Blog for Highland Park

Welcome to the Blog for Highland Park, a weblog chronicling events in Highland Park, NJ from an alternative perspective to the often one-sided slant of the official borough newsletter.

My Photo
Location: Highland Park, New Jersey, United States

I am a freelance writer and community activist who has worked on many progressive and Democratic political campaigns over the last 25 plus years and a lifelong resident of Highland Park, NJ. I have a BA in Journalism from Rutgers University, an MA in Middle East Studies from Harvard University, and an MEd in English Education from Rutgers Graduate School of Education. An enthusiastic amateur astronomer, I have just completed Swinburne University Astronomy Online's Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy and am pursuing a Masters of Science in astronomy at Swinburne. I am also an actress with experience in theatre and film and have written a full length play. I am currently working full time on a book "The Little Planet That Would Not Die: Pluto's Story."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Wonderful Gift

On this eve of Thanksgiving, I am going to depart from the usual Highland Park political commentary to share what I believe would make a beautiful holiday gift for your friends and family members.

About one month ago, I had the good fortune to receive an email from an amazing woman in Streator, Illinois, named Siobhan Elias. We've all had the experience of meeting someone who shares so many of our values, beliefs, and interests that the person can be considered a kindred spirit. When that happens, it truly feels like a blessing from above.

Siobhan served on the municipal council in Streator, Illinois, for four years. There, she acted as a watchdog and advocate for the citizens of her town. The "powers that be" and their wealthy supporters had no use for her service and bitterly opposed her efforts at every turn. On the day she filed to run, Siobhan was fired from her job simply for exercising her right to seek public office.

Streator, Illinois, is the birthplace of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the planet Pluto in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1930. Tombaugh had only a high school diploma when he was hired by the Lowell Observatory to search for a suspected ninth planet and spent many long, cold nights observing and viewing endless photographic plates before making his discovery.

This past May, in spite of all the political obstacles she faced, Siobhan spearheaded a two-day Planet Pluto Festival in Streator. That festival featured Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto, who spoke as part of an event that featured equal amounts of entertainment and education.

What is fascinating is that both Siobhan and I share two of the same passions: we are both idealists who seek to serve in public office, and we both are big time fans of the planet Pluto.

Siobhan's husband, Kevin Elias, is a singer/songwriter, who along with Richard Fey, make up a team of musicians who have written and performed many wonderful songs. The group is facing the uphill battle of trying to make it in the music business independently of the major record labels.

This year, Elias Fey wrote a beautiful tribute to Clyde Tombaugh titled "New Horizons: A Tribute to Clyde Tombaugh and the New Horizons Mission." The song is an uplifting, inspiring tribute with beautifully written lyrics set to an upbeat tune. No mention is made of the wrongful demotion of Pluto by the IAU last year; instead, the song recalls Tombaugh's discovery of Pluto on a winter night in 1930 and celebrates the launch of New Horizons in 2006, carrying some of the ashes of Pluto's discoverer, who died in 1997.

Anyone can listen to their demo catalogue by visiting their web site at

Not only is this CD a more meaningful gift than most of what is available in crowded shopping malls; it also carries a message of faith in dreams and infinite possibilities, a theme in tune with the season of light and hope that culminates with the birth of a New Year. To quote the song, "You gotta believe, 'cause that's what keeps us moving on. An American dream to where no one's ever gone."

Visit and keep believing and dreaming--and buy somebody a wonderful gift this season.