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🕰️The Price Is Right’s Bob Barker😇: Goodbye to a National Treasure!🐻🐻‍❄️🐋!

By Ingrid Newkirk

Ingrid and friends! photo: PETA

The world has lost a true legend, and animals — as well as PETA — have lost a dear friend. Bob Barker was known for a lot of things, but what meant the most to him and what he spent most of his life pursuing was justice for animals.

Only Bob could make a game show sign-off reminding people to spay and neuter their animals into a catch phrase. Only Bob could have the integrity and conviction to quit a two-decade gig with the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants because the shows’ producers insisted on including fur coats in the prize packages, a policy they changed soon afterward. Only Bob could insist that the upholstery in the cars given away on The Price Is Right be leather-free.

Perhaps Bob’s entertainment background imbued him with a particular empathy for the elephants beaten with bullhooks in circuses, for the orcas languishing in SeaWorld’s cramped tanks and for the lonely animals in zoos far from their true homes. Bob fought for all of them, with heart, with soul and with his wallet.

I’ll never forget Bob’s grace and dignity when he made a trip to Cherokee, North Carolina, to plead for relief for the bears in the reservation’s appalling roadside zoos. Two of the three zoos refused to let Bob in, but everyone else in town clamored to shake his hand and ask for pictures. This warm and gregarious man used the opportunity to talk to residents about how much the bears were suffering in concrete pits and to urge them to speak out. One of the zoos has since shut its doors, and PETA is still campaigning to ensure that the other two follow suit.

Bob was witty and charming, but he was also pragmatic. He said he was thrilled to spend nearly $1 million to foot the bill to ship elephants Toka, Thika and Iringa from a Canadian zoo to the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary in California.

SeaWorld particularly irked him, and Bob filmed a television spot for PETA asking parents and grandparents to refuse to visit what he called a “dolphin prison” and calling on the theme parks to retire the orcas to protected coastal sanctuaries. He wrote a letter to the president of CBS asking for a ban on using wild animals in all the network’s programming, saying, “[R]eplace the use of captive wild animals in your shows with the creative, versatile, and humane technology that exists today, such as computer-generated imagery.” Today, CGI has made that transition easy.

When PETA held the grand opening of our Los Angeles office, the Bob Barker Building, the fête was filled with Hollywood celebrities, but Bob was the star. Our West Coast headquarters, filled with his awards, stands as testament to Bob’s profound commitment to making a difference for animals.

When asked how he would like to be remembered, Bob said, “I think I would like to be remembered as a man who loved living things and did everything he could do to make it better for animals. And when he had time, he did a lot of television shows, too.” Well, you got your wish, dear friend. PETA, animals and fans around the world will never forget you.

Not thinking about relationships💕

By Rosalie Tirella

Rose, today: There it is!

One of the nice things about getting older (I’ll be 62 years old next month) is not having to think about relationships any more. As in boyfriends. As in obsessing over boyfriends I’m in relationships with, obsessing about the way they feel about me, about the way I look to them … their level of commitment to our relationship – or lack there of … their passion in bed – or lack there of … the restaurants they took me to, the places we didn’t visit…the extra pounds I put on, the extra pounds I took off – for them. All in the name of the relationship. Not love usually. But the RELATIONSHIP – like a science experiment, easier to examine under a pink microscope with your gal pals over the phone, late at night, one of you nursing a glass of wine.

These days, thankfully, blissfully, I no longer think about relationships. I don’t have to see myself thru the eyes, gonads or stomachs of men, my boyfriends. Tormenting myself over: Am I pretty enough for him? Interesting enough for him? Sexy enough for him? Smart enough? Thinking about my guy from all angles: emotional, physical, sexual, culinary, musical, monetary etc etc etc etc. For decades I did this like any girl! With different guys! Beginning at puberty to way after menopause when my ovaries, once the size of walnuts, according to my gynecologist, have now shrunk to the “size of raisins.” Long live female hormones!!! This happens to all us ladies, and now, sans all those sex hormones flowing thru my body I can relax. Truly accept my flabby body and duplicitous soul, my likes and dislikes, the gap between my two front teeth and think … I’m good enough. I’m ok with me! So …WHAT WAS ALL THAT NOISE ABOUT? WAS ALL THAT FREAKING RELATIONSHIP MELODRAMA NEEDED?! WHAT A WASTE OF YEARS AND YEARS spent thinking about my relationships!

You simmer down after menopause and, sadly, realize: I should have written novels. I should have hitchhiked thru Europe, maybe even lived in Paris. I should have learned to cook like Julia Childs … but instead I WASTED MY PRECIOUS TIME, MY PRECIOUS YOUTH on the relationship! With John, Dick and Harry! Fred, Joe and Hank! Sure I had some great times, but it was all so exhausting! Trying to figure out where I stood with them. One day: Apple of His Eye! The next: Rose who? … Pondering our “future”? Deciphering the marriage question. Living together…a possibility? But when? All that sound and fury … for absolutely nothing. Comparable to finding a pebble on the shore of Lake Quinsigamond – dark, nondescript, basic – but deciding it may, deep deep down inside, contain gold. Be a gold nugget! So you stupidly keep turning it over and over and over again in the palm of your hand – this relationship – desperately seeking the unique, the whimsical, the magical in this guy. But you’re going out with a pebble. From Lake Quinsig, over by the bridge on Route 9, heading into Shrewsbury. Over by HOOTERS.

You remember all the ridiculous conversations you had with your gal pals trying to decipher THE RELATIONSHIP. Sharing embarrassingly intimate details about your sex life, the size of his penis, the so so restaurant he took you to ON YOUR BIRTHDAY! His ambition or lack there of. His boss he may have a crush on. All that psycho babble or just babble for the sole purpose of where you stand with some dopey guy. And to vent. And to have a few laughs, at his expense, with your gal pal who’s told you about her RELATIONSHIP. You have thought about it with her, about her boyfriend, and also asked with her: Why did he leave her for her best friend? – the best friend that he met at the great party she had given TO SHOW OFF THEIR RELATIONSHIP to all her friends!!! (a true story)

You think and ponder … and there are no answers.

Think about it! You and your gal pals tirelessly, foolishly, waste half of your precious female lives seeking answers to relationship questions that are inane, unanswerable. Yet women have been asking themselves these questions ever since paleolithic times, when volcanoes erupted everywhere, every few seconds, and cavemen boyfriends went out hunting the saber-toothed tiger leaving their cave women alone … to get anxious about the relationship. Seated around the fire pit, together now, the cave women getting all insecure about their cavemen, started thinking about their relationships with their cavemen: Is my hair too out of control and knotty for him? Are my breasts too hairy? Does this bear-skin skirt make me look fat? Why aren’t we living together in our own cave? Is he cheating on me with the cave woman in the pile of rubble right over that glacier? I bet language was invented by cave women intent on figuring out their cavemen!

Yep. It all began eons ago, 100,000 BC – Before Creams. As in moisturizing creams for the face… creams for the decolletage… creams for the elbows, the knees, the heels and toes …creams for the fingernails – ALL THOSE FU*KING CREAMS THAT, IN THE END, MAKE NO DIFFERENCE WHEN IT COMES TO A RELATIONSHIP’S SUCCESS OR LONGEVITY!

Fast-forward to the late 20th/early 21st centuries, to my life … to Rose’s relationships with her boyfriends:

1979. At Clark University, my first ever real boyfriend, Fred. My first orgasm with Fred. My first visits to New York City with Fred. My first meet-his-parents visit with Fred. Our going, in NYC, to the exact same theater shown in ANNIE HALL, the iconic Woody Allen movie to sit in the exact same theater Woody and his girlfriend Dianne Keaton, Annie Hall, went to in ANNIE HALL! Fred and I both love Woody Allen … and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE … and THE MARX BROTHERS. Fred can recite lines from DUCK SOUP! He is so handsome! My mom says Fred looks like Paul McCartney! A Beatle!

Then why, on Valentine’s Day, did Fred give me the small heart-shaped box of chocolates and give the girl down the hall in his dormitory THE BIGGER HEART-SHAPED BOX OF CHOCOLATES? Why did I get the small box and she get the larger box? On VALENTINE’S DAY?!

Naturally, I called him on it, very upset! I demanded: What does this mean? What are you saying – about us?!

Naturally, he shrugged it off.

Typical guy move.

So, of course, I had to call my gal pals to discuss this debacle of the heart … and to think about The Relationship long and hard. WHERE DID I STAND with Fred? WAS I GOOD ENOUGH for him? Why didn’t I rate the bigger box of chocolates? Why did that big red cellophane-covered heart shaped box of chocolates from CVS go to her – and not ME?!

Fred and I broke up that summer and I became borderline anorexic.

Fast forward to the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, where I was in another “serious” relationship with a beau. Hank had just gotten on an airplane to visit his sister in Montana, a doctor whose husband carved canoes for a living. A very cool couple who lived in a real log cabin that they built together, side by side, hand in hand practically. Why wasn’t I on the plane with him to Montana? Why wasn’t I getting to meet his favorite sister, the cool one? We drove together to NYC the previous month for his music gig – he was a lighting engineer for a rock ‘n’ roll type company in Western Mass – WHY NOT HANG OUT IN MONTANA WITH HIS SISTER AND HER HUSBAND?

I had to think about the relationship: Was I special enough for Hank? Where was this all going? Did he love me? Or was he just being his cheapskate self, knowing he’d have to foot the bill for my plane fare and meals at restaurants. He was a real tight wad! Or did he know another girl … in Montana?

We broke up a few months later and I rebounded with a guy, a grad student, with an 800 SAT math score. He dumped me a few months later and I didn’t even have to think about the relationship. He had given me his reason: “I can’t talk about the Milky Way with you, Rose.”

“As in galaxy in the universe?” I said. “Not the candy bar?” trying to be cute.

In relationship speak Hank was telling me: YOU’RE NOT SMART ENOUGH. I’M MOVING ON.

And he didn’t even wear underwear!

Fast forward to Worcester and the Old Beau. We’re going to the Mohegan Sun Wolf Den to see Peter Noone in concert. I look so cute! Hair in a pixie hair cut and dyed red. I’m wearing my pretty multi-colored skirt with its red petticoat. A petticoat! Topped off with elegant black blouse. My makeup is flawless!

In the car, before taking off, he goes in to kiss me, stops short, looks into my eyes and says: “You’ve got that hair.”

“What hair?” I say.

“That one-inch long hair growing from your chin.”

WHAT????? !!! I run upstairs to my bathroom and shove my face two inches before my huge bathroom mirror. Sure enough. Facial hair. Just one long brown hair, a single hair, sprouting stubbornly from a little beauty mark on my chin. I grab my cuticle scissors and cut it as close to the root as possible. There! I hold it in the palm of my hand – appalled!

All the way down to Connecticut, the entire drive, I think about our relationship: He’s cruel. He sees nothing but the negative. He doesn’t compliment my skirt or red petticoat…nothing nice that I’ve done to get ready for this night out. Doesn’t he appreciate my elegant blouse? Just sees my one single chin hair! But it is long! Oh! How embarrassing! Why didn’t I ever see it before today?! … Why tell me now? It’ll be dark inside the club! He’s an arse. We’ll never get married! He’s too superficial for me! I don’t even want to go to this concert…but he’s buying dinner at that nice restaurant at the casino, the one I really love. … Have I stuck around all these years just for the great meals at all those nice restaurants? Every Saturday night …

And so on and so on…


Yesterday I looked in my big bathroom mirror and saw the same hair growing from my now flaccid chin. Except these days it’s white with age, not the dark brown color of my younger self. I looked at my chin, my grey chin hair and remembered the Old Beau and smiled sadly and thought: I’ll have to get to this tomorrow.


By Nahani Meuse

Two winters ago, outside the Federal Courthouse in Downtown Worcester. Photo: Rose T.

It has been 18 months since the Worcester City Council asked for a report on heating and cooling centers in Worcester. It has been SEVEN months since Worcester City Manager Eric Batista told the City Council that Worcester was just 60 days away from finalizing agreements on heating and cooling centers in our city. For the homeless, our seniors and most vulnerable.

And here we are, with still NO access to appropriate cooling or warming centers in the second largest city in New England, Worcester.

What is happening here? Where is the accountability? Where is the HUMANITY?

We have a rising homeless population being absolutely failed at every level. Loss of shower programs. Loss of detox and treatment beds. Loss of client-centered shelters. Homeless encampment sweeps. One year-round homeless shelter at capacity. No affordable housing options. New planned projects several years out.

Public housing waitlists pushing a decade or more. Dwindling housing subsidies. No cooling or heating centers. In two months we could be looking at near-freezing temperatures outdoors, and yet the City Manager has no plans for keeping people safe.

Dozens of homeless advocates and professionals continue to plead with the City for services – plead for funding and plead for adequate shelter beds.

Fundraisers have been held.

Properties have been visited, vetted and construction plans proposed.

Private funders have offered the capital. The benefit is clear, the data supports the model proposed, and yet the City Administration wants to focus on solely housing.

That sounds amazing, in theory; we would all prefer that everyone be housed versus staying in a shelter.

However, we know that is not realistic. The affordable housing stock does not exist here in Worcester! The affordable units planned are many years out! So where should the city’s unsheltered population live for the next 5 to 15 years while they await an affordable option?

Unsheltered folks are routinely offered “SRO” (single room occupancy) options that force them to live in congregate settings that are not well managed, theft runs rampant, and code violations make the unit uninhabitable.

When someone voices a legitimate complaint, they’re ignored. Many of these “rooming houses” log dozens of emergency calls every month. This is not a solution, these are trap houses that continue to victimize an already rampantly abused and overlooked population.

July 26 and July 27 the City allowed the Worcester Public Library on Salem Square and the Worcester Senior Center on Providence Street to offer space for cooling. Two whole days this entire summer that folks were offered a cooling option. That is shameful!

What about the 61-year-old woman sleeping unsheltered on Lincoln Street who couldn’t walk to the library or senior center? What about the severely asthmatic 34-year-old sleeping unsheltered at Bell Pond who couldn’t get to the library or the senior center? What about all the folks who “could” make it to the library but had to leave at 5 pm when it closed, although the sweltering temperatures would persist until sun down?

Does anyone care? What are we doing in Worcester if we don’t value human life and human decency?

🥟The Spencer Fair🎠

By Rosalie Tirella

EXPLOITATION! Animal cruelty!

I didn’t go to the Spencer Fair this year, even though I live in Spencer and it’s a pretty big ta-do around here. It’s way more than 100 years old – practically historic! But it’s not exactly bucolic like the Woodstock Fair in Connecticut – which I’ve attended and so enjoyed: picture-postcard perfect, more than pretty ensconced in all that velvety green New England countryside. The old beau and I saw Peter Noone of the Herman’s Hermits 10 years ago at the Woodstock Fair. Noone’s a ’60s pop singer and was quite the hit at the fair – to the old beau’s delight. The old beau, from Lynn and tougher than anyone in Spencer could ever be, was, much to my horror, a Peter Noone groupie! Absolutely in love with Noone and his ridiculous songs, like “Mrs. Jones You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter.” All sung in this fake cockney accent. When we were together we saw Peter Noone in concert at least five times! I was dragged to these spectacular spectacles! If I resisted, he’d say, suit yourself, and go alone. We practically stalked Noone in venues all over Southern New England, including the Mohegan Sun’s Wolf Den, with the added bonus of free entry. My guy almost got into a fight with someone angling for front seat status! A few months before that night we had seen a seated in chair, thinnish, Greg Alman, a little after his liver transplant, his long blond hair still fine and gold and beautiful, tied back in a long thin pony tail. I was gobsmacked! GREG ALMAN! I screamed! He’s a legend! The old beau was nonchalant. In his mind, Peter Noone was the legend!

But I digress. The Spencer Fair is the opposite of the Woodstock Fair. It has about two trees, and a very dusty midway and dirt that hovers over the midway thick and silty. You can see the silt when the sun shines through it. Like the town of Spencer, and our downtown, the Spencer Fair is rough and working class. Think tattoo kiosks and big tanned guys in leather vests sporting their tattoos. Nonetheless, in all its dusty, fried dough glory it sails on year after year drawing big crowds.

I still think its carousel is romantic. I still think choosing the right pretty carousel horse to ride is exciting – running thru that circle of a ride, sizing up all the steeds as fast as you can and choosing yours amid the hustle and bustle – trying to find your soulmate before the ride’s operator starts up the ride and the old timey music begins. That beautiful old timey carousel music. Was there ever anything so lovely as a carousel? The circular “race” …the carousel’s operator, scrawny, a cig hanging from his thin lips. You look up and see all those folded mirrors unfolding in time to the music, and you’re swept up in the merry-go-round dream in the Spencer night.

I stopped going to the Spencer Fair a decade ago because, the older I get, the more sensitive I am about the way the animals are treated. The poor exotic animals in shock as they’re handled by kids. Freaked out piglets forced to wear little saddles and race around a little race track. The farm animals “shown” at the fair have to do their thing – like pulling two tons of crap if you’re a draught horse – no matter what. Even in humid 90-degree weather with the sun beating down on their big wet haunches – the sweat breaking my heart. One year a huge brown beauty collapsed. I was with the old beau. I was appalled when the guys in charge of the pull gathered around the big majestic beast lying in the dirt, forcing it up again,along it continue the pull. I shot up and ran thru the fair looking for the veterinarian on call. I found the person and practically in tears told them what I had just witnessed. The person went over to the area and declared the horse “just fine.”

I was apoplectic! I was in tears! Crying to my boyfriend, I said, “The horse collapsed! The horse collapsed! And they didn’t pull him out of the contest!”

To my surprise, the old beau turned around and scowled at me and began yelling at …me! ROSE, WHY CAN’T WE JUST ENJOY THINGS? WHY DO YOU HAVE TO ALWAYS GET INVOLVED AND MAKE TROUBLE?!

He was so mad at me, they he got up and left the fair, me running behind him to catch up.

What he was telling me at the Spencer Fair, this lover of German Shepherd dogs, the owner of 10 of them, two the German line … this rescuer of turtles and hawks, this man who voted Green Party in some presidential elections, what he was really saying was: Rose, I don’t love you anymore.

And I got the message and was heartbroken.

Man’s roughness with the animals of the fair. Treating them like means to ends. Tools. Cheap entertainment. Beasts to be exploited. Creatures to be slaughtered and eaten. I was right about the horse who had collapsed at the Spencer Fair. The old beau was right about the demise of us as a couple.

The fair …I covered the Spencer Fair as a reporter for the New Leader decades ago as a cub reporter. I was young and stupid, so I’m sure my feature story reflected that.

One year I saw an old classmate from Burncoat Senior High School at the fair. My sister and I drove in to Spencer from Worcester, and she fell in love with those trendy at the time Vietnamese miny pigs – which actually grew up to be HUGE hogs. But that was the trend back then. I remember how Sally really wanted a piglet and standing over its little hay strewn pen made little piggy squeaks and squeals to a black and white Vietnamese potbellied piglet no bigger – at the time – than a Boston terrier. My old Burncoat High classmate was with her little kids. She told me she was a nurse or something like that at a local hospital. She was very nice to me, saying it was cool that I put out InCity Times and that I was speaking my mind, telling it like it is! She was impressed – and kinda proud of me. This surprised me. Even though she was in all honors classes like me, she and I were never close, and I always thought she thought I was too nerdy to chum around with. I was cute – but kinda nerdy! Here it was 20 years later and she spotted me and was very nice.

On my Facebook page today I saw a video a FB friend of mine had posted of her and her husband at the Spencer Fair. Specifically, her ride on the carousel. She’s 80 and had captured all the magic of that merry-go-round, and all of a sudden I wanted to run to the Spencer fairgrounds, like a kid in love.

🔥Fighting wildfires with our forks🍽️

By Jade Napierala

In a scene reminiscent of those in California, Texas and Louisiana, lives were forever changed as a spate of fast-moving wildfires swept through West Maui. The historic town of Lāhainā, once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, was consumed by the firestorm, leaving behind only memories. It was the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history.

Most wildfires in Hawaii, where I live, are accidentally caused by humans. Although the exact source of the Maui fires is under investigation, higher temperatures, a “thirsty atmosphere” and whipping winds from Hurricane Dora caused them to rage out of control. Regions previously unaffected by wildfires of this magnitude have become much more vulnerable in recent years due to the human-induced climate catastrophe.

Eating less meat will help save our planet – earth. art: PETA

Scientists warn that if we are to change course, we will need to slash our greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by the early 2050s. Going vegan is the single best step in helping to curb the destruction humans are inflicting on the Earth.

Raising and killing animals for food requires more fossil fuels than producing vegan foods does, and burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide. Animals crammed onto factory farms generate enormous amounts of methane when they digest food. And animal agriculture is responsible for more than half the nitrous oxide emissions worldwide. Together, these potent greenhouse gases contribute significantly to the climate catastrophe.

A study by the University of Oxford found that individuals who go vegan can reduce their food-related emissions by up to 73%. Meat-eaters are responsible for almost twice as many dietary greenhouse-gas emissions per day as vegetarians and about two and a half times as many as vegans.

And going vegan helps save the planet in other ways, too.

So many great ways to go vegan!

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation: Roughly 80% of the Amazon rainforest, a vital powerhouse for converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, has been cleared —veither for grazing or for growing food for cattle raised for their skin and flesh — and now it’s emitting more carbon dioxide than it’s able to absorb.

If you don’t enjoy cooking, supermarkets like Trader Joe’s have an abundance of pre-made vegan meals, sides – even desserts!

In the U.S. alone, growing crops to feed billions of animals, keeping those animals hydrated and cleaning filthy factory farms and slaughterhouses consumes trillions of gallons of water annually. For perspective, National Guard helicopters dropped 150,000 gallons of water on the Maui fires.

In short, eating meat puts our home and that of countless other species in danger.

Hawaii boasts unique flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth. Around 90% of the state’s 10,000 native species are endemic, making their populations less capable of recovering after major fires. Two-thirds of the state’s threatened and endangered species are in fire hazard areas, and native ecosystems are not equipped to adapt to wildfires.

And the damage doesn’t stop at land’s end. Wildfires disrupt the entire landscape, causing erosion and sediment runoff into coastal waters. Sedimentation can obstruct sunlight and smother the tiny animals who make up a coral reef, ultimately harming its growth and health.

Catastrophic coastal fires such as this one have the potential to blanket the ocean with ash containing toxic pollutants from burning houses and cars. The ash also brings organic matter to the sea, leading to an overgrowth of algae. The algae eventually die and decompose, depleting the oxygen, which causes marine life to either leave or die. Areas once brimming with life become dead zones.

Fires ravaging Hawaii. Ocean temperatures off the charts. Earth’s hottest month on record. Any one of these events would have been seen as an oddity a decade ago. The planet is in trouble—life as we know it is in danger. We must all take personal responsibility for the climate catastrophe. We can start by keeping animals off our plates and opting for planet-friendly vegan foods.
Vegan nachos!

🍿🎬Madame Florence!🎶💜


By Rosalie Tirella

The deluded diva and her adoring enablers!

We first meet Florence Foster Jenkins, Meryl Streep, hanging precariously from a pulley on a stage that she, with all her millions $$$, has paid to commandeer … to entertain, enthrall, bewitch and terrify her legions of fans! Before an adoring audience of hundreds Madame Florence is “Inspiration,” a fat, late-middle-aged angel dressed in a white gown, huge feathered wings attached to her shoulders, ever so slowly lowered by stage hands, five strapping men straining to keep her airborne … She hovers two inches above the shoulders of an actor portraying Stephen Foster. She is there to inspire him. Foster is tinkling the ivories, vainly searching for an American tune. With a tap of Inspiration’s fingers on his shoulder Foster gets the gentle nudging he needs to complete his racist classic …

The master of ceremonies to this musical debacle is Madame Florence’s “husband,” her beloved cheerleader, handler and enabler, St. Clair Bayfield, played by the still gorgeous and dashing Hugh Grant. St. Clair has been kept by the deluded and good-hearted, and let’s be honest – really fun! – Florence for 25 years. That is as long as St. Clair indulges her every catastrophic musical whim, such as keeping her on stage, booking her singing lessons with famous voice teachers who inwardly wince at every flat note, orchestrating his wife’s famous sandwich- and potato-salad laden luncheons for her music club – the Verdi Club – and pretending Florence is MAGNIFICENT – even when she’s awful. Seconding that emotion: Yes! She’s MAGNIFICENT enough to play Carnegie Hall!

Truth? St. Clair’s got a beautiful young mistress waiting for him every night in his downtown apartment – the one that Florence pays the rent on. But the couple are united in their love of the arts – “they have an understanding” as Grant whispers to their young new pianist. And the smooth St. Clair has such a solicitous way about him! He IS sweet, always gentle, loving and tender with Florence. You believe she is his life. Yes, he would be nothing without Florence. He is a worse actor and monologist than his wife is an opera singer, but Florence gets him on stage often enough to recite his Shakespeare with melodramatic flair. He loves the stage lights, too.

It’s hilarious to watch the hammy Grant grimace as his even hammier wife wails away – and Streep’s singing truly sucks – it’s like listening to the clubbing to death of 100 baby harpoon seals – only to give her a standing ovation and a hearty “BRAVO! BRAVO!” at the end of each abysmal “performance.”

Singing lessons!

This is a true story – it all happened in America during the 1940s, during World War II – maybe a time when Americans needed to laugh uproariously. After all we were taking on the Nazis, the fascists of Italy … Hitler. Most of Florence’s fans knew she sang abominably, but they loved her despite her ear drum-piercing squawks, most likely because of them! They got to indulge the intrepid Florence, too!

Today she would be panned, mocked on Tik Tok. A hundred cruel memes would pollute social media, closing minds to the silly diva’s sweetness, patriotism … and ultimately, her sadness. But back then she was adored … especially if you paid your patrons and bribed your conductors and newspaper men and gave away free tickets to Florence Foster Jenkins concerts. And kept the scoffers away. Shielded Florence from every boo, hiss and guffaw, as St. Clair so nimbly did for 25 years!

This film is hilarious! First, Meryl Streep, trained in opera as a young girl, knowingly sings like a dying walrus – and in her layers of finery she looks like a living one! She hits all the wrong notes all the time. Everyone around Madame Florence is aurally assaulted, but the ever optimistic Florence keeps giving those closest to her their generous paychecks and bonuses and, well, I guess, everyone can be bought. Plus, the potato salad is to die for!

So what if I unabashedly adore Hugh Grant? So what if I’ve seen FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL at least 20 times over the years? So what if I love all his rom coms and his later, more serious movies, too? So what if I’d swoon at the sight of a now 62-year-old Grant walking towards me in the middle of Green Island – to me even sexier in his mature years? Still that most beautiful smile, husky blue eyes. The sexiest British accent. Hunky in that tuxedo! The hair line receding only just a tad and gray flecks throughout … but that mop top still wavy and thick, still worthy of passionate stroking!

But Florence never gets to run her craggy fingers thru her handsome husband’s hair!

That’s because this wealthy Manhattan socialite has syphilis – got it on her wedding night from her first husband, “an alley cat”! So Madame Florence and St. Clair have abstained all these years. I imagine Florence Foster Jenkins, deep down, was a very lonely woman.

Music gave her happiness and hope and the attention she craved! Meryl Streep plays Florence as deluded but not mad. I think the clap half went to Florence’s brain – that’s why she’s booked herself in Carnegie Hall! But Stephen Frears, the film’s director, disagrees, and has focused on St. Clair – and her new young sweet pianist – deluding her, keeping her in the dark about her abilities because they love her so. St. Clair protected his wife from all sharp knives – and all sharp comments. This movie into a love story, sometimes sentimental but mostly heartwarming. People can be foolishly devoted to people! Doesn’t the word “devotion” imply a kind of foolishness? Love is blind! And …People can love their loves without the passionate sex. Maybe. People can find each other despite the clap – and the fake clapping. Most definitely!

Watching Meryl’s singing lessons are a hoot. Her fake, ass kissing voice teacher works with real talent but is leading his latest pupil to lower depths of musical hell because she pays him exorbitantly. Her making of her very own record with her new, naive pianist straight off the bus from Galveston, Texas, is so funny. And the scenes between Grant and Streep are light, ephemeral, sexy – and even heartbreaking.

True love?

But the scenes with her virginal pianist – played with perfection by Simon? – are my favorites! The young man, so young, so innocent, so tiny, so scrawny, a true fish out of water, probably not yet even aware of his homosexuality is the biggest diamond in this tiara of a film. True to the life story, he is an excellent pianist and even composes his own music. He plays beautifully… To see his face as he first accompanies his diva at her piano in her fancy New York apartment is WONDERFUL. His face registers disbelief, horror, then utter shock. He can’t believe what he’s hearing! Later, his little horse face contorts with hysterical giggles in the elevator outside Florence’s apartment. St. Clair follows him out and tries to brainwash him: WASN’T MADAME FLORENCE WONDERFUL? WASN’T SHE SIMPLY MARVELOUS? A stunned Simon …knows on which side his bread is buttered…and sheepishly nods yes. He’s now complicit…

But he’s got his limits, too. He tells St. Clair he can not, will not, accompany Florence on the piano during her Carnegie Hall debut. “We’ll die out there!!” he screams to St. Clair. No! No! No! he says. He’s a serious pianist! He has ambitions! It’s Carnegie Hall, for God’s sakes! But the glamorous and pushy St. Clair knows how to work this situation and gets the little man to acquiesce. After all, he adores his Madame Florence, too… doesn’t he? Grant whispers. Won’t you stand by a friend in her hour of need??? The pianist looks down …he wrestles with his conflicting feelings…yes, Florence has been so good to him… appreciates his talent, is soothed by his playing of Chopin… He too is devoted to her!

Such a moving scene between the two: Florence, upset that her husband has gone “golfing” for two days (a weekend getaway with his girlfriend), takes a taxi to Simon’s slummy little flat and offers to wash his dirty dishes for him if he plays his piano for her. The pianist can’t believe she’s located him, is amazed she’ll do his dishes … and is touched by her vulnerability. For even though she hits every wrong musical note every time, Madame Florence never hits a false note emotionally. Eventually, the two of them end up playing Chopin together on his piano. Her left hand’s nerves are damaged from the syphilis so she can’t play with it…she struggles with the piece and is distressed. In a few seconds her sweet little pianist slowly walks up to her and, still standing, plays the other half of the waltz. So Madame Florence is playing the composition with her one hand, Simon with his hand. For the entire film the impoverished little pianist has put Madame Florence on a pedestal – never laughs at her, is always respectful to her, even deferential. So, naturally, he doesn’t, can’t, sit next to Madame Florence on his piano bench. That would be too familiar! Instead, in his work pants and tee and suspenders, he continues to stand, a foot away from her, playing the other half of the piece, looking down on his gentle, generous, artistic benefactor-ess with a little bemused smile. I’ll confess: a few tears were shed in this Spencer flat during the scene!

You’ll be moved …

I won’t spoil the film’s ending for you – I’ll just recommend you get this movie tonight – and watch it! You’ll love the dancing, the music, the glad handing, the sly jokes, the cinematography, the gorgeous Grant, the hilarious Streep and especially the magical little pianist!


✍️Guest columnists – always in style! 📚Back to School????💻

College Focused – and Homeless

By “Lotus”

South Worcester, summer of 2023. Worcester must help its homeless – not deny their existence! photo: Rose T.

I always dreamed of going to college. I sure fought my hardest. But as a post-foster youth, a victim of abuse, and a single mother at the age of 18 displaced more than 50 miles from my home, a place to call home was something I longed for.

It turns out that a lack of a permanent address was the biggest impediment to further my education. I desperately wanted to pursue my education. While participating in a program as a young adult, I was the only participant that was striving for a high school diploma. Others were trying to achieve their GED. Some had obtained a GED. Only one other resident had already obtained a high school diploma.

I was expelled my senior year three days before graduation for using headphones in music class. I was told that a book that was lost on school property was my responsibility to pay in order to graduate. At that time I was a recipient of public assistance and an abuse survivor in litigation set for trial against my abuser.

The program sent me a termination letter. I tried to sign myself back into foster care, to preserve custody of my child. Truth was, the foster parents wanted to adopt my son, and all of a sudden the youth who needed services was kicked out of the foster home and rendered homeless.

Being homeless, and at the good graces of others, I was not allowed to receive mail at many of the places I stayed. Additionally, I ran the risk of my information falling into the wrong hands. I figured it better safe than sorry. A lack of a mailing address made it difficult to obtain an ID needed to pursue my education, or even to get an apartment.

… People who fall upon desperate times reach out for help. I was in Western Mass and I sought shelter. While in the shelter I was told by shelter management that I could not study for school full-time because I needed to work. I was pushed to take a job at Subway in Westfield. This was on top of my schedule and being dependent upon transportation and having to pay out of pocket for extended-day childcare.

There was never a rule or regulation that I broke pertaining to education, and I was well within the qualifications of cash assistance, but I am sure that it had to do with my level of education. I was not respected for who I was and where I was in my journey. This impeded my ability to continue my education. This triggered many symptoms of post traumatic stress, particularly surrounding housing insecurity.

While attending Westfield State University as a homeless single mother and non-traditional student, I majored in Criminal Justice. The major courses were held at an entirely different building than the remainder of the campus courses. The majority of my colleagues within my major were young males, majority Caucasian.

I took a CLEP Exam where my score earned me 12 credits for my proficiency in Spanish. Instead of applying the 12 credits, I was only afforded 5 credits. Worcester State College asked for confirmation from the administrator of CLEP. I had my exam scores sent over. Worcester State College realized the error and attempted to correct my transcripts in the semester in which the error was realized.

When Westfield State University was presented with the evidence they refused to respond further. As it stands, I was denied an opportunity to participate in the C.A.P.S. Program reviewed by the State of Massachusetts. I currently hold 126 credits, and I have fulfilled the requirements of both universities, minus an arbitrary residency requirement that would not apply under the C.A.P.S. Program. I was also a MassTransfer Compact student, which allowed me a guarantee of credits transferred in from Holyoke Community College and also allowed for the entire 12 credits. I have been allowed to transfer in all but three courses equivalent to 9 credits already obtained at another C.A.P.S. participating university. I am told that if I want my degree I have to take more courses.

I am now homeless. I have not been able to achieve the educational goals I have set forth for myself – and I didn’t have a choice.

🍁Next week school!🏫 🎒 Worcester Public Schools families and students, here’s some advice!📚🥞💻


By John Monfredo, retired Worcester Public Schools teacher and principal and former Worcester School Committee member

Mr. Monfredo and hundreds of books donated to his and his wife Annemarie’s annual book drive – all for Worcester County kids! photos submitted.📚

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
in any direction you choose!

– Dr. Seuss.

Greetings from CECELIA/InCity Times, WPS students, parents and school staff!

It’s back to school time, and this week one can hear all over our city the voices of kids and parents: “I can’t believe that school has started! Summer vacation is over!”

Yes, if you live in Worcester, school starts this coming Monday, August 28 – for WPSchools grades 1 to 12, with pre-school and kindergarten children starting school August 31. Our city schools will be screening kindergarten children by appointment from August 28 onwards …

Putting on my former school principal hat (Belmont Community for years!), I would like to urge our teachers, especially our new teachers to the school district, to reach out to our parents early on and write a letter to them introducing themselves, stating their goals for the year and letting parents know that they want them to part of the learning process. Parents are too often an untapped asset in building our students’ pathways to success.

Again, as I have mentioned several times in the past, research confirms that regardless of a parents’ background, when PARENTS are involved in their children’s education, the results are more student success! You don’t need to be a researcher to know that family involvement can make a positive difference in school attendance, student behaviorand academic achievement. What is needed is for schools to develop and ensure that parent involvement is embraced and not just given lip service. All schools need to welcome family members to their schools. If schools don’t make the invite, the lack of positive interaction will stifle family-school connections.

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Back to school, Worcester!

I would also encourage our WPS teachers to call parents throughout the school year with good news about their children, for so many times the only conversation parents have with the teacher is when something goes wrong. A one-minute telephone call to a parent with good news can make a difference in the climate of a school. As a former principal, I can attest that this strategy of accentuating the positive works! It’s a fantastic way to establish rapport with parents. In addition, every teacher needs to keep in mind that students may forget what you said, students may forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Thus, a message of “I care” about you succeeding in school must be established.

Get kids reading – read to them, too!

Moving on to our parents …
As mentioned YOU are essential in the success of your child having a successful school year. At home parents need to set up priorities such as bedtime because sleep is at the center of a healthy lifestyle, and your child needs to get off to a good start in the morning. According to research, it’s essential that parents keep a bedtime routine – especially during school time. Another suggestion is an hour before bedtime put away all electronic devices to help kids wind down and use that time for reading before turn they in for the night.

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Healthy breakfast parfaits are tasty, too! Make sure kids eat a terrific breakfast – remember, our schools provide free breakfast and lunch to all WPS students!

Another wellness tip is for children to eat well – have a healthy diet. Wellness and academics go hand in hand. Eating fruits and vegetables is essential, as well as making sure that your child has the proper amount of physical exercise. Remember – healthy students tend to do well in school.

Parents need to develop good management practices at home with their children, such as establishing homework time and helping their child pack their school backpacks before turning in and placing them near your front door. Speaking of backpacks, parents need to retrieve them as soon as their children come home and get those papers out – sign permission slips and add appointments on the family calendar. Routines can be a potent force in keeping everyone on the same track. Consider a checklist for the simple tasks of who gets to use the bathroom first and what’s for breakfast.

Luis Sanchez! Get your kids involved in school sports – fun and good for bodies and minds!

Parents need to work with their child on the importance of concentration, whether it is in studying your math facts or studying for a trigonometry test. Research suggests that turning off access to emails and computer games is essential. Also, set the rules … the cell phone, computer and the television are off limits during homework time. Most important, find a quiet place for your child to study.

Other suggestions:

· Review the school’s handbook and the district’s web site.

· Contact the teacher immediately if your child doesn’t understand an assignment or if you notice a change in your child’s behavior or school performance.

· Worth mentioning … participate in parent meetings and conferences and special events at the school. Do join the school’s Parent o?Organization!

On behalf of CECELIA/InCity Times, I wish everyone a great school year!

Don’t forget – visit your library for school projects and to supplement what’s being taught in the classroom! CECELIA file photo: Jim Coughlin

And should you need any advice or assistance, please feel free to contact me at

✨Try Soy, Almond, Oat🥛, Coconut🥥 or Cashew🥤 Milk Today!🌅

By Scott Miller

Cows! art: PETA

Plant milk is nutritious. Plant milk is environmentally friendly. Plant milk doesn’t exploit animals. Plant milk —oat, almond, soy, coconut — is better than cow’s milk.

Only humans (and companion animals fed by humans) drink the milk of another species. If hamsters consumed giraffe milk, people would find it bizarre. Yet grocery stores still sell — and many people inexplicably still drink — white liquid secretions from a cow’s udder. Humans are also the only species that consumes milk beyond infancy. High school cafeterias don’t serve baby food. But encouraging teenagers to ingest bovine juice is still seen, by some, as “normal.”

Fortunately, society is changing. Vegan milk is skyrocketing in popularity, while sales figures for cow’s milk are at an all-time low.

No wonder the dairy industry has gotten desperate, even trying to copyright the word milk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration denied that ridiculous request, allowing vegan brands to call themselves hazelnut milk and rice milk. Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to require dairy milk cartons to be more accurately labeled as “bovine mammary secretions.” Or, cow’s milk could simply be called bilk. “You’ve just been manipulated by the dairy industry. Got bilked?”

Still, the multibillion-dollar dairy industry has its allies. Some coffee chains, for example, add an upcharge to their nondairy milk offerings. Customers have to pay more for doing the right thing. If businesses truly valued their customers, they would do the right thing and charge less for vegan milk. Meanwhile, the greater cost of the price hike comes at the expense of our planet.

Dairy milk is environmentally destructive, as cows — who require much more land and water than plants do — emit copious amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, helping to drive the climate catastrophe:

Cutting back on meat and dairy products helps decrease greenhouse gases.

Or to put it more plainly, drinking dairy milk requires bovine burps, cow farts, fecal waste and methane. Soy milk and hemp milk are sustainable and help keep the Earth habitable.

Gen Z bought 20% less cow’s milk than the national average last year.

Younger Americans in particular are choosing to drink less cow’s milk. Generation Z bought 20% less cow’s milk than the national average last year, which benefits the lives of Generation C — Calves! On dairy farms, baby cows are taken away from their mothers within hours of birth. They are fed milk “replacers” (including cattle blood) so that their mothers’ milk can be sold to humans.

The cruel cycle continues. Cows produce milk only during and after pregnancy, so roughly every nine months, cows on dairy farms are forcibly impregnated in order to continue their milk production. Suffering inside cramped, filthy enclosures, these complex, sensitive individuals are manipulated into producing nearly 10 times as much milk as they would naturally.

Drinking dairy milk isn’t just sickening. It also makes you sick. “Bilk” has been linked to an increased risk of some types of cancer, and it steals calcium from your bones. Studies have found that people who consume a lot of cow’s milk have a higher rate of bone fractures. Trying to safeguard your bones by drinking dairy is like paying a bully “protection money” when they are the ones you need protection from.

Cows on factory farms spend their days in filthy, unsanitary conditions. They’re pumped full of antibiotics to keep them alive and producing “product,” leading to a surge in drug-resistant bacteria.

Nobody would grow fruit in a sewer, yet we look away from the rancid, disease-ridden process that exploits cows for their milk. And in the end, when their bodies have given out, they’re sent to slaughter. The dairy industry isn’t good for anyone.

So drink oat milk. Try a glass of flax milk. Treat yourself to a macadamia milkshake! And leave bovine mammary secretions to the cows!
This summer try some vegan ice cream!



📚🎒🇺🇸💻Meet Maureen Binienda, Worcester School Committee candidate!📣🚸🥦🎈👗👟🏵️

By John Monfredo, retired Worcester Public Schools teacher and principal and former Worcester School Committee member

maureen closeup 2 2023
Maureen Binienda built her education career at Worcester’s South High School, first as a teacher, then as assistant principal and finally principal. She was loved by students and parents and always put students first. Her innovative programs addressed hunger, poverty, kids’ dental, health and hygiene – as well as their education and career needs. photos submitted

Former Worcester School Superintendent and longtime South High principal and teacher Maureen Binienda is running for Worcester School Committee. To my knowledge, she will be the first school superintendent in Worcester to ever run for a seat on the School Committee! I believe if elected, she will bring a wealth of knowledge to the job surrounding teaching, staffing our schools, appropriate courses, student physical and mental health, AP class work, sports, internships and career exploration, mentors, the needs of poorer students and families and more.

As an educator for 47 years, Mrs. Binienda is well known in Worcester and well liked. She’s been in many roles and tirelessly served our school system with so much dedication and pride! As a former Worcester School Committee member and WPS teacher and principal, I have had many conversations with the public about Maureen Binienda. Community members spoke to me about her passion for education, her amazing work ethic, her love for the city and, most important, her willingness to do all that she can do to provide the best education and more for all our children. As many stated, she follows through on her commitments.

As a Worcester School Committee member, if elected, I believe Maureen would bring passion, knowledge, empathy, honesty, years of experience, love of kids and integrity to the job. Parents have always appreciated her reaching out and giving them a chance to articulate their opinions. As one parent said to me several years ago: “Mrs. Binienda has an outstanding work ethic, is able to look at both sides of an issue, knows how to establish consensus, and is well respected by the community.”

City students and their parents depend on an excellent Worcester Public Schools system for so many things in addition to the “three R’s”! File photo Rose T.

The time and effort Maureen puts into her job has been outstanding – because not only is she seen everywhere within the community, she is not afraid to deal with difficult problems within our school district. In addition, Maureen gives of herself in assisting others. For example, helping start South High’s Andy’s Attic where needy kids can get free gently used clothing, coats, shoes and boots. She’s been spotted volunteering at Andy’s Attic on a Saturday – sorting clothes for those in need.

Watching with pride …

She’s helped bring cheer to our immigrant families and adult education students at the Fanning building in downtown Worcester by helping serve Thanksgiving dinner for a community feast. She’s fought to assist our students in need pushing for scholarships for them from our local colleges.

In an interview with Binienda, I inquired why she was running for the school committee. She said, “I am committed to this community and want to continue to do all that I can in making a difference for our children and their parents. I have devoted 47 years of my life to education and want to continue to share my expertise in helping our district move forward. I just love trying to make a difference in our city.”

Having spent a lifetime at South High as a teacher, assistant principal and principal, I asked her to talk about some of the accomplishments that were close to her heart. She spoke about her assisting in the establishment of Andy’s Attic, the start of a South High food pantry, rallies to encourage all students to enroll in AP courses, the building of relationships with students, early on being a life-guard at the old South High, directing the South cheerleading team, being its variety show director, starting community service projects for the kids to engage in and tying those events into the teaching of volunteerism and civics … and a host of other terrific endeavors.

Then, in 2016, there was an opening for superintendent in our Worcester school system, and Maureen embraced the challenge. She applied for the job. In an interview for the position, she referred to herself as an individual who will go above and beyond to educate and support our WPS students. Since that interview she has more than lived up to her promise. As our school superintendent she was innovative and led the Worcester Public Schools with vigor and professionalism. Thanks to her leadership the district was more prepared to get through the COVID pandemic with improved technology programs and the purchase of the necessary computers for our students. During that period, we had students engaged in meaningful opportunities in and outside of school. In addition, there was an expansion of the College and Career Opportunities at the high school level, with such programs as an expanded AP Capstone, an expanded College Application Celebrity Day … more students received the Seal of Biliteracy on their diplomas and additional training for students in their PSAT and SAT testing continued. Chronic absenteeism was reduced, as well as suspension rates. Maureen also provided additional professional development to instructional staff in early literacy, math, science and social emotional learning. Under her watch, she placed school safety within the schools as a high priority and emphasized positive relationships, respectful interactions, acceptance and caring for others. She also brought to the school district many nationally known speakers. Our school district emphasized the importance of sharing information with staff on bias, discipline and social and emotional learning.

One of the loves of Maureen’s life: South High!

When asked what will be the main areas that she will discuss during her campaign for Worcester School Committee she stated: “My focus will address the following:

“1. Providing a safe school environment for ALL students, review current discipline policies and practices, and look for input from staff members and PTO‘s as to what needs to be done.

“2. Monitoring the fiscal budget ensuring that funding costs address the needs of the district.

“3. Connecting schools with the community to provide additional academic, cultural and civic opportunities for students to learn and grow.

“Obviously, there will be additional topics to discuss but those would be my top priority.”

This past school year, Mrs. Binienda finished up as interim superintendent at Quaboag School District and will now be in a similar role for one year at the Easthampton School District. When asked if this would present a problem in her run for Worcester School Committee, she said there will not be a problem with her new position, if she is elected to the school committee post in Worcester this fall.

There you have it! We wish Mrs. Maureen Binienda much success in the coming weeks as she campaigns for Worcester School Committee!

Maureen Binenda and John Monfredo acknowledging WPS students’ hard work and achievements.