January 23, 2017

Random Acts… Everyone should attend Festival of Human Abilities

Posted in Art, Diversity, Entertainment, Health, Travel at 5:37 pm by dinaheng

Why does an aquarium have an annual festival featuring performances that showcase the creativity of people with disabilities?

“It’s all part of our outreach to many communities,” explains Peter Martineau, marketing events manager for the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif. “Our mission is about taking care of the animals, the ocean and the ecosystem by getting people engaged to accomplish that mission.”Dinah Eng

So in addition to cultural festivals that celebrate people from diverse racial backgrounds, the Aquarium decided to create an event highlighting the talents of those with disabilities. The great thing about these events is that people from all walks of life attend and learn from each other.

This year, the Aquarium’s 14th Annual Festival of Human Abilities (Jan. 28-29) will feature hip hop wheelchair dancers (Auti Angel, The Rollettes, and Infinite Flow); a sign language choir; Kodi Lee, a singer who is blind and has autism; Dat Nguyen, a guitarist who is blind, and other inspiring performers.

Along with music and dance, the event will include art demonstrations, like the making of mouth-stick art by local artists with disabilities. Diveheart, an organization that takes people with disabilities scuba diving, will do a talk and take divers into an Aquarium exhibit.

Free creative workshop classes, lasting 30 to 45 minutes, will teach participants how to sing in sign language, create wheelchair art, paint a hat, or try hip hop wheelchair dancing. The Aquarium will also give audio tours for guests who are blind.

Auti Angel gives a wheelchair dancing performance at the 13th Annual Aquarium of the Pacific's Festival of Human Abilities. Photo courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Auti Angel gives a wheelchair dancing performance at the 13th Annual Aquarium of the Pacific’s Festival of Human Abilities. Photo courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

“We all have challenges in our lives, and whether you have a disability or not, you’ll find yourself inspired by these performances,” Martineau says. “We usually get about 7,000 attendees each day, and one of the most powerful things is the opportunity for people who don’t have disabilities to feel comfortable around those who do.

“The more you can talk to someone and hang out with them, the more you realize that that person’s a human being you can talk to. Everyone at the festival is getting the ocean conservation message, and it’s going to take a diverse world of people to make it happen.”

Admission to the festival costs $29.95 for adults (12 years and older), $26.95 for seniors (62 and older); $17.95 for children 3 to 11; and is free for children ages 3 and younger. Members of the Aquarium are admitted free of charge.

For more information, check out http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/events/info/festival_of_human_abilities/.

 

 

 

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January 10, 2017

‘Patriots Day’ brings out the best in us

Posted in Entertainment, Politics at 3:52 am by dinaheng

Only those who have been in the middle of a terrorist attack can truly know the shock, fear and anger that such acts cause. But if you watch CBS Film’s  “Patriots Day,” you’ll come closer to the pain involved, and be inspired by the goodness that can emerge from fear.

The story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt, meticulously researched by director and writer Peter Berg (“Deepwater Horizon,” “Lone Survivor”), is a suspenseful account of a true crime that manages to grab you from the start and never let go.

More than entertaining, the film brings a deep understanding of how the attack affected the City of Boston, and how citizens, first responders, and law enforcement officials banded together to catch the terrorists four days after the bombs went off.Dinah Eng

While many of the characters are based on real life people, the central figure of Sgt. Tommy Saunders of the Boston Police Department (played by Mark Wahlberg) is a composite of several actual Boston police officers and first responders. Through his eyes, we see the horror of the event, and the determination of law enforcement to find the perpetrators.

While many acts of acts of heroism occur in the film, the unexpected hero is Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), a Chinese immigrant and tech entrepreneur who, after being kidnapped by the terrorists, risks his life to call 911 and report their whereabouts.

Meng, and other real life survivors like Patrick Downes (Christopher O’Shea) and Jessica Kensky (Rachel Brosnahan) — both of whom lost legs in the bombing – are shining examples of the spirit of those whose lives were forever changed by the incident.

For even after losing so much personally, they continue to face the future without malice in their hearts. Listen to these words from the real life people who are portrayed in the film:

* “I think that day…the bombers took lives and limbs, they took some of our sense of security,” Former Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick says. “But they took a lot less than they intended. And they gave us back some things they didn’t intend…they gave us a stronger sense of community, a common cause. And I think we’ve seen that in some other examples, in other cities around the world.”

* “When we see the news that another attack has happened, in Brussels, in Islamabad, Nice… Orlando, San Bernardino, Paris,” survivor Patrick Downes says, “I think it’s important we think of these people around the world, not as victims of violence, but ambassadors for peace.”

* “This has been the absolute worst and lowest time in our lives, as well as the best,” survivor Jessica Kensky says. “After being the recipient of such incredible care and kindness, the very least I can do is get out of bed and try again, and try and make this world a little bit better for someone else.”

To try again… to make the world better for others, and ourselves… this is what “Patriots Day” is about.

 

 

 

 

January 3, 2017

Random Acts… Past and present connect in new tales

Posted in Books, Politics, Women at 10:09 pm by dinaheng

Everything in life is connected. The things we do today affect what happens tomorrow. The things we did yesterday affect what happens today.

Two authors explore that concept in different, intriguing ways in their latest novels.Dinah Eng

James Rollins, whose adventures often combine historical mystery and scientific exploration, has penned a thriller about an ancient plague that could wipe out the modern world in “The Seventh Plague” (William Morrow, on sale now).

In the book, which features characters from Rollins’ Sigma Force series, the leader of a British archaeological expedition stumbles out of the Sudanese desert, two years after vanishing with his research team. He dies before he can share what happened to him, and reveal who had begun to mummify his body – while he was still alive.

When the medical team who performs the archaeologist’s autopsy dies from an unknown illness, Painter Crowe, the director of Sigma Force, summons his team to investigate. Helping the team is the archaeologist’s only daughter, Jane McCabe, who discovers a connection between what is happening in the present and a historical mystery involving the travels of Mark Twain, the research of Nikola Tesla and the fate of explorer Henry Morgan Stanley.

"The Seventh Plague" by James Rollins. Book cover courtesy of William Morrow.

“The Seventh Plague” by James Rollins. Book cover courtesy of William Morrow.

Rollins explores the question of whether a virus could have caused the Biblical plagues, and whether today’s society is really ready to deal with global pandemics. Noting in the book that the Zika virus originated in a monkey in Uganda, the organism in the book is in the same family of viruses, causing birth defects and death, but only in male children.

The author, whose parents recently passed away from complications secondary to Alzheimer’s, dedicated the book to them. One of the main characters in the book, Commander Gray Pierce, grapples with the challenge of caring for a father whose Alzheimer’s has worsened throughout the series, and clearly reflects an experience felt by all who have aging parents.

When it comes to understanding the complexity of scientific issues, Rollins does a great job of using facts to keep readers guessing as his plot unfolds. Whether humanity is truly ready to face the crises that climate change and potential pandemics will bring is anybody’s guess.

Facing crises of faith and magical battles is at the center of “Heartstone” by Elle Katharine White (Harper Voyager, on sale Jan. 17, 2017), an absorbing reimagining of Jane Austen’s classic “Pride and Prejudice.”

In this tale, White weaves an historical fantasy with characters who live in a world where gryphons and direwolves battle dragonriders and wyverns. The heroine, a headstrong Aliza Bentaine, is as resourceful and brave as Austen’s Lizzy Bennet, facing both the demons that threaten the kingdom and her fears about falling in love with the haughty dragonrider, Alastair Daired (known as Mr. Darcy in Austen’s world).

"Heartstone" by Elle Katharine White. Book cover courtesy of Harper Voyager.

“Heartstone” by Elle Katharine White. Book cover courtesy of Harper Voyager.

Despite its connection to “Pride and Prejudice,” this story stands on its own with a well-crafted plot, passionate characters who come to life, and themes exploring class lines and what true love entails.

When Anjey, Aliza’s sister, falls in love with Cedric Brysney, a dragonrider and Alastair’s friend, the two seem destined for each other. But when duty calls, Cedric must leave, and the separation tests the faith each has in the other. Little do they suspect that someone is scheming to break them apart.

When Aliza is called to help an aunt and uncle who live near the Daired estate, she investigates why Cedric has not replied to any of Anjey’s letters. The answer to this romantic mystery unfolds as an even greater threat to humanity surfaces. (There are monsters aplenty in this realm).

As in all things, past connections bring present crises to the fore in this tale, which affirms the power of love to heal all wounds. For those who love classic romance and stories set in magical settings, “Heartstone” is a tale worth reading.