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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

What follows is the column that most columnists ultimately write: their last. In my case, though it is my swan song for PennySaver, I still can be found elsewhere in print and online, if you, dear reader, are so inclined.

Along the way, it’s been quite a ride, for more than a decade. I came aboard in 2006 at groundbreaking Chase Media Group, owner of PennySaver, as publisher of the company’s weekly newspaper called North County News (NCN). Since then, the newspaper business has changed just a tad (ahem!).

Between the weekly column I wrote for NCN, and then for PennySaver, this has to be somewhere north of my 500th column for Chase Media Group. And, boy, are my fingers tired! Actually, not. From head to toe, I never tire of pushing words together to make some sense of this crazy world and my even crazier mind.

Unlike novelists or poets or playwrights, or other types of navel-gazing wordsmiths, journalists rarely, if ever, are prone to writer’s block. We deal with the real world, where there’s never a dull moment, nor a lack of inspiration, for better or worse. For example, I started writing this column without knowing what I would write about, and we’re already almost halfway through.

A bracing dose of writer’s block every once in a while might actually serve me well. My ailment always has been not knowing when to stop. Give me an inch of space to fill, and I’ll give you a yard of copy to print. That’s not always such a good thing, for it’s a cardinal sin in my trade to overstay your welcome, or to force the printer to use type too small for aging eyes like mine.

Another cardinal sin is to use heavy-handed words that drive a reader to distraction, or to the dictionary. I used to be particularly guilty of overwriting like that when I was a callow college student at Syracuse University and wrote for the campus paper, The Daily Orange.

When I go back to read some of those beauts, I wince at my clumsy syntax, just like my fellow students undoubtedly winced when they read that self-indulgent claptrap.

Speaking of self-indulgence, before I go, I must thank a very special few who stuck with me, and have gotten me this far, as a proud alumnus of, and contributor to, Chase Media Group. Though you will not know exactly who I am referring to, what matters is that the following people will know: Carla, Frank, Dave, Lisa, Diana, Cat, Tania, Dennis, Christina, Scott, Gary, Al, Connie, Jim & Jim, Laura, Sharon, Cindy, Claire, Tom, Mabel, Lynne, Elfriede, Florence, Valerie, Carol, Randy, Trish, Rachael, Csaba.

You may be wondering what the headline of my last column signifies. The number “30” is journalistic shorthand placed at the bottom of a writer’s raw copy to indicate to editors that “the article ends here.” But the beat goes on…

 

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

December 21, 2016 |

‘Love Holds Life’ Dear

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

This is the time of year when charity towards others is valued more than at any other point in the calendar. As the holidays infuse us with good cheer and good will, the blessings we count make us more conscious of the less fortunate who don’t have nearly as much to count on when it comes to health or basic needs.

One charitable organization I recently became aware of is Love Holds Life Children’s Cancer Foundation. It helps families in the Hudson Valley and New York Metro area battling cancer by providing financial support for their medical treatments and expenses not covered by insurance.

As the charity says on its website (LHLny.org), “LHL began its mission and continues to be inspired by Michael Montana, a young boy from Patterson, N.Y., who was diagnosed with leukemia at age eleven.” LHL has helped raise money for the Montana family. Its efforts span Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Westchester and Ulster counties.

Richard Senato’s passion for helping cancer families is why he started Love Holds Life in March 2012.  Today, he is assisted by executive director Becky Eidam and outreach coordinator John Manteria.

The trio’s humanitarian work has a dramatic effect on families with children battling cancer.  Love Holds Life provides financial support, donating an average of $25,000-$30,000 to its sponsored families.

“We would love for the community to really think about and embrace all that we could do for more families in need with additional donors and supporters of our mission,” says Ms. Eidam. “Our ultimate mission is to ensure children with love and life. I always have liked helping people. I knew the mission [here] aligned with what I was looking for in my life’s work.”

Asked what is most inspiring about her work at Love Holds Life, she replies, “All the children fighting cancer who we help.  They never complain and are so strong, especially going through their treatments.  That is what fuels me and our team to work 10-12 hour days without complaining. We are lifting that financial burden off of their family so they can focus on taking care of their children when they are sick.”

She appreciates the collegial and productive office environment encouraged by Love Holds Life. Not that they don’t have light moments too. “We exchange terrible jokes, yell, laugh, cry. When one of us falls, the other two are there to pick up the slack. It’s very loud with lots of love.”

Love Holds Life welcomes and appreciates volunteers and sponsors for its upcoming events. Contact: Love Holds Life Children’s Cancer Foundation, 2345 Route 52, Suite 2F, Hopewell Junction, N.Y. 12533; (845) 592-4544; Richard@LoveHoldsLife.org or Becky@LHLny.org; LHLny.org

 

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

December 14, 2016 |

He Decided to Shut Up and Listen

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” – Abraham Lincoln, 1858

The best advice is timeless advice.

There’s a divisiveness that’s so thick in today’s America you could cut it with a knife. What have we become? We don’t talk to each other when we disagree. We insult each other. We don’t try to understand each other. We try to discredit and demean each other. When sharing closely held opinions, we don’t use media like Facebook to be social. We use it to be anti-social.

Today’s tin-ear caliber of communications is not about a couple of candidates. It’s about 325 million of us. It’s a huge number that will never agree on everything, or even anything. But will we ever again treat each other’s opinions with respect and tolerance? It’s becoming harder by the day to be optimistic about collectively coming even close to that Valhalla of civil discourse.

We all should listen to John Francis. He’s a unique person, to be sure, but his uniqueness is worthy of imitation—in degrees—and adulation.

As a young man, John talked a lot. He admits now that even when he listened, he did what most of us do in that mode: “I realized I would race ahead to think what I was going to say back, and then I launched in. That ended communication.”

He decided to try an experiment, so on his 27th birthday, in 1973, he stopped speaking for a day. To his surprise, he enjoyed listening and not speaking so much that his vow of silence lasted a year. Then another year. And another. He didn’t speak again until 1990, 17 years later.

During that time, he became a U.N. ambassador and not only earned a masters and a Ph.D. in environmental science, but also taught a college course. All without ever speaking, and without ever riding in a motorized vehicle. He walked the planet.

Here’s the moral of the story for the rest of us, in Dr. Francis’s own words, as spoken at a TED Conference that can be viewed at TED.com:

“We need to listen to each other. I thought to myself how could walking and not talking make a difference? My idea of what the environment is changed from just trees and birds and endangered species to how we treated each other. If we are the environment, all we have to do is look around us and see how we treat ourselves and how we treat each other.”

Dr. Francis said of his transition back to speaking, “I knew I needed to change. We need to leave the security of who we’ve become and go to the place of who we are becoming.

“I encourage you to go to that next place, to let yourself out of any prison you might find yourself in, as comfortable as it may be, because we have to do something now. We have to change now.”

Do we ever.

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

December 7, 2016 |

Remote Possibilities

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

When working-age folks (which these days is just about any age older than school age) are at home weekdays, all kinds of assumptions can be made. These days, a lot of those assumptions would be wrong. No, she is not unemployed. No, he is not self-employed.

More than 10% of Americans work from home, many of them in the employ of a company. It’s a gathering trend that also goes by the euphemism “working remotely.”

In a survey of computer program developers (also known as coders), it was revealed that coders working remotely earned on average a higher salary than their counterparts who did their thing in an office.

The higher income for remote employees is not true for all types of work, though. People whose profession lends itself easily to freelancing — telemarketers or creatives like writers and designers — may not fare as well in the compensation department as those in comparable positions in an office.

Seniority helps, too. According to the survey, reported by Quincy Larson of “FreeCodeCamp” on Medium.com, developers with more than 10 years under their belts “are twice as likely to work remotely as newcomers.” The more experienced and valuable the employee, the more apt an employer is to be flexible in granting desirable work conditions.

Mr. Larson cites a study by Stanford University researchers from a few years ago that examined the work habits of almost 250 people in service jobs. One Stanford finding debunks the logical assumption that working from home reduces productivity (given the distractions at hand)—the at-home workers surveyed were 13% more productive than on-site workers. They worked longer shifts, went on fewer breaks and took fewer sick days.

Moreover, the “remotes” were half as likely to quit as office workers and were more satisfied in their work. On the other hand, in the “out of sight, out of mind” category, the remote employees were 50% less likely than those in the office to earn a promotion.

In researching this article (at home, where I work full time), I came across WeWorkRemotely.com. The site touts itself as “the best place to find and list jobs that aren’t restricted by commutes or geographic area.”

There’s a book promoted on the site titled Remote: Office Not Required. Some of the hard-to-argue points made on its cover blurb include “The most talented people don’t all live in one place” and “The modern office has become an interruption factory.”

A cute essay, also on Medium.com, by Janessa Lantz identifies, tongue-in-cheek, certain drawbacks to working at home. I could relate to one or two, like not being fully dressed or showered on a day when you realize, too late, that you have a conference call in five minutes, and it’s a video conference call.

 

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

November 30, 2016 |

A Family Affair

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

As families gather to renew acquaintances for the holiday season this Thanksgiving and beyond, conversations typically will turn to celebratory milestones like engagements and births, as well as catching up on the relative health of close relatives, especially the most senior family members.

Family gatherings are an especially opportune time to gently broach sensitive topics like advance care planning. It’s to be wholly expected these days that people take to the internet to seek answers for all kinds of matters, health not least among them. The problem with that is the abundance of inaccurate information disseminated online that can lead you astray.

Take Medicaid benefits as they apply to nursing homes and to in-home care — the very different sets of rules that govern each are written in a way that it is best interpreted and explained to you by an elder-law attorney.

Another example: the differences between a Revocable Trust and an Irrevocable Trust, which are extremely important to understand before making a decision on which to choose. For starters, a revocable trust means the trustee has access to all of the assets of the trust.

Family caregivers also need to fully understand what Power of Attorney (POA) means and what the designated person is authorized to approve and to do.

A less-familiar designation is Statutory Gifts Rider (SGR). According to elder-law attorney Salvatore M. Di Costanzo — who practices throughout the lower Hudson Valley under the banner of “Plan Today for Tomorrow”, — “Many clients are unaware than an SGR exists,” adding that the person charged with that authority can “enter into transactions that are considered ‘changes in beneficial interest,’ such as the power to make gifts in excess of $500, the power to transfer assets to trusts, and the power to change beneficiary designations.”

Mr. Di Costanzo, who also is a certified public accountant, cites Spousal Refusal as another area that easily can confound people who try to figure it out on their own or by going online. It’s a protective measure that is triggered, he says, when a healthy spouse refuses to contribute his or her income and assets to the cost of caring for an ill spouse. By doing so, that income cannot be used as a disqualifying factor in Medicaid eligibility for the sick spouse. Spousal Refusal, he says, “has the greatest impact when a spouse requires nursing home care.”

For those who want to learn more about how elder-law attorneys can help with money-saving techniques for advance care planning, Mr. Di Costanzo will host a free “Fireside Chat” at his northern Westchester office on December 6, from 6:00 pm -7:30 pm. Space is limited and reservations can be made on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, call (914) 245-2440 or email: mharrison@mfd-law.com

 

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

 

 

 

November 23, 2016 |

Thank Goodness for Giving Tuesday

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

Giving Tuesday (November 29) is in its fifth year, and this year it feels more welcome — and necessary — than ever. It just might have a little something to do with that other Tuesday we just experienced, called Election Day. Presidential elections by definition always are weighty affairs, as well they should be. This year’s election, though, somehow managed to be weighty without a great deal of gravitas. Oh, well, time to move on

On November 29, three weeks after we voted, Giving Tuesday gives us all a chance not only to move on but to make ourselves feel great again by doing whatever is in our means to help others of lesser means.

What exactly is #GivingTuesday? As its website explains, it “is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.” It was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City, in cooperation with the United Nations Foundation. It embraces more than 30,000 organizations in 71 countries.

It doesn’t have to be money that you give. You can give your time, your voice, goods, or just about anything that will help someone in some way. You can find all kinds of ideas and resources online at GivingTuesday.org.

It’s no coincidence that Giving Tuesday follows in the footsteps of Thanksgiving, adding lyrical literalness to the true spirit of the autumnal celebration of plenitude and gratitude. We all could afford to be more giving, especially coming off an election season notable for its grousing.

Of course, along with giving comes getting, which is what we consuming hordes do to a fare-thee-well on the darkly named Black Friday. I get that the black in the name simply denotes a profit-making bottom line for sellers as buyers empty their piggy banks.

Still, it’s a weird way to name the day after Thanksgiving: Black Friday. It sounds more like a devastating day of downsizing at the office, or — cue creepy music — like the name of a horror movie starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff (which it, in fact, is).

It’s also helpful to remember that Giving Tuesday is the day after Cyber Monday, when we get off line to shop online.

Makes you wonder whether it would help for Giving Tuesday to come a week earlier than it does. That way, it would arrive as people are starting to bask in the glow of giving thanks, and before they have diluted their discretionary income on the spending sprees of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

After all, who among us couldn’t always afford to spend a little less and give a little more?

 

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

 

November 16, 2016 |

Romance Haunted by Ghosts

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

It’s not often a movie or play attempts to tackle the familiar themes of romance and self-identity against the backdrop of an historic atrocity that took place generations in the past. Yet, that precisely is what playwright Howard Meyer has accomplished in his play Maybe Never Fell. The powerful new drama last weekend opened its limited engagement world premiere in Pleasantville and continues there the next two weekends, through November 20.

The full-length play looks unflinchingly and incisively at how generational burdens and atrocities – whether from our nation’s wartime history or from today’s war-torn world – can obstruct the possibility for lasting love. At its center are two romantically involved millennials: an American man and a German woman. The play takes an unflinching yet poignant look at how these 21st Century descendants of the Holocaust come to grips with interlocked legacies they cannot escape.

Mr. Meyer is an award-winning playwright and theater impresario who was honored by ArtsWestchester on its 50th anniversary in 2015 as one of 50 significant artists in Westchester. He is the founding artistic director of Axial Theatre, a professional theater company that is the producer of his new work. Under Axial, he also heads an eponymous acting school where this writer is a student.

During the trajectory of his career, Howard Meyer has struck up friendships with the likes of Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey and Pulitzer-winning playwright Craig Lucas, who calls Maybe Never Fell “a real beauty.” Mr. Lucas goes on to say, “I have never seen a play about the American Jewish experience with Germany right down to today. I was glued to the action and completely surprised by each new arrival of another major linchpin in the structure. The play is ambitious and boldly conceived.” The play is directed by Jenn Haltman of New York Theater Workshop in Manhattan.

In Maybe Never Fell, Mr. Meyer’s protagonist is Max Webber, a middle-age American Jew whose earnest and often agonizing search for love, and for his spiritual and cultural identity, are sabotaged by landmines from the past.

Max is played by David Lanson, who appeared in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. The cast includes Sara Hogrefe as Max’s love interest, Mathilde Schiller. Mr. Hogrefe is a Brooklyn-based film, stage and TV actress, and comedy writer, whose credits include Law & Order: SVU. Spencer Aste, who was in the film Taking Woodstock, plays her father Manfred Schiller. Mr. Aste also was the voice of Scratch in Toy Story, and appeared in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Dominic Russo, who plays Mathilde’s friend Gunther Holt, has been seen on stage recently in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

For ticket and other information, visit AxialTheatre.org or call (914) 286-7680.

 

Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

November 9, 2016 |
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