Wednesday, May 27, 2015

One Case of the Mental Health System Trampling on the Rights of the Mentally Ill

In the wake of Virginia Tech, a college could not be criticized for exercising caution on re-admitting a student who was involuntarily hospitalized, attempted suicide in that time frame, and was forcibly medicated upon court order. But there comes a time when standard procedure encroaches on the violation of individual civil rights – especially if the specific claims are not investigated and institutions simply defer to the professionals in question.  Emily Pierce of South Salem knows this all too well, as she seeks a platform for an injustice on just this order.
Pierce has long been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and PTSD. Last February, the Fordham University Social Work student was having a tough time getting through the weekend. Her doctor was out of town, and she needed someone to talk to.
Exercising the appropriate action, Emily called the police and freely left yourself open to be admitted to a hospital so the difficulties could be passed under supervision. Somehow in the discourse between the trooper and New York Presbyterian Hospital in White Plains, Emily’s cry for help was miscommunicated from needing a safe place to, “she wants to drive her car into a ditch.”
Thus, the involuntary hospitalization alluded to at the start ensued.
But since admittance was her top priority, Emily deferred in her own right. As such, Dr. Xiaolei Baran, the attending physician, initially wanted to discharge Emily but her therapist overruled.
Emily then asked for something to help her sleep. Dr. Baran prescribed an anti-psychotic to address the insomnia. In turn, Emily raised concerns that anti-psychotics in the past had elevated her anxiety and produced suicidal tendencies.
Falling on the deaf ears of Dr. Baran and allowing for no tapering off period for the medication that was being changed, Pierce reluctantly went along. Two days later, Emily attempted to hang herself.
 In the aftermath, Dr. Baran prescribed another medication that had similar side effects and again Emily reluctantly complied. With no change in the level of anxiety, Emily now refused medication.
Dr. Baran’s response was nothing short of medieval. “If you don’t take the meds, we’re going to propose ECT, and if you refuse ECT, we’re going to take you to court,” remembers Pierce.
Emily, of course, did not go along and Dr. Baran re-diagnosed her as Schizoaffective Disorder.  The staff then began to badger and harass Emily in hopes of verifying Dr. Baran’s diagnosis. “I was tormented by questions to try to show I was paranoid,” says Emily.
They even forced Emily to shower with the door open to unhinge her mind set.
In court, Dr. Baran was allowed to be evasive with her answers and was mostly out of line with what the hospital’s medical records showed, according to Emily. She also accused Emily of having a history of abusing alcohol and anti-anxiety medications. “She basically said I was a drug addict,” says Pierce.
Of course, those of Emily's situation are easily dismissed, and the outcome was decided in her doctor’s favor. In what might be considered an admission of guilt, Dr. Baran proceeded to prescribe a non-therapeutic dose of the problematic medication that the court mandated. “That’s illegal,” says Emily.
Nonetheless, Emily was soon released and went back to the medication regimen that her own doctor had previously prescribed.  Fordham University’s subsequent actions then added insult to injury.
Informing Fordham herself that she was out of class because of her psychiatric condition, the situation escalated as someone from the hospital released the records of Emily’s stay to the Dean's office without her consent. “Again, the law was broken,” says Emily.
All told, Fordham will not readmit Emily without a full release of her medical records.
As such, Emily’s lawyer does not diminish the seriousness of such an invasive action. “She has a right to privacy,” Andrea Risoli state’s the situation flatly.
Several semesters later, Emily still waits and is seeking a compromise with the school through the Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights. But Emily’s vision extends beyond the injustice perpetrated on herself. “The system tramples over people’s rights, and I want to speak for those who cannot advocate for themselves as easily as I can,” she concludes.
Dr Baran did not respond to several phone calls to give her side of the story.
Note : Emily wanted to acknowledge the help of Senator Greg Ball, and the letter he wrote to the Department of Justice on her behalf and the attentiveness Representative Sean Patrick Maloney has given her case. Additionally, Emily would welcome calls to the Governor’s office and the hospital to voicing their concerns. 

Governor Cuomo (518) 474-8390, New York Presbyterian Hospital (914) 997-5700

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Jacob Burns Film Center Honors Its Silver Screen Donors with Ed Harris Appearance

On January 13th, Jacob Burns held its eighth annual Silver Screen Fundraiser and treated attendees to a 90 minute Q & A with actor Ed Harris. Presenting clips from a career that begin in 1978," New York Times Film Critic, Janet Maslin directed a discourse into the personal and professional life of one of America's finest actors.

Significantly, the packed theater learned that a character only emerges from a screenplay after Mr. Harris does some important paper work of his own. The actor creates his own back story for the character and jots down the ideas as they come along. By filming, the image of the character is clear to the point where, he says, "They become very real," and the on screen creation follows more readily.

He and the audience were left in agreement upon viewing a scene from the movie, "Just Cause," in which he portrays a serial killer. "Looks even weirder from this angle," he said from onstage, and that provided a segue into some of Mr. Harris's documented confrontations with paparazzi.

Bad enough when they find him a solo act, but infringing upon a family situation is not something he takes lightly. With the clicks catching him and his daughter eating lunch one day, he said he returned a look that should have come across in a lot less than a thousand words.

"So you can be scary even when you're not working," interjected Ms. Maslin but it was Mr. Harris's reaction to the message that the photographer missed that got the last laugh. "I threw my hot dog at him," he said, and since his daughter approved at the time, vindication came across in the audience's reaction.

A down to earth decency also emerged as his recent involvement in an independent film unraveled before the audience. "Touching Home" is a true story of the difficult and heart-warming relationship between an alcoholic father and his two sons.

Written upon the father's death by his two sons, Mr. Harris was held hostage to the story by more than just the compelling nature of the screenplay. "They wouldn't let me say no," he says.

In the audience, Logan and Noah Miller rose to tell their side of the story. "All the experts tried to talk us out of it, said Logan Miller somewhat inaudibly. On his own toes, Mr. Harris rose to his feet and flipped the microphone 10 rows deep into the ready hands of Logan.

"We're the independent filmmakers and we're here to talk to Mr. Harris," he conveyed how they bypassed security at a film festival to ensnare the actor. Persuaded, Mr. Harris would read the script and was later impressed but pleaded complete unavailability to them.

Nonetheless, Mr. Harris agreed to a meeting in which he relented to the brothers' sincerity and persistence. "I'll give you two weeks," he said he told them and the Miller's jumped on it.
As is, the film is scheduled to be released after the Harper Collins book they have written about the making of the film is published.

Displaying consistency, it seemed not to matter that they knew nothing of how to write a book, but the Miller brothers share a similarity that compares to the actor's beginnings. Mostly a jock growing up, Mr. Harris' late introduction into art and culture at Columbia opened up another world to him.

He realized, he said, "that acting encompassed a whole way of life," and the process isn't simply limited to the roll of a camera. 40 years later, he understands that sharing screen space with other great actors does not put a cap on his expression.

The more somebody's got to give back to your work, the more freedom an actor has to project back his own interpretation, he said. That was quite apparent to Janet Maslin after revealing a clip of the profanity laced Glengary Glen Rose. Jack Lemon, Al Pacino and Alec Baldwin, she said, "You not only out acted them, you out yelled them."

"I out F...ed 'em too," he said to the audience's delight but given the somewhat free reign that fame has provided him has not diminished the graciousness that has probably helped get him this far. "Congratulations on this facility and I'm honored you asked me to be here," he concluded.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Drive into Downtown Mt. Kisco

As Bill Clinton Rallies Support for Sean Maloney at Somers Middle School, Rich Monetti Holds his Water

Last Friday night, I received yet another email from the Democratic Party in regards to you know what. President Clinton in the subject, I decided to take a look. He would actually be stopping at the Junior High I went to school over 30 years ago in Somers to rally support for Sean Maloney in the upcoming House race against Nan Hayworth.  I sent an email hoping to attend as press, and almost before I slogged through all my meaningless Facebook posts, I realized I was going to see the president.
Yes, I was excited. Of course, I told my mom, and she obviously thinking I’d be having a sit down with the 42nd president, instructed me to dress nice. The obedient son, I put on a jacket and a tie.
In accordance, I guess you could say, about 10 press members were led in first. Seated at the center of the gym and roped off in full view, I felt kind of important. You have no idea, but I will get back to that.
My first impression of this opportunity was to take a much longer historical view. Throughout history, they’re have been leaders – for better and worse – who possess the skill to move the masses with the sheer charisma of their words, mannerism and downright Mojo. No matter your perspective, Bill Clinton is one of those people.
We’ve all seen him on TV but I was going to witness this live and would get a small sense of how a Roosevelt, Churchill, or yes, a Lenin type, mobilized their followers into a wall of allegiance.
On the other hand, like the Chappaqua master himself, I do like to work the room in my own right. And I ain’t bad at it. 
Following my instincts, I began to make my way out of the roping to engage. I was greeted by a menacing look, turned back to my enclosure and told my natural mingling sensibilities were a secret service issue.
I didn’t feel so important anymore. I soon jumped to the conclusion that since I was in the press, they didn’t want us getting close enough to question the featured guests.  What other explanation could there be - given all the other attendees who had also simply sent an email.
What I found was that the people present were all part of larger invited groups like union members or other supporters whose origins and backgrounds could be traced back to a source.  Off that, I decided there was credibility to the security claim.
But upon further reflection, I felt this was too convenient an excuse and the campaigns simply use this type tactic and rationale to further the fiction that has become our political system.  I’m also relatively certain the Secret Service is familiar with a little known security procedure called Frisking.
Deferring my disappointment in the sorry state of our republic, I was still excited to see President Clinton. Unfortunately, rushed by the urgency and time constraints of the election schedule, his appearance was quite brief and not necessarily revealing enough for my grand historical expectations. 
That doesn’t mean the sitting House member escaped unscathed – the best  zinger arriving at the expense of her opposition to President Obama’s healthcare initiative.   “Nan Hayworth wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “I know doctors in her own group plan who treat me and they disagree with her.”
President Clinton then went onto outline the easy choice represented between Sean Maloney and a Nan Hayworth bound to the unyielding whims of the Tea Party. “Congress is a job. It means methodology over ideology and arithmetic over illusion. It’s not complicated so go out and win it for Sean Maloney.”
The dude can orate, and the fact that a campaign fears the possibility of someone like me interrupting a stream of consciousness such as his means only one thing. Our election process has become nothing more than an infomericial where the leaders have the questions and refuse to utter anything that deviates into the uncomfortable truths that we already know.
That keeps us from getting to what we really need to address and confront as a nation.

All told, I’m just glad I didn’t have to pee. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Cannes Festival Nominee Explores the Artistic Need to Create in Color Thief

Artists don’t just starve because the portfolio of their passions lacks buyers or livable compensation. Creation requires resources, and the drive to create for artist can often trump the necessities and security one needs to survive. Whether it's Michelangelo hanging from a ceiling, the Borglum family bounding themselves to Mt. Rushmore or even Tom Cruise swinging from the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, the question is obvious. How far will an artist go to bring body and soul to their vision?

With the short film Color Thief, New York City’s Violeta Barca-Fontana is going the distance in her attempt at an answer.

While the hurdles faced in her film are significantly less dramatic, the NYC setting and circumstances brings a more relatable experience to both artists and everyday people pursuing their dreams. And the fact that the spec was sparked by an actual event provides verification.

According to a story right out of New York City, an artist finds himself one color short of what he needs to complete his work and breaks into a store to quench his creativity. “That’s what got me thinking. It’s such a powerful force – the need to create and to get something done. You are just compelled to go out and do whatever you need to do,” says Barca-Fontana.

In that, 84 year old “Lily” first came to life for Barca-Fontana. One color short, she also decides to break the law in Color Thief to complete what will probably be the last, great piece of her life.

Putting aside the obvious expediency found in the overall concept, Ms. Barca-Fontana also explores the life choices artists must make, and what's left behind in the process - which is why she aged her character. "She reflects on her past and has no trouble making peace with a life where art was put first," says Barca-Fontana.

At the same time, juxtaposing the gender of the real life artist intensified the depth of Barca-Fontana's exploration. "A woman adds dimension because the choices made in her youth had to more profound in an era where women were expected to be home," she says.

In that, the real life crossover intersects this time with Barca-Fontana's life. "My grandmother was a painter," says the New York City filmmaker, "but she was fortunate in that my grandfather was just crazy enough to let her pursue her passions."

So while a direct comparison does not apply, a familiarity will definitely be evident to her family. "They will definitely recognize the tone I take," she says.

But male or female, the artists that she's discussed the concept with can feel the connection and have given her the nod. Nonetheless, it's not only artists that will be able to relate. "Every human being has a passion," she says succinctly.

Of course, art always means business, and this time she's not handing off those duties. "In addition to writing and directing, I'm producing the film too. So that means setting up meetings, getting funding and all the things that go with it," she says.

Doing what needs to be done but it still comes back to being an artist and that means your mind must be malleable and attuned. "It's almost like somebody is whispering in your ear that you should do this film or project," she says.

A sentiment that she found among a number of artists and one's success may actually hinge on being open to it. "I believe you have to be willing to listen," she says, "even if it sounds a little crazy."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A few clips from Thursday

Another hit for George

And clip of Johnny Hitting a Home run

(Accidentally deleted. Restored from Recylce Bin and I don’t know how to find it. Any suggestions and it isn’t where it was originally stored)

The Snows of Kilimanjaro Takes you to the Top and the Bottom of the Mountain

Harry Street is a writer in search of his soul. Portrayed by Gregory Peck in the 1952 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the author/adventurer's introductory prose opens the film and lays the groundwork for Peck's journey.

"Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai 'Ngje Ngi,' the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.”

As such, Harry is stranded at the heights of the Kilimanjaro where he awaits medical attention to save his life from an infected wound. Street, the supposed Leopard, thus drifts in and out of delirium to reflect on what his own life’s journey has wrought.

He does so under the care of a wife who essentially serves as a visual reminder of the love of his life. “You’ve never forgiven me for not being Cynthia,” chides Helen, played by Susan Hayward.

Confronted with a truth that is news to no one, Harry is matter of fact over the convenience their relationship represents. “We both knew what we were getting into when we got married,” Harry shoots back.

In this broken disarray, Harry’s regrets emerge in a dream state that returns him to the blissful beginnings shared with Cynthia. Despite not realizing his ambitions of becoming a writer of great merit and truth, the two live a life of contentment in Cynthia’s eclectic neighborhood in France.

But like the leopard, Harry’s eventual ascent leads to the downfall now faced. He has his first novel published, which allows him to seek a truth that has long compelled him by going on Safari to Africa.

In turn, Harry finds what he’s looking for in the felling of a rhino, and the kill serves as ample fodder for his next novel when the couple return to France. At the same time, the success – to Cynthia’s dismay – does not quell his desire for the next piece of truth that the far off world holds.

Thus, the baby Cynthia holds in tow will obviously hamstring Harry’s ambitions and is verified when she implies her wish to start a family. “There’s plenty of time for that later, he tells her and then informs Cynthia of his wish to go to Madrid for the bull fights.

Cynthia comprehends her predicament and rashly decides to preserve the status quo by throwing herself down the stairs to induce a miscarriage.  Can you say relationship killer?

Harry not fooled, he laments, “You had no right. It was my child too.”

The writing then on the wall. Cynthia bails to what she sees as the inevitable by running away with a Flamingo Dancer. Of course, to heighten the tragedy, Harry sees the path just as Cynthia has made her move.

In the exodus, Harry embarks on a series of empty relationships, and the quality of his work does him no better. He eventually reaches his limit and goes in search of Cynthia at the front in the Spanish Civil War. Fate not exactly on their side, Cynthia dies in his arms.

This puts us back at the top of the mountain – Harry’s life in peril, and his entire search in serious doubt. But an infection is no way for Gregory Peck to die, and what really remains is whether Harry Street can solve the riddle and bring honor and sense to all those left in his wake. 

A Bit of Girls Carmel Softball

Friday, May 8, 2015

Me, My Dad and David Letterman

                                                   My Dad and his Granddaughter

Maybe David Letterman is following the comedic party line by deferring all praise but his farewell only fuels my suspicion that he has no idea how much he means to us out here.  The laughter a given, its delivery amounts to an incalculable debt that I wish I could pay in full to ease the self-doubt and diminish the burden he seems to carry.

Circling back to the late 70’s and the ever present contract negations between Johnny Carson and NBC, the conversation was never far from who would replace the American icon. The first time I saw Dave on the Tonight Show, the question was immediately answered.

I began in the morning, continued in the summer of ’82 and haven’t wavered since. The calls home to Mom, viewer mail and the guy under the stage, Late Night gave us something to shoot for as class clowns, when hitting on girls and – I don’t know – deadening the pain at a funeral.

He was our guy, the Johnny of our generation, and he led us in doing all we could to outdo our peers in the most original way possible. The comedy, though, did leave our elders behind.

Me and my father have always had a similar sense of humor. We bonded watching Barney Miller, MASH and the Rockford Files. He once he reasoned to my mom that it was an important part of my development to see the “R” rated Dirty Harry at age 12. “If there’s any nudity, I’ll throw a coat over his head,” he won the argument.

So it seemed a natural fit that he join me when I dialed up Late Night in my college years.  But disappointingly, I could never enlist him.

He’d hear my laughing, and there was always this look saying, “your generation not mine.” Unfortunately, it took tragedy to make him come around.  Suffering a stroke in 1997, he was mostly relegated to watching TV.

As it were, my dad always had this philosophy that you work hard, maybe you suffer and your reward comes at the end of the day. You give yourself a little relaxation in the knowledge that you’ve survived another day and cash it in with a good night’s sleep. This clearly applied here and David Letterman filled the relaxation part.

Me, and mostly my mother, also earned the merits of a good day worked in taking care of him. However, it was emotional relief that I required. Yes, it was terrible to see my very active father relegated to a semi-ambulatory state, but the hardest part was his loss of speech – save yes and no.

My father was truly a focal point of which communication flowed. At home and family functions, his facilitation always made things work, and this proved an incredible loss for all of us.

On a smaller scale, one on one could no longer really be two way conversations.  You could certainly make him laugh but witty comebacks or inspired wisdom now had to be contained within the tone of his yes or no or movement of his hands or face.

Nonetheless, watching The Late Show with my dad became a ritual that I did my best not to miss.  In part, because I felt it was a small gift that I had given him – even though it was his decision to start tuning in. (My dad may have lost some capabilities but he still commanded the home and the airwaves).

Of course, we laughed and laughed and laughed. His reaction has always been to lean forward in his chair and then look at me as if say, “where does Dave come up with this stuff.” 

More importantly, the punchlines we shared for 18 years, which resoundingly confirmed our similar sense of humor, became the two way conversation we had lost and neither of us had to say a word.

Easing our burden, I hope this means something for his, and substitutes as a partial payment that can never be fully be repaid.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

5/2 Part two of clips

JB Grunt Single

Warning Track Power for Hoz

Johnny Single

George Triple

Joe L again

More Hoz

An Evening of Drummers Rocks the Somers Community House

On Saturday Night, November 22nd, Westchester drummer and music teacher JJ Clarke held her 7th annual, An Evening of Drummers at the Somers Community Center in Shenorock.  A vehicle to build community and confidence, Clarke’s presence definitely seemed to bind the affair of about 100 parents and 22 drummers, but shoring up the certainty with a good gig wasn’t only for the kids.
“I get so nervous, but as soon as the first note is dropped, my ears kick in and I’m so proud,” said Clarke before the show began.
Debe Stellio of Bedford did not share the same preshow jitters for her son Vincent, who was slated to slam out AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. Having the decibels properly stacked at home could speak directly to that. “Monday through Thursday, he’s not allowed to play computer games, but as far as music and practicing, it can never be too loud, too early or too late,” said Stellio.
Before six year old Daniella Sardo took the sticks for Queen’s We Will Rock You, Clarke laid out the fundamentals for the evening. “We’re all working on listening and playing in time,” said Clarke.
The first of three Sardo’s to take the stage, Daniella definitely rocked the 70s anthem for the audience and paved the way for another classic. “Walk this Way has this challenging syncopated beat. The drummer has to listen, play in time, and relax so they can alternate between even and odd numbered portions,” said Clarke.
Luke Kovensky then made no apologies for mastering a one hit wonder that certainly appeased parents who remembered coming of age with it. “Who remembers the 80s,” Clarke introduced “Don’t You Forget About Me, the Simple Minds song from the Breakfast Club.
Not afraid to complicate matters, Drew Pohle rose to the challenge of delivering a song called Galactic by Cineramascope. “A fusion of funk, New Orleans style, Rap and Jazz, said Clarke, “It really runs the gamut.”
Of course, there’s no way to go wrong with the Beatle’s and just because they resonate so universally doesn’t mean there’s anything simplistic about their sound. “They’ll do something incredibly hard and make it sound so easily. Incorporating odd sequences of beats around a beautiful melody, Here Comes the Sun may be their greatest.”
The buildup in play, Steven Fay failed to miss a beat – even if he didn’t quite carry Ringo’s mop top.
Ben Sisko, coming without Elvis Costello’s glasses, also made due in What’s so Funny Bout Peace, Love and Understanding and credits Clarke with bringing him to the next level after 8 years of training. “I’m getting a lot more out of it than with my other teachers, because she’s a much better drummer than me,” said the 12 year old.
Sisko’s Mom gave Clarke the thumbs up too. “She works well with his personality,” said Cat Alessio. “She’s teaching him to listen and not rush.”
Anna McKee made One Direction of What Makes you Beautiful and believes girls hold their own – despite their underrepresentation in the world of drummers. “Girls are better because everybody sees them as tiny, but then they turn out to be really aggressive as drummers,” she asserted.
Even so, Vincent Stellio took the high road in his rendition of the AC/DC Classic and knew where his audience was throughout. “I don’t have to look at the sheet music, because it’s in my muscle memory,” he said. “I just know the song by heart.”
Either way, his mom was pumped. “I’m blown away,” said Debe Stellio.

She wasn’t the only one. 

Mahopac High School to Baldwin Place