Some Remarkably Good Romanian Eggs

Some Remarkably Good Romanian Eggs

Ornamental eggs are a signature craft of Eastern Europe. The jeweled Fabergé versions once cherished by Russian nobility are just a high-end version a humbler, older and even more remarkable Easter tradition.

Created on a minute scale and entirely by hand, the art of painting eggs is a careful one. The designs may be simple or complicated, figurative or abstract, and consist of a few or many colors. Nowhere, however, do they have the crisp, delicate geometry of the eggs produced in the northern Romanian town of Ciocăneşti. Located in a historic region that’s partly situated in present-day Ukraine, Ciocăneşti is so attractively preserved that it is considered a museum of Eastern European village life.

The buildings here are distinctive for their elaborate, embroidered-looking motifs, and the town’s several dozen egg-painters work in the same style. There’s an old Romanian saying that holds that when people stop coloring eggs at Easter, the world will end. Is it out of such fear that the humble craftswomen of Ciocăneşti continue to teach the skill to their daughters? Either way, it gets passed on.

Read more about the Romanian egg painters here.

The Egg Painter: Very Good Eggs of Romania

Spectacular New Year Celebrations: Glorious New Year’s Eve Fireworks

Welcoming the New Year: Glorious New Year’s Eve Fireworks Displays

Revelers around the world welcome 2014, with billions of people greeting the New Year in millions of different ways. Fireworks paint the skies, with spectacular displays of glittering fireworks, bright lights and music.

Welcoming the New Year: Glorious New Year’s Eve Fireworks Displays

Videography by: Pyromil0

Happy New Year 2014 Fireworks

An Education in Equality: Intimate Explorations of Diversity in America

An Education in Equality: Intimate Explorations of Diversity in America

An Education in Equality is a documentary short film created by documentarians Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson as an Op-Doc video for The New York Times. Filmed over a period of 13 years, this short film presents a coming-of-age story of an African-American boy, Idris, who attends The Dalton School, a prestigious private school in Manhattan. The story of Idris and one of his close friends became the acclaimed feature-length documentary American Promise.

What began as an exploration of diversity in New York’s elite private-school world grew into a story that touches on the much larger themes of identity, race and class in American society. An Education in Equality is not only a powerful illustration of unintended racial alienation, but also a sprawling testament to parental devotion and the natural will of children, an intimate, epic American documentary unlike anything that’s come before it.

Read more about An Education in Equality in The New York Times here.

An Education in Equality: Intimate Explorations of Diversity in America

Those Crazy Coney Island Dayze: The Sexy Mermaid Parade Celebration

Those Crazy Coney Island Dayze: The Sexy Mermaid Parade Celebration

Today, Coney Island again burst forth with New Yorkers in outrageous mermaid and King Neptune costumes, a display of topless women in pasties and colorfully clad drag queens making their way down the boardwalk among a swarm of arts-and-crafts floats. The beautiful zaniness is all part of the annual Mermaid Parade, which for 30 years has celebrated the first weekend of summer.

This year, however, the parade faced its demise after its sponsor, Coney Island USA, had its headquarters damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Combined with rising insurance premiums, the costs of crowd control and Porta-Potties for several hundred thousand people, the parade needed an infusion of an additional $100,000, or it wouldn’t have lived to see its 31st edition.

The Mermaid Parade is an annual event that first took place at Coney Island in 1983 and has been a very popular attraction ever since. The Mermaid Parade draws a huge crowd of celebrators, who don wild and outrageous costumes, with the parade’s naughty marchers wearing sea-themed outfits that often leave little to the imagination.

This year, clad in costumes that combined seashells and glitter, scores of exuberant revelers gyrated through Coney Island on Saturday. An estimated half-million people lined the sunny streets to watch ogle Brooklyn’s version of Mardi Gras. The flamboyant marchers, many of whom wore their costumes on the subway out to Coney Island, much to the amusement of their fellow riders, walked on the boardwalk alongside colorful floats and danced to several live bands blaring out top 40 hits and old-time standards.

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

The 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Slide Show: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Father’s Day: Celebrating the Oft-Forgotten Men Who Raised Us

Father’s Day: Celebrating the Oft-Forgotten Men Who Raised Us

Dad is a short film created to celebrate all the oft-forgotten dads for Father’s Day. From the first moments of life, the bond formed between a father and his child is a sacred one. Father’s Day is a special time to honor the men who raised us, thanking them for their selfless dedication and love. Fathers are our first teachers, mentors and role models. They push us to succeed, encourage us when we’re struggling, and offer unconditional care and support.

Father’s Day: Celebrating the Oft-Forgotten Men Who Raised Us

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Anne Frank: Remembering Anne on Her Birthday

Anne Frank: Remembering Anne on Her Birthday

Anne Frank was born 84 years ago, on June 12, 1929. During her short 15 years, she kept a diary and wrote there sorting out her emotions, describing her crushes and despair, her desires and dreams. Anne kept the diary from 1942 to 1944, the two years that her German-Jewish family lived in hiding in Amsterdam during World War II. In August 1944, Anne, her family and the others who were in hiding with them were discovered by Nazi authorities. They were shipped off to Nazi concentration camps; Anne died in Bergen-Belsen, just weeks before it was liberated.

Historical Background Notes

Surrounded by the turmoil of Weimar Germany, Otto and Edith Frank got married in 1925, and Otto pursued an industrial career. In 1929, the year Anne Frank was born, the stock market in New York crashed, and an already unstable Weimar government was further undermined by economic depression, unemployment and inflation. In 1933, the Nazis came into power. The Franks decided to move to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, which had been neutral during World War I. The Netherlands had the reputation of being a safe haven for religious minorities. Otto Frank left for Amsterdam first and established a branch of his uncle’s company there.

Initially, Anne felt at home in their apartment at 37 Merwedeplien. She and her sisters attended school, went to the beach, and had both Jewish and Christian Dutch friends. The Frank family seemed to have made what appeared to be a good decision and were adjusting to their new life. But like so many other refugees throughout Europe during World War II, the Franks’ belief that they had a safe haven was shattered when Nazi armies violated Dutch neutrality. The Nazi bombing of Rotterdam killed 1,000 people and within five days the government surrendered under the threat of further bombings. Queen Wilhelmina and her government went into exile in London.

At first Anne and Margot were still able to socialize with their friends and attend school. However, soon the Nazi administration in the Netherlands, along with the Dutch civil service, began issuing and carrying out anti-Jewish decrees. This included stripping Jews of their rights as citizens and human beings and isolating them from their fellow Dutch citizens. Otto Frank, aware of what the Nazi decrees had done to Jews in Germany, anticipated as best he could what was going to happen to by turning his business over to his non-Jewish colleagues. Anne had to leave her Montessori School to attend the Jewish Lyceum.

The first brutal round up of 400 Jewish men and boys in Holland occurred on February 25, 1941. It was in response to earlier riots by Dutch Nazis and a counter-attack by a small Jewish resistance group. Virtually the entire working population of Amsterdam and a few other cities in the vicinity went on strike. The strike continued for two days, until the Germans broke it up by force. By 1942, the round-ups of Jews and their deportation to labor, transit and concentration camps were becoming routine. The geography of the Netherlands and the closing of its borders made escape extremely difficult. Fearful for their lives, Otto and Edith Frank prepared to go into hiding. They wanted to stay together as a family and they already had a place in mind, an annex of rooms above Otto Frank’s office at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam.

The employees of Otto Frank agreed to help them. At a time when it was unusual to find anyone to help, the Franks, as Anna wrote in her diary, were “privileged” to have so many helpers and to be together. Besides business associates Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman, employees and friends Miep Gies, her husband Jan, Bep Voskuijl and his father were all trustworthy. They not only agreed to keep the business operating in their employer’s absence, but they would risk their lives to help the Frank family survive.

On July 5, 1942, Anne’s sister Margot received a call-up notice for a Nazi “work camp.” Although their hiding place was not yet ready, Edith and Otto Frank realized that they had to escape immediately. Hurriedly, they packed their belongings and left notes behind that implied they had fled the country. On the evening of July 6, they moved into their hiding place.

Otto Frank had made arrangements with his business partner, German Jewish refugee Hermann van Pels, his wife, Auguste, and their son, Peter, to share the annex with his family. They arrived a week later on July 13. The seven residents of the annex were joined by the eighth and final resident, Fritz Pfeffer, in November. Most families who went into hiding were all split up and moved from place to place, dependent on others for help. Many parents tried to place at least their children in hiding, and of the children who survived the war, few ever saw their families again.

Since the annex was above a business, and the buildings on either side were occupied, the eight residents had to be extremely quiet to avoid being discovered. They became a kind of extended family in the confined space of the shared rooms. The Nazi’s and their collaborators were carrying out their plan for the “final solution to the Jewish question.” The annex residents could only wait and hope. Anne wrote in her diary about the long hours of boredom and suffocation. At other times, she felt alone and misunderstood.

News was extremely important to those living in the annex; only Germany’s defeat would end the mass killing of Jews and other innocent victims. The residents constantly argued over when, and if, the war would end. At approximately 10 a.m. on August 4, 1944, Anne and the others’ greatest fear came true. Four Dutch Nazis entered the office building to catch the hidden Jews. Someone had betrayed them, but to this day no one knows who. The Nazis took the residents into custody, transported them to a prison in Amsterdam, subsequently deported them to the Dutch transit camp, Westerbrook, and then to Auschwitz.

Anne and her sister were then transported to Bergen-Belson concentration camp in Germany. At Bergen-Belson, Anne and Margot, already debilitated, contracted typhus. Margot, seventeen years old, died first. A short time later Anne, then fifteen years old, died. It was March 1945. The exact date of their deaths and where they were buried is unknown.

For interested readers, The Anne Frank Center, USA, maintains a scrapbook of her life and times.

Anne Frank’s Attic Window

Anne Frank’s Attic Window

The 150-year-old chestnut tree that comforted Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis in the attic of the canal-side warehouse in Amsterdam was a ray of hope for the famous diary writer. The Jewish teenager remained indoors with her family for 25 months until they were arrested in August 1944. She died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen camp in March 1945.

The attic window from which Anne Frank could see the tree was the only one that had not been blacked out. In a diary entry dated February 23, 1944, she wrote: “From my favourite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind… As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.”

The Chestnut Tree and the Attic Window

The Only Known Moving Picture of Anne Frank

Anne Frank Speaks: A Holocaust Documentary

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Last Minutes with Oden: A Powerful Elegy on Love, Loss and Grief

Last Minutes with Oden: A Powerful Elegy on Love, Loss and Grief

Last Minutes with Oden is a deeply engaging, extremely heart-wrenching 6-minute documentary short film directed and edited by Eliot Rausch, in association with PhosPictures and Uber Content. The film was named Best Documentary and Best Video at the 2010 Vimeo Awards, chosen from over 6500 film and video submissions.

Last Minutes with Oden tells a story about Jason Wood (Woody), an ex-convict who is saying a final farewell to his best friend, of the man’s last minutes with his dog before he has to have it euthanized for health reasons. The documentary is a beautiful elegy that calls attention to certain heartbreaking moments most of us experience, which is an incredibly powerful reminder of the importance of family and friendships in all our lives.

The 2010 Vimeo Awards site can be viewed here.

Last Minutes with Oden: A Powerful Elegy on Love, Loss and Grief

5 Hours with Woody: Three years before “Last Minutes with Oden”

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