An Image or Two for A Happy Friday

Life's a beach!

Life’s a beach!

It’s been a rather crazy week on so many levels.  I’m not the only person who’s felt it.  Several friends have been having a tough time, too, between the news stories, the way they’re upsetting people, and everything else besides.

Well, it’s Friday, folks!  We’ve made it!  Next week can only be better.  As the translation of the Latin motto of the State of New York, “Excelsior,” says:

ONWARD AND UPWARD!

TGIF and a Half!

TGIF and a Half!

Is This “Social Media Moon Howlers” Week?

More than just the wolves are howling this week!

More than just the wolves are howling this week!

Is it a full moon again already? A polar shift? Mercury in retrograde?

I have been using social media sites since 2008 and never before have I witnessed activity to rival the lunatic fringe scale of this week’s.

For the most part, I use social media for fun. I go on there to have a good time. I create funny wall signs.  Often I try to encourage the politically polarized people to stop insulting one another, even though that’s a “mission impossible.”

I also try to encourage healthy living, since there is one group of people on my page who are going to die of substance abuse if they don’t find another way of living soon. That’s no exaggeration. They’re violent when drunk or high, I’ve seen it in person, and it’s pathetic.  To make matters even more appalling, these people have children and grandchildren.  I recently heard some of the grandchildren have gotten in trouble for substance abuse offenses – so the cycle keeps continuing.

These people also post relentlessly – on public forums – about two matters: 1) their illegal drug/alcohol abuse-of-the-evening, and 2) their paranoid fear that the police/government are reading their emails.  That ought to give you some idea of the level of frying their poor brains have undergone, since this one’s a no-brainer.  If you are afraid of the government or the police yet incorporating something illegal into your daily life, you may not want to put that up on a public forum, since a public forum can be accessed by the government or the police.  I mean, hello!!!!!  How hard is this to comprehend?

As I am one to call things as I see them, I have made lots of Facebook posts to address these desperately ill people, hoping someday that the idea of getting them to choose life over self-destruction will penetrate.  If it doesn’t, well, at least I tried.  I would not want to look back and wish I’d tried.  It’s always better to say damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead and just attempt it.

Try explaining such a concept, though!  Consistently, the same two or three dolts never, ever, ever seem to get it. Whenever I post anything that might help the poor alcoholic who breaks his door down on a regular basis to maybe, just maybe, think twice about his activities, out pop the jackasses who will label me “judgmental” or worse.

That’s right, folks: if you take a decent stand these days, if you try to so much as speak up, it’s you who will be regarded as being in the wrong. If you aren’t accepting of someone’s self-murder-in-the-making, you’re “wrong” for not encouraging their form of Russian Roulette.

It’s insane.

So the other day I posted a status update to address that sad group again. Damn the torpedoes, etc.  It was a post on how they are basically attracting the attention of the police with their status updates.  They’re not just destroying themselves but pushing their luck.  This time it got royally misinterpreted. I was on the receiving end of about ten threatening messages from someone who somehow thought the post was in favor of – fasten seat belts here – the events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. It got extremely ugly, to put it mildly. I had not said anything about the situation in MO, which I wasn’t even following too closely until a few days later. I have, however, been very focused on the coverage of Robin Williams’ death, which led me to feel more urgency than usual about the substance abusers.

In another direction entirely, a different social media contact, I found out, has been approaching women on my friends list, saying I’m one of his “best friends,” and claiming I would “vouch for” him.  I have never met this guy in my life.  I would never vouch for some online contact without meeting them first or knowing them directly.  I was also increasingly uncomfortable about the violent content of his posts.  He thinks blowing things up is funny.  I don’t.  He sent private messages at one point saying he would like to “take a wood chipper” to another friend’s father, and he thinks that’s “funny,” too.  The straw that broke the camel’s back for me, though, was when he posted about how hilarious he thinks it is to dress up as the Taliban and put fake bomb boxes on planes in an airport.  Does this sound like it’s amusing to you?  I love to laugh as much as the next person, but draw the line at giggling over what are, technically, murder threats and emotional terrorism.  Never mind the police – this guy’s going to attract the attention of no less an entity than the Department of Homeland Security into his life and personal business if he doesn’t watch out.

Most astonishingly of all, this guy carries on as if it’s the tragedy of the Western World whenever people get freaked out by what he says to the point that they block him.  Don’t want to get blocked for violence?  Cut out the violence.  How hard is it?  In this instance, apparently, impossible.  

Good thing I didn’t vouch for him, as it turns out:  he got nasty to the women he dropped my name to connect with online when they would not give him their phone numbers, so you know what that’s all about.

If all this makes me someone who “doesn’t accept” such a person’s “differences,” then I say that’s all to the good!  If you accept this, then what are you?

 

When Nazis Were Afraid of Marigolds

Nazis outlawed orange flowers in Holland during WWII since it was the color of the Dutch royal house.

Nazis outlawed orange flowers in Holland during WWII since it was the color of the Dutch royal house.

This is one of my favorite outrageous World War II stories.

Everyone knows how insane the Nazis were in violating the rights of people, but did you know they also put a ban on certain types of flowers?

Orange is the color of the Dutch royal house.  “Oranje Boven” – “Orange Above” – is a song saluting their Queen.  “Radio Oranje” – “Orange Radio” – was the name of the BBC station that broadcast to Holland, in Dutch, throughout the war.  In the dark days after the Nazis invaded Holland, the Queen and her family fled to England.  Orange suddenly became a much more popular color than it was already.  It was a symbol of resistance.  It meant solidarity with the exiled Queen.

Lots of Dutch people promptly went out of their way to plant not just any kind of flowers, but orange ones, like orange marigolds.

It was the Nazi’s idea of a no-no.

I have to laugh out loud whenever I think of Nazis, who everyone believes, after the fact, to be about might without right, getting all threatened by the planting of a bunch of orange flowers.  They outlawed them.  They actually went and outlawed a certain color of blossoms.

The Japanese were just as crazy regarding flowers when they invaded Korea.  The national flower of Korea was the Rose of Sharon.  You can figure out what happened next: the Japanese promptly banned them.

Is this insane, or what?

It’s said that after the war, in both locations, people planted the illegal flowers again the minute the occupiers left.

That just goes to show you what you’re really dealing with when the wrong kind of conquerors are on the loose, folks: no matter what such louts may be saying on the outside, they’re scared out of their wits of everybody they can’t control on the inside.   Need a smile today?  Picture members of the Gestapo or the Kempeitai quaking in front of some flower beds.  Resistance, to them, even resistance with a bloom,  is one of the most dangerous scenarios of all.   I’d say anyone threatened by the sight of a harmless little flower, to the point they feel they have to pass regulations against them, must already know their eventual defeat is on the way.

All this gives me a whole new appreciation for Roses of Sharon and marigolds.

Rose of Sharon flowers - the bane of the Japanese in Korea.  Unbelievable!

Rose of Sharon flowers – the bane of the Japanese in Korea. Unbelievable!

Hey, Hollywood: THE UPSTAIRS ROOM is Still a Hit Waiting to Happen!

Look out, world, here we come!  Author Johanna Reiss and Me.

Look out, world, here we come! Johanna Reiss, Author of “The Upstairs Room,” and Me on Governors Island.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the undiscovered Hollywood hit movie waiting to happen is the true story detailed in my friend Johanna Reiss’ book, The Upstairs Room.  I read it and loved it when I was a child and have always wondered just why it was never made into a movie – yet.

Johanna, called “Annie” as a child, and her older sister Sini had to be hidden as young girls in Holland because they were Jewish and it was World War II.  They were sheltered by a prosperous family named the Hanninks for a few months, but the Hanninks were helping a lot of Jews and grew nervous about keeping the sisters.  The girls were moved to the home of a local farmer, Johan Oosterveld.  Johan, his wife Dientje, and his mother, Opoe, kept the girls safely hidden.

Johan, Dientje and Opoe were true heroes in the way they rose to the occasion and sheltered Sini and Annie during the war.  They are also characters that are so unpretentious that they’re funny, on the one hand – and so ingenious in the ways they protected the girls that they’re absolutely brilliant on the other.  At one point, Nazis even took over another room in their house for a few weeks to use as an office, and…well, if you want to know more, you’ll have to read the book!  I can not imagine an actor or actress alive who would not want to grab the chance to play these fantastic real-life heroes.  Every Jewish person who survived the war has a story and this one, in particular, deserves to be told.

The two hidden girls, Sini and Annie, survived the war. That’s Annie, in the photo above, all grown up, with me, yesterday, pedaling a Surrey on Governor’s Island.  We’ve been best friends pretty much since the day we met about a year and a half ago.  She’s fun!  Getting that surrey moving was a bit of a challenge.  It got stuck in the cracks on a sidewalk when Annie was trying to drive it in a U-turn.  We had to bail out while I extricated the thing.  After that, I steered it.  I said, “This is like an I Love Lucy episode, say, ‘Lucy and Ethel Pedal a Surrey!'”  Annie taught me how to sing “Long Live the Queen” in Dutch and now I can’t stop bursting forth with it.  I recently gave her the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Mame so she could learn the song “Bosom Buddies,” since that’s what we are, sung by Angela Lansbury and Beatrice Arthur.

Speaking of Angela Lansbury…now there would be perfect casting for “Opoe!”

Anyone interested in making the book into a movie can contact the author through www.johannareiss.com.

 

Jean Stapleton in “Hello, Dolly!”

Jean Stapleton, all dressed up.

Jean Stapleton, all dressed up and looking great!

My favorite theater story of all time is this one.

In the late 1980’s, Jean Stapleton was playing the title role in Hello, Dolly!  This was at the Totem Pole Playhouse in California.

Jean had become famous, of course, for playing the wonderful, lovable “dingbat,” as her husband “Archie Bunker” called her, “Edith Bunker” on All in t he Family.    The role was a double-edged sword for her.  On the one hand, it elevated her to the status of a household name.  On the other, though, it typecast her as someone who could play dowdy roles that were not too bright.  The world also didn’t know that, unlike her “Edith” character, the real Jean could sing out with the best of them and had been in musicals on Broadway.

Jean decided to do something about all that when she took the role of “Dolly Levi” in Hello, Dolly!  

The show is about a woman coming back into the world after mourning the death of her husband.  She enters a restaurant in a bright red dress and the waiters, delighted to have her back in their establishment after too long a time away, greet her with the song, “Hello, Dolly!”  This song contains these lines that Dolly sings:

“Wow, wow, wow, fellas!

Look at the old girl now, fellas!”

Jean Stapleton decided to take the lemons of her typecasting as “Edith,” make lemonade, flip them, and turn the situation on its head.  When the time came for her to sing Jerry Herman’s lyrics, she inserted a change to mark the occasion of letting an audience see her all dressed up and looking great.  She got out there and sang out:

“Wow, wow, wow, fellas!

Look at the dingbat now, fellas!”

The audience stood up and cheered!  That class act of a lady had the spirit of a champion.  Brava, Jean!  That is the biggest theatrical moment of my lifetime that I most wish I could have seen in person!

The costume worn in "Hello, Dolly!" when Dolly Levi rejoins the living.

The costume worn in “Hello, Dolly!” when Dolly Levi rejoins the living.

Why Zelda Williams’ Twitter Tormentors Need Psych Evaluations

Lotus blossoms rising from the mud, Longwood Gardens, PA

Lotus blossoms rising from the mud, Longwood Gardens, PA

Just when the news seemed like the news could not get any worse in the wake of the loss of the fabulous Robin Williams, it did.

I was so sorry to hear that the beloved comedian’s daughter Zelda was being harassed by bullies on Twitter on the day after her dad’s death was announced.   Sorry – but, as someone who was once relentlessly bullied by cowards myself – not too surprised.  It is fully within the sadistic realm of the bullies’ psychology to attack anyone they think is down. Bullies hope someone having a sad day will cross their path.  Online, when there’s a story like this that has such a high profile, the little nasties must feel like they’ve hit the online troll jackpot.  The surviving daughter of a famous father who met too early a death is a bullying gutless wonder’s idea of a dream-come-true target.

But tell me, World: do the trolls who take pot-shots at a young woman in a position like Zelda’s strike you as emotionally healthy?

There has been a lot of positive discussion this week about getting help for those people who are depressed, suicidal, or destroying themselves through substance abuse, all of which is on the mind of the public because of the death of Robin Williams.  I’d like to suggest that there’s yet another group that is begging to be added to the psychiatric evaluation list: these online bullies!  There is a distinctly sociopathic element to their actions, which they combine with a twisted and malignant take on how the real world works, by falsely believing their pointless, mean-spirited actions render them “cool” rather than asinine.

These Internet trolls need to be assessed – and stopped.

So many of such types exist on another forum I know of – Broadwayworld – that a coded thread was created with a “special title” so as to attract non-trolls.  Can you believe this?  Grown men and women had to dream up a “code thread” and post under it to try to steer clear of the little Broadwayworld sickies. I got reamed on another part of that forum a few times myself.  It was staggering to see what went on over there.  It’s a site where online bullies are fully allowed to run absolutely rampant.  All the way back on May 24, 2013, I contacted the Broadwayworld executives to ask that they do something about it before they wind up on the receiving end of a well-deserved lawsuit, but they just ignore complaints.  To date, there has been no reply – and it’s a year and a half later!  For that, they lost me not only as a participant but also as a customer.  Countless others I know also avoid that site, defeating its purpose for the owners, since those that leave it don’t purchase through it.  Hey, I can always get my show tickets elsewhere, thanks!  The trolls are delighted if someone leaves, their twisted mission is accomplished, but that does not make them any less sick.

They are dangerous, these online trolls.  Make no mistake about that.  They’re emotional terrorists. They create problems for other people for no reason whatsoever – except that they feel “entitled” to do so.  They not only frighten away online customers on a badly run website like the one with the coded thread.  They make personal attacks on people they don’t know, hoping to cause as much misery as possible, while pumping themselves up as falsely “powerful.”   Their “fun” is pure sadism.  Imagine what kind of disasters they might just create within the heart of a vulnerable, grieving child, or any other person who may be having too tough a day to begin with.

Get them assessed!

Get the owners of these websites that don’t stop them assessed, too, if they cannot take positive action and fix the problem.  No self-respecting, responsible adult would sit back, do nothing, and give emotionally twisted bullies a forum!

Twitter, I just found out, is going to review its policies about online harassment following this incident.  That’s a great move on their part, so bravo!  Can we hope it’s the start of a trend?

To Zelda Williams:  Have you ever heard that a lotus can only bloom after it rises up from the mud?  Isn’t that a good one?  The bullies you’ve withstood this week certainly qualify as “the mud,” but just wait and see.  Take it from me.  I lived through plenty of situations like this.  Soon enough the nonsense of today will become your blossoms of tomorrow.  The world’s going to take a few turns, your career will start blooming, and one day there you will be –  performing to cheers on Broadway, or picking up your first Oscar.  Meanwhile, I hope you know that people of goodwill everywhere are wishing we knew you personally so that we could stand in your corner tonight.

God Must Be Doubling Over

Splendiferous tribute to Robin Williams by The Laugh Factory

Best tribute ever to Robin Williams, by The World Famous Laugh Factory

Take a look at this fantastic tribute to Robin Williams on a sign by The World Famous Laugh Factory.  I saw it on the news last night – and started laughing.  All you have to do is imagine the routines Robin Williams might come up with if Heaven was his new source of material and God was his audience!

Today, God must be doubling over.

Did I hear a bell ring?  Something tells me a new angel’s got his wings!