Italian Mardi Gras slated for Jan. 31

The Italian American Association of Monmouth County will host Carnevale, the Italian Mardi Gras festival, 2-6 p.m. Jan. 31 at Eagle Oaks Golf and Country Club, 20 Shore Oaks Drive, Farmingdale.

The cost is $40 for adults and $22 for children ages 3-10. The cost includes lunch, music, dancing, masks and activities, in addition to an auction table and 50/50. Costumes are optional.

For more information, call 732-863- 0021 or visit www.iaaofmc.com.

Football will never be the same — hopefully

 Alec Baldwin, left, and Will Smith huddle over football players’ head injuries and deaths in the new movie Concussion. Alec Baldwin, left, and Will Smith huddle over football players’ head injuries and deaths in the new movie Concussion. Concussion focuses on the startling discovery made by Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) while working as a pathologist in Pittsburgh. Omalu was on duty in September 2002 when the body of legendary Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster (David Morse) was to be autopsied. Taking the care and methodical approach he used with all of his cases, Omalu discovered frightening facts that puzzled him.

It was those facts that led him to dig deeper — even spending his own money — to uncover why this man was lying in a morgue at age 50.

A native of Nigeria, Omalu has never found himself drawn to American football. He doesn’t realize how embedded the NFL is in American culture, and as he digs deeper into Webster’s case, he finds that the sport America adores just may have been the root of the player’s death. As more NFL athletes pass away prematurely, Omalu is able to link them all together through a condition that he comes to name chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

But the discovery of the disease is not the end of Omalu’s story. He then needs to take his discovery to the organization that is the common denominator in all the deaths: the NFL. Though he feels he is doing a great service for the players and the NFL in general, Omalu is shocked to learn that the organization is not receptive to his findings. To change the world may be easier than to change the NFL and its fans. Despite the repeated attempts to silence him, Omalu will continue to fight for what’s right until someone will listen. But will it all be too late?

I love football. I played football in high school. I play fantasy football. I cheer for my teams on a weekly basis. To have a film that takes direct aim on the game I love is tough. But after viewing Concussion, I realized that Omalu’s work is necessary to positively impact the game I love.

Will Smith delivers a powerful portrayal of Dr. Omalu. I believe him in all his naiveté of the importance of football in America. All he cares about is people, both living and dead. And it is Smith’s ability to portray Omalu as that amazingly intelligent man — one who is simply unaware of American culture — that is vital to the success of the film.

Although the film does introduce us to the science of CTE and its impact on the men in the NFL, it doesn’t go far enough. My criticism lies with the soft treatment of the men and women making decisions in the NFL. At times, the league office is seen as being uncaring and a bit threatening; the film just ends, rather than offering harsher criticism of that status. But maybe I just wanted more there, and no more needed to be said; after all, this film is more about the good Dr. Omalu than about concussions.

Dr. Bennet Omalu has a true love of all people. His desire for us all to live long and healthy lives is evident, and his hope is that the research he carried out will help all athletes become better educated about the risks they are taking. I would have loved the film to be more about football and concussions in sports — the tale weaved is full of intrigue, but we are left wanting that additional part of the story.

Thanks to the research at the heart of Dr. Omalu’s career, football will — hopefully — never be the same.

Concussion
Rated: PG-13
Stars: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin,
Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Director: Peter Landesman
Grade: B

Monmouth County Park System offering January activities

The Monmouth County Park System has planned numerous activities for county residents to enjoy. Here’s what is planned for January:

Surprise Story Time

Jan. 2 from 11-11:45 a.m.

Deep Cut Gardens, Middletown

If the weather is nice, look for the clue at the Horticultural Center’s entrance that leads to the secret spot. If it’s rainy or cold, they will be inside. Recommended for ages 3-7. Free.

Opening Reception for the Deep Cut

Gardens Photography Exhibit

Jan. 2 from 1-3 p.m.

Deep Cut Gardens Horticultural Center, Middletown

Meet with the photographers of the exhibit. Light refreshments served. The exhibit will then be open daily Jan. 3-31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free.

Open Ceramics

Jan. 3 from 12:30-4:30 p.m.

Thompson Park Creative Arts Center, Lincroft

Choose from a large selection of bisque fired pottery pieces to glaze and make your own. Children 12 and under are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult. The cost is $6 per hour plus price of bisque ware; cash or check only. Pieces will be fired in about a week.

Coffee Club Mahjong

Tuesdays, Jan. 5, 12, 19 and 26 from 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Fort Monmouth Recreation Center, Tinton Falls

Shuffle your tiles and build your walls as you play this ancient, fast-paced Asian game. Both American and Chinese rules will be followed. All levels welcome. The cost is $4 per person per day; cash or check only.

Teen Open Gym Basketball

Wednesdays, Jan. 6, 13, 20 and 27 from 3-4:30 p.m.

Fort Monmouth Recreation Center, Tinton Falls

Teens age 13-18 are invited to play or practice on the courts. Cost is $5 per person per day; cash or check only. Under 17 with parent present.

The Casual Birder

Jan. 7 at 9 a.m.

Henry Hudson Trail — Meet in the Popamora Point parking lot in Highlands.

Jan. 21 at 9 a.m.

Manasquan Reservoir — Meet at the Visitor Center Bait Shop.

Join a Park System naturalist for this laid-back morning bird walk. You will meander for about an hour and see what birds we can find. No need to be an expert at identifying birds to enjoy. A limited number of binoculars will be available to borrow if needed. Open to ages 8 and up. Free.

Family Gym Time

Fridays, Jan. 8, 15, 22 and 29 from 9:30- 11 a.m.

Fort Monmouth Recreation Center, Tinton Falls

There will be tunnels, gym mats, scooters and other play equipment set up for your entertainment. This is an open play format with no instruction provided. Parent supervision is required and Rec Center staff will be present if you have questions or need assistance. Open to ages 1-4 with adult. The cost is $10 per pair per day; cash or check only.

Science of Fingerprints

Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 9 and 10 at 12 p.m.

Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, Howell

Come see what shape your fingerprints are and then make a picture using your print. Free.

Roving Park System Naturalist

Jan. 9 at 10 a.m.

Henry Hudson Trail — Meet at Popamora Point, Highlands.

Sunday, January 24 at 10 a.m.

Thompson Park – Meet in the Marlu Lake parking lot.

Join our Roving Park System naturalist for a walk and learn about seasonal points of interest. Free.

Men’s Open Gym Basketball

Sundays, Jan. 10, 17, 24 and 31 from 8- 10 a.m.

Fort Monmouth Recreation Center, Tinton Falls

Shoot some hoops on the Rec Center’s full court gym. The cost is $5 per person per session; cash or check only.

Blacksmith Demonstration

Jan. 10 from 1-3 p.m.

Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel

Come see what the blacksmith is making in his workshop. Free.

Seashore Scientist Drop-In Series —

Predator and Prey

Jan. 21 from 6-7 p.m.

Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park Activity Center, Long Branch

Explore the complex relationships between predators and prey during an interactive discussion featuring hands-on experiments. Free.

Nature Lecture Series: Winter Water

Birds

Jan. 21 from 7-8 p.m.

Bayshore Waterfront Park Activity Center, Port Monmouth

Learn about winter water birds that frequent habitats along the coast during this discussion led by a Park System naturalist. We will also reveal some of the best places to see these water birds before winter melts away. Free.

Seashore Open House

Jan. 24 from 1-4 p.m.

Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park Activity Center, Long Branch

Have some seashore-related fun during the open house. Free.

WinterFest

Jan. 30 from 1-5 p.m.

Thompson Park, Lincroft

Celebrate the fun that winter can bring with ice skating (weather permitting), wagon rides, cross-country skiing and so much more during this family-friendly festival. Admission, parking and most activities are free.

To learn more about these Park System activities, visit www.monmouthcountyparks.com or call the Park System at 732- 842-4000. For persons with hearing impairment, the Park System TTY/TDD number is 711

Looking back at Christmas

By Lucie M. Winborne,
ReMIND Magazine

 Child star Shirley Temple and John Agar were happy newlyweds at Christmastime in 1945. Child star Shirley Temple and John Agar were happy newlyweds at Christmastime in 1945. The Puritans banned it. Our Founding Fathers weren’t too crazy about it. And Congress didn’t get around to making it an official celebration until 1870.

But you’d hardly guess it as Christmas approached. We Americans love our holiday and its traditions, most of which we take for granted and some of which emerged from the World War II era and years immediately following.

Take early shopping. Sure, it’s a way to avoid overcrowded malls and the fruitless search for parking, but in wartime, getting packages to soldiers in the Pacific by December was the main priority. Of course, gifts closer to home need a tree, no matter what it’s made of — or even what color. Futuristic aluminum models, sometimes in purple, gold, pink and black, made an appearance in postwar home décor, although their popularity took a hit after being satirized in 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. A decade later, the “back to nature” movement helped restore the real thing to favor.

Americans send over a billion Christmas cards each year, and the first such White House missive debuted in 1953. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an amateur artist, worked personally with the head of Hallmark cards, and many of the cards sent during his office term featured his artwork. Though war-weary Americans at first preferred sentimental messages, by the 1960s, cards had taken on a more sophisticated and humorous bent, sometimes featuring elves with Beatle-inspired haircuts or Santas driving convertibles.

Gifts purchased, tree decorated and cards sent, filling our stomachs is the next priority. Would it really be Christmas without green bean casserole, created by the Campbell Soup Company as part of a promotion? Or a casual get-together without Chex Mix, said to have become a favorite when the wife of a Ralston Purina executive served it at a 1955 holiday function?

Once the goodies have been consumed, it’s time to follow Santa’s journey via the NORAD Tracks Santa service, for which we can thank a 1955 advertising error encouraging kids to call Santa Claus on a special telephone number. No doubt Col. Harry Shoup, of the Continental Air Defense, was dumbfounded to receive inquiries about the jolly old elf’s whereabouts that Christmas Eve, but, good sport that he was, he instructed his operators to give Santa’s current location to any child who called in. Three years later the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was formed, and the NORAD Tracks Santa service continues to this day.

Finally, let’s not forget our holiday soundtrack. Whether you’re bopping to “Jingle Bell Rock” or warbling “White Christmas” this month, truer words were hardly spoken than Rolling Stone magazine’s “What Jesus is to Christmas, Bing Crosby is to Christmas music.” The Irish crooner’s version of the Irving Berlin classic, ranked by Guinness as the best-selling single of all time, still brings a lump to our throats, at home or abroad.

Whatever traditions are on tap at your home this year, may they be filled with the best things the season stands for: peace, love and joy.

Did you know …

 Jane Lynch  PHOTO COURTESY OF NBCUniversal Jane Lynch PHOTO COURTESY OF NBCUniversal NBC’s popular party-time series, “Hollywood Game Night,” is set to return for its fourth season on Tuesday, Jan. 5, at 8 p.m. Jane Lynch, who has won the Emmy Award two years in a row as outstanding host of a reality or reality-competition program, will once again lead the on-screen festivities. A slew of high-profile actors, athletes and recording stars will participate in the fun as they compete in hilarious party games. Two contestants are transported from their everyday lives into this once-in-a-lifetime night of fun and compete for a chance to win up to $25,000.

Ben Higgins will begin his search for that one special woman when ABC’s hit romance reality series, “The Bachelor,” returns for its 20th season on Monday, Jan. 4, at 8 p.m. What do a single mom with two young daughters, a television news anchor, a free spirit, a battle-tested war veteran and fun-loving identical twins have in common. They are all among 28 identified bachelorettes who look to capture

Ben’s heart. One by one, these gorgeous women are prepared to make a lasting impression.

The sweetest competition returns to Food Network when the new season of “Cake Wars” premieres on Monday, Jan. 11, at 9 p.m. Four bakers battle it out to create the most mind-blowing cake to star at a special event, along with a chance to take home the grand prize of $10,000. Jonathan Bennett (“Mean Girls”) is the host, and master pastry chefs Ron Ben-Israel and Waylynn Lucas will serve as judges, along with a special guest judge.

HBO will debut its concert film, “J. Cole Forest Hill Drive: Homecoming,” on Saturday, Jan. 9, at 10 p.m. One of music’s biggest stars returns home to Fayetteville, N.C., delivering a riveting performance that showcases live versions of all 13 songs on his third album. Also included are guest appearances by Jay Z and Drake.

Brought to you by the publishers of Channel Guide magazine, the ultimate TV resource packed with over 200 pages of celebrity news and commentary on what’s new and what’s good to watch. Greater Media Newspapers readers can order Channel Guide at 66% off the cover price, call 866-320-8305 or visit bit.ly/ABC18NA

Protection Act broadens safety options

Members of 180 Turning Lives Around, Inc. applaud the recent enactment of the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015, which broadens the safety options for a greater number of survivors in New Jersey. Beginning May 2016, survivors of this most heinous crime, which includes acts or attempted acts of sexual assault, sexual contact, and lewdness, who are not eligible for a domestic violence restraining order, may apply in State Superior Court for a restraining order against the perpetrator. No criminal charges related to the incident need to be filed for a survivor, or their guardian, to apply.

Sexual assault is any sexual contact that is forced or without consent. It is a crime committed by the perpetrator whose motive is to overpower, control, degrade, and humiliate. The survivor is never at fault. More than 80 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone who is known to the survivor. Many survivors may fear retaliation. In Monmouth County there is help available at 180 Turning Lives Around, Inc., a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual assault. 180 offers 24/7 confidential hotlines, emergency shelter, family court assistance, safety planning, and trained advocates who accompany survivors at police stations, hospitals, and family court.

Information and crisis support are available by calling our sexual violence hotline at 732-264-7273 or 888-264-7273. The domestic violence hotline is 732-264-4111 or 888- 843-9262. Our website is www.180nj.org. Any man, woman, or child can be sexually victimized. There is no acceptable reason for violence and abuse. If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out to us.

Anna Diaz-White
Executive Director
180 Turning Lives Around, Inc.
Hazlet

Letters to the editor may be sent via e-mail to aville@gmnews.com. Please include a daytime telephone number where the author may be reached for verification. For more information, call 732-358-5200, ext. 209.

Having a good old time with Larry Black

(the guy who is committed to keeping the rated-G in TV)

By Lori Acken,

 Larry Black Larry Black It’s near impossible to tune in to RFDTV’s Larry’s Country Diner and not want to climb through the screen to share some pie and sociability with host Larry Black and his cast of amiable characters as they crack wise, reminisce about classic moments in music and TV and generally have a fine time. The 70-year-old, Alabamaborn preacher’s son turned his love of music and rich baritone voice into a decades-long career as a disc jockey — during its heyday, the Larry Black Show aired on 125 radio stations across the country. Acting gigs followed on I’ll Fly Away and In the Heat of the Night and in feature films such as Ernest Goes to Camp and October Sky. Now Nashville-based, Black also serves as producer of the downhome Diner and its equally nostalgic companion series Country’s Family Reunion that give folks longing for the homespun days of Hee Haw new options. We caught up with Black to talk about keeping the rated- G in TV. Country’s Family Reunion was your first TV venture — how did that come to be?

I was doing a project with [the Gaither Homecoming series’] Bill Gaither — a comedy album that he was producing for me — and when we finished the album, we were having dinner at Amerigo’s here in Nashville. I said to him, “What you’re doing with the Southern gospel people, we ought to do with the country beat.” This was in 1997, just before it just all broke loose for Gaither with the Homecoming gatherings that he does. He said, “I’m too busy,” so I said, “Then I’ll do it.” We got together 30 people and put them in a room. Of those 30 people, about 18 have now died. So what we really created was a piece of video history and remembrance. Grandpa Jones. Johnny Russell. Little Jimmy Dickens. It has been a real jewel — and we’ve continued to do them. And Reunion begat Larry’s Country Diner?

Once we hit RFD-TV, I realized what the audience was and that Ralph Emery was no longer going to do his TNN show. So I thought this was a perfect time to do a different kind of talk and variety show. But I don’t like sitting in front of fireplaces to do interviews, or across couches or a desk. So, “Hmm, we’ll do a little Podunksville diner, and every day at lunchtime the local cable company — because they have nothing better to do — brings some cameras into the diner to shoot the people having lunch. The sheriff in town [played by National Musicians Hall of Famer Jimmy Capps] just happens to be a world-class guitar player, so he’ll pull up and bring his guitar in, and if anybody drops by and wants to sing, they can sing and he’ll play the guitar for them!” Nadine is your breakout star.

Every small town has the town gossip. I’d gone to church with Nadine for about 17 years — Ramona Brown is her real name — and she did this little character for a Valentine’s party one time. So I went to her and I said, “Why don’t you go online and get the church bulletins that are all screwy, and you come in and do that? You can mess with people all you want as the church lady.” So she did that, and that character has just really blossomed. Her husband is an optometrist and she’s worked for him all of their married life. Now she goes out on weekends and will do 45 minutes worth of standup. How do you choose your guests?

While we have the Larry Gatlins and the Vince Gills, Randy Owen of Alabama, there are other artists — Gene Watson, Moe Bandy, Jimmy Fortune — those guys say the shows just totally revived their careers, and have given them a new lease on life in terms of touring. I want to reach out, and help more artists who don’t get airplay anymore because they don’t have labels, but they still produce product. They just don’t have a way to get it to the marketplace. Describe your audience.

Because we deal with a more mature audience, they introduce us to their kids, and to their grandkids. Then the kids and grandkids become fans. Also, we find that when we go to Branson, oftentimes there are young adults who bring their parents because they know their parents want to come see the show live, and they have become fans also. Our viewing audience is getting younger because they’ve experienced the same thing. That’s a rarity.

That’s a joy. Bill Medley, one of The Righteous Brothers, lives in Branson and performs there as well as Vegas, and he said, “It’s so funny. You perform in Branson and you see these bus loads come in and you watch the old people get out of the bus … with their parents.” I thought, that is so true, man! You have these 60- year-old people getting off the bus with their 85-year-old parents!

Brought to you by the publishers of Channel Guide magazine, the ultimate TV resource packed with over 200 pages of celebrity news and commentary on what’s new and what’s good to watch. Greater Media Newspapers readers can order Channel Guide at 66% off the cover price, call 866-320-8305 or visit bit.ly/ABC18NA

Volunteer says advances have been made

The holidays are upon us and it is the time of giving. The giving of gifts, the giving of time, the giving of goodwill, and most importantly, the giving of thanks.

As a volunteer, I want to thank every person who has supported the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Perhaps it is a donation, attending a Heart Walk, championing a healthy change or supporting your child in a Jump Rope for Heart program. No matter how you have shown support, I want you to know that you have made a difference.

Born with a congenital heart defect, I made history at the age of 2 when I became the youngest recipient of a pacemaker. Since then, I have needed several pacemaker replacements.

To date, I have undergone 104 surgeries, multiple transfusions and too many tests to count, but I am still here because of all the work that has gone into the battle against cardiovascular disease. We have seen advancements in the treatment of heart disease and strokes because of research. We have seen workplaces make a shift toward workplace wellness.

We have witnessed children saving lives because they have learned CPR. We have heard the push of making the healthy choice the easy choice for all Americans. And for me, I have been able to live a happy life.

Thank you for the support you have given and will continue to give as we move toward a day where heart disease and stroke are no more.

If you are interested in supporting the American Heart Association, consider volunteering, participating at an event, or making a donation at www.heart.org/donate

Augustine Concepcion
American Heart Association/
American Stroke Association volunteer
Ocean Grove

Carriers should ensure deliveries

I have been hearing a lot in the news lately about missing packages from people’s front porches. The carriers who deliver the packages can solve this problem.

For example, as it is now, the delivery person sets the package on the front porch and rings the doorbell. The carrier does not wait to see if the customer is at home. Whatever happened to making sure the customer gets the shipment? There have been times when I was doing something upstairs and by the time I get downstairs the delivery person is in the truck already.

In some cases, the customer may not be at home. Is it too much effort to go next door and leave the package with someone? In conclusion, there is a solution to this problem and if the carriers (UPS, FedEx, DHL etc.) would finish doing the job by making sure the shipment actually gets into the customer’s hands then there would not be any problems.

Whatever happened to customer service?

Michael Hart North Brunswick

Renaming buildings at Princeton is ‘hogwash’

People are talking about the renaming of buildings at Princeton University that bear the name of Woodrow Wilson, the desire by some individuals to erase and rewrite history in order to whitewash our past.

In this instance, describing the need by these people to remove a person’s name from a building because of a perceived slight is overly dramatic and self-serving.

First, Princeton should not weaken to these demands for removing Woodrow Wilson’s name from the building(s) in question. The reason for the removal is for alleged insensitivity. What hogwash. This man was the president of Princeton University at the turn of the last century and the president of the United States. He was president during World War I, was the chief architect for the League of Nations – the forerunner to the United Nations – and he “expanded Princeton into a full scale university” so the university, to honor him, “created the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.”

This school is known throughout the world – should it be renamed now? As one of the students at Princeton stated, “If the criteria for naming a building for someone was that they’d be perfect, we shouldn’t name buildings.” He was correct in his assessment.

Should we also look to remove his picture from the White House where it is hung in tribute to him as is done for all other presidents? When does political correctness go too far? Times have changed and what was once accepted and tolerated may no longer be; however, it doesn’t mean that history should be cleansed so that we can’t look back at mistakes or successes and learn from the past. Nor does it mean that a person’s accomplishments should be ignored because of modern day thinking.

To all of you politically correct individuals, learn to be more tolerant of the past and mature enough to know the difference. Stop blaming others for the slights that you believe are directed at you and enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that this great country provides.

Bruce Papkin
Edison