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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Love at First Book: Compatibility based on the written word

“A popular admonition goes, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ Yet we do it all the time. We ascribe qualities of character to people based on their physical characteristics. And our language takes shape to reflect that attitude.” ~ Anu Garg ~

These days, online dating sites are popping up all over the place. Some are free and some charge monthly fees; some are dedicated to specific ethnic groups or religious ideologies, but all have one purpose in mind – hooking up singles so they become couples.

The granddaddy site of them all, eHarmony, is probably the most widely recognized service, but every so often another website enters the fray attempting to bring together strangers seeking a common bond.

The latest site, Alikewise, which is just barely a month old, has taken a completely new spin on the dating scene with their philosophy rooted in bringing together singles based on the books they read.

It’s an interesting concept. So far, Alikewise seems off to a slow start, but one never knows what will happen in the days or weeks to come.

When Anu Garg (see above quote) began his website,, in 1994 (simply for the love of words and language) who would have thought he would have over 900,000 followers today?

There’s something to be said for the power of the written word in bringing people together.

Enjoy the beautiful video from nomojofoyo’s YoutTube Channel, which includes some memorable excerpts from great literary works. One might say, “There is clearly passion in the written word.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

Parrot University

“Essentially, a parrot is a monkey with wings.” ~ Joseph Garner ~

Here’s a possible, albeit non-human contender for “America’s Got Talent” – “Kili” the parrot.

This is not your average little winged green gal who spouts family secrets and slang; she can wave, play dead, drop a mini-basketball in a hoop and deposit a coin in a piggy bank among other talents.

Kili is a Senegal Parrot, not more than nine inches in length from beak to tail, but has proven to be a remarkable pet that is highly trainable.

Senegal Parrots are endemic to a wide area of West Africa, primarily savanna and open woodlands but are prized in the aviculture world as pets, not only for their comical and charming personalities but their ability to domesticate, and with proper training and socialization become attached to their owner with the same devotion as a dog.

Kili’s owner, simply known as “Michael,” created an amazing video, World Record 20 Parrot Tricks in 2 Minutes, which over the past eight months has gone viral, being viewed by more than a million folks from kiliparrot’s YouTube Channel.

Michael also maintains a very comprehensive website and blog, Trained that covers everything you need to know about raising parrots as pets.

It’s apparent from the video below that this “Polly” could not only ask for a cracker but open the box and get it out.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Welcome to the funny skies

"Flying. Whatever any other organism has been able to do man should surely be able to do also, though he may go a different way about it." ~ Samuel Butler ~

A little over a year ago, I wrote the post, “Welcome to the Friendly Skies Again,” which featured Southwest Airlines and their “unique corporate culture” that allows employees to be themselves and have fun, which ultimately translates into happier and less stressed out passengers.

At the time, I thought nothing could top Southwest’s YouTube sensation, the “Rapping Flight Attendant” or their on-board “toilet paper races.”

Well, I was wrong.

The other day I received a hysterical email that opened my eyes to another budget airline; this one headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa – Kulula Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of Comair Limited.

Kulula goes way over the top making passengers smile with their brightly colored Boeing 737 aircraft fleet, which is promoted as “Flying 101,” and includes painted text that points out various under-the-skin aircraft components.

I had to grin when I took a closer look at the forward left cockpit area designated with an arrow pointing to “the big cheese” – this is where the captain sits.

In the email I received, there were reported samples of Kulula’s in-flight announcements, which said, “Kulula airline attendants make an effort to make the in-flight safety lecture and announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported.”

I have to tell you I laughed quite hard as I read them, but was skeptical that many of these one-liners were the product of someone’s over active humor gland, so I did some sleuthing and found the smoking gun, which is in the YouTube video at the end of this article.

For airline stories/jokes, these are some of the best in the business.

On a Kulula flight, (there is no assigned seating, you just sit where you want) passengers were apparently having a hard time choosing, when a flight attendant announced, "People, people we're not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!"

On another flight with a very "senior" flight attendant crew, the pilot said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we've reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants."

On landing, the stewardess said, "Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you're going to leave anything, please make sure it's something we'd like to have."

"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane."

"Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride."

As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Durban Airport , a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "Whoa, big fella. WHOA!"

After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in the Karoo , a flight attendant on a flight announced, "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted."

From a Kulula employee: " Welcome aboard Kulula 271 to Port Elizabeth To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised."

"In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one small child, pick your favorite."

“Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we'll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Kulula Airlines.”

"Your seats cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments."

"As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."

(From the pilot during his welcome message) "Kulula Airlines is pleased to announce that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!"

(Heard on Kulula 255 just after a very hard landing in Cape Town, the flight attendant came on the intercom and said) "That was quite a bump and I know what y'all are thinking. I'm here to tell you it wasn't the airline's fault, it wasn't the pilot's fault, it wasn't the flight attendant's fault; it was the asphalt."

Overheard on a Kulula flight into Cape Town on a particularly windy and bumpy day: During the final approach, the Captain really had to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City. Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what's left of our airplane to the gate!"

Another flight attendant's comment on a less than perfect landing: "We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal."

An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a "Thanks for flying our airline.” He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally, everyone had gotten off except for an elderly lady walking with a cane. She said, "Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?" "Why, no Ma'am," said the pilot. "What is it?" The lady said, "Did we land, or were we shot down?"

After a real crusher of a landing in Johannesburg, the attendant came on with, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we will open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal."

Part of a flight attendant's arrival announcement: "We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you'll think of Kulula Airways."

Heard on a Kulula flight. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing. If you can light 'em, you can smoke 'em."

A plane was taking off from Durban Airport. After it reached a comfortable cruising altitude, the captain made an announcement over the intercom, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number 293, non-stop from Durban to Cape Town. The weather ahead is good and, therefore, we should have a smooth and uneventful flight. Now sit back and relax... OH, MY GOODNESS!" Silence followed, and after a few minutes, the captain came back on the intercom and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier. While I was talking to you, the flight attendant accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants!" A passenger then yelled, "That's nothing. You should see the back of mine!”

NOW… if you think these were not for real – check out this video.

Have a great weekend, and keep smiling. Laughter is always the best medicine for anything that ails you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Of Poppy Flowers and Starry Nights: Vincent Van Gogh

“The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” ~ Francis Bacon ~

When the Anglo-Irish artist, Francis Bacon spoke those words, he was obviously referencing his own avant- garde style of figurative painting, which caused many to wonder what inner turmoil produced his emotionally wrenching pictures. But, Bacon’s quote is even more meaningful today as it points to another artist who was also an enigma during his lifetime, and even more so in the years following his death - Vincent Willem van Gogh, the 19th century Dutch post Impressionist painter.

Van Gogh’s life, like Bacon’s was tortured in many ways. Over the years, theories as to Van Gogh’s genius versus his mental condition have been speculated, attributing his erratic lifestyle and paintings to conditions such as Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and Bipolar disorder along with his dietary tastes for absinthe and lead paint; the former substance causing one to see objects in the color yellow while the latter poison contributes to retinal swelling, which might explain the halo effects around light in his pictures.

The mystery of Van Gogh’s life and subsequent suicide at the age of 37 was overshadowed this weekend, with the questionable heist of his painting (pictured in this post) known as “Poppy Flowers,” or alternately referred to as “Vase and Flowers.”

Lifted in broad daylight, on Saturday, August 21, the 12 inch by 12 inch (30 centimeters. by 30 centimeters) painting, valued at $55 million (43,293,470 euros), was literally cut out of its frame, disappearing from the Mahmoud Khalil Modern Art Museum in Cairo, Egypt.

It has been reported that the museum’s alarms were malfunctioning and only seven surveillance cameras out of 43 were in working order, which is practically an open invitation, and IMHO it definitely smells like and inside job.

Ironically, this is the second time Poppy Flowers has been stolen from the same museum; the last burglary occurred in 1978, and the canvas went missing for two years until it, and the thieves were apprehended in Kuwait.

The disappearance of Poppy Flowers, though not as shocking to the art world as Vincenzo Peruggia’s theft of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre 99 years ago, rivals the mysterious twice-stolen Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” in 1994 and 2004 from the National Gallery, Oslo, Norway and then later from the Munch Museum.

Both The Scream and Mona Lisa were eventually found; the fate of Poppy Flowers remains uncertain at this time and was erroneously reported as recovered, but the official statement was recanted yesterday and the entire affair remains a mystery under investigation.

Also a mystery as to why this particular painting was so appealing to thieves as it is not considered as important as Van Gogh’s magnum opus, “The Starry Night,” which was popularized in the 1971 song, "Vincent" by Don McLean, who was deeply touched by Van Gogh’s life story after reading a biography about the artist.

To learn more about Van Gogh’s life, there is an outstanding and comprehensive website covering all his artistic works, writings, and complete biography at The Vincent Van Gogh Gallery, which is endorsed by the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

To hear McLean’s beautiful song and view many of Van Gogh’s paintings, simply click on the video below from MrAdamBurns Youtube channel. The haunting words and music are synced beautifully to Van Gogh’s images.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Paper or Plastic?

“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.” ~ Jacques Yves Cousteau ~

Kudos to Californians, instead of simply talking about pollution, they are hoping to pass some revolutionary legislation that will ban the use of plastic bags.

The California senate, at the end of August will be voting on AB1998, which if passed into law will successfully eliminate the state’s 19 billion-a-year plastic bag habit.

As part of the campaign to raise consumer awareness as to the environmental problems with using plastic bags, the non-profit organization Heal the Bay, has provided a rather entertaining, but extremely informative “mockumentary,” The Majestic Plastic Bag.

Narrated by noted actor Jeremy Irons, the four minute, tongue-in-cheek video smacks of a typical class-act BBC nature documentary, but wallops a big punch regarding the perils of plastic.

Okay now, so which is it going to be when you go shopping – paper, or plastic?

Actually, being a tree lover, I vote for cloth.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Seasoning from the sea

"Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving, or music." ~ Julia Child ~

Recessionary times often bring out the best in entrepreneurial spirit, and such is the case with a culinary product that was an idea just waiting to happen - Acquamara.

Recently launched at the Taste of Edinburgh Festival, Acquamara is bottled seawater sold in three-liter containers and priced at £4.95, which is roughly $7.87 US.

The product is geared not only for professional chefs but for home use.

By now, I know what you are probably thinking: “Why would anyone buy salt water when you can easily make your own?” Excellent question.

Cooking with seawater has been practiced for centuries. Even some contemporary chefs, such as Rick Stein, who is also multiple-location restaurateur and television presenter, has discussed cooking with seawater in the excerpt below from one of his shows.

The main difference between cooking with any old seawater and Acquamara boils down (so to speak) to this: source and refinement. And goodness knows we are all keenly aware of water pollution these days.

Acquamara is sourced from the cleanest area of the Atlantic Ocean, off the tiny island of Berneray, which is part of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides.

It is then filtered, removing any remaining particulates including sand, rust or dirt, and is bottled certified safe under EC drinking water standards.

The idea for Acquamara was the brainchild of 49-year old Andy Inglis, a clever entrepreneurial Scotsman who hails from Dunbar, East Lothian.

Inglis had been mulling over the thought for a couple of years but was pushed into action after helping his daughter with a school project that included historical recipes, which required cooking with seawater.

Taking his inspiration to the next development stage, Inglis began doing extensive market research with a prototype, seeking out opinions from some of the top chefs in the United Kingdom.

According to those top chefs, Acquamara was a winner that provides an exceptional taste to a wide variety of recipes. It’s also a nifty way of using less salt in preparation or for flavor enhancement.

Acquamara’s website offers some recipes and a seasoning guide along with endorsements from those top chefs. Hey, if it’s good enough for them…

I just wish I had thought of it first.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Go Granny go…

"There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age." ~ Sophia Loren ~

When 80-year old Janey Cutler was escorted out onto the stage of Glasgow’s Clyde Auditorium by Ant McPartlin for the initial televised auditions of the 2010 season of Britain’s Got Talent, no one expected this tiny songstress to pull a Susan Boyle moment.

Cutler, who hails from Wishaw, a former burgh in North Lanarkshire, Scotland located 15 miles south-east of Glasgow is a seasoned mother of seven, grandmother to 13 and great grandmother of four, but as her name was announced to take her place in front of an audience of 3,000 she appeared hesitant, perhaps a bit overwhelmed.

Judges Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan were polite and welcoming to her nonetheless, perhaps in deference to her age: they were all in for a shock.

Cutler belted out her own interpretation of “No Regrets,” the cabaret song made famous in 1960 by Edith Piaf and she won the hearts of all, receiving a standing ovation as well as continuing on to the very last rounds of BGT.

Even though Cutler’s subsequent performances appeared more polished and she was gussied up a bit, there were slight problems with intonation and a certain stiffness that was not present in the audition taping. Ultimately, she and the other finalists lost the top title to a gymnast troupe known as Spellbound.

The video below shows it was not so much a Susan Boyle moment but more a Betty White Facebook generation moment, which is best referred to as “Elder Cool” a term coined by John H. Green, Ph.D in his book, In Elder Cool Time.

What is “Elder Cool” you ask? Well, according to the editorial review of Green’s Book – “You are Elder Cool if you decide it is time to teach others based on the wisdom of your aging process. Elder represents a purpose-evolving life experienced teacher, and cool is accepting the aging process with grace and dignity. Elder Cool is grace under challenge...”

When I finally grow up, I want to be just like Janey, Betty or Sophia – Elder Cool.