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Friday, December 31, 2010

The 12 Days of Internet music: Day 11

Scottish Poet Robert Burns

 “Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?” ~ Robert Burns ~

The song that has become synonymous with the passing of the old year to the new is “Auld Lang Syne.”

The lyrics that are sung today were transcribed from oral tradition by Scottish poet Robert Burns.

Based on a traditional folk tune, the lyrics and melody reach further back and predate the Burns’ version by 200 years.

The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” loosely translates as, “for old time’s sake.”

In a plaintive farewell, the video below needs no words as the song is sung in an instrumental voice by the Grammy-winning American Saxophonist, Kenneth Bruce Gorelick, who is better known as “Kenny G.”

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The 12 Days of Internet music: Day 10

"Enhanced Rainbow"  photo by Barb Ver Sluis

“Somewhere over the rainbow

Way up high,
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.”
~ “Over the Rainbow” music by Harold Arlen
lyrics by E.Y. Harburg ~

In 1939, when the unemployment rate hovered at 17.2 per cent, there was one song that gave much hope to many - “Over the Rainbow,” from the MGM motion picture THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Sung by 16-year old Judy Garland, “Over the Rainbow” went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song, and Garland was honored with a Juvenile Academy Award for her work in OZ as well as BABES IN ARMS.

The song became permanently associated with Garland throughout her entire career and over the years, "Rainbow" has been covered by many vocalists, but in my humble opinion, the finest and most meaningful rendition since Garland, was recorded by the late Eva Cassidy, whose gentle voice, thoughtful phrasing and delivery give hope for better days to come, and provides a poignant and lasting signature of a young talent lost all too soon..

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The 12 Days of Internet music: Day 9

Edvard Grieg, 1891 painting by Eilif Petersse
“Artists like Bach and Beethoven erected churches and temples on the heights. I only wanted... 
to build dwellings for men in which they might feel
happy and at home.” ~ Edvard Grieg ~

Edvard Grieg, the great Norwegian composer/pianist from the Romantic period is probably most identified with his incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt, which was subsequently adapted into two suites of music that contained the highly identifiable selections, “Morning Mood,” “Solveig's Song” and "In the Hall of the Mountain King."

Grieg was not only an accomplished pianist, but a composer of many other works, that when heard, never fail to paint vivid landscapes of his country by combining classical traditions with native folk music.

An excellent example of this melding of musical styles is present in Grieg’s Sonata no. 3 in C minor for Violin and Piano, 2nd Movement, “Allegretto expressivo alla Romanza.”

The piece is lush and lyrical. The piano and violin easily converse and compliment one another while bringing forth romantic images.

The recording below is a superb interpretation by two young artists, violinist David Radzynski, a graduate student at the Yale School of Music, and Israeli pianist Ron Trachtman.

The sonata, one of three composed by Grieg, was the artist’s favorite and was completed in 1887.

The recording by Radzynski and Trachtman was taken from a live performance at the Jerusalem Music Center, May 19, 2009.

Monday, December 27, 2010

12 Days of Internet music: Day 8

Photo by Paula Slade

“Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”
~ Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!
Music composed by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn ~

Composed in Los Angeles on one of the hottest days of the year in 1945, “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow” has become one of the most popular songs of all time by legendary crooner Frank Sinatra, with over 25,000,000 downloads from Apple iTunes.

If you’re digging out from a snowstorm, take a moment and enjoy “old blue eyes” rendition and smile, remembering the lost days of summer.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

12 Days of Internet music: Day 7

Portrait by Catherine Wicks

It’s Christmas morning and below is something special, “Da Day Dawn,” an ancient and haunting Shetland aire that traces its roots from the Norse.

Traditionally performed in the early hours of Christmas morning to awaken members of the household for the day’s celebration, this version was presented at the Great Hall in West Brookfield, Massachusetts on December 2, 2007 by Celtic/Classical violinist/violist/ composer, Samantha Gillogly.

May you awaken to the promise of a beautiful day filled with peace and love.

Friday, December 24, 2010

12 Days of Internet music: Day 6

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.

Below is an audio excerpt of "The Lamb."

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12 Days of Internet music: Day 5

“On the twelfth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtledoves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!”

The religious period in the Christian church known as “The 12 days of Christmas,” which officially begins on Christmas Day and ends on “Twelfth Night” was immortalized in song by English Scholar, James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps who popularized the piece when he published it in 1849.

The melody is believed to be much older and possibly originated in France.

The version of the song, which we know today, is attributed to an arrangement for choral and solo voices written by singer/teacher/composer Frederic Austin in 1909.

The video below takes this popular carol down a different path as a commercial for Allstate Insurance and is amusing.

Thanks goes to InsuranceAgentDenver’s Youtube channel for sharing 12 Days of Christmas Mayhem.


Friday, December 17, 2010

The 12 Days of Internet Music: Day 4

The recording below features one of the finest classical/crossover tenors of our time, Andrea Bocelli.

This will surely get you in the holiday spirit.

Thanks to marcelofacamargo's YouTube Channel for capturing such a magnificent performance of this classic Christmas carol, Adeste Fidelis.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The 12 Days of Internet Music: Day 3

“Somehow, not only for Christmas, but all the long year through, the joy that you give to others, is the joy that comes back to you. And the more you spend in blessing, the poor and lonely and sad, the more of your heart's possessing, returns to you glad.” ~ John Greenleaf Whittier ~

Although not a traditional Christmas carol, the music video below exemplifies the true meaning of this season.

Recorded on June 15 of this year at the Troy, New York PBS television studios of WMHT, this selection features: Tim Janis and the Tim Janis Ensemble; Sarah Darling; the Antioch High School and the Canajoharie Middle/High School choirs in a newly released song “Rejoice at Christmas,” written by Andrew J. Wight and arranged by Tim Janis.

The music is available to download for .99 cents at iTunes and CDBaby with proceeds going to charity.

Enjoy, and spread the word.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 12 Days of Internet Music: Day 2

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
'Tis the season to be jolly
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
Don we now our gay apparel.
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la
Troll the ancient Yuletide carol.
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.”

The familiar tune for “Deck the Halls” is based on a 16th Century Welsh air. Lyrics were originally written and presented in Welsh by John Ceiriog Hughes.

If you’re a pet owner or just love animals, you’ll get a chuckle out of this version of “Deck the Halls.” After a brief musical intro, anthropomorphism reigns here.

Many thanks to klaatu42’s Talking Animals YouTube channel for compiling and presenting this very funny video.

Enjoy, and be sure to spread the cheer.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The 12 Days of Internet Music: Day 1

“Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, throw cares away”~ The Carol of the Bells ~ Music composed by Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovyc and adapted lyrics by Peter Wilhousky

In order to bring the season in with song, the next 12 days are devoted to some of the most original adaptations of traditional Christmas carols that are presented on the Internet.

First, “The Carol of the Bells,” a fun-filled interpretation by The Muppets.

Thanks so much to The Muppets Studio, LLC and the good folks at Disney.

Enjoy this holiday musical journey, and be sure to spread the cheer with your family and friends.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Big Cat Week on NAT GEO WILD roars in helping endangered species

They are often referred to as “big cats.” We also know them as lions, tigers, jaguars, cheetahs and leopards; each species an awesome predator. They hunt and kill only to survive, but now it is their survival that is on the line, and beginning Monday, Dec. 6, 2010, National Geographic channel’s NAT GEO WILD gives us a closer look at these magnificent animals during, Big Cat Week.

As part of National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative, which is their ongoing commitment to save these endangered species; Big Cat Week provides extraordinary film footage in an effort to raise worldwide awareness of their potential loss to future generations.

Poaching, destruction of natural habitats, prey decline, pesticides and even tuberculosis and canine distemper has drastically reduced big cat populations. As an example, in the last 2,000 years, more than a million lions roamed the earth with those numbers presented across the African continent to as far as parts of northwest India. Then, only 60 years ago, the population had contracted to an estimated 450,000, and is currently assessed to be as few as 20,000 individuals. A link to an interactive map that clearly displays this devastation (as you progress the timeline forward) provides the shocking and rapid proof of the decline that we see today.

Derek and Beverly Joubert
“We no longer have the luxury of time when it comes to big cats,” says National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dereck Joubert, who along with his wife and film making partner Beverly, captured footage for the premiere episode of Big Cat Week. Joubert adds, "They are in such a downward spiral that if we hesitate now, we will be responsible for extinctions across the globe. If there was ever a time to take action, it is now.”

Over the last 25 years, the Jouberts, who are also staunch conservationists, have amassed a body of distinguished research, which has been translated into 10 books, numerous articles for National Geographic Magazine, six scientific papers and 22 films that have garnered them five Emmys, a Peabody, the World Ecology Award and most recently induction into the American Academy of Achievement.

To find out more about the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative and how you can participate, simply follow this link.

Big Cat week begins Monday, Dec. 6 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on NAT GEO WILD.

Below is a preview of Monday’s premiere episode, Big Cat Odyssey.

For other videos in the series along with interesting big cat facts, photos and programming schedule, visit NAT GEO WILD online.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One thousand random acts of culture…

‘Christmas Present’ photo by Petr Kratochvil
“Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote it I know not. God knows." (Quote attributed to George Frideric Handel in reference to his composing the 'Hallelujah Chorus.'

If this doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, nothing will.

The results for Black Friday are in, and according to a press release from the National Retail Federation, “212 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday Weekend,” spending an “estimated $45.0 billion” on holiday shopping.

(And, I thought we were still in a recession.)

Cyber Monday seems to have done impressively well too, according to a press release from ComScore, Inc., which trumpets a headline stating, “Billion Dollar Bonanza: Cyber Monday Surpasses $1 Billion in U.S. Spending as Heaviest Online Shopping Day in History.”

So much for my take on the economy, as millions nationwide are poised to loose extended unemployment benefits as well as their homes to foreclosure in the coming weeks.

Each year the holiday shopping season officially kicks off with the traditional Macy’s parade in New York City, but this year, Macy’s took a bolder step and launched their season (at least in their Philadelphia Center City store) the day before Halloween, when something quite unique occurred; the venerable Opera Company of Philadelphia’s chorus, accompanied by the world’s largest pipe organ (the Wanamaker ) along with 650 other primed voices from the community, launched into a noontime spectacular rendition of George Frideric Handel’s ‘'Hallelujah Chorus.'

The event, that created a massive shopper sing-along was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as part of their community outreach program, Random Act of Culture, which endeavors to bring “classical arts out of the concert halls and opera houses and into our communities to enrich our everyday lives.”

Over the next three years, a total of 1,000 Random Acts of Culture will take place in the following cities: Akron, Ohio; Charlotte, N.C.; Detroit, Mich.; Macon, Ga.; Miami, Fla.; Philadelphia, Pa.; San Jose, Calif.; and St. Paul, Minn.

The entire six minutes of glorious music echoed through every balcony and department at Macy’s, and was captured on the video below, which has been viewed by over five million people, and (judging from the comments left on the Knight Foundation site) brought tears to the eyes of those who participated or viewed it online.

In my humble opinion, this wonderful Random Act of Culture, spread more holiday cheer, and did more for the American psyche than any store-bought gift ever could.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving thanks for animal friends

"Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to." ~ Alfred A. Montapert , Author/Philiospher.~

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, gratitude is often found in the smaller moments of everyday life.

For many people, pets fill those smaller moments and take center stage in offering unconditional love and companionship, which is so important this time of year.

The other day, I received a PowerPoint presentation from a friend via email, and was so taken with the quality and sensitivity poured into it, that I felt compelled to share it in this post.

The slide show is called “Partners With Paws,” and IMHO it was created by a person who is grateful for those smaller moments of everyday life, which are often brought about by living with a dog or cat.

In tracing the origin of the PowerPoint, I was able to link it to authorSTREAM, a website, much like YouTube, but one that caters to folks who enjoy creating and sharing slide shows.

The individual, who posted the presentation that is below, simply goes by the moniker, “guug li “from Budapest Hungary.

I hope you enjoy it, and that you and yours (whether human or pet) have a holiday filled with the blessings of love and companionship, along with an extra helping of turkey and pie.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Beary Happy Ending

John Muir - 1907 -
"Bears are not companions of men, but children of God, and His charity is broad enough for both... We seek to establish a narrow line between ourselves and the feathery zeros we dare to call angels, but ask a partition barrier of infinite width to show the rest of creation its proper place. Yet bears are made of the same dust as we, and breathe the same winds and drink of the same waters. A bears days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are overdomed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart-pulsings like ours and was poured from the same fountain....." ~ John Muir ~

Scottish-born American, John Muir, naturalist and ecologist will always be remembered as a spiritual advocate for the preservation of wildnerness, which earned him the title, "The Father of our National Parks."

Today, his legacy provides a basis for thoughtful land conservation providing protected habitats for creatures great and small.

Once in a while, those creatures venture into man’s territory, which unfortunately happens more often as rural areas develop and spread into cities.

Such is the story that was captured on the video below last spring by the Ventura County Star; a Cinnamon black bear had made it’s way into the town of Oxnard, California, only to find itself in a bit of a jam as it climbed a tree using it’s short non-retractable claws, most likely in search of food. (Black bears are notorious for their constant foraging.)

It’s estimated that about 300,000 black bears populate the United States, and for the most part are solitary and rather docile animals, despite their size, which varies from two to three feet in height (at shoulders) and four to seven feet in length from the tip of the nose to the tail. The weight of male bears spans 150 to a whopping 600 pounds, while females tend to be smaller overall in size, but still look formidable when found wandering in a human setting.

Fortunately, for the 200 pound black bear in this story, some alert game wardens and the local fire department took time to rescue the bear and relocate it back into a forest habitat.

It’s not that often that animals this size get a second chance - John Muir must have been smiling down that day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hackenschmied and Derenkowsky

“Another cat? Perhaps. For love there is also a season; its seeds must be resown. But a family cat is not replaceable like a worn-out coat or a set of tires. Each new kitten becomes its own cat, and none is repeated. I am four cats old, measuring out my life in friends that have succeeded but not replaced one another.” ~ Irving Townsend ~

If you’re you’re a true cinephile or perhaps a student at UCLA or NYU film school you’ll probably recognize the names Alexandr Hackenschmied as well as Eleanora Derenkowsky and not think it’s a New York based law firm. The pair, both filmmakers, and once husband and wife, also went by the more recognizable Americanized names of Alexandr Hammid and Maya Deren.

When they were together in the 1940’s, Hammid and Deren created some extraordinary avant-garde films, most notably, MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON.

Recently, one of Hammid and Deren’s lesser-known works, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF THE CAT surfaced on the Internet and begs to be shared; it’s a poignant documentary short, only 22 minutes long, but cinematically packs a haunting punch.

Today, when we go to the theater, we expect to see movies in 3-D with computer generated imagery, oftentimes backed up with thundering Dolby sound, all designed to assault the senses and draw the theater patron in, as close to the onscreen action as possible.

However, if we step back to a gentler time, without music or voice over, and only a modest printed card or two along with a cinematographer’s black and white visuals, we are in for a surprise, and such is THE PRIVATE LIFE OF A CAT.

The story is quite simple – two cats named “He” and “She” and their timeless bond in daily life with their family of kittens.

The documentary, shot against the backdrop of Hammid and Deren’s Manhattan apartment, reaches back 66 years as if it were yesterday.

A special thanks to the Prelinger Archives for making THE PRIVATE LIFE OF A CAT available for viewing. Enjoy!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

National Geographic channel spans the globe with GREAT MIGRATIONS

On Sunday, November 7, 2010, at 8 PM ET, the National Geographic channel premieres GREAT MIGRATIONS, a visually stunning and expertly crafted seven-part series that covers the dramatic life and death struggles of numerous animal species that span the globe as they travel, answering their instinctual calls for survival.

Over two and a half years in the making, NATGEO crews covered 420,000 miles across 20 countries and all seven continents to capture rare footage of millions upon millions of animals seeking food, water and mating grounds.

One of the most ambitious productions ever brought to television, GREAT MIGRATIONS is to be viewed in 330 million homes in 166 countries and in 34 languages.

Each one-hour episode will cover species such as Wildebeest; red crab; zebra; monarch butterfly; elephant seal; army ant; Mali elephant; whale shark and many more.

Four core hours of the series are narrated by two-time Emmy, three-time Golden Globe winner Alec Baldwin.

Additional episodes include a scientific investigation into the mysteries of animal migration; a behind-the-scenes look into the technology used and challenges faced in capturing GREAT MIGRATIONS, plus a special hour-long visual concert, which includes exquisite film footage set to original music.

Below for your viewing pleasure is an excerpt from the upcoming premiere episode along with a complete breakdown for each episode of GREAT MIGRATIONS, presented exclusively on the National Geographic Channel.

After viewing the video excerpt, simply click on the episode title to explore the series further in-depth.

Video "Red Crab Marathon" –“Red crab males must endure a harrowing journey towards the sea -- facing yellow crazy ants and traffic along the way”

Born to Move Sunday, Nov 7, 2010, 8 PM ET

Need to Breed Sunday, Nov 7, 2010, 9 PM ET

Born to Move (Repeat) Sunday, Nov 7, 2010, 10 PM ET

Science of Great MigrationsSpecial Episode- Tuesday, Nov 9, 2010, 10 PM ET

Feast or Famine Sunday, Nov 14, 2010, 8 PM ET

Race to Survive Sunday, Nov 14, 2010, 9 PM ET

Behind the ScenesSpecial Episode- Sunday, Nov 14, 2010, 10 PM ET

Behind the Scenes (Repeat)Tuesday, Nov 16, 2010, 9 PM ET

Rhythm of LifeSpecial Concert - Saturday, Nov 20, 2010, 8 PM ET

Born to Move (Repeat) Sunday, Nov 21, 2010, 8 PM ET

Need to Breed (Repeat) Sunday, Nov 21, 2010 9 PM ET

Race to Survive (Repeat) Sunday, Nov 21, 2010 10 PM ET

Friday, October 29, 2010

Neil Gaiman reads The Graveyard Book free online

"It's kind of like The Jungle Book, only instead of a jungle it's a graveyard. It's about this 2-year-old whose family is killed, and who is adopted and brought up by dead people and taught all the things that dead people know." ~ Neil Gaiman ~

It doesn’t get any better than this for Halloween and even after; author Neil Gaiman reads all eight chapters of his Newbery Medal and Hugo Award-winning bestseller, The Graveyard Book, online and free of charge.

Going hand-in-hand with a new literary tradition started by Gaiman, “All Hallows Read,” this online telling intends to put spooky, spine tingling books in the hands and minds of children for Halloween.

Each chapter of the Graveyard Book is almost like a novel unto itself and is presented in video format.

Chapters vary in length from approximately 25 minutes to just over an hour.

Suggested reading levels for The Graveyard Book are ages 9-12, but more often than not, Gaiman’s superb storytelling and rich language as well as imagery crosses boundaries well into the adult world.

In a different video that is below and not part of Gaiman’s book tour readings, he shares his inspiration for The Graveyard Book.

You can connect to Gaiman’s free video readings of The Graveyard Book at Mr. Bobo’s Remarkable Mouse Circus, the author’s official website for young readers.

After you hear the entire book, you may want to view some of the informative question and answer sessions that took place during his book tour.


Did a time traveler visit Hollywood in 1928?

“I do not have much patience with a thing of beauty that must be explained to be understood. If it does need additional interpretation by someone other than the creator, then I question whether it has fulfilled its purpose.” ~ Charlie Chaplin ~

Okay folks, this post is for all you SciFi fans, movie buffs and conspiracy theorists.

On Wednesday, October 20, 2010, Irish filmmaker, George Clarke, uploaded a piece of film footage that shows a behind-the-scenes look at the premier of Charlie Chaplain’s THE CIRCUS from 1928, which took place at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California.

The vintage piece of footage, captures what appears to be, an older woman who is walking along the sidewalk in front of Grauman’s and chatting on a cell phone.

“Impossible,” you say.

Take a look for yourself and you decide.

Clarke replays the footage several times and isolates the subject in question and he says, “I have studied this film for over a year now - showing it to over 100 people and at a film festival, yet no-one can give any explanation as to what she is doing.”

At this point, the original video, with Clarke’s own commentary from his YouTube channel, has had over 350,000 views, is being constantly downloaded and is poised to go viral.

A fascinating controversy is brewing and chat boards everywhere are chattering and asking, “Could this actually be a time traveler?”

The entire video runs eight minutes, 27 seconds and is worth watching all the way through.

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Have you ever purchased a book because of its cover?

“’Forgive me, sir,’ he said. ‘I had you all wrong. You can never tell a book by its cover.’” ~ Murder in the Glass Room by Edwin Rolfe and Lester Fuller (1946) ~

In May 2008, Random House Publishing commissioned Zogby International to create a survey, The Reading and Book Buying Habits of Americans.

Zogby questioned 8,218 adults not only about their reading habits, but everything from the reasons for purchasing a book, to the respondent’s political affiliation.

What was very telling about the report was the percentage of people who actually made their literary purchase based on a book’s cover.

When asked, “Do you ever judge a book by its cover?” Fifty-two percent of the respondents confirmed they did, and that “younger respondents were more likely to base their selection on a book’s cover.”

(IMHO, maybe this reflects a certain wisdom and discernment that only comes with age.)

However, what is even more telling is that when asked, “When you go into a bookstore for a specific book, do you make additional unplanned book purchases?”

Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed said, “Yes.”

Regardless the reason behind what appears as superficial purchasing, publishers, book designers and graphic artists have their work cut out for them in coordinating a strong first-response-visual that tempts a shopper to choose one book over another.

The video below, from orbitbooks YouTube channel, shows just how much creative work and choices goes into assembling a book cover.

The one minute, 53-second video is a distillation of six hours of Photoshopping –that involve cutting, pasting, erasing and adjusting so that Gail Carriger’s latest novel, BLAMELESS, makes the New York Times Bestseller list.

Of course, I think that Carriger’s fine storytelling and fan following from her previous romance/fantasy/steampunk PARASOL PROTECTORATE series had as much to do with the book’s success.

Have you ever impulse purchased a book because of its cover?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Another bargain: Free downloadable sheet music

Earlier today, I posted another bargain on my second website. If you have a child who is interested in classical music or is wanting to learn classical music for piano, voice, chamber groups or orchestra, here is profile and a link for free sheet music downloads from composer, Charles McCreery. His compositions are tonal, tuneful and accessible for children of all age groups and abilities. Enjoy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Free book downloads: Don't you just love a bargain?

"a man, tall and thin, and ghastly pale... I crept behind It, and gave It my knife; but the knife went through It, empty as the air."
- Bram Stoker, Chapter 7, Dracula

I love a good bargain, and when it’s totally free, I love it even more!

I’m not sure how long this will be available, but here goes…

Amazon Digital Services is providing totally free downloads of some of the finest spook-filled literature classics, guaranteed to get you in the mood to celebrate Halloween: Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein and Grimm’s Fairy Stories by Jacob Grimm.

These are complete book downloads of the original editions, presented in the English language, and carry a digital list price of $0.00. Plus, they are also delivered free by wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet.

The free downloads are compatible with the following: KindleKindle; DXKindle (2nd Generation); Kindle (1st Generation); Kindle for PCKindle; for MacKindle’; for iPadKindle; for iPhoneKindle; for AndroidKindle and for BlackBerry.

Don’t you just love that kind of bargain?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ debuts on the big screen in December

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.” ~ “Prospero” ~ Shakespeare’s The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158 ~

Every few years the entertainment industry takes up the charge of reinventing the works of William Shakespeare, either for television or for the big screen, and it’s that time again, as Touchstone Pictures/Miramax Films pick up the gauntlet with the mystical thriller, THE TEMPEST.

A few things have undergone a major transformation in this interpretation of THE TEMPEST - the addition of computer generated special effects to provide a 21st century viewing experience, and sorcerer Prospero has changed gender into sorceress Prospera. Set to handle this daunting transformation is Oscar® winner Helen Mirren who is no stranger to performing Shakespeare’s works on film.

2010 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST and it’s slated for limited release in the United States at select theaters beginning Friday, December 10, 2010.

The film has already been screened at the Venice, New York and Mill Valley Film Festivals and is scheduled to launch in Argentina in February, 2011.

THE TEMPEST has been rated as PG-13 for “some nudity, suggestive content and scary images.”

Are you a purist in terms of The Bard’s work and enjoy seeing it only on stage in its original form, or would you consider seeing director Julie Taymor’s version on film?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Autumn fun: Pick-your-own-pumpkins a definitive guide

“Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He's gotta pick this one. He's got to. I don't see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there's not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”– Linus – from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

If the weather is cooperating where you live, and if you’re looking for an entertaining and fun-filled afternoon, why not make an outing for the whole family and pick-your own pumpkin for Halloween?

To plan your trip, there’s a wonderful and comprehensive website, Pumpkin Patches and More, where you'll find a pumpkin patch near you, take a peek at what it’s like to traverse a corn maze (in daylight or at night) and locations for safe trick-or-treating, hayrides and more.

Be sure to scroll further down on all of the linked pages that have been provided and you’ll see listings for not only pumpkin picking in the United States, but pick-your-own-farms for many other fruits and vegetables in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

You’ll also find a super recipe for making pumpkin pie from scratch, information on pumpkin festivals and weigh-offs, and even a “how-to” for making a carved pumpkin last longer.

In the video below, P. Allen Smith, gardening maven, visits a pick-your-own site, and takes us on a quick historical tour about Halloween’s most popular vegetable-like fruit, the pumpkin.

If you’ve already purchased this year’s pumpkin but are still looking for another fun outing, check out my earlier post, It’s Apple Pickin’ Time: The Definitive Guide to pick your own apples nationwide – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

For more fun seasonal offerings, be sure to visit my other website: Paula Slade: National Children's Entertainment

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Extreme controversy: Donald Duck versus Glenn Beck

“Only in his wildest dreams could an actual suicide bomber do as much damage to this country.” ~ Keith Olbermann ~ (Referring to political commentator Glenn Beck.)

If you’re sitting in a packed movie theater and someone yells, “Fire,” when there is no fire, that’s not exercising free speech; it’s considered dangerous and in this case, a criminal act.

Political commentators like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh clapperclaw their brand of “fire” over the airwaves on a daily basis, mesmerizing the masses and polarizing both political left and political right.

This is free speech and it is what our country is all about.

However, the video below, which surfaced October 2, appears to do a great job at discerning commentator fire, from that which is reality.

Said video, “Right Wing Radio Duck," created by Jonathan McIntosh, is a brilliant and technologically astounding remix of classic Donald Duck cartoons (circa 1930’s to 1960’s) with the fear-mongering verbal gymnastics of Glenn Beck.

As a social commentary, it hits the mark spot on. (No wonder the video has begun to go viral, chalking up over a half million hits in three days.)

IMHO, the message speaks for itself. It definitely makes me want to take that free bus ride to Washington, D.C. on October 30 and witness first-hand Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity.”

If anyone’s going, could you save me a seat?

Glenn Beck photo by David Shankbone; CC 3.0

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Seeking truth in journalism

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” ~ Epictetus ~

Early this morning, I was visiting various news sites that I had missed during the week and came upon an article on the front page of the Huffington Post - Watch: The Funniest Employee Training Videos.

I needed a good laugh, so I surfed in and began viewing all nine of the videos, everything from industrial training at Wendy’s (on how to serve hot or cold drinks, accompanied by rapping music) to the “Casual Male’s Super Associate Video,” which is dedicated to informing sales personnel in the proper methodology for creating customer satisfaction while increasing the bottom line.

After going through all nine videos, the funniest one (IMHO) was a Chrysler Training video; however, it did not get the most hits and was not considered a contender for the top five on the page’s poll box.

I showed it to my husband at breakfast and we both laughed hysterically as it was touted (under the clip) as having too much technical jargon to effectively understand, and I have to assume people just passed over it, or watched it for less than 15 seconds because the picture was a bit fuzzy, and then moved on thinking it was probably too dry to bother watching.

I had no intention of doing a post on this, but after seeing my husband’s reaction and his comments that the video reminded him of Professor Irwin Corey delivering what sounded like real technical jargon (such as “Turbo Encabulator” and “dingle arm”) I thought I would share it with you and garner your opinion, hopefully seeking out someone with advanced technical knowledge on the subject.

When I returned to the Huffington site, the video had disappeared. Poof! Just like magic, it was gone, so I did a search on the site and nada. This piqued my interest and I began sleuthing and discovered that this video had been posted several times on YouTube and received a number of hits, upwards of 400,000.

Then I decided to meticulously review each Youtube entry for comments, and folks were voicing in as if they understood what was being said… Except for one person, who referred to the video as (expletive deleted) a joke.

Ah-ha, the smoking gun had been found, and I returned to the Huffington site to search their comments section, and lo and behold, one person, at 10:36 AM, simply known by the handle, “greenearthman” caught the spoof and weighed in saying, “Somebody got trolled on the "Chrysler" video.” O-o-ops, too late, the article had hit the Twitterverse, social network sites and moi.

As it turns out, the Chrysler video was indeed a parody and was made to show at a convention, but only as an insider joke, however, it had made its way onto the Internet.

Moral to this story: Whenever you hear, someone on film say, “You will be directed to perform a series of tests that will effectively raise the billable hours for the service department, but will perform no other useful function,” you’ve got to check your source.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

To sleep, perchance to dream of food...

“Cats never strike a pose that isn't photogenic.“ ~ Lillian Jackson Braun ~

The other day I was surfing around for article ideas and ran across a remarkable morphing video.

It first appeared on the icanhazcheezburger site, a place where all folks who love cats get a daily dose of “catspiration” in the form of funny feline pictures that include witty cat-speak commentary.

I’m absolutely entranced when someone does an excellent job of marrying images in succession by melding and blending in such a way that it is almost mesmerizing.

Such is the video below, “Cats Morph to Croissants.”

Even if you are not a cat lover, you will appreciate the thought process involved.

This little jewel not only shows how creative some folks are, but how the truly expansive mind works – taking disparate ideas and imaging and blending them into a symphony of site.

Enjoy… but don’t try chomping on your kitty. I don’t think they would take too kindly to having jam on their head.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Banning Books: An embargo on brain power

“WHEREAS, the freedom to read is essential to our democracy, and reading is among our greatest freedoms” ~ Opening sentence of Banned Books Week Proclamation ~

It’s that time of year again, Banned Books Week, September 25 to October 2, 2010, when we salute the American Library Association and our First Amendment rights that celebrate the freedom to read whatever we choose.

Since 1982, this annual event has promoted public awareness for precious intellectual freedom.

Over the years, some of the greatest classics in literature have been challenged or banned by special interest groups and individuals, for being deemed “offensive,” “unsuited,” or “too explicit.”

Thank goodness, libraries, librarians, teachers and booksellers uphold our right to choose, and challenge those who (because of special interests) would seek to have books removed from libraries, classrooms or booksellers.

This past year, Stephanie H. Meyer’s “Twilight” series was challenged along with the classic, "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," and even the "Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary" received flack along with many other surprising titles.

Robert P. Doyle, executive director of the Illinois Library Association and noted authority on the First Amendment has conveniently kept track with his “Books that Were Challenged or Banned 2009-2010,” which can be viewed by clicking on the link.

You may or may not agree with the selection of books, or the reasons for challenging or banning, and even the outcomes, but if you embrace this year’s Banned Books Week motto, “Think for yourself and let others do the same," IMHO you’ll get the point.

The humorous video below, from 2009, drives it home even more effectively. HAPPY READING!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A possible candidate for the Darwin Awards

“The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of
the human genome by honoring those who
accidentally remove themselves from it...” ~ The Darwin Awards ~

If you think you’re having a bad day, it’s not as bad as James Brienzo, who was spotted by police as a suspected shoplifter when he exited (with a shopping cart full of merchandise) through a fire door at a Walmart store in Alliance, Ohio at approximately 6:00 AM, Wednesday, September 22, 2010.

According to reports, Brienzo spotted the police, fled on foot and decided to hide in a dumpster, which was behind the Walmart store. Bad idea. Moments later a garbage truck picked up and proceeded to compact the trash along with Brienzo.

Fortunately for Brienzo, he had the presence of mind to use his cell phone, calling a friend for help and was subsequently tracked by GPS by the police.

Once the police located and stopped the truck, they couldn’t immediately extract Brienzo, so he was taken to the Alliance Recycling Center where the trash was emptied.

According to police, Brienzo had been “compacted” a few times during his ride.

Presently, Brienzo is in critical condition at MetroHealth Medical Center, and the incident is still under investigation.

If he survives, he will forfeit the opportunity for a “Darwin Award.” IMHO, I think he would prefer not to receive the dubious honor. (If you are not familiar with the awards, simply follow the link that has been provided.)

Thanks to Cleveland Fox 8 News for the embedded video footage below.

I think I’ll file this post under “Bad Timing.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Peace and Gratitude

September 21st is marked by the celebration of Peace Day and World Gratitude Day, and there is much to contemplate about both.

Many voices have spoken eloquently on these ideals and may their words and song inspire a moment of reflection for us all.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” ~Mother Teresa ~

“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ~

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” ~ Jimi Hendrix ~

“Let us forgive each other - only then will we live in peace” ~Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy ~

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~Thornton Wilder ~

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein ~

“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” ~ Rabbi Harold Kushner ~

“Whatever our individual troubles and challenges may be, it’s important to pause every now and then to appreciate all that we have, on every level. We need to literally “count our blessings,” give thanks for them, allow ourselves to enjoy them, and relish the experience of prosperity we already have.” ~ Shakti Gawain ~

“Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend… when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present — love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure — the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven on earth.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach ~

Monday, September 20, 2010

Random acts of kindness and the power of touch

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo Buscaglia ~

This morning there was a fascinating feature on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition - “Human Connections Start With A Friendly Touch,” by Michelle Trudeau.

The three minute/35 second recorded segment (with accompanying text) covers what social scientists have known for years; human beings experience less stress and thrive from the power of simple human-to-human touch, and it’s not all psychological.

Be it a hug, holding hands, a massage or even a pat on the back, the slightest pressure on skin, which is the body’s largest organ, activates Pacinian corpuscles ( a mechanoreceptor) that helps spread feel-good nerve impulses to multiple organs, including the heart, and the body responds by lowering blood pressure.

Touching also prompts the reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and the release of the neurochemical, oxytocin, which promotes feelings of trust, bonding and devotion.

Below is a video that demonstrates the power of touch, as students from the University of Miami take over the campus and offer “Free Hugs” to all. As you will see, everyone who is hugged breaks out in a smile, so there is definitely something good going on.

IMHO, hugs are a great way to start the week, and you’ll probably be humming the John Lennon/Paul McCartney standard from the video, “All You Need is Love,” long after this clip has ended.

During these troubled times, dominated with major stress for many, just reach out and touch someone; you’ll both feel good.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pigeons: Winged Rats or Gourmet Treat?

"Accept that some days you are the pigeon and some days the statue." ~ Dilbert [Scott Adams] ~

For as long as there have been people, there have been pigeons.

They are found in almost every corner of the earth, from rock cliffs to city sidewalks.

The Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), which we probably see most often is a monogamous bird, and both parents share in the raising of the typical two- squabs-per-brood.

The little feathered squab in the picture is about 22 days old and is considered a gourmet delicacy that is sent to slaughter after its first month of life.

Yes, domestically raised pigeons are considered a main course treat.

One can buy farm-raised squab from places such as Marx Foods, and get an 18-pound box of 24 (11 to 12 ounce birds) for $243.40, which includes overnight FEDEX shipping. (I don’t know about you, but for everyday dinners that kind of blows my weekly grocery budget.)

However, if you should be so lucky as to find a smaller quantity of squab from your local butcher, Chef Emeril Lagasse has a superb recipe for Pan Seared Squab with a Dried Cherry Reduction Sauce.

If baby pigeons are considered a delicacy, why is it the adult bird is considered such a nuisance?

Pigeon guano is part of the problem, as the birds indiscriminately litter everything from statues to human heads, and there is an ever-so-slight slight risk that their droppings contribute to such diseases as psittacosis, , cryptococcosis and histoplasmosis. They also contract the West Nile Virus but do not spread it to humans, but are potential carriers for avian influenza, however, not the deadly H1N1 variety.

Also, adult pigeons are literally murder to statues and historic facades as they love to peck away at marble and other soft stone, gathering calcium carbonate, which they need for their egg laying.

To understand how serious the problem is for some cities, one needs to know that feeding pigeons in places such as St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy is no longer allowed in hopes of quelling the burgeoning bird population.

If you want to find out more about pigeons, there is a terrific website that offers “21 Amazing Facts You Didn’t Know About Pigeons” and is brought to you by deterapigeon - “The Pigeon Deterrent People.” At deterapigeon’s site, you will find answers to such need-to-know questions as, “Why do pigeons bob their head?” and “Are pigeons intelligent?” (The answer to the latter question is a big YES.)

The video below also proves that pigeons are really smart critters – they know how to take public transportation and not pay at the turnstile.

Sure beats winding up on the dinner table.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Looking back in peace…

“The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man's dedication to world peace... a representation of man's belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men, and, through cooperation, his ability to find greatness.” ~ Minoru Yamasaki ~

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oil painting on an iPad: Oxymoron or art?

"Throughout history a small number of artists have rejected both palette knives and brushes. A few used their fingers to spread the paint. Artists turned to such primal means for various reasons, including display of skill, experimental playfulness, or nose-thumbing at convention. The young Leonardo's use of his fingers can be linked to the properties of the newly available medium of oil painting. ... It should not surprise us that he played with the tackiness of the new oil medium, palpating the paint as he sought new effects." ~ Seeing Through Paintings by Andrea Kirsch and Rustin S. Levenson, p133/4. ~

It’s apparent that Kirsch and Levenson were not referencing Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” but perhaps the initial youngster-like steps he took to get to the height of his painting career.

The art of finger painting in and of itself was rediscovered and popularized by American educator, Ruth Faison Shaw in 1926 while in Rome, Italy teaching at the Shaw School. Since then, finger painting has become a major part of early art education, and used as a significant tool in psychiatric therapy.

Earlier this year, in April and May, when the Apple iPad was being launched, I was fascinated with the technology and penned two posts: "The iPad Chalenge: Cat, Dog or Man," and "The iPad Challenge: Part Deux."

Frankly, I was impressed with the multitude of inexpensive applications for this gadget, which seemed to be surfacing daily – everything from reading and games to writing and music.

I still don’t have an iPad, but I love to paint, and recently I discovered that there is an app called “Brushes”; it has all of the fun of finger painting but none of the mess, and it not only works on an iPad but is available for an iPhone and iPod touch.

In the hands of a fine portrait artist, David Jon Kassan, the Brushes app (at a mere $4.99) is more than child’s play. Take a look at the video below, which is a distillation of a three-hour live portrait painting session from Kassan’s Brooklyn Studio, which took place on Monday, June 21, 2010. The video has already been seen by over 900,000 people.

In case anybody wants to know (hint, hint) this is definitely going on my “wish list.”