Saturday, October 29, 2016

Trick Or Treat

The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging from door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages. The modern trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor people would go from door to door on November 1 - the day of the Hallowmas  - begging for food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day - November 2nd. 

The tradition originated in Ireland and Britain although similar practices were found as far south as Italy. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona, when Speed accuses his master of "puling - whimpering or whining - like a beggar at Hallowmas."

The custom of wearing costumes and masks at Halloween goes back to the Celtic tradition of attempting to placate evil spirits. In Scotland, for instance, the dead were impersonated by young men dressed in white garments with their faces masked, veiled or blackened.

The trick-or-treat tradition was practiced in the western United States in the 1930s and probably even earlier than that. It gained country-wide acceptance as it spread from the western United States to the east in the early 1940s, but was interrupted when sugar rationing was introduced in 1942. The "intermission" lasted until 1946. The sugar rationing ended in August 1947 and the trick-or-treat custom was resumed later that year.

The custom was propagated by the press and the radio. It become firmly established in popular culture when Walt Disney portrayed it in the cartoon Trick or Treat in 1952. 

At the same time UNICEF got involved and conducted a national campaign for children to raise funds for charity while trick-or-treating.

The kids wear costumes and proceed from house to house asking for sweet treats with the question, "Trick or treat?" The "trick" part is a threat to play a trick on the homeowner or his property if no treat is given. 

Trick-or-treating is one of the main customs of the Halloween celebration. Those who live in neighborhoods with children should have some candy ready if they do not want to become victims of a trick or two...

Wishing everyone a very spooky Halloween - Dominique


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Peculiar Children And Other Creatures

Ransom Riggs' "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" was already a literary sensation when I bought it for my husband at the Denver airport in 2013. Avid reader with enormously long reading list, he put this book on a bookshelf and forgot about it. However, once he heard that Tim Burton made a movie, he quickly dug it out and started reading like mad. "Peculiar Children" became his new favorite book and, of course, we went to see the movie.

If you have read the book, you might be disappointed with the movie. Filming a book is always a risky business since readers with imagination create their own versions in their mind's eye and are not always willing to accept other versions of their private vision. There are, naturally, many pitfalls specific to the industry: the talent of the scriptwriter; the talent and experience of the movie director and his personal vision of the book; money; and the technology used to enhance a movie's commercial success. Tim Burton had enough material in the book to work with and could have made a completely different movie, but didn't.

I do not want to reveal too much about the movie or the book. The book was originally written for young adults, and like Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket, became a favorite book of many not-so-young adults who love to take  a break from their daily routine and take a dive into the magic and fantasy of such books. If you like the genre you will love this well written, magical book.

When I first started reading the book, I had to recall my Austrian colleague's story of her Jewish mother. Just like the main protagonist's Jewish grandfather Abe, she was able to escape Nazi occupied Europe. After Kristalnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) in November 1938, many Jewish families had no doubt that they were in danger. Hundreds of Jewish children were sent away to England to protect them from harm. My colleague's mother was one such child. When the war ended, she came back to Austria only to learn that her entire family was exterminated by the Nazis. The young woman must have been devastated, but she decided to stay in Austria and start her own family. She married an Austrian Catholic, had two children and a long history of emotional struggle. The monsters she fled from in late 1930s seemed to have moved inwards and she has never recovered from her survivor's guilt.

The book only marginally touches on the subject, but one can only imagine the monsters. That a young Polish Jew ended up in a Welsh orphanage for peculiar children is only a natural consequence. In their own way all escaping Jewish kids were peculiar whether they had bees inside their bellies or not.

By Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2016


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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Weird Affliction

 Frank afflicted with the Cervus elaphus syndrome

For James

I woke up in the morning and felt that something was awfully wrong. I turned around and saw my husband moaning in agony with large antlers attached to his head. I mean, attached! What on earth was going on here? Maybe it was just a nightmare. I tried to calm down a bit. Maybe this was what they called a lucid dream. I would wake up later and everything would be normal again. 

I did not know what to do and touched the antlers. They felt very real. My husband was sobbing quietly unable to move. His head was just too heavy. I still hoped that I simply woke up in some parallel universe where things were a bit strange. Who knew how I looked that morning... But no, this was more than real. 

Frank stopped sobbing and said something. I was too distracted by my own thoughts. Then I heard him say that we should go and see Dr. Andrews immediately. There had to be a way to get rid of the antlers. Where did they come from? Yes. Exactly. Where did they come from?

We had to walk six blocks to the clinic. Frank's head would not fit into the car. What a shame. Everybody was staring at us. It was difficult to pretend in March that this was a Halloween costume. Thank goodness! Most kids were already at school.

Jacquelline looked shocked. She told us that Dr. Andrews was with a patient. But if we did not want to wait, we could see Dr. Roberts right away. Who would want to wait? It was embarrassing enough having to walk here, so we agreed to see Dr. Roberts. 

Dr. Roberts was a sturdy man in his early sixties. He said hello and motioned us to sit at his desk. He looked at both of us and then at my husband's medical file. Finally, he asked what brought us to the clinic that morning. I did not want to believe what I just heard. Wasn't it obvious? Did my husband look normal? Poor Frank. We did not say anything. We were speechless.

The doctor asked Frank to take his shirt off. He listened to his heartbeat for a while and measured the blood pressure. He checked his pulse, looked into Frank's mouth, and asked him to say "Aaaaaaaaah." He examined Frank's eyes and had a peek into his ears. I was so busy looking and not looking at the antlers that I did not even notice that Frank's ears did not look human either. 

Dr. Roberts asked Frank to dress up again and take a sit at the desk. There seemed to be absolutely nothing wrong with Frank. He looked pale, but his pulse and blood pressure were just fine. They would probably have to take some blood samples to see if something was missing in Frank's body, but other than that, everything seemed to be all right. I wanted to scream! Was that guy on drugs or something? How could anyone possibly think that the antlers were a normal feature on my husband's head? 

I could not restrain myself any longer. I told Dr. Roberts that my husband did not usually have the antlers. He got them over night, so to say. We were very concerned about that and came to seek some help. We were not going home until we knew what was wrong with Frank. 

Dr. Roberts got up without a word and went to his bookcase. He fingered couple of book and took a large tome out of the shelf. He searched the pages and finally said Cervus elaphus montanus. He closed the book and put it back on the shelf. Then he scribbled something in Frank's medical file. Frank sat there, motionless. I started to cry.

Pulling myself together, I asked what did this diagnosis actually mean. Was there a cure? Dr. Roberts looked at me astonished and announced that Cervus elaphus montanus was a very rare species of deer. It was also known as the Carpathian red deer that was native to Romania. We had nothing to worry. At least, at the moment... The hunting season did not begin until mid-October.

By Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon@2016


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

5 Important Books Patriots Must Read Before US Elections

We are only a few hours away from the vice-presidential debate; only five days away from the second presidential debate; and only 34 days away from the most important presidential elections ever.

America is at a tipping point struggling to preserve its identity and uniqueness, yet at the same time millions of people are undecided which way to go.

If you have a spare moment and wish to take your eyes off the news, grab an eye-opening  book and relax in the comfort of your porch, if the weather permits, that is.

I found five books that may bring your lemonade into a boiling point. Great research, courage, and intellectual honesty is what distinguishes them from so many other recently published political books. They are definitely worth reading especially if you are still undecided.

Remember, this November is not about the future of any of the presidential candidates. It is about yours. Vote, but choose wisely.

Dominique Allmon


Saturday, October 1, 2016

9 Health Books That Will Change Your Life

One of the most important things I have learned from my father was the understanding that knowledge is the key to power.

Knowledge is power and power can be used and abused in many ways and yet, the most valuable is the knowledge that empowers us to take control over our own lives and not the lives of others.

What could be more exciting than the knowledge that allows us to determine how young and how healthy we are at any age. That's right! At any age. 

People in the West are not only aging faster, but also living longer than ever. Our beauty ideals, however, did not change since the 1980s. Those who can afford it resolve to drastic measures such as plastic surgery. But plastic surgery is superficial and results are not always flattering. And they do not last. Most importantly, plastic surgery does not address the aging process that is taking place on cellular level.

The only lasting and effective change is the change from inside out. Our bodies have the most remarkable ability to heal themselves and sometimes even small changes in lifestyle can reverse conditions that seem to be hopeless. We just have to stop doing what harms us.

Healthy nutrition, supplementation, exercise, proper relaxation and a positive outlook on life, are the crucial elements that act in synergy to sustain our mental and physical health. 

To a great degree we can determine how fast we are aging and how healthy we are, but many people do not have the necessary knowledge. Fortunately, many passionate physicians and researchers in the field of aging and gerontology popularize the latest research making it accessible to all those who wish to stay vital till the old age.

A visit to a bookstore may leave us confused. How are we to determine which of the hundreds of anti-aging books is really right for us. Where do we start? 

To make it easier to the readers of this blog I have selected nine books that address aging in a very effective and comprehensive way. Together they map out a program that will allow anyone to take control of their weight issues, hormonal imbalance, inflammation, chronic disease and degenerative processes that contribute to premature aging.

The books to start with:
This short list of highly readable books is a good start to the theory and practice of anti-aging and longevity. Keep in mind that many chronic conditions can be reversed and it is never too late or too early to embrace an anti-aging strategy. Smart fitness programs, nutritional supplements and state of the art skin care can help us feel and look younger longer. And with positive attitude we can really enjoy our journey through life.

By Dominique Allmon