Living in Limbo: Immigration

Text by K. Cecchini

“When has America ever, ever been welcoming to immigrants?!” Bill Maher poised this rhetorical question last week on his HBO show, Real Time.

Couldn’t tell ya, Mr. Maher. Here are a few examples of the immigrant experience gone wrong in the States:

Genocidal Tendencies The first peoples in the Americas likely migrated across the Bering Strait land bridge during an ice age. When the next wave of immigrants began coming ashore from Europe in 1492, genocidal tendencies abounded towards the natives.

Whips & Chains African-Americans were forced to immigrate as slaves up until the mid-1800’s. They were processed as property rather than humans.

“Yellow Peril” Chinese-Americans, although instrumental in developing the Western frontier, were discriminated against with poor pay and abhorrent working conditions. An anti-Chinese movement impeded assimilation while they were criticized for not assimilating. They faced violence and were the first group to be barred by law from immigration: Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. (“Yellow Peril” was a racial epithet hurled at people of Asian descent.)

Nisei During World War 2, Japanese-American citizens were demonized and corralled into internment camps under the soft term of “relocation”. Many were Nisei, or American born people of Japanese ancestry, and some had even fought for the United States in the first World War.

“No Irish Need Apply” After the economy slowed in the mid-1800’s, the refrain, “No Irish need apply,” was written in employment ads and boldly placed into shop windows. Along with other immigrant groups of the time period, the Irish were blamed for taking American jobs. Sound familiar?

Xenophobia remains a constant in American culture; the faces to fear have just changed. Central Americans are the latest targets; whether they arrive legally or not, they are assumed to be illegal and charged with stealing American jobs, not assimilating and are treated as criminals. Many of these folks carry the same dream, and not much else, like many of our own ancestors – yet many of us seem to lack empathy.

So, while we can debate the prudence of executive actions, perhaps we can at least appreciate the fact that there was an action to roll out a welcome mat. Click here for “7 Questions About the President’s Immigration Plan Answered”.


La Bestia or El Tren de Muerte (Death Train): Freight trains through Mexico on which some US bound migrants move north towards the border.


If you are familiar with any other immigration stories – particularly of mass immigration periods – positive or negative – please add to the comment section.



Create A Green Christmas or a Festivus Miracle?

Unless you’re just looking for a Festivus miracle, we have some ideas that will bring good tidings to the Earth (and some for your wallet) this holiday season.

Gift Alternatives.

Gift giving is ingrained into many of our holiday traditions, but much of what is given is often a token of good intentions and the pressure to just buy. The result? Even the things from wish lists often end up stuffed in closets or taking up space in the basement. And tchotchkes always become the best dust collectors.

Instead of buying future garage sale inventory, make a more meaningful -and greener- choice:

Make a Memory. Tickets for concerts, comedy shows, plays, museums and even the movies can make for thought-filled gifts. If you buy a ticket for yourself as well, you and your recipient create a memory together.

Talent Exchange. In our fast-paced culture, what’s a greater commodity than time? Give the gift of time. If you’re handy with tools, perhaps you can build a bench (with repurposed wood, of course) in exchange for a family portrait or trade culinary skills for babysitting hours.

Bring Back the Mix-Tape. I’m dating myself here, but who didn’t love to receive a mix-tape from a friend? Through the tapes, we discovered fresh tracks or even expressed sentiments to a crush. In fact, it was as much fun to make one as it was to give one. Don’t have a cassette player? Go super Eco and share a personally crafted playlist on the ‘cloud’.

Nifty Thrifty. If your recipient will appreciate gently used items, thrift shops may be hit or miss, but when you have a hit…reuse is the green option. Your gift will likely be unique and a penny saver.

Share Your Cheer. Volunteering together will also make for great memories while donating to a friend’s favorite cause will also show them that you know where their compassion lies. Need a suggestion? The Nigerian School Project or JustLeadershipUSA are definitely better than ‘The Human Fund’.

Green Your Greetings. Deliver holiday greetings and invites via the interweb. You can easily personalize your cards with own photos and messages. Don’t have time in the whirlwind of holiday preparations or have a diverse list of folks? I now skip the Christmas card and create New Year’s wishes instead. Not for nothing, a paperless greeting is literally…priceless.

Got something to wrap? Visit Platinum Series Home for greener alternatives.

Green & Sexy Hosting

Reusable Tableware. Linen napkins and tablecloths with your daily dishes will look so much better on the table than disposables. Furthermore, disposables never look good in the landfill while wash and reuse looks great for your wallet.

Breathe Easy. Candles and air fresheners come in such a vast array of seductive scents, but beware of their hidden hazards. The Lung Cancer Association of Minnesota warns against the chemicals present in many artificially scented items. Opt instead for beeswax candles or essential oils to clear the air.

Box O’ Wine. Boxed wine has gotten classier than the Franzia box stands of yore; better quality vineyards now please the palettes of grown folk, too. While the boxed wines reduce packaging and increase efficiency in transport because of their shapes, buying the equivalent of 3 bottles in one box can reduce the impact on your budget as well. Cheers!

Unwrap the Packaging. When shopping choose items with no to little packaging and bring reusable bags for bulk food items and the check out line. It reduces your Eco-footprint and its more couture than plastic.

Decorating? Up-cycle the post of an old Christmas tree as a Festivus pole or go to Platinum Series Home for more traditionally festive up-cycling ideas.

If you use one of the above tips or your own ideas to celebrate a bit greener, please share in the comments below! Of course, Festivus miracles are welcome, too!IMG_1657.JPG

MFF Behind the Screen: The “Stevphens”! & Notes on Show Biz

Colbert/Carell Photos by Neil Grabowsky (Check out his site: The Jersey Nerds)
Text and Behind the Scene Photos by K. Cecchini

Anticipation for the 2015 season for the Montclair Film Festival started building this weekend with the Stevphens! -Colbert & Carell – and the Behind the Screen: Media Careers 101 seminars.

To add to the excitement, the festival is really grown & sexy now; it will span 10 days starting on the first of May which will now be bookended by 2 intense weekends of events.

On Friday at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, hilarity ensued with the two Stevphens in conversation at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Thanks to MFF photo team leader Neil Grabowsky’s talent, Tonight at Dawn has fantastic shots of Colbert & Carell from the night to share with you.

Photo by Neil Grabowsky


Photo by Neil Grabowsky
Photo by Neil Grabowsky
Photo by Neil Grabowsky


Following the kickoff, I covered Behind the Screen for the team Saturday on the Montclair State University campus; the media savvy seminars were chock full of advice from the pros of show biz:

Sakina Jaffrey of House of Cards on Acting: 


Sakina Jaffreys, Actress - House of Cards
Sakina Jaffreys, Actress – House of Cards


1-If you find that the role you are trying out for suffers from ethnic stereotypes, focus on getting the role and then, as a member of the cast, you will likely have more room to make script suggestions.

2-In order to assume a character that seems to diverge greatly from your own personality, try to relate to something in the role’s characteristics. For instance, when the actress first approached her role on House of Cards, Linda Vasquez, Jaffrey had difficulty relating as she is much more social than Vasquez. Recognizing that the character’s source of power was her intellect, Jaffrey prepared by reading books on topics that Vasquez would be well versed on.

Jill Sands, Sakina Jaffreys, and MFF Co-Founder, Bob Feinberg
Jill Sands, Sakina Jaffreys, and MFF Co-Founder, Bob Feinberg

Michael Slovis of Breaking Bad on Directing:

Directors Michael Slovis (Breaking Bad) & Laura Belfrey (Criminal Minds)
Directors Michael Slovis (Breaking Bad) & Laura Belfrey (Criminal Minds)

1- “It’s not my fault, but it is my problem,” Slovis shared the mantra of episodic television directors. Once the director figures out how to interpret the script aesthetically, “you have to figure out how you are going to do it in the time you have,” even when the allotted time is impeded upon by anything from accidents to Hurricane Sandy.

2- “Be aware” that when you have to film a fight that the choreographers usually develop the sequence from a specific viewpoint in relation to the camera. As a director, Slovis will always observe the choreography from that point of view; there are ways to hide a kick, etc. and “in TV, you have to use what works”.

3- “Our job as director is to be the audience…to put the camera in the place you expect it to be or you don’t expect it to be but it still works on a visceral level.”

Laura Belfrey of Criminal Minds on Directing:

1-“Speed is everything and the key thing about doing episodic television is being prepared and being ready to change in a heartbeat.”

Tom Hall of MFF on Getting into Film Festivals:

1-Make a good film.

2-Look up which festivals play films similar to yours and submit to them.

3-Follow up your submission by contacting the festival to make yourself stand out from the stacks of DVD’s and Vimeo links.

4-Follow the submission guidelines but online links are generally preferred to DVD’s.

Jessica Wolfson on Documentaries:

1- Get talent releases when you are filming whether by paper or their acknowledgement on camera. It is difficult to go back and find people for their permission.

2- Seek out a lawyer to form a LLC to protect your personal assets in the event that there are legal complications.

Paul Lovelace on Documentaries: 

1-When you’re not sure how to order a documentary, start by putting the material into a logical order – such as chronological- and then play with the footage from that spot; a theme is likely to emerge.


Documentary Filmmakers Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson with MFF Executive Director Tom Hall
Documentary Filmmakers Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson with MFF Executive Director Tom Hall

To view more photos and information on the Montclair Film Festival, click here for the site and the Flickr stream.






Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know to “unwrap” your stress:

    Kick Holiday Stress to the Curb

On your marks, get set, GO! That’s how so many of us feel now that Thanksgiving crept up on us and it’s a mad dash to the New Year. Between holiday shopping; special family and work events; as well as out-of-town visitors or traveling, it sometimes feels like a marathon with the finish line nowhere in sight.

Life is already stressful enough with long hours at work, financial constraints, and caring for our home, children and aging parents. Topping that off with the added responsibilities and commitments that are innate to the holiday season can, frankly, all too often add more stress.  And the effects of stress can be harmful to our physical and mental health, particularly in those who have chronic illness or disease. Studies have shown that stress can aggravate headaches, back pain, cancer, post-traumatic stress disease (PTSD), and immune system deficiencies, to name a few.

 Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know to “unwrap” your stress: 

1.      Create a “to-do” list. Time is our most important commodity, so let’s use it wisely. Writing down what needs to be done can keep things in perspective when we are faced with the myriad of obligations that arise. Seeing it in black and white helps us rank our priorities–“has to,” “nice to,” “does not need to” be done. Don’t stress if we do not get past what “has to” be done.

2.      Bury the hatchet. If we are warring with a family member who we will be seeing during the holidays, consider extending an olive branch beforehand to avoid an awkward episode.

3.      Stick to a budget. Creating a winter wonderland without depleting our bank account or maxing out our credit card is challenging. Create a budget and commit to it. When it comes to shopping for presents, think outside the “gift” box. The best presents are not the most expensive, but the most thoughtful.

4.      Get some rays. The cold weather can make spirits blue. Spending time outdoors or near a window on sunny days can help keep them away. Sunlight can boost our serotonin levels and improve our mood.

5.      Wake up and smell the citrus. Studies have shown that orange and lemon scents, even from essential oils, can decrease anxiety and promote a feeling of well-being. Consider lighting an aroma candle or dabbing the scent on the inside of our wrist or on a handkerchief so we can access the power of the smell throughout the day.

6.      Exercise. Don’t wait for the New Years to make this part of our “to-do” list. Start now. Not only is breaking out a sweat good for our heart and can keep those inches off of our waistline, studies have shown that it can also boost our mood for up to 12 hours.

7.      Press our Hoku point (not to be mistaken for Haiku which are short poems that use sensory language to capture a feeling or image). Hoku is located on the back of the hand, in the webbing where the thumb and index finger meet. To find the exact point, bring your thumb and index finger together. Pressing that spot for 30-60 seconds has been shown to decrease stress and tension.

8.      Take deep breaths and laugh, a lot. It is no joke that having a sense of humor can release tension. In addition to having a good time, laughing functions to enhance blood circulation and muscle relaxation.

9.      Do a tech cleanse. The constant texting, emailing, and hearing the numerous alerts on our smart phones are not only exhausting, but stressful. One study showed that 80% of people demonstrated a temporary suspension or change in their breathing when they emailed. So breathe easy and consider shutting off our gadgets at holiday get-togethers.

10.  Give a helping hand. The benefits of volunteering are several-fold. In addition to putting perspective on our circumstances, appreciating our blessings, socializing, and even learning new skills, volunteering can help protect our mental and physical health. It’s a win-win situation. And after all, that’s what the holiday season is for.

While we “Let it Snow” and “Hang Around the Mistletoe,” make sure to curb your stress and “Take a Breath of Heaven” so you can enjoy a “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Afterall, “Tis the Season to Be Jolly” while “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “The Little Drummer Boy” are around to remind us of “Silent Night” and keep us “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree.” Feliz Navidad.

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:
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Visit her official site,

Photograph by K. Cecchini




Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.


SHADY XV: Get That Money


In honor of Marshall Mathers’ record label turning 15 years old comes SHADY XV, a hip hop compilation album performed by various artists of the Shady Records brand.  For someone that loved the first 3 EMINEM albums, but quickly lost interest after ENCORE‘s release,  I was hoping for some rekindling of the old SLIM SHADY magic. Unfortunately, this retreading of the tires was not meant to lure me back into the fold.

Much of this release follows suit with the second half of Eminem’s career, with a smattering of top notch singles surrounded by dredge, in particular the non-Mathers’ tracks.

Part of the problem is the rather choppy delivery in many of these tracks.  They achieve no real flow like his early work and it is a huge distraction.  “Guts Over Fear”, which contains a dictionary worth of words in some of the verses, is the main culprit of this unevenness.  “Fine Line”, a darker tune, is one of the better songs as its simplistic beat helps to keep the song in line when the verses start fall into that choppy routine once again. “Right For Me”, however, falls into a similar trap, but it just makes a thud.

Then there is the familiar female vocalist hook, this time supplied by others not named Rihanna.  Yet it is the same stuff we have heard countless times now; he even goes so far as to call this out in “Guts Over Fear”:

“Sometimes I feel like all I ever do is/Find different ways to word the same old song”

“Die Alone” has a chorus that is so auto-tuned that it is near impossible to hear what is being said.  What we have here is a compilation that is quickly spiraling out of control, and we didn’t even get to Detroit vs. Everybody yet.

“Detroit vs. Everybody” might be the biggest waste of time in your life.  This is six minutes of who the f*** cares.  Big Sean’s delivery is monotone and coma-inducing, while Danny Brown has one of the most annoying voices I’ve ever heard.  Eminem finally shows up at the 31/2 minute mark, offering imagery of ‘me against the world’ and ‘how great am I?” for the millionth time, not to mention throwing in an attempt to stir up some controversy with an Adrian Peterson reference.

“What’s making you think I need a switch/’Cause I’m Adrian Peterson/when he’s raging and heated and on the way to go beat his kid/On the track I spank you just like he did”

Then there are those stupendously bad lines thrown about such as:

“I turned a blunt into a roach with dreams of being a Beatle”

“They say my city’s tougher than two fat bitches scissoring”

 (Although to be fair, that last one made me laugh).

On the positive side, “Vegas” is Bad vs. Evil, the duo consisting of rappers Royce da 5’9″ (Bad) and Eminem (Evil).  The flow and verse style follow down that traditional path of graphic  sexualized verses:

“B***h shut the f*** up and get in my car and suck my f****** dick while I take a s***”

and clever brutality, delivered at break neck speed.

“I’m as brainy as Mohammad until the Parkinson’s done eat away my brain/And made me Robin Williams crazy”

This tracks already garnered some heat for the Iggy Azalea diss, so it is obvious that Eminem can still rub people the wrong way with his potty mouth.  Sadly, it sounds cliché whenever Eminem attempts to deliver those shock value lyrics these days.

SHADY XV can be best summed up as an attempt to rehash similar sounds while, ultimately, cash in on those susceptible family members looking to make a big splash with a great Xmas gift.

Ford’s Dirty Laundry

Indigenous representatives from around the world brought their environmental concerns to the Climate Change March in New York this past September.

I will admit my own ignorance to the environmental issues that the Ramapough Lenape have been experiencing just beyond New York City. One of the greatest hazards the tribe has been facing is the contamination that the Ford Company has left behind on their tribal lands. According to The Record, “…residents, who blame their health problems on the contamination, find themselves caught between…” Ford, the town of Ringwood (who originally allowed the dumping) and the Environmental Protection Agency (who is supposed to ensure that such contamination is effectively

Click here for the full article.

A few images from the People’s Climate Change:












Read More: Climate Change Part 1 with Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland

People’s Climate March: Part 2: The South Bronx to Bangladesh

People’s Climate March: Part 3-Now what?

Did you know we only have 40 or so years left of topsoil to grow our food? Click here to learn more about the beauty of dirt & mud.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know About Food & Depression

Text by Dr. Nina Radcliff/Photos by k. Cecchini

“The food you eat can be either the safest & most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” ~Ann Wigmore. The link between food and our physical health is well known. What we put into our mouths can either help protect us from, or increase our risk for, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and stroke—the number one, two, and three killers in America. But did you know that what we eat and drink can affect our mental health? Studies have proven that a healthy diet can help decrease our risk for depression as well as become an important part of a holistic approach to treat it. In our desire to be healthy, both physically and mentally, let’s revisit the saying “we are what we eat.” And let’s opt for healthy!

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About Food and Depression

Back to basics Studies have shown that people who enjoy diets rich in fruit, veggies, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and lean meats (aka the Mediterranean diet) have lower rates of depression. There are a number of reasons for this. The body requires nutrients, or building blocks, to manufacture many of the “happy” chemicals in our brain; and these foods are nutrient powerhouses. In fact, the term “junk food” implies that the food item has minimal nutritional value. Filling our tummies up with nutrient-poor foods, or empty calories, often prevents us from consuming nutrient-rich foods and can cause a nutrient-deficit.

Eating healthy can also decrease our risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. These illnesses have been linked to higher rates of depression.

Inflammation Our body’s immune system responds to foreign invaders to keep us safe. However, there are triggers that can cause our immune system to run amok and result in inflammation, an abnormal state. Studies have shown that inflammation not only can disrupt circuitry and the transmission of signals within our brain, it can also kill brain cells, leading to depression. The “3 P’s”–Processed, Packaged, and Prepared foods–are rich in harmful oils, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and additives (colors, flavor enhancers, preservatives) that can trigger inflammation. Consuming these items every now and then is unlikely to cause harm; but because they are cheap, fast, and convenient, consumer research shows it has become easier and easier to reach for them.

Antioxidants Our bodies produce a waste product called free radicals that can contribute to aging and a number of disease states including cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s dementia, arthritis, and diabetes. Fortunately, antioxidants can seize and disarm these harmful molecules. Beta-carotene (broccoli, carrots, peaches), vitamin C (blueberries, oranges, tomatoes), and vitamin E (nuts, spinach) are some well-known antioxidants. Let’s incorporate them into snacks and meals.

Carbohydrates Consuming carbohydrates can boost an important “feel good” chemical called serotonin. Unfortunately, it can also expand our waistlines and pack on the pounds. A good balance is to choose complex carbs (whole grains) and healthy carbs (fruit, veggies, legumes) over simple carbs (cakes, cookies).

Can we eat our way out of depression? No; a new, healthy diet cannot replace other treatments. Additionally, a healthy diet does not provide a bullet proof vest when it comes to preventing depression or other illnesses. However, eating healthy should be incorporated into a holistic treatment plan against depression which includes exercise, improved sleep, counseling, decreasing and dealing with stressors, yearly physicals and, if appropriate, medications.

Reduce alcohol Similar to the age-old question of what came first, the chicken or the egg, the same can be asked about depression and alcohol. People who drink heavily and regularly increase their risk for depression. This may be because alcohol is a depressant, increases inflammation, decreases “happy” chemicals in the brain, or can cause chronic illnesses. Conversely, those who suffer from depression are twice as likely to drink away their sorrows and develop a drinking problem.

Dietary changes cannot cure or completely prevent depression. But because we are what we eat, healthy food choices can help keep us in our best physical and mental health. Every time we put something in our mouth is an opportunity to nourish our body. Food is fuel. And just as we would not expect our cars to run smoothly or efficiently if we were to pump low quality fuel into it, we must apply the same reasoning to our bodies. I want to encourage you to think about what you are consuming and make good choices with what fuels you.

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:
Like her on Facebook:
Follow her on Twitter: @DrNinaRadcliff
Visit her official site,


Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.