Thursday, July 21, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

Monday's Best: 30 Years of Outstanding BAD Photography



“Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph."  Matt Hardy

Some of the highlights of Bruce Dale's 30 year career at National Geographic including 10 trips to China beginning in the late 1970s, the hologram cover for the 100th anniversary edition, and mounting a camera on the tail of a jumbo jet for in-flight photographs. Photographs are copyrighted by Bruce Dale or National Geographic.
Produced with special help from Dan Steinhardt and Epson America.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday's Best: The Perfect Match

I lost a brother to kidney disease in 2004. He succumbed to the disease that burdened him since he was a toddler and died at the tender age of 16. I was prepared to give one of my kidneys but time went against us, harshly and hastily.  He was a dreamer, an avid basketball and Lebron James fan, and a sweet and compassionate teenager who wished to go to a pilgrimage to Disneyland. During his last days, I constantly motivated, encouraged, and even egged on and bribed him with a trip to the Magic Kingdom but he was already too weak--"an angel flying low on earth" as aptly put by one of my friends.
Be an organ donor. Save a life.
My mother, to this day, could not muster the courage to go to the same hospital where my brother died. And every time the subject of kidney disease especially among children is brought up or discussed on TV, she shies away from the topic as if she has severe allergic reactions to the discussion of it.
When I read the story of the 17-year old Chinese student named "Zheng" who sold one of his kidneys for an iPad 2 just to heavily regret it afterwards, I could not help myself but to come up with a fireworks of expletives.  My first thought was, "Stupid. Why do it for an iPad?" He should have known that the products from Steve Job's Apple Company (iPhone, iPad, iMac, etc.) are known for its extremely short shelf life. Another kidney for iPad3? Poor him. I wish him well and may he live longer than his iPad2. 
Since my brother's death, I've signed up to be an organ donor in case I get called early for my next duty in another world, perhaps. I have an organ donor card in my wallet and I have it with me every time I step out of the house. If you haven't signed up for one, please do so because you might ultimately give the gift of life someday. If you're not prepared, study it well and then discuss it with your family.
"Don't think of organ donations as giving up part of yourself to keep a total stranger alive. It's really a total stranger giving up almost all of themselves to keep part of you alive." ~Author Unknown
Now, to give you an inspiring and insightful example of one person's selflessness and heroic act of adding more years to a friend's life, watch this short film about kidney organ donation and transplantation. 
WARNING: Included in the film are snippets of the actual kidney transplantation surgery, please watch it to your own discretion.         
“The Perfect Match”
A childhood friendship…and Facebook could save John Brannon’s life. While on the brink of kidney failure, John reunites with an old friend who suddenly realizes that she has the ability to save John’s life. Watch as their friendship and lives are put to the ultimate test.

Sunday's Best: The Last Survivor

For more information about the film, go to www.thelastsurvivor.com.

For those in the United States, you can now view the whole film via www.thelastsurvivor.com/. As for other regions, visit their website for more information. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

In Your Face Beauty

Amsterdam-based artists and directors, Lernert & Sander are known for their creative videos that are often playful, thought-provoking, unorthodox, and magical. In this surreal short film about fashion overkill dubbed as "Natural Beauty" featured in the fashion and lifestyle website, Nowness.com, the Dutch artists pose the questions "Is this what you want?" and "Do you think this is beautiful?" 
Lernert & Sander in "Chocolate Bunny" 
This short film is a mix of reality, fantasy, the bizarre, and the freakish. Of course, women do not normally wear make-up seven days a week and you wash it clean at the end of the day. 
In case you're wondering how much cosmetic products were used, take a look:        
7 bottles of Foundation S103
2 bottles of Creamy Eyes E107
3 Milky Lips L205 pens
2 bottles of Blush S301
A total of 228.40ml of makeup. 
Now, if you're a woman who feels grossed out and disgusted after watching the short film then the team of geniuses behind this project succeeded in conveying its message across. If you're a man who appreciates or maybe prefers to see your wife au naturelle then good for you.



"On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." 
"One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye."  - Fox to the Little Prince, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Empire State Building Honors Canada Day

Last night, the Empire State Building honored Canada by lighting its top tiers with red and white, reflecting the Canadian flag. 
Before that, a team of volunteer Canadians showered Maple leaves from the tower's observation deck. The organizing committee for the NYC Canada celebrations also replaced the water in the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park with premium Canadian Maple syrup. Also, all the 11 branches of Canadian donut icon, Tim Horton's gave away free coffee and Timbits.

OKAY. The maple syrup, maple leaves, and Tim Horton's are not true. But it's not too late, maybe today.

Friday's Best: Canadiana Tidbits


What famous people said about Canada:


"President Bush left for Canada today to attend a trade summit. Reportedly, the trade summit got off to an awkward start when the president pulled out his baseball cards."Conan O'Brien  
"The cool thing about being famous is traveling. I have always wanted to travel across seas, like to Canada and stuff." - Britney Spears
"A lot of funny stuff happens in Canada."Samantha Bee 
"Canada was built on dead beavers."Margaret Atwood
"I don't even know what street Canada is on."Al Capone 
Things you should know about Canada:

  • Canadians consume more donuts than any other country in the world. Also, there are more donut shops in Canada per capita than any other country in the world.
  • Did you know that the comic book artist Joe Shuster who created Superman was born in Toronto, Ontario? He held Canadian and American citizenships. 
  • Did you know that the inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, a physical education professor was born in Canada? A product of Canada's top university, McGill University in Montreal, Naismith was inducted in the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame, Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, and the McGill Sports Hall of Fame. 
  • Canada has six time zones. From east to west they are Newfoundland Time Zone, Atlantic Time Zone, Eastern Time, Central Time Zone, Mountain Time Zone, and the Pacific Time Zone.
  • Canada has the largest amount of freshwater in the world having over 2 million lakes.
  • About 89% of Canada is uninhabitable because of harsh climate. 
  • Canadians call their one dollar coin "loonie" and the two dollar coin a "toonie"
  • The US-Canada border is the world's longest undefended border.
  • In Canada, the legal drinking age is 19 except for the Provinces of Quebec, Manitoba, and Alberta which is 18. In an interview, Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds said: I remember being upset because I was finally legal to drink in Canada, and I decided to throw that all away and move to America, where I had to wait another two years. I came here to do improv and to try to join the Groundlings. 
  • The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics opening ceremonies were the first Olympic opening ceremonies for both the summer and winter editions to be held in an indoor venue.
Oh Canada from CBC:

Molson Canadian Beer "I Am Canadian Anthem" commercial:

"Un Canadien Errant" performed by Luke Doucet and Mellisa Mclelland from the movie "One Week" starring Joshua Jackson. This is the best version I've heard. 


The BEST of Molson Canadian Beer commercials:




Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dutch Prank Tattoo Job: Ridiculously Beautiful

Too good to be true. The amazing viral video of a Dutch woman getting inked by a Dutch tattoo artist with the colored profile pictures of her 152 Facebook friends in a one-time 30-hour long session turned out, as I predicted, to be a creative promotion for Rotterdam tattoo artist Dex Moelker and his company. 
The inked multicolored artwork on the woman's right arm is really snazzy and visually appealing. Getting a tattoo of your 152 Facebook friends is not a bad idea at all. 
Via CNN:
Moelker just came clean to the Dutch newspaper the Telegraaf, saying it was in fact a publicity stunt. The woman in the video didn't have the tattoo inked during a 30-hour period as the video claimed. 
"It is a try out tattoo, a transfer, that washes off in a couple of days," he (Moelker) told them. 
READ the whole story here...
Maybe, someone should have a tattoo of his or her school besfriends' yearbook photos in time for the homecoming reunion either in black and white or sepia. What about vintage Playboy covers? Or, Time Magazine Person of the Year covers?      

Wednesday's Best: A Father's Story

"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story." - Orson Welles

By: SAMUEL W. HEFTI
This is a mini documentary about "Son", a cylco driver in Ho Chi Minh City. I met him during my stay in Vietnam and he told me his story. In the early Seventies he has fought with the Americans against the Vietcong. After the war he was put into prison by the North Vietnamese. Now he seems to be a happy family father... 
Shot on Canon EOS 7D, Recorded on Zoom H4n

Pope Joins Twitter & Posts His First Holy Tweet

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI joined the Twitter world by posting his first Tweet via Apple's iPad on Tuesday afternoon.

Dear Friends, I just launched http://t.co/fVHpS9y Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVIless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPad Favorite Retweet Reply



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

People Are People: Sssssh! No Txtng & Talkng! Don't Take Pictures!

This is the first of a series of featurettes about the funny and interesting idiosyncrasies and other out-of-the-ordinary human behaviors worthy of snark and smack.    


Have you ever had that experience in the cinema when the asshat person sitting just a few rows in front of you is busy texting or using his or her cellphone while the movie is playing? Irritating and totally disrespectful, right? However, if it's an emergency or really important like telling your parents to call back in an hour or so because you're inside the library doing a very important research about wizards and magic or vampires then better step out.
It's like playing hide-and-seek and you're doing your best to hide and not be seen (because it's hide-and-seek) but your dog tags along and gives away your hiding place.  Hmmm...Is that parallelism too off the track?
Okay, redirect: People pay to watch a movie inside the cinema not just to see the film but for the whole experience that includes a comfy velvet-lined seat with ample head and back support, drinks holder, a gigantic screen, high-tech digital surround sound (like you're in the mouth of the dinosaur while it's talking), and a hundred or so other people who know not to scream  before anybody else or to laugh when everybody else is laughing.
Since summer is the time for movie blockbusters and new box-office records, maybe it's time for you to review your theater decorum. In just a few more weeks, the final part of the 7th and last installment in the multi-billion dollar movie franchise Harry Potter from Warner Bros. will be taking over cinemas. People from all walks will be trooping the movie houses to get that "total experience."
Who are you among these typical theater goers:
  1. The K.I.A. or Know-It-All. This is the I-Know-This-Trailer-That's-Why-I'm-Going-To-Say-The-Title-Out-Loud-So-That-Everyone-Will-Know-I-Know-It person.
  2. The Radio Drama/Ringside Announcer.  This is the person who narrates every scene. For example: OMG! She's going to kill the guy but before that she'll kiss him first.   
  3. The Constant Inquirer. All questions with obvious answers. Why did you do that? or Why can't you do it? or Can't you see that? She loves you.
  4. The Commander/Dictator. Do it! or Kill him! or Run now! Fast! or Take it!
  5. The Accordion. Uh, oh... or Aah! or Aha! or Oooh...
There are some countries like the Philippines that play their national anthem before the last screening of the day and everyone, as a courtesy, is obliged to stand. In Thailand, they play their national anthem in honor of their King before every screening and by law, you must stand up and pay respect. I can't think of any sane reason for anyone especially foreigners or non-Thai citizens to not to stand up because if you don't you might end up in prison. If you want to understand why it's important, watch this:
Protocols and theater policies may vary from one place to another. Rainbow Cinemas in Toronto have "Mothers & Babies" Movie Night. In some places, you can get away with highly-disruptive behavior but not in the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas in Texas. They'll ask you to step out or if you're too self-absorbed and perhaps too blinded by the customer-is-always-right credo, they'll kick your ass out and most likely blacklist you. They do it. They have the right to do so. In fact, it has become a much-applauded theater policy that's why they play PSA's before every screening.    
     
Take a look at this real Alamo Drafthouse Theater video of a female patron who was kicked out of the theater for refusing to stop texting and talking. This is her actual voicemail message, which the theater owner ingeniously turned into a PSA before every screening: 

Take a look at this local NBC news report about the Alamo Stand:



This was one of Alamo's old PSA's about the "No Talking, No Texting" policy inside the theater with a special appearance of the late governor of Texas, Ann Richards (R)

Broadway (live theater) is another world. It is standard policy in all theaters to prohibit clapping during the performance, to go to the washroom during a performance (they'll actually allow you but you wont be able to go back to your seat until the next intermission or interval), take pictures and video footage (or any recording) because of copyright protections and for the safety of the performers. Of course, cellphones are not allowed too. In some theaters, you are encouraged to leave it at the coat check. 
It's already a given that you can't take pictures during the show. But, did you know that no one is allowed to take pictures inside the theater especially near or in front of the stage? As it turns out, even the curtains and the ambient or setting screen are copyrighted. If you want to know more what you can and can't do in a Broadway theater, read this...
However, some people are really stubborn, ignorant, and utterly disrespectful. Performers can easily get distracted by a camera flash or a cellphone ringing. Just take a look at this video (which by the way was recorded illegally too) of Hugh Jackman in 1999 playing alongside Daniel Craig in the Broadway play "A Steady Rain" : 


Diva of divas. This video is the epic of all because it has the audio of Broadway legend and two-time Tony Award-winner Patti Lupone (Evita, Les Miserables, Gypsy) berating an audience member she caught taking photographs during her performance of the trademark "Gypsy" song, Rose's Turn. 
The next time you go into a theater, watch your manners and be mindful of others. If you can't, stay at home and watch on Netflix. Too bad, you can neither replicate nor equal a live theater performance at home unless you're that rich and powerful. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Tragedy in Japan in the Eyes of Two Haitian Children

"If you learn from your suffering, and really come to understand the lesson you were taught, you might be able to help someone else who's now in the phase you may have just completed. Maybe that's what it's all about after all..." - Unknown


Geoffery & Joseph had their home destroyed in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Today they watched as Japan was devastated by the Tsunami. Despite having nothing, Geoff wishes he could help the children of Japan. What then should we, who have everything, do for the children of Japan and Haiti?
www.ryot.org

Sunday's Best

"Do what you love. Love what you do."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

To Skateboard Or Not To Skateboard

"Cowabunga, dude! Skateboarding in Kabul?" That's Mikey expressing his surprise after Master Splinter told him over the phone that he's being invited by a clothing company to teach skateboarding lessons to kids in Kabul, Afghanistan.  
The teenage swashbuckling sewer-dwelling turtle as skateboarding teacher in Afghanistan is far fetched even for a beloved cartoon character but the skateboarding kids in Kabul are not.
Young skateboarders skillfully maneuver the dusty and pot-hole 
ridden streets of Kabul. 
Skateboards first surfed the sidewalks and pavements of Southern California during the 50s. Since then, it has evolved into a popular culture involving a skilled tribe of people—school children, teenagers like Mikey and his dudes, young adults (dudes and dudettes), and even some grown-up men who defy the challenges posed by their sagging assess and weakening knees due to age and degeneration—who fly and ply the concrete jungle with their boards. Dogs and monkeys have dabbled in skateboarding too just check YouTube.      
Skateboarding, in fact, has permeated almost all asphalt and concrete jungles around the world and it created  niche  micro-cultures of individuals wanting to have a creative outlet within societies regardless of cultural background, social status, age, or even gender. 
So, what's the big deal about a skateboarding school in the heart of Kabul? I'm not sure. Is there something wrong with Afghan children skateboarding in the streets of Kabul? Maybe.  
I must admit, there's this part of me that is discomfited by idea of skateboarding in post-Taliban Kabul—a still fragile time when Afghanistan as a self-ruling "free" country is yet to show political and cultural oomph. Afghanistan is in the throes of rebuilding, redefining, and re-enforcing its identity as an ancient nation of strong-willed people who have endured and struggled under different invaders and oppressive regimes and many armed conflicts just in the last three decades. What remains of the Afghan culture as a whole after the Taliban rule of tyranny are vestiges of its glorious past. Now that music, movies, TV, books, beauty pageants, porn, and a whole lot more of forbidden things banned by the Taliban are once again back in the mainstream, I am hoping for caution through a more tempered approach in introducing things like a skateboard, which is very pop culture Americana. 
Perhaps, I'm still enamored with the idyllic scenes of kite flying Kabul children portrayed in the book and movie, "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. But then again, that was pre-Taliban era.     
Eureka!
Afghan kids flying on boards in the streets of war-ravaged Kabul. 
Skateboarding in Kabul? Why not? It's 2011 and it's been 10 years since the US with the help of British Special Forces and the Northern Alliance invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban Government. Osama is dead.    
Obviously, I've had several turnarounds while writing this post (within a span of 20 minutes) whether I should problematize or antagonize the promotion or introduction of skateboards in Afghanistan or whether I should just take it as it is and marvel at the heartfelt and guileless hunger of Afghan kids for something purposeful and for something they can claim as their own. 
And then, the remarkable story of how Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz and the "Surfing 4 Peace" movement with the help of One Voice made many Palestinian surfers in Gaza happy when they received donated old surfboards from Israel came to mind. Their story, which received considerable media attention, was an inspiring one and it proved that a surfboard can become a bridge between two sides. New surfboards came and a wave of support landed on the Gaza shores straight from California through the Gaza Surf Relief started by Seweryn “Sev” Sztalkoper.
If good things can come from boards like the surfboards in Gaza then it must be a good sign too that boards with wheels have made its way through the urban maze of Kabul, the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. 
“It is solely because of the support of Skateistan that I am standing now.” Murza, one of the skateboarding Kabul kids in the short documentary, "Skateistan"
Funded by Dazed & Confused and Diesel (the Italian clothing and apparel company) through an artistic collaboration called "Diesel New Voices," "Skateistan" is one of the three short documentaries tackling youth "micro-cultures" in different places around the world. The documentaries aimed to highlight "how a small number of individuals can have a positive social impact by going against the grain, and forging a shared identity through opposition to social pressures." This documentary was part of the official selection during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.       
FROM THE FILMMAKERS:
Skateistan: To Live And Skate Kabul by ORLANDO VON EINSIEDEL is a beautifully shot film that follows the lives of a group of young skateboarders in Afghanistan. Operating against the backdrop of war and bleak prospects, the Skateistan charity project is the world’s first co-educational skateboarding school, where a team of international volunteers work with girls and boys between the ages of 5 and 17, an age group largely untouched by other aid programmes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Instant Superstar Aimi Eguchi: The Best of Everything

Do you remember the Andrew Niccol movie "S1mone" starring Al Pacino and Winona Ryder? It's the story of one film producer's soon-to-doomed response when his star walks off set so he creates a digital actress he names S1mone. She becomes an overnight sensation and fools people that she's real, as in human.

The S1mone example is a not so far-fetched idea at all. Although graphic artists have done the amalgamation of several features of different individuals rolled into one before in print and photography, we are yet to see this digital "manipulation" of sorts to take off and flourish on TV and Film creating a "real" superstar like S1mone (but of course sans the drama).

In 2007, Japan released a female performing hologram character named Hatsune Miku. She became an instant hit and was showcased during live events and was aggressively featured in mass marketing campaigns.

And now, the Japanese candy company Ezaki Glico is making waves, wows,oohs, and ahas when it featured in its most recent candy commercial the newest addition to the famous Japanese girl brand group AKB48, which serves as the candy's major endorser.

Her name is Aimi Eguchi and she definitely is beautiful and the best of everything (or everyone).

Watch her charm you with her typical Japanese cute shyness:

Aimi Eguchi created a fuss among AKB48 millions of fans when she was first introduced as the girl band's newest member through a candy commercial and not the same way as before, which was in an internationally televised popular awards show.

Watch the girls and let them make you think that you need a candy right now:

She's real.

She is real as real according to most of her fans. She has her own profile in AKB48's official website detailing her hometown and age. She appeared together with the group in several print and photo ad campaigns.

But she's not what you think she really is. There's no major birther controversy here. Have a look how she came into being:

No doubt, Aimi Eguchi is appealing, delightful, and really attractive. She's the best of everything after all.  

Les Miz Polish Flash-Mob Singing

For the Les Miz super fans or those familiar with the musical, you won't be needing translation because you know this song by heart.
For the uninitiated, the video features the artists in the 2011 Polish Original Cast Album recording of Les Miserables promoting the album's release through flash-mob singing in one of Warsaw's largest shopping malls.
I know some people who won't be able to resist in joining the chorus if they happen to be in that mall. They might steal the show too but their movements are for Cats the Musical only.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jose Antonio Vargas: Define American

There are an estimated 11.1 million illegal immigrants in the US right now. Many of these illegal immigrants are faceless, nameless, and with no permanent home.

Tell me if this person doesn’t fall into the definition of the usual American:

  • He grew up in Mountain View, California.
  • He attended Crittenden Middle School, Mountain View High School, and San Francisco State University and studied Political Science & Black Studies
  • Even before he graduated, he has already worked in publications like Mountain View Voice, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Daily News
  • After finishing college, he was hired by the Washington Post
  • In 2007, he and other colleagues were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for their coverage of the Virginia Tech University shootings
  • Writes an online column for the Washington Post called “Clickocracy”
  • 2009, he joined The Huffington Post as Technology and Innovations Editor
  • He’s a true master of the social media 
  • Co-producer and writer, The Other City, a documentary about the AIDS epidemic

His name is Jose Antonio Vargas. His stellar accomplishments certainly eclipse many of the curriculum vitae and résumés of a lot of ordinary Americans like him except that his life story is more than extraordinary.
Vargas came to the US as a 12-year old child. His mother sent him to the US to live with his grandparents in the Bay Area with someone introduced to him as his “uncle.” This “uncle” (a person who facilitates the border crossing of illegal immgrants) was his ticket to the American life, totally unbeknownst to him then.
He lived 20 years of his life afraid, extra careful, and vigilant because he doesn’t want people to know his secret, which he only found out when he went to DMV to get a driver’s license when he was 16, one of the passports to official adulthood, and found out that his permanent resident card or green card was fake.
In an article he wrote today for  The New York Times Magazine, Vargas officially outed himself as an undocumented immigrant. He recounted the details of his Moses-like story except that there there was no threat to his life when he left the Philippines. His mother wanted a better life for him. He made good use of the opportunity he was given and he succeeded.

"I'm an American, I just don't have the right papers." - Jose Antonio Vargas

In the hopes of re-directing and re-igniting a constructive dialogue on immigration reform especially concerning illegal immigrants in the education system, he founded "Define America." What really is the definition of an American? What is a true American?  


Jose's life story is just one of the many other stories of undocumented immigrants in the US today. He may have successfully surpassed many obstacles during his 20-year ordeal, he now hopes that Americans will listen to the stories of the others who are still undocumented. He wants to make a change. Watch him tell his story and define what is American:

The Father, the Son, and the Sparrow

The young boy asked his father, "Dad, let's go camping this weekend?" The father, busy watching a football game on TV the said, "We'll see. I have a game of golf with our clients. It's important."
When weekend came, sure enough the boy's father left early at first brush of sunlight to head to the golf course. 
Ten years later, the teenager asked his father, "Dad, can you take me to the DMV to get my driver's license?"
"Son, ask your mom. I have investors coming from Europe to entertain. We need that for our business. I'm sure you understand that," the Dad said.
"But Mom is busy with her book club and bake sale," the son replied.
After 30 years, the father now a retiree, paid his son a visit in his top-floor corner office downtown. 
"Son, let's go fishing. I still have the fishing rods you gave me when you got your first pay cheque."
"Dad, I'm sorry but I'm busy. Next time, call my secretary first it's a long way to town. I have a board meeting this weekend and I'm heading to Russia next week for business. Next time, we'll go but call me first."       

The story above needs no explanations. No matter how pressed you are with time, always devote a special moment with your love ones whether it's a brief phone call, a sweet text message or email, a charming postcard, a cute Post-It reminder, and other small but meaningful gestures of affection and generosity,   
"Minor things can become moments of great revelation when encountered for the first time."                                                       
                   - Dame Margot Fonteyn, English premier ballerina 
Here's an interesting video that proves beautiful moments shared with love ones can really change a life, a person's future, and relationships:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Well-Lived Life: World's Oldest Living Person, 114, dies

Guiness Book of Records' Oldest Living Person has died.
Brazil's Maria Gomez Valentim died in the hospital on Sunday after suffering from pneumonia, which was later on complicated by an infection. She was 114 and only days away from her supposed to be 115th birthday on July 6.
Born on 1896, she was born in the time of Brazil's Old Republic (1889-1930) when women like her were barred from voting. She survived a military dictatorship and witnessed her country's rise to superpower status in South America.  
She had one son, four grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren. 

   

Monday, June 20, 2011

World Refugee Day 2011: Stories of Finding Refuge

"To all the survivors out there, I want them to know that we are stronger and more resilient than we ever knew. We survived, that should be enough but it isn't. We must work hard to become whole again, to fill our soul with love and inspiration, to live the life that was intended for us before it was disrupted by war and horrors, and help rebuild a world that is better than the one we had just left." 



- Loung Ung, Cambodian-American human rights activist, refugee advocate

Short Film Feature: 
In the 1990s, the Bhutanese government ordered more than 107,000 of their own minority citizens to leave their homes. In response, the United Nations founded the Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement Program in 2008, arranging permanent refugee resettlement in seven countries. 
The Koirala family began a new life in America in January 2011, ending their 20-year struggle to find a place to call their own. 
By Matthew Freire

Series of Short Films for World Refugee Day 2011

A young Afghan-Swedish journalist's journey to her country of birth
The story of Buddha from the Bronx
FEAR + HOPE
The many faces of refugees

Hail to the King

This is my late but not late, late, late tribute to my late father for Fathers Day.

Dear Pa,

It was around this time of the year too—June, Father’s Day—when we last spoke to each other at length over the phone four years ago. I know you had a good time with your brothers and sisters in your beloved seaside hometown and in your family’s old house. I got a picture of you with your brother and sister on the beach at the back of the house with a childlike grin while proudly holding, like a true fisherman’s son, the head of a newly-caught more than three feet-long giant squid while the two held the body.
     My cousin Lizette told me how you lamented when no one seemed to have remembered to greet you a Happy Father’s Day. I did remember. I’m sure you forgot about the 12-hour time difference. You were so happy when I greeted you and you couldn’t contain your excitement in telling me how grateful you were for the treat of a vacation you had. You must know that of all the very few and heartfelt I Love You’s we said to each other, your shyly and almost hurriedly uttered three words of affection during that long-distance phone conversation ranked the best and most memorable.
     It is infallibly true that I got my chronic wanderlust syndrome from you. I know you traveled a lot and you told me countless stories of your adventures and misadventures in the middle of a far away ocean or in the land of Alibaba and Sir Lawrence. You know, I certainly miss your confident and animated story telling especially when you were under the spell of pure happiness and it always seemed like you were bursting with energy and had this must-share/must-tell feeling.

 "Pa, thank you for encouraging me to always study well. Thank you for allowing Mama to be the strict enforcer of good study habits. You have instilled in me the value of good education and that it is the best and only bequest  a father can ever give his child that is guaranteed to last a lifetime and certainly cannot be taken away by anyone." 


     I remember when I was seven, Ben and Mond weren’t born yet as they were still naughty cherubs yet to be plucked (or dropped!) from the skies, you tucked me to bed with my two younger brothers, Jun and Kiddoe. There were three beds arranged parallel to each other and you were in Kiddoe’s bed in the middle of the room because he was the youngest. You said something that really made me cry that night. We were counting sheep or to be exact we were counting the distorted shadows of cars speeding past the busy street outside our house as it swept the bedroom wall. “Someday I’ll be gone, someday your Mama will be gone too. We’ll both die when we get old, really old. So we make the most of what we have.” I kept silent. I cried under the sheets and heard you say good night before you left the room.
        Pa, I also remember the first time I saw you again after years of being away working abroad. I came home from school one afternoon and noticed a litter of big cargo boxes and loosened packaging tapes on the floor. When I came inside the house, I saw you standing with big open arms wearing a white ribbed tank shirt and a chunky gold chain with a large crucifix pendant. Then you said, "Is that how you greet your father whom you haven't seen for so long?" So, I ran and hugged you. Your James Bondish Fabergé Brut Cologne wafted in the air.     
     You know Pa, I have a strange memory, as in always vivid and like an elephant’s. Did you know that I left school and slipped past the security guards in great stealth fashion when I was in junior kindergarten and managed to go home alone by walking 10 blocks with my backpack and lunch pail as my only companions? That was during my first days in school and I couldn’t wait for the person who was supposed to pick me up. So, I left. You were away working in an airport in a distant dessert land. I’m not sure too if Mama told you in one of her lengthy letters that I got into a fight when I was in senior kindergarten because I tilted the canteen of my classmate while he was drinking that turned him into a crying soaking wet frog. I was brought to the school principal’s office. She was a grouchy Catholic nun with Miss Minchin-like sinister stare but she was kind enough to let me dry my clothes using her electric fan. Mama came over and it made me happy because I got to go home early and watch TV.
     Pa, I remember when you brought me along to a well-known church near the city to have a car blessed by a priest. I didn’t get that and I thought there was something wrong with the car. I just saw people on TV talking about the “Poltergeist.” Why bless a car? Anyway, I asked you to buy me some cashew nuts and you did. But I complained because I wanted the whole bucket and not just a small pouch of cashews. You didn’t get my point. I was thinking of sharing it to everyone. What an excuse, right? Or, how about another time when I asked you to buy me lechón or roasted whole suckling pig; it was the same with the cashew nuts, I wanted the whole pig.
     You liked cooking. You were best at it. And, I didn’t find it weird that your cooking was far better than Mama. You whipped up meals from something so boring or from some leftovers. You also liked eating together, always, even if our table got too crowded. I’m really sorry if I didn’t appreciate much the fresh chicken eggs from your well-loved winged and noisy friends every morning of every day. (I now do! It’s becoming a trend now, raising chickens in the city.)
    I know you had the makings of Indiana Jones—part treasure hunter, part adventurer—and the resourcefulness and inventive quality of MacGyver. In the past few years, I discovered that I share the same passion like you for restoring, redesigning, reusing, and re-loving (I invented this word for this piece.) old things. They call it bohemian chic or bazaar chic.   
     Thank you for introducing me to what has now become one of my favorite movies of all time, “Radio Flyer.” You see Pa, contrary to what we talked about before, Bobby didn’t fly away as in fly away onboard the red wagon with Sampson. It is symbolic. I think Bobby and Mike are one and the same. Sampson is still alive by the end of the movie and the adult Mike’s kids are taking care of him. Oh, thank you too for letting us watch the entirety of the movie “Basic Instinct” despite Mama’s heavy protestations.
     Pa, I also miss the occasional beer drinking mini-party we used to have while watching TV and over roasted peanuts and cracklings with Mama and all of your three teenagers and two non-drinking snack-monster participants: Ben and Mond. We took copious sips from our glasses and devoured the salty peanuts. Did you know that Mama’s motivation for drinking beer was just to pass gas?       
     Oh, thank you too for introducing me to a wide array of music genres with your carefully-put collection of music albums and tapes. My carefree and lazy afternoons and long dog days of summer in the 80s were filled with lots of Donny Hathaways, Carpenters, Loggins, Fitzgerald, and even ABBA. Thank you for telling me, although I didn’t ask, that Barry White is not white and that Marvin Gaye is not gay.
     Pa, thank you for giving me my first name and for making it as the symbol of your love and union with Mama. Speaking of names, Pa, did you know that there are four kings in our family (You, Me, Jun, and Mond), one princess (Mama), and one US president (Kiddoe; Or perhaps not maybe you named him after the red, white, and yellow clown of a popular burger chain?).  

Thank you for the 26 years of sharing your life to me. I have so much to tell you but I’ll reserve that for the book I’m writing.

Happy Fathers Day! Hail to the true King!

Loving you always,

Me.

P.S. I found your old love letters to Mama and your old letters and greeting cards to us during the years you were away working in the land of dates, honey, Aladdin and his 1,001 nights. I collated all of it and I put it in a neat and fancy album.