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Wow!  Can I just tell you what a joy it was to read, Man Shoes-The Journey To Becoming A Better Man, Husband & Father?  It is my privilege to review this book; I believe that the author, Tom Watson, has some real valuable wisdom to offer his readers.   Tom  was born to parents ill prepared to raise a child in a healthy & life affirming way.  He was placed into 13 different foster homes…some of which were little more than a systemic form of a physical & psychological torture chamber. 

Tom was placed into foster care because his Aunt Donna & Uncle Roy found the courage to report the erratic parental care that infant Tom was experiencing.  His parents would drop him off here and there and neglect to pick him up at the times that they agreed to.  At one year of age, he became a foster child because his aunt and uncle found the strength of character to endure family censure by reporting the situation to the proper authorities.  Tom expresses his gratefulness to them for doing so…even though he suffered greatly in multiple foster homes until he came to the place where his body and soul were nurtured.  His life story actually proceeds with joy and gratefulness.  To read the rest of this review go to:  Book In Review

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Have you ever met an individual that is so rare and special that you could compare them to a valuable gem?  Let me tell you about such a person, Jessica Angelique, who has a passionate mission in life to shine a light on life changing non for profit organizations.  Jessica has had an interesting life full of ups and downs and because of that she has dedicated her life to making the world a better place.  Her heart has been drawn to organizations that help build people up and educate them; which allows them to positively impact the world for the better.  She is in need of help to continue to expand her ability to impact the world by educating them through a wonderful opportunity called the Pepsi Refresh Project.

Pepsi is offering up an opportunity to win a $250,000 grant to those who win the most votes in their category.  Jessica Angelique is the creator and executive director of Definitive Voices.   She is also an author who has written of her life’s journey; navigating through the challenging foster care system into a positive, purpose filled adulthood.   She uses her voice to empower people and organizations to be aware and proactive in their communities to build up those in need.

Through Definitive Voices Jessica uses social media to shine a light on individuals and organizations that are doing their best to help people improve the world through education, awareness, and hands on action that is changing the lives of those they encounter.  Jessica needs your help by getting you to go to this link and vote for her Definitive Voices so that she can expand her ability to positively impact the lives of others.  It only takes a couple of seconds once you register and sign in using an active email and a Pepsi password.  Here is the link to cast your vote daily until the 28th of February: http://www.refresheverything.com/definitivevoices(more…)

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       Yes Oprah is rich and powerful, yes, people hang on her every word…but, with the recent memoir, “Angel at the Fence” written by Herman Rosenblat; some people are looking to point blame at Oprah after finding out that the memoir was based on a falsehood.   Come on, don’t blame Oprah!

        Look the thing is…Oprah gives her endorsement to books that move her.  So what, if this book was written as a work of fiction the story would still be good.  The alleged falsehood of how the couple in the book met; upon which the premise of the book was based, is not any reflection on Oprah.  Herman was a survivor of a concentration camp.  He told a version of meeting his wife as having taken place when the “angel” would bring him apples and bread to the fence of the concentration camp…virtually keeping him alive and helping him to survive the experience.  

         In truth,what was promoted as a love story extraordinare was a lie; they actually met on a blind date many years after his experiences in the concentration camp.  It is a terrible thing to tell everyone a lie about the roots of his marriage; expecting others to perpetuate the myth…just to sell a book.  The Rosenblat’s son did not agree with the falsehood and says he didn’t want anything to do with it. But think about this, when people that his family knew learned of the the writing of the book…and were complimentary….how did his parents expect him to act?  Was he supposed to swallow the truth and pretend that the story being told was the truth?  Or was he to contradict his parents whom I am sure he loves?  What a predictament to put your child in!

         Even though the beginning of the Rosenblat’s relationship is said to be untrue…Herman’s experiences of survival in the concentration camp would have been a very good memoir; one which would have stood up well enough on it’s own, without the lie.  But, the lie is on the author…not on someone who read the book and recommended the book to others not knowing the truth.

          So, again I say…don’t blame Oprah for something in which she had no way of knowing was untrue.  If anything, it should reflect back on the publishing industry.  They are responsible for how they publish and package a book.  If they are going to put a description of the book as a memoir…then they have the responsibility of determining whether or not it is in fact a memoir.  Still, a memoir is a recollection of how one remembers events from their past…and unless the person in charge of publishing the book was there in the past…there has to be some free benefit of doubt that the author is telling the truth.  Ultimately, it is the author of the book that is responsible for whether or not the truth is being published.  In this case, no one else carries the weight of the falsehood more than the person who KNOWS IT IS A FALSEHOOD! 

        The sad thing is that this experience and others like it…only make it tougher for writers to break into an industry that is already famous for being difficult to get published in.   Who deserves to lose the loss of respect over this book for an abuse of trust…the publishers, the author, Oprah or the agents , or the publicity people?

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       Slavery exists even today; i know that that sounds like an inflammatory statement but it is true.  It is just not talked about in any kind of real, life changing way.  I read a book recently which opens up a whole new way of looking at the world.  It is rather frightening.  Slavery exists today in what is called, modern day slavery….human trafficking.  People are bought and sold all over the world…but, it is not a subject that has been addressed in the fullness that it needs to be; to face it and, attempt to overcome it.

        The book is called, A Crime So Monstrous; it was written by author Benjamin Skinner; published in 2008.  He has traveled to places around the globe to educate and inform the world of the human injustice that is perpetrated against those who are vulnerable, and can not fight back without help.  It is a moral call to action.  Once your eyes have been opened up to the extent of the evil that is human trafficking…you will never look at the world in the same way.  Children, women, men, young and old…it doesn’t matter…crimes against humanity should never be tolerated.

        So what is modern slavery-human trafficking?  It is the forced sale of human beings to be used and abused.  There are many forms of it…from sexual slavery, prostitution, forced labor, to forced child marriages and the list goes on.  There are very real networks that cross continents buying and selling humans against their will; it impacts well over 800,000 individuals a year.   Sometimes repeatedly; without concern for the well-being of those who are being transferred like a piece of property.  It is illegal, it is immoral and it doesn’t stop there…sometimes, in many cases it is multi-generational.  In those cases, debt forces multiple generations to work to pay off debts…doing hard labor, with little or no pay.  In conditions not suitable for proper human living conditions.  Often, violence is used to coerce people to do things against their will.  They do not get proper food, shelter, health care or healthy human interaction.  It is not right.  Many of the victims are the most vulnerable in society…the weak, the poor, the disabled, the homeless, and those who are without protectors.

        Do you think it doesn’t affect you?   What if it was happening in your town?  What if it was in your neighborhood?   What if one of your loved ones came up missing?   Missing family member…what if they have become one of the invisible slaves bought and sold for someone else’s gain and pleasure?  People who patronize the prostitutes on any street, in any country, around the world did you ever wonder if …are they doing it because they want to?  Or, are they being forced to perform as a prostitute because they are in fact, someone’s slave?  If you purchase their services…you could be part of the problem. How about people who purchase the servant to cook, or clean in their business or home, especially those  individuals not legally present in that country; are they working for them willingly, or have they been bought and paid for?  

         Our country, the United States of America, is involved in war.  Our military men and women have seen things in other countries that would shock you.  In some of those countries, when war breaks out…rape is used as a tool to destroy cultures and to break down the resistance of the opposing fighters.   Our military men and women have seen what happens to the women in those countries that have been warring with one another when they have gone in to establish some kind of peace-keeping.  Women and children, as well as men, are raped and used horribly.  Some of them never recover, physically or emotionally.   This is unacceptable behavior…no matter what country it takes place in.  These are issues to think about.  No-one is guaranteed safety from these predators.  http://www.humantrafficking.org/updates  This is a global issue.  It affects us all.  If you met one of these individuals in person… how you could be unaffected?  Yet most of us live our lives unaware of their plight.  Their stories of abuse would horrify you. 

         Many of the hotbeds in the modern day slavery networks, are on the news everyday…either they are points of travel destinations, or glamour spots that the rich and famous travel to and from…others are known for their sexual tourism…PLEASE STOP FEEDING THE MONEY MACHINE.   Someone’s “tourism” is someone else’s nightmare!!!   Do some research…don’t travel or support countries that are known for trading the services of human beings, illegally, for money.  Governmental leaders must take a stand and enforce those who would disregard the value of human lives by their inaction.  We must expect legal consequences and demand it from the authorities who can make a difference.

         Ben Skinner’s book, A Crime So Monstrous, touches on some of those people and their situations.  It breaks your heart.  And yet, you know that it is just a way of outlinning the scope of the problem.  You can find out more about the book here:  www.simonsays.com  It is also available as an e-book.  Take the time to educate yourself…read it; and, understand how this affects us all.  We need to stand up and demand that our leaders help to wage a war against those who would commit crimes against humanity in such a vile, and dehumanizing way.  Thank you to those who fight the fight against such inhumanity in our world.  

See possibly related story:  http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/WireStory?id=6081857&page=1 or http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=6121646

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       When a person passes away…you wonder why kind of epithet (description) others would use to describe that person.  A person’s reputation…legacy…is important.  Most people want to be remembered as someone who other’s genuinely liked, respected and wanted to spend time with.

        Most people don’t want to be remembered negatively.  Today, i heard that Mr. (Richard) Blackwell has died.  Do you know who he is?  I bet when i jiggle your memory cells you will recognize his legacy…it was extremely negative.

         Mr. Blackwell was famous for his very harsh, negative, and biting descriptions of what people in Hollywood and the world of celebrity wore out in public…their fashion sense.  He often said that he wasn’t condeming the person…just their fashion choices.

         He was known for his lists of the 10 worst dressed people of each year.  I was sure that there was so much more to this man.  So i did a little digging.  His celebrity was that he was an author of two books, he was a child actor, he was a television/radio personality, journalist, an artist and a talented fashion designer.  But what is he best known for?  His negativity…that was his claim to fame.  That is such a waste of spirit.  Obviously, he was much more talented that the world knew…however, he put negativity into the world.  Regrets are something that most of us try to avoid…i wonder if he had a few when his time came.

         Mr. Blackwell died of an intestinal infection.  He had been hospitalized for quite some time…and was in a coma, at one point, i believe.  He was born Richard Sylvan Selzer.  He lived in Brooklyn, NY in a poor lifestyle.  He says in his autobiography that he was a thief and a prostitute.  He had a difficult early life.  That might explain why some of his negativity carried over into his professional life as an adult. 

         I think that no matter what…we have to be aware of how we present ourselves to the world.  We all have difficulties…some worse than others.   People can get caught up in trying to one -up-manship in the area of who has had it more difficult; but…at some point, you set aside childhood ills, and YOU take the reins of your destiny as an adult.   At that point, you and you alone, are responsible for the direction that your life takes.  I want to work hard to make sure that the legacy that i leave behind is more heavy on positivity than negativity. 

        What obstacles have you had to overcome to take your life in a positive direction?

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       On Friday, O.J. Simpson was declared guilty in a court room in Las Vegas, Nevada, of all 12 counts that he was charged with that were associated with armed robbery.  This morning, O.J. is sharing breakfast with other inhabitants of the local jail.  This case had centered on an armed robbery of sports memorabilia related to O.J. Simpson’s career in football.  The case made headlines around the world because of the cast of characters involved in the robbery.  During the trial it was a he said/he said situation.  Some of those involved on both sides of the accusations have had their credibility questioned due to previous run-ins with the law.  There were recordings that appeared to shed light on the actual drama behind the scenes.  Of course, this case could have long lasting implications…O.J. and C.J. Stewart, his co-defendent were both found guilty and could spend the remainder of their lives in jail.  They will be formally sentenced in December for their involvement in this case.

      Of course, we all know of the infamous case against O.J. Simpson back in 1994 when he was accused of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, her friend and a waiter, from a local restaurant she had visited earlier in the evening.  O.J. was declared not guilty of those murders in the criminal sense…but, many people never believed in his innocence.  He was found to be liable for their deaths in a civil suit. 

        O.J. has made headlines in the news since he began his football career at USC in the 60’s.  He has had a varied career since he retired from football.  He was an actor, a football commentator, a business owner and an author.  He wrote a very controversial book called If , I did it.  This was supposedly a book of fiction surrounding the murders; and, how he would have murdered them, if he did it.  There was a very intense public outcry towards the publisher of the book and the television network that were going to give it attention on their media network.  In a series of events, the publisher lost out big time.  Then Ron Goldman’s family sued the publisher for the rights to help satisfy O.J’s debt in the civil suit that was brought against him for being liable for the deaths of Ron and Nicole.  They were able to win the rights to the book and retitle it, If, I Did It: Confessions of the Killer; and add commentary to the book. 

        In a life of such highs and lows…this latest development could appear to be the final chapter; however, when a person who is used to such intense attention and focus, it begins to feed a core need in that person.  Even if O.J. is sentenced to life behind bars…this will not be the last you hear from him.  I am sure that there will be interviews, blogs, and possibly more books all expressing his views and need to be heard and seen.  Still, you can’t help but feel for those most closely aligned with Mr. Simpson…his children, his siblings and anyone who has been most closely and directly involved in his life.  This is another painful chapter for them to endure. 

           Those who thought, that when O.J. was incarcerated, that it would bring them some closure will probably be disallusioned.  He has had many issues with the law.  There have been domestic police calls(regarding spouses, girlfriends & children), murder trials, fender benders and robbery.  Each of those situations have had people impacted by O.J.’s choices and actions.  I am sure in this situation, there will be a period of satisfaction for some, that they will feel vindicated that he is getting his due.  But, i have to wonder if that part of them that feels he has “gotten away with so much”, will eventually feel empty when their opponent is no longer free to do battle with them anymore.  After all, he isn’t being punnished for the issues that they feel he should have been punnished for. 

           Just because he is being put away in jail/prison…doesn’t mean that he is going to go away.  He is a big personality.  He will find a way to still get the attention that he feels bound to command.  There will be interviewers who will feel duty bound to get the interview and record it for posterity.  He will be incarcerated and be getting 3 meals a day, housing and medical care, all at the tax payer’s expense.  Yes, he will have lost his freedom, but, he will still not give them what they want and need, total satisfaction that he is getting everything that he deserves.

Update:  On Friday, October 19, 2008 The lawyers for O.J. Simpson filed a motion for a new trial because they believe that they did not get a fair trial.  It was an all white jury except for one hispanic juror; that, plus two African-Americans were dismissed from the possible pool of jurors.  We will see where this goes.  I know that O.J.’s co-defendent wanted to have a seperate trial from O.J. because he felt that he would be lumped together with the prosecution of O.J. and that he would suffer the consequences of people who wanted to pay him back for the idea of  “getting away with murder” years before.

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      Comedian Bill Maher appears to have made it a footnote of his career to openly show his contempt for religion; his comedy routines have had a biting edge to many topics pertaining to faith.  He has now made a movie about that very subject… it is a movie that expresses his thoughts that religious beliefs are dangerous and ridiculous.  The movie which is opening in theaters on Friday is called, Religulous.  Bill Maher hopes to open up conversations where others feel comfortable expressing their disbelief, as well as making the viewers laugh.  I am sure he wouldn’t mind making a buck or two off of the whole enterprise either!

       In my mind, religion is not a laughing matter.  Whenever i have watched Bill Maher perform on television, in years past…i was stunned to hear the barely controlled contempt, whenever he would subject the viewers to his views on religion.  I don’t think anything is so terrible about people having differing viewpoints on the subject of religion…but, i do think it is wrong for someone to mock another for their personal religious beliefs.  I think it comes down to a matter of respect.  At the very least, you can agree to disagree without turning to put downs or insults.

       Out of fairness, Bill Maher did allegedly make an attempt to be an equal opportunity offender to all religions in the movie.  He mocks Christianity, Judaism, and Islam allegedly in the movie.  Other religions would have presumably gotten the same treatment if it had not cost so much to do the additional traveling.  After all, there are many different religions around the world and the world is a very big place.

         I will agree with Bill Maher on one thing…religion can be dangerous for those who mock; or are in some way, regarded as a threat to those who hold radical religious viewpoints.  Religions are made up of many different people.   Those people are a microcosm of all areas of society; and, in each of those areas of humanity, there are people who will brook no difference of viewpoint from their personal value system. 

          Respectful individuals will try to discuss their beliefs with one another when there is a difference of opinion trying to persuade the other person with theological discourse on the subject.    Serious repercussions begin to take shape when you think about someone with a mental illness who feels the need to defend their religion.  In that situation, you could potentially have a recipe for disaster.  There are other individuals who will go to any extreme, including terrorism, to make their religious views known to others.  There are elements in any society, of religious extremism.  One must take care to respect each other’s right to believe differently if that person has hope of being treated with respect themselves…even, their right to not believe at all.

        Quite a few years ago, there was a huge threat directed towards a man named Salman Rushdie.   He is an author that wrote a book that offended some Muslims, called The Satanic Verses in 1988.  Some  protested his book, and there were many threats upon his life because of the content in the book.  He was forced to live in hiding for quite a period of time. 

         In making a film on the subject of mocking multiple religions, i think that Bill Maher has provided an irresponsible and inflammatory situation which could draw radical attention towards his movie.  If and when it causes conflict, then he can stand back as a witness to the “crazy and dangerous” effect of religion upon society.  I wish that Mr. Maher had found a different way to express himself and his viewpoint on religion; instead of, filming a movie which could negatively impact so many people.  It is quite an easy thing to incite people when they feel that their core values are under attack.  It will surprise me greatly if you dont see protests regarding this movie, all over the news.

         I’ve noticed that there are other comedians who often take hostile swipes at things pertaining to religious subjects.  I remember hearing about Kathy Griffen at some awards ceremony or another, saying something to the effect that, Jesus had nothing to do with her success.  Another comedian who comes across as offensive, to me at least, on the subject is Jimmy Kimmel.  I think there is a fine line between love and hate…and religion brings that line into focus.  Part of the dual edged sword of celebrity is that you have a platform to sway public opinion…but you also bear a personal responsibility in what you put out there when you do espouse a certain opinion.

         One has to wonder, where all of the anger and hostility comes from.  I have heard that anger issues are the opposite side of the coin when it comes to comedians…they take their anger and use humor as a tool to get their message across to the audience.  Humor can often take a sour slant on a subject and make it more palatable to the masses because it is put in a way that people find a little easier to listen to.  But, just because something can be made into a punch line, doesn’t mean that it should be.   Anger seems like such a waste of energy.   When you have a talent for making people laugh, it seems that it could be better used for something more positive than spreading hostile rhetoric used to offend others. 

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