28 February 2013

Today marks the end of month two! Somehow noting that I’m 1/6th of the way through the year sounds like I’m so much further along than if I say I still have more than 300 entries to go. 

That’s not to complain at all. The number is daunting, to be sure, but I’m taking it one day at a time. It feels digestible that way. I spooked myself a few weeks ago and freaked out about never taking a day off from This. For. 365. Days. A number of you called and emailed with great suggestions on how to handle crunch times and I will definitely put those into effect. They were ideas that will help me, but, more importantly, will make the blog better.  Plus, this month I got through the Grammys, which is an incredibly busy time for me, and my first international trip while writing the blog and no one got hurt. 

My process continues to evolve. Whereas in the first month, I often tailored the post to the charity I selected, I now find myself usually picking the charity after I’ve decided what I want to write about that day. For example, yesterday I wrote about the Mars expedition after reading about it in the news, so then I needed to go find an organization that taught kids about science and found Dark Skies, Bright Kids.  

One of the best parts about this project is realizing how many good groups are out there. I have a list that I started Jan. 1 that I add to when I think of causes I like. Plus, I have the list of charities that so many of you have suggested for Chooseday Tuesday (and what a great list it is, thank you!) and then I have the organizations that I’m discovering from doing research. 

For those days when it feels to me like the dark side is winning, all I have to do is find a new charity or go click on the website of one of my new favorites that I’ve found these past 59 days and I realize good is —and will — prevail. The race is slow and long and hard and there are agendas and special interests that are fighting just as hard for their side in some cases.  Often, it feels like one step back for every two steps forward, but these organizations keep chipping away and chipping away in an effort to make the world better and I believe in them and am awed by the work they are doing. I have a whole new list of superheroes, who walk among us disguised as mere mortals. 

At the end of January, I mentioned that one of my goals for February was to figure out how to allow people to subscribe to the blog. I added that widget today (it was embarrassingly simple. A computer wiz, I am not...). There will be more developments to come. If you’re so inclined, please enter your email address in the upper right hand corner and you’ll get Causes & Effect delivered to your email inbox every day when I post it. Thank you in advance to any folks who decide to opt in.

The big news is today was Pope Benedict XVI’s last day. What do you get a Pope Emeritus? A nice sweater? A cap so his head doesn’t get cold now that it’s uncovered? I’ve already given to a few Catholic-run charities including Catholic Charities USA and I can’t repeat, so I’m hedging a little and donating to Catholic Charities Los Angeles.  One of CCLA’s big projects is the Temporary Skilled Workers Center it runs out of the Home Depot in Burbank. As you may know, many places like Home Depot are where immigrants go to find day labor jobs. The Temporary Skilled Workers Center provides them shade and restrooms and tries to make sure they are paid a decent wage and monitors working conditions. That’s just a small part of CCLA’s mission: it also works with the homeless and the aging. 

59 down, 306 to go.

27 February 2013

To the moon, Alice! Make that Mars. Apparently we’re sending a married couple to Mars.  Or at least that’s the hope. It will take 501 days to cruise by the red planet and back so the scientists who are coordinating the mission feel its best that the astronauts know each other very, very well.  And, oh, small point: The woman also needs to be past childbearing years since the couple may come back radiated.  Yeah, that could be the least of their worries since it sounds like figuring out exactly how to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere could be a little tricky.

Paragon Space Development Corp. is behind the excursion, according to CNN.  I hate that the U.S. government is basically out of the space business, but I’m fascinated by folks like Paragon’s Taber MacCallum, or Elon Musk, who spoke at TED2013 today, or Virgin’d Richard Branson, who are pouring millions, if not billions, into space exploration. MacCullum, a former NASA engineer, went to the International Space Station in  2001 as a space tourist on a Russian rocket. 

The plan is to launch the mission in 2018 because Mars will only be 36 million miles away from Earth then. Yeah, I wrote “only...”  It’s usually farther away. 

Today’s $10 goes to Dark Skies, Bright Kids, a volunteer-run program operated by University of Virginia’s Astronomy Dept. Its goal is to provide science education for kids in elementary schools in underserved rural Virginia. The tent pole project is a two-month Astronomy Club that Dark Skies holds at a different elementary school each semester in an effort to foster a life-long love for science. 

Maybe the next Taber MacCallum or Elon Musk will come from Dark Skies.

58 down, 307 to go.

26 February 2013

Today is Chooseday Tuesday and I’m picking Ahimsa House based on a suggestion made by one of my sister’s college roommates and best friends, Carole.

I’d never heard of this incredible organization and I’m hoping there are lots more like it in every state.  Ahimsa House provides shelter for the often overlooked victims of domestic abuse: four-legged creatures. According to the Georgia-based organization’s website, many women stay in abusive situations because they are afraid the person abusing them will abuse their pet if they leave for a shelter, the vast majority of which don’t accept pets. Or the abuser threatens to kill the pet if the abused says she is leaving and she, therefore, stays keeping herself and her pet in peril. 

Ahimsa House (ahimsa means non violence) looks at the connection between domestic abuse and animal abuse, and, not surprisingly, has found a link. When an abused person flees her house (I’m using the feminine, but, of course, I mean he or she in all these cases), Ahimsa House will coordinate care of her pets, including providing veterinary care, boarding, safety planning, and legal advocacy.  The idea is to offer all services that can, as Ahimsa’s website says, “help the human and animal victims of domestic violence reach safety together.”  

Ahimsa works with domestic violence shelters to care for the animals while their owners are in the shelters. They will keep the pets for 30 days, often in foster homes or at animal shelters.  In addition to donating money, they need people who are willing to foster animals, as well as take animals to the vet and help with the 24-hour crisis line.

As I approach the two-month mark, I continue to marvel at the number of great suggestions people have made for Chooseday Tuesday and how many organizations are out there doing service in ways I’d never thought of. Ahimsa definitely falls into that category. 

Feb. 26: Ahimsa House

57 down, 309 to go

25 February 2013

Today would have been George Harrison’s 70th birthday. I never met him, but I felt like I did. 

My editor in chief at Billboard, Timothy White, was close to Harrison, as he was with several other music superstars from his days at Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone.

White was a titan in the world of consumer rock journalism by the time he came to Billboard in the early '90s and he rocked our trade magazine’s boat in ways both good and bad. He was a very complex person, whip smart and fascinating, yet there were people on staff that he treated unfairly due to his own very human shortcomings. Despite some initial skirmishes, he was great to me in many ways, including promoting me to Billboard’s West Coast Bureau Chief in 1998. It was after I relocated from New York to Los Angeles that we became much closer, in part because he worked very late the nights that he was in New York (he commuted every week from Boston) and would often need an ear. I would be the only one to call since everyone in the New York office had long departed and I was working late in Los Angeles as well.  

One of the greatest honors I received at Billboard was when he asked me to serve as his editor on a few pieces, including an in-depth interview he conducted with George Harrison that ran in early 2000 after he'd spent time with Harrison at his residence, Friar Park. I remember being terrified. It was pretty easy to set Timothy off with some unsuspecting comment, plus his writing could be a little longwinded, but I realized if he was asking me to edit him, he really wanted my opinion. So I gingerly, but confidently, suggested a number of changes, all of which he agreed to or, if he didn’t, had a very good explanation as to why not. We were on the phone at some absurd hour-- maybe 11 p.m. my time/2 a.m. his time and it was an extremely easy, congenial, collegial endeavor that I enjoyed immensely. Editing that story and one of his Music To My Ears columns about the Blues Brothers remain two of my most precious memories of Timothy. Instead of boss and employee, we were two writers hashing through a story about a man dear to both of us: to him personally and to me as a fan.

Harrison died Nov. 29, 2001 at 58. What none of us could have known was that seven months later, Timothy would be dead too after suffering a fatal heart attack in the elevator at Billboard's New York office after coming back to lunch with his best friend and his family. He was only 50. 

I should probably save this for the anniversary of Timothy’s death in June, but I will never forget that day. The Los Angeles office was having its company picnic and Howard Lander, Billboard’s then publisher, called me to tell me that Timothy has collapsed (at that point, we didn’t know he’d died). He told me to send my staff to the picnic (which was in the office backyard), but that I needed to stay by the phone. About 20 minutes later, he called me to tell me that Timothy had passed and that I need to write his obit since Timothy had the unfortunate timing of dying just as we were going to press. With no time to even process what had happened and still in shock, I had to go tell my staff and then I had to try to sum up his life in 1000 words in 60 minutes, including that he was leaving behind 10-year old twins. 

I rarely think of George Harrison without thinking of Tim, which prompted me to tell this tale. 

In honor of Harrison, today’s $10 goes to Harrison’s Material World Foundation, a non-profit he started in 1973. According to the organization’s website, the Foundation encourages “the exploration of alternate and diverse forms of artistic expression, life views and philosophies as well as a way to support established charities and people with special needs.” In some ways, that perfectly sums up Tim.

56 down, 309 to go.

24 February 2013

It’s Oscar Sunday! Shouldn’t it be some kind of holiday, especially for people on the east coast? Since the Academy Awards inevitable run long, it seems like we should get to take Monday off. Go ahead. You have my permission. Have your boss call me!

I love movies, especially my classic films from my favorite director, Billy Wilder. I’m a good Southerner, so“To Kill A Mockingbird” is my favorite movie (After at least 25 viewings, I still cry every time Rev. Sykes says, “Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”) After that though, the Wilder movies kick in, starting with “Double Indemnity,” “Sunset Blvd.,” and, perhaps one of the most cynical movies ever made, “Ace in the Hole” (or “The Big Carnival,” as it’s also known). Then, of course, there’s “Stalag 17,” “The Apartment,” and the devastating “The Lost Weekend.” I’m not as big a fan of “Some Like It Hot” as I probably should be.

My quick predictions for today are Best Picture: “Argo”; Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis; Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence; Best Director: Steven Spielberg; Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway; Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz (though he’s neck and neck with Tommy Lee Jones). I’m also counting on “Skyfall” winning best song, making it the first James Bond theme to ever win an Oscar (I know, I know — that seems crazy, doesn’t it?)

Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles is an 11-year old media arts non-profit that offers free filmmaking classes for teens and seniors (love that!), low cost rental equipment, its own film festival highlighting local filmmakers and even operates a film mobile. Students attended EPFC have made more than 250 films. 

So today’s $10 goes to encourage the next Spielberg. I’ll bring the popcorn. 

What's your favorite movie? 

55 down, 310 to go.

23 February 2013

Earlier this week, I went to a listening party to hear John Fogerty’s new album, “Wrote A Song For Everyone,” which comes out in May.  Similar to Lionel Richie’s recent hit album, “Tuskegee,” Fogerty has remade a number of his solo and Creedence Clearwater Revival hits with acts like Foo Fighters, My Morning Jacket, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert and others. 

Fogerty told stories about each song before we heard it, including one about “Bad Moon Rising,” which he said is about “the ominous emotions in my life.” As most songwriters will tell you, they may write a song about one thing, but after it goes out into the world, listeners bring their own interpretations to the material.

He had donated a hand-written copy of the lyrics for an auction at his children’s school and a man came up to him and told him he’d served in Vietnam and every night before they went patrolling for the VietCong, they would blast that song.  As any major Fogerty fan knows, while opposed to the war in Vietnam, he has been a great supporter of Vietnam vets and played a number of concerts to raise money for vets. It’s a cause that’s very close to his heart. 
While so much attention is being given to returning Afghanistan and Iraq vets (and deservedly so, but it’s still not enough), many Vietnam vets still need help. Today’s $10 goes to Vietnam Veterans of America. Founded in 1978, VVA assists Vietnam veterans and their families in myriad ways, including helping them find health care and advocate on their behalf. 

Feb. 23: VVA

54 down, 311 to go.

22 February 2013

As if we in Los Angeles didn’t have enough to worry about with the constant fear of falling into the ocean from The Big One, now we have a TB outbreak. 

The outbreak is the largest in a decade, according to the Los Angeles Times, and we have a strain that’s totally unique to us, which feels odd for a town built on imitation.  

Right now, the most vulnerable are the homeless people around Skid Row, but the fear is that the disease will spread beyond that area.  The county health department is advising all homeless shelters to screen clients. I hope that doesn’t lead to their turning people away. 

Today’s $10 goes to the Los Angeles Mission, which has been helping the homeless since 1936. It is much more than a shelter; it runs an Urban Training Institute and job placement service, among many other services.
$2.03 provides an individual with food and water, but need is great for much more than that. According to LA Mission’s website, it will serve more than 500,000 meals this year, more than any year in its 77-year history.  

53 down, 312 to go

21 February 2013

I was not a Grateful Dead fan growing up. I listened to only Top 40 until I got to college and even then, the Grateful Dead was still a little too out there for a kid from the South. I was afraid of them for some reason. Maybe it was the drug culture, maybe it was the long hair, maybe I was just an idiot.  I knew some of the bigger songs, of course, like “Truckin’” or “Casey Jones” or “Uncle John’s Band” or “Sugar Magnolia,” but that was about it.

Then when I started working at Billboard, some of my colleagues were rabid fans and I realized I’d really missed out. Their fans weren’t all major stoners who followed the band around and sold toast on a stick in the parking lot at the shows. And so what if they were? How great to feel so passionate about a band that you wanted to see them as many times as you could.

When Jerry Garcia died in 1995, I had friends who could not stop crying. It was like a death in the family for them and the end of an era that would never come again, no matter how much other jam bands tried to fill the void. 

One of big regrets is that I never saw them live. They would take over Madison Square Garden when I lived in New York for a series of shows and even though I could have walked to MSG from our offices, I never went.

Two years ago, I wrote a story for the Los Angeles Times about the band’s push into merchandising. The remaining members had put the new record executive in charge of licensing their image through his paces. He was an incredible Deadhead. He was able to answer questions about obscure songs like “Victim or The Crime” and that’s how he gained their trust. I interviewed Mickey Hart for the piece and it remains one of my favorite interviews. What the band did in terms of building a community, not just with its fans but with everyone who worked with them, was groundbreaking. They have such a legacy of giving back, especially in the San Francisco area. 

On Saturday, Berkeley’s listener-sponsored radio station KPFA is holding its 27th annual Grateful Dead Marathon, “Dead to the World,” from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., hosted by David Gans. There is also an auction of GD memorabilia. 

So today’s $10 goes to all my Deadhead friends and to help make up for all the years I missed out on some great music. Saturday's marathon will stream online live via KPFA's website, as well as on some partner websites. I'll be listening.

Feb. 21: KPFA 

52 down, 313 to go

20 February 2013

I got a new Samsung Galaxy Note today. I upgraded from a Blackberry, which is a little like going from a horse and buggy to a car. I’m quite sure I was the last living person with a non-company-mandated Blackberry.  When I was growing up in the south, if we really wanted to brag about some machine’s capabilities, we’d say, “It does everything but whistle Dixie.”  Here’s the thing, I’m quite sure that my new Note would whistle Dixie if I could just figure out the right keys to punch. 

This is not meant to sound like a Samsung endorsement, I just didn’t know how to explain the quantum leap without actually mentioning product names. The switch made me think about technology and the information it brings to our fingertips. Even with my Blackberry, I had access to so much information. It felt like I was carrying the whole word in my pocket.

One of my favorite charities that I learned about years ago, maybe through a story on “60 Minutes,” is called One Laptop Per Child. Started by the MIT Media Lab faculty, OLPC’s goal is to provide every child with a low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. The company designed its own hardware and software. It’s called the XO and the company distributes them to entire schools in third world countries.  As they say, “we make a small computer to serve a big cause.” 

As of 2011, according to its website, One Laptop has distributed more than 2 million laptops. This is truly the case of a very small group of people taking an idea and changing the world. Remarkable.

51 down, 314 to go.

19 February 2013

I’ve been a little undone by some of the harsh comments my Facebook friends and people I follow on Twitter have made about Mindy McCready’s suicide.

Some people have gone so far as to write “good riddance,” because they are so upset about her leaving behind her two young children. As you may know, her youngest son, who is less than a year old, lost his father to suicide as well last month.

Today, another acquaintance on Facebook was railing against McCready for shooting her dog first.  And I mean saying horrible, vitriolic things that I won’t repeat here. He has absolutely no sorrow for her, but he’d mustered up a great deal of sympathy for the innocent dog. From what I’ve read the dog belonged to her boyfriend, the one who killed himself last month, so maybe she thought they could all be reunited. 

I don’t know why she had to kill the dog (and I certainly wish she hadn’t), but I do know this: if you are in so much pain that you are considering killing yourself, then it’s safe to say that you are not thinking clearly. 

The lack of compassion from people I otherwise consider compassionate has been more than a little disturbing. I haven’t responded to any of them, but if I did I would ask if they’ve never known anyone who has committed suicide or someone who was suicidal (maybe they have and this is their way of continuing to work through that understandable anger)? Committing suicide is referred to as a tremendously selfish act and a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I agree with both of those statements, but I can’t go so far as to condemn McCready for her actions, as much as I wish she hadn’t left her children behind (and shot her dog). I’ve known too many people who were in unbearable pain and who felt that taking their own life was the only way to stop the hurting. Of course I was angry that they made that choice, but never without some sense of sadness for them as well.  

I understand that McCready’s dog did nothing wrong and killing him was totally and utterly senseless and beyond comprehension, but no more senseless than taking her own life. Maybe I just know more animal lovers than people lovers, but the folks who seem to hate her for killing her dog are far greater (and more vocal) than the folks who are upset about her deserting her sons or shooting herself.

Today is Chooseday Tuesday, so I’m donating in honor of my friend Rosemary. She loves dogs more than almost anyone I know and yet she has been compassionate about Mindy, commenting about how kind McCready was to others, despite not being able to show herself the same kindness. Her charity is North Shore Animal League, a great organization in New York that has “rescued, rehabilitated and adopted” more than 1 million animals, according to its website.

I'll let singer Chely Wright have the last word. Yesterday she tweeted about McCready, "I will pray for her children and I hope that people are gentle with her memory." Sadly, it's too late for that.

**On a little side note, today is post 50! That would sound like a lot if there weren’t still 315 to go. It’s all relative, isn’t it? 

18 February 2013

Today is President’s Day.  Last fall, a friend and I went to the Nixon Presidential Museum and Library in Yorba Linda, Calif.  It was my first trip to a presidential library and now I want to go to all of them and collect the full set.

The library is located on the grounds where Nixon was born and includes the tiny house that his father built from a kit (perhaps Sears & Roebuck). I was pretty little when Nixon resigned, but I remember my family gathering around the television as he took his last flight on Army One, the helicopter that he and his family flew away in after resigning in disgrace. 

The helicopter is on the grounds. It had been used by Kennedy and Johnson before Nixon and by Ford after he finished with it.  Nixon was a smart, complicated person. After filtering him my whole life through the lens of Watergate, it was remarkable to explore the rest of his life and see how stubborn he was and how much he felt like an underdog throughout his life. The library took care to offer seemingly mundane details that were fascinating. For example, while Nixon was in the Navy, he was quite the poker player. His winnings from one of his last games before his discharge funded his first congressional race. 

I’m sure at some point (probably in eighth grade, when my knowledge seemed to have peaked) I knew that he won reelection in 1972 by the widest margin in history: 18 million votes. He only lost Massachusetts and the District of Columbia to George McGovern. The electoral college map, awash in one color, was a site to behold

There was also a section dedicated to his wife, Pat Nixon, that highlighted her accomplishments, but also served to humanize him. The First Lady’s section included a gracious letter from Jacqueline Kennedy profusely thanking the Nixons. It turns out the unveiling of JFK’s official presidential portrait happened while Nixon was in office. Mrs. Kennedy had not been back to the White House since leaving it immediately after JFK’s assassination and had no desire to return even though the pressure was great to show up at the unveiling. The Nixons offered her and her children, JFK Jr. and Caroline, sanctuary and promised them no press and no photographers would be allowed, in order to make the family as comfortable as possible. Mrs. Kennedy accepted. The Nixons were good to their promise and, because of that, there is no footage of the unveiling. 

We also have Pat Nixon to thank for pandas coming to the U.S. While accompanying her husband on his groundbreaking trip to China in 1972, Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai asked Mrs. Nixon how she was enjoying her trip and she remarked how much she had loved seeing the pandas at the Peking Zoo. He replied that he would give some to the U.S. and, soon enough, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing arrived at Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo and caused “Panda-monium.”

My friend and I had just gotten to the Watergate section when the museum closed, so we need to go back to explore that. While the library is historically accurate, it’s clear that the curators lionized Nixon. The library, as are the 12 other official president libraries,  is now administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). But until 2007, the library was run by a private foundation, which seemingly took a little umbrage at the assumption of Nixon’s guilt in Watergate. At the entrance to the Watergate section is a sign that says the Watergate portion was put together by NARA and the museum leaves it up to the museum attendee to decide for his or herself whether Nixon really did anything wrong. 

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Nixon’s birth. A Centennial Exhibit opened Feb. 15 at the library.  I can’t wait to go back. Next up, my friend and I are going to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library since it's also close by.

I tried to donate to the Nixon library, but couldn’t find a way to. Then I tried to donate to the National Archives and was also coming up short, so finally I found The Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, so I’m donating my $10 to it. Some days it’s easier to give the money away than others. 

Feb. 18: Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress:  http://www.thepresidency.org/

49 down, 316 to go.

17 February 2013

There are breaking reports that country singer Mindy McCready has committed suicide. 

What a horrible result to a life that has been spiraling downward for years. 

McCready, 37, had long stopped getting any notice as a country artist after she stopped charting singles in 2002. Sadly, the fascination turned to her train wreck of a life, which the press covered with that particular kind of relish reserved for the already down on their luck. And McCready provided an endless reserve of ammunition.

She seemed unable to get the help she needed to escape her demons or accept aid when it was offered, whether it was very publicly on "Celebrity Rehab" or in a more private forum. There were at least two reports of previous suicide attempts.  And now there are two little boys, the most recent born less than a year ago, without a mother.  The pain must have been blinding if she couldn’t see through it enough to save herself for them.

Today’s $10 goes to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Anyone can call the line 24 hours a day to get help. 

Feb. 17: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

48 down, 317 to go.

16 February 2013

I’m in Guadalajara working on a story. It will not surprise my fellow  music fans that the song constantly running through my head is Steely Dan’s “My Old School” because it mentions Guadalajara. 

I like to try to tie the blog into where my travels take me, as I did when I was home in North Carolina two weeks ago. What struck me as I was coming in from the airport was the poverty. It doesn’t come close to what it’s like when you’re driving to the airport in Mexico City, where you go through some of the worst slums I’ve ever seen, but it’s still apparent.

However, once I got away from the airport area, Guadalajara has been beautiful, especially the countryside, and the people have been exceptionally warm and hospitable. 

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m having very little success with the internet here and I don’t have the usual amount of time to dedicate to researching charities, but I found one that intrigued me.  The Children’s Shelter is an orphanage in Jalisco (the state that Guadalajara is in).  For those living in the margins, apparently there’s a real problem with giving birth and never getting their children birth certificates. Because they have no proof of being born, the children can’t enroll in school or receive any government support.  Many of these children are born to prostitutes or drug addicts and end up at the orphanage, according to the website. 

So today, I’m giving my $10 to The Children’s Shelter, which provides a number of services for children, including medical are. 

Feb. 16: The Children’s Shelter: http://www.eireneministry.com/orphanage-in-mexico.html

15 February 2013

I’m traveling again and that makes posting uncertain, especially when I’m going somewhere new and I’m not completely sure of internet connections. I have a very slow, unwieldy connection and since time is really tight today, I'm giving an update on a past Causes & Effects recipient.

On Jan. 22, I gave to the Wake County SPCA. As you may recall, the volunteers had produced an adorable video highlighting the furry creatures up for adoption set to Abba’s “Take A Chance on Me.” It was an incredible labor of love.

At the time I wrote about it, the video was already a year old and had already gone through some legal wrangling, had been taken down because of copyright infringement on the song, and put back up. 

When I was home in Raleigh, which is in Wake County, last week there just happened to be an huge above-the-fold huge story in the News & Observer about how, once again, the Wake County SPCA had been denied the rights to the ABBA song.  It was really unclear as to why. They had tried to go through all the right channels, but Universal Music Group, which owns the ABBA master, said no.   Music licensing is a very tricky, complicated thing to the uninitiated and actually involves two licenses to to use the original song. The user has to get both a masters license to use the sound recording (in this case, ABBA’s version of “Take A Chance On Me”), as well as a sync license, which is permission from the publishing company who owns/administers the copyright for the song writer.   

From the story in the News & Observer, it looks like the shelter could never get the usage of the master after several attempts. 

The problem for Wake County SPCA is that so many people have copied the video and posted it that new versions keep popping up, but I don’t think they can be held responsible for those. 

Since I can’t repeat donations, I’m giving to the Humane Society of the U.S. 

Feb. 15: Humane Society of the United States  http://www.humanesociety.org/

14 February 2013

I grabbed a handful of candy hearts today and was laughing at how they have evolved in the modern era: along with such standards as “Love Me,” “Call Me,” and “My Girl,”  there was also “Text Me” and “Tweet Me.”  How romantic.

But then I grabbed one that said “Heal” and had a little heart drawn on it. I certainly don’t remember that one growing up. 

I’ve been thinking about love a lot on Valentine’s Day, but not the kind the day and florists and Hallmark tell us we must have in order to feel whole.  What is love? How does it manifest itself? 

As I look back at the list of organizations I’ve donated to over the past 44 days, I realized that as different as they may seem on the face of it, all have two things in common: they are all about love and they are all about healing. Maybe the little candy heart had it right, after all. 

All of us feel broken at times, some more than others. Some of us are broken by external circumstance and others by internal ones, but we are all capable of and deserve healing, whether you believe it comes through God’s grace, some other higher power, your own soul, the love of friends and pets, nature or from an organization run by people that care about souls they’ve never met, but know they are called upon to help because we are all in this together.

In many ways I feel like my experiment is breaking my heart, but I mean that in the best possible way and in a way that is ultimately healing. When I read about Shirley Chambers, who lost all four of her children to gunfire or about Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year old girl who was murdered a week after taking part in President Obama’s inauguration —stories that I might have missed if I weren’t doing this blog (though I am a bit of a newshound) — I feel my heart break and what can only be described as suffocating despair over the pain that hangs in the air, invisible but omnipresent and heavy as a cloak. Then I find an organization that is fighting every day against seemingly insurmountable odds to make sure that those atrocities don’t happen again and I realize evil doesn’t get to permanently win — not as long as people continue to fight against it. I guess I inherently believed that already or I wouldn’t have started this blog.

I don’t know why one of those organizations, The Faith Community of St. Sabina, has stuck with me more than some of the others. It’s an African American Catholic church on Chicago’s South side that is on the forefront of fighting for social justice in the midst of a war zone.  On St. Sabina’s playground, there is a memorial honoring mothers in the area who have lost their children to gun violence.  There were too many pictures of murdered children on it for me to count.  

The priest there, Rev. Michael L. Pfleger, is relentless in his advocacy for his parishioners and the community at large. I had never heard of him, but after doing a little research, he is quite the rebel. Yes, he’s said some things that he shouldn’t have said in the heat of passion, but Pfleger has stayed at St. Sabina’s for 32 years--unheard of for a priest. He has adopted three children, over the protests of a Cardinal who threatened to fire him for doing so. One of his adopted sons was killed by gunfire, so he knows of what he speaks when he talks about loss. He also believes in the ordination of female priests and that priests should be allowed to marry. 

He’s also the only person who has sent me a handwritten note following my donation (or at least I think it’s from him... it’s on his letterhead, but the signature is a little hard to make out, so I’m not sure). The final words are “thank you for caring.” I’d give to St. Sabina’s again, but I vowed that I won’t repeat any charity twice over the year, so I’m giving to The Beloved Community, a non-denominational South Side non-profit that St. Sabina’s partners with (and was started by Pfleger). The Beloved Community focuses on development through education.

My heart breaks a little more every day as I write this blog when I see how much work there is to be done and what an uphill a battle it is. But then I think about one of my favorite lines from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”: “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” 

I wish you a broken heart on this Valentine’s Day.

Feb. 14: The Beloved Community: http://www.belovedcommunitychicago.org/home.html

45 down, 320 to go!