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Monday, December 31, 2012

The Power of One

Rose Meditative (Meditative Rose) Salvador Dali, 1958

“Don't waste your life in doubts and fears: spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour's duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that follow it.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

Tomorrow is the first day of the New Year and it’s time to meditate on the word “one.”

It is a powerful word that conjures up meanings beyond the obvious numeric significance.

Type the word “one” into Merriam-Webster’s On-line Unabridged Dictionary and you get multiple categories - an adjective; pronoun; noun and even transitive verb.

“One” is sometimes embraced as the deity in whom we invest our faith and beliefs, or something much broader-“constituting a unified entity made up of or formed from or produced by two or more components or sources.” Curious indeed, that such a simple word can mean so much, and in some cases more than “one.”

Placed as the first day of January, “one” heralds fresh starts and brings the promise of renewal and hope in our collective futures.

The video below of the Emmy Award-winning song, “One Moment in Time” written by Albert Hammond and John Bettis, and recorded by American singer Whitney Houston for the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 1988 Summer Paralympics held in Seoul, South Korea speaks volumes about the power of “one.”

Thanks to chief70407’s YouTube Channel for this splendid recording, which provides the song's all-important lyrics - a message for today, and for all of the tomorrows to come.

It’s time now to ponder the meaning of “one.”

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Who will light the candles?

Angel of Hope, Sturbridge, Massachusetts - photo by Paula Slade


TAKE HEED

Who will light the candles

when the children have all gone?

All those brilliant, promising

pinpoints of light winking out

enfolded, enveloped and shrouded

by the velvet black blindness of night.

The once great clock

will still tick and chime,

marking these times

of infinite passage through cosmos

crowded with vaporous voices

drifting

echoing

but falling

only on shadows of ears.

TAKE HEED.

Who will light the candles

when the children have all gone? 
 
It's time now, for meaningful legislation to prevent more senseless  tragedies.
Remembering the innocents and educators at
Sandy Hook Elementary - Newtown, Connecticut
Friday, December 14, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

How do you like your news – left, right or center?


“If you tailor your news viewing so that you only get one point of view, well of course you're going to think somebody else has got a different point of view, and it may be wrong." ~ PeterJennings ~

I don’t know about you, but for me, (as an observer, reader and news junkie) this year’s election cycle has been the most verbally vitriolic and contentious in memory. Granted, the stakes have never been greater for our national economy and security.

Most folks have a favorite source for their news coverage, be it traditional print, radio, television or the Internet. Oftentimes however, one source may provide more opinion than actual fact-checked journalism, which is a reflection of the primary model for today’s’ world of news.

On any given morning, I go surfing around the Internet, gathering headlines that appear sensationalized in some manner or SEO (search engine optimization) driven, and am generally able to ascertain quite readily whether the source is opinion or fact-driven, as well as what news takes priority on the world or local stage. For me, this provides a much-needed focus in determining real issues that are based in facts.

An excellent source for gathering traditional front-page print perspectives is Newseum, the interactive news museum based in Washington, DC whose mission is "to help the public and the news media understand one another better" and to "raise public awareness of the important role of a free press in a democratic society".

Newseum features over 800 newspaper front pages from around the globe and stories that are relevant to demographic, regional and local readership.

The only problem as I see it, with reading daily global headlines, is that one gets weary and sometimes depressed with stories that are manufactured to drive media page views for the sake of creating profit. When a news organization mixes blazing headlines with carefully worded opinions and edited sound bites, you have a recipe for conflict without resolution.

With all of that clearly in mind, below are some alternative news sites with stories that are rarely told because they don’t generate top dollars in advertising.  Yet, for several years, these websites have remained relevant, instant and viable in their news-gathering mission, and they bring positive stories, which uplift and show that we all share a common ground in understanding.

The following Internet sites are in no particular order of preference, but all have a unique approach to finding that common ground when it comes to informing the public.

The Good News Network from Pakistan says, For a Change, let’s talk about The Good News.”

Optimist World brings you positive news which shows the very best of the human spirit and helps to show that good news can help to counteract the bad by reminding us what an amazing world we live in.”

OdeWire “searches a network of 102 media outlets” and ”is always looking at the most authoritative news sources for stories that focus on solutions rather than problems, and on positive changes rather than negative ones.”

Good News Network, founded by former television producer Geri Weis-Corbley, offers a free subscription newsletter as well as paid content models, and provides a "Daily Dose of News to Enthuse."

Gimundo is a free daily newsletter that provides positive “news from around the world, exclusive interviews with change-makers, guest columns, and subscriber-only weekly giveaways and special offers.”

Happy News states that they deliver virtue, goodwill and heroism as 'hot news.'”  Bringing you “up-to-the-minute news, geared to lift spirits and inspire lives.”

Positive News from the United Kingdom is a paid membership and “Members receive the print edition 4 times a year, which brings together our most inspiring news all in one place. In an age of information overload, it’s the best way to get an overview of positive developments in the world...”

If these resources are not enough to peak your interest, I have one more suggestion – a video of -The Rumble 2012, which features the unlikely pairing of right and left media commentators Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart in debate. The program was originally live-streamed for $4.95 on Saturday evening, October 6, 2012 with one-half of the net profits from the show to benefit charitable causes designated by Jon and Bill.Topics that were covered are timely and  presented with colorful language and comedic delivery. There are no politicians and no winners, just difficult discourse that brought two disparate sides together. IMHO there’s a good lesson to be learned by watching it, plus you'll be contributing to some excellent causes.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Memorable Memes: Sharing some laughs


 Smiling baby with toys photo by Petr Kratochvil

Merriam Webster defines “meme” as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture."

Yesterday, I received a collection of one-liners that as Internet memes have been transmitted via e-mails, and along the way, folks added their own commentary creating a meme complex, which as an end result provided some humorous puns,

There are numerous sites where you fashion your own meme and hope it goes viral via social networks or e-mails. One such online presence is MemeCreator, where you simply press the “create” button at the top of the page, and add your own appropriate pun to the picture of the goofy-looking “Lame Coon.”

The memes below are all real groaners so smile and share. Remember laughter doesn’t cost anything, and it doesn’t hurt  to spread the joy.

 
-I changed my iPod's name to Titanic.
It's syncing now.

-When chemists die, they barium.

-Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

-I know a guy who's addicted to brake fluid.
He says he can stop any time.

-How does Moses make his tea?
Hebrews it.

-I stayed up all night to see where the sun went.
Then it dawned on me.

-This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian
club, but I'd never met herbivore.

-I'm reading a book about anti-gravity.
I just can't put it down.

-I did a theatrical performance about puns.
It was a play on words.

-They told me I had type-A blood,
but it was a Type-O.

-PMS jokes aren't funny; period.

-Why were the Indians here first?
They had reservations.

-We’re going on a class trip to the Coca-Cola factory.
I hope there's no pop quiz.

-I didn't like my beard at first.
Then it grew on me.

-Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost
her job because she couldn't control her pupils?

-When you get a bladder infection urine trouble.

-Broken pencils are pointless.

-I tried to catch some fog, but I mist it.

-What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary?
A thesaurus.

-England has no kidney bank,
but it does have a Liverpool .

-I used to be a banker,
but then I lost interest.

-I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.

-All the toilets in New York's police stations have been stolen.
The police have nothing to go on.

-I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.

-Haunted French pancakes give me the crêpes.

-Velcro! what a rip off!

-A cartoonist was found dead in his home.
Details are sketchy.

-Venison for dinner again? Oh deer!

-The earthquake in Washington obviously
was the government's fault.
(Just like everything else.)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

‘Celtic Chamber Music’ : Birth of a new musical genre


Violinist Samantha Gillogly with Pianist Tim Maurice photo by Kat Hartigan



 
"There can be no tradition without innovation." ~ Earle Hitchner, Irish music journalist ~

On April 15, 2011, at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston, Massachusetts, a new genre of music was born, in a performance billed as “An Evening of Celtic Chamber Music.’”
The flawless recording was captured live and recently released as a CD and MP3 download, and for my daughter, violinist/violist/composer, Samantha Gillogly, this was a culmination of a dream realized. 

Seeing as today is St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it timely to share this marvelous collaboration, which features the very talented pianist/composer Tim Maurice, and special guest artists  Roselie Samter (viola) and Zoya Shereshkova (cello).


The album includes 20 lyrical reinterpretations of favorite Celtic fiddle tunes from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany along with Samantha’s original composition,” Mr. Lowe’s Waltz.”

Celtic Chamber Music, is being given extensive airplay on PBS as well as specialty radio stations, and numerous Internet sites across the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain, and has recently been picked up by Pandora for future airings.

The entire album and individual tracks are available for sound sampling and purchase through CD Baby and Amazon.com.

Below is a video from the April performance, featuring “Mr. Lowe’s Waltz”.

ENJOY and HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY

Monday, February 20, 2012

Take the bus and leave the driving to us…

De Lijn in Mechelen” photo by Vitaly Volkov CC 2.5


“Art has to move you and design does not, unless it's a good design for a bus.” ~ David Hockney ~


After World War II, and the building of the Interstate Highway System, which ultimately opened up new traveling frontiers to automobile owners, a simple one-line advertising slogan, “Go Greyhound and leave the driving to us” helped restore the Greyhound Bus Line’s flagging market share. The slogan appeared everywhere – on billboards, in magazines, on the radio and even the emerging television market at that time. 

To this day, even though Greyhound (over the years) has experienced multiple strikes, mega mergers and financial woes leading to bankruptcies, the slogan remains as fresh now as when it was created. In fact, it’s still fully embraced by the company’s newest owners, FirstGroup plc of Aberdeen, Scotland, who have been continuously revamping Greyhound’s image since 2007.

Coming up with an ad campaign, which is effective and long lasting is not an easy feat. In this day and age reaching a complacent audience sometimes takes more than just a slogan.

Now comes De Lijn, the Flemish transport company that has been providing the citizens of Belgium with safe and reliable public transportation since its founding in 1991, and each year, over 500 million passengers commute on over 3600 buses and more than 350 De Lijn trams. (One would think that this is a healthy rider ship and not in need of additional fares, considering the population of the country is currently estimated  at 11 million.)
 
Well, as the old saying goes, sometimes you can never have too much of a good thing, particularly when attempting to wean the citizenry off of driving and encouraging the use of public transport. Think cleaner air and less traffic – you can’t argue with that, but how do you sell it? 

Enter a brilliant ad campaign, created by an equally brilliant Dutch animation house, Creative Conspiracy that captures a visual pitch about the benefits of "traveling in a group." (Not an easy sell, but if it's done with humor - all things are possible.)

Thanks to Coolvad’s YouTube Channel,  Duval Guillaume Modem, a multiple award-winning centric communications agency in Antwerp, and the Creative Conspiracy (whose name says it all) for sharing these three marvelous 30-second spots. 

IMHO, each commercial is an entertaining ad and is pure soft-sell genius. In fact, the De Lijn – “Ants” spot has recently been nominated for the Belgian 'VTM top spots awards' for the most popular TV commercials following the Belgian audience.

Enjoy, and feel free to share. These are sure to put a smile on your day!








Sunday, January 29, 2012

Advertising with cats: 'Catvertising'

"Mr. Kitty" photo by Paula Slade

“Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.” ~ Garrison Keillor ~

Whether you call it categorically correct, or a purrfect passion for the pulse of the populace, a very bright creative team of advertising professionals known as John St. have tapped into something very unique in terms of making products memorable, including their own firm.

Based in Toronto, John St.’s mottos is, “We exist to make our clients’ brands unignorable,” and in doing so they count some pretty impressive companies as clients, from corporations such as Tetley Tea and Kraft Foods, to Mitsubishi Motors and Moosehead.

On November 10, 2011, John St. uploaded a video on their YouTube Channel, which has become a viral sensation with almost 1,500,000 page views – it’s titled: “Catvertising.”

According to John St., the video was created, “To stay on top of the ever-changing advertising landscape,” and in their effort to deliver on that promise, they declared that they had, “opened the world's first cat video division. With production, filming and seeding all in-house.”

There’s no denying the worldwide popularity of Felis silvestris catus, better known as the domesticated cat.  One has only to look no further than the runaway success of Lolcats, and Nyan Cats, along with the number of cat videos that are constantly uploaded to YouTube.

IMHO, John St.’s video is certainly humorous, albeit with an ever so slight, tongue-in-cheek delivery.  However, it definitely promotes what was promised.  Even if it’s a spoof,  “Catvertising” has put their name on the map in an “unignorable” way.

Thanks to John St. for this delightful infomercial.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Being a kid again with Debbie and Friends

Jake Morrison Deutsch, an honorary member of Debbie and Friends

“The most sophisticated people I know - inside they are all children.” ~ Jim Henson ~

On Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012 in Brookline, Massachusetts, at the venerable Coolidge Corner Theatre, I bore witness to Henson’s famous quote in action, during a packed-house, live performance of Debbie and Friends.

An extraordinary group of polished musicians, Debbie and Friends takes children’s entertainment to joyful levels, where even parents, grandparents and care givers sing-along, play-along, stomp their feet and clap in time – myself included in that 440 seat interactive audience.

Right from the start of the opening number “I’m Glad You’re Here,” and all the way through to the closing song there was no time for little ones getting restless or whining, as Debbie Cavalier and her band seamlessly delivered an engaging performance that kept the multiple generations mesmerized and involved. At times, it was difficult to discern who was having more fun, the musicians or the audience.

(L-R) Rory McKenzie, bass; Mike Carrera, vocals; Debbie Cavalier, keys and vocals; Bill D'Agostino, drums and vocals; and Eric Saulnier, guitar.
 
Cavalier, a music educator and author with over 20 years experience, also serves as Dean of Continuing Education at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music. She has worked with some of the legends of children’s musical entertainment, which includes such greats as Sesame Street’s famed music teacher Bob McGrath, Buffalo Bob Smith of Howdy Doody, and the beloved Shari Lewis.

Along with being treated to various genres of music, playing a song-version of “Simon Says,” and calling out rhymes with “Rosie,” we watched three of Cavalier’s signature storybook cartoons, helping a rather humorous “Big Bad Wolf” puppet (character voiced by Mike Carrera) blow down piggy houses in “Three Pigs and a Wolf “.

Jake at age 3

A surprise highlight of the morning was the special guest appearance of 10-year old Jake Morrison Deutsch, who as an “honorary” member of the band, played saxophone right along with the accomplished musicians in a number called “Opposite.”

Cavalier explains Jake’s history with the group: “When he was 3, Jake said the intro phrase "Three Little Pigs" at the start of the recording on our Story Songs and Sing Alongs CD. He and his brother and sister (Joshua and Riley) sang along with the chorus parts on that song as well.”

Jake, age 10

Jake took up the saxophone just three months ago, and IMHO his poise and ear for music are quite amazing – a definite name to keep an entertainment eye on in years to come.

Debbie and Friends’ DVD and CDs have won an astounding 18 National Awards, and most recently, have provided a powerful song “Walk Away”, which is performed on an anti-bullying compilation album, All About Bullies Big And Small. The album is one of five Grammy nominees for Best Children’s Album of 2011. The winner will be announced at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards Ceremony on Feb. 12.

The next performance stop for Debbie and Friends will be at the legendary McCabes in Santa Monica, California on January 22, and then back to the East coast. To keep up with their ever-evolving performance schedule, simply follow this link.

Thanks to Debbie Cavalier and Friends for helping me find my “inner child” again, and thanks to their YouTube Channel for this delightful music video cartoon of “Cinderella,” which emphasizes self-esteem, and is part of their Story Songs and Sing-Alongs DVD.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Possibilities in the New Year

"Madonna of the Rocks" Leonardo da Vinci, detail





“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson ~


As we come to the close of this year, and in light of the turmoil and hardships that so many have faced in war torn countries and with down turned economies, it seemed appropriate for me to revisit a post that I wrote in 2010 about a musically gifted young child, Rhema Marvane and her story of loss, survival and amazing grace in the face of adversity.

This young eight-year old and her music provided me with inspiration and a belief in a better tomorrow when I needed it the most. My hope is that her music will do the same for you - even if just for a few fleeting moments.

Many thanks to sarah7cktc’s Youtube Channel for this marvelous recording of “The Prayer” with lyrics - sung by Rhema Marvanne.

Wishing you a peaceful New Year filled with hope for a better tomorrow and unlimited positive possibilities.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wishing each of you a joyous holiday season


"Music, being identical with Heaven, isn't a thing of momentary thrills, or even hourly ones: it's a condition of eternity."  - Gustav Holst -

One of the finest choral groups in the world is the famous Choir of King's College in Cambridge, England.

Considered the most accomplished representation of the British choral tradition, the choir was established by King Henry VI, founder of King’s College, Cambridge in 1441.

The choir, composed of some of the most outstanding young scholars in England, sings daily in the college’s chapel and over the years has toured and established a wonderful repertoire and an extensive discography of recordings.

Each year, the choir’s “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” is broadcast around the globe on Christmas Eve with rebroadcasts through National Public Radio stations on Christmas Day.

For your holiday enjoyment, the following video, which is comprised of all 16 members of the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge provides an exquisite representation of their talent as they sing Gustav Holst’s, “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

May you and yours enjoy a most beautiful and peaceful holiday.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

One night of peace on earth…


On December 24, 1914, a miracle of sorts took place on a field in Belgium. It happened just five months after the outbreak of World War I , and on that bitter cold night, men who were foes in battle became gentlemen who refused to fight.

Perhaps this legacy might be repeated and become long lasting in our lifetimes.

This is the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. It is something to think about during these long, dark nights of winter.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving thanks for many gifts…

“Praying Hands” by Albrecht Durer

Today I say “thank you” for many gifts:

The Gift of Love – given freely and without judgment

The Gift of Family – for the ties that bind generations

The Gift of Shelter – all that surrounds, protects and comforts

The Gift of Food – that which nourishes and sustains

The Gift of Friendship – a binding knot of understanding and camaraderie

The Gift of Nature – the glory that envelops me in the beauty of each season

The Gift of Time – to cherish all that is and has been

Today, I honor the blessings of all of these, and every kindness.

Thank you to filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg for this beautiful and inspirational video, with music by Gary Malkin, and narration from Brother David Steindl-Rast.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The art of pumpkin carving from the hands of a master

"Jack O Lantern" photo by Petr Kratochvil
All my life as an artist I have asked myself: What pushes me continually to make sculpture? I have found the answer. Art is an action against death. It is a denial of death.

Nothing symbolizes Halloween more than a jack-o-lantern. Traditionally they have ushered in the spook season for centuries.

It is believed that carving pumpkins originated from the Irish custom of hollowing out turnips, gourds or potatoes, which were conveniently used to house a burning coal - a lantern of sorts. That custom was based upon a legend about a man named:”Stingy Jack,” a bit of a scoundrel during his lifetime, he not only met the Devil face-to-face, but tricked him.

When Jack passed from this worldly realm, his raucous lifestyle did not permit him into Heaven, nor was he even allowed eternal sanctuary in Hell, but was banished by the Devil, out of the land of fire and brimstone, and sent on his way with only a burning coal to illuminate his journey through eternity.

The video below reflects (in my humble opinion) how far the carving of a simple turnip has come. In the hands of master artist, Ray Villafane, this symbol of All Hallows’ Eve embraces the stuff of nightmares.

Villafane not only creates works from pumpkins, but is an accomplished sculptor with sand, and the creator of model toys. His clients have included such well known companies as Warner Bros./DC Comics, Marvel, McFarlane Toys and Sideshow Collectibles.

In addition to the video below, there are numerous photos in an online gallery of Villafane’s sculptures at: http://villafanestudios.com/

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Classics or clichés?

Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.” ~ William Safire ~

For 30-years, in addition to his political commentaries, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist William Safire was a master etymologist and grammarian whose column, “On Language” was read weekly in the New York Times Magazine.

Safire’s humorous quote that opened this post has been embraced as gospel by writers everywhere, and has been printed on everything from bumper stickers to t-shirts. Any journalist or novelist who peppers prose with clichés is presumed by his peers to be an amateur, or worse - a lazy writer.

Sometimes however, nothing says it better and faster, or with a minimum of fuss than a good old-fashioned cliché. In my humble opinion, a cliché is “conversational” and hits a verbal homerun without need for additional interpretation.

In everyday one-on-one discourse, I have used numerous clichés. Here are some of my favorites:

“It’s like an Albatross around the neck.”

“Why would you want to pour the baby out with the bathwater?”

“I bet you’ll have to bend over backwards to get that accomplished!”

“I never look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“I think she’ll turn over a new leaf.”

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

 “I’m at wits' end!”

“I draw the line at that type of behavior!”

“They’re as close as two peas in a pod.”

“I’m between a rock and a hard place.”

“He’s going to go postal when he hears what happened.” 

“It’s all Greek to me.” 

When it rains it pours!” 

“It’s like putting a square peg in a round hole.”
 
For those of you who enjoy using clichés, or simply want to avoid them like the plague, here is a fun website to checkout – Steven Morgan Friedman’s Cliché Finder, where (at minimum) if you’re a fan of clichés, you will find an index of over 3,300 of the best examples, perfect for verbal use and abuse.

The word cliché is not just relegated to trite or hackneyed sentences or phrases, but the word is also awarded to anything that has become commonplace through overuse – even music and art, hence the picture of Mona Lisa (above) that has come to represent Leonardo Da Vinci’s most celebrated painting.

The video below (thanks to BoredomStrikesU's YouTube Channel) demonstrates music that everyone has probably heard at some point in their life, be it in an elevator, a doctor’s office, watching cartoons and feature films, or while on-hold waiting to speak to an agent from the Internal Revenue Service.

You may not recognize these musical gems by title or composer, but as soon as you hear anyone of these…

1. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik-Mozart
2. Symphony No. 5, 1st mvt-Beethoven
3. Rondo Alla Turca-Mozart
4. William Tell Overature-Rossini
5. Für Elise-Beethoven
6. Blue Danube Waltz-J. Strauss
7. Moonlight Sonata-Beethoven
8. Minuet(from Quintet No. 11)- Boccherini
9. Spring-Vivaldi
10. The Barber of Seville (Overature)-Rossini
11. Dance of the Hours- Ponchielli
12. Also Sprach Zarathustra-R. Strauss
13. Hoedown(from Rodeo)-Copland
14. Prelude to Act 1. (Los Toreadores)-Bizet
15. Adagio for Strings-Barber
16. Classical Gas- Mason Williams

The only tune I think should have been on this list and wasn’t - Pachebel’s Canon in D.


What’s your favorite cliché and classic over-used tune?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Let us never forget…

  “Unable are the Loved to die 
For Love is Immortality,
Nay, it is Deity -- 
Unable they that love -- to die
For Love reforms Vitality
Into Divinity. “ 
~ Emily Dickinson ~


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dandelions: Gardener’s scourge or chef’s delight

‘Dandelions’ photo by Petr Kratochvil

“If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn.” ~ Andrew V. Mason ~

 

Whether a few seeds hitchhiked on some gentleman’s three-cornered hat or were purposely tucked inside a lady’s apron, dandelions took root in the New World as quickly as the settlers themselves, and were prized for a number of uses that are still popular today.

One of the most prolific flowers on the planet, the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) carries only a brief historical mention as being brought over to the New World by “settlers.”

In my humble opinion, I think I know why - anyone who would have proclaimed propagation fame for a plant that provides continuous and intrusive coverage to every lawn, sidewalk crack, and garden would be forever doomed and relegated to non-stop cursing on a hot summer day by homeowners everywhere.

The dandelion is considered the most recognized flowering plant world-wide, and takes it’s naming from French “dent de lion” (meaning “the tooth of the lion”) a phrase that aptly describes the plant’s saw-toothed, smooth, ground-hugging leaves.

It is no wonder that the dandelion has flourished in our country and everywhere else; dandelion seeds develop without cross-fertilization and are capable of traveling many miles on a gentle breeze.

Once established, they enjoy one of the longest growing seasons of any plant, appearing in early in spring and continuously populating anywhere until the first frost.

Dandelions were prized by the early settlers because the leaves, roots and flowers were used for various medicinal purposes - treating everything from rheumatism, gastrointestinal disorders, warts and the gout, and are today still considered important in Western herbal medicine for their nutritional value, immune enhancing capability and energy balancing properties.

It is believed that when refined as a tincture and added to water, the dandelion essence purportedly staves off or shortens the common cold, helps people listen and focus more, and assists with releasing grief. Whether this is the placebo effect or wishful thinking, one thing for certain is that dandelion greens (by themselves) are indeed a very healthy food, packed with vitamins A, C, D, and B-complex as well as minerals boron, calcium, choline, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, silicon, and zinc. When you stop and think about it, they virtually rival off-the-shelf supplements.

If you’ve never tasted dandelion greens, they have a flavor a bit sharper in taste than arugula – more like endive, somewhat spicier and bitterer.

Small, new dandelion greens can be mixed directly with salads, but the larger, tougher, older leaves are best sautéed in olive oil with garlic, and then enhanced with a bit of lemon juice and salt to taste.

Other uses for dandelions have been as a coffee substitute (using primarily the root of the plant) and as a luscious jam or jelly by combining the flowers (minus the bitter bracts) with pectin, sugar, lemon juice and a little fresh grated ginger.

The flower heads, when prepared almost the same way as you would jelly or jam (minus the pectin and ginger and adding yeast and finely shaved lemon and orange rind) makes a lovely light wine, which ages well in the bottle.

Because the dandelion is known to have a slight diuretic property, individuals who are pregnant or taking any medications should always talk to their doctor or pharmacist before introducing anything new into their diet.

So what do you do if you don’t want to start raising dandelions, which interestingly enough were cultivated (to the exclusion of grasses) up until the 19th century? You can pull them out before they flower and go to seed, or use an herbicide.

IMHO, I prefer the natural method; it’s a little more difficult on your spinal column and knees, but it provides good exercise and promotes a healthier environment for all.

Below is an interesting video that was captured with time-lapse photography, and covers the complete cycle of the dandelion, flower to seed head.

Filmed by Neil Bromhall, with music by Debbie Wiseman, the photos were taken utilizing a Nikon D200 with 55mm lens that included a grow light and studio flash.

The pictures were snapped in intervals between five to 45 minutes over a period of one month. The camera even captures aphids that continue to feed on the flower as its seeds mature. 

Even though the dandelion is considered a weed, the almost miraculous transition of the bud, golden bloom, and finally snowy seeds mirrors the passage of human years.

Monday, July 18, 2011

‘Take a look it’s in a book’: FREE book downloads

Library at Thebes

“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face.  It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy.”  ~Edward P. Morgan~
One of the things I love about the Internet is that the world and all it’s knowledge is at my fingertips. It’s like having your very own Library of Alexandria, or Thebes or Congress. But, instead of stone tablets, scrolls and parchment under glass you get instant “e-formation.”

If you surf around as much as I do during the course of a typical day, you are probably very familiar with free eBook offers from Google and from major online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple. However, there are a number of sites where free eBooks are always the daily norm.

Some of these sites offer direct reading from your computer, or down-loadable  PDF format; others invite free legal downloads to smartphones, eReaders and tablets.

Everything imaginable, for every reading taste and age is available - from established classics to emerging writers, and even children’s books.

Almost all of these sites offer fiction and non-fiction, but for your convenience, I’ve called out specialized categories that might be of interest.

You may want to bookmark this page for future reference and perusing these links at your leisure. Free is always fun.

And, if you get a bit weary from searching for the perfect FREE eBook, sit back and take in a most unusual retelling of The Three Little Pigs, performed in 1993 by (normally menacing actor) Christopher Walken, for the British TV series "Saturday Zoo". Thanks to MrMojomc’s YouTube Channel for the following funny video, “Walken Piggy “




FREE eBooks

AskSam Ebooks (Everything from governmental texts and legal to Shakespeare).


Baen Free Library (For Science Fiction fans).


Bibliotastic (Good reads from self-published authors).

BookYards (Includes audio books, educational materials, foreign language books and more).

eBookLobby (Cooking, food, travel, law, arts, photography and more).



FreeComputerBooks (Best for computer, programming, lecture notes, tutorials, and math).

4eBooks  (Specializes in books on computer programming).


FreeTechBooks (Just what the name implies – engineering, science, textbooks etc.)




KnowFree (A virtual educational think tank).


ManyBooks (Perfect for iPod, eBook readers and Personal Digital Assistants).

MemoWare (Maps, technical references, religion, philosophy, literature).

The Online Books Page (From the University of Pennsylvania includes prize-winning books, women writers and banned book collection).

OnlineComputerBooks (Not only computers books but math, physics, science, Internet,  business and marketing).

OnlineFreeEBooks ( A wide variety including health, hobbies, sports and martial arts).




SnipFiles (Free software along with free eBooks).


zillr.org (Magazines, games, graphics, photography).