Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Easter and Flying Snakes


Since last Friday, I haven’t been feeling that great, and thought that I was coming down with a little cold or maybe it was my allergies. HA! Instead of a simple head cold, I was hit with some zombie virus and not in a good way.
Bronchitis and ear infection, the double whammy that even with the early start of antibiotics, held me tightly in its claws. Funny thing was that the day I went to see my doctor, he was just as sick. He’s never sick.  Later that week, I went to our writers’ group meeting thinking that I was feeling a bit better, but by the end of the night, I felt like crap with a capital C. When I realized on Friday morning, that my condition had taken a turn for the worse, I called my doctor. Seems the antibiotics weren't working for him either. He prescribed me a stronger antibiotic with a list of warnings that made standing in the middle of a nuclear meltdown sound much safer than what I was taking.
Unfortunately for me, I was unable to attend a test screening of The Soulless. I did a two part interview with Director, Chris Eilenstein on this film; here and here, and I was really looking forward to going. Maybe it was best that I stayed home, I might have spread the zombie virus. The good news is I'm going to the premier of the movie.


Easter Sunday, the boys usually come over for my annual Christ is Risen Scavenger Hunt, where they have to read clues to find their gift, I’m not doing it this year; too sick. Okay, there is one bright side to all this sick stuff, you get to see a lot of television when you're stuck in bed.


I’m not sure, but I may have hallucinated some of the stuff I saw on television because one of shows had flying snakes the size of the Queen Mary. I turned to another channel only to find another bad movie featuring flying, truck sized, Piranhas. It must have been my  high fever that caused these visions. 


I’ve been mixing a concoction of herbs and spices to help with the sore throat and headache, with little success, but I may have discovered a cure for fingernails that chip easily.

So, I wanted to thank everyone for their well wishes. I do appreciate them and I want to wish all my family and friends a Happy Easter and A Happy Passover! Save some jelly beans for me and watch out for that big snake.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gilbert Interviews the Amazing Storyteller, Laura J. Kaighn


Laura J Kaighn is not only a fellow member of the South Jersey Writers’ Group, but a very talented author of children stories, and the woman behind the Lady Hawke Storytelling and Writer’s Services. She’s been appearing at multiple events across Philadelphia and New Jersey to educate and entertain young and old alike with delightful folktales.  I’m pleased to introduce my readers to Laura J. Kaighn aka Lady Hawke

Tell us a little bit about yourself and when did you start writing?

            I’m a curious, eclectic spirit. I love science, nature, mythology and books. I was fostered on such TV shows as Jacques Cousteau, Nova and Wild America. I devoured my magazine subscriptions to Ranger Rick, Reader’s Digest, Discover and Nature. Even as a child, I had my own library in my bedroom.

I’m also the oldest of five, Mom’s helper and babysitter. Through some creative entertaining I kept my siblings free from chaos. When I was alone, my imagination turned to the stories I wanted to live. Star Trek was my initiation into science fiction. My first written story was a 23 page-long Star Trek tale. I was hooked on writing at age ten!


What inspires your stories and what type of stories do you like writing the most?

            I write science-fiction, animal and por-quoi tales, anything that my interests inspire. I love to combine natural elements and social issues into my tales – ‘man versus nature’ and ‘man versus society’ stuff. In Earth Child: The E.D. Piper Chronicles, I combined my love of animals, science fiction and wilderness to create the adventures of a shape-shifter who believes she’s the only one. In the sequel, Earth Child II: The Awakening, Ehlora finds out she’s not unique! Differences can be catalysts for countless colorful exploits.


How intensive is your research in your stories that feature Native American myths and with other cultures?

            I’m always reading and watching programs about what interest me. I take notes too. When I tell Native American stories, I do share some of the cultural background with my audience. I also insert some nature facts. My storytelling is based on multiple versions from several sources. I’ve read about and researched American Indian cultures since I first learned I was part Cherokee on my mother’s side. I was six.

In Earth Child II, my newest protagonist is half Navajo. I’ve been reading up to authenticate the character’s culture, environment, setting and social mores. Since I mostly write fiction, particular facts can be fudged a little: names changed, cultures skewed to protect the sacred. But I do back up my writing with real, possible and speculative science concepts. In my Vesar Warrior saga, for instance, I make use of interstellar transport gates which use artificially-generated wormholes; and time travel is possible because of an ancient and extinct species of creature known as the Mytoki. I’d love to publish those books someday!


 You do a lot of public programs and I was interested in what is your favorite program, and also what is your most requested program?

            My favorite stories are those centered on nature. Every culture has nature and por-quoi tales to explain the world of ‘why’ before science came along. I’ll never run out of discoveries there!


Though my Native American program is a long-time staple, my most popular programs are those I tailor for each audience. Every summer I develop a program to coordinate with the local libraries’ summer reading theme. Coincidentally, this year it’s about science! We’re going to have a ‘Fizz, boom, blast’!


Tells us about your newest book, Rabbit’s Tale & Other Rites of Passage. How did you choose the stories in this book?

            Rabbit’s Tale was a labor of love, a chance to highlight my own nature tales and family stories, along with my favorites from Native American cultures. I’ve been sharing these stories in some capacity for years, some since 1995 – the beginning of my storytelling career. Their common threads are hope, cooperation, devotion and growth. I stitched the stories together to bridge the gaps between writing Earth Child and it’ sequel.

What book are you working on now?

            I’m looking to complete and publish Earth Child II: The Awakening by late this year. I’ve also started another anthology whose tentative title is Once Upon a Childhood: Tales of Whimsy and Wonder. It’s a collection of fantastic and sci-fi based short stories taken from my story and dream journals and some early works when I was a teen.


In your opinion, how early should parents start reading to their children and can you give some helpful advice for parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?

Studies prove that reading to our children is integral to their language and brain development. We’re storytelling animals; we organize information through narrative. As early as a baby can link sounds and names to objects and concepts, a parent needs to nurture those connections.


Books need to be in every household! To best select books, know your child’s interests. Curiosity is a powerful motivator for learning. Providing books which match a child’s interests gives him an open door to asking more questions and expanding his horizons. The child can then become a life-long learner. Who knows where he’ll go! 


How does story-telling complement your story-writing and vice versa?

            Whenever I’m storytelling, I’m molding and revising the tale according to my audience’s feedback – their facial expressions, reactions and body postures. I know when the tale’s being enjoyed, if I’m going too fast, or need to be more dramatic in spots. One story, told slightly differently, can entertain audiences of different ages and backgrounds.

When I’m writing, I can anticipate my reading audience and their needs better because I’ve shared stories orally for so many years. As a writer and teller, my words and expressions, voices and pacing are my brushes and paint. Storytelling is one of the most ancient art forms. That makes me an artist too!


Thank you so much for being a guest on my blog, Laura. It was a great pleasure learning about your writing and services. If anyone is interested in joining the South Jersey Writers' Group, you can learn about us here:

Laura’s books Amazon:  

 A Rabbit's Tale                   


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Life with Fred & Lucy, Part 25: Uncle Ralph Meets King Kong

                                       Grandpop Enrico on left...Uncle Ralph on right

When I was around eleven, Uncle Ralph, who is my maternal grandmother’s brother traveled from Naples Italy to the States. Since Uncle Ralph was only able to visit for a month, my Aunt Ann, Uncle Mario and my mother planned all sorts of activities for him. Most of the time was spent visiting family, but once in a while my mother would hand over Uncle Ralph to her spawn. Leaving that poor elderly man with us wasn’t a good idea.

Uncle Ralph understood and spoke very little English, so right now I’m guessing you have some idea where this episode is going. My siblings and I understood some Italian, but not enough to help Uncle Ralph survive a trip to the neighborhood movie theatre for the weekly Saturday Double Creature Feature. Why my mother thought that sending Uncle Ralph to a kiddie matinĂ©e with four out of control kids would be a pleasant experience for him is something I’ve never understood.
Lunch bags packed with boloney sandwiches, TastyKake chocolate cupcakes and of course a bruised apple (read earlier blog # 21) we took hold of Uncle Ralph’s hand and walked to Broad and McKean. After we purchase our tickets, we tried to get Uncle Ralph to sit in the back of the theatre, but his eyesight wasn’t that good and he wanted to sit up front.
We tried to explain to Uncle Ralph that the seats he had picked were dangerous. We were sitting right under the balcony, but he was adamant about his choice and since he was the adult; we did as we were told. Uncle Ralph, unprepared for what was about to happen, opened his lunch bag and took out his sandwich. We four kids warily looked over our shoulders and up to the balcony. We knew from experience what would happen next.
As soon as the lights went down and the first cartoon came on, the food fight began. The balcony brigade began the battle with the tossing of buttered popcorn. The kids right under the balcony retaliated by pitching ‘Sugar Babies’ caramel candy and Jujubes candy back at the enemy. My Uncle Ralph, who was now covered in sticky popcorn, had dropped his lunch during this ruckus.

The movie ushers, accustomed to this weekly event, swiftly appeared on the scene with their flashlights, which they used to identify and intimidate the culprits. After the ushers gained some control of the theatre, the first movie began. It was the 1933 King Kong film. Uncle Ralph had never seen King Kong. I don’t know if Uncle Ralph had children of his own, I think he did, but I’m pretty sure they behaved better than we did.

Lucy sat on the right side of Uncle Ralph, so she had no choice but to behave. I can’t say the same for Jane, Mike or me. We were squirmy kids and didn’t sit still the entire time. When both features had ended, Uncle Ralph stood and brushed off the remains of the early bombardment of buttered popcorn. He didn't smile or speak to us the entire walk home.

 After we arrived home, he asked my mother for a shot glass of whiskey and then he went to bed. I don’t know if Uncle Ralph ever squealed on us to Fred and Lucy, but my mother never left him alone with us again.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Game of Thrones: Wedding


Holy bloody matrimony! In the land of fire and ice, marriages can be detrimental to your health. While wedding preparations were going on at Kings landing, we learn that Ramsey Snow is still at his sadistic games. I really hate this character. He releases his hounds on a poor maiden and laughs while she is torn apart.
Theon Greyjoy, who is a shell of a man in ways both physical and mental, is now called Reek. Roose Bolton is not happy with Ramsey’s treatment of Theon, but Ramsey has a ‘get out of jail’ card. Reek under torture reveals that Bran and his younger brother are alive, and now Roose wants the boys hunted down.
Bran Stark, who is mind melding with wolves, befriends a tree and receives a message. “Go north and look for me under the tree.” Unless this is one of the Ents from the Hobbit, I’m wondering if the tree is giving the right directions. Bran, Rickon and the rest of the merry band of misfits head north.
Dragonstone Island
Never say three is a crowd with this group. The scene opens with Stannis Baratheon and his black magic witchy woman, Melisandre are having themselves a barbeque with the neighboring heretics. It’s either Melisandre’s god or death.
 What a strange arrangement between Selyse and the red witch. It seems they don’t mind sharing the bed with Stannis, but Selyse does want hubby to crack down on the poor princess, Shireen. This poor kid can’t get a break. She has a birthmark that covers the entire left side of her face and now she has to listen to the red witch teach religion.
Kings Landing

And now it’s time for the wedding between spoiled rotten, sadistic, Joffrey and kind and gentle Margaery. Tyrion is warned that his true love is in danger and he is forced to send Shae away, leaving us to share in their  heartbreak.
While Tyrion and Jamie bond and chat about their futures under the king, Cersei is taking her disappointment over being the former queen regent out on others. She disses Brienne and guesses correctly that Brienne is in love with Jaime. When Margaery tells the servants to give any left-over food to the poor, Cersei secretly directs them to throw the food to the dogs. What a bitch! She should run for Congress; she hates the poor as much as they do.

Joffrey is sullen during the festivities except when he’s doing harm to others. He trashes Tyrion’s gift, a book of the history of kings and he takes glee in embarrassing Tyrion in front of the other guests. As much as I hate the character and think he is truly the apple of his mother’s tree, I love the young actor, Jack Gleeson. This kid has made every fan of Game of Thrones want to personally throttle him with our bare hands, which is what he was supposed to do and he did it so deliciously.
It wasn’t the Red Wedding, but it will be remembered as the wedding of excesses. Money was spent on lavish buffoonery, while the poor starved in the streets. Joffrey was poisoned and Tyrion is blamed. What will happen to Margaery, Brienne, Sansa, and Tyrion? No one is safe at Kings Landing. Oh, and you might as well keep the wedding gift. It won’t be needed


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Grimm: The Law of Sacrifice



Last night’s episode had Renard ready to die for his child and Adalind. While Nick and Renard peacefully discuss the best place for Adalind & the child to hide, Kelly observes a wesen F.B.I Agent giving orders to wesen assassins to take the child. Kelly is a Grimm Ninja Warrior and I love how easily she can take down an enemy. There is a big shoot out, and Nick helps Renard and Adalind escape for the time being, but where can Nick and Renard hide the mother and child? With the Royal Prince and his cohorts already on the way to Portland, Nick knows of only one haven.

Poor Monroe and Rosalee are getting it on hot and heavy when they receive a call from Nick. In one of the funniest conference calls, ever! Nick asks Monroe if he can bring a few guests to stay at his house. Monroe is a good friend and ally to Nick, and of course he says yes. I’ve never seen Monroe refuse Nick any request. But it is Monroe’s relationship to Rosalee and how they handle Nick’s constant requests for help (some of which are quite strange) that make this show work. No one can say that Monroe and Rosalee don’t have a sense of humor.
Rosalee and Monroe are now babysitting the woman not only responsible for Juliette’s coma, but also Nick’s Aunt Marie’s death. Kelly is also staying at the house guarding mother and child which is pretty funny since it was Kelly who, unknown to Adalind, killed Adalind’s mother. Monroe’s and Rosalee’s tiptoeing through this tricky wicket is priceless. But, not everyone is smiling.

The Prince shows up at the police station and flat out tells Renard that he will kill everyone unless he is given the child. See, it’s not that Eric loves the child, but that he wants to use her power to control the world. He’s a creep.

There is only one way to save this baby and it’s heartbreaking but necessary. Renard tricks Adalind into handing over the baby to him while she makes a police report on what occurred when they were attacked earlier in the night. It isn’t until she finds Kelly in the interrogation room that she realizes she’s been duped. Renard hands the infant over to the Prince.

Adalind sees the limo drive off with her baby and you can feel her loss. It was a very sad scene. The Prince never gets the baby onto the plane and back to Europe because on route to the airport, heavily armed rebels steal the child from him. I was very upset with the outcome and especially because that poor baby’s situation went from bad to worse. Would she be killed?
A truck drives down a lonely road with Kelly at the wheel and beside her, the child. Although Renard was in on the rescue of the child with the help of Nick, Monroe, Kelly and Hank, he will never know the child’s whereabouts. It’s safer that way. Kelly will protect that child with her life and there is a bond between the Ninja Grimm and the Wesen princess, but it was Adalind’s cries of grief for her missing baby that stayed with me long after the show ended.

Thursday, April 10, 2014




I’m a big fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson the world famous and respected Astrophysicist.  You can find Neil on YouTube's Star Talk and on  Fox Channel's  Cosmos. At a young age, Neil not only met with his hero Carl Sagan, but he was inspired by Sagan’s  knowledge of the universe and how it worked. Neil decided to devote his life to the sciences and we are all the better for his choice.

In  the recent atmosphere of science bashing, where politicians use the GOD card to trump anything scientifically accepted to be true,  I find it refreshing to watch a show that like its predecessor, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage presented by Carl Sagan on PBS, will introduce this generation to the beauty of scientific documentation. 
                                 Neil deGrasse Tyson, Seth MacFarland and Ann Druyan
The show was created by Ann Druyan (Sagan's widow) and Steven Soter and is directed by Brannon Braga, Bill Pope and Ann Druyan. Seth MacFarlane is one of the producers of the show who thankfully for us used his clout and money to get this show broadcasted. I can't thank you enough Mr. MacFarlane.

Each week, using the Ship of Imagination just like in the original show, we the viewers are brought to the far reaches to the Universe and back to glimpse at the beginning of life on earth.  Life, as we know it, began first in the oceans and then moved onto land. There are 13 episodes and if you've missed any or all of the series, you can watch these episodes on Demand.

I've always been a science geek and that is why I enjoy Cosmos and shows like it, but you don't have to be a scientist to understand Cosmos. Neil deGrasse Tyson, like his mentor Carl Sagan, has a gift of knowledge that he is willing to share with you in an amazing, beautiful and imaginative way. He tells us the story of the cosmos and the science behind it, in ways that everyone is able to understand. I guarantee that you will be looking at the night sky with an open mind and eyes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Life with Fred & Lucy, Part 24: Street Games


                                        Jane and Michael in our yard on Porter Street
I don't think kids today know how to keep themselves entertained without plugging into a video game, but when we four kids weren’t working in the grocery store, we played outside with our friends. In South Philadelphia during the 1950’s, there were electric trolley cars that ran down 15th street. Since not everyone could afford a car in those days, we kids had more room to play stick ball. I can see the puzzled looks already. Stick ball? Yep, that was another term for baseball, but without a field, bat or even a regular ball. If you check out this site, you’ll get the gist:
                                                          Sample of stick ball game
I honestly don’t remember any of the kids on our street belonging to any baseball leagues like we have today. I don’t know how it was in the suburbs, so if there are any readers who lived outside of South Philly and were part of a junior baseball league, let me know.
                                                 15th and Porter Streets--Fred's Grocery Store
We kids were resourceful back then and could make up games to play at the drop of a hat, but let’s get back to stick ball on 15th Street. There was always an old broom stick that was used as a bat and of course the most important equipment; a pimple ball.

My father sold pimples balls for 10 cents and then he would slice the pimple ball in half for the kids. This was the only way you were allowed to use the ball. As far as the bases, we usually designated whatever cars were parked on the street, and Home base was usually a neighbor’s step.
Whenever a car drove down the street or the trolley came by, we would stop the game until it was safe to continue playing. Sometimes we were so into the game, that we didn’t notice the approaching car. It was a wonder that we weren’t killed, but maybe it’s because there weren’t that many cars on the road during the 50’s. The game lasted until the neighborhood Moms yelled out their front doors to tell us that dinner was ready.
Jailbreak was another neat game, where one person was the jailer and the person who was 'It' had to capture the crooks and stand them in front of a designated neighbor’s house.

The trick was to keep the people in jail from breaking free while you capture more prisoners. Tag, jacks, hopscotch, and roller skating were other favorite games that we neighborhood kids loved to play until the call for supper sounded.
We didn’t have video games or computers in those days and the television only had 3 to 5 stations, so it was up to us kids to make up our own games. We were never bored and if we even dared to say we were; our moms had plenty of work for us to do around the house.
                                       Gladys, Gracie, Aunt Anna, Susie, Annie, me

One time, my cousin Annie from New Gretna, New Jersey came to spend the week and I had lent her an extra pair of skates to go street skating with us. These were the skates that attached to your shoes and you had to use a key to tighten them.
While we were skating on the street, a big street sweeper turned the corner and headed up the street towards us. Poor Annie, who’d never seen a machine like this, panicked. We were little and I don’t think the driver saw Annie, but I was able to grab her arm and pull her to safety.

The streets were noisy with the laughter of children as we ran, jumped and tumbled our way through childhood on a South Philly street.

                                                 Me, Jane and Lucy with Grandmom
We were innocent of the evil lurking behind closed doors and only came face to face with it when one of our friends sported a black eye given to them by good ole dad or mom. But that is a story for another time…maybe saved for my book, as I want these blog posts to be about happy times.
                Next week’s post will be about Uncle Ralph’s visit from Naples and King Kong.