Val Kilmer: A Blanket Of Hope And Comfort - Heroism Personified

Monday, December 7, 2009

Val Kilmer is a man of many accomplishments, he is a powerfully intense and hardworking actor, a melodic singer/songwriter, and writes amazing poetry with depth, poignancy, and humour. Not to mention he is an active humanitarian, dedicated to human and animal rights, Native American affairs, youth orientated programs, and helping to end violence against women. This is just the tip of Kilmer's iceberg.

In recent years, these charities have been the recipient of proceeds from sales of Kilmer's original CD Sessions With Mick, featuring songs penned with friend Mick Rossi, and his poetry anthology entitled Jack's Gandhi, inspired by a drawing created by his son, Jack.

Now we can add blanket designer to his list of accolades.These beautiful works of art are also being offered for sale from Kilmer's website, with proceeds going to the charities as always.

Kilmer and Liz Lake have designed 250 beautiful Limited Edition Pendleton Woollen Mills blankets, into which Kilmer's own signature has been interwoven into the bottom right corner. There are two designs, Gourd People and The Dude. Each individual blanket has a commemorative label indicating the series number. Here are their descriptions taken from Kilmer's official website store where these blankets can be purchased:

Blanket #1: Gourd People

Gourd People is inspired by New Mexico petroglyphs: ancient rock engravings found throughout the magnificent cliffs and mountain faces that epitomize the raw beauty of the “Land of Enchantment.” These images are inseparable from the State’s cultural landscape and the spirits of the ancient people who created them.

Blanket #2: The Dude

The Dude is based on the buffalo skull hanging in Val’s New Mexico home. A family of buffalo call Val’s ranch their home and this blanket is named for a baby buffalo born on the ranch this past year.

Kilmer explains the history of these amazing blankets:

"The blanket is a symbol of the rich trade history of the American Southwest. A constant of Native American life, the trade blanket is emblematic of our nation’s past. Historically, the blanket is an important communication device of emotion, of individual and community identity and status, a poetic statement with both ceremonial and practical uses. The gift of a trade blanket is a way of showing friendship, appreciation, honor and celebrating commemorative milestones and achievements."

The following is just a short list of the charities Kilmer has worked with over the years:

Operation Coming Home is a team of veterans, homebuilders, and other volunteers that are dedicated to providing free housing in the Raleigh/Durham, NC area to severely wounded veterans of recent Middle East wars. They help make a wounded veteran feel "right at home" in the Triangle.

The Wildlife Center is a charity that I have donated to for over ten years. We have released over one hundred wild animals on our wilderness retreat that Dr. Kathleen Ramsey has PERSONALLY treated. Please check it out.

I heartily support Eve Ensler's V-DAY efforts to help end violence against women and girls.

For 85 years, Associates on American Indian Affairs has been working to promote these goals and provide the critical elements that Native American Indian children and families need to live happy, healthy and productive lives.

Warehouse 21: Our mission is to inspire youth to empower themselves thorough artistic expression and productivity.

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognised human rights for all.

Habitat For Humanity International seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.

Kilmer also has many exciting film projects in the works, all of them look interesting, but one of which in particular is the one I am most eager to see. As a major fantasy/sci-fi buff, I adored Kilmer as Madmartigan in Willow in the 80's, which is where I first became a fan.

In 2010, Kilmer will be returning to the fantasy genre when he stars in Tales Of An Ancient Empire, a story in which a princess is on a quest to unite the five greatest warriors to save her kingdom from a demon sorceress.

Also in the cast are Kevin Sorbo from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (which had an even more successful spin-off in the Xena: Warrior Princess series), and Christopher Lambert of Highlander fame. We can only hope Kilmer has only just begun his return to the fantasy genre and that similar projects may be under consideration. There is nothing more appealing than the idea that Val Kilmer and heroes are an appropriate fit.

~ Michael Holloway


Strength Through The Shadows: Beth Nielsen Chapman's Recipe For Peace Jam & More Delightful Treats

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Beth Nielsen Chapman is an amazing woman, not just for her beautiful music, but because she is a genuinely caring person who shares her faith with people to unify humanity in all its varying shades, rather than trying to use one particular doctine to force people to conform as certain religions are wont to do.

In 2007, she released her latest album Prism: The Human Family Songbook and an accompanying DVD, If Love Could Say God's Name, which incorporates a soul stirring concert with a church service so profound and inspirational with its message of unification. To understand where this depth and passion comes from, one only has to look at Chapman's life, and how she shares her joys and sorrows with the world to teach us a new way of living.

In 1994, Chapman's beloved husband Ernest lost his battle with cancer. Chapman herself has battled breast cancer and a brain tumour but has thankfully survived both, thanks to not only modern medicine, but also to her devout faith. Ernest had an MA in philosophy and was fascinated with the meaning of life and the relationship with God in all aspects of many different cultures and faiths.

Chapman states: "A few months before his death he wrote a letter and sent it to everyone he'd known and loved in his life asking if they would be so kind as to send him a brief note telling him what they believed happens when we pass out of this world."

The Chapman family's friends, who ranged from all cultures and religions from Christian to Muslim, all sent letters and prayers, including one particular (un-named) friend who was a devout atheist. Ernest had had many colourful arguments with this friend during the course of their lives debating all facets of faith, or lack thereof. The atheist friend had also offered this prayer upon receiving Ernest's request.

"I'm probably not, as you know, the best person to ask this question of at a time like this. Nothing has changed. I still feel the same way, still, because I love you, today I sent up for you the prayers of an atheist."

Ernest said to his wife "Wow. That would have to be the most powerful prayer to have had to travel so far."

Thus the inspiration for one of the central songs from the Prism album was born, Prayers Of An Atheist in which Chapman shares her belief that: "Whatever anyone's beliefs are we are born to love and create, which, to me has always been the greatest proof of God's existence. And even the prayers of an atheist have value as I can attest from the amazing grace it brought to my husband in the last days of his life. "

This became the cornerstone with which Chapman sought to find the universal thread in all faiths or non-faiths and weave them together to inspire people to look outside the doctrines of any one particular set of beliefs and try and understand and reflect the values of different cultures and ideologies. To further this crusade, Chapman allied herself with two very special and important organisations, PeaceJam and PeaceMala.

PeaceMala aims to promote "understanding, respect, friendship, tolerance and peace between all communities, cultures and enlightened, compassionate faiths. PeaceMala promotes global citizenship and invites all people to treat each other with respect and compassion regardless of race, colour, religion, gender, sexuality, ability, size or age.

PeaceMala was founded in 2002 by Pam Evans, former Head of the Department of Religious Studies at Coedcae Comprehensive School in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales. I personally have been fortunate enough to talk to Pam online, since she discovered one of my posts about this subject on the Jon Peter Lewis website/forums and other music sites I frequent. In fact, she specifically signed up to post on the JPL forums to chat more about this noble endeavour with my friends and myself.

PeaceMala arose from discussions regarding race relations after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and how one student in particular became a target for misplaced distrust and outright prejudice simply for being Islamic. Student Imran Sheikh states that: "I suffered from racist taunts and our local mosque was attacked following September 11 and that is when the Peace Mala all started."

Pam Evans gave up her position at Coedcae School in 2005 to focus on her work with PeaceMala. She was awarded the Noble Soul Award in 2006 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to challenging Islamaphobia in schools. The award was presented by RAHMA (Racial Attacks and Harassment Monitoring Association) on the International Day of Peace.

PeaceJam takes this ideal further with active charity events like an upcoming auction to be presented on E-Bay starting December 7, 2009, where five hand-painted guitars will be auctioned off and proceeds will go toward funding more PeaceJam events. Each guitar has been signed by the following Nobel Peace Laureates and supporters of PeaceJam: The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Jose Ramos Horta, Adolfo Ramirez Esquivel, and Betty Williams.

The mission of the PeaceJam Foundation is to: "create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody."

Also included with each guitar is a Letter of Authenticity from the President/Co-Founder of PeaceJam, Ivan Suvanjieff.

Another interesting project that Beth Nielsen Chapman has been working on (and which comes as a pleasant surprise to me) is a new limited edition EP which is available to purchase from her website store. The product is described as being a "New Limited Edition sneak preview featuring Shadows from the new BNC record."

Chapman's new album, Back To Love, will be released sometime in 2010, so this looks like an early treat for eager fans who (understandably) cannot wait for the new full-length CD release. She will also be touring the United Kingdom in the new year.

Another fascinating project Chapman is involved with is the I Heart Benefit For Cancer Schmancer hosted by fellow cancer survivor and spokesperson, the lovely and talented Fran Drescher from the hit sitcom The Nanny. The benefit will be held at The Million Dollar Theatre at 307 S. Broadway, Los Angeles on December 13 from 7:00 PM, although doors will open an hour earlier. Guests at the event will include: Jackson Browne, The Bird & The Bee, Olivia Newton-John, Beth Nielsen Chapman, The Whispertown2000, Chris Pierce, Arrica Rose & The...'s (actual band name although I am unsure how to pronounce it,) Charlotte Martin, Caitlin Crosby, Vertigo Posse, Charlyne Yi, Mortified, and more.

More information and a direct ticket link can be found by clicking on the relevant links provided.


Leaving Out Christ for the PC Christmas

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Twas the Month Before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.
See the PC Police had taken away,
The reason for Christmas - no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing,
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a ' Holiday '.
Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa

In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was nowhere to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.
Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton !
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded
The reason for the season, stopped before it started.
So as you celebrate 'Winter Break' under your 'Dream Tree'
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.
Choose your words carefully, choose what you say
not Happy Holiday!
Christ is The Reason for the Christ-mas Season!


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