Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Spread the Word, Somalia Needs Us

If you’ve seen photos or read articles on Somalia, you know how dire and seemingly hopeless the situation appears for this African nation. As a result of one of the worst droughts in Somalia in 60 years, Somalis are suffering from a famine, and to add insult to injury, as they desperately try to flee to camps in the capital of Mogadishu or refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia they are also facing a cholera epidemic.

Unfortunately, despite the magnitude of the crisis, aid organizations are garnering few donations in comparison to funds raised for recent natural disasters, such as the Asian tsunami or the earthquake in Haiti. For example, according to the Center on Philanthropy, American nonprofit aid groups received $1.9 billion and $1.4 billion for the tsunami and earthquake, respectively. Compare that to $5.1 million collected so far by the United States Fund for Unicef for Somalia. A mere pittance considering Unicef estimates it will need $300 million over the next six months to address famine related issues in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

All of which leads me to the reason for my post. The reason is them, and thousands of other Somali children like them.

(Tyler Hicks/New York Times)

Reports tell of Somali women who walk endless miles, day and night, carrying their emaciated children to distant refugee camps in hopes of finding food and medicine for their children; and Kenyan doctors who have to tape IVs to the side of children's fragile skulls because they can't find a vein anywhere else. This isn't a tsunami, an earthquake, or a flood, but it's an even greater tragedy, because it's children dying not from an illness or a catastrophe, but simply dying of hunger. They don't have a fancy telethon with actors and rock stars to ask for help on their behalf. They only have us, you and me. My request is simple. Give. Give what you can, no matter how small, because every little bit helps. This blog doesn't have thousands of readers; it doesn't have hundreds of readers; but if even one or two of the friends who read this blog donate, then I know I've done my part.

I donated to Unicef, but here are links to a few other organizations helping in Somalia: World Vision, Doctors Without Borders, and Save the Children. I also found an article on MSNBC (here) which provides a more extensive list of charitable organizations fighting the famine in Somalia, as well as in neighboring countries being impacted by the deluge of refugees.

I've dropped my pebble in the proverbial pond in hopes that the ripples reach far and wide, won't you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Brook

When they announced last week that Hurricane Irene would hit New York, my heart skipped a beat once or twice. You see when Hurricane Floyd hit back in 1999, my condo flooded when the bubbling brook behind my house, became instead a raging river which overflowed. Thankfully that didn’t happen this time around, though not from lack of trying on the brook's part. I wanted to show all the skeptics - namely my brother - that I wasn't exaggerating, so I took this little video of the brook during all its raging glory.

Brook from 3musketeers on Vimeo.

Double Indemnity

"Double Indemnity" is a 1944 film starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and the incomparable Edward G. Robinson. The film was co-written and directed by Billy Wilder, with the script based on a James Cain novel of the same name.

The film tells the story of Walter Neff (MacMurray), an insurance salesman who becomes smitten with and falls under the wiles of Phyllis Dietrichson (Stanwyck), a seductive and scheming housewife whose greatest wish is that Mr. Dietrichson dropped off the face of the earth, and the sooner the better. As the movie begins, a car careens through Los Angeles streets and then stops at an office building. A night watchmen opens the door for Walter who's arrived at the empty offices of Pacific All Risk Insurance Company. As he makes his way to a dark empty office and sits at a desk, lighting a cigarette, it becomes apparent that Walter is injured for he's not using one arm and has a blood stain on his jacket. Walter turns on a dictating machine and begins recording a message for Barton Keyes (Robinson), a friend and colleague who happens to be the claims manager at Pacific All Risk. As Walter dictates into the machine, the story of love, betrayal, and murder plays out as a flashback on the screen.

This film was a great movie classic which I really loved. I only knew Fred MacMurray as the dad in "My Three Sons," so it was interesting seeing him in this darker role. I always found that there was an integral kindness and decency in the man which shined through in his face. He could've been a jerk in real life for all I know, but he just had that kind of face. It's why he was so likable as Mr. Douglas in "My Three Sons", and why despite his actions as Walter in this movie, I still found myself excusing him and blaming Phyllis as the femme fatale responsible for ensnaring him in her web. A decent man brought down by a woman and greed, who ultimately finds his way again, though too late. Ms. Stanwyck was very good as well, but I thought Edward G. Robinson stole the movie. This is only the second movie I've seen with him, "Key Largo" being the first, and I must say that I loved him. It was a perfect trifecta. Great character, great performance and the kind of witty and sharp dialogue you don't get in movies nowadays.

The DVD I watched was a remastered special edition which had a great introduction by Robert Osborne, the host of Turner Classic Movies. Osborne offered a bunch of interesting little tidbits which made the movie even more interesting. As noted above, the film was based on a novel from James Cain. The story of two adulterers conspiring a murder for an insurance claim really pushed the envelope at that time. The first script was submitted to the Hollywood Production Code Office which ruled film content back in 1935, and it took eight years to get a script they would finally approve. Once the script was finalized, it was time to find a willing cast of actors. After a number of other stars declined, Billy Wilder convinced Fred MacMurray to take the role despite the fact that at that time he was best known for romantic comedies. Edward G. Robinson supposedly considered passing on the role, not because of an issue with his character, but because of the fact that it was a supporting role and until then he was used to receiving top billing. Despite all the initial obstacles, the movie went on to receive seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, though it didn't win any.

Monday, August 29, 2011


My guilty summer pleasure, "Bachelor Pad" and all it's trashy goodness, not to be confused with the lame and predictable "Bachelor" or "Bachelorette", was interrupted for a LIVE announcement of this season's cast of "Dancing with the Stars" (DWTS). First of all, LIVE. Really!?! This announcement had to be LIVE? Reading the names on GMA wouldn't have sufficed. Did America really need to know right now? Secondly, and most importantly, Elisabetta Canalis. Really!?! For all of you unfamiliar with the name, and why would you be familiar, unless of course said person were sleeping with your dream husband. OK, I guess I've revealed my bias, but anyway, despite the fact that Elisabetta's sole claim to fame is being George Clooney's recently dumped girlfriend (yup, past tense, she's the ex, not even the current girlfriend), she is in fact one of the "stars" competing for the mirrorball trophy this season.

This season's remaining cast members are Chaz Bono, Nancy Grace, Ricki Lake, Rob Kardashian, David Arquette, Ron Artest, Kristin Cavallari, J.R. Martinez, Hope Solo, Chyna Phillips, and Carson Kressley.

Oh well, I guess stardom like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


As you might recall, back in June I posted about my plans to collect shoes for the organization Soles4Souls, a wonderful charity which collects gently used shoes and distributes them to individuals in need all over the world. As promised, I sent out an email to family and friends asking for donations, and as usual, they did not disappoint. I received shoes in all shapes and sizes, and thanks to everyone's kindness and generosity I filled two boxes which I shipped to Soles4Souls' Edison, NJ location for distribution to parts unknown. Here's a couple pics of my bounty:

Receiving the shoes from friends and sending them to their intended recipients was wonderful, both for knowing that in response to my simple request my friend's cared enough to share their many blessings, as well as the knowledge that soon, a man, woman or child on the other side of the world, or maybe even here in the US, will be receiving one of these pairs of shoes and will know that someone cares about them. A simple act of generosity that could potentially make a profound difference in someone's life. Just think, for a small child, the shoes we sent could be the shoes they'll proudly wear on their first day of school; for a man or woman, they could be the shoes they'll wear to a job that leads them to a better and brighter future. What more could anyone ask for, then to know that you've touched someone and made their life better for caring.

Searching for a Cure

Sorry for the posting hiatus, but I've been battling a severe bout of the lazies. Summer tends to do that to me. I guess that's why they call them the lazy days of summer. I was searching for a cure without much hope, until this weekend's potent dose of stress and anxiety in the form of Hurricane Irene came around, and sure enough it snapped me out of my summer duldrums.

What did I do during my absence, you might ask. In all honesty, not much. This is how severe the bout of lazies got, I didn't even read a book, heck I didn't even crack a magazine cover. I did visit Washington DC (my first time), and did tons of sightseeing while there. The sights were lovely, but it was disconcerting to see such beautiful monuments, only to superimpose the reality of those less fortunate who make the DC streets their home. Here's a perfect example of what I'm referring to. On day two of our visit, as we were making our way to the Air & Space Museum, we were commenting on the pristine condition of the city, amazed that such a big city could be so clean. As we were speaking, we just happened to pass a small monument at which there was a gentleman cleaning. My sister-in-law said, well that's how they keep it so wonderful, look that man is cleaning the monument. To which my brother piped in, no, he's not cleaning the monument, he's doing his laundry. Sad, but true. The poor man had a plastic water container next to him, and was scrubbing his clothes. It wasn't surprising to see, because after all need is everywhere. You can see it on the DC streets, as easily as you see it on NYC streets, as easily as I see it on the faces of the families that come to the food pantry where I volunteer. I wasn't surprised by it, just saddened by it.

Anyway, sorry to be a Debbie Downer and to deviate from the subject at hand. Summer wasn't all fun, I did have to work, but in addition to the DC trip, I tagged along with my brother and the knuckleheads and did a bunch of weekend day trips. We went to Lake Compounce, an amusement/water park in Connecticut, went to see a soccer game between Manchester United vs. FC Barcelona during their U.S. tour, visited Mohegan Sun to catch the Bellator MMA (mixed martial art) championships, went go-kart racing (another first), and caught a couple of movies, "Bad Teacher" (Cameron Diaz's character had not one redeeming feature to make an audience care what happened to her; do yourself a favor and skip this one) and "Hangover 2" (a carbon copy of the first movie - both in premise and scenes; skip this one and instead see "Bridesmaids").

That's the long and short of it. I'm so glad Summer is almost over. I'm eagerly anticipating Fall and everything that comes with it, including cool, crisp days, brightly colored leaves on trees, apple picking, soft, baggy sweatshirts, and chilly nights that call for opening the bedroom window and snuggling under the covers. Ahh! Can't wait.