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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.”

Friday, September 3, 2010

One person's commercial is another person's entertainment

“Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.” ~ Stephen Butler Leacock ~

Television commercials have come a long way both creatively and financially since 1941 when the Bulova Corporation paid four dollars for a ten-second spot, which simply showed a picture of a superimposed watch on a map of the United States.

Interest in the advertising world in general has been popularized over the last few years with the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning television series, Mad Men, which is set in the 1960’s hey day of advertising, at the fictional firm of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and added to that viewership, each year the advertising community honors the best-of-the-best with their annual CLIO Awards, helping provide a higher level of public awareness for what is being sold to new generations of viewers.

In my humble opinion, a finely created commercial is oftentimes more entertaining than conventional programming – even if they are trying to sell me something.

Although the CLIO Awards honor traditional 30 and 60-second commercials, some of the best advertising is now on the Internet, specifically viral videos, which reach a whole new breed of consumer through spots that are slightly longer than 60-seconds and border on being a hybrid cross between a traditional commercial and a music video, but pack a walloping creative punch.

Here are three of my favorites:

From Kia Motors America (with over two million views in three months) the Kia Soul Hamster, which popularizes the 2010 Kia Soul automobile; I’m not sure I would buy the car, but the rapping hamsters are darn cute.

Evian Roller Babies, weighing in with over 27 million views in one year is absolutely adorable and besides babies always sell, but in all honesty, I was predisposed to the product many years ago.

And last but not least, a faux commercial, which actually sells the genius of PESFilm, the company that created this spot titled, “Western Spaghetti,” which tallies in at five million views in two months, and was a 2009 Sundance Film Festival Winner as well as a 2009 Annecy Animation Audience Award Winner, and voted by Time Magazine # 2 Viral Video of the Year – absolutely brilliant.