AND THE WINNER IS… Celebrating the Award Shows Season

0313Copeland-AwradsI have always enjoyed the televised award show ceremonies celebrating accomplishments in film, music, theatre and tattooing. While I find most of the annual award shows very entertaining, my wife absolutely loves the award show season. To put it succinctly, she loves, loves, loves award shows! She loves the glitz, the glam, the pageantry and the after parties. If there’s a red carpet pre-show and Ryan Seacrest in the house, then she’s got her hinny parked on the couch, a glass of chardonnay in her hand and Round Table on speed dial.

I use the term Award Show “Season” because it seems like there are about as many award shows as there are regular season baseball games. And, just like baseball, there are the major league shows such as; the Oscar’s, Emmy’s, Grammy’s and Tony’s, followed by the minor league offerings which includes; The Peoples Choice Awards, The Kids Choice Awards, The Teen Choice Awards and the MTV Video Music Awards. Then there’s the Country Music Awards, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Clio Awards and the All-Madden Team. (Actually, I don’t believe the All-Madden team qualifies as an awards show, but my wife doesn’t care about semantics.) Did I mention that the kids and I are banned from the family room during an award show due to our inability to stay quiet and thereby potentially disturbing her viewing pleasure? What a diva.

The granddaddy of all the award shows has to be the OSCARS. Wikipedia tells me that the Academy Awards, informally known as The Oscars, are a set of awards given annually for excellence of cinematic achievements. The first awards ceremony took place at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California in 1929. The show is televised live in more than 100 countries and it’s what the other major award shows, the Grammy’s (music), the Emmy’s (television) and the Tony’s (theatre) were patterned after. Some of my favorite Oscar moments included The Bad News Bears winning Best Movie in 1976, ET accepting the Best Actor award in 1982, and Three 6 Mafia winning Best Original Song for It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp from the 2005 movie Hustle and Flow. That last one is actually true and I seem to recall director James Cameron’s ears bleeding during their live performance.

The key to a successful Oscars show is often determined by who the host is for the evening’s event. Bob Hope has handled hosting duties the most times (18), followed by Billy Crystal (9). While both of those gentlemen are very capable hosts, the show I most enjoyed was hosted by that talented little pig named Babe. He, from the wildly popular movie of 1995 entitled simply, BABE. That little sausage cracked me up. Truthfully, the Oscars can be a bit dull, relying more on pomp and circumstance than content, but it is the Super Bowl of award shows and for that reason it will forever have my respect and be my wife’s favorite.

A GRAMMY Award (originally called Gramophone Award) – or Grammy – is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry. The first award ceremony took place in 1959. Some classical composer named Sir Georg Silti has won the most Grammys (31), but since I’ve never heard of him, who cares? Now if it was Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Mick Jagger or Sir Steve Perry, that would be different. The Grammy’s are my favorite show because of the live performances, especially the collaborations. Sir Elton John and Kiki Dee, Sir Elton John and Eminem, Sir Elton John and Insane Clown Posse were just a few of the interesting pairings. Candidly, I’m also fond of the flesh bearing fashions the Grammy’s bring out. That Rihanna can really wear a dress, or what passes for a dress at some Caribbean “clothes optional” beach resorts.

An Emmy Award, or simply Emmy, is a television production award show. The two ceremonies that usually receive the most media coverage are the Primetime Emmy’s and the Daytime Emmy’s, recognizing excellence in American primetime and daytime entertainment programming, respectively. The first Emmy Awards show took place in 1949. Unless I’m mistaken, that was the year The Simpsons first appeared on the Fox network. The Emmys are “must see” TV, mostly because television actors don’t come across as arrogant and pompous as their movie star cousins. The Emmys are a more fun and relaxed award show. Don’t get me wrong, its not the Jager shots and beer bong throw down that the Golden Globes are, but it’s a good time, none the less. Sadly, I lost a lot of respect for the Emmys when Snooki (played by Nicole Polizzi) was not awarded 2012’s Best Actress in a Reality Show. That woman’s work was inspired on MTV’s Jersey Shore, comparable only to Susan Lucci’s brilliant performance (for 41myears) as Erica Kane on All My Children. After eighteen failed nominations, Susan finally won a Best Actress award in 1999, but keep in mind that it was only the “Daytime” Emmys.

The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known informally as the Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. To be honest, I don’t really watch the Tony Awards — a little too schmaltzy for my taste. Don’t get me wrong, I totally enjoyed the theatrical productions of Lion King, Wicked, Jersey Boys, Hairspray and… well, Cats of course, however, an entire show about plays just doesn’t float my boat. It’s show tunes, and a lot of people I don’t recognize because they rarely appear on Entertainment Tonight, but most of all it’s a show recognizing performances I’ll likely never see. I resent the Broadway snobbery.

After the big four, all other award shows pale in comparison. Sure, they do have red carpets and fancy clothes, but they lack a little panache. I won’t deny that I enjoy the celebrity sliming on the Kids Choice Awards and the unusually erotic categories of the MTV Movie Awards, but I’m irked by the preposterousness of the People’s Choice Awards. If it’s the “peoples” choice awards, wouldn’t that imply that we the people get to vote? So where’s my ballot been mailed the last 50 years?

If I had it my way, I would institute A Suburban Life Award show in every neighborhood across America. Granted, I may lose out to Mr. Nishihira for Best Car Pool Driver and Dr. Weiss would totally run away with Best Words with Friends Competitor Award, but I would totally win Best Humor Lifestyle Magazine Article Writer (at least on my block). And the winner is……Me. I bet my wife might even watch.

Wings of Valor – Avian Wartime Couriers

What do Xerxes, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte and General Pershing have in common? They all dispatched field maneuver orders, battle results or other vital messages by carrier pigeons. No human could outrun sunlight, arrows, spears, or bullets, but the lowly bird could carry messages to home destinations by soaring high above fields, valleys, mountains or seas.

As far back as 3,000 years ago Egyptians, Persians, Etruscans and Greeks sent messages by carrier pigeons, and secured the precious birds in purpose-built dovecotes with as many as 2,000 pigeonholes. Romans built coops, called columbariums, throughout the empire and introduced pigeon culture to the Mediterranean and Britain. Fortresses housed the working birds in lofts above observation towers to protect the couriers from predators or theft, and in medieval times, pigeon sanctuaries were only owned by privileged classes in castles or chateaux.

As this photo (at Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy) reveals, author Anita Venezia’s love affair with pigeons is well documented.

At the height of the Industrial Revolution when the first telegraph lines were connected in 1860, Paul Reuter ironically employed a fleet of 45 pigeons to deliver closing stock prices for the new communication technology, and the banking Rothchilds used birds to send market results. Recently in Orissa, India, the internet put fleets of postal bird carriers out of business, and the Afghani Taliban has forbidden all bird ownership to prevent pigeon-grams.

Pigeons are not always a good thing; overpopulations in metropolitan cities cause extensive damage, such as the culprits in Venice, estimated at 130,000, targeted for vector control because they cost the city over a million euros a year. The once-quaint habit of tourists feeding the pushy pigeons that literally carpet St Mark’s Square for all-day bird banquets is now outlawed, and licensed birdseed vendors have been put out of business. The pesky birds perch in cornices and apertures of Venice’s delicate historic buildings and churches, and claw and peck at calcium-rich marble facades. The attractive nuisance of the iconic pigeons soaring over St Mark’s Basilica may soon be a thing of the past.

Homeward Bound
Pigeon research shows their efficiency; they can fly at speeds of 75 mph, but average 50 mph on 600-mile trips. The birds, of the Columba genus, set goal directions with a natural ‘compass’ enabling them to determine relative flight routes by detecting the earth’s magnetic field and spatial odor distribution. Flying by olfactory navigation, they are oriented to their home lofts by instinct, visual landmarks, roads, buildings and other man-made features.

Messenger homing birds have worked for room and board for millennia, but few pigeons have actually been awarded with medals for heroism, as those which flew in the Great War, and then again when they were called into service in World War II.

During World War I, when battles were fought on many fronts in unforgiving foxholes, muddy trenches and the fields of Flanders, lowly pigeon carriers had daunting tasks of flying messages through poison gasses and flying shrapnel. At the brutal battle of Verdun, thousands of pigeon batches relayed messages, but one heroic bird named “Che Ami” entered into legend by saving the lives of 200 Americans on October 4th 1918. German gunfire had already killed over 300 soldiers, trapped behind enemy lines, and the remaining 200 were being bombarded by their own friendly fire. Twelve courier birds had already been shot down and “Che Ami” was the only one left. An officer attached a canister to the bird’s leg with a message, “We are along the road parallel 276.4, and our own artillery is dropping a barrage on us. For heaven’s sake stop it!” Even though the bird was shot, it returned to the loft; 25 miles in 25 minutes.

When the pigeoneer soldier retrieved the message in the coop, “Che Ami” was on his back bleeding; he had a hole in his chest, his leg was blown off and an eye shot out, but he had saved 200 men of the 77th Infantry Division. His handler made him a wooden leg and the hero pigeon received the French Croix de Guerre medal for heroism. “Che Ami” was decommissioned, sent home on a troopship, and met by General Pershing in New York. The bird died on June 13th 1919, and his frail body was preserved. The hero bird of the Great War remains a legend, displayed with its Croix de Guerre medal, standing forever proud, mounted on a wooden leg in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

When the United States entered World War II, they ‘drafted’ pigeons into service for intelligence communiques; the British were already using the valiant vector courier program. The Germans too had couriers, controlling entire homing pigeon racing unions, and even trained falcon interceptors to take down the British messengers. Predator programs on both sides proved problematic; falcons, unable to discern the German couriers from British ones, intercepted anything that flew.

When the British First Airborne Division Signals parachuted into Holland, pigeons were carried in chest-attached baskets or air-dropped as intelligence vectors. The Confidential Pigeon Service was used by the Dutch and French resistance by attaching vital messages to birds to carry 240 miles across the English Channel. When intelligence could not be radio-transmitted, due to interception or inability to thread wires over rough terrain, combatants fitted pigeons with aerial micro-cameras to capture enemy positions, and during the Invasion of Normandy, the birds were invaluable to allied operations by carrying dispatches to the allied beach raiders. During a fierce battle at Monte Cassino in Italy when British troops were stranded behind German lines, they used their last three courier pigeons that arrived with SOS dispatches minutes before B52 bombers were taking off to bomb the area.
Pigeons also worked as lifesavers in naval and Coast Guard search and rescue operations, and were standard passengers aboard ships, planes and bombers, trained to carry messages about downed planes or ships lost at sea. As pigeons can differentiate colors, on rescue missions, they alerted searchers to survivors wearing red or yellow, bobbing in the waves.

With courier successes, the US Government conducted a national census of racing pigeons, and when the Signal Corps issued a call for both genders at $5 each, they secured hundreds of thousands of birds. The American Racing Pigeon Union patriotically offered their most prized birds for the war effort; their 600-mile fast-flyers, and G.I. pigeoneers cross-bred the fastest birds with the best homing instincts, putting the sturdy inductees through rigorous training. They moved field mobile lofts daily for three weeks for birds to memorize aerial bearings of their combat coops.

When couriers were ready for combat missions, it was discovered that males were driven by hunger, jealousy and sex. If a male saw its mate with another male at the onset, the fear of a ‘Jody’ bird scenario would make it fly home faster; a staggering 96 percent reaching their destinations.

Thirty four of our animal kingdom fine feathered-friends proved courage beyond the call of avian duty, and for distinguished service they received the coveted Dicken Award. Many stories tell of MIA or POW couriers or of incredible bravery under fire—like dark-feathered “Blackie Harrington” who served at Guadalcanal, and though badly wounded completed his Pacific missions. “Blackie” was rewarded a cushy retirement; servicing in a breeding loft, as was blue-checked “G.I. Joe” who flew for the 56th Infantry, and gallantly saved a thousand men from a bombing raid in 1943.

Many pigeons have been honored by the countries they served, the men they saved, and how their unique flight service affected battles. Though bird fanciers have paid as much as $132,000 for a single stud pigeon; the storied war birds were priceless as life-savers. The beloved little heroes of the feathered animal kingdom deservedly ‘won their wings’ and the birds of the air have justly earned a revered place in wartime history.

Racers of Alamo

While researching, I serendipitously found a local pigeon-racing enthusiast, John Bellandi, owner of Alamo Feed & Grain, noted for its life-size horse on the roof. I spoke with Charles Petrovich and learned that racers are homers, but homers are not necessarily racers. Racing pigeons are prized for speed and pedigreed bloodlines. “The Red Hen,” originating from the Belgian Janssen brothers, was imported in 1963 by breeder extraordinaire, Hank Vernazza. “Red Hen” was an upper echelon class of royal bird blood and the source of Vernazza’s fame among multi-club combines. Birds are registered through combines to compete in Young Bird or Old Bird Races; trucked in and tossed from places like Idaho or Nevada to fly home, the winning times clocked at arrival on the board.

Charles explained, “Birds don’t fly over mountains, they fly road routes, following my truck and then take off. When I arrive at my Antioch loft, they’re waiting for me. We have overfly handicaps — the difference could be 100 miles between lofts.” I asked about homers and racers. “Our birds are bred and trained for speed. We call the wild pigeons ‘barnies’.” I knew about barnies — they nested at my house.

To get the coop scoop, I checked into an online chat room. One pigeon fancier posted that the fastest bird ever was probably “True Grit,” found as an egg in a coop, incubated by a hen and whose bloodline was of unknown parentage. Others of legendary status are “Super Crack,” “Dreamboy,” and “Eurostar.” I followed chit-chat that the Belgian Janssen breeders had the best pedigreed bloodstock, still dominating in high-end auctions.

Pigeon racing is still a viable big-stakes sport with 15,000 registered lofts, and Queen Elizabeth’s high ranking loft won first place in 1990. In South Africa, the Sun City Million Dollar Race pits over 4,000 international birds all vying for a $1 million purse. Pigeon squabs are airlifted, trained and acclimatized in the grueling African veldt before the big race. Even also-rans win big purses and expensive cars—in short there are no birdbrained contestants in this sport — it for is for winners who fly fast and soar high.

Rain Rain Go(ne) Away?

Michael Copeland | March 2012
Just the other day, I was listing to my favorite song, It Will Rain by Bruno Mars (from my favorite movie, Breaking Dawn) when I realized that we are in need of some rain. It has been said that I have a keen sense of the obvious. You don’t need to be a meteorologist, although I would make a totally awesome meteorologist, to know that winter = rain and we haven’t had much precipitation in these here parts. If I’m not mistaken, at the time I penned this article, it had rained but once since Thanksgiving and only twice since the Fourth of July, or something like that. We desperately need that water like substance that falls from the sky to make our grass green, to fill our lakes and streams, to hydrate our crops (especially the medicinal crops that are so popular and profitable) and to wash my car. Yea, I don’t pay for car washes during the rainy season and my ride is filthy right now.

For the Al Gore Global Warming conspiracy theorists, I will admit that this winter in the Bay Area it has felt more like a dry summer in Texas, except that the temperatures have certainly been winter cold during the nights and mornings. The San Francisco Forty-Niner footsy flannel pajamas I received at Hanukah have been getting a real work out this season while I haven’t even opened the “Mitt for President” umbrella I got for Christmas. As kids, my mom taught us songs such as “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” by BJ Thomas, “Rainy Days and Mondays” by the Carpenters and “Kentucky Rain” by Elvis Presley. Songwriters have always had a love affair with rain so wouldn’t it be nice if one of the contestants on American Idol or The Voice would bust-out a soggy song to woo Zeus, the Lord of the Sky and the God of Rain.

Many Native American cultures have been known for their rain dances. A rain dance is one of the most famous ceremonial dances, out of a long line of choreographed movements, that once held the responsibility of appealing to the various Native American gods. The rain dance in particular was a way to gain favor and summon rain to come down and nourish the crops that would serve as sustenance for a specific tribe. It has been documented that tribes such as the Osage and Quapaw actually tracked the weather patterns and then performed the dances as a form of trade when there was a higher likelihood that it would bring the desired results. Today, the term “Rain Dance” refers to any ceremonial action taken to correct a hardware problem with the expectation that nothing will be accomplished.

Please allow me to share with you a wonderful poem by Shel Silverstein, a very talented man and poet, entitled appropriately Rain.

I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can’t do a handstand–
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said–
I’m just not the same since there’s rain in my head.

When you think of rain, one can’t help but think of Gene Kelly, a very talented singer and dancer of the 40s and 50s, who stared in the popular movie, Singing in the Rain, along with Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. More recently, the cast of Glee did a musical mash up of “Singing in the Rain” and “Umbrella,”, by Rihanna. In typical Glee fashion, it was an amazing production featuring water raining down on the cast in the McKinley high school theatre. If not for the unrealistic water works extravaganza, given the budget public schools have for the arts in the year 2012, I loved it. Conversely, I found the movie, Purple Rain written by, directed by and staring Prince a bit confusing. It didn’t actually feature a purple colored rain at all. There was a lot of cool singing and dancing by a freaky little guy who wore a lot of purple outfits, but alas, no precipitation. Dustin Hoffman turned in an incredible performance as an autistic-savant in Rain Man. He was a wiz with numbers and a fan of Judge Wopner, but again – no rain.

At the risk of insulting any of my seven or eight loyal readers, most of you probably know that rain also makes snow. Am I assuming too much? As bad as the people of Northern California need the sky to open us and water droplets to pour down on us, the folks living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains need snow for their livelihood. Everyone connected to the ski industry, from the ski resort operators to the beloved snow chain installation technicians, are undoubtedly praying for the fluffy white stuff to cover their mountain home. No snow = no money. Sadly there aren’t as many cool songs about snow as there are about rain. Have you heard, “Set Fire to the Rain,” by Adele? One word … Brilliant! However, Snow Patrol is one of my favorite new bands although I can’t recall a single song they sing related to snow. Now if Snow Patrol recorded an alternative version of the holiday tune, “Let it Snow,” they would totally rock the Winter Olympics in 2014.

Although I may have strayed a little from my original theme, I would hate to think of the negative repercussions a rain-less winter would have on our region. Drought is a dirty word around here. I want to “make it rain” like an insurance conventioneer with a fist full of $20.00 bills at a Vegas strip club. With any luck, by the time this article appears in type, we’ll be wearing raincoats and galoshes amidst a couple of months of consistently strong rain. I’m not talking “Noah’s Ark – forty days and forty nights of torrential flood” like rain or anything, but enough of the wet stuff to sustain us for the balance of the year.

An “April Showers Bring May Flowers” type of rain would be just fine.

Tapping to Release Pent-up Emotions & Unhealthy Habits — “Are You Kidding Me?”

Trina Swerdlow - March 2012

Yep, I predict that these words could easily roll off your tongue along with a smirky smile when I begin to describe a popular personal growth tool. So, go ahead and giggle. I won’t be offended. In fact, when I first heard about this tool — the “Emotional Freedom Technique” (EFT) — I thought it sounded completely and utterly … “airy fairy.”

Despite being heavily armed with a healthy level of skepticism, I received training to facilitate EFT (ten years ago) during my certification program to become a clinical hypnotherapist.

Then, after witnessing many positive results — first hand — during the EFT training sessions, my perspective began to shift, and my respect for this tool started to grow.

And, not only was I struck by the results I was seeing (and experiencing) during the interactive training sessions, but I was also struck by how simple EFT was to use. For example, the technique consisted of gentle fingertip tapping at specific places on the body that aligned with a person’s acupuncture meridian points. So, the acupuncture meridian points were stimulated without the use of needles.

To give you a bit of historical background, Stanford Engineer Gary Craig developed EFT after he studied Thought Field Therapy (TFT) with Dr. Roger Callahan. EFT was first developed to assist people in reducing or clearing emotional pain and negativity that may have fueled their fears and self-destructive behaviors.

Now, after teaching clients how to use EFT on themselves for the past nine years in my private practice — I must admit — I am a big fan of this tool. For this reason, I often teach EFT to people who want to release an unhealthy habit such as cigarette smoking or nail biting.

In addition, a few years ago, I taught EFT to Carrie (a forty year-old woman) whose medical doctor referred her to me after Carrie’s weight escalated to an unhealthy level.

During our first session, Carrie confessed that she had been drinking four cans of soda a day … for over twenty years. I pointed out to Carrie that since one can of sugary soda is about 145 calories, she was consuming approximately 580 calories a day from soft drinks alone. Then, with calculator in hand, I continued to add up the empty calories, which came to 4,060 calories a week, or a whopping 211,000 calories per year (the equivalent of 57 pounds) … just from soft drinks!

Carrie and I addressed her soda-drinking behavior during two EFT sessions. Between our two sessions, with her doctor’s encouragement, Carrie began weaning herself from her long-held “four sodas a day” habit. Then, when she felt ready, Carrie used EFT on her own. She was surprised and delighted when EFT’s tapping methods helped her move past her cravings — without reaching for any sodas. As a result, Carrie was thrilled to see her weight begin to go down … while her healthy “water-drinking” habit was going up!

In addition to weight loss, when doctors or psychologists send referrals to me, I often teach the clients how to use EFT for the following personal challenges:

  • Stress
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Insomnia
  • Creative blocks
  • Grief and loss
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Life transitions: career change, empty nest, or retirement

Finally, if the idea of adding EFT to your stress-reducing “repertoire” sounds appealing, then call or email me today.

After all, you might be surprised to find that EFT’s tapping to release pent-up emotions and unhealthy habits is much more productive that simply wringing your hands (or frustratingly drumming your fingers on your desk). In fact, after experiencing the gifts of EFT, you just may hear yourself say … “hey, she wasn’t kidding!”
(Name and client details changed to protect confidentiality.)

Name and client details changed to protect confidentiality.
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Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author and illustrator of Stress Reduction Journal: Meditate and Journal Your Way to Better Health. Trina has a private practice in downtown Danville. She soulfully shares her creative approach to personal growth and passionately supports her clients in reaching their goals. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or info@TrinaSwerdlow.com.

Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.