Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Review: Killing Jesus



Killing Jesus. The book Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard was released on
September 17th.  I picked it up that day and read it in three nights. 

I opted not to review the book at the time, but with Christmas only a couple of weeks away I changed my mind and thought I would post my thoughts on the book. The book has been a huge best-seller with over one million copies sold to date. Not a shock considering one of its author's hosts a successful television program with loyal followers. Bill O'Reilly is a public personality you either like or don't like. Some may love and some may loathe. This review has nothing to do with Bill O'Reilly. Quite honestly, when you read a book you must go into it with a singular purpose. Do I want to turn the page or scroll down? Authors and titles become irrelevant.

O'Reilly's two prior books in this arena were Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. Both were major best-sellers. As a U.S. history student and buff, I cannot honestly say I learned a great deal from either of those books, but in many ways that is not why you read something. With the recent 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination I managed to view 12 specials on his final days of life. That is correct.  I watched 12 specials on Kennedy's assassination story.  In one way or another, I learned at least one new thing with each passing hour of my television viewing life, so some little nugget will be processed, if not remembered for the long-haul of brain life.

I'm a Christian. The concept of killing Jesus is viewed only from the temporal, since Jesus Christ lives. Christianity is simple, yet complex.  I also know, and I say this sadly, if I had to come to Christ based on other Christians, I probably never would have approached the Cross. We have become a weak and feeble group of believers. C.S. Lewis and Oswald Chambers would not be happy thinkers if they were writing today. They were thought provoking and convicting theologians who understood man's weaknesses.

O'Reilly has said Killing Jesus is not a religious book. Well, in theory, you could say that, but whenever you decide to write about the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords you are writing on faith. You can't escape that fact. What O'Reilly and Dugard attempt to do is show the history of the time and it isn't a pretty picture.

The Roman Empire was full of brutality and heinous crimes against humanity. They were among the most pagan people that ever walked planet earth. We learn of sex consumed deviations that might not make this book a pleasant journey for some readers. Fortunately, the authors do bring it up since it needs to be brought up, but they don't relish telling us about Tiberius and his horrific acts.  Some of the Caesar's and their comrades were sex traffickers long before the term came into our vernacular. Grime of the earth. Yet, Jesus Christ loved them as much as he loves me. My sin is not any more unique than their sins.

If you have never explored any historical journeys through the Roman Empire you will learn a great deal of history through this book. Scriptures don't take us down the historical path of the times, so we need historians to explore the lives of Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, the high priests, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. O'Reilly and Dugard take us back long before the Roman Empire of Jesus' exact placement on earth. We receive a rather extended learning experience about Caesar Augustus and even Cleopatra. Caesar Augustus comes off smelling like a rose next to all of his successors. No wonder the Roman Empire fell. Sin and the degradation of sin overwhelmed them.  

O'Reilly is a gifted writer and he holds your attention throughout. The book is an excellent read no matter your faith allegiances. If you know little to nothing about the Roman Empire I highly recommend this book.

Jesus came to save. Pontius Pilate wanted to be excused from his order to execute, but he couldn't do that. He had the power to crucify and he did what he did.

Jesus does indeed live. In spite of myself I am going to see Him one day in all of His glory and I too will share in His glory.

Copyright Read On Read Now 2013

Friday, November 8, 2013

Roots and Fences: A Generational Story of Friends, Family and Disability - Interview with Author Sharon Gregory Duncan


 
Photograph: Courtesy of Cynthia Kristufek
 

Dr. Sharon Gregory Duncan is a doer. Sharon has always been a doer. I love doers.  She is a highly accomplished educator and administrator for students with disabilities. She provides training to schools and agencies in Illinois and Indiana in the areas of family support, goal writing and curriculum implementation. She is also the founder and director of Abide in Me, a charitable organization that provides assistance to individuals with disabilities for leading engaged lives. 

She completed her doctoral work at National Louis University, Chicago, in the Disability and Equity in Education Program. She is a professor at Purdue Calumet University teaching graduate courses in the Intensive Licensure Special Education teacher preparation program. 

She is the mother of three adult children and she has three grandchildren. Sharon and her husband Dave have been married for 35 years. They enjoy travel and hanging out with their dog, Nellie. They are Chicago White Sox fans (a common bond) and they have been season ticket holders for many years. They are close with family and they are fortunate to have made some good and lifelong friendships.  

Her first published book is Roots and Fences: A Generational Story of Friends, Family and Disability.   





J: Your Aunt Jackie's story will stick with me for some time. A friend of mine who works closely with Down Syndrome Research informed me a few months ago that the Down gene is closely linked to both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. I was intrigued by that information, since my father died of Alzheimer's. That was the first time I heard about the Down gene and the link to dementia. How long has the medical community known about this link?  

S: The link between the two is not completely understood and the science is relatively new. Medical researchers and practitioners believe that it does have something to do with the extra copy of chromosome 21. The extra copy increases the production of amyloid beta which accumulates in the brain and causes loss of brain cells (neurons). This seems to occur earlier for individuals with Down syndrome possibly, because of the chromosomal issues. (When someone has Alzheimer's disease the same process occurs.)  Since people with Down syndrome are no longer institutionalized they are living longer and we are seeing people with DS with brain degeneration. Jackie initially was given a life expectancy of 12 years and then they upped her life expectancy to 32 years. She lived until her late fifties. Initial symptoms of Alzheimer's for individuals with Down Syndrome are first seen around age 50. It occurs three to five times in greater numbers than in the general population. Sometimes it is hard to detect Alzheimer’s with people who have a low level of cognition. The question becomes is it Alzheimer's or part of their intellectual disability? My aunt Jackie was very talkative and was intellectually aware, so it was pretty clear to see the symptoms after a year or two with her dementia.

The current research indicates that in the Down Syndrome population from the time of diagnosis to death (with dementia) is typically about nine years. My aunt lived seven years after her diagnosis. The brain is complicated and there is still so much to learn. The Down syndrome clinics, one which is at Lutheran General Hospital are constantly looking at the impact of Alzheimer’s for individuals with Down syndrome and the impact on their lives and the lives of their family members.

J:  It's not that long ago that society used the term "retarded" and no one thought much about it. The stigma of the word today is strong. Now, I hear the word and I'm repulsed when someone uses it. Psychologically, why is it that many people are still uncomfortable being around or with the disabled?

S: Well “retarded” means slow; not good enough; not complete; dumb. I certainly would not appreciate being called or thought of as slow all my life. Individuals with disabilities themselves are telling us they hate the word. There is a whole movement to stamp out the “R” word. People with intellectual disabilities find it demeaning and marginalizing. They want to be known by name, to be thought of as a full person.  The correct term is intellectual disability, but even government used the word retarded until very recently. 

As far as being uncomfortable. Stigma has long been associated with having a child with a disability. Up until just recently, society thought someone ( usually the mother) must have done something wrong to have a child with a disability. Many people are uncomfortable with anything they do not understand. Some people with disabilities can look a bit scary to people who do not live or work with them.  People with disabilities may come with all kinds of equipment: helmets for protecting the brain when having a seizure, standers for stretching, motorized chairs for mobility, communication devices etc...  Some folks with disabilities may have unusual behaviors, they may make sounds, they may drool, etc... I talk a great deal with parents of people with disabilities to empower their loved one. I encourage them to  offer choices to their loved one and encourage dressing, acting and engaging in activities that their typical peers would be involved with. I get on my soap box when I see adults dressed in immature clothing, playing with toys, being offered books like “Hop on Pop” and watching Barney just because they have intellectual disabilities. I find that so disrespectful. The more people with any type of disability are valued and included as true participating members of society, people will be more comfortable.

J: The two versions of your Aunt Jackie? The life she displayed before adults and the one with children. That intrigued me. What is the phenomena behind the two personas? 

S: I personally never thought about it until I started writing and thinking deeply about her life situation, and like you I found it very interesting. These are some of my thoughts on this, but the truth is probably only known to Jackie. How I wish she was still alive and able to talk with me. She did take many things literally because she did not always “get” it. So she would figure it out as well as she could.....like literally tossing the salad. She was also raised to be very obedient. She was raised in the 1940’s. My grandmother always said “children should be seen and not heard.” My grandmother could just give you the look and you would not cross her.Jackie was always in the obedient child mode with her mom, so I think she had to really concentrate to be the person she was expected to be. When she was around kids I think she was her best self, she could let her guard down, just relax and have fun.  We as young children never told her what to do, because we just enjoyed her fun spirit. Jackie was genuine, funny, talkative, liked to play games, tell jokes, dance and sing. She could respond to emergencies appropriately and spoke so clearly we had no clue she was disabled. I know it sounds crazy that we did not see her as disabled, but we did not. Jackie thrived with kids. She knew we loved her. She knew her parents loved her.

J: Literally? You mentioned that and I thought of my dad.  After he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's he was very literal. If you asked him how he slept - he would say, with my eyes closed. Explain that with disabled people?

S: Literal. I have had much experience with that working with students with learning differences.  Some people with brains that I like to say are “wired differently” are very literal. We also see that with people that are OCD, Autistic, have Alzheimer's etc..., because their brains do not for some reason analyze or synthesize as well. Everything is cut and dry, because they cannot see the big picture. Predictable schedules are so important to relieve their stress. I look at Blooms Taxonomy and the so called stages of intellect. The first level is “remembering,” so we see people who can follow directions.

J: Mongoloid idiot? It's distressing to think the medical community reacted that way not that long ago. What was the single biggest change and when did that change take place in the science and medicine

S: When I look back it is is hard to think that we called my friend, Chuck “Mongoloid” when we were kids. That was the term used in the 60’s for people with what we now call Down syndrome. While Dr. John Down first described the condition in 1866, there was still much misinformation, confusion and and blame associated with this through the 1970’s. Mongoloid was used as a physical descriptor, because the physical attributes , almond shaped eyes, facial features etc... were attributed to a specific Asian population. The suffix  “oid" means resembles Mongoloid means “resembling Mongols.” Mongoloid is now considered derogatory, because it is a term related to racial classification.

Idiot was the accepted medical term used to describe people with low IQ’s in the 1930s when Jackie was born, so she was classified as a “Mongoloid Idiot.” When Chuck was born in the 1960s Mongoloid was still used, but idiot was dropped. If you were Mongoloid it was also assumed you were retarded, because Mental Retardation was the term used to describe individuals with low IQs in the 1960s. So much occurred because of lack of understanding. The chromosome disorder was not officially uncovered by the medical community until 1961. When Chuck was born there was not a clear understanding of this recently uncovered syndrome.

J: It was a strange coincidence that your closest childhood friends also had family members who were mentally disabled. What a strong bond. Discuss the differences in the lives of Chuck, Jonathon and Jamee?

S: Chuck, Jonathon and Jamee are so representative of the disability movement in the United States. Neither they nor their parents realized it, since they were going about their lives the best they could. The sixties were thought of as the parent involvement era of disability in the US. Special education laws were not even written when Chuck first started school. Most kids with Down syndrome were in institutions or living at home doing nothing. Chuck’s parents wanted more for their child and they knew he was capable of something. I do not even know if they were sure of what he was capable of, just that he could do things and they wanted him to have schooling or training..something, because he deserved it.  As parents they did whatever was necessary for their son. Jonathon was sent from the hospital after being born to die in the comfort of his home. He did not die and began to thrive. His parents knew he deserved more and did whatever was necessary to get medical, therapeutic and educational support. Jamee was supposedly fine when she was born, but her mom especially saw she was behind developmentally and had terrible issues with eating issues and painful reflux.  Jonathon and Jamee were born in the era of disability inclusion and their parents  philosophically longed for inclusion for their children. I was so struck by the spirit of the four mothers, their compassion, advocacy, common sense. I feel so fortunate and blessed really to be the one who wove the connections together and am able to share their stories.

J: I loved the story you told about driving through your old neighborhood and seeing the tree. I went past my old house and they removed the most beautiful Blue Spruce that I planted as a 16 year old.  I was shocked and almost hurt. Who rips up a tree that beautiful? What are your most memorable childhood experiences?

S: One editor told me “Sounds like you grew up in a fairytale.”  He was being sarcastic, but in some regards it really was very once upon a time-ish. It was not perfect. I was a big crybaby and had this bright red hair and freckles so I heard about that from the neighborhood kids. Name calling was a big deal in those days, but I had a very carefree childhood. Little things made us happy like watching The Wizard of Oz in color for the first time on our new console TV. We all played together in the neighborhood. There were at least 30 kids on our two blocks. We played baseball in the prairie (an empty lot), ice skated at Oak Lawn Lake. Everyone stayed out in summer until the street lights went on. We took the bus all the way to Ford City by ourselves at nine years old. My backyard seemed so big and our tree was home to forts, a place to hang mom’s clothes line and somewhere to have picnics under. The world was safe, all we needed was a dime to use the pay phone in case we needed to call home when we were out and about. I am still friends with Laura and Debbie, so I think there is something to be said about those first relationships formed in the place where your life began. 

J: A friend of mine working with the DSRTF said one of her most powerful influences was seeing how strong the mothers of the Down children were when they walked into Soldier Field early on during the Special Olympics and hardly anyone was there. She said it made her stronger knowing of the changes. 

S: I am so impressed by the moms in my book as well and most of the moms of children with disabilities that I have met in my career. They go about their lives doing what they need to do. They do not want accolades or praise. They just want what all moms want for their children. They want their child to be happy. These moms must be resilient, strong, scheduled, compassionate and almost always on their guard to get what their children need.  Most of the advocacy and inclusive programs were started by mothers. 

J: Tell us about Abide In Me? How did it start? What can people do to assist?  

S: I have always wanted to do something bigger or different to advocate for and/or support people with disabilities. Even though I loved being a special educator and I see myself first and foremost a teacher I felt I should do something more; and I did not know what it was. Those feelings of wanting to do more led me to going to school so many years past my undergraduate degree. I kept going to school working on my school administration courses and ultimately and eventually to my doctorate in Disability Studies. On the occasion of my 25th wedding anniversary, I started a non- profit in Illinois, Abide in Me with the idea I would start a program to help those in need. Initially I used personal funds, but within the last few years Abide in Me became a recognized non for profit 501c3 organization. We have a full board of directors and last year sponsored a fund raiser, 'Celebrate Me Home!”  to raise money for the down payment, and constructual adaptations for a neighborhood home in the Oak Lawn community for five women with disabilities. Garden Center Services will manage and own the home. Our mission is: To support people with disabilities to live active and engaged lives. We have worked with families of children with disabilities in the Dominican Republic, donated art supplies at an art gallery for people with disabilities, started a coffee clutch program, donated furniture and materials to special education school groups to name a few of our projects. We have matched volunteers to organizations and I personally provide advocacy support free of charge through the charity. Our website is abideinme.org. We have a Facebook page as well. People can email me with ideas or programs to support individuals with disabilities of all ages, which can be presented to our board. There are also opportunities for specific volunteering opportunities. If you cook, sew, decorate, love music, sports, have a great idea or just like hanging out with people with disabilities we can match you to people who need your support .

J: You are a Professor at Purdue University? What is the most significant change in education from when you started teaching until the present time?

S: I started out in special ed elementary classrooms in the early 1980’s. I think the most significant change is in technology. I could not even type when I started teaching. We still had purple ditto masters! With all the technology available now it is very exciting both for me and for the accessibility it provides for people of all ability levels. I also think expectations are higher for all individuals with disabilities.We now know they can learn and our job as educators is to find the means so everyone can learn. I love the idea of Universal Design for Learning. We still have a long way to go to have equitable quality programs for students with disabilities ,especially those with significant or multiple disabilities, but I am happy to see and hear a more inclusive philosophy that certainly was not around when I started. On a negative note some of the mandates and paperwork required is sucking the joy from some of our best teachers, but that would be a whole ‘nother interview.' I love teaching. It is who I am.

J: Sharon, I know you and your family love to travel, so on a completely different note what is your favorite vacation destination? Favorite city outside of Chicago?

S: I love different places for different reasons. One of our best trips was to Ghent, Belgium and Amsterdam. My husband and I had such fun exploring and sitting outside the cafes people watching. Visiting Anne Frank’s secret annex had a profound impact on me.  We travel to Fort Myers, Florida, Fountain Hills, Arizona and Cancun, Mexico annually. I love them all for different reasons, but mostly the relaxation afforded me when I get away. I truly love Chicago and think it is the best city ever. There is something about our lake shore that cannot be replicated. Other than Chicago: Rome, San Francisco, New York. I even like Pittsburgh, (never would have thought that) which has a cool downtown with all the sports stadiums.

J: Pittsburgh was just named one of the five best places to retire to in the U.S. I was surprised when I read it and impressed when I finished reading it. What do you do to relax?

S: Relax is a bad word for me. I do not do it well at all. I even tell people when I go places that I do not need to sit, because I do not “sit well.” I received lots of checks for self control during my elementary Catholic school years. I enjoy reading. Typically, I read a book a day, mostly silly romance type things to get my mind tired at night and force me not to think.  Traveling and being physically away is very relaxing for me and I really can chill on vacation.

J: I love to try new restaurants and feel it is one of the best ways to explore any city. Chicago has some superb restaurants. What is your favorite restaurant in Chicago?

S: In the suburbs I enjoy Coopers Hawk and their wine, my favorite location is the one in Burr Ridge. In the city center, I like to go online and find places with views of the city. I look for places with overall great reviews and try them out. I love Petterinos before or after a play. (see review of Petterinos at Chicago and Then Some).  

J: The Chicago White Sox. I have a deep emotional attachment to the team and I know you do as well. What are you hoping for in 2014? 

S: My poor White Sox. 2013 was a depressing season. My love of the Sox has more to do with the memories. My grandpa brought me to many games as a kid and then my dad always organized the family baseball outing. We have been season ticket holders for a bit...love the game! I hope we can pull things together and get some charisma back on the team. Besides playing poorly this year, there was something missing spirit- wise. Hopefully, we can get the bats going next season and have consistent fielding. There were some well pitched games last season, but little bat support. Waiting to see the next group of team leaders emerge.

J: I love Paul Konerko. Not only has he been a superb player for years, but he seemingly has lots of character and integrity, something sadly missing from many athletic competitors today. What makes him so special to the fans?

S: I think part of it is that he is the last one left from our World Series 2005 season. I also think Sox fans expect and respect players who work hard and have team loyalty. We have so few career players these days and Paul is one of those. He also holds many records, because he has been consistent over the years. He developed into a great first baseman. I hope he comes back, but would not want him to go out struggling.

J: Thank you to Sharon for her hard work on behalf of those with disabilities.

Her book, Roots and Fences: A Generational Story of Friends, Family and Disability is published by Outskirts Press. You can purchase a copy at www.amazon.com or through book stores throughout the United States. You can also visit OutskirtsPress.com.  

 

 

 
Photograph: Cynthia Kristufek

Copyright: Chicago and Then Some 2013 

 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Book Review: "Tenacious" by Jeremy and Jennifer Williams



A few months ago the pastor of the church I attend opened his sermon by saying he visits a great number of ill people every year. Some of those sick people will recover and others will not. He then said there are a lot of horrible diseases, but the worst disease you can get is ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. I say this, because of what I've seen. He then went into his sermon.

The first time I read about anyone with ALS was when I read Mitch Albom's heartbreaking Tuesdays with Morrie. I remember Morrie first sensed something was wrong when his foot went through the pedal of the car he was driving. The symptoms, at first, are simple.

Three days ago, Tenacious: How God Used a Terminal Diagnosis to Turn a Family and a Football Team Into Champions was released by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

I finished the book last night; and I wish I could have known Jeremy Williams at some point in life. Being that he is a fellow believer in Christ, I will encounter him in eternity. Scripture tells us we will recognize those we knew on earth.  I don't know him, but I felt my experience in reading his life story will allow me to recognize this man as he stands perfected (physically, emotionally, spiritually) in Christ's glory.

The book takes us on a life path of both Jeremy Williams and his wife, Jennifer Williams. We get an almost too detailed account of their respective young lives, but eventually, we witness his college football successes, along with his high school coaching career in the Georgia public high school system.

In the middle of the pain for the Williams family, we also learn about how their son is born with Spina Bifida. Eventually, after a tremendous amount of assistance from their families, their community and their church, the Williams family got treated to a new home courtesy of the former ABC Television Network series, Extreme Makeover Home Edition. This book makes you miss that program. It obviously helped a lot of needy people. ABC is now too busy with Revenge and Scandal.

Jeremy Williams was diagnosed with ALS while he was still in his late thirties. This disease is brutal no matter the age of the victim, but to sustain this at such a young age is catastrophic.

There is no cure from ALS, but Jeremy and his wife are believers in the power of Jesus Christ. The book is crammed with examples of their faith, their hope and their love. At the time of this writing, Jeremy Williams is still alive, but at this point he isn't looking for a healing, even though they believe in miracles (and so do I). He is waiting on the day he will get his crown from the mighty and majestic God he has served through most of his life.

The book isn't particularly well written, which is sad, but it is a story of one man's life and love that would be worthwhile to explore. 

May God Himself hold Jeremy close until the moment he exits his life on this earth. His faith will outlast all things, including disease.

God allows bad things to happen to good people. It's a fact of our lives. God allowed the Holocaust. Deep faith is a difficult concept for non-believers to understand, but when you have it, it is indeed a source of peace of mind and joy of heart. I don't fear death, but I do hope it all happens in one day. Yeah, I'm a chicken, but in spite of myself I will see glory one day.  God bless Jeremy Williams.

Tenacious can be purchased at your local book store, through Barnes and Noble and on Amazon.
Thomas Nelson Publishers
www.thomasnelson.com

"See, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palm of my hand." Isaiah 49:15

Copyright Read On Read Now 2013      

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Best Summer Songs for Your Party or for Just Feeling Good All Summer Long - All-Time Summer Songs


"The summer wind - came blowing in - from across the sea. It lingered there - to touch your hair and walk with me." Summer Wind - Lyrics by Johnny Mercer, music by Henry Mayer

For much of the world's population, summers are short. When you live in a climate that has long winters it is the yearly dream to have a long and lovely summer.
Summer grills, dips in the pool, walks of solace on paths and trails, bike rides along the lakefront, the long sought vacation, pulling out the flip-flops. Throwing a 4th of July party or a party to celebrate absolutely nothing you still have to have some of the essentials in place. You must provide good food, thirst quenching beverages and music. Music is a must-have element at any party and in most cases you need to broaden your horizons with a variety of types of music, but not too much variety. You need to make the majority of your party attendees feel comfortable. When looking at the history of music, some recent material just doesn't fit. Here are the essentials.
Enjoy the summer. Stay safe and theme it all with the finest summer songs of all-time.
Summer Wind - A classic song from the legendary Frank Sinatra. Johnny Mercer's stunningly nostalgic take on a short-lived romance survives to this day almost 50 years later as one of the definitive songs from the Frank Sinatra catalog.
Summer - An absolutely beautiful song by the early 1970's band, War. This song defines a relaxed summer day. Get out the chaise lounge and settle in.

Summer in the City - The Lovin' Spoonful hit number one with this song on the billboard charts in August, 1966. Horns give you a feel of the city streets and you can almost feel your sweat.

Boys of Summer - A Don Henley jewel from his solo career. The 1980's didn't deliver much better than this track.

Surfin Safari - The Beach Boys are iconic and for a reason. Melodies that are complex and lyrics that are memorably repeatable. Their brand of the beach music scene surpassed any other act that even attempted this genre.
A Summer Song - Chad and Jeremy were an early part of the British invasion and this song still conjures up fond thoughts for the older baby boomers.
Theme from "A Summer Place" - A stunningly beautiful piece of music. The movie is this side of please don't make me sit that through that again, but the song lives long. Haunting and gorgeous. Senior guests may actually remember thoughts of making out in the bushes.
Surfer Girl - One of the finest of the fine from the mind of Brian Wilson. The Beach Boys delivered harmonies in the same league with the Eagles. The two most gifted harmony singing acts in the rock/pop era. This song is a must play at any summer gathering.
Hot Fun In the Summertime - Sly and the Family Stone were way ahead of their time. They were doing Prince before Prince. This song obviously solidified their entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
School’s Out - Alice Cooper! Speaking of being ahead of one's time. His brand of rock may not be every one's go to, but this song reminds you of that last day of school. To this day, every August I think I have to go back to school. Well, school's out!
Heat Wave - 1963 saw Martha Reeves and the Vandellas deliver a downright anthem for summer. It's a rollicking roll through the summer solstice. Pure happiness in under three minutes.
Good Day Sunshine - The Beatles! Oh yeah. It's a good day whenever you hear the fab four, but this is a given at any summer get together.
All Summer Long - In some ways, it sounds like summer is just beginning and then the song fades to an end of summer run. The Beach Boys deliver another few minutes of recorded bliss.
Summer Soft - Stevie Wonder's sublime track from one of the great albums of all-time. This song appears on the 1976 collection entitled, Songs in the Key of Life. Your summer party needs to include this tribute to the three month summer fest.
Grazing in the Grass - The Friends of Distinction roll you through any barbecue or picnic in the park. Plain out fun track.

Montego Bay - Bobby Bloom's Jamaica tribute from 1970 makes you feel good and your guests will start singing along.

Late in the Evening - One of Paul Simon's greatest songs and that is saying something. He was a highly prolific music artist and this song lays down an admirable chord progression. If you ever fell for someone fast...

Take it Easy - Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey co-wrote this song. It was the first single in the long and storied career of the Eagles. It first hit the radio airwaves in May, 1972. Randy Meisner sings the harmony vocals up front and Don Henley does the harmony vocal to close-out the song. Standin' on a corner in Winslow Arizona.

See You In September - The Happenings serve up a song to close out a summer. Remember that summer love or that spring love or that fall or winter love? Hopefully, you will see them in September.

Up On the Roof - Any version of this song works well at a party, but the James Taylor version has multiple reasons to give it a thumbs up vote for your celebration. Of course, the Drifters were one of the best of the early pop/rock acts. Listen to them both!

Walking on Sunshine - Another nice diversion from a one hit wonder from the 80's. There is no way you can sit still with this track. Feel good tune from Katrina and the Waves.

Dancing in the Moonlight - Interesting enough, this track was released in the middle of winter, but oh, what a party tune it is. If you have a nice moment, ask your husband to dance around 10pm and hopefully, you get the moonlight.

Blue Bayou - Whether you are in the South or not isn't relevant, but for some reason it may help. Linda Ronstadt was the single most gifted female vocalist of the rock era and she zones in with this track.

A Beautiful Morning - The Rascals rouse you and wake you with this joyful track from 1968. It's a Beautiful Morning! Drenched in the Rascals' keyboard sound this one will make you lift out of a sound sleep.

Lovely Day - Bill Withers calms you and gives you a kick while you are jumping in the pool or laying in the sun. Take a walk.

Here Comes the Sun - George Harrison wrote this song while he was sitting in his garden. It still works in a garden or anywhere else for that matter.

Sailing - You don't have to be out on the water, but if you are you just one-upped your summer song list. Christopher Cross lays it down and gives you a little fragment of peace of mind.

Wonderful Summer - Robin Ward's little ditty from 1963 made it a one hit wonder. Lay back and close your eyes.

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer - Overall, not one of the best songs from the Nat King Cole catalog, but you can't resist the tune when you are in the realm of summer songs. He recorded that song not long before his death.

Summer Lovin - A track from the Grease soundtrack will engage those from all age brackets. It still works 35 years after the release of this movie musical.

Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams got his first real six string. Good tune that takes you out of the 60's and 70's for a bit.

California Nights - An obscure song from the 1960's. Lesley Gore was produced by Quincy Jones (Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson) and she turned in some of the quintessential "girl" songs from the era, but this song has a kick like no other song from her catalog. Fantastic sound and a must-have at any summer party.

Kokomo - The Beach Boys scored again in the 1980's with this absolute classic. Oh yeah, I'm going to the beach.

I Can See Clearly Now - It's going to be a bright, sunshiny day. You never miss with this song. Johnny Nash delivers one of the best songs ever.

Sunny Afternoon - An odd entry into the catalog of the Kinks, but it's just different enough to add a bit of additional flavor to your track list.

Saturday in the Park - It's so summer-bent that you have to include it on any list of this nature. One of Chicago's most famous songs is embedded in the summer musical catalog.

Waiting on a Sunny Day - A breeze of a song from Bruce Springsteen. One of his brightest moments from the last 15 years.

Pretty World - A delightfully sunny tune from Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66. Yes, the Brasil is spelled correctly. This song is as smooth as satin. Lani Hall's vocals were unbeatable during the era. A highly underrated and undervalued vocalist.

Surfin' U.S.A. - Another Beach Boys entry. Quite honestly, you can host an entire summer party event with one of the multiple collections of the Beach Boys' greatest hits. Fun, fun, fun.

Wake Up Sunshine - One of Chicago's finest moments with Peter Cetera and Robert Lamm splitting the vocals. Great tune.

Stoned Soul Picnic - This is an upbeat tune that revels in its summerness. The Fifth Dimension provided some of pop's best vocals.

Sunset Grill - A Don Henley song with the gentle slope of a summer walk in the sand.

The Summer Knows (Theme Song from Summer of '42) - End the evening with this lovely piece of music. Wow. I love summer!

Everyone of these songs can be purchased on iTunes. If you purchase all of these songs it will cost you around $50.00 and that will make it one of the best deals at your party. Remember to support the artists. They have given us a lifetime of memories and yes long after your relationships end you still have the music.



Copyright Read On Read Now 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Interview with Kerry Reis - Author of Legacy Discovered

 Kerry Reis


Kerry Reis is the author of the recently released novel, Legacy Discovered. Kerry was born in Oregon and grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. As an undergraduate, he attended the University of California at Los Angeles, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s in motion picture and television arts. He worked for ABC Television for twenty eight years and became the associate director of digital broadcast communications for the Disney ABC Television Group. He supported not only ABC network programming, but also original programming across all of the Disney ABC cable properties.

He has travelled extensively throughout the United States and Europe. He currently live in Los Angeles, California.

JT: Kerry, LEGACY DISCOVERED is your first published novel. What led you to write the book?
Kerry: The main inspiration for the story of Legacy Discovered was the classic 1970s movie, Love Story; which I happened to see for the first time a little over a year ago. Even though I wasn't wowed by the movie itself, I was intrigued by the basic premise of love between the classes and wondered what if Oliver had wed Jenny without revealing who he really was. By the next day, I had a basic concept worked out and was planning to outline a TV movie screenplay. However, a month later, I was called into the boss' office where I was informed that I was being laid off due to department restructuring. I had heard of the emerging technology of self-publishing and decided to change my potential screenplay into a novel to be self-published.



JT: Is Legacy Discovered a love story or a mystery?

Kerry: When my friends started to add mystery as a genre in describing the story, I was hesitant to adopt this classification. Now you have added thriller, which is a step up the genre ladder. For potential readers, I feel the need to provide a disclaimer here that the mystery and thriller elements do not entail a police procedural, a private detective investigation, a murdered body with many suspects, an international spy entanglement or a high powered criminal plot. Basically, the elements of mystery and thrills which readers have found in the book were driven by the plot and concept. These are questions that I had to answer in order to keep my story plausible and my characters relatable. Why would a man go to such extremes to run and hide from a life of privilege and why would he hide the truth from the one person he falls in love with? What were the extremes he took to accomplish this deception by successfully faking his death? When the truth suddenly comes out years later, how would his family, past and present handle the consequences? To answer these questions for the reader required a structure of mystery and thrills at times, but the story's core is basically a love story where a woman finds the strength to support the man she loves so he can face what he had been running from at the beginning.
JT: Where did your great love of mysteries come from?

Kerry: I am, at heart, a mystery buff, and my favorite mystery writer is Agatha Christie, starting from the time I bought the sixty cent paperback of The A.B.C. Murders in seventh grade. I have all of her mystery books, most in paperback, plus one of her romance novels that she wrote under the name Mary Westmacott. After reading the one Westmacott romance, I did not feel the need to get the other four romances to add to my Christie collection. Along with her classics, Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None and The Body in the Library, I have a special admiration for a lesser known mystery, Murder in Retrospect, where detective Hercule Poirot seeks to discover which of five suspects was really responsible for the death of an artist over a decade ago whose wife was tried, convicted and executed for the crime, all for the couple's daughter hoping to know the truth before her own marriage. The story, despite being mainly a mystery, proves to be as much a romance when the truth is revealed.
JT: What are the best mystery films of all-time?

Kerry: As far as films are concerned, the master is still Alfred Hitchcock, with Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, Strangers on a Train and The Trouble with Harry leading the way. Composition, editing, color or black-and-white lighting, comic underlays, ironic touches and tight storytelling are all masterful tools in manipulating the audience. I learned a lot in studying his films.
JT: I think it's difficult to write a great love story in today's day and age. What are your thoughts about that?

Kerry: I do not think it is harder to tell a believable love story today than it has been throughout history. Beyond the physical, love is about giving, commitment, support, acceptance and community, concepts that many times conflict with a polarized modern society and an economy that is strongly consumer based. Currently, promotion finds it easier to cater to a consumer's baser desires and entertainment businesses give deference to performers and writers that gravitate to easy promotion. I feel a good love story seeks to find the balance between two individuals in a society, which is very much like finding the delicate balance between the individual and the society as a whole. The reader or audience may have to work harder to feel the full expression of love, but will ultimately be more satisfied in the end.
JT: What are the great love stories from your perspective?

Kerry: O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi is one of the sweetest and inspiring love stories in the most ironic way. In movies, I enjoy the lighter touch of romance. It Happened One Night and Roman Holiday are essentially the same story until the final resolution, when the former expresses the American ideal that social structures should embrace and encourage the true love between individuals while the latter expresses the Eurocentric concept that sometimes love between individuals must be sacrificed for social responsibility. Together, I see the constant struggle to find the proper balance between individual desires and social responsibilities. When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Hitch and The Holiday are some of my recent favorites.
JT: Did you imagine these characters or where they inspired by people you know?

Kerry: Quite honestly, I cannot think of any characteristics from my friends that may be within my characters. Ali and Ryan were named after Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal, the actors who portrayed the lead characters in Love Story, which inspired Legacy Discovered, but that is the closest I came to basing the characters on real individuals.
JT: Where are you from originally and how did you end up where you are? 

Kerry: Even though I was born in Oregon, my parents moved on to Rhode Island before my first birthday, so I have no youthful memories of my time there. However, I went back to Oregon on my own while in college to meet my godparents that I never knew growing up and again a few years later with my parents after I graduated. I was born in Burns, a small town in the eastern Oregon desert region. The town was so small that my mother was able to point to the window of the hospital room where I was born as we drove by two decades later.
Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida was a different story. It is hard to define one or two distinct experiences that define this time. We lived in a subdivision thirty or forty minutes west of downtown. My dad was constantly traveling for his job. My mother worked for an accountant in the downtown area. I went to the elementary school two blocks from my house. I was basically a shy geek at school. I was the school's champion speller in fifth grade and given my own math book by my sixth grade teacher to work on my own. It was determined I needed to be challenged to meet my capabilities, so starting in seventh grade, I was enrolled in a small private school that was just across the county border south of Jacksonville, forty to fifty minutes away from my home by school bus. It made me used to the idea of commuting before I came out to Los Angeles.
JT: Did you always want to be involved in media?

Kerry: What challenged me the most in school was the creative aspects of English. I wanted to create and write stories, and I dreamed of those stories on TV or movies. I felt like I needed to just explore this world to understand it and not tie myself down with a strict regimen of college. However, when my father caught wind of my idea about not going to college, he announced his edict that "the question wasn't whether, it was where." Shortly thereafter this pronouncement, I was watching college football on ABC Sports one Saturday. The game was UCLA at Tennessee. At the time, ABC provided each college a chance during halftime to promote themselves with a five minute taped piece. UCLA featured its film and television college. Despite recommendations to the contrary, I only applied and was accepted to one college, UCLA, even though I did not see the campus until two weeks before classes started. Perhaps it was ironic that it was ABC that pointed me to UCLA.
JT: You have a great love of travel? What are the roots of that passion?

Kerry: The best way to answer these questions is to provide you with the philosophy of my travels. My passion for travel derives from my desire to experience and learn about new things and to expand my perspective of the cultures, geography and history of the world around me. I look for the best in the cities, countries and sites that I visit and blend them into the mosaic of the world as I see it. For this reason, I have not really created a ranking or order with the places I have visited. I think I have been very lucky to have visited some iconic places at the best times and in the best weather - the Matterhorn without the usual mountain clouds that condense around its tip; Pompeii just off season to enjoy it with near empty streets and no crowds; Redwoods National Park and Crescent City on a rare fogless day for excellent viewing. I try to be prepped to be an open and good guest wherever I go which I find encourages hosts to be better to me. Hotels are rarely memorable to me unless they fail to provide a good bed and food service or their location turns out to be tied to the well-known site I am visiting like the cabin next to Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. Most of my European trips have been with a reputable tour agency whose tours schedule time for individual exploration within the group schedule. For many new travelers, this would be the way to get started. In the US, a well-planned, yet open-to-improvisational road trip is still the best method. The best out of the ordinary place any traveler should discover is something relatable to them, which brings me to my favorite location. My mother and I took a tour of Switzerland in 2000. My grandfather's family had come from Switzerland, so we arranged on our open day of the tour in Lucerne to take the train to Bern and meet up with distant cousins. After they met us enthusiastically at the train station, they drove us east to just south of Interlaken into the Diemtig valley on a beautiful day. They drove and parked next to an old chalet with three storage sheds backed by an Alpine peak. It was the home where my great-grandfather was born and raised. At that moment, I truly felt connected to the world.
JT: You were close to your mother and enjoyed travelling with her after your dad passed away. Tell me about your final trip with your mom? 
Kerry: On our last trip together we returned and there was jaundice in her face. This led to the discovery of her pancreatic cancer. A year later, I drove her through a quick weekend trip through the Smoky Mountains National Park, which proved to be the final journey. Since her death, I have done three solo road trips, visiting more national parks. I have visited 32 of the designated 59 national parks and have a bucket list to visit them all. I would like to step foot on every continent and visit many other world wonders, recording them through my camera along the way.
JT: You have a particular love of the national parks.  I know you have the desire to visit every one of them. You've been to over 30 of them. If you could revisit three of them where would Kerry go?

Kerry: I am so impressed with the wonders and knowledge I have accumulated by visiting the national parks that I would have no problem returning to any of them. However, I do have unfinished business with three of the ones I have visited. When I was on my Arizona road trip a few years ago, I reached Saguaro National Park late in the day after the visitor center had closed. I got some good photos within the twilight hours, but I did not get a souvenir deck of playing cards. For an upcoming New Mexico/Texas national park road trip I have on hold, I plan on stopping at Saguaro, check out the western portion of the park and see if they have a deck of cards. I collect decks of cards.

Some years earlier, when my mother and her friend came out to join me on a road trip of California, I had scheduled the tour to include driving through Lassen Volcanoes National Park in northern California. However, that year the west coast enjoyed a wetter season than usual and the snowpack kept many Sierra roads closed well into June. We were only able to enter the park from the south entrance and go a few miles in. I want to take the full road tour through the park to see its full glory.
Finally, Acadia National Park was the second national park I saw and the first one I got to explore over a day. A friend and I visited the park on a summer road trip when I came back home after my first year at UCLA. It was also a few years before I was able to buy my first decent camera, so my only pictures of the visit are the prints from a disposable Kodak camera. I want to re-explore Acadia with my digital Nikon.
JT: Tell us a bit about your long and successful career at the ABC Television Network?

Kerry: I consider myself to be very lucky to have had the career I've had at ABC, including the opportunity to meet and interact with so many well-known creative individuals. For the most part, I kept my professionalism with these interactions, but sometimes I have been off, usually to my embarrassment. When Twin Peaks became the cult hit of the network, a themed party with the cast was planned at the semi-annual Press Tour event with the Television Critics Association which was being held at the historic Century Plaza Hotel. The press party was being held at the Plaza level, but the cast was being assembled prior to the party in the Presidential Suite on the top floor of the hotel. Since there were two banks of elevators on either side of the hotel, the northern elevators were taken out of service for our reserved use to take the cast down directly to the party. However, as I was heading down the top floor hall to guide the cast to the northern elevators, I was shocked to discover that the cast was already being directed to the southern elevators. Quickly, I rushed down to where the cast was waiting at the elevators and blurted out, "Wait! We are holding the other elevators for you. These will have regular people in them!" In response, Kimmy Robertson, one of the cast members, raised her hands in mock shock and screamed out, "Oh, no! Regular people!" The cast rode down in the southern elevators, leaving me flushed with embarrassment.
JT: Of all the actors you worked with who was your favorite?

Kerry: One of the finest actors I had the privilege of working with was John Ritter. Leading into the May episodes of the first season of 8 Simple Rules, I produced a satellite interview tour with John and co-star Katey Sagal promoting a special episode tied to a national organization which used bake sales as a fund raising tool. In a bit of creativity, we had the caterer bring in bake sale goodies, cupcakes and cookies, which we placed on a table in front of John and Katey for the interviews. It just so happened that the satellite tour was on the same day as my sister's birthday, so I asked the publicist if there would be any problem with me taking a photo with John and Katey that I could e-mail to my sister with my birthday wishes and told the satellite studio about my plans. The studio had the caterer add one more item to the bake sale table - a birthday cake - just for this photo. After the interviews, Katey quietly sat in her chair as I stood behind them, but John picked up that birthday cake, held it for the camera to see while pointing to it with his other hand and gave a wide open smile that screamed "Happy Birthday!" My e-mail to my sister simply said, "I and a few of my friends wanted to wish you a happy birthday today." A printed copy of that e-mail was framed and hung in my mother's dining room. Four months later, John was stricken on set and passed away, a week after I had given him upcoming birthday wishes at another press event.
JT: Television has changed dramatically over the years. Walk us through a major change that occurred while you were at ABC?

Kerry: Television programming is a risky game. Sometimes shows with great promise fail and sometimes shows are passed up that later prove to be big hits. Shortly after ABC was bought by Disney, our broadcast publicity department was called upon to add support for Touchstone Studios productions outside of the network. This included creating clip reels for Touchstone pilots picked up by other networks for their schedules. I was given a pilot for a series that had been passed up by ABC, but had been picked up by CBS. I loved it and selected some great clips for promotion. It had interesting characters, great atmosphere and sharp storytelling elements. I felt ABC should not have passed up on this series. The series was a co-production between Touchstone and another production company. Shortly thereafter, Touchstone felt the production was so expensive that the only way to make money on the series would be if it was a top ten show, so they sold their half of the production and rights to the partner production company. The series? CSI.
JT: CSI is my favorite procedural from the last 15 years. The first five or six seasons were outstanding television.  I was there during this time and I felt the same way. Superb development process on that show. Steve McPherson, the former President at ABC Entertainment developed that show. It's still good and it just got picked up for another season. 
Kerry: The television networks rose quickly on the strength of technology, so quickly their feared powers of control were legally constrained by the FCC's Fin-Syn (Financial Interest and Syndication) rules, but while they were fighting the strictures of these rules, the rise of new technologies from cable to digital distribution was steadily undercutting their once-captive audience. What is ironic is that the Fin-Syn rules were designed to protect the struggling movie studios from being overrun by the three networks. Yet when they were eventually abolished, it was the studios that bought up the networks. So, Fin-Syn and digital technology would be my number one and two influences on the rise and fall of the networks' empire.
JT: What were the best shows at ABC while you were there?

Kerry: There were so many, I do not know if I can remember them all. When I first started in the in-house print shop, the final season of The Greatest American Hero was on. ABC was the network for the Olympics, so I was able to enjoy free passes to some of the events at the Los Angeles Olympics. Monday Night Football was a primetime sports legend for ABC. Moonlighting matched fresh face Bruce Willis with Cybill Shepherd. Roseanne created a stir to the schedule. Not many people will remember that Home Improvement beat Seinfeld in their first season head-to-head match-up, forcing NBC to move Seinfeld to Thursdays. The Wonder Years was a sweet delight in looking at growing up in the pre-teen years. NYPD Blue challenged the FCC rules on language and butts. Mini-series ruled from North and South, The Day After, The Bourne Identity (starring Richard Chamberlain, not the more recent Matt Damon features), Creature and Stephen King's The Stand to name a few. Twin Peaks brought on the rise of cult television, which led to Alias and Lost. Who Wants to be a Millionaire? led the reality age. The Practice and Boston Legal were stalwarts. Desperate Housewives dramedy style became the rage. Grey's Anatomy is still going strong. Community service reality programming was well represented by Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
JT: You are a gifted photographer. Share with us how you got where you are with your art?

Kerry:  From an early age, I had an inner passion for photography, but somehow it was hard to impress that on my parents. When I was enrolled into private school for my high school years, I was excited, because the school had a photography club so I could learn the techniques of photography. All I needed was a camera, so I asked my parents to buy me one. They did - a Polaroid Square Shooter. I wasn't able to join the photo club and I wasn't able to buy my own Nikon until after I had graduated from college. I am self taught in my photo skills and so far it is still just a hobby to record my travels.
JT: With the success of Legacy Discovered will you be writing another book?

Kerry: Now that I have one under my belt, I would certainly hope so. I have been kicking around another love story. It would be more of a lighter romance. I am also thinking about a pilot script I wrote over twenty years ago with a female private eye as the main character which I did get an ABC executive to read at the time, even though it never went farther. Perhaps the story and character could be updated. However, at the moment, I have been busy self-promoting Legacy Discovered, doing some volunteer work and helping a few friends.
Legacy Discovered can be purchased at amazon.com. 

Copyright Read On Read Now 2013