Friday, February 27, 2015

An Iraqi Mother’s Novel

Through www.kickstarter.com you can help Nisreen Abu Klam translate her novel about her suffering under Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, and the kidnapping of her son. Click on the hyperlink below after reading to Participate.
My name is Nisreen Abu Klam, born in Baghdad to a well-known middle-class family. My parents both enjoyed books and reading. I graduated from a civil engineering department and worked compulsory by what was known in Iraq as the Central Appointment Law for a few years in my profession. I have made many prior attempts to write novels and articles, but the unstable way of life in Iraq, the lack of the services, and the general unavailability of domestic items most of the time impose additional loads on Iraqi women. I had to leave Iraq to follow my husband who was teaching at various universities in the Middle East. Such travels gave me the opportunity to see more places and elevate my writings.
I was inspired to write this book because of the state of grief and oppression that possessed me since the day my beloved son was kidnapped. To this present day he has never come back to me. 
This book covers the time period of 1980-2010. It begins after the year 2003, when the American Army came to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein. Al-Qaeda men from Iraq and abroad, entered Iraq through the borders of neighboring countries and they started kidnapping all the people who participated with the Americans to redevelop Iraq. I am one of the people who was targeted by Al-Qaeda. They kidnapped my boy because they did not believe in redevelopment and thus did not want us to take part in this process. They killed him. After asking me for ransom money, our whole immediate family was threatened so we had to flee the country. We applied through the United Nations to find somewhere we could find safety and refuge. We came to the U.S.A. and settled in San Diego.
After many years of the healing process, I decided to write my story and put all these experiences into a book so that the American people will be able to understand the suffering of Iraqi women during the wars that Saddam Hussein created. I began writing this book in 2009 having been inspired through attending a writing group. I heard many stories from other women from all over the world in this group and the injustices they had experienced. I kept hearing stories from other women in the Iraqi community who had similar stories to myself. I felt I was finally in a safe space where I could dedicate myself to writing this book and to tell the stories of those who could not write for themselves. 
This books is about how the men of Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein worked to destroy the social pattern of society. This book details the injustice all Iraqis had to endure as an inevitable result of the control of the dictatorship on the capabilities of the Iraqi people. I wanted my personal story to be shared and to allow the world to know of the pain and suffering the Iraqi people experienced as a result of 35 years of dictatorship.
My primary goals for this book is for it to be easily accessible to a large number of readers. In particular, this book was written for Americans, without whom our dictator would still be in power. This book was written in America after running away from Iraq. For this reason, I wanted this book to be translated to English so I can receive feedback from American readers having provided them with well-documented knowledge and experiences.

Risks and challenges
The challenges with this project lie within translation itself. The challenge of translation is two-fold. First, it is clearly essential that the translator needs to be proficient in both English and Arabic as a very basic ingredient for translating the written word. Secondly, the translator must be able to stylistically translate the sentiment and feelings of the original text and be able to emote the same kind of feelings for the reader.
I am currently working with a published author and friend who is helping me in the translation process to ensure that how the book is written in Arabic translates emotionally in English.
If you would like to help with this project, Click HERE.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New York Theatre Reviews: “On the Aisle with Larry”

Lawrence Harbison, The Playfixer, brings you up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in New York. In this column, Larry reports on HAMILTON, RASHEEDA SPEAKING, EVERYTHING YOU TOUCH, CHURCHILL and THE EVENTS.

I am, to put it mildly, not a fan of hip-hop, which I consider doggerel set to noise. Still, I always go to the theatre hoping that what I see will be wonderful, as I did when I went to Hamilton, at the Public Theater, even though I had heard it was mostly in the hip-hop idiom. This new musical, with book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (he of In the Heights fame) tells the story of Alexander Hamilton. Yes, a lot of it is hip-hop. All of it is absolutely brilliant.

Thomas Kail’s staging of this wonderfully witty and ultimately very touching work is epochal, the best direction of a new musical this season, and Miranda is wonderful in the eponymous role. Also great are Phillipa Soo as Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, and Leslie Odom, Jr. as his nemesis, Aaron Burr.
Unfortunately, the entire run at the Public Theater is sold out, except for a handful of tickets sold by lottery for every performance. I went on a weekend matinee, and there were about 100 people waiting in the lobby, hoping their names would be called. Fortunately, Hamilton is almost certainly moving to Broadway. When it does, don’t miss it.

I also enjoyed Joel Drake Johnson’s Rasheeda Speaking, produced by the New Group at the Signature Center, about two clerical workers in a doctor’s office. Ileen, who has been there for several years, is white; Jaclyn, there for six months, is black. Jaclyn has quite an “attitude problem,” which concerns the doctor, who wants to get rid of her. In this day and age, though, that can be a real problem if the problematic employee is black, so he enlists the very reluctant Ileen to keep a record of all the problems Jaclyn causes. In a climactic monologue, though, Jaclyn brings home the root cause of her “bad attitude,” and what emerges is a thoughtful examination of what it means to be black in what is still a white man’s world.

Tonya Pinkins is, to put it mildly, sensational as Jaclyn; but she is matched by Dianne Wiest as the namby-pamby, go along to get along Ileen. These are two of the finest performances in any play this season.

Sheila Callaghan’s Everything You Touch, produced by Rattlestick at the Cherry Lane Theatre is a fascinating, surreal look at the fashion industry. Victor is an enfant terrible designer whose muse, Esme, pushes him to get more and more outrageous with his designs. Two women come into his world – Jess, a plain-Jane type and Lonella, a refugee from the Midwest, who influence him to begin designing clothes that women might actually wear. There is a chorus of models who move through the play, wearing Victor’s designs.

The actors, under Jessica Kubzansky’s fluid and inventive direction, are just plain wonderful. Everything You Touch is sometimes hard to figure out, but stick with it. Sheila Callaghan is a true visionary, that rare non-realistic playwright who manages to make it all cohere. And Jenny Feldenauer’s costumes are spectacular!

Churchill, at New World Stages, written by and starring Ronald Keaton in the eponymous roles, is a standard-issue biographical monodrama. Sir Winston is in his study, talking to us. Who “we” are is never made clear. Most of it covers Churchill’s military and political careers up until World War Two, and his fall from power after the war was won. Keaton looks a little like Churchill, but he lacks his stentorian growl. He seems more like your jolly uncle than one of the pivotal figures of the 20th Century. Still, his is a fascinating story. If you don’t know much about Churchill, here’s your chance to learn something.

Every year, philanthropist/producer Carol Tambor spends a month at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, sees a gazillion shows, and chooses what she considers to be the best of them all, which she then produces off Broadway. This year’s Tambor Award winner is David Greig’s The Events, at NY Theatre Workshop. It’s about a female cleric who runs the choir at her church. At every performance, a different choir participates. I saw/heard the Lafayette Inspirational Ensemble. There’s also a man who interacts with the minister, appearing to play various roles – but you’re never sure who he’s supposed to be at any given time. I think the play is about a mass shooting, but it’s so murky and confusing it’s hard to tell. The Events is interminable. It has no interval, and several audience members ditched in the middle of it, including half my row. Ah well, at least the music was enjoyable. 


HAMILTON. Public Theater, 435 Lafayette St.
TICKETS: The entire run is sold out.


RASHEEDA SPEAKING. Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St.
TICKETS: www.ticketcentral.com or 212-279-4200


EVERYTHING YOU TOUCH. Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St.
TICKETS: 212-989-2020


CHURCHILL New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St.
TICKETS: www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200


THE EVENTS. NY Theatre Workshop, 79 E. 4th St.
TICKETS: www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200


For discount tickets for groups of ten or more, contact Carol Ostrow Productions & Group Sales. Phone: 212-265-8500. E-Mail: ostrow1776@aol.com.


“It requires a certain largeness of spirit to give generous appreciation to large achievements. A society with a crabbed spirit and a cynical urge to discount and devalue will find that one day, when it needs to draw upon the reservoirs of excellence, the reservoirs have run dry.”
                                                                                      — George F. Will 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually does strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” 
                                                                                    — Theodore Roosevelt

Click HERE for more of Larry's Reviews!

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

McFarland, USA offers hope and excitement

Director: Nico Caro

Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Running time: 129 Minutes

Cast: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Juanes, Morgan Saylor, Carlos Pratts, Martha Higareda, Valente Rodriguez, Johnny Ortiz

Review by James Colt Harrison

Popping out of the Disney patriotic bin is the exciting and inspirational film from veteran star Kevin Costner. Recently scoring with his film Black and White that shows another side of Americana, this time Costner tackles race relations with Hispanic-Americans.

The movie was inspired by a 1987 real-life event that took place in the tiny farming town of McFarland, California. The area in the Central Valley is economically challenged, and the people mainly are farm laborers with little chance at succeeding in life. Something to uplift their spirits is indicated to bring happiness and success to the people who live there.

Coach Jim White (played realistically by Kevin Costner) arrives in their small town to build up the track team at the local high school. The school is predominantly a Latino high school, and Costner also has to learn to fit in with the boys on the team. The school has never had much success with athletics and it is up to White to mold the boys into shape in order to compete with other high schools in the championship runs.

White immediately notices the boys have incredible running ability but have no discipline nor expert training. It’s a rag-tag bunch of talented boys who need direction. It’s also an opportunity for White and the boys to learn about each other, to see what their differences are, and what they also might have in common. They struggle to find a common bond and realize that family relationships are powerful and the connecting tissue between the boys, their families and White’s family. Maria Bello play’s White’s wife but Is given little to do, and is the fate of most actresses to day.

There is a smattering of suspense when the boys are training for the big game, but the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Audience enjoyment is gotten from the hard work the boys put in to make it to the championship game. They struggle, they run up mountains, they sweat, they threaten to quit, they collapse. What else did you expect? It’s Costner’s job as Coach White to talk them into realizing how important it is for them to practice, practice, practice and then practice some more for the glory of their school and their community. Costner is good at this sort of thing, as he acts much like a father or a big brother to encourage the boys.

The boys are talented and go on to win many prizes in the history of the school. The story is a well-known commodity because of the phenomenal 24-year streak of wins at the State Championships. Because of this true story, much of the suspense and surprise of the film is evaporated as we already know the end results. But it remains an inspiring look at what can be accomplished by a small-town group of determined and talented running young men.

The film is a feather in the cap of the Latino community and should serve as an example of what a good education and good clean athletics can do for its young men. The entire family will enjoy the movie. It’s pleasant entertainment for everyone.


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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lets Meet:Lisa Reck, Photographer

The Gates of Heaven
Lisa Reck is a photographer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a love for the natural beauty of the world.  Her pallet is Mother Earth, creatures of the earth and the heavens.  Her photographs capture the splendor of the world with the glow of Heaven which is the title of her current work.  In this interview she tries to give us a glimpse into what inspires her.

ANF:  Why art and why now?

LR:  I studied art initially in my home town of Pittsburgh, PA.  Although I loved it, the ups and downs of life kept me from pursuing it with all of my heart.  I moved to Mississippi and worked in several different fields while raising my three children.  But, I never lost my love of art.  It’s just now that I've really listened to the call and have actively taken steps to share my vision.
Splash

ANF:  What attracts you to photographing nature shots?

LR:  I have always maintained a close relationship with God even through my personal struggles with addiction.  My love of art is a direct relation to my connection to heaven.  Art, through the eyes of God, has been my life preserver.  It is also through this relationship that I decided to truly follow my heart and my calling of art.  The beauty of the world that I photograph far outweighs any strife I have in my life.

ANF:  Your photographs are extremely warm and inviting, is that your intent?

Lisa Reck
LR:  Yes!  I see the warmth of my photography as a space where heavenly peace exist and people can find their own peace, beauty and a healing source.  Art has and always will be a mending process for me.  It is mending my heart and soul.  I want to share what I get to see on a daily basis with the world.  I’m currently working out of West Palm Beach, Florida and the opportunities that are presented for an artist to find Heaven in every shot are innumerable.


ANF:  Clearly you have a love of the spiritual side of art.  Your current collection is called Heaven.  What else motivates you?

Broken Leaf
LR:  You’re right and hit the nail on the head.  I’m spiritually motivated and I believe that you can experience the Heavens through my art.  I’m also motivated by my three beautiful boys, Charly, Jacob,  and Robert as well as my two grandchildren.  My art is for everyone, but most of all it is an extension of my faith, for my children and for my own comfort.  Art is my meditation.  It fills me and keeps me happy and safe.  I want to share this with those who also have a need to rise out of challenging times as I have.  It allows me to enjoy all that I do and I hope it does that for those who view my work.


Click HERE to buy and see more work from Lisa Reck at AmunAndromeda Gallery.
Click HERE to Follow Lisa on Facebook


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Friday, February 13, 2015

New York Theatre Reviews: "On the Aisle with Larry"

“On the Aisle with Larry” 5 February, 2015

Lawrence Harbison, The Playfixer, brings you up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in New York. In this column, Larry reports on HONEYMOON IN VEGAS, WINNERS, FILM CHINOIS, THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS and A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY.

Honeymoon in Vegas, at the Nederlander Theatre, is an old fashioned musical comedy of the sort once regularly directed by the likes of George Abbott. In this case, retro is a good thing. The show is great fun; pure, Broadway entertainment that’s been sorely missed. Not that I don’t enjoy all the “serious” shows I see night after night – I do. It’s just nice to have a break from all the alienation and despair once in a while.

It’s based on the movie which starred Nicholas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker as a Brooklyn couple who come to Las Vegas to get married. The owner of their hotel, a rather shady character, takes one look at the bride to be and decides he’s gotta have her because she reminds him of his deceased wife. He snookers the groom in a poker game and basically wins her for a weekend, during which he tries to persuade her to marry him instead. Will she, or won’t she?

Rob McLure and Brynn O’Malley are charming as the couple, Jack and Betsy, although you have to suspend your disbelief that a total babe like Brynn is marrying a schmo like McLure. Tony Danza, as Tommy, the hotel owner, sings well, tap dances, plays the ukulele and completely steals the show. Also terrific are Nancy Opel as Jack’s dead mother, who nevertheless pops up from time to time to try and stop him from getting married, as no woman could possibly be good better than Mom, and David Josefsburg as a lounge lizard singer and the head of the parachuting “Flying Elvises.”
Jason Robert Brown’s songs are just plain wonderful. This gifted composer has finally found his groove.

Even with sheaves of great reviews, Honeymoon in Vegas is struggling at the box office. If it can hang on, it just might have a shot at the Tony Award. After all, remember what happened with A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder?

Winners, a comedy by Maggie Bofill at Ensemble Studio Theatre, turns the traditional dysfunctional family play on its ear. Dad’s been unemployed for a year and Mom, now the breadwinner, is having an affair with her boss. Their teenaged son Tommy has been fired from his after school job at the Gap for smoking weed. Dad goes over there to talk to the boss, who turns out to be an old friend, and winds up being hired to replace Tommy. The most interesting character, though, is daughter Gabby, part science geek, part performance artists and part superhero fanatic. Together, she and Tommy devise a hilarious production wherein they bring this troubled family together again. Pam Berlin’s direction is appropriately whacky, and there are fine performances – particularly from David Gelles and Arielle Goldman as the two kids.

Winners is a winner.

Damon Chua’s Film Chinois, at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, is a murky tale of deception and skullduggery in 1947 Beijing. Seemingly everyone is a spy of some sort. It gets more and more confusing as it plays out, and winds up being a real head-scratcher; but the production by Pan Asian Rep is one of the best I have seen in quite a while and the performances are all first rate.
Film Chinois, while not a must-see, ain’t bad.

Tom Dulack’s The Road to Damascus, at 59 E 59, is a must-see. It’s set in the not too distant future. There has been a terrorist attack in New York, and the U.S. government thinks the Syrians (who are now post-Assad) are behind it so they plan to bomb Damascus to rubble. Set against them is the first African Pope, who has decided to fly to Damascus to present the destruction as a human shield. Also involved are a female journalist from “Al Arabya” TV and a State Department official (with whom she is having an affair), who is sent to the Vatican to try and talk the Pope out of going to Damascus. There, he learns the truth about the terrorist bombing.

The Road to Damascus is a gripping geo-political thriller which will have you on the edge of your seat. It’s been superbly directed by Michael Parva and features a cast of terrific actors. My faves were Mel Johnson, Jr. as the Pope and Larisa Polonsky as the Chechnyan Muslim TV reporter.

Finally, there’s a new production of Turgenev’s A Month in the Country at Classic Stage Co., featuring TV stars Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) and Taylor Schilling (“Orange is the New Black”). It’s been mostly slammed by the press, faulting director Erica Schmidt’s production which many found languid. Well, folks, her direction isn’t outstanding but it’s OK. The problem is the play. It’s a proto-Chekhovian comedy set in a country house with none of the social context which makes Chekhov’s plays endure. Of the actors, Taylor Schilling comes off best. I hope she does theatre again, in a better play.

HONEYMOON IN VEGAS. Nederlander Theatre, 208 W. 41st St.
TICKETS: www.ticketmaster.com or 866-870-2717

WINNERS. Ensemble Studio Theatre, 549 W. 52nd St.
TICKETS: 212-247-4982

FILM CHINOIS. Beckett Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St.
TICKETS: www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200

THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS. 59 E 59 Theatres, 59 E. 59th St.
TICKETS: www.ticketcentral.com of 212-279-4200

A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY. Classic Stage Co., 136 E. 13th St.
TICKETS: 212-352-3101

For discount tickets for groups of ten or more, contact Carol Ostrow Productions & Group Sales. Phone: 212-265-8500. E-Mail:ostrow1776@aol.com.


“It requires a certain largeness of spirit to give generous appreciation to large achievements. A society with a crabbed spirit and a cynical urge to discount and devalue will find that one day, when it needs to draw upon the reservoirs of excellence, the reservoirs have run dry.”
                                                                                      — George F. Will 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually does strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” 
                                                                                    — Theodore Roosevelt

Click HERE for more of Larry's Reviews!


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