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Friday, April 24, 2009

Internet art with your youngster: Wrapping artistic genius in tissue paper

How do you get the little children in your life interested in reading and art at the same time?

It’s been 40 years since Eric Carle, the beloved children’s book illustrator and author created one of the most time-honored children’s classics, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” and Carle’s instructive web site is an ideal starting point for garnering pint-sized interest, and sparking creative exploration along with a trip to your local library or bookseller.

This year marks a milestone of sorts for the evergreen story - it has been translated into 47 languages and has sold over 29 million copies worldwide.

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” actually began as “A Week with Willi the Worm,” and fortunate for Carle that he took his editor’s suggestion to heart (to transform a plump, green Willi into a multi- color-splashed caterpillar) because it was the caterpillar that has become his most famous work, even though to date he has illustrated or authored a combined total of 70 other books.

Carle, a grandfatherly image, says about his littlest fans, “Growing up can be very difficult – I like to help children along.” And, that he does, as he shares his techniques in a step-by-step fashion that can be mimicked by moms, dads, extended family or caretakers, (who incidentally will probably have just as much fun as the youngsters) painting colorful tissue papers and assembling your very own collage.

This year Carle celebrates another milestone – his 80th birthday. He keeps engaged and active - commuting between two households; the museum of picture book art that bears his name in Western Massachusetts; a host of book signings and even writing his own blog.

How many of you have treasured memories of being read Carle’s wonderful tale?

Friday, April 17, 2009

The YouTube Generation

Historians have a penchant for classifying generations. It’s a neat and tidy way to sum up a particular age group and distinguish it, one from the other.

After the turn of the 20th Century, we began with “The Lost Generation,” so-called because many of the best and brightest born gave their lives in the futility of World War I.

Then came “The Greatest Generation,” the term coined by veteran reporter Tom Brokaw who chronicled the age group that faced not only the Great Depression but also genocide and the international power struggles that ushered in the nuclear age.

Passing through time we have seen the birth of “the Boomers," “Generation X” and then “Y” (also known as the “Millennials”) all neatly packaged with their unique socio-economic and historical characteristics.

On Wednesday, April 15, I had the extreme good fortune to witness the birth of “The YouTube Generation.”

It was global musical history in the making. All thanks to the efforts of a collaboration between YouTube and Google, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, composer Tan Dun, pianist Lang Lang and a host of world-class orchestras including the London, San Francisco, Berlin and New York Philharmonic to name a few.

At 7 p.m., the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, comprised of
ninety-six musicians, from 30 countries, playing 26 different instruments mounted the Perelman Stage in Stern Auditorium at storied Carnegie Hall in New York.

In December, 2008, ninety-one musicians, from 30 countries, playing 26 different instruments auditioned entirely on-line through YouTube with their downloaded videos and were brought together as an astounding compilation of virtuosity that rehearsed face-to-face for a mere 24 hours before presenting a three-hour electrifying performance of classical music from Renaissance to 21st Century.

The performance was inclusive of demographics and musical periods, and did more for the progression of classical music in three hours than all the conservatory training has offered the marketplace in the last 300 years. No offense to music schools here, as I myself attended one, but preparing classical musicians to go forward and reach out to new generations of classical listeners has been minimalist at best. Some of the better music schools are beginning to wake up to that fact.

It was difficult to choose a favorite piece from the evening’s eclectic repertoire, but Tan Dun’s “Eroica” Symphony, as well as the beat-box rhythms of the Mason Bates recently composed piece, “Warehouse Medicine from B-Sides” were riveting. I believe that they will be part of the classical repertoire for years to come just as surely as the breathtaking Brahms “Allegro giocoso from Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98” and Tchaikovsky’s “Finale from Symphony No. 4”, which were also on the menu.

The entire evening, brought the world together from the use of technology and the import of musicians who have a passion for music making. Not only was a new generation born but also a rebirth for classical music.

The packed-house audience was not comprised of the staid and stuffy music aficionados one so often encounters at classical concerts but was all-inclusive of multi generations and ethnicities, and the music fit like a glove.

As the entire audience rose to their feet to give two, several minute standing ovations, I remembered what our daughter Samantha said in a news interview after having won a YouTube Symphony seat from a talent pool of 3,000-plus auditioned entrants, “If I didn’t think playing music had an impact on people, I wouldn’t be doing it.”

Welcome to The YouTube Generation – the generation that brought music to a global community.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Next Year in Israel"

It’s not often that the holidays of Passover and Easter coincide during the same week.

This year Passover officially began with the first Seder at sundown on Wednesday, April 8 (14 Nissan 5769 in the Hebrew calendar) and ends at sundown on Thursday, April 16 (22 Nissan)

For eight days, those who keep kosher and observe the holiday follow the strict dietary law of removing every last trace of bread (crumbs and all) from the household. Everything else that is edible, has to be designated “Kosher for Passover.”

Did you know that these days you can even get specially formulated “Kosher for Passover” Coca Cola, which is made with good old-fashioned sugar and not high fructose corn syrup (it bears a yellow cap to distinguish it from everyday Coca Cola.)

If you have pets, there is also a specially formulated kosher pet food on the market. Designed for your kitty or pooch, a company called Kosher Pet( lets you order on-line year round and they have the greatest motto - “Schlepp Less - Feed Less - Clean Up Less.”

As far as the Coca Cola is concerned – better plan on shopping for that next year as “Kosher for Passover” Coca Cola (as folks-in-the-know tell me) generally sells out as it hits the shelves - in 48 hours or less.

Passover commemorates the Hebrew’s Exodus from Egypt and their bondage in slavery.

This year, a Seder was observed in the White House. It was not the first time the traditional meal and religious service was hosted there, as it had taken place during the Clinton administration. However, it was the first time a president attended and broke matzoth with his family and staff.

IMHO, it is a wonderful gesture of solidarity, respect of history and culture, as well as religious beliefs. KUDOS to our First Family!

A favorite saying and toast offered each year at the end of the two-plus hour meal and prayers lovingly remembers those who were taken from us during the Holocaust, along with a wish for all those seated at the table to join together again, by raising a glass and saying, “Next year in Israel.”

Last year, it is said the President’s entourage lifted their glasses and said, “Next year the White House.”

I have to assume that this year they ended their Seder with the traditional toast, as well as “L'chaim”(translated) means “to life!”

“Next year in Israel?” Time will tell. Perhaps now there is hope for peace in the Middle East?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Here Comes Peter…

Happy Easter everyone, whether you celebrate for secular or non-secular reasons it is another day on the calendar that brings families together and that’s a very good thing!

There are only three major holidays (that I can think of) that demand chocolate: Valentine’s Day; Halloween, and Easter!

We all know about the health benefits of chocolate – don’t we? It actually should be relegated to the base of the food pyramid (IMHO).

If you didn’t get your supply of Cadbury chocolate eggs this year, here is a great recipe to make your own (any time of year):

Bunny’s Favorite

Cream-Filled Chocolate Easter Eggs

• 2 sticks (1 cup) softened unsalted butter

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

• 14-ounces of sweetened condensed milk

• 3 pounds powdered sugar, plus some for dusting

• Gel-style yellow food coloring

• 2 pounds chocolate morsels for melting

Combine butter, salt and vanilla using an electric mixer on medium speed. Mix until light and fluffy - approximately 2 minutes. Add condensed milk; clean off sides of bowl and continue to mix completely.

Switch to low speed and add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Mix until forming a stiff dough. Dust a clean counter or baker’s board with powdered sugar and transfer the mixed batter, kneading until smooth for 2-4 minutes.

Separate one quarter of the kneaded mixture and slowly add drops of yellow food coloring (gel-type) to the one quarter batch and knead it in well, distributing the color until the coloration mimics that of an egg yolk.

Using a teaspoon seperate the yellow-colored mixture and divide into approximately 20 small pieces. Roll each of the pieces forming approximately 20 small balls. Place the balls on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and refrigerate until totally firm.

Take the remaining (un-colored) white dough and roll into larger egg-shaped balls, the same number as the yellow-shaped pieces. Make an indentation with your thumb into the center of each plain white egg-shaped ball and then gently press one of the smaller yellow balls into it.

Continue to work the white egg-shaped ball around the smaller yellow ball – enrobing the yellow ball completely. Carefully shape each enrobed piece into an oval. Set aside on a cookie sheet and chill again.

Place the chocolate morsels in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high in short 20-second bursts, stirring between each burst, until melted and smooth.

Using tongs, dunk each egg into the chocolate to coat it completely, and then set on parchment or wax paper to set in the refrigerator until eaten.

Yield – approximately 20 eggs.

Don’t you dare ask about calories per serving or any nutritional information – on Easter morning it doesn’t matter! Just ENJOY!!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

New on the Social Network Scene

When a video goes ”viral” on the Internet, it explodes on the scene with the force of a one megaton PR campaign. The reach of said video goes everywhere and is accessible by everyone.

For bloggers, if the video's message and content is convincing enough, it is often embraced and winds up on blogs and/or in mailboxes around the globe, but mainstream media may pick up on it as well and might be fooled into accepting it as gospel, unless they go directly to the source for further background.

During the first week in April, there were some very credible and geeky websites that fell for the concept of “Fluttering” (a form of “Nanoblogging”) – supposedly the ultimate step after “Twittering” (the social network tool, which has rapidly become famous for tracking every move of the famous, not-so-famous, wanna-be-famous, and infamous in 140 characters or less.)

Nanoblogging (as portrayed in a "mockumentary" tongue-in-cheek video from Salon Magazine) offered anyone who is attached to their computers or iphones, multiple opportunities to keep their friends and followers informed of their every move by utilizing a sparse 26 characters of alphabet communications – somewhere between “Twittering” and texting… you remember texting don’t you?

That’s right, 26 characters to stay informed on everything - in every one of your social contact’s lives.

Amazing!!! But, it was all a mirthful joke, which many in technology geekdom took seriously, two days after April Fools Day!

I won't embarrass anyone by sending you to their blogs or websites but suffice to say in less than a week the video was viewed over 400,000 times.

A stroke of genius by Salon. What do you think? Maybe we are actually glimpsing the future?