Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What is Biblical Womanhood?

photo by Anastasia Lander

Common sense tells us that because of the unique way God created the first man and woman, there must be specific gender roles. God created Adam first, and after allowing him to feel acutely aware of his loneliness, caused a deep sleep to come over him and used one of his ribs to fashion Eve. Human beings are made in the image of God, male and female, and God saw that His creation was good.

Biblical Womanhood and Christian Femininity


Men and women are equal in value yet differ in role function, and this is a paradox we live with. The Apostle Paul likens this arrangement to the human physique, with a head and a body, and we can learn from his metaphor. Man is the head of the woman, but what is a head without a body or vice versa? The body works cohesively with the head leading and the body following. The two are connected and cannot exist apart from one another. Each cell of the body communicates through the nervous system to the brain, and in a healthy organism, the head makes decisions to take care of its body. If a person burns his hand, the nerves quickly send pain signals to the brain, and the brain communicates in a nanosecond the command to remove one's hand from the fire.


Some people reject the idea of female submission as expressed in the New Testament because it appears unfair and risks exposing women to mistreatment. This is a valid concern because all men are sinners, but women do have the responsibility to confront any sin through the authority they have in Jesus Christ. Their ultimate head is Jesus Christ, who is sinless and always takes care of His body. Yielding to a man's leadership based on the principle of Biblical submission may be a scary proposition to some women, but their doing so will help them to develop trust and overcome their fear. And of course, they should bathe all their decisions in prayer.


If a woman centers her life around Jesus Christ, she will be empowered to live out her gender role effectively. Her character will provide evidence of what is transpiring in her heart, and the proof of her faith will be in the tangible fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The Lord had a plan when he created the two genders, and when they operate in tandem, the result is very good.

“Women were created from the rib of man to be beside him, not from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be trampled by him, but from under his arm to be protected by him, near to his heart to be loved by him.”
--David O. McKay
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Friday, October 5, 2012

Queen by Alex Haley Book Review




Queen by Alex Haley

The biography Queen by Alex Haley offers an interesting window into American history, seen through several generations of the author's family. Queen was Haley's paternal grandmother, a biracial child of the plantation born before the Civil War, but she doesn't appear on the pages until the latter third of the book. The story begins in Ireland with the Jackson family in 1797, where son James is banished and must emigrate to the New World. He becomes a pioneer who helps tame the wild frontier, becoming very wealthy in the process, and erects a plantation estate in Alabama. His son Jass takes the story through the Civil War, fathering Queen through a pet slave named Easter.

Queen by Alex Haley


Southerners held some shocking beliefs, like all men were not created equal and that blacks were animals without souls. They also thought the white man had to take care of negroes because they were too ignorant to take care of themselves. Their pre-Civil War economy couldn't exist without cheap slave labor, and they fought to the death to maintain their way of life. The stark philosophical differences over slavery between the Northern and Southern States culminate in the bloody Civil War, which devastates Jackson's plantation. The lies undergirding the South have to be confronted and their will broken, but the bitterness Confederates feel after losing the Civil War is palpable.

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However, the problem of slavery has to be addressed. Sally Jackson thinks that "there never should have been a union" eighty years earlier, and that the country should have been divided into two nations at its inception, one with slaves and one without, but she also acknowledges that slavery would not have been an ideal to fight for the way liberty is. Her beliefs typify Southern hypocrisy, allowing the easy rape of black women, mixed race children denied paternity by their white fathers, and the dehumanization of people. Though negroes were thought of as livestock, the whites who slept with them never considered their behavior to be bestiality, a great sin in the Southern Bible belt. Miscegenation was taboo and an anathema, but still practiced by the white massas without retribution.

Tragic parts of the book include the Indians' Trail of Tears, the sale of Annie, Queen's betrayal by Mrs. Benson, the murder of Davis, the burning of a barn where newly freed blacks are hiding and Queen's rape by Digby. Despite the sad parts of the biography, redemptive acts abound. Cap'n Jack teaches Queen how to read and write, and her massa/father brings her children's books. Jass also has an epiphany when Easter dies because he realizes that she does have a soul. Most heartwarming is the unfailing love of Alec Haley toward his troubled wife Queen. The future for their progeny is bright, and only two generations later, a boy named after Alec becomes a celebrity writer to relate their story to the world.

The Jackson and Haley family history is set during the tumultuous early years of the United States, when the founding fathers' ideals were sorely put to the test. The country eventually does the right thing and conquers her hypocrisy over slavery, the growing pains she experiences on her way to becoming a great nation. Readers will find sad nuggets of truth in Queen, but it is good to be aware of America's mistakes to prevent their recurrence. The novel complements Roots and both books should be of great interest to any student of American history, particularly black history.

Source: Alex Haley, Queen, the Story of an American Family (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1993).

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Clara and Mr. Tiffany Book Review

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland is an interesting novel, giving readers a glimpse into the behind the scenes world of the Tiffany Glass Company and the captive lives of women during the Victorian era. The decorative art pieces showcased in the company's Fifth Avenue store in New York belie their less glamorous happenings backstage.

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland


Clara Driscoll apparently was the creative genius behind Mr. Tiffany's legendary leaded glass lampshades. She was the one who came up with the idea and then with her department of female artists, fashioned designs inspired by nature. Louis Tiffany admits, "I've always thought that women have greater sensitivity to nuances of color than men do," but he takes all the credit for the finished products, untouched by the sacrifices given by his employees. The Tiffany girls were expected to remain single, couldn't vote and weren't allowed to join unions. It was a man's world and Clara, true to the era, accepts their lot in life. She asks her employees to pledge their commitment to the work over love, and most comply. Clara Driscoll's contributions to stained glass art were unrecognized until 2005, when letters she'd written were discovered.

Clara is frustrated by the limitations of womens' roles and does play a part in the slow process for gender equality by her dedication to her job and her promotion of unionizing female workers, but she still acquiesces to the men in her life, especially Tiffany. He is wealthy beyond belief, selfish and flamboyant, and disregards the feelings of his wife, daughters and female employees in all his decisions. Despite his flaws, Driscoll feels closely bonded to him, but he rarely returns the sentiment. One day she cries in his office over the death of Wilhelmina and he offers her one of his monogrammed handkerchiefs, which becomes a keepsake to cherish, wrapped in tissue and stored in a drawer at home. Later her expensive lamps become an unsustainable enterprise for the company and have to be discontinued. She is deflated that Tiffany allows this defeat, lamenting that he let "commerce triumph over art."
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Vreeland's exhaustive historical research is evident in the book with her references to the erection of the Flatiron Building in Manhattan, author O. Henry's appearance at a local restaurant, song and book titles, and the new subway. She mentions the brothels, mansions, lobster palaces and a stable on Broadway that Clara and her friends walk past on their way to Times Square the first New Year's Eve in 1907. They watch the giant ball lit with electric lightbulbs descend from a flagpole for the first time. The novel is written in the superb Vreeland style, and should be of interest to anyone who loves the Victorian era and especially, Tiffany glassware.

Sources:

Susan Vreeland, Clara and Mr. Tiffany (New York, NY: Random House, Inc., 2011).

http://www.tiffany.com/

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Roots by Alex Haley Book Review

Roots by Alex Haley

The underreported history of African-Americans comes to life in the classic story Roots by Alex Haley, a Pulitzer Prize Winner in 1977. Haley wrote that "preponderantly the histories have been written by the winners," meaning white people, thus the dearth of information about slave history. Haley pieced his own genealogy together through family lore, maritime and linguistic research and a poignant visit to Africa. His ancestor, Kunta Kinte, was kidnapped from Juffure, a village in Africa near the Gambia River, and shipped to Maryland to be sold as a slave. It is the story of hope, familial bonds and survival over the cruelty of mankind.

Roots by Alex Haley


Man's inhumanity to his fellow man is an overarching theme contrasted with the amazing resilience of the human spirit in Roots. The chain of misery begins with a king in Africa who sold his own people to slave traders. The slaves are then dehumanized and treated like livestock, detached from their families so they lose their sense of identity. Kinte determines that his only daughter will know who she is and where her roots lie, hence the name of the book and reason for his descendants' success. The family remains intact through the generations.

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Kinte must have been incredibly strong physically to survive being kidnapped, shipped like a commodity, sold and beaten. He endures the eighty-seven day ocean voyage under horrific conditions that kill off forty-two others and later, the amputation of his foot after an attempted escape. Hope is demonstrated by Kinte when he escapes from his master four times, looking for liberty and the way home to Africa. His progeny also survive inhumane treatment, broken promises, lies and unjust laws. Kinte's daughter Kizzy survives being ripped away from her parents and repeatedly raped by her new master. Chicken George and his children survive by obeying their masters, learning trades and always looking out for each other. Chicken George also hopes for freedom and finally obtains it from his master after five years of bonded service in England. He returns and leads his emancipated family to a new home in Tennessee after the Civil War.

The hypocrisy of America's culture is glaring, with "niggers" treated unequally in the land where "all men are created equal." Laws are passed that mete out severe punishments to blacks and coloreds while whites committing the same crimes receive no consequences. Fiddler tells Kinte that he thinks the purpose of Virginia's House of Burgess is to "pass more laws 'gainst niggers." White Christians attend church but ignore the clear teachings of the New Testament regarding the worth of human beings. Owners regard their slaves as animals yet they mate with the females. A child like Chicken George, sired by his master, is still a slave and the kinship unacknowledged.

Despite the atrocities in the biography, Haley manages to include some humor. In Africa, the men of Juffure speak "the language of men," which is a secret code of altered Mandinkan words. They couldn't prevent their women from gossiping and interfering in their affairs, so they devised a way to speak around them. Also, when Kinte gets a good look at white women, particularly an ugly one with "straw hair," he understands why white men go for black women. Slaves in the New World were all ears to their masters' conversations, though they acted like they didn't listen in. They feigned stupidity when it was convenient and pretended to be afraid when the Northern army was coming to liberate them. The humor helps to balance the seriousness of Haley's subject.

The United States was a land of colonies before 1776, with good and evil people planting their stakes during its formative years, and it is tragic that slavery was allowed to take root. John Adams in particular wanted to outlaw slavery in the Constitution of the new republic, but he was outvoted, postponing an inevitable crisis for 100 years when the issue was settled through a bloody Civil War. Then it took another century for the Civil Rights Amendment. Roots is a 900-page tome about the dark side of American history, shown through seven generations of one black family, and can help people understand why some African Americans bear a grudge toward the white man, though the injustice was so long ago. The book was translated into thirty-seven languages and made into a cinematic mini-series, and its status as an American classic is well deserved.

Source:

Alex Haley, Roots (NY, NY: Vanguard Books, 2004).

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Friday, August 31, 2012

How to Raise a Healthy Child


photo by Melissa Nelson

Looking for a good parenting tip? Here's one simple rule to keep in mind when embarking on this twenty-year journey: Begin with the end in mind. The hardest part of parenting is knowing when and how to let go, but there will come a day when a child will leave the nest and determine his own course. Parents who regard that day as their end goal can avoid an empty-nest syndrome so many others suffer from.

Raising Good Children


Books with parenting advice could fill entire libraries, so this article doesn't presume to answer everything, but if one aims at nothing, he will hit it every time. Instead, begin one's parenting journey with the ultimate destination already decided. Of course, parents should have realistic expectations based on genetic factors like athletic ability and IQ. Not everyone has the raw material to be an Einstein or Michael Jordan, but knowing the final destination will help one to clearly see the map showing the way.

Rent Books at BooksfreeBabies begin life completely dependent, requiring lots of cuddling, conversation and social interaction with people, but they must eventually mature beyond total helplessness to learn independence and self-sufficiency. Visualize one's child at the legal age for adulthood as an interdependent, emotionally stable person. What attributes would he have, physically, mentally and spiritually?

It's easy to get sidetracked by the urgency of the moment, but raising a child is a marathon, not a sprint, and keeping the final objective in mind will help oneself to stay focused. The second habit of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is "Begin With the End in Mind." Don't unnecessarily hurry the process, but encourage the child in age appropriate ways towards maturation. If one wants his child to grow into a responsible, healthy adult, he will be on the right track if he sticks with this simple guideline.

Well-Adjusted Kids


Let the child learn independence by self-managing his feelings and desires, and by solving some of his own problems instead of having a grown-up always come to the rescue. Let him experience a bit of failure so he can learn to accept defeat and pick himself up afterwards. Failure is a process on the way to success when it involves discovering what doesn't work and trying something else. Obviously catastrophic failure should be prevented, but experiencing and surmounting a measure of it is healthy. Teach him how and where to get help if he doesn't know the answers by pointing to resources he can use, such as wise people within his sphere of acquaintances, books and when he is older, reputable websites. The world is at anyone's fingertips when he can read and has access to the internet.

Interpersonal skills, respect for others and sociability are nurtured by interacting with the child and encouraging friendships. Give the child his place in the family to foster a healthy sense of self-esteem, and let him know who he is with a sense of pride balanced with humility. Read aloud to him and provide age appropriate books and puzzles to promote critical thinking skills. Tell him what he is expected to master by the time he reaches adulthood, involving him in the process.

To help the child develop physically, teach him about nutrition, exercise and hygiene, and provide healthy foods in the home. Encourage discipline in his eating, waking and sleeping patterns. For spirituality, a parent must demonstrate its value since it is generally caught rather than taught. Don't just send him to church; take him. Good character traits like compassion, honesty, integrity, kindness and generosity must be modeled before they will take root in a child. Teach them life skills like how to drive a car, balance a checkbook and make meals.

It is wonderful to give children solid roots, but they also need wings. Eventually they must launch into the world, and parents will have to set them free. By keeping this end in mind, parents will find themselves better prepared for when that time inevitably comes. By remembering that at age twenty-one their job of managing their child's life is over, it will be much easier to let go.

Sources:

http://www.emotionallyhealthychildren.org/

Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2004.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Swamplandia! Book Review


Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell has received glowing reviews by Stephen King and others, so one would expect this novel to be exceptional, but the author's clever writing fails to compensate for a bad plot.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell


The dysfunctional Bigtree family lives in isolation in the swamp land of Florida, doing alligator shows for tourists who must arrive by ferry. The three children are homeschooled and have no real friends, and the oldest child, seventeen-year-old Kiwi, particularly can't relate to people. The mother dies before chapter one, and is the catalyst for the deterioration of her brood. Her husband, The Chief, is unable to deal with his loss, leaving their three children to fall through the cracks.

Rent Books at BooksfreeThe chapters disjoint the book when they vacillate between Kiwi's and Ava's point of view, but ultimately the ending is happy, and Russell does have a unique way of describing things, like calling their lake "black silk, the water bunched and wrinkled." Her humor can also catch one off-guard to laugh out loud, like when she calls the Bigtree Family Museum "The Louvre" of the Swamp Islands! though it is only filled with common garage sale items the family has outgrown and discarded, set behind glass and labeled "ARTIFACTS."

However, the negatives of Swamplandia! outweigh the good parts of the book. Personal hygiene and nutrition fall by the wayside, and the only one who seems to face the world honestly is Kiwi. Everyone else is in denial. No one does the laundry after Hilola Bigtree dies, and the two daughters resort to spraying their mother's rancid perfume on their itchy clothing to become presentable. The Chief abandons his kids to work on the mainland, but doesn't tell them the truth about what he is doing. Ossie, the middle child, descends into mental illness and necromancy, absurdly chasing a ghost she wants to marry. Alone, Ava enlists the help of a strange man to find her sister and then is raped by him. She blames herself for his actions, though she is just a child, and then doesn't reveal her victimization when she is finally reunited with her family. The novel glosses over her situation and never resolves this tragedy.

The story involves horror and family, but is not sufficiently scary like a Henry Lovecraft tale or even sweetly syrupy like Little House on the Prairie. It is plain depressing, like forcing people to watch ignorant neighbors neglect their children and home. Read Swamplandia! by a crackling fire with a soothing cup of tea or hot chocolate to counter the sadness one will inevitably feel for these pitiful characters.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Long Love and Last Goodbye

Jack and Wanda Smith
50th Anniversary


They met by chance, just a few girls joined by a couple of boys, all riding bikes on the same path to a carnival. She stood out among her friends and he was immediately interested. The teenagers parked their bikes and as a group, headed for the ferris wheel. He bought several rides worth of tickets and asked her to join him. She did, and after several whirls, began a love affair to last a lifetime.

They married in 1951 and eventually had a son and a daughter. They bought a house, raised their family and wove themselves into their community. They were a generous couple, sharing their resources with others and teaching their children to do likewise. They had the gift of hospitality, hosting parties and gatherings for family, friends and church. They traveled the world, married off their children and welcomed grandchildren into their lives.

They planned to visit China, but something sinister was rearing its ugly head. Her health slowly began to fail and the once active couple had to slow their pace. Her shapely curves gave way to thinness and the vivid blue eyes clouded with forgetfulness. Her strength slowly seeped out of her body, but every step of weakness was met by an increasing level of care on his part as he guided her with gentle reminders and encouragement. They shared meals, took walks and enjoyed the view from their tropical lanai.

The sickness gradually conquered her will and she lay in bed, unable to eat in her final stage. He poured a cup of water and brought it to her bedside. He lifted the glass to her lips and held her as she struggled to sip. "Sweetheart," he said softly, "it is okay to go." He knew she was suffering and he grasped for the right words. "I'm not far behind and it won't be much longer before I see you again. Don't wait for me."

Her senses were dim, but hearing the sound of his voice was the last thing to go. She blinked, a sure sign of affirmation to her partner, and her mouth opened as if she wanted to reply. After sixty-one years together, they were saying goodbye for the last time. He choked back his tears, his hand still supporting her, as she quietly slipped away. "I love you," he said. And with his permission, she was finally able to let go of her tight grip on life and embrace eternity. Her spirit edged into heaven, but the love that had spanned a lifetime and the memories of a life well lived were the legacy she left behind.

~Tribute to Wanda Smith, 1930-2011.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie Undecided About HB 2078

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie
photo by Stateside Associates


On July 2, 2012 I called Governor Neil Abercrombie's office to discover if he had signed HB 2078 into law. The highly controversial measure aims to regulate the vacation rental home industry and was signed by the legislature May 1. It was slated to become effective July 1, 2012 though the governor still has until July 10 to either sign or veto it. He has done neither, and his recent press release indicating which bills he intends to veto did not include HB 2078. His staff said that the bill is still under review, and that there is still time for the public to express their opinions.

Governor Neil Abercrombie Decides Fate of HB 2078 by July 10, 2012

EasyClickTravel.comThe overwhelming testimony provided by stakeholders in this sector of the tourist industry, specifically the cottage industry of vacation rentals, was opposed, yet Hawaii's legislators still passed the bill. It will become effective July 1, 2012, expire December 31, 2015, and anyone who willfully disobeys it will face a stiff penalty, a fine up to $25,000. Thousands of properties are second homes or investments for folks who don't live on the islands, who have a significant financial stake
yet no vote.
Hanauma Bay, Oahu
photo by Gisela Leask
For anyone so inclined, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor can be reached at:

The Honorable Neil Abercrombie
Governor, State of Hawai'i

Executive Chambers, 
State Capitol

Honolulu, Hawai'i 96813                                             
Phone: 808-586-0034
Fax: 808-586-0006
e-mail: gov@gov.state.hi.us

The Honorable Brian Schatz
Lieutenant Governor, State of Hawai'i
State Capitol

Honolulu, Hawai'i 96813
Phone: (808) 586-0255

Fax: (808) 586-0231
e-mail

The real danger inherent in the bill is that anyone viewing an internet ad divulging a property owner's registration number can then obtain his personal contact information from the public Tax Department License Checking page, also easily available through the internet. This poses a serious risk to the vacation rental business owner for identity theft, burglary and/or vandalism. Since the owner is off-island, properties can be cased and then robbed when vacant. Registration numbers may also be used fraudulently by other establishments that are not licensed. Forty-three percent of Hawaii's housing involve rentals, so the impact on property owners is significant.

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Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus


Virgin Mother Mary
photo by Shannon Gilbride


Scores of women wished to be the chosen mother of the Messiah, but that honor was reserved for the Virgin Mary, and she has been venerated by Roman Catholics around the world for two millennia. But how did Jesus Christ of Nazareth view His mother?  Did he regard her as a deity to be worshiped?

Virgin Mary Was Not a Virgin Forever

Some people believe Mary was always a virgin, but the Holy Bible indicates that isn't true. The mother of the Messiah had to be a virgin in order to fulfill ancient prophecy (Isaiah 7:14), as the biological father of Jesus was the Holy Spirit and not any earthly man. Thus the reason for her virginity makes perfect sense, and her godly husband Joseph didn't consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born (Matt. 1:25). Mary and Joseph subsequently had more children, daughters and also sons named James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (Matt. 13:55-56).

As His mother, it's generally believed that Mary would have been the closest person to Jesus, and she treasured and pondered in her heart many things about Him (Luke 2:19,33,51).
  • The angel Gabriel's personal visit, telling her about her upcoming pregnancy with the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38).
  • Her cousin Elizabeth, already pregnant with John the Baptist, told Mary "when the voice of our greeting came to my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy (Luke 1:44, RSV)."
  • The shepherds who came to the manger to see the baby, who had been alerted by angels (Luke 2:16).
  • Simeon's amazing words (Luke 2:25-32).
  • Anna the prophetess' words (Luke 2:38).
  • Watching the visiting Magi bow down and worship her son as she accepted their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh (Matt. 2:11).
  • When she found 12-year-old Jesus in the temple courts, after three days of worrying, and he said to her, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house (Luke 2:49)?"

Saint Mary Mother of God
 
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At one point, Jesus was traveling from one town to another, teaching people about the gospel, and a large crowd gathered. His mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near because of all the people. When told that his family wanted to talk with him, Jesus responded, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice (Luke 8:19-21)." Jesus did not bring his mother up to the front, or elevate her to his side so the people could pray to or idolize her. Instead, he told the crowd that responsive believers were his mother and His brothers (Mark 3:34-35). This was not an insult to Mary, but a demonstration of His supremacy and of her placement in His kingdom.

A woman listening to Jesus felt compelled to call out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you!" Jesus' response is worth noting because it would have been the perfect opportunity to validate the veneration of Mary if that had been His plan. He could have etched it in the sacred scriptures for all time. Instead, he humanized His mother and did not sanction her worship. He said to the woman, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it (Luke 11:27-28)."

Our Lady Queen of Heaven

The last book in the Holy Bible, the Revelation of St. John or Apocalypse, describes a great and wondrous sign in heaven of a woman crowned with twelve stars, clothed with the sun and standing with the moon under her feet (Apocalypse 12:1-6). Many statues depict this awesome woman as Mary. In Apocalypse 12:5, she bears the Christ child, and while many readers assume this awe-inspiring woman to be Mother Mary, a more likely interpretation is that she represents the nation of Israel, the Jewish people. Israel was often described in the Old Testament as the Lord Jehovah's wife (Isaiah 54, Jeremiah 3, Hosea 2). Jesus was born from the Jewish nation, and the twelve stars represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

Immaculate Mary

The worship of Mary is rooted in the belief in the Immaculate Conception, the idea that Mary was immune from the original sin of Adam. However, the Catholic Encyclopedia concedes, "No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma (of the Immaculate Conception) can be brought forward from Scripture." Yet the Holy Bible is the foundation of all Christian dogma. Surely, if the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception were true, the Holy Bible would clearly say so, but there is not a hint of it. Perhaps it is beyond understanding, but Mary didn't have to be sinless in order to bear the Messiah. The Father of Jesus was God Himself, and that was enough to ensure Jesus Christ's sinlessness. It is part of the wonder and mystery of the gospel many people find difficult to grasp.

Mary was most assuredly blessed among women, receiving the enviable role of mothering the Messiah and Savior, but she was still human and not to be worshiped or prayed to. She prophesied in Luke 1:48, "henceforth all generations will call me blessed,” and she has been honored for her role in sacred history, but the Ten Commandments still state, "You shall have no other gods before me. " Not even the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sources:

NewAdvent.org

The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version

The Catholic Encyclopedia

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Salvage the Bones" Book Review

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward


Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward is an informally written story of survival and loss set in fictional Bois Sauvage, an African-American enclave in Mississippi devastated by hurricane Katrina. Over a twelve-day time span, the novel demonstrates the existing local culture and resilience of the human spirit in the face of catastrophe. In 2005, Katrina killed more than 1,600 people, demolished 200,000 homes and displaced roughly 1,000,000 people.

A minor theme is a look at motherhood, set amidst the "mother of all storms," with the omnipresent absence of the family's matriarch, Esch's pregnancy and the family pet bearing her first litter. Esch is the main character and voice of the novel, an unwed pregnant teen, but the reader doesn't learn her name until page twenty. She is the only female in her family and also in their pack of friends. She loves to read literature, but this quality seems incongruent with the rest of her character, which is uneducated and lacking in ambition and moral standards. Where did she acquire the smarts or even the interest to read Mythology?

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Skeetah's dog, China, is an important character that unifies the story, representing something worth loving and sacrificing for. Skeetah is devoted to her, and she is fiercely loyal in return, even ready to kill Father on command, which Skeetah thankfully doesn't do. Junior, the youngest brother whose birth caused their mother's death, is fascinated by China's litter because it helps him understand his own beginning. He fears for the puppies when they struggle for survival, facing abandonment by China and ultimate death. Esch compares her motherhood role to China's, wondering, "Is this what motherhood is?" when she observes China succeed in killing a pup.

The culture is tragically sad, with their illegal dog fights hidden in the woods, teen promiscuity accepted as normal coupled with no prenatal care, and stealing from white people and stores accepted as long as the thief doesn't get caught. Also, the grandparents and original owners of the family's fifteen-acre homestead shortsightedly sold their clay dirt to white men, dangerously risking the stability of their residence. The characters speak poor English and live in squalor, like not doing laundry until bugs infesting their sheets made it a priority. They eat squirrel, even when the smelly bowels are full of fecal matter, and risk infection by reusing Ace bandages.

A drawback is that Ward overdoes metaphors throughout the story, like Esch's tennis shoes, "scrubbed until they are as close to white as they can get: off white, a dirty cream the color of egg whites cooked with pepper." Less description would have been more. Also, Ward could have included illustrations of "the Pit" to help readers visualize the family plot, and the story doesn't answer several questions: Does China come back? What becomes of Esch's baby? Does the family rebuild in Mississippi or relocate, and do their lives improve? And most importantly, do they ever learn to grasp a solid moral compass?

The title Salvage the Bones alludes to surmounting catastrophic loss and salvaging what one can from the wreckage. It is a good read for anyone interested in the black culture of the South, Katrina or hurricanes in general. The novel won the 2011 National Book Award with its sympathetic characters devastated by a famous natural disaster, but readers may secretly root for the upheaval since it could finally disrupt a cycle of poverty entrenched in a segment of the U. S. population that desperately needs to change. The story reminds one of The Help by Kathryn Stockett, another recent novel depicting the plight of the African-Americans in the deep South, perhaps indicating a trend.

Sources:

Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (New York, NY: Bloomsburg USA, 2011).

http://www.about.com/

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hawaii State Legislature Passes House Bill 2078

Sunset Over Maui
photo by Roseanna Metge

House Bill 2078, C.D.1, was passed by the Hawaii State Legislature May 1, 2012 with twenty-three yeas and two noes, and now awaits Governor Abercrombie's signature. Hawaii has been roiling with dissension since January 2012 over proposed legislation that would affect tourism, specifically the cottage industry of vacation rentals. Thousands of properties are second homes or investments for people who don't live on the islands, and the legislation aimed to regulate them. Hundreds of people submitted testimony objecting to the bills, which eventually morphed into HB 2078. The law will be effective July 1, 2012, expire December 31, 2015, and anyone who willfully disobeys it will face a stiff penalty, a fine up to $25,000.

Hawaii's Transient Vacation Rental Industry

Akaka Falls, photo by Brianna Rogers via pinmarklet
The bill deleted a controversial requirement of owners to hire a real estate property manager, however identity theft and crime are still a concern. The bill "requires that all advertisements and solicitations on websites for transient accommodations display registration identification numbers," which can be cross-referenced to discover contact information and property addresses. During the hearings, Senator Rosalyn Baker, author and proponent of the bills, was under the impression that there were two numbers for each taxpayer, the GE/TA tax number and the registration number, causing her to dismiss the owners' objections about the potential loss of privacy. After the bill passed, she stated May 9, 2012 that the "Certificate of Registration number and license number are apparently used interchangeably by the Department [of Taxation]." She apologized for her confusion, but still believed that because the numbers aren't based on social security numbers, identity theft wouldn't occur.

However, attorney Greg Kugle disagrees. "Contrary to Senator Baker’s claim that this will not raise security or identity theft issues, publication of the GET number would allow someone with a computer to quickly access the tax records, from which they could learn the owner's name and the street address," he said. "This could allow a would-be burglar to know that a house is a rental and not constantly occupied. It could also allow someone to run rental scams as has occurred in the past, where a non-owner purports to rent a house and obtains a security deposit from would-be tenants."
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The law also would require operators to furnish the name and contact information of a local agent in any written rental agreement and also post it inside the property, plus notify any association of homeowners, community association, condo association, co-op, or other similar entity about the local agent. The Landlord-Tenant Code already requires a landlord who lives off-island to designate a local agent to watch over the property, and the new bill is trying to make the transient accommodations tax (TAT) law consistent with the Code.

The issues aren't new, but contention in the vacation rental industry has been exacerbated since the advent of the internet. Owners can easily rent their homes to visitors online through websites like Vacation Rental By Owner and Homeaway, and local property managers have lost business to the self-managers. Unsubstantiated accusations claiming owners were evading paying their GE/TA taxes also motivated the legislature.

Read more:

Sources:

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/

http://www.hvroa.org/

Saturday, May 12, 2012

7 Layer Bars Recipe



7 Layer Bars
photo by Danica Staples

The recipe for Seven Layer Bars is a family favorite. We made it a habit to include these cookie bars on camping trips, but they make a popular dessert for any occasion.

How to Make 7 Layer Bars

Ingredients:
  • 1 stick or 1 cup (113 g) of butter
  • 1 1/2 cup (135 g) graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 1/3 cup (120 g) shredded coconut
  • 6 oz. (168 g) package butterscotch chips
  • 6 oz. (168 g) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 14 oz. can (396 g) of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup (150 g) chopped walnuts or pecans
Directions:
  1. Melt the butter in a 9 x 13 x 2" (32.5 x 23 x 5 cm) pan.
  2. Press the graham cracker crumbs into the butter evenly to make the crust.
  3. Sprinkle the coconut over the graham cracker crust.
  4. Sprinkle the butterscotch chips and then the semi-sweet chocolate chips over the coconut.
  5. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the chips.
  6. Sprinkle the nuts over the sweetened condensed milk.
  7. Press down and bake at 350*F (180*C) for 30 minutes.
  8. Cool on a wire rack and cut into rectangles or squares. Makes 24 bars.
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Is Bathsheba the Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31?



Bathsheba by Rembrandt, 1654
photo by Jebe Jebe


Bathsheba often brings to mind the word 'adulteress' and the incident of King David's greatest sin. However, she must have been a woman of character to raise a wise son like Solomon and for David to elevate her among his many wives, choosing her child as his successor.

King Lemuel

Solomon spoke the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs, but the book was compiled by King Hezekiah's scribes (Proverbs 25:1). The last two chapters of the book are not credited to Solomon, however, but to Agur and King Lemuel. Scholars debate the identity of these two individuals, with many maintaining they were nicknames for Solomon, but uncertainty remains, especially concerning chapter 31, "the prophecy that his [Lemuel's] mother taught him." This exceptional passage describes the ideal wife, and the reason for keen interest over the authorship is because if it were Solomon, his mother would have been Bathsheba. The woman who washed herself in clear sight of King David, slept with him when sent for and then married him, the man who had murdered her husband, would have been this queen who admonished her son to choose a godly wife.

Dr. Claude Mariottini, Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, acknowledges that "Jewish tradition holds that Lemuel was a poetic name for Solomon," but personally believes King Lemuel was the King of Massa, an Ishmaelite ruler. He gives an intriguing defense of his position that a non-Israelite was the author of this famous passage. However, if Bathsheba wasn't Lemuel's mother, she may have still been familiar with this ancient instruction for a virtuous wife, with her price "far above rubies." Perhaps the teaching was an ideal Bathsheba strove for as she lived her life in the royal spotlight.

King David and Bathsheba

When David first noticed Bathsheba, she was following a cleansing ritual prescribed in the Torah. She was a faithful follower of the Jewish religion, and not doing anything unusual in the dark of night. David sent for her and "took her," indicating she didn't have a choice. Nathan the prophet later confronted David over his adultery and murder of Bathsheba's husband Uriah, but only David was blamed. Bathsheba was compared to a lamb, and lambs in scripture represent innocence. She didn't choose to be with David initially, but she was subject to the king and made the best of her situation.
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She became a queen, but her life was not free from pain. She was forcefully taken by the king when her husband couldn't protect her, and then God's punishment of David affected her, too, when the child they conceived died. Instead of being cherished in a monogamous marriage, David came with other wives: Michal, daughter of Saul; Abigail the Carmelite; Haggith; Abital; Maachah, daughter of the King of Geshur; Ahinoam of Jezreel; and Eglah; to name a few. She had to share her second husband with many other women, and later in life with Abishag the Shunammite. When David was sick and dying, he couldn't retain his body heat, so a beautiful girl named Abishag was conscripted to lie with him to keep him warm. A scene is portrayed in I Kings 1 when Bathsheba needed to discuss her son's succession with David, bowing before his bed as Abishag is ministering to him. One can imagine the discomfort Bathsheba would have felt in this room.

Proverbs 31 and Bathsheba

Several of the verses in the mother's teaching hint at things that Bathsheba would have experienced firsthand, like the seductive power women have over men. Not only did Bathsheba's beauty incite David's lust, but she would have seen his strength and energy sapped by his many wives. "Give not thy strength unto women," Lemuel's mother says. "Judge righteously and plead the cause of the poor and needy." Solomon was already wise at the inception of his reign (I Kings 2:9), indicating the intelligent training he had already received. His mother had taught him the value of wisdom, so he knew to ask God for more of it to rule the people justly (II Chronicles 1:9-10). Bathsheba's training of Solomon during his formative years cannot be underestimated, and he revered her in return (I Kings 2:19), appointing her to sit at the right side of his throne.

"The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life." The virtuous woman works diligently, manages the home, and makes sure her household is fed and clothed. She is not only shrewd in business and generous to the needy, but wise and kind. Bathsheba showed she was approachable even to her enemies, like Adonijah (I Kings 2:13-18), indicating she thought the best of others and didn't assume ill will. "Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised." As a mature woman, Bathsheba would have known the favor beauty attracted but also its eventual decline. Good looks fade, but genuine spirituality will endure, and praise will follow.

King Lemuel, and perhaps his father as well, interject thoughts about her in verse twenty-nine. "Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all." To them, she exemplifies the female perfection she has just described. Like this woman, Bathsheba was a living example of virtue, and her legacy is still with us. Solomon became the richest and wisest king ever known, and she ceremonially crowned him during his wedding to Pharaoh's daughter. Bathsheba was also in the lineage of the Messiah through her sons Solomon and Nathan (Luke 3:31).

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the identity of King Lemuel, the words of his mother endure through the ages. Many ancient rabbis believed Bathsheba was the role model for the passage, despite her scandal with David. A cloud of mystery surrounds this lady who defined feminine perfection, but the wisdom she imparted is still relevant thousands of years later.

Sources:

The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments, King James Version.

Reagan, David; King Lemuel Learn the Bible, 2012 (accessed May 13, 2012).

Mariottini, Claude; Who Was King Lemuel? claudemariottini.com, May 18, 2009 (accessed May 10, 2012).

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Best Berry Pie Recipe




photo by Sally

An accomplished home cook once said, "Good pies come from experience," but it doesn't hurt to have a great recipe and high quality ingredients! Berry pies are always a favorite, especially during the summer when the berries are fresh, but this recipe also allows for frozen fruit.

Best Berry Pie

Pie Crust Ingredients: 
  • 2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. (5mL) kosher salt (or sea salt)
  • 1 tbsp. (15 mL) sugar
  • 1 cup (240 g) Crisco butter-flavor shortening 
  • 5-7 tbsp. (75 to 105 mL) cold water (Use a measuring cup with a little water and some ice cubes so it will be really cold, but make sure the ice cubes don’t pour out)
 Directions:
  1. The best pie crusts are cold and have been “at rest,” so begin at least four hours to one day before you want to bake the pie. Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Cut in the shortening until it is the size of small peas.
  3. Then add the water, one tablespoon (15 mL) at a time, until the dough cleaves together and forms a ball.
  4. Divide the ball into 2 parts and flatten each one into a pancake shape. Then wrap each one in wax paper, put in a Ziploc bag and refrigerate. The dough will rest and then become cold. Use within a day, making the pie with fresh or frozen berries.
Fresh Berry Filling Ingredients: 
  • 4 cups (600 g) fresh blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, sour cherries, loganberries or a combination of several berries, gently rinsed and dried on a paper towel (the berries should be small to medium size. Sometimes blackberries are huge and need to be cut in half or into thirds) 
  • 2/3 to 1 cup (130 to 200 g) or more of sugar (taste a berry and add the right amount of sugar according to the level of tartness)
  • ¼ cup (30 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. (10 mL) quick cooking tapioca
  • 1-2 tbsp. (15 to 30 mL) butter

Frozen Berry Filling Ingredients: 
  • 20 oz. (565 g) frozen blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc. or a combination of berries)
  • ¼ (30 g) cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. (30 mL) quick cooking tapioca
  • 2 tbsp. (30 mL) melted butter
Lillian Vernon Online

Directions:
Ceramic Pie Bird
Allows Steam to Escape
  1. If using frozen berries, defrost them until they separate easily. Put the prepared berries into a medium size bowl.
  2. In another bowl, combine the sugar, flour and tapioca; then gently sprinkle it over the berries until they are well coated.
  3. Let the berries stand for 15 minutes while you roll out the bottom pie crust.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450*C (842*F).
  5. Dust the pie pan with flour. Roll out the bottom pie crust with a floured rolling pin and place into the pie pan. If you have a “pie bird,” place it in the middle of the bottom crust.              
  6. Then gently turn the fruit into the pie shell. Dot fresh berries with butter; for frozen berry recipe, mix the melted butter in before you place the berries into the crust.
  7. Roll out the second pie crust and place it over the fruit. If you are using a pie bird, it helps to make a 1-inch circular hole in the middle of the crust for the bird’s beak to stick out through.
  8. Seal the edges of the upper and lower crusts together and cut several slits in the top crust for steam to escape.
  9. Bake the pie in a 450*C (842*F) oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350*C (662*F) and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown (45 minutes for the frozen berries). Let cool on a rack. Serves 8.
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Monday, April 16, 2012

Hawaii Department of Taxation and TVU Legislation

photo by Hailey Jones

The Hawaii Legislature's recent rash of bills aimed against the Bed & Breakfast and Transient Vacation Rental (TVU) industry has roots in the dysfunction of Hawaii's Department of Taxation. Proponents of HB1707, SB2089, SB2079 and HB2078 claim that many nonresident vacation rental homeowners are not forthcoming with their General Excise (GE) and hotel-type Transient Accommodations (TA) taxes, so the legislation is necessary. Opponents argue that the Department of Taxation should simply enforce current tax laws and operate like the IRS.

First, a little history. In 2007 there was speculation that many private owners of Hawaiian vacation rentals were shirking their responsibility as taxpayers, so the Department of Taxation (DoTax) conducted an audit on the industry. They wanted to see if there was any merit in the accusations, but came to the conclusion that the majority of the establishments were tax compliant and that there was no significant fraud.

Since 2007 there hasn't been any new investigation on the subject, but speculation has remained, particularly among property managers whose businesses have suffered by the growing competition from owner-managed vacation rentals. The estimates of tax fraud have been in the tens of million of dollars, but the claims lack documented evidence and appear to be conjecture.

Hawaii Department of Taxation Audit

The State of Hawaii routinely asks their State Auditor to conduct audits on various government agencies, and in 2010, one was done on the Department of Taxation. Unfortunately, the result was sixty-two pages outlining the incompetence of this important agency, describing acute management conflicts in a dysfunctional work environment. There were so many internal conflicts, the Governor’s Office was forced to intervene in 2008. 

EasyClickTravel.comThe DoTax had contracted with an Information Technology (IT) vendor to develop and install a new computer system, but ten years and $87 million later, the project still wasn't complete. Unbelievably, the DoTax leaders had allowed the vendor, a Canadian firm, to become entrenched in their IT infrastructure under managers with no IT background or formal project management training. The DoTax couldn't synergize data from different computerized tax systems or the new IT system.

State Auditor Marion Higa further discovered the DoTax lacked controls over tax payments, assessed real properties inequitably, and inefficiently examined returns and returned refunds. She noted that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service had conducted a safeguard review of Hawaii's DoTax, and had raised concerns about computer security. Her conclusion in December 2010 was that the DoTax and its IT infrastructure faced a precarious future. With the typically slow pace that government takes to right a ship, it is doubtful that by April 2012 much progress has been made. It would be a tremendous security risk for property owners to display their registration numbers on internet ads, as the Legislature hopes to require by law.

Vacation Rental Home Industry and the DoTax

The Legislature received the State Auditor's findings over a year ago, but very little has been done to remedy the DoTax. Instead of addressing their dysfunctionality, bills like HB1707, SB2089, SB2079 and HB2078 are crafted, which would shove the burden of tax collection onto third parties.
photo by Ashley Ingram
In an e-mail to this author dated April 11, 2012, Senator Rosalyn H. Baker, sponsor of the problematic legislation, wrote that the "Department of Taxation has thoroughly refuted the assertions that TVU owners were tax compliant. There is no security risk to disclosing a registration # [on internet ads]. DoTax clearly understands privacy and confidentiality issues and has systems in place to take care of same."

However, the evidence compiled in the December 2010 audit contradicts Baker's statements. The Senators and Representatives of Hawaii need to overhaul the DoTax before they address issues of tax fraud. Until the DoTax works out its IT and internal problems, it will have trouble conducting a legitimate investigation of the vacation rental home industry.

Sources:
www.state.hi.us/auditor

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/

Read more: Hawaii State Legislature Passes House Bill 2078

Friday, April 13, 2012

Best Ever Apple Crisp Recipe




Apple Crisp With Ice Cream

Apple Crisp is also known as Apple Betty or Apple Crumble, but no matter the name, it is a favorite dessert, especially during the fall harvest. Top the Apple Crisp with ice cream for a special treat.

How to Make Apple Crisp

Ingredients for a Single Recipe:
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • ¾ cup (90 g) sifted all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. (2.5 mL) ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. (1 mL)  ground nutmeg
  • Dash of kosher salt or sea salt
  • ¼ cup (40 g) chopped walnuts or wheat germ (optional)
  • ½ cup (120 g) butter
  • 4 cups (600 g) tart apples, pared and sliced
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) freshly squeezed orange juice or lemonade
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Ingredients for a Double Recipe:
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1 ½ cups (180 g) sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. (5 mL) ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. (2.5 mL) ground nutmeg
  • 2 dashes of kosher salt or sea salt
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or wheat germ (optional)
  • 1 cup (1 stick or 240 g) butter
  • 8 cups (1,200 g) tart apples, pared and sliced
  • ½ cup (120 mL) freshly squeezed orange juice or lemonade 
Directions: 
  1. Combine sugar, flour, spices, salt, and nuts or wheat germ.
  2. Cut in butter until it is the size of small peas and mixture is crumbly.
  3. Mound apples in buttered 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate for single recipe or 13 x 9 x 2” (32.5 x 23 x 5 cm) pan for double recipe.
  4. Sprinkle apples with orange juice or lemonade.
  5. Then sprinkle the flour and butter mixture over the apples.
  6. Bake at 375*C (212*F) for 45 minutes or till apples are tender and topping is crisp.
  7. Serve warm with ice cream. Serves 6 for a single recipe, 12 for a double recipe.
I have an apple tree in my backyard that produces bushels of apples every fall. Since the apples aren't sprayed, they are organic and especially fresh. To use up the harvest, I make Apple Crisp for every potluck and company dinner during the autumn season. This recipe has been a mainstay for my family for years, and I hope you enjoy it, too.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Niles, California Celebrates Silent Films of Early Cinema


Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum

Before the movie industry settled on Hollywood, the early twentieth century saw countless film studios proliferate across the country, including one in Niles, a little town in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Niles is currently celebrating its 100-year anniversary of their involvement with the silent films industry beginning April 1, 2012. "Niles can rightfully claim that it was the most financially successful and productive film studio in Northern California during the silent era," states Rena Kiehn of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, which is sponsoring the event. Her organization caught the attention of Morley Safer and Sixty Minutes in 2010, which subsequently aired a documentary on them.

Gilbert Anderson and Broncho Billy 

1915 Pierce Arrow in Niles Centennial Film Celebration

On April Fool's Day in 1912, the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company rolled into town on a train chugging through Niles Canyon, led by Gilbert M. Anderson, better known as Broncho Billy, the first western movie star. He put his stakes down and over the next four years, produced over 350 films. The fifteen-minute one-reelers were then distributed around the globe, including the studio's legendary film, The Tramp, starring Charlie Chaplin. 

Dan Ercig in Costume
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To mark the centennial milestone, fifty-two locals in historic costumes reenacted the famous train ride, riding from Sunol through Niles Canyon. After disembarking, they paraded down Niles Boulevard, accompanied by a brass band and antique autos, and arrived at the Plaza for the presentation of a proclamation. Hand crank movie cameras caught the action on film and afterward, silent films were shown at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.

Fountain in Niles Plaza


Niles is commemorating their slice of movie history through June 2012 with several events, including the creation of a new silent film, The Canyon. It will be a one-reel western produced with the equipment and techniques of the silent era, like a 35 milimeter Bell & Howell 2709 hand-cranked camera. The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, located at 37417 Niles Boulevard, is dedicated to preserving the early cinema history of the San Francisco Bay Area and shows silent films on Saturday nights, honoring American movie pioneers in an authentic setting. Their mission to maintain the spirit of silent filmmaking exudes an enthusiasm that is contagious to all who visit.

Source:

Museum Board Member Roy Goucher
http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org/

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hawaii's Deferred Senate Bill 2089 Resurrected in House Bill 2078



Kauai, photo by KJ Konkin
Kauai, photo by KJ Konkin

Hawaii's Senate Tourism Committee debated HB2078 on Thursday March 22, 2012 and amended it to include the highly controversial language of SB2089, a bill which had been deferred and effectively neutralized March 12. The legislation requiring vacation rental owners to hire professional property managers to pay their taxes for them has found new life in HB2078, and will now move to the Consumer Protection Committee for possible enactment July 1, 2012.

Vacation Rentals By Owner in Hawaii

HB2078 initially focused on requiring vacation rental owners to have their ads, including website ads, display their Tax number  and the name of an on-site contact. The State's goal is to protect consumers, however, they could solve the problem more simply by requiring owners to post the name and phone number of their designated local contact inside the property and on rental documents.

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The real danger inherent in the bill is that anyone viewing an internet ad divulging a property owner's registration number can then obtain his personal contact information from the public Tax Department License Checking page, also easily available through the internet. This poses a serious risk to the vacation rental business owner for identity theft, burglary and/or vandalism. Since the owner is off-island, properties can be cased and then robbed when vacant. Registration numbers may also be used fraudulently by other establishments that are not licensed. Forty-three percent of Hawaii's housing involve rentals.

Rental By Owner Awareness Association

Property owners and visitors to Hawaii need to be aware of a serious effort among some real estate property managers to insert themselves between visitors to the islands and the proprietors of transient vacation rental homes, to manage their bookings and pay their taxes while charging a thirty to forty percent commission. However, many vacation rental businesses prefer to manage their operations themselves and do not need or want to use real estate professionals. All owners must have on-site help to successfully manage their vacation rentals, but their staffs may be housekeepers, repairmen, or just trusted neighbors or family members.
Kaneohe, photo by Jason Gomez
Kaneohe, photo by Jason Gomez

Groups like KIK, SON and The BnB Coalition also oppose any new laws that would help the vacation rental industry. The BnB Coalition states on their website that "over the past few years, a rash of illegal B&B's and TVU's have sprung up in Oahu's residential neighborhoods. They are an unwelcome and destabilizing influence in our otherwise desirable suburban areas." However, these groups hold a minority viewpoint. Overwhelming testimony on the State Legislature's website supports the rights of property owners to conduct business and the need to update laws concerning the permit process that has been stagnant since 1989.

The anti-tourist sentiment of a few locals continues to bubble up in new bills, but a grass roots organization, Rental By Owner Awareness Association (RBOAA), has sprouted, composed of property owners who live off island. Membership fees are used to hire attorneys, lobbyists, public relations and office personnel. The organization aims to monitor proposed legislation, foster communications among property owners and educate the residents of the State of Hawaii and government officials about their industry.
  
The leaders of Hawaii have apparently mobilized a sleeping giant. RBOAA will unite individuals around the globe who love the islands as much as locals do, ensuring their voice is heard.

Sources:

www.rboaa.org/

www.capitol.hawaii.gov/

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