Intolerance

August 6, 2018 – Flipping through television channels one night, I came across a feature on Turner Classic Movies, a silent film from 1916 scheduled to run from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

How intriguing that a silent movie from 100 years ago could run that long. The three and a half hours in length alone was enough to make me pay attention.

After I hit the information button, I learned the name of the movie, ”Intolerance”, which also piqued my interest and compelled me to watch a little longer, is considered one of the great masterpieces of the silent era. Not that I am an expert on silent films, but I had never heard of it before.

Directed by D.W. Griffith, the film tells the story of several events that highlight intolerance throughout history, from the Babylonian Empire to modern day crime and redemption up to and including the Ku Klux Klan. At its release, it isn’t surprising that it was a colossal failure.

It held my attention for about 25 minutes, but that’s about all I could take. It’s more of a revelation that hit me while I watched. I’m amazed that with everything this world has been through since the beginning of time, and all of the intolerance we’ve faced, we’re still no better off than we were a few thousand years ago. It’s as if we’ve learned nothing. Things may have improved slightly for now the United States and other countries around the world have better laws in place to fight against intolerance, but we’re still divided, with politics and racial tensions especially, and other social issues drawing attention to our differences.

When I was younger I used to cringe every time one of my parents would say that the world is a pretty terrible place and it used to be so much better in the 1950s. This drove me crazy, and I didn’t want to believe it because the present time they spoke negatively about was all I knew.

In an odd way, my revelation made me happier, and proved my parents wrong — at least about the world not being any worse off than it was in the 1950s, or in ancient Babylon for that matter.

We still have a long way to go, and if history is doomed to repeat itself, I can’ help but wonder if we’ll ever get there.

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Should the Man who Shot John Lennon Go Free?

July 30, 2018 – Next month, the man who gunned down John Lennon in New York City on December 8, 1980, will be eligible for parole for the 10th time.

Mark David Chapman, originally sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for second-degree murder, served 38 years so far. At his parole hearing a few years back, Chapman said, “I felt that by killing John Lennon I would become somebody and instead of that I became a murderer.”

Here part of the transcript handed down by the three-panel parole board that denied him once again:

“Despite your positive efforts while incarcerated, your release at this time would greatly undermine respect for the law and tend to trivialize the tragic loss of life which you caused as a result of this heinous, unprovoked, violent, cold and calculated crime,” board member Sally Thompson wrote. Board members Joseph Crangle and Marc Coppola agreed.

“The panel notes your good conduct, program achievements, educational accomplishments, positive presentation, remorse, risk and needs assessment, letters of support, significant opposition to your release and all other statutory factors were considered,” Thompson wrote. “However, parole shall not be granted for good conduct and program completions alone.”

I’m not advocating softer crime penalties or defending Chapman’s actions, but maybe, just maybe it is time to grant him parole.

The average sentence for second-degree murder in New York is 15 to 25 years, while a life sentence is typically thought to represent 25 years. For violent crimes, most states require criminals to serve at least 85% of their sentenced time. Additionally, in the United States, on average, a person convicted of second-degree murder serves 21.6 years in prison.

Chapman served several years longer than the average already and what is considered a life sentence. Could this be due to killing a much-loved musical icon and not just your average Joe?

Perhaps one could argue that Chapman did plan the murder, and therefore, could have been convicted of first-degree murder, which does not typically allow for parole. That is not the case, however; he was convicted of second-degree murder, which carries lighter penalties.

If Chapman isn’t ready for release, or is considered a threat to society, I would be the first to demand that he remain behind bars. But his record in prison and the fact that he did not have a history of crime prior to the shooting should be taken into consideration. And if he’s not ready now, will he ever be?

I remember reading an article right after George Harrison died, that reported he visited the attacker who stabbed and almost killed him several years before. Harrison wanted to meet with him and tell him he was forgiven.

Somehow, I think Lennon would feel the same. Perhaps he’d want to give peace a chance by letting this man live on the outside again.

We’ll see what happens when Chapman goes before the parole board on August 20.

December Comes Soon Enough

July 16, 2018 – I know that some people always want what they don’t have, but Christmas in July? I never understood the fascination. Are people so starved to celebrate a holiday after July 4th that they can’t wait until Labor Day? And how can anyone, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, think about Christmas during summer heat?

This strange tradition dates back to July 1933, when girls at a summer camp in North Carolina celebrated with a Christmas tree, gifts and a visit by Santa. Wonder who came up with that idea? Two years later, the National Recreation Association’s journal featured a story about the girls’ celebration and it took off.

Now its reached even the most common places. Turn on QVC, a guilty pleasure for me, and you’ll be given opportunities to buy trees, wreaths, other Christmas decorations and gifts. No thank you! And Hallmark Channel is running nonstop Christmas movies, which I can’t even consider this time of year.

But the biggest push to embrace Christmas in July comes from retailers who use it as a way to promote summer sales. So if you’re doing a little shopping while humming “Deck the Halls” don’t worry if some people look at you strangely. At least you’re helping the economy.

June is Lavender Month

June 4, 2018 – I never had much desire to visit France — I believe I’m more of a fan of the Mediterranean countries, at least when I vacation in my mind — but these gorgeous photos of the French lavender fields make me want to hop a plane now.

With lavender’s ability to sooth nervous tension, relieve pain and help insomnia, the people in this region must be the happiest and most well-rested people on earth. Just looking at them made me smile.

In my region of southeastern Pennsylvania, it’s lavender harvest season, which makes it the perfect time to visit a lavender farm. Two local farms I recommend are Peace Valley Lavender Farm and Carousel Lavender Farm.

Another Lost Art

March 26, 2018 – Cursive handwriting is on the decline and could be in danger of becoming extinct, Many schools have made the decision that cursive handwriting isn’t a necessary skill for the 21st century.

We live in an age where our younger generation is already lost to art of communication due to mobile phones and social media. To take another skill away will limit their communication abilities further. Can you imagine future generations not able to read Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution unless it was printed in a book or online?

As a graduate of Catholic school, the Palmer method of handwriting was ingrained in me at an early age. By second grade, printing gave way to handwriting, and now printing seems so foreign. Sure, I still have the ability to print, but it is my handwriting that is far more legible.

Does the end of cursive handwriting mean that beautifully penned wedding invitations  are on the way out too? That’s just as sad as love letters or letters in general that have succumbed to texting. I keep envisioning Daniel Day-Lewis’ character and those lovely thank you notes he wrote in The Age of Innocence. The calligraphy was almost a character in the movie, and it wouldn’t have been the same if he simply printed his name instead.

What about signatures? How will future adults approve tax forms, loan documents and important other papers that require you to sign your name? Your signature is supposed to be your unique identifier, so a simple X marks the spot won’t due.

Most likely the signature issue will be solved by scanning our retinas to give our approval. That’s even more depressing than the thought of losing the art of cursive handwriting.

Spring!

March 19, 2018 – Spring arrives in the northern hemisphere tomorrow.

For many of us spring signifies longer days, increasing as the season progresses and the temperatures begin to rise.

For the college student, spring means break, whether it’s home to Mom and Dad for a week, or off to a tropical island to celebrate time off.

For the gardener, spring equals rebirth. Seeds are planted in nurturing soil and bloom into colors so vibrant they put rainbows to shame.

For the religious, spring often means the renewal of faith.

For the poet, “A little madness in the spring is wholesome even for the king.” – Emily Dickinson

For the romantic, “Always its spring, and everyone’s in love and flowers pick themselves.” – e.e. cummings

For the literary, “Spring drew on . . . and a greenness grew over those garden beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.” ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

For the music lover, spring is Vivaldi.

And for the baseball fan, spring is the happiest season of all. Opening day is 13 days away…Go Phillies!