Kindness is Magic, Volume II

This organization is two-fold:

First, we have The Veteran’s Garden, located in Los Angeles. It’s a 15-acre garden that’s operated by vets of the VA Hospital, as part of the Horticulture Therapy Program (HTP). HTP motivates patients to develop new interests and combat depression often associated with a disability. It’s a fully self-sufficient business; selling fresh-grown, pesticide-free produce to both the public and local restaurants.

Second, we have the Serenity Park Bird Sanctuary, located at the back of the Veteran’s Garden. Here you’ll find cockatoos, parakeets, macaws, and parrots that have been where injured, abused, and abandoned. They’re tended and nursed back to health by veterans. Admission is free and open to the public, but your donations are tax deductible, as it’s a non-profit.

If you live in or are visiting the Los Angeles area, I urge you to check out both places!

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March Madness-Book Edition.

I know people usually compose “best-of” lists at the end of the year. But here are some early standouts as of March 8th, 2014:

1). One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

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Yes, that B.J. Novak-former actor/writer/producer of “The Office.” The boy can write. I don’t read much fiction, but I couldn’t resist this book. “The Office” is my all-time favorite show, so it was just a given. This novel is a collection of delightful, sad, clever, hilarious, and sweet short stories. It reminds me of plate of petit-fours: small, sweet, and hits the spot. (That’s what she said.) OH COME ON, IT’S FROM “THE OFFICE.” Like I couldn’t make that joke?

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2). The Death Class by Erika Hayasaki (non-fiction)

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Nurse Norma Bowe teaches a “death class” at a small college in New Jersey. She never expected it to be so popular-the syllabus includes lessons about last wills and good-bye letters and class trips to mortuaries and cemeteries. Author Hayasaki spent four years following Bowe and her students. While the premise of the book sounds somewhat morbid, I promise you it’s really not. It forces you to ask yourself the “big questions” and what it really means to live, what death can teach us, and the real meaning of life.

3). Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart (non-fiction)

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Shteyngart is already an acclaimed fiction author; but this is his first stab at non-fiction. Born in Leningrad, Russia (the Soviet Union back then), he moved to America with his family in the 1970’s. This book tells the familiar story of an immigrant family coming to America. Shteyngart intertwines both Russian and American life, and the two worlds he hopped back and forth from. The title of the book comes from a nickname his mother gave him, “Failurchka.” Roughly translated, it means “Little Failure.” I found this memoir to be funny, raw, emotional, vivid, and original.

4). The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert (non-fiction)

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A scientific book that’s surprisingly easy to read, Kolbert tells us that by burning fossil fuels, we are rapidly changing the atmosphere, the oceans, and the climate, forcing potentially millions of species into extinction. You’ll follow her on many adventures: from the rain forest to the Great Barrier Reef to swimming amongst poisonous jellyfish and exploring bat caves, just to name a few. Anyone interested in science, sociology, geology, botany, biology, or zoology will find this book fascinating. Humans need to get their shit together, stat.

5). L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi

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Let me just start off by saying that I can’t cook. At all. No, really. I mess up boiled eggs.
But Anthony Bourdain is one of my favorite authors (who just happens to be a world famous chef), and he highly recommended this book via his Twitter page. It’s part memoir (growing up with Korean immigrants as parents, falling into a bad crowd as a teen, getting himself out of said bad crowd and eventually starting the food-truck craze in LA) and part cookbook, with “cheap eat” recipes like instant ramen with sliced cheese, to more difficult plates like eggplant curry, kimchi jjigae and carne asada.

Let me know what makes your list!

Kindness is Magic, Volume One.

Let me tell you about an organization called “The Gentle Barn.”

They’re a 501(c)(3) non-profit based out of Santa Clarita, California.

Their mission is “To rescue, rehabilitate and give sanctuary to abused animals. Through the interaction with our animals people learn reverence for all life.”

They’re home to over 160 rescue animals, including horses, cows, goats, dogs, cats, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and llamas. These animals are victims of horrible stories-starved, beaten, tortured, sick, wounded, and neglected.

But these animals have regained their trust in humankind by realizing that they are now loved, and their abuse is over. Because of their ongoing physical and psychological needs, they can’t be adopted and are given sanctuary with The Gentle Barn for the rest of their lives.

The Gentle Barn stands out because they not only rescue animals, they also work with children from the inner-city, group homes, mental health care facilities, foster homes, and schools to teach them that even though we are all different on the outside, on the inside we are all the same and are deserving of the same rights, respects and freedom. Many of these children have never been around farm animals.

To donate to The Gentle Barn, click here. To become a certified volunteer, click here.

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Fantasic Four(teen).

Congratulations, New Jersey! As of 12:01am on October 21st, they’re state number 14 to legalize same-sex marriage!

Cory Booker, Liz Salerno, Gabriela Celeiro

Cory Booker, Joesph Panessidi, Orville Bell

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And did you see who was doing the officiating at some of the first ceremonies? That would be my boo, newly-elected United States Senator Cory Booker. Oh, that man. THAT MAN. *SWOON* Ahem. Sorry. He’s just such a dreamboat.

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