In a shockingly insensitive display, Japan’s “Space World” theme park froze hundreds of sea creatures, including fish and crabs, into the ice of a skating rink. The the park says the animals were already dead when purchased, but outraged visitors, revolted by the sight, weren’t aware of this. They took to social media to protest in large numbers, forcing a closure. The park will unfreeze the dead animals, and they will be used as fertilizer.
It’s hard to believe, in this sensitive age, that the park’s executives didn’t anticipate the backlash. And it’s harder still to fathom why cheap plastic replicas wouldn’t have sufficed. What were these executives thinking? The public, particularly those involved with social media, are increasingly aware of animal cruelty, and sensitive to the appearance of such cruelty, whether or not abuse has actually occurred. And, after all, it’s very easy to share one’s outrage on Facebook or Twitter.
Florence Henderson, the beloved actress best known for her role as Mrs. Brady, the matriarch of America’s most well-known blended television family, the Brady Bunch (1969 – 1974,) has died of heart failure at the age of 82. She had a long career on both screen and stage, including a 2010 stint on the wildly popular reality show “Dancing with the Stars” (at 76 she was one of the program’s oldest contestants.) In fact, she recently visited the set of Dancing with the Stars to cheer on her former Brady Bunch co-star, Maureen McCormick, who played Martia Brady on the iconic television show. She’d seemed the picture of health, and her passing has shocked and shaken her unprepared fans.
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Her role on The Brady Bunch brought a stable, loving, traditional image of motherhood to the small screen, which was updated for the times. She didn’t wear frumpy aprons and old-fashioned house dresses like the previous generation of TV moms, but rather the latest fashions, and pants, though in hindsight the show’s fashion choices, reflecting trends in the early 70s, may seem funny to people today. The series originally aired during the tumultuous 1960s and early 1970s, which was an era marked by the Vietnam War, violent student protests, increasing drug use among the young, growing social unrest, and great changes to the American family.
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Florence Henderson’s character, and the show as a whole, addressed the changing nature of motherhood and the family (the show’s premise: two adults, with children of their own, marry and raise a blended family together) and succeeded in presenting a reassuring, wholesome image that was quite soothing to the throngs of ordinary folks seeking entertainment, and reeling from the political and social excesses of the time. The show has only grown in popularity in syndication over the years. And many foreign countries air the Brady Bunch reruns. Evidently the simple, upbeat Brady Bunch formula works well for members of other cultural traditions, as well as fans in the United States.
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Early in her career Florence Henderson was known for her singing, enjoying success as a star on Broadway, including her well-known role in the musical Oklahoma!, and for numerous guest appearances on television, including a regular gig on the Today Show, long before her iconic role on the Brady Bunch. Though her character on that popular 1970s sitcom was upbeat, wholesome, and pragmatic, Henderson’s persona in recent years, as an older woman, was often feisty and sexy, defying expectations and stereotypes.
Fidel Castro (1926 – 2016), the leader of Cuba for a nearly 50 year stretch, is mourned in the streets of Havana, while his death is celebrated in the streets of Miami. He was a complex man who brought about great change, both positive and negative, for his small island nation. Due to poor health he relinquished a leadership role to his brother, and fellow revolutionary, Raúl, in 2008, but he is still very much on the minds of the Cuban people.
Literacy and health care
Under his rule, a great emphasis was placed on public education, and today Cuba has built over 10,000 schools and has a 98% literacy rate, one of the highest in the world. His government also spear-headed a massive public health effort, extending quality universal health care to the entire population, reducing infant mortality to 1.1%, despite great shortages imposed by the U.S. embargo.
These are certainly impressive results, rivaling or surpassing the success of first world nations. However, under his communist regime, civil rights suffered, and many faced repression for political reasons. In response, over the years hundreds of thousands of refugees left Cuba for the U.S., including the largest single group, in 1980, during the Mariel boat lift, when over 120,000 people left their native land. Castro actually exploited this trend to his advantage, sending along many prisoners and mental patients, whom he deemed undesirable.
His early life and education
Castro was born the illegitimate son of a wealthy sugar plantation owner near Birán, Cuba. He had five other siblings, including his brother Raúl, and originally used the surname name Ruz. At 17 his father formally recognized him, two years after marrying his mother, and he began using his father’s surname, Castro. He was initially educated at Jesuit boarding schools, and as a boy he excelled both athletically and academically. He began the study of law at the University of Havana in 1945, where he immersed himself in student politics, fascinated by issues of social justice, Cuban nationalism, anti-imperialism, and socialism. Read more
Fidel Castro, the fiery Cuban Revolutionary who lead rebels from the mountains of that Island nation against the Battista government to seize power, ushering in a 50-year-long reign of communist rule, has died. Known for his signature green military fatigues and beard, Castro ruled Cuba with an iron fist after seizing power, relinquishing control to his brother Raul only after ill-health, in the form of an intestinal ailment, forced his hand, in 2008.
The United States lead a long-standing boycott of the small caribbean country, which President Obama lifted during his second term in office. Cuban expatriates, and U.S. politicians, were highly critical of Castro’s communist regime, calling him a dictator, and citing human rights abuses and a political system inimical to democracy.
President Obama pardoned his last two turkeys for the 2016 Thanksgiving holiday. This quaint tradition dates back a very long time. One or two gobblers are symbolically pardoned, and sent away to live out their lives in peace on a farm, rather than becoming someone’s holiday dinner. Turkey, of course, is the iconic Thanksgiving Day food enjoyed around the country, typically with stuffing and cranberry sauce, along with other fixings and side dishes.
President Obama loves to honor people who have made great contributions to The United States, and the World, in the peaceful pursuit of excellence. For this reason he’s given out more Presidential Medal’s of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, than any other President in American History. And on Tuesday he called a second medal ceremony for 2016, to honor 21 more legendary Americans, who have made lasting contributions to the arts, science, politics, sports, and popular culture.
The latest batch of exceptional people, President Obama’s last class before he steps down in favor of President Elect Donald Trump, included basketball legends Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; musicians Diana Ross and Bruce Springstein; actors Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, and Cicely Tyson; comedienne Ellen Degeneres; and Philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates.
The President was in good humor and rare form, introducing each recipient with great respect, and good humor, sometimes playfully poking fun at these extraordinary honorees, with the best of intentions. The diversity of talent in the room, and their life time achievements, were staggering to contemplate.