Archive for May, 2011

The Many Faces of Mark Twain

May 30, 2011 in Culture and History | Comments (0)

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Mark Twain was born in 1835, during a visit by Halley’s Comet, and he died 76 years later, in 1910, during Halley’s next visit. William Falkner said about Twain that he was “the father of American Literature” and others said that Twain was the “greatest American humorist of his age.”

Huckleberry Finn: Great American Novel

Mark Twain was christened Samuel Clemens, but took the pen-name Mark Twain as a nod to his days spent as a steamboat pilot on the great Mississippi River. Mark Twain wrote such famed works as Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Author’s Court, and what many call the first “Great American Novel,” Huckleberry Finn, hailed as Twain’s masterpiece of storytelling and wit.

If you love Mark Twain as much as I do, then you will probably get a big kick out of perusing some primary sources for Mark Twain memorabilia. One of the best places to find letters, manuscripts and other items penned by one of America’s most beloved humorists, social critic’s and writers is the Shapell Manuscript Foundation collection.

Page from Missing Notebook

One fascinating manuscript is a hand-written in pencil page which was torn from a notebook.  It is believed that the page was torn from Mark Twain’s missing notebook of 1867. The quickly scrawled page is a bare-bones autobiographical sketch.  The words describe a not very well known young man from the west, perhaps to serve as an introduction to a lecture. Within the sketch is Twain’s announcement that he will be travelling soon on the “General Sherman Pleasure Excursion to Europe and the Holy Land, and will set sail on the 8th of June.”

Innocents Abroad Twain’s Big Hit

This trip led to the final and greatest success of Mark Twain’s career, after years of struggle. The book, entitled The Innocents Abroad, is an account of his journey, and that of the 65 others accompanying him on the “Quaker City” and is often quoted as a realistic portrait of the places he visited during the latter half of the 1860s.

Within the Shapell Manuscript Foundation collection are many other fascinating items. There is a description of Clemens’ last day in New York before embarking on his journey to Europe and the Holy Land, describing a day and night of drinking, in large part with other writers. This journey was the first such trip, organized as a ‘pleasure party’ for a transatlantic voyage, and to see in Twain’s own hand his description of his evening before is a thrill.

Another manuscript found in the Shapell Manuscript Foundation collection is a letter to Clemens’ publisher praising Dan Slote, Clemens’ roommate on the “Quaker City,” as an excellent promoter for Innocents Abroad, Twain’s book about his voyage on the “Quaker City.”

There is almost no end to the information and thrill which can be culled from investigating historical figures through their own writing. I recommend a visit to any manuscript collection containing the writings of your own favorite personalities.


Tips for Managing Fibromyalgia

May 23, 2011 in Health | Comments (0)

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Fibromyalgia is one of those disorders that has not yet been fully understood.  Patients with fibromyalgia complain of widespread pain through the body, largely focused on the joints, tendons, muscles and other soft tissues. They also often experience extreme fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, headaches and other symptoms.

Dealing with fibromyalgia is not easy, particularly because it’s hard to isolate what brings on an episode and what alleviates the symptoms.  Here are some suggestions, however, that might help.

  1. See a Pain Specialist: Visit a doctor who is a pain specialist like Dr. Harvey Finkelstein or Dr. Joel Kreitzer.  Doctors who deal with fibromyalgia patients can recommend diet changes, exercises and other coping skills to deal with and to treat the pain.  Dr. Harvey Finkelstein, Dr. William Lu, Dr. Stephen Stowe and their colleagues are often the first step for a patient with fibromyalgia.
  2. Avoid stress:  As with many conditions, fibromyalgia may be triggered by stress.  Whenever possible, try to avoid stressful situations and be preemptive about dealing with issues before they become overwhelming or stressful.
  3. Sleep: Make sure to get enough sleep.  A lack of sleep can create stress and can also trigger symptoms.
  4. Try Alternative Medicine: When you’re in pain, it’s worth it to seek out help from many sources.  Some fibromyalgia sufferers say that acupuncture works for them.  Others believe in hydrotherapy, while others enjoy a weekly massage.  Whatever works for you and helps you to deal with the pain is certainly worth trying.

Don’t blame yourself for having fibromyalgia or for needing to rest more than your contemporaries.  The more nurturing and accepting you can be with your condition, the more helpful it will be for your daily situation and your recovery.


Be Sure to Screen Your Teen!

May 16, 2011 in Health | Comments (0)

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Skin cancer is a concept that everyone has heard of, and possibly, even learned about. Everyone has heard of the risks involved with tanning and sun exposure, but people don’t often take these warnings to heart.

Teenagers are especially a problem. As the media, fashion and clothing lines put golden tans on a pedestal, more and more teens begin to leave the sunscreen at home. It is not difficult to comprehend why warnings of such a seemingly far-fetched condition do not really have an impact on adolescents, or even young adults. What’s important to understand, however, is that your child, sibling or friend is truly putting his or her self at risk. Sun damage and skin conditions often begin at a young age, though they are not usually apparent until later in life. By following some basic safety rules, teenagers can ensure that their bodies remain healthy and beautiful even as they grow older.

Programs like Teen Screen work towards this goal. Supported by the National Melanoma Awareness Project and the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, Teen Screen has branches in California, Illinios, Florida and Pennsylvania. Teen Screen’s original program focused on high school athletic teams, providing lectures and informative meetings on the topic of skin cancer, as well as working to incorporate sunscreen as part of team equipment. Now, Teen Screen has broadened its scope to include other outdoor activities such as outdoor clubs, marching bands and field trips. Its presentations now include children, day camps, junior life guards, scouts and children’s sports.


Alexander McQueen Exhibit Opens at the Met

May 9, 2011 in Art,Fashion,Museums | Comments (0)

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Pulling in visitors in numbers greater than any other Costume Institute Show in history, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art had to suspend their guided tours because of overflow crowds.

Garnering an astounding 5,100 people to opening day last Wednesday, the new Alexander McQueen exhibit came close to the record set by the museum’s most busy opening day ever in its history: “Vincent van Gogh: The Drawings,” which brought in 5,400 people back in 2005.

Savage Beauty Showcases McQueen’s Contrasts

Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen, the world famous clothing designer, who died last year, was not afraid to explore the world of contrasts: Dark and light; past and future; masculine and feminine. Thus the name of the exhibit, “Savage Beauty,” the first such show since his passing, is certainly apropos.

The Met’s Costume Institute explores the fabulous world of McQueen extremes, an intellectual and an artist, whose career as a designer was celebrated until his suicide at the age of 40 in February of 2010. His was a journey into the world of contrasts, where he challenged the usual ideas about beauty, while going for the shocking statement whenever he felt it was appropriate.

McQueen Challenged Normal Notions of Beauty

The exhibit curator, Andrew Bolton said that McQueen was always exploring ways to question normal conventions of fashion and beauty, citing a quote from Shakespeare which he had tattooed on his arm, which is also the starting point for the show: “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.”

These words were said by Helena from a Midsummer Night’s Dream, explained Bolton, who was someone who believed that love had the power to transform the ordinary into the beautiful.

Designer was Also a Believer

Bolton continued to explain that McQueen was not unlike Helena, for he, too was a believer:

“All of McQueen’s collections were fashioned around elaborate narratives, and the exhibition is intended to evoke a gothic fairy tale, a fairy tale that is pushed forward by McQueen’s imagination.”