Friday, March 25, 2011

Agora - A Film Reflection by Patty Mooney

Agora - Rachel Weisz IS The PhilosopherImage by louisiana via Flickr Many people have never heard of a woman named Hypatia who lived in Alexandria around 400 AD. She was a philosopher, astronomer and mathematician. She was brilliant. But she was a pagan woman during a time of Christian revolt, and a Bishop named Cyril decided to put an end to her because her actions (teaching philosophy at the Alexandria library) and her gender were displeasing to God. It was God's Word - albeit written in a book by men - but yeah, God Himself was quoted as saying that women existed to be slaves unto men. Can't argue with a book, right?

So Cyril incited a bunch of his zealot followers to go and murder Hypatia, who had the audacity of being an intellectual woman.

The film, "Agora" (2009) starring Rachel Weisz as Hypatia, takes a few liberties with recorded history. By that I mean, intact history, for most of her work, other than a few bits of correspondence between her and a student, went up in flames when the Christians burned down the Alexandria library. She was not actually stoned to death; instead, she was ripped limb from limb, the flesh scraped off of her bones with clamshells, and then pieces of her were burned and flung into the streets. Oh yeah, and then a few years later, Cyril was sainted by the Church.

Hypatia, painted by Charles William Mitchell i...Image via WikipediaAlthough Cyril was not present among the throng of murderers, his influence was palpable. So in the light of the 21st Century, one looks back and wonders how the sort of human being who sanctions violence against women is not only NOT vilified, but actually rewarded for his actions? It's like presenting Jeffrey Dahmer with a Nobel Prize. To paraphrase Shakespeare, Something smelled rotten in Alexandria. For those who wonder why I am not a practicing Catholic any longer, I ask, why would I belong to a club that still considers a mysoginist like Cyril a saint?

Weisz does a great job in this role as a woman who is driven - obsessed - by the behavior of the Earth in relation to the universe. Nature and Science were the religion to which she was devoted. And isn't it the human right of each person, whether man or woman, to decide what "God" they will kneel to?
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor, Icon of a Generation - by Patty Mooney

Cropped screenshot of Richard Burton and Eliza...Image via Wikipedia Elizabeth Taylor was a huge star when I was a girl. She was the talented, beautiful, strong woman that girls like me wanted to be when we grew up. Her passionate romance with Richard Burton was inspirational, too, while it lasted.

In her later years she fell under the radar, as many celebrities do when they are no longer ingenues, and when the only roles available are for matrons or crones. People like Marilyn Monroe and Natalie Wood both died young leaving "beautiful corpses," and now history will always portray them as young enchanting women at the peak of their careers.

It must be very difficult to have once been Cleopatra herself, and then find yourself relegated to a wheelchair throughout one's last, waning years.

I remember Elizabeth Taylor in "National Velvet," "Cleopatra" and "Who's Afraif of Virginia Woolf," all roles that seemed to define her. Her cavalcade of marriages and propensity for fried chicken always made headlines. In a way, she was one of the last "grand dames" - movie stars who held the attention of the world for decades. These days there are so many "It Girls" on the scene and none that unequivocally claim the Queen's throne. Not like Elizabeth Taylor, a woman who held sway on that throne for decades and whose movies, grace, philanthropy and inner beauty are gifts to all of us.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happy Hypatia Day! - by Patty Mooney

History has come alive for many who are remembering the death day of Hypatia of Alexandria. I am not really sure that you can pin her death date down to March 15th because so many of her records were destroyed by marauders and Christians who despised her. But it's a good day to honor her, just the same.

This is a piece I wrote for a Women's History class several years ago, which will impart the story of Hypatia to all who are curious.

Hypatia - Shining Star of Alexandria

When I first learned about Hypatia, I was enthusiastic to find out more about this ancient philosopher, astronomer and mathematician. Here in the 21st century, a woman who could claim all those capabilities would be considered a peer of people like Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Buckminster Fuller. This woman born in approximately 375 C.E., was admired by her contemporaries and drew students from all parts of the empire. According to Jone Johnson Lewis, in her article entitled "Hypatia: Astronomer, Philosopher and Mathematician," when the Arabs invaded Alexandria around 642, they burned the contents of the library, including the works of Hypatia, as fuel for their baths. Fortunately, historians have been able to piece together a portrait of her via letters written by her students and contemporaries, and through the works of others who quoted her. (Jone Johnson Lewis)

"Hypatia studied with her father, and with many others including Plutarch the Younger. She herself taught at the Neoplatonist school of philosophy. She became the salaried director of this school in 400. She probably wrote on mathematics, astronomy and philosophy, including about the motions of the planets, about number theory and about conic sections." (Jone Johnson Lewis)

Hypatia appears to have cultivated intellectual capabilities even deeper than those of her father. Most historians conjecture that she was somewhere between the ages of 35 and 45 when she reached a self-composed maturity which included lecturing to dozens of adoring students. One named Synesius, who later became Bishop of Ptolemais, wrote letters to her and about her for many years. These missives are the basis from which historians have gleaned the most knowledge of Hypatia. She dedicated her life to the pursuit of natural science and the philosophy of natural science, and she has been credited with inventing "a brass hydrometer for determining the specific gravity of liquids, an astrolabe for astronomical observations, a system of distillation and other devices." (The Pharmaceutical Journal)

"Her beauty did astonish the survey of eyes,
Her words all ears took captive." (Mangasar Mugurditch Mangasarian)

Renowned for her beauty as well as her intellect, Hypatia wore the robes of a philosopher and socialized with such political figures as Orestes, governor of Alexandria. Like Hypatia, Orestes was a pagan; however, many Christians in town were intolerant of the pagans. According to Lewis, Orestes was an adversary of Cyril, the new Christian bishop, a man who would one day be canonized by the Catholic Church. Lewis says that Orestes "objected to Cyril expelling the Jews from the city, and was murdered by Christian monks for his opposition." Hypatia, a pagan espouser of experimental science and friend to Orestes, was blacklisted by Cyril who was appalled at the behavior of a woman "who didn't know her place" (Lewis). Historians believe that his tirades against Hypatia incited an angry mob of "fanatical Christian monks in 415 to attack Hypatia as she drove her chariot through Alexandria" (Lewis). They dragged Hypatia into a church, then stripped her and killed her by flaying the flesh from her bones with oyster shells. They then ripped her apart, scattered pieces of her in the streets and burned the remains in the library of Caeseareum. This was a murder of passionate hatred, a misogynistic act of epic proportions.

Some historians believe Hypatia's assassination heralded the Dark Ages during which the patriarchal Church ruled with an iron fist, stifling the arts and natural sciences for the next thousand years. Christian historians paint Hypatia with colors that justify Cyril's actions, calling her a pagan enchantress who seduced those in power and defiled God's name; they insist she deserved her fate.

My conclusion is that Hypatia was an amazing woman who inspired many in Alexandria during her lifetime. Many citizens enjoyed attending her philosophical lectures and for them, her gender appears not to have been a consideration. She was "Hypatia the Philosopher." Cyril, a rigidly dogmatic man, grew envious of Hypatia's popularity and intellect, and instructed his henchmen to martyr her, so as to please God. Cyril thus ironically ensured Hypatia's longevity in history. The hypocrisy of Cyril's actions reflect back onto Christianity which I believe is the bastion of patriarchy. There is a poster that became the icon of the Viet Nam anti-war movement: "War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things," in black letters on a yellow background. One could easily substitute the word "patriarchy" for "War," as patriarchy is the war that men wage against women. Hypatia reigns as a heroine to any woman who defeats great odds to become a strong, poised, articulate woman with intellect, beauty and good self esteem. Hypatia, may you live on in the hearts of all women!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Living the Life of My Dreams - A New Book

My story is included in an inspiring book that Features 30 Ordinary People Sharing their Experiences Living EXTRAordinary Lives!

This book is a must have if you want to be inspired by some amazing stories of people who have gone from ordinary to EXTRAordinary!

Introducing: "Living the Life of My Dreams: Essays & Interviews with 30 Ordinary People Living EXTRAordinary Lives"

Featuring People Such as:

• Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo
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• Sally Shields, Speaker, Radio Personality and Author of #1 Bestseller “The DAUGHTER-IN-LAW Rules”
• Pablo Solomon, International Artist
• Shirley Cheng, Blind at 17, Author with over 25 book awards a decade later
• Achayra Sri Khadi Madama, Yogi, MMA trainer with 4 black belts earned after age 50!
• Patty Mooney, Video Producer, Documentarian, Mountain Biker, Poet

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The inspirational stories included in "Living the Life of My Dreams" offer incredible life lessons on the importance of focus, clarity, determination and most importantly, always remaining true to the passion within your heart!

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To order just click on this link to Living the Life of Your Dreams.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Intoxicated Pachyderms - A Found Poem by Patty Mooney

Big Elephant, Small ElephantImage by cleopatra69 via Flickr Four wild elephants that ran amok
after becoming intoxicated
on bootleg rice beer
in northeastern India’s Meghalaya state
were electrocuted when they brought down
high-voltage power lines during
a drunken rampage.
Forestry officials said
the herd stormed out of the forest
and into villages
after smelling the fermenting brew,
then drank from open casks of beer
in a remote area.
The death toll
among the elephant raiders could have
been higher, but about 20 pachyderms
moved away from the site,
sensing danger
just before the power lines
came crashing down.
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Saddest Vanishing Act of All - by Patty Mooney

I had just returned to a rather even keel of day-to-day living a few weeks after my brother, Joe, suddenly passed away. And then I learned of the passing of a wonderful friend, the great close-up sleight-of-hand magician and Las Vegas entertainer, Steve Dacri on February 11, 2011.

Steve was a man's man, an entertainer's entertainer, and of course a loving husband to his wife, Jan. He also doted on a litter of kittens that had recently camped outside of Steve and Jan's home. He loved a good cigar, a nice shot of tequila on a special occasion, and the gift of laughter. He would do everything in his power to make people laugh.

He worked very, very hard to be the best magician. He told Mark and me once that he practiced each one of his tricks for 1,000 hours before he performed it in public. He also mentioned that because he had such fast hands, whenever he appeared on television, and the producers asked him which angle he wanted to be filmed from, he would say, "Any and all angles." Most magicians would have to be videotaped from one side because the trick would be too obvious from any other angle. But not Steve. You could put fifty cameras on him, and you would not be able to see how the trick was done.

I remember tears streaming down my face from sheer delight at one of his extraordinary stories about his life and times in magic and show biz in particular. It focused on the great comedian, Milton Berle, who was known within the industry for his man's "accoutrement," let's call it. Steve was a young buck at the time, appearing on The Tonight Show every so often to perform magic for Johnny Carson who really loved Steve's work. Anyway, Milton and Steve were both in the dressing room where Steve had a bird's eye view of Milton sans pants. When Milton saw Steve glancing at him, Mr. Berle grinned and said he'd made many a woman very happy with what he had. According to Steve, Milton's "package was like a rolled up garden hose."

I told Steve he oughtta write a book. He had lots of stories involving great American icons like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope. Steve said he was working on it. What a shame that he was not able to finish it.

One project that Steve and I worked on together for a couple of solid days, was the editing of footage shot by his wife, Jan, through many years during which the couple had produced an Italian-Jewish dinner theater. Steve and I laughed, and laughed. Those are the memories that really stay with you. The joy, the laughter, the love.

In case you are interested in seeing that little documentary, here it is, in honor of Steve Dacri, the World's Greatest Close-Up Sleight-of-Hand Magician and Provocateur:

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Millennials and Gen X Women, Your Time is Now - by Patty Mooney

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 09:  Venus Williams of ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

When I was growing up in the 1970's, there was a very clear-cut struggle for "women's liberation." Gen X and Millenial women will have no idea what an amazing moment it was for Billie Jean King to turn the male-dominated game of tennis upside down and downside up when she beat the arrogant Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" 1973 match. I'm certain that the moment in 1920 when American women finally won the right to vote, after imprisonment, hunger striking and forced feeding (see "Iron Jawed Angels") was even more incredible. But when you look at a global chart that shows Saudi Arabian women winning the right to vote just FIVE YEARS AGO, in 2006, you can see that there is still much work to be done in the "women's liberation" department.

It's been said - many, many times - that "those who do not remember history will be doomed to repeat it" and this is a special message to Gen Xers and Millenials to don your face masks, knee and elbow pads and mouth guards, because it's your fight now.

GOP politicians, including ironically enough, WOMEN, are now attempting to turn the clock back a few centuries by cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood because they offer abortion services. Let us not mistake the facts here. This is a war on women.

I was a very naive 18-year-old. It's a good thing that the guy who "popped my cherry" mentioned (afterward) that it might be a good idea for me to go to Planned Parenthood for some birth control. And so I did. I marched into the Lansing clinic and got myself a diaphragm, some spermicidal jelly and an education. A few months later, I had to go back in for a pregnancy test and some counseling because I'd been raped. If I had been pregnant, I certainly would have gotten an abortion.

Now, over 35 years later, we have a cotillion of people (mostly men) in power who think it's in everyone's best interest to cut funding to women's health clinics, especially Planned Parenthood. Really, who do these people think they are?

Gen X and Millenial women, if you are not vein-burstingly angry over this, then you are not paying attention. This is like King Kong dropping Fay Wray - on purpose - off the top of the Empire State Building.

More than 85% of the services that Planned Parenthood provides to women have nothing to do with abortion. But the morality police are on the job, and they are with one sweep of their broom brushing away a multitude of hard-won rights in terms of women's medical care that took decades to accomplish.

I'm past child-bearing age, so I don't have to worry about unwanted pregnancy anymore. I feel grateful every single day of my life that I did not bear children.

I do, however, have several nieces whom I care about. And it breaks my heart to see the kind of disdain for them that is perfectly evident in the actions of politicians who have once again put Planned Parenthood and other women's health-care clinics on the chopping block. Let us be clear. It was not women who created our financial mess, who funneled trillions of dollars into Middle Eastern wars with no ROI (Return On Investment).

As happy-go-lucky as I normally am, I feel very angry about this latest "skirmish" in the war on women. All women who realize that they alone are in charge of their own bodies, especially in terms of reproduction, need to be angry, too. And make your voice heard.

Because the truth is, the world will be a much better place when women are revered for creating life, honored for making the hard-thought decisions, and respected for those decisions.

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