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Happy 2013!


10 November 2013

Perhaps my blanet support of Jonathan Martin was premature?

Rich Incognito

So now it seems Jonathan Martin also sent unacceptable text messages to Richie Incognito. And I wonder, now, if my blanket support of Martin is too premature? Is it possible the kid has issues outside of the football realm? Here's the story from CBS Sports. Thoughts?

22 October 2013

Until teachers and admins speak up, bullying of teens won't ever end

The Canessa Commentary

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – It continues to happen.

A teen gets bullied. The bullying teens get away with it. The bullied teen sees no way out, and commits suicide. The latest example happened here just a few days ago.

But there’s a twist this time – the mother of one of the girls accused of being a bully has herself been arrested. And it’s about damn time.

I’ve shared this story before, but it’s worth sharing over and over. One of the reasons I no longer teach is because of several cases of bullying I saw whilst a teacher that were ignored by my administrators.

The kid who was being bullied was picked on mercilessly. He was called every name in the book, but the predominant names included “fag,” “faggot,” and “homo.”

The kid, no question, was a little feminine. But he was a decent kid nonetheless. He’d never so much as harm a fly. But for whatever reason, his classmates found it necessary to pick on him day in and day out.

I brought this to the attention of the school’s leadership (for privacy’s sake, I won’t mention the school or admins by name). Not once did any administrator take noticeable action. Not once. And the bullying would continue for quite a while – that is, of course, until I finally took it into my own hands and contacted the kid’s parents.

It blew my mind that in the 2000s, it was possible that high-school administrators would totally ignore bullying of any kind. But it indeed happened – and it sickened me to no avail…

I will never understand why it is that happened. I still don’t understand how some of my colleagues would not only tolerate the bullying, they’d sometimes join in. Maybe it was to gain acceptance from the students. Maybe my colleagues were bullied themselves.

But more times than not, I’ve noticed one of the biggest reasons bullying still exists in schools to this day is because the people who run schools often simply allow it to happen.

Not even these stories we see in the news are enough to get them to intervene.

It reminds me of the documentary “Bully.” One of the administrators was so oblivious to bullying that took place right before her very eyes, it blew my mind that any parent would ever let their child enter that school – ever. At all.

Until administrators and teachers are willing to stand up, this cycle is never going to end. Ever. And we’re going to continue to see, every single week, more stories of young people who kill themselves because the very people entrusted to care for these kids are failing miserably.

This is not a blanket condemnation. It’s a simple reality that entirely too many adults are willing to allow this culture to exist in schools. I’m not holding my breath in anticipation of this changing anytime soon.

And that, my friends, is the saddest part of bullying period.

If just one administrator or teacher who normally remains quiet would change their mind and stand up for the bullied kid, perhaps we’d see fewer cases suicides among teens.

This day must come soon.

Not one more child should ever have to contemplate suicide. Ever.

Sadly, we’re far away from the day when this will be eradicated.

I pray I get to see that day, nonetheless.

17 October 2013

Is it fair to blame a suicidal teen who took other lives?

The Canessa Commentary

EDISON, N.J. -- 

On Wednesday, we learned of the suicidal death of a 15-year-old boy, Srijan Saha, a student at JP Stevens High School in Edison, N.J. When the story was first made known to the public, it was believed to be a horrific crash that took the lives of Saha and two other men driving in another car.

The two men who died were Mohammed Zia, 46, and his brother-in-law, Ali Behzad, 36, both of Edison, N.J. The Star-Ledger reported the two men had gone out for a late-night cup of coffee, and wound up being hit, head on, on state Route 27.

A simple cup of coffee turns into an epic tragedy.

But on Wednesday, we learned the boy, whose name hasn’t officially been released by police, wrote a suicide note on himself. And what was first seen as a tragic car crash turned into a homicide-suicide.

Saha's Facebook photo.
Saha, at 15, wasn’t even old enough to have a learner’s permit driver’s license. Reports say he took his family car without his parents’ knowledge.

This story opened up a discussion on, the official website of The Star-Ledger, that was, at time, poignant, and at times, downright disgusting. For me, it opened up thoughts again of yet another teenager whose mental health was clearly in irreparable shape – and whose mental health problems somehow appeared to go unnoticed.

Before I go further, let me say something clearly here: Three lives were lost in this crash – and the loss of any life in a car crash is always terribly sad.

But this now leads to what caused an ugly dialogue online – and that is, should blame be assessed in this case?

Based on the reports I read, the two men who died leave behind a total of six children. Saha leaves behind a family, including both his mother and father. There are countless people from many families who are suffering – right this very second – beyond anything most of us can comprehend.

And yet, it’s impossible not to take note that two men would be alive today if a 15-year-old boy didn’t make the decision to take his own life. Somehow, inexplicably, he decided to take his own life by crashing his car by driving it into on-coming traffic.

And with that being said, it begs the question: As a society, do we place blame on the boy for doing what he did?

The saddest part of this entire story is that another case of mental illness, in all probability, went untreated and unnoticed. Perhaps down the line, we’ll learn more about Saha and what kind, if any, treatment he got. But for now, it’s appropriate to presume anything.

Mental-health issues continue to be ignore in our country. Whether it’s biological depression, bi-polar-mania, schizophrenia or a number of other diseases, we often forget that many people who do bad things in this world do so because of untreated mental-health issues.

There is still an amazing stigma attached to mental-health problems. So many who suffer from these illnesses – and their families and friends – see medicating and treating as unacceptable.

I personally remember a family member once telling me that people who are depressed “don’t need medication – they need to just suck it up and snap out of their sadness or confusion.”

But as someone who has battled depression my entire life, I know personally it’s just not that easy. I can’t even begin to recall all the times in my life I came down with depression for no good reason at all. The bottom line is, at least for me, there’s a chemical imbalance somewhere in my brain that causes the depression. And if I don’t medicate it properly, it’ll only get worse. There is nothing I can do to change that unless medication is involved. And it’s the case for anyone who suffers from any kind of mental illness.

Yet some, still, won’t take medications because of the side effects. Some won’t take medications because people tell them not to. Some don’t take medication because they simply don’t know – they’re not aware – that there is help out there. And it can and does get better.

Saha had to have something terrible going on in his head. Saha likely didn’t tell anyone (or many) about what was happening to him on the inside. Saha got behind the wheel of a car a few nights ago, took his own life, and the lives of two innocent men in Edison.

And the question still remains, should we blame him for what he did?

If he wasn’t afforded a chance to get better, how COULD we blame him for what he did?

Sadly, we’ll likely never know what was happening to him before he did what he did.

But if one thing is clear, if anything is evident – it’s that as a nation, we’ve got to come to grips with a reality that mental-health issues are everywhere. Someone you know likely suffers from a mental disease.

And turning them away from the help they could be getting is about as wrong as anything a human being could possibly do.

And until this country wakes up – and realizes most mentally ill people can be helped – we’re doomed to see more and more cases like this one, like Tyler Clementi and like so many others we’ve seen on the news.

That, unfortunately, is the biggest tragedy of them all.

31 July 2013

The 10-biggest mistakes of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

I’ve been a huge fan of “Grey’s Anatomy” for a long time now. And as such, I wanted to do a series of pieces on the show. I’ll start off with a list of the 10 biggest mistakes of the show’s history. Keep in mind, this is just a numbered list — it’s not meant to be a Top 10.

1. Allowing Isaiah Washington to walk. His choice of words toward T.R. Knight were awful. But Preston Burke was a critical character of the show’s initial development. His return would really energize the show.

2. T.R. Knight’s late-run treatment. In Season 5, Knight had such a limited role in the show it was a surprise his death was such a big deal to end the season. Season 5, one of the best, could have been so much better had T.R. had a greater role.

3. Killing off George. The funeral scene was epic. But I hate when characters are killed off. I’d always like to see a George return, but unless it’s with someone else hallucinating — like Izzie did when she had a tumor — it ain’t gonna happen.
George O’Malley, MD

4. Killing off Mark. Another vitally awesome character.

5. Killing off Lexie. Same as above.

6. Izzie’s departure. It was bizarre. Does a woman really leave her husband of just a few months that quickly, only to return twice? Shonda Rhimes is a brilliant writer — but she missed out on this one.

7. Cristina’s two pregnancies. One was enough.

8. Erica Hahn. I just never liked her character — ever — from the heart transplant for Denny Duquette to her becoming head of C.T. at Seattle Grace/Mercy West. I was never more upset than when she was getting ready to rat out Izzie for her role in Denny’s transplant — but was thrilled that was her last-ever episode.

Adele Webber
9. Spinning off Addison and sending her to Cali. She was such a great character. And I never quite liked “Private Practice.” And yet, every time she made cameos on “Grey’s,” I found those episodes to be stellar. Here's hoping she makes many more cameos now that PP is over.

10. Adele getting Alzheimer’s right in the midst of MerDer’s clinical trial. Really? The chief of surgery’s wife just happens to get Alzheimer’s as one of the most prominent Alzheimer’s clinical trials is on-going at the hospital, leading to as much trouble as it did for Meredith? It was just too much. Also, getting to see Ellis Grey with Alzheimer’s was difficult enough to watch — seeing Adele going through it — and Richard for that matter — was just way too much to stomach.

What did I miss? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @kevincanessa.

14 March 2013

The greatest Jesuit I've ever known: Father Tony Azzarto, SJ

NOTE: I wrote this piece in 2007. And yet, so little about Tony has changed. I decided to 'republish' it in light of the new pope, Francis, being a Jesuit priest.
The Canessa Commentary
By Kevin Canessa Jr.
If he knew I were writing this column, the Rev. Tony Azzarto, S.J., of St. Peter’s Prep, would politely say something like: “What would you be thinking there. There’s no need for this.” With his great Brooklyn accent, the emphasis would be on the word “for.” Anyone who knows Tony would realize this.
Of course, he’s been like that his entire life. A man who has given of himself to generations of students at St. Peter’s Prep and to many thousands of Nigerians in West Africa rarely realizes just how much impact he’s had on the lives of so many people. Instead, he’ll tell you it’s not what he does that has an impact on people, it’s the reaction of the people to his guidance that really creates the impact.
But the truth of the matter is that Tony Azzarto really has had that impact on so many — and he embodies was a member of the Society of Jesus should be in every sense of the word. He is the greatest living example of a Man for Others, something a wonderful Jesuit priest, Father Pedro Arrupe, called all associated with the Jesuits to be. If there were a book written in the modern world simply on examples of being “Men for Others,” there isn’t a Jesuit more deserving of having his photo on the front cover than Tony Azzarto.
Tony’s story is a very simple one. As a boy, he attended Brooklyn Prep, a school that closed its doors in the ‘70s, and a school that was home to many a recognizable name, including Curtis Sliwa, founder of The Guardian Angels. And, like many boys who attended Brooklyn Prep way back when, Tony went into the Jesuits not too long after his high school days were over.
While preparing to become a Jesuit Father, he studied philosophy and theology, and had a few years as a scholastic at St. Peter’s Prep in the late 1960s — he taught religion back then.
He then came back to St. Peter’s Prep, and it likely wasn’t until 1985, immediately following his first big stint of five years in Nigeria, that he had his greatest impact on the St. Peter’s Prep family.
When he came back, he took over the Emmaus Retreat Program which, unbelievably, turns 30 this year. For 20-some-odd years, Tony was the leader of Emmaus, and can be recalled fondly by any Prep alumnus who ever made the retreat.
And if you want to talk about sports — my goodness was and is he ever a big sports fan. Professionally, he was a huge fan of the Dodgers, perhaps because of his strong Brooklyn roots. I can still recall that even though I was a fan of the New York Mets, I was very happy for Tony when the team from L.A. beat the Mets in the 1988 National League Championship Series — and then went on to win the World Series against the heavily favored Oakland A’s. Tony is the kind of guy who can really get you to love your enemy — whether a sports team, a rival, whatever. His aura of peacefulness transcended any kind of negativity — and he did a great job of it in 1988 (and heck, every other year he was part of the faculty at St. Peter’s Prep).
On a personal note, Tony was for me a mentor — and was the single-greatest reason I considered entering the Jesuits in the early 2000s. I had always wanted to be a priest, and having someone like Tony as a mentor made it all the more natural that it would be the Jesuits for me — or nothing at all. Though I didn’t ultimately wind up entering the Jesuits, a decision I still question from time to time, Tony continued to mentor me well beyond my years (1988-1992) at St. Peter’s Prep.
When I was a teacher at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, he allowed me to “borrow” the Emmaus model for the students there. Then, at Oratory Prep later, the same thing happened, and the results were incredible. Our Emmaus program was as successful as it was at St. Peter’s, and without Tony, none of it would have been possible.
So many times, when we’d have a retreat, Tony would make his way up to Mount Arlington to the retreat house to say Mass. Never would he accept a penny for saying the Mass, a custom most diocesan priests are used to. He would say, on a regular basis, “As long as you have a cookie or two for me, and maybe a slice of pizza, I would love to be there for you for Mass.”
And there he was, time and time again, on his own weekend — doing what he loved so much — for free.
Though he may not realize it, hundreds of kids from St. Anthony’s and Oratory Prep each had an opportunity to experience Emmaus because of Tony. Again, he’d say it was The Holy Spirit that allowed the kids to have such great times — but I would always disagree, and tell him that it was he who made much of that joy possible, a joy that for many kids, would not otherwise have happened.
And you see, that’s what he’s all about, is Tony Azzarto. He never drove a fancy car; in fact, on two occasions, when he came to say Mass for us, he came in a huge yellow St. Peter’s Prep school bus. Talk about simplicity. He never much boasted about being able to wear a Roman Collar. Instead, he often wore regular clothing, an outward sign of his humble nature and vow of poverty. He also showed so many of us that, unlike many other priests, he firmly believed he was no better or worse a person than the average layman. He believed in that so much so that he would always invite kids to surround him at the altar when he’d say Mass, and bless the bread and wine as it became the Body and Blood of Christ.
He never as much as asked for a thank you for anything he ever did for me, or for anyone else for that matter. He was only doing the work of Jesus, he’d say. Prayer and pizza were thanks enough.
But really, if you want to talk about a man who is deserving of all the praise and accolades in the world, it’s Tony Azzarto, because he’s done so much for so many that it’s impossible to list even a handful here — it would take up so much space.
He is really the greatest Man for Others on this planet.
Back to Nigeria
A few years ago, I had an opportunity to spend an entire day at St. Peter’s Prep, sitting in on several classes, meeting with seniors and administrators — and I even had a chance to eat lunch with many of the women and men who taught me while I was in high school. That day turned out to be a really sad one, though, because it was the day I learned that Tony would be leaving St. Peter’s Prep to return to a place he’d been before — Nigeria, West Africa.
Oh what a bummer this was to learn.
For two years, Tony was the pastor of a church there. And, for the most part, I didn’t have contact with him during that time period. But now, Tony’s back.
He has a different role now at St. Peter’s. He’s the alumni chaplain.
I haven’t had a chance to ask him yet just what alumni chaplain means. But I’m sure whatever it is, he’ll do it with class. The entire community at Prep is fortunate to have him back. The school is better when he’s there.
There will also be one more fan rooting at sporting events, too. I failed to mention this before, but if there’s a Prep sporting event — even if it’s freshman basketball or, yawn, a track-and-field meet — you’ll likely find Tony there.
And it’s things like this that separate Tony from just about anyone else you’d ever come across.
He’s a true Man for Others.
He should one day be canonized a Saint, though he’d certainly tell you otherwise.
And now, he’s finally home — where he should be, doing the work God called him to do, right in our own backyard.
Welcome home, Tony Azzarto!
Welcome home!

19 February 2013

The future of warfare -- is robotic?

Truly not sure what to make of this.

10 years ago on Feb. 20 -- 100 lives lost at the Station Nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I.

The following post appeared on this site on 5 Jan. 2013.

It's nearly impossible to believe it, but on Feb. 20, it will have been 10 years since the deadly fire at the Station Nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., that took the lives of 100 people.

That night, the band Great White was performing. Shortly after 11 p.m., the band began its first set -- and as they played their first song, pyrotechnics were set off. Merely 40 seconds thereafter, the area behind the stage was ablaze -- and just 2 minutes after the first pyrotechnics were set off, the entire club was engulfed in lurid black smoke and flames.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking element of this tragedy was that while there were multiple exits to the club, most flocked to the main exit -- and scores of people fell on top of each other, trapping them in the tiny hallway that led from the club to the parking lot.

Of all ironies, the night of the fire, a TV crew from a local station was on site to do a story -- on nightclub safety. The video was released to the public some time after the fire -- and demonstrates the ferocity of the fire, and just how quickly it spread. Of course, a later controversy spread after it was learned the journalist who was doing the piece was actually a part owner of the club -- an egregious conflict of interest.

Further, there was belief -- judge for yourself after seeing the video -- that the person with the camera didn't vacate the club quickly enough after the fire broke out. It was suggested that because he stood still as he did, he made it more difficult for patrons to exit the fire.

14 February 2013

Rhode Island man looks to make profits over photo he took before 100 people died 10 years ago in nightclub fire


Folks, I made a huge mistake.

A few weeks ago, when I wrote a piece about the 10th anniversary of the death of 100 people at the Station Nightclub Fire in West Warwick, R.I., I posted with it a photo taken inside the club just as the fire started. (Click here to read the original piece)

I found the photo on Wikipedia, not realizing it wasn't in the public domain. Most of the time, there's fair use on Wiki photos — but this time, I was wrong. Click here to see the photo on Wikipedia — I wonder if Mr. Davidson made Wiki pay for the use of the photo or if he'll demand $100 for linking to his photo?

Fast forward to a few nights ago — I get an e-mail from Dan Davidson, of Wyoming, R.I., (yes, that's the name of a town there), who demands I send him a check for $200 for posting the photo.

Folks, I made an error here. I shouldn't have posted the photo (I could have easily used a screen cap from videos taken that night that are in the public domain). But I must admit — in 20 years of journalism, I've never been more disgusted than I am by what this guy is doing.

On Feb. 20, 2003, some 100 lives were lost in a most tragic way in West Warwick. And this man, Dan Davidson, is looking to score a profit over it.

I invited him to sue me. I took the photo down the moment he e-mailed me. I make no money on this blog. Though I would if I could, I've never sold an ad for it. And if he wants to tell a court of law he's suing for $200 because I used a photo that showed the last moments of people's lives before they were burned and trampled in one of the nation's most horrific fires, so be it.

But you deserved to know this story. There's a man in Wyoming, R.I., looking to profit over the deaths of 100 people.

If it gets more despicable than that, let me know.

Boy am I ever sorry I posted that photo.

Video below was taken the night of the fire, 20 Feb. 2003.