Monday, February 25, 2008

Heavenly Beautiful Helen Mirren

I am going to be disobedient only for today and write because of a statement I saw in the newpaper this morning.
Last night I did not watch The Academy Awards. Actually I have not viewed the show since the early 1990s, and that was when I was in Peace Corps in Botswana. There a condensed two hour version of the show was beamed in from South Africa. Those Batswana with television sets soaked up the program.

Over the years I have become less and less of a TV watcher since there is so little on the tube that interests me. Also TV watching is so passive, and I love to partake in activities where I can participate and contribute. The fare on US television is so pedestrian or too salacious nowadays that I really do not want to waste my time.

Anyhow, this morning when I glanced at the section of my town's/city's newspaper, I rather liked the comment made about award winning actress Helen Mirren (62), "A-A-R-P and H-O-T!" AARP is an abbreviation for the American Association of Retired Persons a non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance the lives of people over 50. My parents receive their monthly magazine. Dame Helen Mirren is a British citizen, so she would not qualify for the organization's services.

I have been fascinated by Helen Mirren since I first saw her playing the part of King Arthur's evil sister Morgana in the 1981 movie Excalibur. She could easily pass for an older sister of my Russian friend Tanya. As it so happens, Ms. Mirren is the paternal granddaughter of a Russian nobleman, soldier, and diplomat who was stranded with his family in England when the Russian Revolution broke out in 1917, and her great great grandfather Mikhail Kamensky was a hero during the Napoleonic Wars. Dame Helen's stage name is Helen Mirren but her birth name is the very Russian Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov. However, she is not fluent in Russian.

It is said that as wine ages it gets better. Helen Mirren shows that this can also be true with some people. She was stunning and stately last night as more photos which can be seen here can attest.

Helen Mirren describes herself as being "famous for being cool about not being gorgeous."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Baghdad In the Past

This is a video of sights in old Baghdad. Most of what is seen here is long before the Saddam era.

Night Ride Across the Caucasus

The photo above was taken by the Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorski in the early 1900s in Dagestan in the Caucasus.
Though small the Caucasus or Caucasia is one of the most linguistically, ethnically, and culturally diverse regions on earth. The region is bordered by Russia, Turkey, Iran, and the Caspian and Black Seas.
The following video is called Night Ride Across the Caucasus. The singer is Loreena McKennitt.

Some Americans may remember what some call Russia's equivalent to 9/11, the Beslan School Massacre, where over 300 civilians who were mostly children were killed by Chechen militants on September 1, 2004. Beslan is in the northern Caucasus.
Also for the readers of this blog, I plan to write posts here only on weekends.

Enjoy this positively breathtaking video.

Three Romantically Handsome American Actors

Three Romantically handsome American actors who give me chills not solely because of their good looks but also because of their immense talents are Denzel Washington, George Clooney, and Johnny Depp.

Denzel who is the eldest at 53 is a two time Academy Award winner.
George, who is 46, has received an Oscar once. Johnny (44) has been nomimated three times.
In tonight's 2008 Oscars, both Clooney and Depp are nominees, with Clooney for his role in Michael Clayton and Depp as Sweeney Todd.

Like me Clooney and Depp are southerners. Both were born in Kentucky. Also like me, Depp is of partial Native American ancestry. As for age, I am right in the middle between Clooney and Depp.

I see all three gentlemen as Renaissance men who are different and unique in their own way and with qualities that I admire. Clooney is not only an actor, producer, director, and screenwriter, he is also an activist. Depp has chosen to go his own way not only in the roles he chooses to play, but he has decided to not live the typical lifestyle of existing in vapid Hollywood, but resides in France immensed in old world charm with his lover French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis. Washington is also a director now, and unlike his counterparts he is married and has never been divorced, an extreme rarity in Hollywood. His church going grounds him, for he is a devout Christian. His father, Denzel Washington, Sr. was a Pentecostal minister He was born in New York, but his mother came from Georgia, my state.

Looks are not everything, but if I could pick a man with all the accoutrements that I like, I would pick one of these three. It is not about money for me either. It is about hard work, dedication, charisma, and sophistication, and all three have these qualities.

With the state of the African-American male being so pathetic with high incarceration rates, illiteracy, and irresponsibility, Denzel Washington is a rarity in so many ways just like Barack Obama. My mother has said several times that if I had been able to meet Denzel before he married and we had been attracted to each other, he would have been the perfect man for me.

An American and Napoleonic Romance: Jerome Bonaparte and Elizabeth Patterson

In my post on Prince Charles Napoleon the great great nephew of Napoleon, I promised to write about the great grandfather of the "latest Bonaparte" on the scene.

Prince Charles Napoleon's grandfather was Jerome Bonaparte the youngest sibling of Napoleon. He was born in Ajaccio, Corsica in 1784. Jerome entered the French navy, and while on a stop over in Maryland, he was welcomed into Baltimore high society where he met a beautiful young woman named Elizabeth "Betsy" Patterson (born 1785).

Betsy was the daughter of the second richest man in the state, William Patterson, a merchant who was an immigrant from Ireland. When they met in August 1803 it was love at first sight for the handsome, dashing Jerome and the lovely, witty, and cultured Betsy who was fluent in French. The two were captivated with each other, but Betsy's father was extremely cautious. Though he did not entirely doubt the sincerity of Jerome's love for Betsy, he doubted that the ambitious Napoleon who was rapidly rising in Europe would approve of his young brother marrying an American without noble blood and without his permission. Jerome's prospects seemed too good for him to get bogged down in America, so Betsy's father hesitated for at least for awhile. However, by Christmas Eve 1803 William Patterson's reluctance had evaporated, and Jerome and Betsy were married. Jerome had just turned 20, and Betsy was 18.

Once Jerome's family had learned about the union, almost everyone seemed to approve, except Napoleon. Even though Napoleon was not the eldest Bonaparte child, he had long before pushed aside his older brother Joseph to establish himself as the family's head. He made the final decision on everything including whom his brothers and sisters could marry.

When Napoleon declared himself Emperor of the French in May 1804 he ordered Jerome to come home, "without the young person to whom you have connected yourself." Sympathic to your younger brother's plight, Joseph and another brother Lucien encouraged Jerome to get American citizenship, as did also Betsy's brother. However, Napoleon was having none of it and ordered Jerome to come home immediately and for Betsy to not even think of setting foot in France.

The couple finally realized that they could not continue to ignore Napoleon's demands, so they sailed from America in one of William Patterson's ships. Betsy was pregnant. Once they arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, they saw to their dismay that Napoleon had sent a French frigate to prevent Betsy from disembarking. During their journey, Betsy had been convinced that with her charm and learning she might be able to plead their cause with Napoleon since Jerone had told her that his older brother was very susceptible to feminine beauty. But adamant, Napoleon had shown by sending a frigate to block her way, he did not want to see or speak to Betsy.

Reluctantly, Jerome left his wife to go on alone to Paris to beg Napoleon to allow them to stay together. In the meantime, Napoleon had been working fiercely to get the marriage annulled. He had gone to the pope with his demands, but had been rejected. Nevertheless, cowed by Napoleon, the imperial council of state had agreed to have the marriage declared null and void. On hearing that Jerome was on his way to Paris to see him, Napoleon wrote this letter to him:

My brother,

Your letter of this morning informs me of your arrival in Alexandria. There are no faults that a true repentance will not efface in my eyes.

Your union with Mademoiselle Paterson is null, alike in the eyes of religion and of the law. Write Mademoiselle Paterson to return to America. I will grant her a pension of 60,000 francs during her lifetime, on condition that she will under no circumstances bear my name,--she has no right to do so owing to the non-existence of her marriage.

You must yourself give her to understand that you are powerless to change the nature of things. Your marriage being thus annulled by your own consent, I will restore to you my friendship and continue to feel for you as I have done since your infancy, hoping that you will prove yourself worthy by the efforts you make to acquire my gratitude and to distinguish yourself in armies.

After Jerome's departure, Betsy's ship sailed to Amsterdam, but once again she was not allowed entry on land since now two men-of-war ships blocked her way. Seeing that she could not receive entry on this route as well, Betsy's ship sailed to England where she gave gave birth to a baby boy, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, whom she called "Bo."

Jerome and Betsy were to never see one another again. Jerome was remarried on Napoleon's orders to a German princess, Catherine of Wurttemburg, and he was crowned King of Westphalia also in Germany. Prince Charles Napoleon whom I wrote about comes from this union of Jerome and his German princess.

Betsy never remarried. After the fall of the Napoleonic dynasty under Napoleon I, she left America for awhile and traveled in Europe being welcomed and feted in European high society as a beautiful, tragic, and intelligent curiosity. For decades she fought to have her marriage to Jerome recognized as legal and her son listed as legitimate. Oddly enough, Jerome seemed to had forgotten all feeling he once had for Betsy because he actively fought against Betsy's son having the surname of Bonaparte. With three children from his royal wife, he wanted Betsy's son to be known only as Jerome Patterson. After Jerome's death in 1860, Betsy's case was resolved and her son was recognized as a legitimate child of France. Still Betsy's long time desire that her son be accepted as a member of the Napoleonic dynasty of Europe would never come to pass. She died in 1879.

Because of the short lived union of these star-crossed lovers, there was the American Bonapartes, the line of which ended in 1945 when the last male Bonaparte died. Betsy's grandson, also named Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, was a soldier who served on the Texas frontier and who also joined the imperial French army. He received medals for his valiance in the Crimean War from not only France and the queen of England, but he even received a medal from the sultan of Turkey. Another grandson, Charles Joseph Bonaparte, served as US Secretary of the Navy and US Attorney General and was the founder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Where Have I Been, Where Am I Going

The past few days have been hectic, baffling, and exciting for me. I have not taken the time to write because so much has been going on, plus I decided to downgrade my amount of writing here. Recently I received the stimulus to finally go after my passion less here on the blogosphere and more in the privacy of spiral notebooks and Microsoft Word. After years of just dreaming about it, I am going to pursue my dream of writing a book and doing freelance writing. I began my memoir 15 years ago, but I was not mature enough then or had overcome some of life's difficulties to really present a complete and interesting portrayal of my life to fill a book. I had been inspired to take on such an endeavor of writing a memoir after reading the unique and inspiring Maya Angelou's series of autobiographies of her life. Nevertheless, I just was not ready.

I began this blog on November 22 after returning from Turkey less than 2 months before. I was reeling from so much disappointment. I had been paid far less than I had been promised by the family who had hired me as a live-in English tutor to their unruly daughter. I had languished for close to 2 months in a new affluent development on the outskirts of Istanbul with these people who saw me more as a family member and just ignored my calls to study. They really did not want a professional around. The Ottoman Turks were fond of and fascinated by blacks and this fondness still exits in Turkey in a number of quarters. But I will not go on with this. I have diverted myself from what I was going to present in this post.

After so many ups and down and peace and quiet, I began this blog. In a short time I have been honored to have two published authors making comments here. When I did the post Quest For Romance Ended in Murder, two authors Ellen R. Sheeley who wrote Reclaiming Honor in Jordan: A National Public Opinion Survey on "Honor" Killings and
Karen Tintori who has written Unto the Daughters a book about an honor killing which actually occurred her family nearly a century ago both of these authors made comments which have graced my effort here. I was intensely elated when I discovered both. I found Ms. Tintori's comment last week while bored, down, and preoccupied I scrolled back to my honor killing post. Ms. Tintori had left her comment almost two weeks after the post, so I might have never discovered it because it had moved from the main page of my blog. I had thought about writing to Ms. Sheeley shortly after I saw her comment, but I got too busy and later lost courage. I did not know how to approach her at the time with my question of what suggestions could she give me on what to do to become a published writer. When I discovered Ms. Tintori's comments I was spurred on to write her because at the time I felt a little world weary. I wrote her last week and last night she wrote back to me. This morning on firing up the internet and checking my e-mail, I received this very warm letter of encouragement which other aspiring writers should read. I hope the author does not mind I am sharing this.

Dear Sincerae,

I am thrilled to learn that my comment on your blog lifted your spirits. I was impressed not only with your blog post, but by the fact that you invited participation by asking those who visited to lend their voices to the discussion. It was a friendly, and engaging way to elicit comments. It was "hey, don't just run in and out of my house, stay and converse with me." I was impressed by that.

If you itch and burn to write every minute you are awake, concentrate on it. Focus on the book you want to write, and don't divert all that energy to the blogs -- you know? We have only so much creative juice in a day, so give the greater part of it to the book, and the rest to the blog. You are right in your comment that the blog is a way to perfect the craft of writing. Anything you write makes you a better writer as you think about words, sentences, structure.

If you haven't read Writers Market 2008, from Writers Digest Books, go buy it or borrow it from your library. It is filled with markets for writing -- from which publisher buys what kind of book, to which magazines buy, to whom to pitch and how they want the query sent. It is the bible of getting published. Format, substance, how to find an agent, etc., it's all there. And Writers Digest updates the book annually, so I'm thinking 2008 is the most current edition.

If you have some short pieces to sell to magazines, etc., and can do that while working on a book, great. It will add to your resume and be a hook for an editor. I have only done some freelance journalism articles locally, and eight books.

Keep writing, keep sending stuff out and lots of good luck to you and many blessings.

It is obvious you have overcome a lot in your life, and so I know you are a person who isn't dissuaded easily and doesn't give up. All the better to have those attributes if you want to be a published writer. There's a lot of rejection sometimes before that one editor says "yes," but those who stick it out and have some talent will succeed.

God bless and good luck! Keep writing.

All my best,

This e-mail made my day before it barely began. I was thrilled, honored, and uplifted. Today was a holiday for me because it was a planning day for the regular district's teachers, and I am only a substitute teacher, rather like an itinerant teacher for those outside the US who are not familiar with the term. I immediately decided to take Ms. Tintori's advice and get a copy of Writer's Market 2008, a massive tome of articles of how to get into the writing business and listings of hundreds of places to send your work from publishing houses and magazines to greeting card companies. Years ago I had bought a copy of Writer's Market, but my readiness to be a writer was not there. Since that time I have had articles and letters to the editor published in newspapers in my town, but I just did not have the courage to branch out. I was not ready no matter how much I dreamed and dreamed. Blogging has actually gotten me in shape to write regularly, so in the right hands and for the right reasons it is not a trivial exercise.

This afterrnoon I bought the 2008 edition of Writer's Market. I have a customer membership with the store where I made the purchase, so this morning to my good financial fortune I received in my e-mail a 40% off coupon from them and I was able to use it towards the purchase of my volume of Writer's Market.

Other excitement that has cropped up is I was given another job in the school district as an assistant to the afterschool program director which will pay more then my current position. Now I just have to find a school that needs me. Hopefully tomorrow I will.

Like my mother says, "Turkey will always be a part of your life. You will not escape the Turks." Saturday night when I called the time of day service, which is a recorded message offered by a local bank giving the time and the weather our house phone was not working, so I decided to use my cell phone. Someone had left a message on Friday and Saturday afternoons on my voicemail. I usually keep my phone off or just on vibrate, so it might have been days before I checked if the house phone had not been out. Shocker of shockers it was a former Turkish friend in distress. I will not put her name here, but she had jumped up on a humbug, like my mom likes to say, and married some guy here. I had written her a letter of invitation last summer even though she had developed a very rude and cocky attitude towards me. I will not put all the details here, but suffice it to say, she has been thoroughly humbled since she found out that one cannot get instant US citizenship by just marrying an American citizen. She has also learned that getting a job in her profession is not likely to happen either without a green card. She has learned that it all is a long uncertain process especially in post 9/11 America.

Yesterday and last night when I spoke to her, she sounded listless, broken, and slightly frighten. I have no idea who this guy is that she has gotten connected with. Gone are the snide, cocky, arrogant, know-it-all, rude, and insulting remarks. She has learned that Hollywood movies and her own dreams do not always mesh with reality. It is a sad story really, the complete details of which I still do not know every thing about. The irony of her situation can be seen in her lack of access to a phone. In Turkey she had 2 cellphones. Here she really does not have one except the one her husband uses and which he takes sometimes with him to work leaving her without access to a phone.

It is a very different ballgame here from in Turkey where it was easier for me to make friends with people there. I heard it once said that it is easier to go to the moon than to get to know your neighbors across the street in America. I guess she sees the difference. Families are not as close knit in the states as in Turkey.

My former friend has begged me to come and see her and stay a couple of days. She said she calls friends in Turkey, so I wonder does her husband not allow her to have the phone at times. I called her this morning just like she asked me too, but there was no answer and the voicemail said the number was not available. She told me last night that if her husband did not leave the phone with her to leave a message with him. I left a message on the voicemail, but she never called me. When I she told me yesterday to call back, her husband sounded a little angry and hostile when I asked for her, answering the phone with not a "hello" but with, "May I help you!" When she came to the phone she sounded listless and a littled scared and told me that she had to do yard work. She told me she would call me back in about 2 hours, but it was 5 hours later before I heard from her again.

Abuse is a problem for women everywhere, so I just hope and pray she has not gotten herself in a terrible situation where this man is controlling, terrorizing, and abusing her. I just wish I had not written the letter of invitation for her to get a visa. I sent that letter to very irresponsible, immature, and uninformed hands.

This poor young woman was very obsessed with getting her a black husband, and I know how some black men are abusive, controlling, and very uncaring about anything but their own selfish needs. My father was never verbally or physically abusive to my mother, but he never allowed her to control her finances and more recently when she sold some property, he scorned both her and my advise about investing it. He took most of it and spent it all to pay off his debts. I am a very forgiving person, so I am here again for this young woman who had been my colleague and friend, but who ruined our friendship by her arrogance. I fear for her, but I am powerless.

So I am taking Ms. Tintori's advise, and I will not be posting here as frequently. I am not putting myself on a definite schedule, but I will say that I will be writing here from 1 to 2 days a week. From afar I am trying to help a responsible Turkish friend who loves me like a sister and I am also being morally supportive of my Turkish boyfriend who says he is going back to Istanbul after taking care of his sick mother for over a year in his home town of Edirne near the Greek and Bulgarian border. An American friend of mine who hired me there last year to work in the language school where he was once one of the managers has offered my boyfriend a place to stay until he can get back on his feet. My Turk with the reddish brown hair and blue gray eyes has expressed a desire to come here and meet my family, but that will be in the far future, if ever.

Therefore much is going on. I will be changing jobs and taking on more responsibilities once I can find a school here that needs me for the position the school board has hired me for. I have been spending more time reading again, and I must get myself into the mood and mode to do all the things Ms. Tintori told me to do.

Sometimes I run across very good blogs that were abandoned without any comment on why. Then I see blogs that are an insult to the blogosphere and classy and sophisticated bloggers everywhere that should be abandoned.

I am not abandoning this blog that I take pride in, but I will be spending less time here . Nevertheless, I will continue to offer my usual eclectic mix once or twice a week when I have time.

Ciao for now:)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Legend of St. Valentine

The Valentine's Day that we celebrate today concerning Romantic love came about probably in the late Middle Ages. This day of Romance has only an ounce of similarity to the original meaning of who Saint or Saints Valentine was or were. One thing is known is that Valentine or Valentinus was the name of several Christian saints martyred in ancient Rome.

I have an old Hallmark Valentine card with the story of one of these martyrs. Since I do not have time to put the story into my own words, I will begin it below from a website I found it on. This is the exact same version word for word of the story of St. Valentine that is on my card.

Story of St. Valentine

"The story of Valentine's Day begins in the third century with an oppressive Roman emperor and a humble Christian Martyr. The emperor was Claudius II. The Christian was Valentinus.
Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship twelve gods, and had made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians. But Valentinus was dedicated to the ideals of Christ; not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. He was arrested and imprisoned.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Romance: Not Welcome In Saudi Arabia

Seems that even the concept of a red rose is a threat to morals in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Read here what the moral police is doing to make sure there are no thoughts of Romance for Valentine's Day.
In preparation for Thursday, Emma Alvarez has posted about that loveable bad boy of mythology and symbol of love and Valentines, Cupid. In my next post I will write about the legend of St. Valentine.

FYROM/Macedonian Bellydance?!!!

I love bellydance or oriental dance. I think it is a great exercise for women. Marvelous for the figure!

Here in my town there is one place which regularly offered bellydance classes on different levels. Places like the YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association) and The University Georgia's Continuing Education Center occasionally offers classes.

I own bellydance exercise video cassettes and a DVD by bellydancing twins Veena and Neena Bidasha and Suhaila Salimpour . I think bellydance should be learned by all women in America. Too many of us have been come so liberated that we lack that grace and femininity and Romantic aspect that I feel a woman needs in the way she moves. I have noticed graceful aspects in women while living in Turkey and Botswana. You rarely see it here.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a Balkan nation bordered by Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece. The country's population consists of Macedonians who are Slavic people, Albanians, Turks, Romani people (Gypsies), Serbs, Valachs (similar to the Romanians) and others. I never expected that Macedonia has a tradition of bellydance. Usually when one thinks of bellydance the Middle East, Turkey, and on slim occasions India are thought of. Bellydance is rooted in these countries, but it also has roots in Macedonia and Greece.

Bellydance probably was brought to the Balkans by the Romani people. The art of bellydance is thousands of years old originating from tribal, temple, ritual, and social dances and even in exercises to prepare women for childbirth. Two years ago when looking for CDs to add to my collection of Arabic music I ran across this unexpected find. Below I have included two videos of bellydancers in possibly Macedonia. Notice that Balkan bellydance music has slight similarities in rhythm to Middle Eastern bellydance music, but the instrumentation is different. Brass instruments like trumpets, saxophones, trombones, and clarinets are played in this form of bellydance music. Macedonian bellydance was a refreshing surprise for me. If you notice in the two clips at the end, there is a kind of vivaciousness in Macedonian bellydance that you do not see in its' Middle Eastern or Indian counterparts.

I learned in Turkey that though there are plenty of places to see bellydance especially in cities like Istanbul, Turks are not interested. Why? Their answer is, "That is for the tourists."

I have not gone to a bellydance performance yet in Turkey, but in 2006 I went to a bellydance charity performance here in my town to benefit African children. The dancers performed mainly Indian forms of bellydance.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Latest Bonaparte

This man is the pretender to the imperial throne of France, but he knows there will be no imperial throne again. The age of the old empires ended with the first world war. Nevertheless, His Imperial Highness Charles Marie Jerome Victor Napoleon is the great great great nephew of Napoleon I. The remaining bloodline of the Bonapartes comes from Napoleon's youngest brother Jerome and his second wife from which Prince Charles Napoleon comes. I plan in a future post to write about Jerome's American connection.
Prince Charles Napoleon who was born in 1950 in France holds a doctorate in economics from the Sorbonne. He is an author, essayist, and a politician. Over the years he has worked in banking, financial planning, and real estate. He has been married twice and has four children. In Ajaccio, Corsica which is the birthplace of his great grandfather and uncle, Prince Charles Napoleon has also been politically active.

Can you see a resemblance between him and his great grandfather Jerome?