Friday, February 28, 2014

Greetings From Christchurch, New Zealand

Continuing our travels through the South Pacific we are now in Christchurch, New Zealand.
We are here on the South Island of New Zealand right near where a devastating earthquake hit. And years later, the city is still in the throes of a recovery.

On Tuesday February 22, 2011 at 12.51 p.m. Christchurch was badly damaged by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake, which killed 185 people and injured several thousand.

The earthquake’s epicentre was near Lyttelton, just 10 kilometres south-east of Christchurch’s central business district. The earthquake occurred nearly six months after the September 4, 2010 earthquake, but is considered to be an aftershock of the earlier quake.

The earthquake occurred at lunchtime, when many people were on the city streets. More than 110 fatalities were caused by the collapse of two multi-storey office buildings – the Canterbury Television and Pyne Gould Corporation buildings. Falling bricks and masonry on Manchester Street and Cashel Mall killed 11 people, and six died in two city buses crushed by crumbling walls. Rock cliffs behind houses collapsed in the Sumner and Redcliffs area, and boulders tumbled down the Port Hills, with five people killed by falling rocks.

Although not as powerful as the magnitude 7.1 earthquake on in 2010, this earthquake occurred on a fault line that was shallow and close to the city, so the shaking was particularly destructive. In the February 2011 quake, the fault movement and structure of the bedrock produced exceptionally strong ground motion – up to 1.8 times the acceleration due to gravity in the eastern suburbs. In the city center, ground accelerations were three to four times greater than those produced by the 2010 earthquake.

The cathedral in the middle of the city was badly damaged and has still not reopened. Our hotel is directly across the street from the cathedral. The future of the cathedral remains uncertain.

Serious Health Concerns Swirl Around Hillary

More and more we are reading and hearing information that leads us to believe Hillary Clinton may not run in 2016.
Of course, every politician always wants to keep all his/her options open.
And, if nothing else Hillary is an adept politician. So, don't expect Mrs. Clinton to show her hand anytime soon - not if she doesn't have to.
But rumors persist about her health. These all surround the blood clot that she suffered as well as concerns about a possible brain tumor or minor stroke. On top of all that, everybody agrees that she seems worn out.
Now, let's be clear about this: We don't wish anybody ill  health. Not now. Not ever.
But Mrs. Clinton doesn't look well and many believe we haven't been given the full story about her health. Plus, she's still wearing those thick glasses that she wore after that health scare when she reportedly took a spill and suffered a blood clot.
And, Mrs. Clinton is on the closer side of 70 - one of the older baby boomers in our midst. She's not a young up 'n comer anymore. She more than qualifies for senior citizen status. And political operatives and the public know how to tell time.
Yes, Ronald Reagan was the oldest president to ever take office and he did quite well for himself, thank you. And that was damned good for America.
But Reagan hadn"t lived through the scandals nor carried the baggage that Hillary has lived through and carried. And Ronald Reagn wasn't tethered to a mate like Bill Clinton.
On top of all that, we'll simply add this: If you can find someone as seemingly ageless as Ronald Reagan on the national scene today, let us know.

New Zealand & Environs: Random Observations

New Zealand is a relatively young country that did not see the beginning of major settlements and influx of settlers until the 1800s.
And even now, vast stretches of the nation remain largely unoccupied. Of course, much has been permanently established as open land or national parks.
And then there are all the farms - miles and miles of sheep, dairy and some deer farms as venison remains a popular dish.
Farms are set off by hedgerows that have been here forever. The hedges or long lines of trees were planted by early farmers both to set off property and to prevent erosion of the soil. Today, the hedges among these property boundaries are regularly and neatly trimmed. They rise 15 feet are more and are trimmed with special tractors equipped to trim them neatly across the top and along the sides.
And, here's more:
--As New Zealand approaches the centenary of World War I this year, there are many memorials and other observances planned throughout the nation. The so-called "war to end all wars" took a mighty toll on New Zealand.
--The kiwi (not the fruit but the bird) is a national symbol of New Zealand and is protected. It can only be found in New Zealand but you're not likely to see a Kiwi, for two reasons: 1) The bird is endangered and 2) It's nocturnal. It is characterized by a long, pointed beak and a brownish, fuzzy exterior.
--The North Island of New Zealand was created by volcanic eruption while the South Island was created by glacial erosion. Consequently, the topography of each island is distinct.
--The Tasman Sea separates New Zealand from its much larger island neighbor, Australia. You're well advised not to confuse the two or to even pair them. Each of the two nations is very proud of  its individual identity. When Aussies or New Zelanders travel from one nation to the other they say they are "crossing the ditch," referring to the Tasman Sea. It takes about three-and-a-half hours to fly from Queensland (NZ) to Melbourne (AUS).
--When you eat out in New Zealand your tax and tip are included. In fact, a 15% tax is simply included on everything your purchase and is not shown on your price or bill of fare. If you feel your service in a restaurant has been exceptional you may leave a tip but it's not necessary. When you have finished your meal, you must ask for your check (it will not be brought to you automatically) or simply pay at the door on your way out.
--It is not uncommon to find baked beans and grilled tomatoes on the menu for breakfast. Both of these seem to be staples here.
--In all our travels along vast stretches of farmland here we've only encountered one small area of farm markets -- a place that sold fresh and dried fruit. We purchased some peaches which were okay, but finding fresh fruit at our hotel stops has been difficult.

Here's The Way It Is Here In New Zealand

We are here in beautiful New Zealand - a land of sea, mountains, lakes, forests. farmlands, fjords and all the wonders of the South Pacific.
There are about four million people in New Zealand and about a third of them live in Aukland, a lovely city of hills, skylines, harbors and water views that reminds one a bit of San Francisco.
The nation's two main islands are simply North Island and South Island, though they have no official names.
Aukland  and Rotorua are in the north. Queensland and Christchurch are in the south.
Queensland and Rotorua are resort towns that cater to vacationers.
Christchurch is a proper British town/city with all the trappings.
And then there's the beautiful cove/harbor of Milford Sound with its spectacular fjords.
Off the top of our heads, we cannot compare Milford Sound and its surrounding areas to anyplace else we've seen anywhere else in the world. The natural beauty is simply awe-inspiring.
Queensland reminds us of Brekinridge or some similar Colorado town in the moutains.
Much of this beatiful contry remains largely untouched with rolling hills, sheep and dairy farms, moutains, lush green areas and spectacular harbors, bays and waterfronts.
If New Zealand isn't on your "bucket list," it oughtta be!

Here's Who Will Win Top Oscars . . .

Who will win the top Oscars tomorrow night?
We've been quite adept in recent years at picking the outcome of these things, so here goes . . .
Best Director - Alfono Cuaron, Gravity
Best Supporting Actress - Lupita Lyong'o 12 Years A Slave
Best Supporting Actor - Jared Leto, American Hustle
Best Actress - Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Best Actor - Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club
Best Picture - 12 Years A Slave*
Note that we have revised this prediction at the list minute. We now believe "12 Years" will win the top prize.
What are your picks?
Watch the Oscars tomorrow night and see how well you (and we) have done.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Have You Seen The New Godzilla Trailer?

A buzz around the geekier side of the Internet is surrounding the recently released trailer of the new Godzilla movie, scheduled for release in May 2014. If you haven't seen it yet, here it is:

This isn't your grandfather's radioactive monster rising from the Pacific. But in a way, maybe it is.

A lot of us remember the numerous Godzilla movies produced by Toho Studios. And while a lot of the later films had a very campy feel (How could you not with a man in a giant lizard suit?), the first release in 1954 was both a financial and critical success. The film highlighted the folly of man and the consequences of entering the "nuclear age" with reckless abandon.

Now if that isn't the first Godzilla film you remember, don't be surprised. The critically-acclaimed film that made Toho Studios "Godzilla-sized" piles of money is the Japanese version. When the movie's U.S. rights were bought, the plot was changed and additional footage was added to included an American character, reporter Steve Martin, played by Raymond Burr of "Perry Mason" fame. And while the changes made Godzilla a huge success in the U.S. (it made a whopping $2 million plus in 1956), the film is a far cry from the original.

So fast forward to today. We've seen a trailer that has "impending doom" all over it. Could it be an homage to the original film's message: that nature ultimately will punish mankind for its hubris and audacity to "play God?"

Oh, no. There goes Tokyo...  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Christie Video: We Must Address Fiscal Problems

Christie: For Our Future, We Must Tackle Pension Reform

Governor Christie
"Across this entire country, we are sacrificing university research, support for K-12 education, funding for the environment and energy and infrastructure of all kinds that needs to be done on the altar of our refusal to deal with these three things: pensions, health costs, and debt. 
"Now, we’ve made investments in this budget, but by the nature of this problem they’re constrained. We’ve provided for some key investments this year, but as time goes on pension payments will take a larger and larger share of the budget. And think about this: An astounding 78 percent of this year’s $2.25 billion payment goes to making up for the legacy of years of irresponsibility. 78 percent goes toward the unfunded liability. 
"Nothing – nothing – for today. Nothing for our children’s future. That’s the decisions that were made by previous leaders in this town who paid little or nothing into the system. We, all of us, are paying today for the sins of the past. 
"So, let’s pause a second, let’s take a deep breath, and let’s pledge to each other not to repeat those sins for political purposes. Let us remember the difficult choices that we made together in the last few years and let’s choose together to go further. 
"We’ve done it before, and we must – we must, do it again for the future of our state and its children."

Christie To Host 111th Town Hall Tomorrow

Following today’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Address, Governor Chris Christie will travel to Long Hill tomorrow to host his 111th Town Hall Meeting. Governor Christie will discuss his budget priorities and the clear challenge in front of New Jersey: making the choice to not sacrifice the priorities that matter most to our state on the altar of exploding entitlement costs that are overwhelming the state budget – pension, health benefits, and debt service. Governor Christie laid out this looming crisis in detail and is calling on the Legislature to work with him in a bipartisan manner this year to build on the 2011 reforms and fix this system.


Residents can RSVP to TownHall.LongHill@gov.state.nj.usDoors open at 9:30 amand seating is on a first come, first serve basis and open to the public. No bags of any kind are permitted in the venue and personal items are subject to search.

What We're Learning About New Zealand

We are here in the beautiful dual-island nation of New Zealand.
We've just spent several days on the North Island (Aukland, the largest city and the resort town of Rotorua) and we're now heading to the South Island where we will visit Christ Church and other points.
From there, we will head to Australia.
We will get photos up as soon as possible but in the meantime you can see many of our photos on Facebook if you are Facebook friends of ours.
The North Island of New Zealand was created by volcanic eruption. The South Island was largely created by glacial erosion. So, they are two quite different topographies.
Here's some more of what we've learned about New Zealand:
--This is a very orderly nation. Things are done in an orderly, mannerly way and that's the way New Zealanders seem to like it. At intersections in a large city such as Aukland, pedestrians do not cross against the light. They wait patiently.
--The various government ministries seem to have thought of everything and they are now shy about imposing regulations wherever or whenever they have to. There are no state governments -- only one central government and then local councils which have rather limited power. It's been decided that by 2025 New Zealand will be totally smoke free. This means that cigarettes will simply be gone. Smoking will be against the law. They're working on it -- and they'll be happy to remind you of it.
--Agriculture is huge here and the largest single endeavor is dairy farming. After that, sheep herding and wool (as you might expect) count high as well.
--The native people of New Zealand are of the Polynesian race and they are called Maori (pronounced MOWri). They are very proud of their native culture and are happy to share it. Maori are integrated into every aspect of life in New Zealand and contribute greatly to the commerce and the cultural idenitity of the nation. At the same time, they retain their own distinct characteristics and traditions. 
--There are vast stretches of open land here -- farmland, forests, national parks -- and, of course there is water all around with many ports, rugged seasides and beaches. 
We'll be reporting more about New Zealand and Australia as we move along.

Christie Budget Address: Time For 'Attitude Of Choice'

Governor Chris Christie’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Address: The Attitude Of Choice
Governor Christie Lays Out The Challenge Before New Jersey: Making The Choice To Protect What Matters Most
Excerpts - As Prepared for delivery
February 25, 2014

A 5th Balanced Budget Without Raising Taxes That Makes The Largest Pension Payment Ever
"Today, I present to you a budget that is balanced, and, for the fifth year in a row, that requires no new taxes on the people of New Jersey.
"Here is more important news. This budget, when you take out pension and health care costs and debt service, is $2.2 billion smaller than Fiscal Year 2008. Over the last five years, we have cut discretionary spending by $2.2 billion. This has been an era of fiscal restraint.

“The budget proposes making the largest pension payment ever at $2.25 billion.

“How groundbreaking is a $2.25 billion payment in one budget? That payment is nearly the equivalent of the total payments made in the ten years before we arrived by five different governors. We’ve kept faith with our pensioners.
The Looming Crisis Is Clear
"Due to our pension, health benefit and debt obligations, only 6 percent of new spending can be focused on the areas where we really want to dedicate our resources – education, tax relief, public safety, higher education, drug rehabilitation, health care and critical services for the most in need.

The Need To Go Further With Bipartisan Pension Reform
“We chose to do what was hard and politically unsafe by putting the future of our state and the prosperity of our people first. Together, we worked to achieve a sweeping, bipartisan plan to deal with our state’s pension and benefit system.

“The reforms we enacted together are going to save New Jersey’s state and local governments $122 billion in the 30 years from 2011 to 2041. Together, we are cleaning up the mess of the past. But this simply isn’t enough.

Tax Increases Are Not A Solution
“Now there will be some that would advocate that the answer is to raise taxes. Not only is this an unfair solution, it isn’t a solution at all. We just can’t raise taxes enough to pay for the exploding costs of public employee pensions and benefits. Not to mention the burden it would place on our already overburdened taxpayers.

“Though the historic 2011 reforms we enacted together immediately reduced New Jersey’s state and local unfunded pension liabilities by 32 percent, it just doesn’t go far enough.

“Without additional reforms, New Jersey taxpayers still owe $52 billion to fully fund the pension system.

“With our long-term obligations only set to increase in the coming years, the problem isn’t going away by itself. We must do what we were sent here to do by the people – lead and act decisively once again.

Sacrificing What Matters Most On The Altar Of Entitlements
“Across the country, we are sacrificing university research, support for K-12 education, funding for the environment and energy and infrastructure of all kinds on the altar of these three things: pensions, health costs and debt.

“Due to these exploding entitlement costs, we are failing our taxpayers when we refuse to honestly address these problems and try to fool them into believing that choices do not need to be made. We are better than that. New Jersey is clearly better than that.”

Pope Acts To Reform Vatican Finances

We publish below the full text of Pope Francis' Apostolic Letter issued Motu proprio, “Fidelis et dispensator Prudens”, and dated 24 February.

“Like a faithful and prudent manager who has the task of carefully looking after what has been entrusted to him, the Church is aware of her responsibility to protect and manage her assets, in the light of her mission of evangelisation and with particular care for those in need. In a special way, the management of the economic and financial sectors of the Holy See is intimately linked to its specific mission, not only in the service of the universal ministry of the Holy Father, but also in relation to the common good, with a view to the full development of the human person.

After having carefully consulted the results of the work of the Commission for Reference on the the Organisation of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See (cf. Chirograph of 18 July 2013), and after consultation with the Council of Cardinals for the reform of the Apostolic Constitution 'Pastor Bonus' and with the Council of Cardinals for the study of economic and administrative problems of the Holy See, by this Apostolic Letter issued Motu proprio, I adopt the following measures:


1. The Council for the Economy is hereby instituted, with the task of offering guidance on economic management and supervising the structures and the administrative and financial activities of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, of the Institutions connected to the Holy See, and of Vatican City State.

2. The Council for the Economy is composed of fifteen members, eight of whom are nominated from among the Cardinals and Bishops in order to reflect the universality of the Church, and seven of whom are lay experts of various nationalities, with recognised professional financial competences.

3. The Council for the Economy shall be presided over by a Cardinal coordinator.


4. The Secretariat for the Economy is hereby instituted, as a Dicastery of the Roman Curia in accordance with the Apostolic Constitution 'Pastor Bonus'.

5. Notwithstanding the provisions for the Council for the Economy, the Secretariat will report directly to the Holy Father and will undertake the economic audit and supervision of the Bodies indicated in point 1 above, along with the policies and procedures regarding procurement and the allocation of human resources, respecting the competences of each Body. The competence of the Secretariat will extend to all matters that in any way fall within this area.

6. The Secretariat for the Economy shall be presided over by a Cardinal Prefect, who shall collaborate with the Secretary of State. A Prelate Secretary General will assist the Cardinal Prefect.


7. The Auditor-General shall be appointed by the Holy Father and shall prepare the audit of the accounts of the Bodies referred to in point 1.


8. The Cardinal Prefect shall be responsible for drawing up the definitive Statues of the Council for the Economy, the Secretariat for the Economy, and the Office of the Auditor-General. The Statutes shall be presented quam primum for approval by the Holy Father.

I dispose that all that is established herein have immediate, full and permanent value, abrogating any incompatible measures, and that the present Apostolic Letter issued Motu proprio be published in the Osservatore Romano of 24 February 2014 and subsequently in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Given in Rome, St. Peter's, on 24 February of the year 2014, the first of my Pontificate.”

Guadagno Wraps Up Business Tour In Princeton

Throughout the month of February, New Jersey's Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno travelled the state highlighting New Jersey businesses that have become industry leaders through exporting their goods and services internationally.

The tour concluded today with a final stop at The NeoStrata Company Inc. in Princeton. Established in 1988, NeoStrata develops and markets a comprehensive range of clinically-proven, dermatologist developed skin care brands.

The creators of NeoStrata Company, Inc., Drs. Van Scott and Yu are internationally recognized for making the groundbreaking discovery that Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) have profound beneficial effects on human skin. Their passion and vision led to their subsequent research which established that AHAs are not only beneficial in the treatment of dermatological conditions, but are also effective in stimulating prematurely aged or damaged skin to actually rejuvenate itself, thereby revolutionizing the skin treatment.

“NeoStrata is world renowned for their groundbreaking discoveries in the fields of health and science,” said Lt. Governor Guadagno. “The fact that they have roots right here in New Jersey sends a resounding message that our state is well positioned to support and nurture the growth of dynamic science and pharma related companies. The Christie Administration congratulates the global success of NeoStrata and we embrace their longstanding presence in New Jersey.”

The NeoStrata Company is backed by a proud medical heritage that includes decades of clinical research and more than 100 patents. These advanced therapeutic and cosmetic dermatological products are available worldwide through consumer outlets, physicians' offices and spas. NeoStrata skin care brands include NeoStrata, Exuviance, CoverBlend, NeoCeuticals and Psorent.

Last year, New Jersey awarded the NeoStrata Company a $20,500 State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP grant). Funded by federal grants through the SBA and matching funds from the state, STEP is designed to help increase the number of small businesses that are exporting and to also raise the value of exports for those small businesses. The STEP grant award helped cover costs for NeoStrata to attend the 22nd Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology in Turkey and the 2013 International Master course on Ageing (IMCAS) where they were able to broaden their reach to international clients.

“The NeoStrata Company is proud to be headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey, for more than 20 years”, said Mark Steele, CEO of the NeoStrada Company. “Geographically, New Jersey provides an attractive corporate location which has supported NeoStrata’s steady annual growth via recruitment from its highly-skilled talent pool, plus easy access to major shipping ports, airports and economic hubs such as New York City and Philadelphia.”

The Garden State boasts more than 3,100 pharmaceutical, medical technology and life science companies, including 17 of the world's 20 largest pharmaceutical leaders. The $24 billion industry is the state's largest, with exports totaling more than $4.8 billion each year and an overall economic impact on the state of $58 billion annually.

Created within the Department of State’s Business Action Center (BAC) in 2012, the Office of International Business Development and Protocol’s mission is to attract foreign direct investment and assist New Jersey companies with export opportunities. It is also responsible for managing all aspects of export promotion activities, and establishing and maintaining positive working relationships with the foreign business investment community.

Businesses considering a move to New Jersey or in need of assistance are encouraged to call New Jersey’s Business Action Center at (866) 534-7789 or visit the State’s Business Portal at

Lots Of Attractions At Sky City

During the first portion of our visit to New Zealand we're staying right in the center of Sky City at the Sky City Hotel.
They call this part of town Sky City because everything here is built around New Zealand's landmark Sky Tower.
The dramatic Sky Tower promises a "truly captivating" experience for visitors. It is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand The Tower rises 1.076 feet and offers breathtaking views of up to 50 miles. 
Visitors travel to the top of Sky Tower in glass elevators and when they get to the top in addition to the 360-degree views they find a revolving restaurant and lounge, three spectacular viewing platforms (including the Sky Walk around the Tower's pergola) and, for the truly adveturous the Sky Jump. This attraction allows visitors to base jump from the Tower by wire. 
At the base of the Sky Tower vsvitors find restaurants, shops, hotels, a convention center and a casino. 
It's all been part of Aukland's way of putting itself on the map. And it seems to be working as scads of visitors are attracted to Sky City day after day.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Harold Ramis Dead At Age 69

Harold Ramis, the actor/writer/director known for such movies as "Ghostbusters," "Groundhog Day," "Stripes" and "Caddyshack" has died at age 69.

From the Chicago Tribune:

"Ramis leaves behind a formidable body of work, with writing credits on such enduring comedies as 'National Lampoon's Animal House' (which upon its 1978 release catapulted the film career of John Belushi, with whom Ramis acted at Second City), 'Stripes' (1981) and 'Ghostbusters' (in which Ramis also co-starred) plus such directing efforts as 'Caddyshack' (1980), 'National Lampoon's Vacation' (1983), 'Groundhog Day' and 'Analyze This.'"

As a writer, actor, and director, Ramis has influenced the culture of an entire generation, being a part of several iconic films that are instantly recognizable; people quote from his movies and they are a must-watch when they are shown on cable.

"Ghostbusters," "Caddyshack" and "National Lampoon's Animal House" are timeless. "Groundhog Day" might be one of the best comedies ever made. And Ramis had a very influential hand in all of them.

Whether you knew him as Egon Spengler; if you couldn't wait until Otis sees you (he loves us); or if you ever wanted to watch "Groundhog Day" again and again and again and again, this is a tremendous loss to Hollywood and popular culture. 

Please, Let Passionate Voices Speak!

Okay, so this is the fifth anniversary of the modern Tea Party movement.
And, I want to know: What's wrong with citizens giving public officials hell?
What's wrong with taxpayers raising their voices to elected officials?
What's wrong with ordinary people (seniors, taxpayers, vets, moms) coming out to meetings and speaking their minds?
What's wrong with afflicting the powerful?
What's wrong with challenging authority and being passionate about it?
What's wrong with passion?
Would we rather have a citizenry that's laconic, disconnected, apathetic? Is that what we want?
That's not America.
Our founders were passionate people. They cared. And the movement that created this nation was neither quiet nor particularly well-behaved.
Look at some of the trailblazing figures of American history: Patrick Henry, Ethan Allen, John Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Susan B. Anthony, ElizabethCady Stanton, W. E. B DuBois, A Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, Samuel Gompers, John L. Lewis, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Betty Friedan, BellaAbzug, Harvey Milk. These people were not particularly docile. They were vocal. They challenged authority. And they were often disruptive.
Even many of our leaders have been rambunctious: Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, General Patton, General MacArthur, Barry Goldwater.
Harry Truman gave 'em hell and he became an American hero.
And Ronald Reagan was considered a dim-witted novice and a tool of special interests before he and his ideas began to catch on.
Yes, the anti-war movement, the environmental movement, the women's movement and the civil rights movement have all embraced passionate, vocal and sustained challenges to the powers that be.
I know; I marched in those civil rights and anti-war marches and I shouted down a few opponents myself. I was there at the Poor People's Campaign and the Days of Rage. It's called free speech. The First Amendment embraces it.
And at the other end of the spectrum, the modern conservative movement upset the sleepy, dispassionate, country-club mentality of the Republican Party to unleash a cause that led to the triumph of capitalism and the end of communism. That was ignited by free speech, too.
None of it was quiet.
All of it was noisy.
Much of it was disruptive.
The people, the system, the nation can handle it.
Let all be heard.
God bless America!

CNN To End Piers Morgan's Show

The Piers Morgan experiment is thankfully coming to an end.

According to the New York Times, CNN and Piers Morgan are calling it quits after three years. It was probably two and a half years too late.

I think David Carr from the New York Times says it best:

"There have been times when the CNN host Piers Morgan didn’t seem to like America very much — and American audiences have been more than willing to return the favor."

While you may not have liked Larry King, you at least felt that there was some kind of dialogue going on. There was a topic to be discussed. With Morgan, it was one big argument. It felt like he is yelling at you, telling you what to think, and you were an idiot if you didn't agree with him.

Believe it or not, Americans don't like to be told what to do. That's why there's an America in the first place.

At least that's how it used to be... 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Glad To Be Watching The Closing Ceremonies

I'm sitting here, watching the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, and I'm glad it's over.

Now it's not the Olympics in general. I LOVE the Olympics. But for some reason, I found Sochi to be flat.

Maybe it's because I'm a Summer Olympics kind of guy; I'd much rather watch Michael Phelps and swimming than whoever the heck is participating in ice dancing. Not ice skating. Ice. Dancing.

Maybe it's the traumatic moments I had as a young man trying to ski for the first, and last, time.

But right now, I'm looking at some Russian folk in upside down houses, and I'm hoping that tomorrow's Black List is a new episode.

There was nothing that held my interest. No Cinderella story. No American darling who took the Olympic field by storm. And I certainly wasn't impressed with the "scenic" Sochi landscape.

I'm not sure if I'm the only one who feels this way. But I have a feeling that I'm not.

So here's to Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Here's hoping Phelps comes out of retirement for another run.

Jackie Kennedy's Five Secrets Revealed

Maybe it was her love of legend and literature.
Maybe it was her fondness for image, surrounded by a touch of mystery and intrigue.
Or maybe it was just the fact that amidst all the fame, Jacqueline Kennedy remained a steadfastly private person.
Whatever it was, Jackie kept secrets.
But Kennedy family historian Philip Katz knows the secrets and is not particularly shy about telling others. Here are five of Jackie's secrets -- things that the public does not not ordinarily know about one of the most legendary first ladies in American history:

1) Jackie was old money. She was born into wealth and largely surrounded by society types. She was accustomed to having multiple homes and servants, traveling often and enjoying the finer things in life: yachts, jewels, estates and haute couture. Her family's pedigree far outpaced the Kennedy's.

2) Jacqueline Bouvier was a Republican. That's how she was raised and that was her party allegiance. Even after she married Jack, she retained Republican leanings. In fact, when Jack Kennedy was elected president she insisted that half the members of his cabinet be Republicans. And so, it came to be. Half of JFK's cabinet members were Republican.

3) Jackie could be as reckless in her personal life and her passions as JFK -- but in a different way. As an avid equestrian, water skier and world traveler, Jackie was not afraid to put herself in danger. During a time when women still held back, Jackie could be a brazen risk-taker. She didn't hesitate to water ski on one foot, or while holding a child. Some people were fooled by her soft, little-girl voice.  But she was not a genteel patrician. She could go toe to toe with the most passionate athlete.

4) Jackie raised her niece, Anna Christina (Tina) Radziwill , the daughter of socialite/actress Lee Bouvier Radziwill (Jackie's sister) and the late Stanislaw Radziwill. Jackie took Tina under her wing and literally made her part of her family.

5) Jacqueline Kennedy, one of the most-photographed women in the world, actually hated being photographed and could be painfully shy. Though she loved getting dressed up and going out on the town, she also treasured her private moments and loved nothing more than a quiet evening with a good book. During these moments, she would allow only one person to photograph her: John F. Kennedy.

Review: Has 'Bridge' Gone A Bridge Too Far?

No, this post is not about Bridgegate.
Nor is it about Governor Christie or New Jersey.
This is actually about Iowa - bridges in Iowa.
A lonely Italian woman (a World War II war bride) is living on a farm in Madison County Iowa in the 1960s with her husband and two children. The husband and children take a weekend trip to the 4-H Fair where they've entered a livestock competition.
Along comes a stranger - a ruggedly handsome photographer for National Georgraphic on assignment to photograph the county's picturesque covered bridges. He's an inventive photographer, a sensitive man.
By now you must know that we're talking about The Bridges of Madison County. 
Published as a novel in 1992 it went on to become one of the best-selling books of the 20th century. This hauntingly romantic tale was then turned into a Hollywood star vehicle with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. Again, it was a big success.
Now, it's come to Broadway as a musical starring the hugely talented Kelli O'Hara and newcomer Steven Pasquale. They're both fine actors. O'Hara should have won a Tony by now. And Salvatore seems destined to be a leading man and certified hearthrob.
The team behind Bridges includes many of the same talents that worked their magic on another adaptation of a movie into a musical, The Light in the Piazza. And like Piazza, Bridges is a poignant romance - a bittersweet romance of fate tinged with sadness. Such a cross-cultural romance works in something like The King And I which is rich and lavish. And it worked in one of O'Hara's best outings, the recently-revived South Pacific which conveys a powerful message to amidst real-life historical events. Plus, both those productions benefitted from Rodgers and Hammerstein's unforgettable scores. That's why they're still around and still drawing crowds.
Usually, when a stage play or musical becomes a movie, the director opens up the story by adding new settings and even new characters. But here, we have what was largely a two-character movie now opened up to include a larger role for the husband and additional roles for friends and neighbors. The friends and neighbors work as a sort of Greek chorus. Sometimes they're actually part of the action and the story and sometimes they're sitting along the sides of the stage. But they almost always seem to be there, watching and (as in the case of ordinary people in a small town) gossiping and passing their own judgement on all that's going on around them.
But, here's the thing: Not much is really going on.
Oh, sure -- an 1950's Iowa housewife at home alone let's a complete stanger into her house, into her life and into her heart. And the stranger finds his soulmate. And they do what people do when that happens. And it happens in the same bed that the housewife shares with her husband and even while her husband is calling back home. Powerful stuff, right? Well, yes. And it comes with a sense of heightened anticipatrion that is supposed to render sensual and meaningful.
But there's precious little passion in this show.
Remember, O'Hara's character is from southern Italy. And she's stuck in the middle of Iowa on a farm. After the somewhat tedious buildup one would expect a sort of reckless abandon when she finally reaches the state of total release. But it doesn't really happen. Maybe it's because O'Hara's accent doesn't seem quite right. Maybe it's because her character appears to be so pensive, so hard on herself. Maybe it's because the chemistry between O'Hara and Pasquale doesn't seem to be fully realized. Maybe it's because at it's core the show's music and staging renders it joyless, with spare sets musical monologues. The score soars briefly but not enough to makes our hearts take flight. Maybe it's the townfolk on stage or maybe it's just that our views on "love" with the proper stranger have changed so much not just since the 1960s but more recently since the book and the movie. For whatever reason, it doesn't seem to work.
Now, bear in mind that we saw a relatively early preview of the show and significant changes may have been made since that time.
But Pasquale has come to photograph bridges -- covered bridges that you have to imagine since there are no actual bridges on the stage, only an outline of one. And O'Hara is from wartime Italy, an Italy that is somewhat played out in brief flashbacks but still a time and a place that you have to imagine. And this rural housewife did manage to have two children with her earnest and hard-working American veteran husband  and there does seem to be some love between the two of them but again, it pretty much has to be imagined. 
To be sure, in this production, we're rooting for the housewife and the stranger to get together even against our better judgement. And that says something about all the effort that has been put into the show and the hard-work and talent of everyone involved. But it just doesn't seem to be enough.
Understand, we're not judging this musical adaption against the book or the movie. We didn't read the book or see the movie and we knew nothing about the story until we saw the show.
It's just that in the end, given all the elements as they're presented here the journey that we're acked to take in The Bridges of Madison County is simply a bridge too far.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The REAL Facts About Republicans And Women

Did you know? 
More potential 2016 presidential candidates by far are in the Republican Party than the Democrat Party. For example: Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley (Indian), Susanna Martinez, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz (Hispanic) and Allen West (African-Ameirican). 
And the history of the GOP speaks for itself: 
  • The first woman ever appointed to the United States Supreme Court was a Republican, appointed by a Republican president. 
  • The first African-American ever elected to the US Senate post-reconstruction was a Republican. The only African-American currently sitting on the US Supreme Court is a Republican. 
  • The first Hispanic American ever to serve in the US Senate was a Republican. The first Woman ever to serve in both Houses of the US Congress was a Republican. 
  • The first US governor of Indian descent is a Republican. The first female US governor of Indian descent is also a Republican.
  • The first woman ever nominated for the presidency by either of the two major political parties was a Republican.
  • Republicans in Congress provided the deciding votes to pass the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act.
  • The first African-American Secretary of State was appointed by a Republican president, as was the first African-American National Security Advisor to the president.
  • President George W. Bush had more African-Americans in top level positions in his administration than President Obama does now.
  • Of the Obama Administration's 20 top earners, only six are women.
So, before you start assuming that the Democrats are head and shoulders above the GOP on diversity, take a look at the facts. Because the facts prove otherwise.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Greetings From The Place They Call 'Godzone'

Yes, they call this Godzone.
That's short for God's own country.
They're not modest about it here.
The people like this country because there's plenty of room, a great deal of land is kept untamed and undeveloped and the people have a generally laid-back and "can do" attitude.
It's not a huge country - not huge when compared to its giant neighbor.
But it's more than big enough for everybody here. Since people aren't crowding one another out, it's all okay.
We're in New Zealand - Aukland, to be exact. And we'll be touring here (and reporting back to you whenever we can) for quite some time until we move on into Australia.
No, we don't have any pictures just yet. But as soon as we're able to download some we will send them along to you.
This is a big trip for us. We'll be touring for a considerable length of time -- hopping from one place to another. 
Just to give you some idea of what an enormous journey this is, it took us 34 hours to get here to our hotel room from the time we left New Jersey until the time we checked in. That involved three flights, two transfers and a myriad of security and  customs checks and passages.
So, we begin with this clear warning: These days international travel is definitely an adventure. And it's most assuredly not for the faint of heart. We're not discouraging you. We're simply telling you what it's like.
For all the advances we've made, we haven't found a way to simplify travel across boarders. In fact, it's probably more complicated today than it's been in a long, long time.
Still, we're here -- here at last. And this is a land of incredible natural wonders.
We'll be goin at it zestfully. 
Stay tuned!

Important News About The Dan Cirucci Blog

The Dan Cirucci Blog is about to travel - Big Time!
We'll be taking a huge journey and we're taking you along with us.
That's the good news, folks.
But our "bon voyage" means that for the first time in more than six years there may not be new posts on the Dan Cirucci Blog every single day. We will try to be here every day (because we know that's what you're accustomed to and you need your daily blog fix) but we simply cannot guarantee it.
But we will guarantee you this: We're headed for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure -- a journey to one of the most stunning, awe-inspiring, breathtaking places imaginable.
And we'll be sharing as much of it as we can with you just as soon as we can.
It's gonna be great!
Oh, this too -- Some of our blogger friends may be filling in and posting here over the next several weeks from time to time. We know you're gonna be enjoying them and welcoming them just as you would us.
So, be patient, stay with us, hang on tight and get ready. We're in for a great, new adventure!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pope Stresses Reverence For All Human Life

The Holy Father has sent a message to the participants in the General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of its institution. The Academy, whose aim is to study, inform and educate on the main problems of biomedicine and law, relating to the promotion and defence of life, especially with regard to Christian morality and the Magisterium of the Church, dedicated its assembly to the theme of “ageing and disability”.

The Pope commented in his message that it was a very current theme, dear to the Church. “In our society there is a tyrannical dominance of an economic logic that excludes and at times kills, and of which nowadays we find many victims, starting with the elderly”. He affirmed that we see the existence of a “throwaway” culture, in which those who are excluded are not only exploited but also rejected and cast aside.

In the face of this discrimination, Pope Francis considered the anthropological question of the value of man and of what may be the basis of this value. “Health is without doubt an important value, but it does not determine the value of a person. Furthermore, health is not by itself a guarantee of happiness, which may indeed by experienced even by those in a precarious state of health”. Therefore, he added, “poor health and disability are never a good reason to exclude or, worse, eliminate a person; and the most serious deprivation that the elderly suffer is not the weakening of the body or the consequent disability, but rather abandonment, exclusion, and a lack of love”.

“The teacher of welcome and solidarity is, instead, the family: it is in the bosom of the family that education draws in a substantial fashion upon relationships of solidarity; in the family it is possible to learn that the loss of health is not a reason to discriminate against certain human lives; the family teaches us not to fall prey to individualism and to balance 'I' with 'we'. It is there that 'taking care' of one another becomes the foundation of human existence and a moral attitude to promote, through the values of commitment and solidarity”.

The Pope emphasised the importance of listening to the young and the old whenever we wish to understand the signs of the times, and commented that “a society is truly welcoming to life when it recognises its value also in old age, in disability, in serious illness, and even when it at its close; when it teaches that the call to human realisation does not exclude suffering but instead teaches to see in the sick and suffering a gift to the entire community, a presence that calls for solidarity and responsibility”. Pope Francis concluded by blessing the work the Academy performs, which he described as the diffusion of the “Gospel of Life” - a task that is “often tiresome as it means going against the grain, but always precious”.

They Decry Income Inequality; Live Lavishly

Kyrillos Blasts HUD'S Denial Of Grant Request

New Jersey State Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) implored federal officials and representatives to allow a waiver for New Jersey property owners to recover their lives after Superstorm Sandy.

“It’s ridiculous, to say the least, that the people of New Jersey are being denied access to grant money because they are trying to rebuild their lives after the worst storm ever,” Kyrillos said. “The people of my district and the surrounding areas were some of the hardest hit and their federal government should not be hindering their recovery. Our home owners should be able to rebuild as they apply for grant money and I urge our congressional delegation to get to work immediately.”

Senator Kyrillos added that the people deserve a reasonable return on their federal tax dollars in the form of Sandy grants.

“A lot of good has come out of the $1.83 billion in initial aid to New Jerseyans, but the reality is that more resources are needed for this state to recover from nearly $37 billion in damages,” Kyrillos said. “New York has received about $4 billion more, so the time is now for HUD officials and our congressmen to turn their eyes to our state.”

Obama: 'Do As I Say, Not As I Do'

Governor's Common-Sense Ideas Are Succeeding

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has been the common-sense leader that voters sent him to Harrisburg to be, keeping his promises to put Pennsylvanians back to work and keep taxes low.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Urge NJ Lawmakers Probe Newark $$$ Waste

Senator Sam Thompson (R-Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean) urged the chairman and chairwoman of the “New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation” to open a full inquiry into the City of Newark’s abuse of tax dollars, in light of state Comptroller investigative report released today.

“This Committee is empowered to investigate any matter ‘raising concerns about abuse of government power or an attempt to conceal an abuse of government power’ over the next two years,” said Thompson. “Democrats vowed that this would remain a bipartisan committee. Just as other legislative committees address many different matters during a legislative session, this committee can investigate how New Jersey’s largest city has been wasting billions of dollars from taxpayers all across this state — and potentially covering up such action.”

Senator Thompson also noted a Dec. 3 Comptroller’s Office report, detailing its three-year audit of Newark’s books also found gross abuses of taxpayer dollars and negligence by officials.

Today’s Comptroller report revealed that Newark’s former Mayor and Council failed to provide oversight of the agency, fostering an environment that allowed the agency’s director to write $200,000 in unauthorized payroll checks to herself, give out more than $1 million no-bid contracts to her ex husband and close associates and secretly authorize risky investments in an account that lost more than $500,000 in public funds.

“Today’s report is the latest unfortunate chapter in the story of persistent abuse of taxpayer dollars and negligence by the City of Newark,” Thompson said. “Clearly, we need to conduct a thorough legislative investigation into how this city has been using some $100 million a year in state tax dollars and hundreds of millions of public money from local and federal sources. This Legislature has already established a joint legislative committee that can do the job. There are many important questions for which we need answers.”

“If not this committee, then some committee, any committee needs, to look at Newark’s actions at large.”

African-Americans Support Corbett Business Initiatives

This afternoon, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett held a business roundtable with African American community leaders and small business owners in Downington. Chester County Commissioner Terence Farrell was present and introduced as the Chairman of the “African Americans for Corbett-Cawley” coalition.

Led by the Commissioner, the coalition will organize and activate members around the state in support of Governor Corbett's record of keeping his promises to fight for all Pennsylvanians.

Governor Corbett is committed to ensuring Pennsylvania is responding to the needs of the African American community, working with the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs to address those needs and challenges. The governor’s priorities of education, energy, lower taxes, responsible government, a stronger economy and private sector jobs are benefitting all Pennsylvanians.

 The governor has supported the Minority Business Development Program to encourage the creation and expansion of minority-owned small businesses, while simplifying the procurement process to allow more access for minority-owned small businesses to compete for state contract opportunities. The recently enacted transportation bill also directs that contract opportunities be maximized for minority-owned businesses.

-- African Americans for Corbett-Cawley Leadership --

-- Chairman --

The Honorable Terence Farrell
Chester County Board of Commissioners
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission

Governor Corbett and Lieutenant Governor Cawley continue to deliver on the “More Jobs, Less Taxes” agenda laid out in 2010, keeping their promises to make government work harder and smarter for the people, reduce and eliminate taxes, balance our budgets on-time, hold the line on new taxes, empower the private sector to grow and create jobs by reopening Pennsylvania to business, responsibly use the once-in-a-generation opportunity our Commonwealth has in the Marcellus Shale to create and support jobs, reinvest in our communities and reduce energy costs, bolster support for our most vulnerable and invest historic amounts in basic education.

AFP Calls For NJ Sick Leave Payout Reform

New Jersey Americans for Porpserity state director Daryn Iwicki is praising several New Jersey lawmakers for introducing a measure, Assembly bill A158, aimed at ending exorbitant sick leave payouts and protecting taxpayers.
“I would like to thank Assemblywoman Munoz in her call for action on the need to reform paid sick time for public employees. This change in policy is common sense.  We have a system in place which has become abused and is crippling local budgets. And the sad reality is this all comes at the expense of suffering New Jersey taxpayers.
“The facts are very real and simple. Three years ago Red Bank paid $750,000 to cover severance payments to 11 retiring employees.  Just recently, the Toms River Chief of Police retired his post to become Ocean County Sheriff and cashed in $238,692 in un-used sick time—that’s nearly seven times the yearly per-capita income of a New Jersey resident.
“Major cities such as Newark, Jersey City, Camden, Atlantic City and others totaling 8 municipalities had to pay out over $39 million according to an article by Matt Friedman on
“It’s just not fair to taxpayers to have government workers enriching themselves like this—not when people are out of jobs and our taxes are through the roof.
“This issue is a test for the Democratic leadership who time and again says they want to do something to lower property taxes in New Jersey. It is time for them to live up to their claims that they care about taxpayers.  We have a committee debating what to name the Sea of Japan, yet we can’t address property taxes?  Need we remind the Democratic leadership they promised to address property taxes in a meaningful way?”
“Again, I am pleased and grateful to see Assemblywoman Munoz, along with Assemblywomen Casagrande and Simon and Assemblyman O’Scanlon, stepping up to sponsor this legislation—as well as the 16 additional Assembly members who have signed on as co-sponsors.”

“It’s time for the Democratic leadership to join them and do what’s right for New Jersey taxpayers.”

Join Gov. Christie Thursday In Middletown!

Guadagno Highlights NJ Business Growth

Continuing her statewide tour highlighting New Jersey businesses that are growing by exporting their goods and services internationally, Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno recently visited International American Supermarkets Corporation (IAS) in Piscataway. Established in 1980, International American Supermarkets Corp. is a dynamic food export and marketing organization representing a number of major US brands in overseas markets.

IAS is a primary supplier of American branded food products and foodservice ingredients to the global marketplace. From their corporate and business headquarters located in Piscataway, IAS operates throughout Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa. With a uniquely flexible processing capacity and a product base of more than 30 leading brands, IAS has the ability to handle a wide range of customer demands in terms of adaptation, volume and product assortment.

“IAS clearly understands that exporting is an important way to grow business. Through their network of more than 100 importers, they have developed partnerships in markets that span multiple continents,” said Lt. Governor Guadagno. “The state’s Office of International Business Development and Protocol continues to work with companies of all sizes to help them connect the dots and sell their goods and services internationally. The Christie Administration commends IAS on their success as a food exporter and looks forward to their continued growth in New Jersey.”

“Lt. Governor Guadagno’s visit is a source of joy and pride to all of us here at IAS as we perceive it as an accolade for the role that we play in exporting American food, and a recognition by the Christie Administration of the importance of food exports in our state and national economy,” said Suhayl Sauma, President of IAS. “It also comes at a very important juncture for our company: completing the first 30 years of steady growth and setting the ground for the next decade and beyond. The small family business that was started at a time when American food was a rarity overseas, is now a very active player in more than 44 markets worldwide.”

New Jersey currently ranks fifth in the U.S. in the number of small business exporters in the State, with more than 14,400 New Jersey small business enterprises currently selling goods and services in foreign markets. Exporting directly supports over 72,000 Jersey jobs. Over 21,000 companies exported from New Jersey locations in 2011, contributing to what is now a $37 billion export business.

Created within the Department of State’s Business Action Center (BAC) in 2012, the Office of International Business Development and Protocol’s mission is to attract foreign direct investment and assist New Jersey companies with export opportunities. It is also responsible for managing all aspects of export promotion activities, and establishing and maintaining positive working relationships with the foreign business investment community.

Businesses considering a move to New Jersey or in need of assistance are encouraged to call New Jersey’s Business Action Center at (866) 534-7789 or visit the State’s Business Portal at

Governor Leads State To Dramatic Turnaround!

Thanks to Governor Tom Corbett's policies, Pennsylvania has become the 2nd largest producer of natural gas and the 3rd largest generator of electricity in the United States. These industries support hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania jobs, lower energy costs for families and businesses, reinvest in our communities and decrease our reliance on foreign oil. Learn more and show your support at

Pope Creates 18 New Cardinals Saturday

In St. Peter's Basilica at 11 a.m. on Saturday 22 February Pope Francis will celebrate an ordinary public consistory for the creation of eighteen new cardinals during which he will impose the biretta, consign the ring and assign them their title or diaconate, according to a communique released today by the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.
The same afternoon, from 4.30 to 6.30 p.m., the new cardinals will receive all those who wish to pay them a courtesy visit, in the following locations in the Paul VI Hall and Apostolic Palace:
Atrium of the Paul VI Hall: Cardinals Vincent Gerard Nichols, LeopoldoJose Brenes Solorzano, Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, I.S.P.X., Jean-Pierre Kutwa, Fernando Sebastian Aguilar, C.M.F. and Kelvin Edward Felix.
Paul VI Hall: Cardinals Andrew Yeom Soo-Jung, Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, S.D.B., Philippe Nakellentuba Ouedraogo, Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I., Chibly Langlois, Orani Joao Tempesta, O. Cist., Gualtiero Bassetti and Mario Aurelio Poli.
Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace: Cardinals Pietro Parolin and Lorenzo Baldisseri.
Sala Ducale of the Apostolic Palace: Cardinals Gerhard Ludwig Muller and Beniamino Stella.

On Sunday 23 February, at 10 a.m. in the Vatican basilica, the Holy Father will preside at a concelebrated Mass with the new cardinals.

Quindlen, Others On Tap At Philly Free Library

Exciting upcoming author events at the Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Library.
Gary Shteyngart | Little Failure: A Memoir 
Monday, February 24, 2014 at 7:30 PM; 
buy tickets online>>   

This event was originally scheduled for January 21, and cancelled due to snow. Tickets to the original event will be honored.

The satire of Nikolai Gogol and Richard Linklater meet in the absurdity, frenetic detail, and cultural obsessions of Gary Shteyngart's novels. His 2002 debut, The Russian Debutante's Handbook, won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction. He followed with Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story, which were lauded by the New York Times Book Review as among the best novels of their respective years. The "ridiculously witty and painfully prescient" (Time) Shteyngart returns with a tender, self-deprecating, rollicking memoir of his experiences in the contradictory worlds of uber-consumerist America and the perpetually deprived Soviet Union of his youth. It was in this space between that he struggled for purchase, for a voice, for love, and from which he ultimately emerged with a resonant and unflinching perspective on both worlds.

In conversation with Daniel Torday, visiting professor of creative writing at Bryn Mawr College and author of the National Jewish Book Award-winning novella The Sensualist. 
Samuel G. Freedman | Breaking the Line
with Ericka Blount Danois | Love, Peace, and Soul

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 7:30 PM; FREE 

No tickets or reservations required. For more info: 215-567-4341  
Veteran journalist and award-winning professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Samuel G. Freedman is the author of several books on teaching, religion, and American social life, including The Inheritance, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, andUpon This Rock, recipient of the 1993 Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. A former staff reporter for the New York Times, he currently pens the "On Religion" column. Breaking the Line captures a pivotal time in the civil rights movement in telling the story of the 1967 Orange Blossom Classic-the championship game of black college football-where two rival football teams, two legendary coaches, and two star quarterbacks broke the color line and revolutionized American sports.

Ericka Blount Danois writes about race, politics, music, sports, and culture for the New York Times, the Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalSports IllustratedSpin, and Vibe magazine, among other publications. She began her career at the Philadelphia Tribune with a cover story on Kenny Gamble, the king of Philadelphia International Records. Her debut book, Love, Peace, and Soulis a celebratory collection of anecdotes and stories from behind the scenes at Soul Train-the cultural phenomenon that launched the careers of legendary artists including Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin, and Gladys Knight.
Anna Quindlen | Still Life with Bread Crumbs 
Barbara Gohn Day Memorial Lecture
Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 7:30 PM; 
buy tickets online>>   

Explorer of the profound connections of empathy and home, Anna Quindleneschews the increasingly materialistic and hectic nature of American culture as she "captures both the beauty and the breathtaking fragility of family life" (People). She began her career as a journalist in 1974, and over the next two decades worked most notably at the New York Times, where her column "Public and Private" won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992. Since 1995 Quindlen has devoted the majority of her time to writing novels, which include Object LessonsRise and Shine, and One True Thing, which was adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep. Still Life with Bread Crumbs follows the flight of a photographer from her shaky life in the city to realizations of peace and personal growth in the country.
Of Interest
Towards a Calmer, More Peaceful Life: Steps You Can Take 
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 6:00 PM; FREE; Room 108 

No reservations required. For more info: 215-686-5331  
Everyone experiences stress in ways that impact our lives, but what can we do about it? Here's a start: join holistic therapist Lisa Resnick for interactive discussion and activities designed to help you manage stress and work towards that crucial emotional, physical, and spiritual balance.  This program is part of One Book, One Philadelphia. To learn more,
Free Library Author Events
Andy Kahan, Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams Director, Author Events
Laura Kovacs, Associate Director
Jason Freeman, Program Assistant

phone: 215-567-4341
Join us online for event news, updates, and more!

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General Information
Author Events are held in the Montgomery Auditorium at theParkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street, unless noted. Events generally consist of a talk by the author and a Q & A period with the audience followed by a book signing. Books are sold on-site. Seating begins 45 minutes prior to event start times. No tickets orreservations are required for Free Author Events. 

Live American Sign Language translation of Author Events is provided upon request. Please call the Author Events Office at least two weeks in advance to request this service.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ukraine - As Seen By Writer Yuri Andrukhovcyh

Less than a month ago a friend sent us a message from influential Ukrainian poet and writer Yuri Andrukhovcyh who lectures internationally and has addressed the European parliament in Brussels several times regarding Ukraine.

We ask you to read what this renowned writer had to say in the letter that follows and consider the situation in Kiev now where the city is in flames. His words were prophetic and his observations remain insightful. Ask yourself: Are we to stand idly by and allow the Ukrainian uprising to fail?

The letter (translated into English) follows:

Dear friends,
especially foreign journalists and editors,

These days I receive from you lots of inquiries requesting to describe the current situation in Kyiv and overall in Ukraine, express my opinion on what is happening, and formulate my vision of at least the nearest future. Since I am simply physically unable to respond separately to each of your publications with an extended analytical essay, I have decided to prepare this brief statement which each of you can use in accordance with your needs.
The most important things I must tell you are as follows.

During the less than four years of its rule, Mr. Yanukovych’s regime has brought the country and the society to the utter limit of tensions. Even worse, it has boxed itself into a no-exit situation where it must hold on to power forever—by any means necessary. Otherwise it would have to face criminal justice in its full severity. The scale of what has been stolen and usurped exceeds all imaginination of what human avarice is capable.

The only answer this regime has been proposing in the face of peaceful protests, now in their third month, is violence, violence that escalates and is “hybrid” in its nature: special forces’ attacks at the Maidan are combined with individual harassment and persecution of opposition activists and ordinary participants in protest actions (surveillance, beatings, torching of cars and houses, storming of residences, searches, arrests, rubber-stamp court proceedings). The keyword here is intimidation. And since it is ineffective, and people are protesting on an increasingly massive scale, the powers-that-be make these repressive actions even harsher.

The “legal base” for them was created on January 16, when the Members of Parliament fully dependent on the President, in a crude violation of all rules of procedure and voting, indeed of the Constitution itself, in the course of just a couple of minutes (!) with a simple show of hands (!) voted in a whole series of legal changes which effectively introduce dictatorial rule and a state of emergency in the country without formally declaring them. For instance, by writing and disseminating this, I am subject to several new criminal code articles for “defamation,” “inflaming tensions,” etc.

Briefly put, if these “laws” are recognized, one should conclude: in Ukraine, everything that is not expressly permitted by the powers-that-be is forbidden. And the only thing permitted by those in power is to yield to them.

Not agreeing to these “laws,” on January 19 the Ukrainian society rose up, yet again, to defend its future.

Today in television newsreels coming from Kyiv you can see protesters in various kinds of helmets and masks on their faces, sometimes with wooden sticks in their hands. Do not believe that these are “extremists,” “provocateurs,” or “right-wing radicals.” My friends and I also now go out protesting dressed this way. In this sense my wife, my daughter, our friends, and I are also “extremists.” We have no other option: we have to protect our life and health,as well as the life and health of those near and dear to us. Special forces units shoot at us, their snipers kill our friends. The number of protesters killed just on one block in the city’s government quarter is, according to different reports, either 5 or 7. Additionally, dozens of people in Kyiv are missing.

We cannot halt the protests, for this would mean that we agree to live in a country that has been turned into a lifelong prison. The younger generation of Ukrainians, which grew up and matured in the post-Soviet years, organically rejects all forms of dictatorship. If dictatorship wins, Europe must take into account the prospect of a North Korea at its eastern border and, according to various estimates, between 5 and 10 million refugees. I do not want to frighten you.

We now have a revolution of the young. Those in power wage their war first and foremost against them. When darkness falls on Kyiv, unidentified groups of “people in civilian clothes” roam the city, hunting for the young people, especially those who wear the symbols of the Maidan or the European Union. They kidnap them, take them out into forests, where they are stripped and tortured in fiercely cold weather. For some strange reason the victims of such actions are overwhelmingly young artists—actors, painters, poets. One feels that some strange “death squadrons” have been released in the country with an assignment to wipe out all that is best in it.

One more characteristic detail: in Kyiv hospitals the police force entraps the wounded protesters; they are kidnapped and (I repeat, we are talking about wounded persons) taken out for interrogation at undisclosed locations. It has become dangerous to turn to a hospital even for random passersby who were grazed by a shard of a police plastic grenade. The medics only gesture helplessly and release the patients to the so-called “law enforcement.”

To conclude: in Ukraine full-scale crimes against humanity are now being committed, and it is the present government that is responsible for them. If there are any extremists present in this situation, it is the country’s highest leadership that deserves to be labeled as such.

And now turning to your two questions which are traditionally the most difficult for me to answer: I don’t know what will happen next, just as I don’t know what you could now do for us. However, you can disseminate, to the extent your contacts and possibilities allow, this appeal. Also, empathize with us. Think about us. We shall overcome all the same, no matter how hard they rage. The Ukrainian people, without exaggeration, now defend the European values of a free and just society with their own blood. I very much hope that you will appreciate this.

Yuri Andrukhovych.