June 29, 2018

Random Acts… Beware the prejudice of dinosaurs among us

Posted in Diversity, Politics, Travel at 6:23 pm by dinaheng

Maximo the Titanosaur, the largest dinosaur discovered to date, stretches 122 feet across Stanley Field Hall on the main floor of Chicago’s Field Museum, and looms 28 feet tall at the head.

The cast, modeled from fossil bones found in what is now Patagonia, Argentina, represents a long-necked plant-eating creature that lived over 100 million years ago.

Such animals may only roam the earth in “Jurassic Park” movies now, but our fascination with them has not waned with the passing years.

Last week, my sister and I visited the Field Museum, wandering from exhibits on ancient China to displays of mummies from Egypt and Peru. History shows us a picture of where we’ve come from, but it’s not always easy to see the history that we are making today.

In ancient Peru, some families kept mummies in their homes, or brought them to festivals, to allow the living to remain connected to the dead. It’s not unlike those who keep the ashes of their loved ones in urns today.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, there are too many who do the same with outdated beliefs, wishing they could live in a time that no longer exists. For example, those who revere Confederate statues and Nazi flags are holding on to a heritage and values that are scorned by most today.

Sadly, partisan politics have expanded into culture wars that are creating a moment in history that no one should be proud of. Demonizing people whose opinions differ from ours only increases our rage against strangers we don’t even know, harming us all.

An Apatosaurus in the Field Museum’s Evolving Planet exhibit. Photo courtesy of the Field Museum.

In the Field Museum’s Hall of Gems, you can see more than 700 gemstones and learn how they came to be. Amber, for example, is one of the major varieties of organic gems, meaning that its creation is the result of living things.

Long ago, in some ancient forest, pine trees secreted resin, which solidified over the course of several hundred years into copal, a hard, oily substance. Millions of years after that, oil gradually leached out of the copal and became amber.

Whether your taste runs to amber or amethyst, rubies or sapphires, it’s easy to admire Nature’s beauty on display here. Why can’t we do the same with our fellow human beings?  We may have different skin colors, different hair textures and different facial features, but we are all human beings underneath the prejudice of our fears.

The Evolving Planet exhibition, which takes a journey through four billion years of life on Earth, tells the story of evolution from the birth of single-celled organisms to fearsome dinosaurs to our extended human family.

It’s fascinating to see the skeletal remains of creatures large and small, and to be grateful that homo sapiens came after the age of the dinosaurs.

Today, the fear that makes many people cling to the days when they felt in power is growing. The world has evolved in ways they don’t agree with, so they resist with shouts of “fake news” and “lock her up.”

The truth is, nothing stays the same, and the only sign of life is change. It’s important to appreciate the past — documented in places like the Field Museum — but we cannot keep trying to re-create memories that have no place in today’s world.

Those who do risk becoming the skeletons of dinosaurs roaring into the wind.


May 30, 2018

Random Acts… Kudos for doing the right thing

Posted in Business, Diversity, Entertainment, Television at 8:20 pm by dinaheng

So I heard this joke recently…

When Mark and Isabelle got to a certain age, they decided they would write everything down that was important, so that they would remember it. One day, Mark wanted some ice cream, but when he looked in the freezer, there was none. So he told Isabelle he was going to the store to buy some.

She reminded him to write it down, and he disagreed, saying, “Don’t be silly.  It’s one thing. I can remember ice cream.” When he returned, he put his sack of groceries on the table. Isabelle looked inside and saw… two cans of chicken soup.

Irritated, she looked at Mark, and said, “I told you to write it down! Now look at this… you forgot the crackers!”

Forgetting what is important happens to all of us, every day. We often forget to say please, thank you, I love you, to the people who matter most to us. In our haste to tell people what we think, we forget about the impact our words may have on those who don’t think the way we do. There’s a lot of unintentional hurt in the world.

Roseanne Barr probably had no idea that her tweet referring to former President Obama aide Valerie Jarrett as the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and the “Planet of the Apes” film franchise would get her fired. She forgot that words have power, and power comes with responsibility.

The comedienne whose controversial views were the object of both adoration and disdain forgot that tweets may be heard around the world, but life always moves toward balance. Attack someone unfairly, and you will be attacked in return.

That doesn’t mean we should all shut up and keep our opinions to ourselves. It means if we speak, we should also listen.

Executives at ABC listened to Barr’s words, and immediately fired her, a decision that cost the network a lot of money. Just two weeks earlier, ABC had been touting “Roseanne” as the season’s No. 1 hit, appealing to an average of 17.9 million viewers who watched a family grapple with partisan political views.

ABC’s decision to stand up and say racism is not acceptable — by sacrificing profit in favor of promoting human decency — deserves loud kudos. It sets a moral compass that we all can follow because jokes that promote stereotypes and create hurtful divisions between people are not funny.

If we could manage to remember that one thing, we’d really bring home the ice cream.


May 23, 2018

Random Acts… Businesses should feed more than profits

Posted in Business, Dining at 1:16 am by dinaheng

I love French food. In Paris, there’s nothing I enjoy more than walking into neighborhood patisseries to smell the freshly baked croissants. The last time I went, I brought home a half-dozen almond croissants because they just have no equal in the U.S.

So when it came time to take a friend to lunch for her birthday, I happily agreed to her suggestion of going to Le Pain Quotidien in Los Angeles’ Larchmont district. The few times I’d been to other Le Pain Quotidien locations, I had sampled their breakfast and pastry selections, which were always nicely done.

Unfortunately, today’s lunch was so bad, my friend and I made a running joke of it. She ordered the Oven-roasted Chicken Caesar Salad, which came in a decent-sized portion for $19.99. The chicken, however, was dry and the dressing was “less than superb,” she noted. “I thought it would be quiet here, so that we could talk.”

It was quiet… because there was almost no one in the restaurant.

I ordered the Roasted Turkey Club, which was “served on a brioche roll with bacon, crisp little gem lettuce and chipotle aioli, with choice of small Caesar salad or soup of the day” for $14.99.

Imagine my surprise when the brioche roll turned out to be less than 4 inches in diameter. Cut in half, it came to about 3 bites per half sandwich. Inside the roll was one thin slice of turkey, a tiny leaf of lettuce, and a sliver of tomato. The salad that came with it was placed in a small – let’s emphasize, small – cup. The portion wasn’t what I would even consider a child’s portion.

Yes, we Americans are used to eating large portions of food. The large number of overweight people in our country are testament to that. But wherever you eat out, the amount of food you get for the price you pay should be enough so that you don’t walk away hungry.

The Cheesecake Factory, in a similar price range to Le Pain Quotidien, offers a great turkey club sandwich that’s so large, I always get two meals out of it.  Even an Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s, which is close to the size of Le Pain Quotidien’s turkey of a sandwich, only costs a third the price.

Eating in a good restaurant is more than just swallowing things to fill the tummy. It’s savoring a taste and smell that creates a memory of sharing lunch with a friend. It’s taking a break from a hectic day to sit and feel thankful that you can afford the meal on your plate. It’s feeding your soul as you enjoy each bite.

Price tags at Le Pain Quotidien are bigger than some of their products. Photo by Dinah Eng.

Clearly, businesses exist to make money. It’s a shame that the need to make a profit has come to the point that a restaurant would advertise a slider as a sandwich, and expect people to think it was chic to pay a lot for very little.

Looking at the baked goods display in the restaurant, everything looked luscious, but each item also looked like a miniature version of itself. In most cases, the price tags for each item were larger than the items themselves.

When I asked Maria York, the manager at the Larchmont location, whether she thought the Roasted Turkey Club came in a decent-sized portion, she said, “I like to eat, and when we sell it, I think we should offer more food. I’ll definitely bring it up to our food and beverage department in New York.”

Nous verrons s’ils ont compris le message.

April 25, 2018

Random Acts… Journey of love shared in “The Beach House”

Posted in Books, Entertainment, Movies, Women at 9:18 pm by dinaheng

If tears and smiles are what you look for in a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, “The Beach House” is sure to please.

Based on the novel of the same name by Mary Alice Monroe, the film tells the story of a mother-daughter relationship against the backdrop of one of Mother Nature’s most fascinating and endearing events – the migration of sea turtles to the South Carolina coast.

The film, which premieres Saturday, April 28 at 9 p.m. Eastern on the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, stars Minka Kelly as Caretta Rudland, an ambitious advertising executive who’s lost her job in Chicago and decides to visit the mother she’s been estranged from in the Lowcountry of her childhood summers.

Caretta’s mother Lovie, played by Andie MacDowell, has been caring for a young, pregnant friend Toy (Makenzie Vega), as well as protecting the annual loggerhead turtle spawn/birth cycle on the beach nearby. There is also, of course, the rekindling of a love affair for Caretta with local fisherman and all-around Southern gentleman Brett Beauchamps (Chad Michael Murray).

The cycle of life plays out in the mother-daughter relationship as time becomes more precious with each passing day. Secrets are revealed, family issues are confronted, and relationships are healed.

Through it all, we learn about the amazing journey that sea turtles make from the ocean to the sandy beaches where they lay eggs that will hatch into the next generation of slow moving marine reptiles with shells on their backs.

No one knows exactly how long sea turtles live, but scientists believe that at approximately age 30, they start laying eggs every few years, and can live to be about 80 years old. All species of sea turtles, with the exception of the flatback sea turtle in Australia, are considered endangered.

According to the Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project, six species of sea turtles migrate annually to the South Carolina coast, with loggerhead turtles preferring Hilton Head.

Andie MacDowell and Minka Kelly in “The Beach House” Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David M. Russell

In “The Beach House,” Lovie is a “turtle lady” who keeps an eye out for new nests on the beach, moving any that are in danger to higher ground. In one poignant scene, Lovie and Caretta watch as a sea turtle lays her eggs.

“Is she crying?” Caretta asks, with surprise.

Lovie says the mama turtle lays her eggs, then leaves them to return to the ocean, not knowing what will happen to her babies.

Scientists say the turtle tears are part of a process of getting rid of an excess of sea salt, but giving human characteristics to animals, in this case, creates a moving metaphor for parenthood.

We give birth to (or adopt) children, and at some point, must let them move forward with their own lives, not knowing what will happen to them. Conversely, as children, we think our parents will be with us forever, never really knowing what life will be like when they are gone.

If we’re lucky, we will value every moment together – no matter how happy, sad, proud, or shameful that moment is. For one day, those moments will end.

“The Beach House” is a loving reminder that time is shorter than we think, but love ensures that the moments that matter never really end.



January 23, 2018

Random Acts… Books to fight the winter blahs

Posted in Books, Diversity, Politics, Relationships, Women at 2:31 am by dinaheng

There’s nothing better than a good read to fight the winter blahs.

While I’m months behind in tackling the stack of novels on my nightstand, I did manage to finish two worth noting, and one, well… sad disappointment.

The great thing about “The Dire King” by William Ritter (Algonquin) is that the book is chock-full of wisdom for life. This conclusion to a four-book series about Jackaby, a paranormal detective, and his more-than-able assistant Abigail Rook, holds lessons about kindness, racism, building character, and more.

The story, set in a world where monsters and magic have emerged in terrifying ways, explores what happens in New Fiddleham, New England when the undead start appearing in town. There’s a romance between Abigail and the shape-shifting police detective Charlie Cane, and more than longing looks between Jackaby and Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of their house.

What happens in this magical town reflects what is happening in our society today, both good and bad. For example, when the mayor arrests every nonhuman species in town, simply because they are different, Jackaby comes to the rescue, bailing everyone out of jail with his own savings.

“The Dire King” by William Ritter. Courtesy of Algonquin.

As he notes, “I refuse to treat them all like suspects…. It is a greater travesty by far to see the innocent punished than to watch the guilty go free… We cannot make the world less awful by being more so ourselves.”

Unfortunately, the mayor refuses to see the “oddlings” as just people. He considers them “dangerous, unpredictable magical creatures, here in the real world!”

Jackaby argues that “if being magical meant that something was dangerous, you’d have long since been killed by a butterfly, or a bubble, or an apple turnover… There is magic in your life! Not appreciating it does not make it any less magical. Yes, some of that magic is dangerous, but so are scissors and electricity and politics – and plenty of other completely human inventions!”

There is hope for humanity, however, as one magical being tells Abigail, “You’ve seen your share of pain and you’ve come out sharper. That scar suits you. I learned a long time ago that we do not survive because we’re strong – we become stronger the more we survive.”

“Wildfire” by Ilona Andrews. Courtesy of  Avon Books.

Figuring out how to survive in a magical world is also the challenge for Nevada Baylor in “Wildfire,” by Ilona Andrews (Avon Books), the conclusion to the author’s paranormal romance Hidden Legacy series.

I love science fiction and fantasy novels because today’s problems are set in worlds that are both like our own, and yet nothing like our everyday experience. This series is set in Houston, Texas, where several of my sisters live. Neighborhoods are familiar, from their names to geographical descriptions, yet the society that exists there is vastly different in the novel.

Nevada Baylor, who heads a family detective agency, is a truthseeker, who can tell instantly if someone is lying or not. Her boyfriend, Connor “Mad” Rogan, is a billionaire Prime, whose magical powers must mesh with hers to combat a political conspiracy that will change the balance of power in their society.

The book explores socio-economic standing and barriers to equality against the backdrop of an updated Cinderella tale, only the heroine saves the prince as often as he saves her. This is a fun, romantic read that will leave you wanting more.

“The Woman Left Behind” by Linda Howard. Courtesy of William Morrow.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many positive things to say about “The Woman Left Behind” by Linda Howard (William Morrow), which will be on sale March 6. Howard, who has written numerous bestsellers in the romance-adventure genre, has a wonderful style that sets up interesting plots and characters you want to root for.

In “The Woman Left Behind,” all that is lost in a narrative that reads more like a military treatise on basic training than a story about a woman whose work for a paramilitary organization puts her in danger as she falls in love with her team leader.

The characters in this book – especially the team leader – are wooden, and the romance is practically non-existent. It’s a shame that what starts out as an interesting premise goes no further than that.

In the end, to no one’s surprise, the woman and team leader get together. Hopefully, this will be the last time details about military training overshadow the kind of suspense-filled adventure that Howard is more than capable of writing.

December 6, 2017

Random Acts… Holiday spirit abounds at Moody Gardens

Posted in Entertainment, Travel at 7:15 pm by dinaheng

Galveston, Texas — When it comes to holiday cheer, Galveston’s Moody Gardens offers a diverse slate of attractions bound to please the young and young-at-heart.

This year, the 16th annual Festival of Lights features a one-mile trail of more than 100 lighting displays, including a jolly Santa, various animals, and a nativity scene. Visitors can enjoy the area’s only outdoor skating rink, or watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 4D” in a movie theater where special effects – like snow falling into your lap — will pull you into the traditional story.

One of the most popular attractions is ICE LAND, a fairyland wonder of ice sculptures carved by master artists from Harbin, China.

“This year, we have a Rainforest Holiday theme,” says Jerri Hamachek, marketing and public relations manager for Moody Gardens, a non-profit promoting education and conservation that has become a tourist destination and community focus for local Galveston residents.

“Twenty-five Chinese carvers arrived in September to work on blocks of ice that are frozen in College Station, three hours away, and trucked here. The sculptures are maintained at a temperature of nine degrees, and we provide heavy parkas for visitors to wear in the exhibit.”

Guest zips down the ice slide in ICE LAND. Photo courtesy of Moody Gardens.

Visitors will walk through a wonderland of monkeys, beautiful birds, jungle orchids and more in this frozen representation of the Rainforest, decorated with festive Christmas lights.

A 38-foot tall ice slide with three lanes will tempt the kids (and some brave adults) for some winter fun, though some adults may be more attracted to Shivers Ice Bar, where alcoholic beverages can be purchased in the below freezing temperature.

“The work and effort that goes into ICE LAND impresses people because we rarely see snow or ice in Texas,” Hamachek says.

Back by popular demand is the Lone Star Circus “Cirque Joyeux Noel Dinner and Show,” which features a buffet dinner and performers from NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and Cirque du Soleil.

“This year, the show is very warm and flamboyant,” says Fanny Kerwich, founder and creative director of Lone Star Circus, based in Dallas. “With all the damage from the hurricane in the Houston area, I wanted to have strong, powerful performers to deliver the message that Texas is a big, strong state. We want to bring happiness and a sense of joy to the audience this holiday season.”

Kerwich, who began performing in circus acts at the age of six, is an eighth generation circus performer who has traveled the world. She is an accomplished acrobat, aerialist, contortionist, and clown, who has performed throughout North America, Russia, South America, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

“Being around the sound of performers, music and the show, is in my blood,” Kerwich says. “My brother was born in Paris, my sister in southern France, and I was born in Montreal, Canada. We had a family circus in Canada and toured before Cirque du Soleil even existed.”

She explains that circus acts in Europe originated with one-ring shows that would allow a horse to perform. When the circus migrated to America, P.T. Barnum needed more space for his spectacular shows, so created the three-ring circus for his animals and clowns.

The Pompeyo Family & Their Amazing Rescue Dogs perform in Cirque Joyeux Noel. Photo by Zan Keith Photography.

“For Americans, the circus vibe is popcorn and big arenas, but in other parts of the world, circus shows are more intimate,” Kerwich notes. “The acts are very glamorous and sophisticated in Russia and throughout Europe. They are performed in small theaters or tents. You expect to see excellence and artistry.”

While the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed this year, ending a 146-year run, its first African American ringmaster, Johnathan Lee Iverson, will be hosting “Cirque Joyeux Noel Dinner & Show.”

“Circus is still alive,” Kerwich says. “While Ringling closed, it could still re-open. When a show closes, it creates a good chance to reinvent yourself and connect with the audience in new ways.”

Kerwich was touring in a circus in the United States when she met her husband in Dallas. After two years of a long distance romance, she agreed to marry and settle down in Texas. In 2006, she launched the Lone Star Circus.

“I’m proud of the power of circus, and what it can bring to the heart of the audience,” Kerwich says. “Circus is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and is a reminder of the beauty of humanity.”

“Cirque Joyeux Noel Dinner & Show” runs December 15-25 at the Moody Gardens Convention Center. For more information, see http://moodychristmasshow.com/.

The Festival of Lights and ICE LAND runs through Jan. 7, 2018. For more information, see https://www.moodygardens.com/holiday_season/.




November 20, 2017

Random Acts… Orchard Canyon at Oak Creek an ode to the past

Posted in Dining, Travel, Uncategorized at 12:15 am by dinaheng

If you long for the good old days — when getting away for a vacation meant no telephone calls, no emails, and peace and quiet – go to Orchard Canyon at Oak Creek in Sedona, Ariz.

Just driving onto the lodge grounds is like stepping back in time. Manicured lawns and shade trees invite you to pick a chair and relax. Cozy cabins make you want to sit down on the porch, open up that book you’ve been wanting to read, and just breathe.

And, as you may have guessed, there is no telephone, television, or Internet access in the cabins. If you’re dying for a WiFi connection, you can get it in and around the Main Lodge, but if you’re serious about getting away from the regular routine of life, this place will take you there.

Each stay includes cocktails by the fireplace at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., and breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the historic lodge on the premises. The food, regardless of which meal you’re eating, is one of the best things about staying here.

Formerly known as Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge, the property was renamed for the bountiful fruits and vegetables grown on site that dictate each day’s menu. The orchards boast 6 to 8 varieties of peaches, 12 to 14 varieties of apples, apricots, cherries, plums and more.

Dining room at Orchard Canyon at Oak Creek

The chicken coop yields fresh eggs every day, and the gardens are planted with everything from tomatoes and winter squashes to a variety of peppers and garlic.

“I do French-inspired California cuisine,” says Chef Brian Widmer. “Three weeks out, the gardener will come in and say, ‘I have this,’ and I build the meals around it. Guests can tell us if they’re vegan or lactose-intolerant, and we’ll sculpt a menu for them.”

Guests are encouraged to share tables, a traditional that has resulted in many friendships over the years. Non-lodge guests can make dinner reservations, if there’s room, for $60 per person, with cocktails and gratuities extra.

The hotel, which started as a homestead in 1908, today features a tennis court, hiking trails and spa services, on request.

During the winter months, a few of the cabins remain open December 1 through mid-February, but meals are not served in the winter season. The kitchen re-opens March 9, 2018.

Even so, the cabins with wood burning fireplaces, king size beds and private decks are a bargain, starting at $125 a night during the week, and $195 weekends.

For more information, check out https://enjoyorchardcanyon.com/.









October 16, 2017

Random Acts… Be strong, stand up for the right to live

Posted in Politics, Travel at 11:57 pm by dinaheng

Las Vegas – Two weeks after the worst mass shooting in America’s modern history, tourists are gambling in the casinos and partying in the nightclubs, while locals are continuing to lay flowers at makeshift memorials near the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, not far from the site of the Route 91 Harvest music festival shooting.

Fifty-eight died, and nearly 500 were injured, at the hand of a man who legally purchased an arsenal of weapons and fired into the crowd from his Mandala Bay Resort and Casino suite on Sunday night, Oct. 1.

Driving past Mandalay Bay a couple of days ago, it was hard to imagine how multiple rounds of bullets could fly from the 32nd floor and reach concert-goers more than 300 yards away. But the black banner, #VegasStrong, hanging from the top of the hotel is a reminder that the horrendous event really did occur.

Everywhere you go in Sin City, VegasStrong signs abound. Throughout the United States, “Name-That-CityStrong” slogans have no doubt appeared in towns like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, and who knows how many more cities to come.

Reminding ourselves that we will survive is important. It’s also time to remind ourselves that we do not have to be the victims of mass shootings. We can stand up to the NRA and idiot politicians who would rather do nothing (or propose minor regulation changes for show) than tackle the problem.

There are no easy answers when people debate who’s to blame for mass shootings. Blame is not the issue. Needless deaths are the problem. So why can’t we just take one common sense step forward?

No one, other than military and law enforcement officers, needs to legally own an assault weapon. Period. In a democracy, nobody is out to kill you for holding whatever beliefs you hold, so unless your intention is to kill those who disagree with you, you don’t need to own an assault weapon. Period.

You don’t need an assault weapon to go game hunting – if you’re that bad a shot, you shouldn’t even pick up a gun. Period. Nobody is challenging anybody’s right to self-defense. The challenge is getting past our irrational fears.

One small step toward common sense would mean one large step toward a saner society.

Be strong. Tell Congress to ban assault weapons NOW. The life you save may one day be your own.







September 19, 2017

Random Acts… ‘Victoria & Abdul’ shares the treasure of friendship

Posted in Diversity, Entertainment, Movies at 2:02 am by dinaheng

Improbable friendships are what change the world.

In the new film “Victoria & Abdul,” due out in theaters September 22, England’s Queen Victoria (played by Judi Dench) is in her 70s when Abdul Karim, a young Muslim servant, arrives from India to be part of the Queen’s golden jubilee.

When the curious and outgoing 24-year-old man captures Victoria’s attention, the two form an unlikely friendship that threatens the Queen’s household and inner circle. For the more Victoria learns about India – a part of her empire that she will never visit because of security concerns – the more she casts aside rigid traditions that have long governed the monarchy.

Victoria insists that Abdul become her Munshi (teacher) on all things Indian and Muslim, so he teaches her how to write Urdu, an Indic language written in an Arabic alphabet. More than a teacher, he becomes her spiritual advisor and devoted friend.

He introduces her to the work of Rumi, a Persian poet and Sufi master, who wrote, “Love is the whole thing. We are only pieces.”

That, of course, is what every true friendship teaches. In sharing our hearts with another, we learn that commonalities outweigh differences. We learn that being different is something to celebrate, not to fear. And we learn that we are never truly alone.

The story of their friendship was nearly erased from memory by the Queen’s son (later King Edward VII) and others in the court, who were jealous of the outsider’s influence on the monarch. The pride and prejudice that surrounded their relationship was unearthed by author Shrabani Basu, who stumbled upon the tale while researching a book on the history of curry.

Learning that Queen Victoria enjoyed eating curries, Basu toured Osborne House, the Queen’s Isle of Wight home, and noticed two portraits and a bronze bust of an Indian man. Tracing Victoria’s interest in India, Basu journeyed to Pakistan, where she discovered Abdul’s journal, which confirmed the stories in the Queen’s Hindustani journals, hidden away in the Royal Archive.

The movie is based on Basu’s book, “Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant,” and while some historical events are dramatized, the film remains a witty and touching tale of two unlikely friends.

The conflict of class and culture that occurred in 1887 is still very much with us today. We live in a world where leaders are still out of touch with the people they govern. Class differences and cultural misunderstandings still occur in every society.

It’s unlikely that “Victoria & Abdul” will draw big box office numbers because sweet films like this rarely make waves. That’s a shame because prejudice is only erased one heart at a time, and movies that show improbable friendships are needed now, more than ever.


August 30, 2017

Random Acts… Hurricane watch goes beyond storm’s duration

Posted in Diversity, Politics at 10:50 pm by dinaheng

The only thing harder than riding out a hurricane is watching from afar, wondering if your loved ones in the danger zone are safe.

I live in California, the home of earthquakes and wildfires, while the rest of the family lives in Texas, the place you’re not supposed to mess with. Four of my six sisters live in Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States, now devastated in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Before the storm stuck, my sisters joined everyone else in stocking up on groceries and topping the tanks off in their cars. Then they went home to watch the rain fall.

Each day, I called or texted them, just to touch base. Fortunately, they all live in neighborhoods on higher ground, and their homes were not flooded.

“I got to the grocery store today,” my sister Linda said on Wednesday. “There was a line of people around the store, waiting in the rain, because they only let five people in at a time. I waited about half an hour.”

Inside, there was no bread, bananas, and limited snack items. She grabbed some milk, peanut butter and eggs, and headed home.

In 2005, more than 800,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Harris County officials estimate 30,000 to 40,000 homes in Houston were destroyed by Hurricane Harvey this week.

The dramatic scenes of flooding, frightened residents, and heroic rescues on the news brought home the reminder that this is what real news is about. The political posturing in Washington and accusations of “fake news” by a president who’s constantly repeating lies were finally knocked off the air by a natural disaster that people can actually respond to.

Think climate change isn’t real? We’re seeing now what happens when land development goes amok without regard for natural resources. Want to fight over whether your Democratic/Republican/white/black/Asian/Hispanic/Native American/Christian/Muslim/Buddhist viewpoint is better than others?

Who has time to argue over semantics when you’re waist deep in rising water and a total stranger is trying to pull you into their boat? As for those who think ”the media” is just plain evil, maybe seeing what real journalism means will make you think again, especially if the stranger pulling you into the boat was a reporter who was sharing your story with the world.

The lessons of Hurricane Harvey will be discussed and dissected for years to come. Let’s hope we learned that it doesn’t matter where we live. It’s how we live – and how we help others — that matters.


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