the voice…WOW!!!

I don’ have to tell those of you who are avid followers of NBC’s The Voice… that this season’s competitors are amazing! 

All of them should have careers, whether it’s on TV, Broadway, Videos, Movies, Clubs, CDs, or Las Vegas. It would be sad if they went back to working a 9 to 5 job behind a desk, or the midnight shift at a restaurant.

Talented folks should realize their dreams when they work so hard to make them come true. This, of course, from a mom with a daughter still searching for her own, special niche in the dance world.

I guess I’m biased. I’m a “left-brain” person. You know, more creative than rational.

Whether or not you tune into The VoiceI’m sure your spirit will be moved.

Here are two of my favorite performances from last night. BTW…the girl is only 16. One of the judges, CeeLo Green said she mustive swallowed an old soul. See if you agree. 
…have a listen…

……hugmamma.

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uncommon…but refreshingly common

While saddened to learn of Andy Griffith‘s death today, I could only think happy thoughts.

The Andy Griffith Show

The Andy Griffith Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up with The Andy Griffith Show, even though I resided in Wailuku, Maui, not Mayberry, TV land. With no dad of my own, mine having died when I was one, I latched onto Andy Griffith, as did hundreds of other children, I’m sure.

Lucky Opie. He enjoyed the hugs, the chats, the sing-a-longs,  the laughter…and the absence of spankings .

Yes, it was all make-believe. Fictional characters living in a fictional town. Somehow, I never saw Mayberry and its folks that way.

For me, Andy Griffith, family and friends in tow, stepped through the television screen, and made himself at home…in my home. He wasn’t larger than life…he always felt like he belonged…he fit in.

I’m certain I gained a lot from the wisdom intertwined with the humor on each episode. I’m definitely of the opinion “you can get more with honey than vinegar.” There’s no doubt that Andy’s drawl dripped with the sweet, amber goo. And I just lapped it up.

I didn’t dream of mansions and castles.

I fantasized about a bright, sunny home comfortably furnished, meat, potatoes and biscuits for dinner, a front porch where friends could sit a spell, and a loving dad to tuck me in at night. How I envied Opie.

Publicity photo from the television program Ma...

Publicity photo from the television program Mayberry R.F.D. Pictured are Ken Berry (Sam Jones), Buddy Foster (Mike Jones), and Andy Griffith (Sheriff Andy Taylor). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Married to Cindy Griffith  for 36 years, Presidential Medal of Honor recipient…I’ve never heard a bad word about Andy Griffith. Ron Howard, Opie’s real-life counterpart, speaks glowingly of the man he knew as his TV father.

Griffith’s on-screen persona doesn’t sound far removed from the real man. If his influence upon Howard is as he says, and little Opie has incorporated all he’s learned at the knee of his TV dad…so that Howard’s become one of the most revered and beloved Hollywood directors, then Andy Griffith is the genuine article…

…a man of integrity…above all else.

………hugmamma.    🙂

words of wisdom…prosecutor

egg salad

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With MSNBC blaring in the background, I’m trying to multi-task. In the process of making egg salad for a lunch sandwich, snapping some photos for WordPress weekly challenge, vacuuming up dust and hairballs left by my kitties, and taking a moment here and there to write a post. So much to do; so little time. Am trying to beat the clock since Sylvia and Jim are picking me up for her birthday celebration at the local Elk’s Club. I’m sure we’ll have a rocking, good time!

My ears perked up at something I heard on the news. Prosecuting attorney Ashton, in the Casey Anthony trial, suggested that those opposed to the verdict should channel their negativity into doing something positive for children. Doing so, he explained, would honor Caylee’s memory; to do otherwise, would dishonor her.

President Barack Obama records an episode of T...

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Earlier when I first switched on the TV, the talk show The View was nearing the end of its allotted time. Barbara Walters spoke the final words. She basically said that Casey Anthony is alive. I surmised Walters to mean that we, the public, should let the acquitted Ms. Anthony…live…her life.

Our justice system works, albeit not always the way we want it to work. Judgment is placed in the hands of people just like us. They don’t have sway over public opinion as do politicians, movie stars, religious leaders, internet gurus, Grammy or Tony winners, humanitarian icons. Jurors are presented with facts, and they interpret them with what they bring to the table in the way of life experiences. I know I wouldn’t make the perfect juror because I have my own prejudices about people, places and things. We all do. So as imperfect human beings…we do the best we can.

casey anthony 1

Casey Anthony will face her own reality. In our capitalistic society, she may garner wealth and fame as a result of her time in the spotlight. But she can’t escape getting older. And with age comes memories…good and bad. Hopefully she will make good ones to help sustain her when the bad ones come roaring back to haunt her every moment, whether awake or asleep. Casey Anthony has been given a reprieve, a second chance. What she makes of it…is in her own hands…as it should be.

Memorial..

Image by Pacdog via Flickr

A Portion of the memorial for Caylee Anthony n...

Image via Wikipedia

…and our lives are ours…to make good memories as well…hugmamma. 

this generation…”the voice”

If, like me, you feel totally disconnected from ” whassup?” with this generation, I highly recommend you start watching the latest, reality talent phenom, The Voice. It airs Tuesday nights on NBC. The first in the series ended last night with one of four challengers being hailed as “the voice,” in addition to walking away with $100,000 and a recording contract.

Trust me when I say, I knew very few, if any, of the songs that were sung throughout the course of the competition. Every once-in-awhile I recognized a piece of something from having heard it on my car radio, as I ran errands. Fortunately I love music with a beat, or tunes that have heart. I can be-bop to almost anything. I love singing; I love dancing.

Christina Aguilera performing during the Sanre...

Image via Wikipedia

Of the 4 judges, who also coached the challengers, I’d only heard of Christina Aguilera. And it was only recently when I saw her starring with Cher in a film, that I became a huge fan of the blonde songstress. She is one amazing vocalist! But as I tuned in faithfully to watch The Voice each week, I became a huge fan of Blake Shelton, country crooner, and Adam Levine, pop rocker, who served on the panel with Aguilera. I’m still not familiar with Shelton’s songs, can only recognize a couple by Levine, and am well acquainted with only one by Aguilera, Beautiful.” Knowing who they are now, still doesn’t give me entree… into this generation. But at least I can step up to the peep hole and be a “peeping tom” into what makes the young folk tick.

Adam Levine from Maroon 5

Image via Wikipedia

Adding to my credibility as an honorary member of this generation, is the fact that I’m the one who got my 25-year-old, professional dancer daughter hooked on The Voice. Like me she really wasn’t committed to watching any of the other talent shows. But The Voice definitely persuaded us to delay our phone conversations until we’d both watched it in our own time zones. Now that’s saying something!

I heartily encourage seniors and anyone wanting to “get with it” to watch the next season of The Voice. By the way, the talent crosses all generations. One of the TV audience favorites was a 42-year-old, bald, Lesbian, with tatoos, who got the studio audience on their feet, moving to her powerhouse vocals. Beverly McLellan could belt it out with the best of them. She was one of my favorites.

Blake Shelton - 1

Image by tncountryfan via Flickr

While I liked many of the singers, my favorite was Dia Frampton. Coached by Blake Shelton, she succeeded in coming into her own as a performer, right before our eyes. Though still shy and exceedingly humble, Dia showed her creative genius for songwriting, versatility at playing the piano and guitar, and exquisitely different tonal quality which ranged from barely audible and raspy, to scintillatingly explosive. It didn’t hurt that she was Miss U.S.A. caliber either. While she wasn’t voted the winner by America, Dia wasn’t far behind. Only 2% separated her from Javier Colon, the guy who already had “the voice,” even before he joined the show.

I don’t think there was a doubt in anyone’s mind that Javier should’ve walked away with
the grand prize. Evidently he’d had a couple of non-starters at a musical career. With the unfailing love and support of his wife and 2 young daughters, as well as other family members, Javier continued to search for his breakthrough moment. Luckily for him, and for music afficionados, he found his way to The Voice, and a win he very much deserved.

Dia Frampton

Following YouTube videos are of Dia Frampton singing “Heartless,” Dia and Blake Shelton singing I Won’t Back Down,” and Javier Colon singing “Stitch by Stitch.” Hopefully these videos will convince you to tune into season two of “The Voice.”

…celebrating the voices…of this generation…hugmamma.

 

and the award goes to…

Comcast Corporate Customer Service!!! Yessir, they’ve done it again. Just as I’d done months ago (check my winter month archives), I sent an email off to my buddy Mark Casem at we_can_help@Comcast.com, this time asking for information regarding my daughter’s cable service. She was under the impression that because she was moving from one apartment to another, that there might be a promotion offering a discount of some sort. I wasn’t so certain. So she called her local Comcast, first as a current customer, and then, upon my husband’s advice, as a prospective one. In both cases, my daughter was treated as though she were engaged in the sidewalk scam, the shell game.” The guy shows you a pebble and directs you to watch it as he moves it from under one cup, to another, then another. After doing this a few times, the game ends with you selecting the  cup under which the pebble finally came to rest. Our family’s not the type to engage in mind games. We prefer to deal truthfully. Of course there are times when you’ve got to strategize. That’s code for confrontation…without being confrontational. Not my cup of tea. But hey! That’s life. If we have to…then bring it on.

Unable to decide whether she should simply transfer at the same rate she’d been paying, or disconnecting and trying for a better rate, my daughter pondered her options. With the clock ticking towards 6/28, tomorrow, when Comcast was scheduled to cut off her service, I told her I’d write headquarters to see if they were aware of anything that might help persuade my daughter one way or the other. My mantra continues to be “It never hurts to ask. All they can do is say no. It’s nothing personal, after all they don’t know me from Eve.” Of course I may not like their answer, but I can always opt out and go elsewhere. Not easy, for sure. But again, that’s life.

Mark Casem didn’t reply to my email, but a Michael Cardone did. He asked me to forward my daughter’s account number (telephone number) and her contact number, which I did. The next day my daughter received a confusing voice mail. Because I’d been one digit off in her account number, Comcast headquarters asked the local Comcast to call a Mr. Collins about his query. Of course my daughter felt the call had been misdirected, but when another voice mail was left, she decided to call the local rep back. 

Customer Service

Image by RW PhotoBug via Flickr

Happily, my daughter indicated the Comcast rep couldn’t have been nicer, and offered my daughter the same deal she received when she moved to her old apartment 4 1/2 years ago, $99/month for all three services, phone, internet and TV, for an entire year!!! Normally the package costs $160 monthly. Satisfied, my daughter decided to take the offer.

It’s been my experience that local Comcast stations aren’t as diligent about customer service as the corporate office. I suppose as with any operation, the further afield one gets from headquarters, the less “corporate” the mentality. Rules have a way of becoming more localized, perhaps to suit the surrounding population. Dealings with our local rep here are a whole lot better than when I lived with my daughter for a couple of years in Atlanta. Service there was “hit or miss.” My feeling now is if I can’t beat them at their own game, I’ll just call out the big guns…Comcast Corporate Customer Service.   

I will always be grateful for having lived and worked in NYC. I learned to speak up rather than always hold my tongue; try very hard not to take things personally; and celebrate the small things… for therein lie our biggest accomplishments. I think my daughter’s becoming New York savvy. 

Comcast Building

Image via Wikipedia

…another win…for david and his slingshot…hugmamma. 

 

tv genie…real life mom

Have just finished reading Barbara Eden‘s autobiography. Remember her as the genie in the bottle in “I Dream of Jeannie?” A favorite sitcom of mine at the time it aired in the mid-60s, I’m sure she was the fantasy of every young girl who wanted to be like Jeannie, and every man, young and old, who wanted to be her master, aka Captain Tony Nelson. Because I looked nothing like Barbara Eden, blonde, blue-eyed, I don’t think I was as fixated on her as I was on her cute leading man, Larry Hagman. I probably tuned in as often as I could to drool over his good looks. I thought the show was funny, although I liked it a lot better when Tony finally stopped running away from Jeannie’s advances. They made a cute, TV couple; I thought they’d make a great pair in real life too. But I guess I was wrong.

It’s obvious that Eden admired Hagman’s acting, and shared a lasting friendship with him, but according to her, he was like the Tasmanian devil…hell on wheels!

On one unforgettable occasion, when Larry didn’t like a particular script, his answer was to throw up all over the set. Nerves? Method acting? I didn’t stick around long enough to find out, but took refuge in the sanctuary of my dressing room instead.

In many ways, Larry was like a very talented, troubled child whose tantrums sometimes got the better of his self-control. The crew, however, quickly lost patience with him and vented their frustration by cutting him dead as often as possible and tormenting him however and whenever they could. Once when Larry demanded a cup of tea (as opposed to his habitual champagne), the crew, exasperated by his high-handedness and demands that a scene be reshot because he didn’t like that particular segment of the script, put salt in his tea instead of sugar.

When the unsuspecting Larry took a sip and spat the tea out in disgust, the entire set rocked with suppressed laughter from the delighted crew, who probably would have applauded if they could have, they so enjoyed humiliating poor Larry.

In real life, Eden was happily married to fellow actor Michael Ansara. Of Lebanese descent, he was two when his parents moved the family to America. She raved of him…

As far as I–and thousands of fans and love-struck female fans throughout the world–was concerned, Michael Ansara was a magnificent specimen of alpha-male masculinity. Six foot four and darkly handsome, with blazing brown eyes, a deep, resonant voice, and a powerful aura of strength and dependability, Michael was a Hollywood heart-throb with sex appeal to burn.

I think we get the picture. If Ansara had portrayed a genie competing with Tony Nelson for Jeannie’s hand on the TV sitcom, I wonder if Eden could’ve refrained from revealing to the audience which of her two suitors really had her in the palm of his hands?

I’m sure you’ve surmised that Eden and Ansara tied the knot. Seven-and-a-half years after marrying they were delighted to welcome son Matthew, a month before the premiere of “I Dream of Jeannie.”  ... with husband Michael Ansara and son Matthew - i-dream-of-jeannie photoBecause her career climbed while her husband’s nose-dived, Eden became the family breadwinner. For the most part the arrangement seemed to work just fine, for as she explained at the conclusion of her book…

The wonderful thing about my business and about my life is that I never know what’s around the corner. I’m very lucky to like what I do and to be able to work at it so happily and for so long. I’ve always considered my career to be a great joy and a great gift. I love it, and long may it continue.

But her career took its toll on her marriage, her son, and another baby boy as yet unborn. It was this chain of events that convinced me to share Eden’s story with you, which I’d intended to do yesterday, Mother’s Day. What she endured is a tragic example of a wife and mother who tries to do everything, to be everything to all people.

… Ten years into our marriage, I gave an achingly honest interview to a newspaper journalist about the problems Michael and I encountered in our marriage.

“My husband, Michael,” I said, “is becoming more and more annoyed watching me go to work every day while he sits home. He hates the thought of it. I don’t blame him. There isn’t a man around who enjoys the feeling that his wife is the breadwinner and brings home the bacon. I know it’s uncomfortable for Michael. What are we going to do about it? I wish I knew…All I’m sure of is that Michael would give anything to see our positions reversed.” …

Difficult or not, Michael and I had no plans to end our marriage, and we still loved each other as much as we ever had. Then in 1971, to our delight, I became pregnant with our second child.

Even their son Matthew was excited at the prospect of a baby brother. Good fortune seemed to bless her with more good news when she was offered the opportunity to tour America for 10 weeks in not one, but two musicals, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” and “The Sound of Music.” She signed on against her better judgment, for she was in her late thirties and was already feeling the effects of already having acted, sung, and danced “nonstop all over the country for so many years.” For once in her life she was “overcome by a burning desire to refuse not just one job but two.”

But Michael was not working, and if I didn’t take this opportunity, our family would go hungry. Although I knew in my heart that this wasn’t the case, against my better judgment, I agreed to star in both musicals and tour the country right up until I was eight months pregnant.

She took precautions, checking in with doctors wherever she toured, who were recommended by her L.A. physician. But upon finally returning home and being examined by her own doctor, she learned what no mother wants to hear.

My baby was dead. His umbilical cord had been crushed, and there was nothing anyone could do to save him. I say him, because the doctor told me that my unborn baby was a boy. The doctor also told me that in all his many years of practice, he had never encountered a case like mine.

Worse yet, Eden says…

I only knew that I had to carry my dead baby inside of me for six more weeks, because were the doctors to deliver his lifeless body before then, my own life could be endangered. In hindsight, this is a barbaric, outmoded medical practice, and thankfully it is no longer done.

Upon reading this, I recollected overhearing adults whisper of such instances when I was growing up. I didn’t know what it all meant, except that a woman had to carry the dead fetus the entire nine months. There’d be no shortcuts. Needless to say the ordeal took its toll on Eden, who unknowingly succumbed to postpartum depression. After 15 years of marriage she divorced Ansara who was bewildered by her decision. And in retrospect, she regrets not having sought counseling to save her marriage. For the consequences took its toll on their son. “But I still regret our divorce, because the repercussions it would one day have on Matthew would turn out to be cataclysmic. Had I been able to look into a crystal ball at that time, I would have stayed in the marriage until Matthew was an adult. but I didn’t.”

In 1974, Michael, Matthew, and I were living in our ranch-style home in the San Fernando Valley, a prosperous community of well-heeled, well-educated people. Little did we know that someone who lived close by, a wealthy hippie, a man with children of his own, was growing pot in his garden and smoking it with the neighborhood kids. I guess that particular person thought that what he was doing was fun, cool, harmless. If I ever came face-to-face with him, I’d happily kill him.

Fate is so strange, and I often ask myself this question: if Michael and I had lived in another neighborhood, not one where our neighbor was growing pot and handing it out to kids like some kind of candy, would Matthew have avoided becoming a drug addict?

But the reality may well be different. Marijuana can be an extremely addictive drug, and the addiction is intensified if a child not only starts smoking when he is extremely young but also has a marked genetic predisposition to addiction. Sadly, Matthew fell into both categories. Michael and I both had alcoholism in our respective families. Michael’s grandfather was an alcoholic, as were both my mother’s older sister and her brother. Matthew’s early addiction to marijuana easily led to an addiction to harder drugs later on.

Another factor, one for which I will blame myself to my dying day, is that Matthew was only nine when I asked Michael for a divorce, and he never really recovered from having his hitherto happy home broken up. …

…on the morning of June 26, (2001) all my worst fears came true. Matthew was dead. …He was just thirty-five years old.

Barbara Eden’s life continued in the same way that all our lives do…with its ups and downs. Although Michael Ansara remains the “love of her life,” she has found happiness with her third husband, Jon Eicholtz, a builder/developer.

a mom who tried to do it all…and in my estimation…remained a classy lady despite her tragic losses…hugmamma.

 

reality dancing…not up to the task?

DS boxshot

Image via Wikipedia

I wasn’t surprised when I came across the following information about celebrities who sign up for Dancing with the Stars. They are indeed no match for the real thing, real-life professionals who dance for peanuts by comparison, and not for a paltry 6 weeks, more like 32 to 52 depending on the generosity of patrons who contribute to dance company budgets. And some celebrity dancers complain about the meagre pay they receive for their pain and sacrifice, only $150,000!!! Whatever would they do if they had to dance for a living???

‘Dancing With the Stars’ is one of the more profitable shows on TV, making hundreds of millions each season through ad revenue, but, how much of that bounty is going to the celebrity contestants?

“When you sign up, every contestant gets $150,000 for 6 weeks rehearsals and the first two shows,” an insider with knowledge of the arrangement tells me. “Then every week you survive you make an extra $10,000 then $20,000 then $30,000 and so on, so the winner takes home $350,000.” Which sounds like a huge amount of money, but not to one past contestant, who complained to me this week about 12-hour work days and “ridiculous” amounts of “stress and strain” on the body.

“The show doesn’t pay for massages or anything else,” the former contestant, who is not part of the current cast, alleges. “The amount of physical stress and strain they put your body through, rehearsing six days a week, eight hours a day, is ridiculous.”

My source said “I have never worked so hard in my life” and described one particularly busy performance day: “Our call time was 6:00 AM and we were rehearsing with the band by 8 and then live on the dance floor that evening. That’s a 12-hour day.”

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Image by trhnlhi via Flickr

And although I agree it doesn’t feel right that the cast of ‘The Jersey Shore‘ earn far more than Kirstie Alley and crew, I say welcome to the real world, where we pay for own massages too!

Follow @NaughtyNiceRob on Twitter!  

what’s the appeal?…our fondness for celebrities…rather than real artists…hugmamma.

in the aftermath…#3

The following is from the perspective of an American Muslim, someone who straddles 2 worlds, seemingly able to opine both sides of the argument. It’s an opinion I’d not really come across before, and thought it worth sharing. The author imparts “insider” information which helped me to understand a little better how his countrymen think. I fear we Americans often fail to accept that citizens of other cultures might have differing world views which are as valid as our own. Then again I think most people tend to see things one way…their own. That’s human nature, unfortunately. This need not be carved in stone, however, if we keep an open mind.

Osama Bin Laden, Weak Horse
by Fouad Ajami

The trail had grown cold, but the case for justice had never gone away. Osama bin Laden had warred against the United States, he had called on every Muslim “by God’s will to kill the Americans and plunder their possessions wherever he finds them and whenever he can.” He had erased the boundary in the laws of war between combatants and civilians, and he had set out the case that the age-old ailments of a deeply troubled Islamic civilization could be laid at America’s doorstep.

He and his top lieutenant and partner, the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, had made sure that America would be caught in the crosshairs of a deadly civil war between their foot soldiers of terror and the Arab regimes in the saddle. The “near enemy” they dubbed the incumbents in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. The “far enemy” was the name they gave the U.S. It was halal, it was permissible, to war against the far enemy, to exploit its freedoms, in a campaign of vengeance against these regimes and the Pax Americans said to sustain them.

There was plenty of victimhood and rage in Arab and Muslim life, and this man of checkered background–Saudi citizenship, Yemeni ancestry on his father’s side, a Syrian mother–found his themes as he went along. There was his mastery of lyrical Arabic, and it played to the gullible. There was the legend on offer of the man born to wealth but giving it all up in pursuit of a holy cause. In his run, his decade if you will, Arab political and cultural life was a scorched earth–terrible, plundering regimes, disaffected and sullen populations trapped in no-man’s land, the absence of any hope of economic and political improvement. Some 300 million or so Arabs seemed cut off from history’s progress.

Bin Laden and Zawahiri had little to offer that world, but what they presented, it must be conceded, had its appeals. There were media spectaculars, attacks against American embassies and battleships and military housing compounds. There was the sheer satisfaction of seeing the mighty get their comeuppance.

From perfectly educated and otherwise normal folks in Arab and Muslim cities could be heard echoes of bin Laden’s sentiments, sly insinuations that the man was an avenger for the slights suffered by Arabs and Muslims in modern life. For a perilous moment, when Osama bin Laden held spellbound the audience of the television channel Al Jazeera, there was a rancid wind at play in Islamic lands. Even with the terror of 9/11, when soot and ruin hit American soil, there could be seen that deadly mix of moral indifference and satisfaction in Arab Muslim places. Bin Laden had sold a cult of power. When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse, he had famously opined.

But American power held steady in the Islamic world. We did not cede that vast region to the jihadists and their enablers. We were not brilliant in every campaign. We did not fully know our enemies and their cunning. We were not always at home in the tricks of the dictators and the hustlers in that vast arc of trouble in the Greater Middle East, but we held the line when it truly mattered.

State of Al Qaeda in Iraq

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In Afghanistan and Iraq we fought back, we even put on the ground–in the face of all kind of obstacles–a reasonably successful democratic experiment in Iraq. Bin Laden and his ilk (not to mention some neighboring powers) had done their best to thwart the Iraqi project, but the experiment had survived. And al Qaeda was to be rebuffed in Iraq by the very Sunnis it had presumably come to rescue. Bin Laden’s bet had failed: There would be no hasty American retreats a la Beirut and Mogadishu. We had awakened to the connection between Arab pathologies and our own security here at home.

In the decade that separates us from 9/11, the bin Laden legend dimmed. The tapes he sent were “proof of life” and little else. Arabs began to reconsider their place in the world, and that grotesque disfiguring of a religious tradition, the cult of martyrdom, lost its luster. There was no way back to the Islamic caliphate.

It was bin Laden’s deserved fate to be struck down when an entirely different Arab world was struggling to be born. The Arab Spring is a repudiation of everything Osama bin Laden preached and stood for. If al Qaeda found an appropriate burial ground, the place must be Midan al-Tahrir, Liberation Square, in Cairo. Of all Arab lands, Egypt is the biggest, the most culturally evolved polity, the one with perhaps the most acute economic and demographic crisis. This was Zawahiri’s birthplace and a special target of the jihadists–claim this realm and you will have upended the entire balance in the region.

Yet no one in Liberation Square paid heed to bin Laden and Zawahiri, no one chanted “Death to America.” They had, in their own peaceful way, settled their account with the dictator and signaled their desire for a free, modern society. The drums of anti-Americanism, steady during the Mubarak years, came to a halt.

Men and women came together to bid for a New Egypt, to reclaim their country. No gaze was fixed on the Hindu Kush guessing as to the whereabouts of the remnants of al Qaeda fighters and their wives and children. To the extent that ideologies could be dead and over with, the ideological challenge of al Qaeda is a spent force. “Affiliates” of al Qaeda will survive in Yemen and North Africa, but they will be a nuisance, a matter for police and security services.

The Syrian Revolution 2011 الثورة السورية ضد ب...

Image by Kurdistan KURD كوردستان كردستان ا via Flickr

The Arab Spring has simply overwhelmed the world of the jihadists. In Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria, younger people–hurled into politics by the economic and political failures all around them–are attempting to create a new political framework, to see if a way could be found out of the wreckage that the authoritarian states have bequeathed them. It is a risky thing to say, but Arabs appear to have wearied of violence. I hazard to guess bin Laden’s fate was of no interest to the people in the sorrowful town of Deraa enduring the cruelty of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and his death squads.

al-qaeda territory

Image by chrisdebruyn via Flickr

When our remarkable soldiers gave him a choice, Osama bin Laden gave them a fight. Fittingly, he was not in a cave. He had grown up in the urban world of Jeddah, and he was struck down in a perfectly urban setting, a stone’s throw from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, in odd proximity to a military academy, in a visible and large compound. He had outlived his time and use, and doubtless Pakistani intelligence was now willing to cast him adrift.

A savvy American official once observed that Pakistani’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, must have an “office of hedging your bets.” A generation ago, South Asia made room for the Saudi plotter and financier. He had money, and the aura of the Arabian Peninsula, the land of Islamic revelation. Now all that was of the past.

(Mr. Ajami is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is co-chair of the Hoover Working Group on Islamism and the International Order. …Wall Street Journal, 5/3/11)

mothers, compassion for

Cast of Family Ties from a later season. (From...

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Through the first three-quarters of Meredith Baxter‘s autobiography, Untied, I found myself extremely frustrated. Here was an actress whom I thought had everything going for her. She was best known as Elyse Keaton, Michael J. Fox’s TV mom on “Family Ties, an 80s sitcom. But sometime before that she had been one-half of the handsome couple in Bridget Loves Bernie.” David Birney played her spouse, and became the real thing after the show ended.

What was disappointing about Baxter’s real life story is that through 3 failed marriages, she was always the victim of her husbands’ verbal, emotional, mental and in Birney’s case, physical abuse. Where she might have projected a woman-in-control on the small screen, she was anything but, in her personal life. Yet in one important area she was in charge. Able to get regular acting gigs, Baxter became the “bread-winner,” and wound up paying alimony to her ex-husbands.

The source of Baxter’s inability to be an equal partner in heterosexual relationships, for she did recently out herself as a lesbian, was because her mother had opted out of that role when Baxter was very young. 

 

Craftsman-style bungalow in North Park, San Di...

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I can remember coming home from first grade, walking through the front door of our little white Craftsman-style house on Indiana Avenue in South Pasadena, and calling out, “Mommy, I”m home!” 

No answer. I was confused; her car was out front. I stood very still.

“Mommy, I’m home!”

Still nothing. Then I remembered.

“Whitney?”

“Yes, dear?” her musical voice rang out from the middle bedroom, where she kept a vanity table at which she’d do her makeup.

Although I believe she had no idea about the psychological impact this might have on her children, now that I’m older I realize that Whitney was probably just giving us what she got. Whitney’s mother was born Martha Mae Wilkerson–my brothers and I called her Memaw. She was a scrappy, tough, smart, and wily survivor. She wasn’t the soft, fuzzy type; she didn’t coddle Whitney and she didn’t coddle me. …married five times…Memaw would leave her kids behind, once with a couple of former missionaries and another time with her elementary school teacher. …It wasn’t until the fifth grade that Whitney discovered drama class…From that day forward, Whitney realized that no matter what school she was in, the drama department would become home…(and) that the nearest thing she had to a real family when she was growing up were the casts of the plays that she appeared in.

AA meeting sign

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It took Meredith Baxter the better part of her life to sort through the mess it had become. Having drifted into alcoholism, she eventually sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous upon the urging of the producers of a particular TV show she’d been working on. But even after attending the group’s meetings for 10 years, Baxter hadn’t engaged in the self-examination process recommended by the program, until a good friend intervened.

Carla noted that…I’d not laid to rest many of the issues that brought me into the program in the first place ten years before, the primary issue being my mother! Drinking had been but a symptom of my alcoholism; I used drinking to solve my problems, but my problems were caused by my thinking, my selfish, self-centered, self-seeking, self-pitying thinking, and the destructive feelings and resentments that resulted. This way, I developed and preserved a belief system that filtered all information through a warped prism of being unwanted, unloved and unlovable.

Baxter set about replacing her old belief system with a new one. She found clarity in acknowledging that she deeply resented having to call her mother by her stage name instead of mom or mommy, and that she didn’t acknowledge her children as hers for a long time, and that she left them in the care of their stepfather while she pursued her acting career.

In order to help herself heal, Baxter decided that she needed to understand her mother.

…figure out who she was, learn what kind of mothering/role modeling she received, what did she want that she didn’t get, what were her disappointmens in life and how did she deal with them? And why did she make the choices with her children that she made? 

After answering all of these questions for herself, Baxter found great relevance in the words of someone speaking at an AA meeting.

A woman was talking about our parents as wells and that we were wired to go to our parent-wells for nurturing and sustenance. Many of us found our parent-wells were empty, but they weren’t empty at us. They were just empty.

Meredith decided that while she felt she was the target of her mother’s empty well, there was no basis in fact to support it. Instead, the supposition was based upon personal feelings.

As a followup to her discovery, Baxter needed “to learn to have compassion for (her) mother’s empty well, to accept (her) mother’s limitations and forgive her.”

Well, as soon as I started thinking of ways I had disappointed my own children, I quickly had a much better perspective. I thought about being too fearful to protect them from David, times when I traveled and worked when they probably needed me, times I left them with nannies, times I, like Whitney, had chosen work over my kids, times when I’d had too much to drink to be useful to them in any way–the list is endless. I could honestly say, however, that I did the best I could given the tools and information I had at the time, and therefore I had to allow the same for Whitney.

What I came away with was a sense of understanding Whitney and appreciating her in ways I wouldn’t allow myself to before. In truth, she gave me the very best she had. What I thought of it at the time is not important because I wasn’t in a position to know.

Finally, Meredith Baxter enumerates the ways in which she has been a better parent as a result of her own mother’s failures. “Many of what I think are my best traits as a mother were developed as a protest to what I had experienced with her.” Where Whitney never spent time with her children, Meredith was sure to be with her own youngsters when she wasn’t working, “making breakfasts, packing lunches, doing carpool, play dates, homework, projects, school breakfasts, soccer games and practice, gymnastics, baseball games and practice, swim meets, piano, violin, track meets, open houses, teacher meetings, performances.” And she was thankful that she loved being a mother, who loved doing it all. For that Baxter credited her mother for leaving a legacy, of which she had no knowledge. 

I found this portion of the book the most befitting my own experience. Like Baxter I had to let go of painful occurrences with my mom as I was growing up. What I didn’t understand as a youngster, I understood only too well when I became a wife and mother. Furthermore I’ve had the love and support of my husband for 40 years, and counting. While my mom never remarried after becoming a widow at age 30, pretty much shouldering her burdens alone. I had only one child for whom to care, my mom had nine. She had serious health issues all of her life, like diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis. And they only worsened as she got older, added to which she also developed Alzheimer’s. I’m able to see to my health on a regular basis, because I have a spouse who provides a comfortable life.

Parents do the best they can with what tools they’ve been given. Rather than find fault, we can try to do better with what we’ve been given. But if at times we fail, and we will, we should be prepared to forgive, ourselves and others, and show compassion, knowing that we can always try again.

for moms…huge hugs…hugmamma.

“taylor’s gift” of life

Ellen The Complete Fourth Season DVD Cover Art

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Ellen‘s show ended today with the TV host shining the spotlight on a member of her audience. Tarah Storch, surprised and overcome with emotion, embraced the talk show celebrity. Both seeming to exchange a few words in a hug that lasted a few minutes. With her trademark smile, Ellen began telling the story of Taylor, Tarah’s daughter.

Taylor died almost a year ago at age 13 in a skiing accident at Beaver Creek. The bereaved family instituted “Taylor’s Gift” in honor of a youngster who had a giving spirit. Donating their daughter’s organs to others in dire need, the family has since met 3 of the 5 recipients. Mom Tarah expressed the joy knowing that her child continues to live on in others. A special moment was hearing Taylor’s heart beat in the person who now lives on as a result of her family’s generosity.

Fair Ellen

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A poem Taylor wrote right before the fatal accident as a language arts homework assignment, speaks of her feelings about life, and her compassion for others. How appropriate that she lives on in others lives, refreshing them anew and allowing them to strive once more.

hugs for taylor, tarah, ellen…and organ transplant donors…hugmamma.

“same sky,” empowering women

Economically empower a woman—you change her, her family, her community, her country… and eventually, the social & economic fabric of the entire world.

On Inside Edition last night, not a program I usually sit and watch, more like I glance at the screen as I’m walking through the living room. When something is of interest though, I’ll sit on the edge of the closest chair. If it’s worth watching, I may settle in for a few minutes. Mention of “Same Sky,” an organization that helps empower the women of Rwanda caught my eye. So I gave my full attention to the broadcast.

In 1994, 800,000 Rwandans were massacred. During this genocide, women were enslaved as sex victims. As a result they were inflicted with the HIV virus. Bearing children, these new mothers were unable to care for their offspring because they suffered the effects of the disease. Filmmaker Francine Le Franc was moved to help these women help themselves, and their families. Le Franc began “Same Sky,” a cooperative wherein the women learned to crochet. With their newfound skill, they were able to make beaded jewelry. The necessary tools are shipped from the U.S., and the finished pieces shipped back for sale in retail stores, and at home parties, and trunk shows. 100%of the proceeds are put back into the business, thereby enabling more women the opportunity to participate.

Le Franc decided “Same Sky” was a befitting name for the business venture, because ALL women live under the same sky. “They see the same stars and the same moon. Every woman. One dream.” TV host Deborah Norville remarked, “And they’re sold for a profit. This is not a charity operation.” Le Franc added “It’s a trade initiative, not an aid initiative. It’s a hand up, not a hand out.”

Check out the SAME SKY website for further information, and see familiar faces, like those below, who have joined in supporting the cause. The jewelry may be a little pricey for most of us, but for an extra special gift, they might just work. Nonetheless, we can join in celebrating the self-liberating, empowerment of these women of Rwanda…hugmamma.

Halle Berry in Seafoam     

Goldie Hawn in Butterscotch and Jade Green

Ben Affleck in Men's Wrap

Katie Couric in Clear Sky

Ann Curry in Caviar

Chelsea Clinton in Seafoam

Fran Dresher in Fire Red

Meryl Streep in Starry Night

Queen Latifah in Chocolate Brownie

Jesse Jackson in Men's Wrap

Joan Collins in Fire Red and Starry Night

Geena Davis in Sky Blue

Donna Karen in Fire Red (photo by Joe Kohen/Getty Images)

“my english thoughts,” interview…part 2

Happily, My English Thoughts is back blogging. As I mentioned, she’s a busy young woman doing what she should be doing…living, making memories about which to write when she’s my age. I’m taking my own advice, to be sure, just at a whole different level of energy. But I’m delighted to bring you her answers to the questions that remained of our interview. I’m certain you’ll still find her captivating, a native of France, blogging in English.

What do you like to do to relax, or have fun?

That’s a good question actually, I love to listen music and going to some concert but since I’m working in a concert hall, I do listen a lot of music !One thing that I really like is watching TV Show ! I’m kind of addicted to TV Show ! My favourite ones are Criminal Minds, Lie To Me, Grey’s Anatomy, House Md and How I Met Your Mother. I do always watch them in Original version of course ! I think this is such a shame to watch them in French because we miss something, the voice is not same but mainly we’re loosing the accents, the expressions and translations are sometimes different too !

I love to go to the cinema with my friends or even alone ! I’ve been working in this industry as Assistant Camera / focus puller for almost 7 years, so watching a movie in a cinema is for me the best way to really enjoy them, best sound, best image on a big screen…


And of course, I do love to see my friends, having a coffee with them, talking about everything or even nothing, just sharing a good moment with them or if not, at least to can help them if they need to !

I like blogging too but I think there is a good balance to get between my real life and virtual one (blogging world). I need both of it of course but there is some time I will have more need to see my friends than blogging and vice versa ! 🙂

What are your favourite childhood memories?

When I was a child my parents had a sailboat, a small one but it was still great ! I loved when we used to sail in la mer méditerranée and to drop anchor along the smalls rocky beaches ! That was so fun to plunge head first into the sea from the boat ! I could dive and to watch the fish. I loved chase them !! Of course they were always winning !! ( they still are 😉 )

I loved too when we went to the Alps ! During the summer, we used to go in the Alps for hiking. I loved to breath this particular mountain fresh air, watching ground dog and other animals. We set up a big tents and enjoying to hiking during the day. I would love to go to hike now, but most of my friend are not like it… and it’s really not safe to go hiking alone… 

What’s one thing you wish you could do if it were possible?

Eiffel Tower, seen from the champ de Mars, Par...

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That’s a tough question ! There is so many things that I wish I could do but mostly I can do it… it’s more a question about money or time ! Like travelling all around the world… I need time and money to do that ! 🙂

I use to write down a to do list and as soon as I can, to realise one of this wish on my list ! Sometimes I write down little things like visiting Eiffel Tower, but it also can be about travelling / cooking / try a new sport…. So I think I do not have one thing that I wish to do but so many !…

Thank you so much for this interview !! I really enjoyed it. I’m checking your blog as much as I can ! 🙂 I love to keep in touch with you, this is one of the thing that I like about blogging, to could “meet” people like you all over the world !

Take care 🙂
Isa

…thank you very much…hugmamma.

“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.

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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.

“just go with it,” and we did

My daughter convinced me, at the last minute, not to see “Black Swan.” I knew it was “dark,” and so was prepared for a Stephen King style thriller. But I wasn’t aware there was raw sex thrown into the mix. My daughter’s words were “raunchy,” “out there,” and more to the point, “sex between the 2 main actresses.” I might have stomached such scenes in my early 20s, when hormones were raging. But not so much into my “golden years,” and definitely not in a packed theatre. Yikes! I definitely didn’t want to hear the heavy breathing of strangers seated nearby. Double yikes!!

More disturbing to me, however, was the need to depict Lesbianism in its most damning, stereotypical imagery. Just when strides are being made among that community to show themselves to be upstanding citizens like their heterosexual counterparts, a much-hyped film with an Oscar for Best Actress, regurgitates the bad press that should remain ancient history. Been there. Done that. Don’t need to go there anymore. Was there a real need for explicit sex scenes between the 2 women? Did we need to remind people about their homophobia? Might the gay community have been spared the potential for a public relations setback? You who have seen the film will have to answer that one. I’m speaking “blind,” and it’s only my opinion.

Cover of

Cover of Cactus Flower

Opting to seeJust Go With It instead, turned out to be a happy surprise. Adam Sandler is not a favorite of mine, but after seeing him in “50 First Dates” with a definite favorite,  Drew Barrymore, Sandler is “growing” on me. Not until the credits were displayed did I know that the show was a remake of an oldie, but goodie,Cactus Flower.” Filmed in the 70s, I think it was a career booster for Goldie Hawn, but I only had eyes for the great Ingrid Bergman, and ears for the dead-pan humor of Walter Matthau. It’s good I didn’t know earlier that this later film was a remake. I might’ve spent the evening making comparisons. Instead I thoroughly enjoyed “Just Go With It” on its own merits.

Nicole Kidman at Cannes Film Festival 2001

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I’d forgotten that I’d read in a review that 8 weeks of the film were spent on the island of Kauai. Seeing the green, lush beauty of a Hawaiian island brought huge smiles to our faces. Since it was the backdrop for most of the film, my husband and I obviously never stopped grinning, except when we were laughing. And seeing both Nicole Kidman, in a supporting role, and Jennifer Aniston do a pretty mean hula was an added bonus.

But the scene that brought tears to my eyes, and a lump to my throat, was a closeup between Anniston and Sandler. Watching her face as she listed things which she loved about him, I felt as though I were looking into the eyes of a good person, not just an actress. Never far from my mind, whenever I hear her name or those of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, is the pain Anniston must have endured throughout her marital breakup, and even years after the dissolution. The media scrutinized her every look, her every move, her  relationships, her breakups. While the hurt may have shown in the probing paparazzi photos, Anniston said very little. And she was probably entitled to say a lot.

Having seen Jennifer Anniston only a handful of times in films, and maybe a few dozen times on television, I was noncommittal one way or the other. But tonight I came away feeling like she’d be a good BFF, not for me obviously, but for someone who travels in her celebrity circle.

a full thumb’s up for Jennifer…and half-a-thumb for Adam…hugmamma.

“funny thing?!?,” ellen de generes

Something just happened which makes me think I’ve still got a tiny, rain cloud hovering overhead, leftover from my recent spate of mishaps.

Image representing LiveJournal as depicted in ...

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While I was in my hovel pounding away on my keyboard, wordpress.com initiated “blog buddies” in January of this year. A great idea, it fosters the growth of communities among wordpress.com bloggers. Other sites like Oprah.com and Live Journal  are known for their interactive networks. Having been a latecomer to the scene, I attempted to make connections. With no responses to my requests forthcoming, I surmised that perhaps our interests and backgrounds were too dissimilar. No problem, I thought. There’ll be other opportunities, I’m sure.

Ellen The Complete Fourth Season DVD Cover Art

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But being the person I am, oft times gregarious, I decided to email Ellen,  inviting her to be my blog buddy. When I’ve watched her show, she seems up for anything. So I thought “Why not?”

Going to her website and pulling up its first page, there was a contest I could enter if I wanted. Out of curiosity, I did. I knew 2 of the 3 answers immediately; I guessed the third. Upon clicking “continue,” what I saw next were 3 gold ribbons offering prizes for having been the day’s grand prize winner.” They were a $1,000 Walmart gift card, a $1,000 Best Buy gift card and an Ipad. Unable to fathom what I was seeing, but attempting to make a quick decision, I called my husband and my daughter, to no avail. Finally deciding to go for the Best Buy prize, I  clicked my choice. As expected, the next part of the process was to fill in some information, which I did. Continuing to the next page, I was asked to input my cell phone number. Of course I had to call my cell to make sure I had the correct number. But before I went any further, I read the fine print. Oh, oh, I thought.

If I clicked, I would be engaged in an ongoing game of sorts with ringtones, games, messages and so on. The cost? $9.99 a month, indefinitely. I was assured I’d be able to cancel after 30 days if I wanted. Well, I couldn’t get out of that scenario fast enough, especially after being scammed recently by “System Tool,” which infiltrated my laptop with viruses. Fixing that problem cost me $199, and cancelling a couple of credit cards as well. So I quickly began backing out of what looked like another scam, “Click + alt + delete.” What I couldn’t understand is how Ellen’s website would allow such an occurrence. But, hey! This is still all new to me.

[Sisters Lucretia Electa and Louisa Ellen Cros...

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I emailed Ellen asking about the contest, and if she’d agree to be my blog buddy. I’m sure she’s got lots on her plate, so I don’t expect a response to either. But maybe one of her fun assistants will send a big “hello.” Again, I won’t be holding my breath…

seven months does not an expert make…but i’m having fun in the process…hugmamma.  😉