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Friday, 31 May 2013

Blazing New Trails for Armenia's Olympic Skiing.

Arman Serebrakian and his sister Ani are competing for Armenia in Olympics.  Learn about them.  Arman will present Armenia in Olympic game of 2014 (February 13 to 23) in Sochi Russia.   

Arman is an Alpine skier with the Armenia Ski Team.  Since his father took him down his first slope at the age of 2, Arman immediately fell in love with the sport.  Growing up, his Armenian parents continuously took Arman and his younger sister (2010 Vancouver Olympian) to the mountains in Lake Tahoe, California each and every weekend. 

During high school, Arman decided to graduate early to focus solely on skiing with the goal of pursuing his lifelong dreams: making it onto the World Cup circuit and eventually to the Olympics.  After a knee injury curbed his efforts in 2006, Arman enrolled at and began skiing for the University of Colorado at Boulder.  

Skiing for the seventeen-time NCAA national champions was an experience he will never forget.  As captain, Arman helped lead the Buffaloes to 2nd place finishes at the NCAA Skiing Championships during both the 2009 and 2010 seasons. While competing for CU, Arman also simultaneously represented Armenia in International Ski Federation (FIS) competitions across the world, including competing in the first-ever FIS sanctioned races held in Tsaghkadzor, Armenia during the 2009 season, where he placed on the podium all three races. It was during this trip when Arman was able to meet and spend time with many of the Armenia Ski Team athletes & staff, with whom he still regularly keeps in touch. After exhausting his four years of eligibility as a collegiate athlete, Arman was brought on and hired as the assistant coach for the Colorado Buffs, helping them win their eighteenth NCAA title in 2011.
While in college, Arman made the decision to pursue his other dream of becoming a physician. With his hard work and the help of many around him, he graduated with a Bachelors and Masters degree in Integrative Physiology and was accepted to Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA, where he took out loans and began his studies in the Fall of 2011.  Even with his demanding academic aspirations, he never relieved himself of his passion for skiing and physical activity, attempting to maintain top physical condition by spending hours in the gym after classes, as well as biking and running through his new city.
Through all his experiences, Arman still finds time to enjoy his favorite hobbies including basketball, tennis, cooking, and traveling. As his second year of medical school comes to an end, and the intensity of his training program increases even more, he is determined now more than ever to make the most of this opportunity. Arman has committed to taking a year off from school, postponing his graduation to pursue this goal. A strong support system has always been a part of Arman’s successes. 

Although the Armenia Ski Federation has guaranteed full support for Arman, they are unable to financially assist him. With the high cost of ski racing, and the increased demand for world-class equipment, training, and coaching, Arman needs your help! Please help him by providing a kind donation of any amount that will go directly towards paying for some of these costs. The continuous passion Arman has for the sport of ski racing, combined with his perseverance, work ethic, and your support will propel Arman onward to Sochi 2014.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

George Carlin Remembered

The following essay is written by Ron Vazzano

This month marks the fifth anniversary of George Carlin’s passing. Time flies when you’re having gone.

Though he was just another garden variety standup comic early in his career— appearing often on the Ed Sullivan Show— it was his switching gears to that of satirist/social commentator, that took him to a whole other level.

His uniqueness in particular, had to do with his obvious fascination with our use (and misuse) of language and words. It is for that I suppose, he is best remembered. The most scorching example being his highly controversial "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" monolog, which first appeared on his hit album Class Clown in 1972. It became central to a 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the justices, in a 5-4 decision, affirmed the government's power to regulate indecent material on the public airwaves.

On the serendipitous end of the spectrum, his comparison of football vs. baseball is classic:

“In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use a shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! —I hope I'll be safe at home!”

Depending on your political and religious persuasions and sensitivities to excessive use of “street vernacular,” you may have been greatly offended at one time or another by his “take no prisoners” approach to observation. But in terms of… subject matter, style (“clean”), and performance, his piece, “A Modern Man,” would probably resonate with all. This is Carlin at his absolute best, in what you might call “a riff on the zeitgeist of modernism.”

Appearing on his eighteenth album, Life is Worth Losing, which was recorded simultaneously with a live HBO special eight years ago, his riff (or maybe even “rap” is more apropos?) calls attention to how frenzied our lifestyles have become, as has the clichéd jargon we use to describe them:
I've been uplinked and downloaded,
I've been inputted and outsourced,
I know the upside of downsizing,
I know the downside of upgrading.
I'm a high-tech low-life.
A cutting edge, state-of-the-art bi-coastal multi-tasker
and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond
If you’ve got a spare three minutes and thirty-three seconds, check out the YouTube of Carlin performing this piece in its entirety. It is the sort of thing I’d call “time-capsule worthy.” (

I will resist the temptation to conclude here with something along the lines of “Rest in peace George Carlin.” He would have a field day with such a sentiment for its being unable to draw a distinction between death… and just a nap.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Lessons from the First Republic of Armenia

Today May 28, we Armenians celebrate our first Independence Day.  My grandson has no school and it makes a long long weekend.  Yesterday was Memorial Day.  In Asbarez Armenian paper there was an article about Armenian Independence Day.  I thought to post it on my blog.

After centuries of being stateless, the First Republic of Armenia, 1918-1920 was founded thanks to the perseverance, valor and heroism of the Armenian people and their leaders. These lands that we are blessed to walk upon are laden with the blood of those martyrs who fought courageous battles at Sardarabad, Bash Aparan and Kharakiliseh. With their lives, they ensured the Armenian people their own place in the world.
This year marks the 95th anniversary of that short-lived First Republic but one which became the guarantor of our independence and freedom today.
My intention is not to provide a history lesson; I am nowhere near qualified to embark on such a discourse. What I do want to present here are some passages from Simon Vratsyan’s The Armenian Republic, which I have been reading. What sparked my desire to read it had nothing to do with this landmark anniversary and everything to do with improving my knowledge of our language and history. This endeavor coincided with the relentless verbal diarrhea of our current Minister of Education, Armen Ashotyan about the reasons for the collapse of the First Republic. He could learn some lessons from our history, which he claims to know so much about.
It is no surprise that when certain powers in Armenia want to discredit other political powers, they reference the capitulation of the First Republic of Armenia to the Soviets as an example failure and treason.
Without getting overly political, which I am consciously trying to avoid being these days, certain passages from Vratsyan’s work left an indelible impression and forced me to contemplate where we are today as a state and nation 95 years on.
To put these passages in their proper context, the following must be noted: the First Republic was founded following the Armenian Genocide, toward the end of the First World War as empires were crumbling and alliances were shifting. The Armenian Republic had to contend with a starving refugee population, one which had been violently thrust from its lands in Western Armenia; it had to create non-existent state structures from the ground up; it had to protect its fragile borders against encroaching invasion and provide food and shelter to its desolate citizens. It was also ardently progressive, it established the institutions of democracy, allowed women to vote and be elected to office, and it appointed a woman, Diana Abkar as its ambassador to Japan at a time when women in many Western countries did not have the right to vote.
Toward the end of its two year existence, the First Republic of Armenia, against all odds had been registering small successes. Simon Vratsyan who was the last Prime Minister of the First Republic writes:
“The year 1920, for all intents and purposes, began under successful conditions. There reigned a relative peace in domestic life and on the borders. The people in all areas of the country were occupied with productive activities. From top to bottom, from the parliament to the furthest village authority, everyone was absorbed with the awareness of their responsibilities: they were creating a State. And the State, day by day was flourishing and improving. Those who had seen Armenia one year earlier no longer recognized it – everything had changed so much from the train station to the appearance of the streets all the way to the consciousness of society. No longer did anyone doubt the future of Armenia; everyone was working to strengthen their foundation, to accelerate the reconstruction.” (The Armenian Republic)
Vratsyan goes on to explain in detail the process of building state structures and institutions including, the establishment of the first Congress of Armenian Cities, the creation of trade unions but most important of all, the establishment of a university.
On January 4, 1920 during the opening ceremonies of the first Congress of Armenian Cities, which included the cities of Yerevan, Alexandrapol (Gyumri), Kars, Nor Bayazet, Ashtarak, and Ghamarlu, Vratsyan recalls the importance that was accorded to cities in the process nation-building. He writes that A. Abeghayan, a representative of the ARF faction in parliament during the opening ceremonies said: “A people who was sentenced to death one year ago, today has the possibility to organize a congress on local autonomy.” (The Armenian Republic)
On January 26, 1920 the first session of Council of Trade Unions of Armenia was held in Yerevan with the participation of 38 representatives from 13 trade unions including cooperatives, pharmacists, public servants, banks, and workers from leather factories, print houses, bakeries, orphanages and others. A resolution was adopted at that session, which stated: “The first session of the union of all unions welcomes Armenian workers and the victory of their government, which is the first step of the victory for Armenian political rights. The council of the union of unions believes that the Armenian government will not allow the achieved freedom to serve the interests of any imperialistic state and it will navigate the Armenian state’s ship toward the well-being of all workers…” (The Armenian Republic)
On May 16, 1919 the Armenian government passed a decision regarding the creation of a university. This became a reality several months later with the opening of the first branch in Alexandrapol on January 31, 1920. The school had one faculty, History and Linguistics with 262 students and 32 lecturers. Many high ranking guests and foreign dignitaries participated in the opening ceremonies including Speaker of the Parliament Avedis Aharonian, Prime Minister Alexander Khatisian, and Minister of Public Education Nikol Aghbalian who said: “This torch that we are lighting today on the Armenian plateau, will never go out and will illuminate all of Asia.” (The Armenian Republic)
Nikol Aghbalian was the Minister of Public Education from August 1919 to May 1920 and in the fall of 1919, had presented a program of school reconstruction in the country where parochial schools were to be converted to five year compulsory education. According to Aghbalian’s program, about 900 schools were to be constructed but the program was not implemented because most of the school buildings had to be converted into hospitals, orphanages and refugee houses. Despite all the problems 22 schools were opened in Yerevan, Dilijan, Kharakiliseh and Alexandrapol with 5162 students and 283 teachers. In the same time period, 1420 elementary schools were functioning in Armenia with 38,000 students and 1000 teachers, half of which had degrees in education.
Nikol Aghbalian was also instrumental in transporting the library of the Armenian Ethnographic Society from Tbilisi to Yerevan. Under his tenure, a Directorate of Antiquities was formed to preserve architectural heritage. Toros Toramanyan, known for his excavations in Ani was appointed as head of the directorate and as such was able to restart work in Zvartnots.
Aghbalian institutionalized a program that was approved by the government to eradicate illiteracy in adults and opened up a number of People’s Universities in Yerevan, Dilijan, Ijevan, Vanadzor and Gyumri open to any person of any age, race or sex.
At the same time, he sent a message to Armenians in the Diaspora to collect ancient manuscripts and historical items spread around the world. On December 26, 1919 he had declared the Armenian language as the official language of the Republic of Armenia.
Nikol Aghbalian achieved all of this in less than one year as Minister of Public Education during the First Republic under excruciatingly difficult conditions with almost no resources almost a century ago.
The ARF leadership at the time, Aram Manougian, Alexander Khatisian, Avedis Aharonian, Hamo Ohanjanian, Garo Sassouni, Simon Vratsyan and countless others worked, lived and served by example and with a value system which we should all strive for. They were true leaders who understood the value and fragility of statehood.
Hamo Ohanjanian was the third Prime Minister of the First Republic; his son took part and was martyred in the Battle of Kharakiliseh. How many of our current ministers’ sons have served in the Third Armenian Republic’s Armed Forces? When Hovhannes Katchaznouni, the first Prime Minister of the First Republic, was going to travel to the United States to raise funds for the newly established Republic, he had to sell his coat and other personal belongings to secure funds for his passage there. How many of our regime’s leaders are willing to sell any of their belongings for the viability of our country?
Perhaps Mr. Ashotyan has the answers to these and many other questions.

Monday, 27 May 2013

A Crime Scene at Barnes and Noble

My friend Sylvia Cary posted this on her blog.  She is telling her disappointment about closing down of so many brick and mortar bookstores:  I share her views.

Another Barnes & Noble Becomes a Victim of the Traditional Publishing Sickness
Okay, so I know this has been going on for quite a while now, these bookstore closings, but what made this one worse was the fact that this Barnes & Noble happened to be MY Barnes & Noble, located in MY neighborhood, and I'd been running a drop-in writers' group there for years.
The sign on the front door "We're Closing" made us all  feel sick inside.  We'd already been through this once before. We'd met at another Barnes & Noble which had also succumbed. Now there are no Barnes & Nobles to run to!
So we're meeting in a noisy coffee shop where the waitress never fails to come sailing over with a coffee pot held dangerously high  -- "Anybody for a refill?" -- just when somebody is reading the "big reveal" part of their story.
It feels so much better talking together about writing and reading one's writing aloud when you are surrounded by thousands of books.  On TV I heard an indie publisher interviewed who said of the 100 bookstores that used to stock his publications, 70 were now out of business, meaning he had to go look for a job. That is sickening.
I don't really understand all the (no-doubt) sleazy economics behind the traditional publishing sickness, but I do know that I just hate it when a bookstore closes.  It's not only sickening. It's a crime.
(c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT, author of The Therapist Writer (Timberlake Press, 2012)

Our group at Barnes and Noble with Sylvia Cary

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Let's Break the Silence

I received the following email and I thought it's worth to share with you.  It is about not speaking our mind.  So let's break  the silence.

The author of this email is Dr.Emanuel Tanya, a well-known and well-respected psychiatrist.

A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates.
When he  was asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.

'Very few people were true Nazis,' he said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care.

I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come.
My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'

We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace.  Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history.  It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave.

It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honour-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the 'silent majority,' is cowed and extraneous. Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.

China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people..

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.

And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence.

Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.

Now Islamic prayers have been introduced into Toronto and other public schools in Ontario, and, yes, in Ottawa too while the Lord's Prayer was removed (due to being so offensive?) The Islamic way may be peaceful for the time being in our country until the fanatics move in.

In the U.K, the Muslim communities refuse to integrate and there are now dozens of “no-go” zones within major cities across the country that the police force dare not intrude upon.  Sharia law prevails there, because the Muslim community in those areas refuse to acknowledge British law.

As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts - the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

So, extend yourself and don't sit silent...