through the darkening graveyard to hear jazz. ‘Maybe this,’ he says, ‘is their Happy Meal.’ ”

On a recent trip to Orange County, California, to see our daughter perform as part of the National Choreographer’s Initiative, my husband granted my only wish for my 61st birthday, which occurred while we were there. We visited Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. I’d wanted to see Michael Jackson’s burial site, but also glimpse where stars from the “Golden Age” of Hollywood were buried. I’d picked up a thick paperback from Barnes and Noble, which was like an encyclopedic “map” of historical celebrity sites, hangouts, studios, homes. Hollywood: The Movie lover’s Guide – The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A. by Richard Alleman, even detailed the specific locations where the famous were entombed. Book in hand we went on our very own scavenger hunt, seeking out dead people.

While we went scavenging, we saw families here and there, quietly laying out assorted picnic goodies for luncheon feasts. I also saw a young woman, sitting peacefully among some trees, eyes closed, in deep thought or maybe meditating. I felt such calm as I strode about, or glanced out the car window, thinking that this would be a wonderful place to rest in eternal peace. But I’m not convinced I’d move to traffic-ridden, smoggy Los Angeles just for the privilege of being interred in Forest Lawn.

but it does take your breath away, literally…hugmamma.