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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Possibilities in the New Year

"Madonna of the Rocks" Leonardo da Vinci, detail

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wishing each of you a joyous holiday season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

One night of peace on earth…

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving thanks for many gifts…

“Praying Hands” by Albrecht Durer

Today I say “thank you” for many gifts:

The Gift of Love – given freely and without judgment

The Gift of Family – for the ties that bind generations

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

The Gift of Food – that which nourishes and sustains

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The art of pumpkin carving from the hands of a master

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Classics or clichés?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “I’m at wits' end!”

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

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

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

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

“It’s all Greek to me.” 

When it rains it pours!” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Let us never forget…

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dandelions: Gardener’s scourge or chef’s delight

‘Dandelions’ photo by Petr Kratochvil

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

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

Library at Thebes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FREE eBooks

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

Baen Free Library (For Science Fiction fans).

Bibliotastic (Good reads from self-published authors).

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

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

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

4eBooks  (Specializes in books on computer programming).

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

KnowFree (A virtual educational think tank).

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

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

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

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

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

SnipFiles (Free software along with free eBooks). (Magazines, games, graphics, photography).

Monday, July 4, 2011


"He who warned, uh, the British that they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells, and um, makin' sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed." ~Sarah Palin~ (Commenting on Paul Revere's midnight ride, June 3, 2011)

What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common is our extreme love for liberty. You're the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord." ~Michele Bachmann~ March 12, 2011 (Duh… “The shot heard round the world” and the Battles of Lexington and Concord actually took place in Massachusetts – ouch!)

It’s hard to say whose seat should be in the back of the classroom when it comes to American history – Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann. Both have received low marks for their media-pleasing clangers.

In all fairness to Ms. Palin, she got her real history confused with legend, as sometimes happens.

IMHO, if it weren’t for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1861 poem "Paul Revere's Ride" she might have gotten her facts straight – maybe… doubtful.

Longfellow’s version clearly immortalized Revere and left out several other riders, namely William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott. (Ah, but that’s just historical trivia.)

Kudos to the comedy sketch group, “Better Than the Machine” and “Green Shoe Animation” for this hysterical and skewed version of Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride, "Paul Revere: The Truth."

The animated short was directed by Jason Shwartz, Executive Produced by Reid Levin and involved “many great and patriotic friends who generously donated their expertise and time so the truth could be told!” (Full credits are provided at the end of the video.)

I wonder if Ms. Palin would change her story this time, now knowing the truth. After her initial gaffe she said, "[Paul Revere] did warn the British. And in a shout-out, gotcha-type of question that was asked of me, I answered candidly. And I know my American history."

Happy Birthday America, and keep smiling; better days are sure to come – eventually.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Koi ponds: Tranquility in the Garden

“I know the joy of fishes in the river through my own joy, as I go walking along the same river.”Zhuangzi ~

Today’s over-scheduled lifestyle has reflected the need to reconnect to a more serene and natural environment, and this in part may explain the evolution of water features in home gardens. Koi ponds in particular, are now one of the more popular home and garden enhancements.

Revered in the Orient as the perfect artistic environmental blend of showy plants and colorful fish, a koi pond, if built properly, becomes a year round ecosystem providing hours of relaxing pleasure while furnishing an unrivaled property investment.

“Koi” or “nishikigoi” (Japanese for “brocaded carp”) are amazing fish with fossil lineage stretching 20 million years to southern China. Not to be confused with goldfish or common carp (although related) koi are often referred to as “living jewels” or “swimming flowers”.

Popularized in Japan during the late nineteenth century, koi were farmed in rice paddies for their high quality source of protein. Over the century, these prolific fish found their way to ornamental garden ponds in the West.

Today’s koi come in 13 varieties (each containing a number of sub groups) and are classified by colors and patterns, ranging from bright orange and white (with black irregular spots) to solid silver or blue with reticulated net-like scales.

They are a curious breed of fish that make great pets. They hear, taste, smell, and will blush red when stressed, and can actually be trained to take food from your hand.

Koi have voracious appetites but should not be fed more than twice a day, with only enough food to be totally consumed during one feeding.

Often koi are accidentally killed by overfeeding, causing the fish to excrete excessive amounts of ammonia, which makes it difficult for them to breathe, and weakens their immune systems to infection and parasitic invasions. ( Proper filtration and pump equipment lessens the chance of that happening.)

Koi that winter-over outside should cease being fed when temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, since their metabolisms slow down and they go into a semi-hibernation state. Once milder days return consistently, they may go back to their normal feeding schedule. It’s also a good idea to provide a deep enough pond (at minimum three feet depending on local climate) so your koi have a place to rest on the bottom during a frigid spell.

When building a koi pond, a bigger surface area is also better as well as adding a pond heater and keeping formed ice aerated as part of winter care.

Female koi begin to spawn at around three years of age, laying thousands of eggs. Hatchlings start life about one-sixteenth of an inch in size and should be culled to prevent overpopulation. Within ten years, if well cared for in a spacious pond, koi easily reach three feet in length and tip the scales at around 25 to 30 pounds. Their average life span is between 40 to 70 years, but it is not uncommon for certain varieties to live 100 plus years and be handed down from one generation of human caretakers to the next.

Unusual or fancy mature koi, when full grown, fetch thousands of dollars on the retail market, so it’s an investment that enhances more than your property value.

Plants and flowers are also an integral part of your pond that provides an idyllic and healthful setting for your fish. Your local garden center may stock pond exotics, but if not, a quick Internet search provides numerous outlets for fish stock as well as flowers.

HGTV (Home and Garden Television) as well as DIY (the Do-It-Yourself Network - both on cable and satellite) devoted several shows and episodes to the creation of these beautiful and serene landscape additions. If you follow the links above, these are great sources of information to familiarize yourself with the work and cost involved in this type of home improvement project, in addition to determining if you are a do-it-yourself type, or feel more secure in hiring a professional to assist in building the koi pond of your dreams.

Thanks to Kisinkona’s Youtube channel for this relaxing capture of koi in their habitat.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Important Announcement

Due to a family crisis, Ms Slade regretfully announces that she must temporarily suspend publication of her blogs. She is grateful to her readers, and hopes they will check back in a few weeks. Thank you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Seeing is believing: Something to make you smile

Oscar Wilde photo 1882 by Napoleon Sarony

“The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” ~ Oscar Wilde ~

If he were alive today, the witty master of the epigram, Oscar Wilde, would have loved the video that’s below.  A friend sent it to me earlier today, and I have to say it had me laughing out loud.

IMHO, Wilde probably would have come up with a one-liner even more appropriate than the quote above. 

The video, “Invisible rope trick fools motorists,” has appeared in numerous locations online, so it is difficult to attribute the originator. Thanks however to GuitarheroPresident’s YouTube channel for this version.

I hope it puts a smile on your week.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Embracing Life: One seat belt at a time

Safety on our highways has improved significantly, with the help of the Legislature and the media.” ~ Jane D. Hull ~

Once in awhile the advertising community does more than promote products – they promote public awareness on issues of great importance, and such is the advert, which appears at the bottom of this post.

Each year, thousands of people worldwide will lose their lives in automobile accidents; many of those fatalities could be prevented by simply wearing a seat belt.

The public service commercial, EMBRACE LIFE has been viewed online more than 13 million times; its message is stunning and there is absolutely zero dialogue.

The advert, created independently by Alexander Commercials has gone on to win numerous awards.

Produced by Sarah Alexander and directed by award-winning filmmaker Daniel Cox, with music by Siddhartha Barnhoorn, this video features a family of three portrayed by Austin Spangler (Father), Lara Corrochano (Mother), and Clare Denning (Daughter).

 According to Cox, “Key to the film's creation was to focus on a message that didn't take a conventional route to shock and scare the audience; rather it was my intention to bring the audience in on the conversation of road safety, specifically seat belts, and the best way to do this was to make a film that could engage the viewer purely visually and could be seen and understood by all, whoever they are and wherever they lived."

In my humble opinion, Cox and his fellow filmmakers did an extraordinary job with a wordless message.

Thanks to SussexSaferRoads for posting this life-saving message.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Celebrating women everywhere: Google has honored us all

On Tuesday, March 8, 2011, Google celebrated the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day with the logo that appears above, and I must say, that I, on behalf millions of women everywhere, who have blazed myriad trails in their own lives as well as industry, arts and science - this is a lovely honor.

Recognition oftentimes comes slowly if you are a woman. This, I have learned.

Today, I too am honoring women who are generous in spirit as well as heart, and whose voices have spoken above the crowd and continue to speak for generations yet to come.

Below are words of wisdom from some of the best and greatest women who have influenced my life and many others, and I hope their words and thoughts will touch your life, and the lives of those yet to come.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” ~ Harriet Tubman ~

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” ~ Beverly Sills ~

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou ~

“To feel valued, to know, even if only once in a while, that you can do a job well is an absolutely marvelous feeling” ~ Barbara Walters ~

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” ~ Edith Wharton ~

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't. “~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~

"I dwell in possibility…” ~ Emily Dickinson ~

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” ~ Marie Curie ~

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Maryanne Williamson ~

Friday, March 4, 2011

Human beauty revealed: An extraordinary underwater art installation

Artist/Sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor

“There is nothing more perfect than the complex creation of the human form. It defies explanation. Unless an artist relinquishes control to the belief of a higher power, they never know perfection. It is from our own image and understanding that we create.” ~ Paula Slade ~

In a depth of approximately 29.6 feet (9 meters) off the coast of Cancún, Mexico, lies a stunning underwater art installation created by artist Jason deCaires Taylor.

Four hundred human figures, created from concrete and installed by Taylor over a two year period, represent a veritable sea of humanity that functions not only as a tribute to Cancún ‘s local citizens, but serves as an artificial reef providing an ever-growing habitat that nurtures the area’s precious sea life.

The installation, known as La Evolución Silenciosa (The Silent Evolution) is an amazing artistic feat.

The exquisite video footage below, provided by rodrigo86197’s YouTube channel, exhibits the creativity and passion of Jason deCaires Taylor.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nat Geo Channel highlights priceless cultural heritage with TREASURES OF EGYPT

A side view of Tutankhamen gold sarcophagus. (Photo Credit: National Geographic Channel)

In light of the historic events that have been unfolding in Egypt, the National Geographic Channel is presenting  — Treasures of Egypt — spotlighting the antiquities of one of mankind’s most significant ancient cultures. Beginning tonight, Tuesday, February 22 and all week long at 8PM ET/PT, Treasures of Egypt will showcase five best of National Geographic Channel’s Egypt programming, with newly produced segments to introduce the subjects of the shows within the context of recent events.

Segments will be hosted by Fox News Channel’s Bill Hemmer, and will include an exclusive interview with Dr. Zahi Hawass, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and most recently the Egypt’s minister of state for antiquities affairs. In an interview with NGC, Hawass — who himself has come under pressure and faced criticism in recent days — candidly recounts the break-in at the Cairo Museum in new detail, reveals how some stolen treasures have already been recovered and takes us into the Cairo Museum’s conservation lab to show antiquities that have been restored or are in the process of being restored:

Treasures of Egypt Week

February 22 at 8PM ET/PT Treasures of Egypt:Tut’s Treasures

More than 80 years after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, the great-grandson of Lord Carnarvon returns to Egypt for a new analysis of Tut’s treasures. With special access to the artifacts in the Cairo Museum, NGC uses the latest techniques to help the real pharaoh emerge — a very different pharaoh than the King Tut we’ve long imagined.

Video below: “Pharaoh’s Curse” – A curse may have found the finder of Tut’s tomb.

February 23 at 8PM ET/PT Treasures of Egypt: King Tut’s Final Secrets

He is the most famous Egyptian king in history, but he ruled for only 10 years before his mysterious death. King Tut’s Final Secrets offers a high-tech forensic investigation that presents new findings from behind the iconic mask, including the first-ever reconstruction of Tut’s face and head using revolutionary 3-D CT scan imaging — revealing what he looked like on the day he died.

Video below: “The Mummy of King Tut” (features Dr. Zahi Hawass) – An archaeologist’s first look at King Tut reveals his mummy to be in worse condition than expected – but how did it get this way?

February 24 at 8PM ET/PT Treasures of Egypt: King Tut and the Lost Dynasty

One of Egypt’s enduring mysteries … what happened to Nefertiti and her husband, the pharaoh Akhenaten, the likely father of King Tut? In a dark and mysterious tomb located in the Valley of the Kings, there is a small chamber with two mummies that scholars, filmmakers and historians have identified as Nefertiti and Akhenaten. But the evidence has been circumstantial at best. Now, for the first time, NGC and Dr. Zahi Hawass use a CT scanner in search of scientific evidence. Narrated by Emmy Award-winning Alfre Woodard, the program documents this high-tech forensic investigation dedicated to resolving the fate of the famed Queen Nefertiti and the possible father of King Tut.

Video below: “Mummy Scan” – Watch scientists scan Egyptian royal mummies.

February 25 at 8PM ET/PT  The Real Cleopatra

Legend portrays her as a self-indulgent temptress who used seduction to cement her rule. But she became queen at 18 and was highly educated, so what was she really like? We’ll reveal archaeological findings, including underwater sculptures that shed light on her life and home. And watch as scientists seek to unravel the mystery of her legendary beauty by converting artifacts with her likeness into a 3-D model, presenting a new reflection of one of history’s most powerful women.

Video below “Last of the Ptolemies” – There’s more to Cleopatra than the Romans would have you believe.

February 26 at 8PM ET/PT  Secrets of the Valley of the Kings

Built over 500 years, spanning nearly two and a half miles and holding 63 tombs, Egypt’s Valley of the Kings is a staggering, complex set of enigmas locked beneath the sands for 3,500 years. What drove Egypt’s greatest pharaohs to seek out this secluded valley? How did the ancient craftsmen achieve such feats of engineering? And why was this sacred site finally abandoned? Join National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Zahi Hawass and a team of experts as they uncover new evidence about how early engineers were able to construct the elaborate structures of tombs and chambers.

Video below: “Egyptian Doodles” – Ancient artifacts reveal how Egyptian construction workers sketched and took notes in their free time.

Treasures of Egypt will also include a marathon “stack” of shows on Saturday, February 26, starting at 2PM ET/PT through 8PM ET/PT. For further information on each of the episodes, please click on the highlighted link.

Treasures of Egypt Marathon

Saturday, February 26 at 2PM ET/PT Treasures of Egypt: The Pyramid Code

Saturday, February 26 at 3PM ET/PT Treasures of Egypt: Secrets of the Sphinx

Saturday, February 26 at 4PM ET/PT Treasures of Egypt: The Real Ramses

Saturday, February 26 at 5PM ET/PT Treasures of Egypt: Alexander the Great’s Lost Tomb

Saturday, February 26 at 6PM ET/PT Treasures of Egypt: The Scorpion King

Saturday, February 26 at 7PM ET/PT Treasures of Egypt: Mystery of the Screaming Man

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Finding the lost art of handwriting…


“A signature always reveals a man's character - and sometimes even his name.” ~ Evan Esar ~

I don’t know about you, but one of the things that I miss the most in our technologically driven social network society is the element of face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball interaction, as well as getting a simple handwritten message now and then – the latter truly makes my day.

Yes, there are computer webcams and Skype that keep people connected, but not everyone has that luxury.

It takes a lot more time to write a note by hand because emotions are often tethered to the act of writing – just ask graphologists.

A handwritten note might be an indication that someone doesn’t have access to a computer, but more often, it’s says someone cared enough to carve time out of their day to pen a message.

Well, technology has come full circle, and you can send a handwritten note with a little help from your computer and a nifty program you download free from Pilot Handwriting.

Save this one to your “Gizmos, Gadgets and Stuff File” – the Pilot Handwriting program makes it relatively simple to translate your very own script to your email via an easy process of transferring your handwritten alphabet to a downloadable form, and then scanning that form into your computer, and et voilà ! You now have the ability to send handwritten messages that blossom from your keyboard. Not quite the same as pen to paper, but pretty cool nonetheless.

IMHO, in a pinch, from script to screen works for me, but please don’t totally give up your gel pen. I’m headed to my mailbox now to see if anyone has sent me a letter.

Take a look at the Pilot Handwriting video below. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Celebrating Groundhog Day

"The Groundhog of Lenoir -  photo by Grubbmeister cc 3.0

"This is like deja vu all over again." ~ Yogi Berra ~

Today we turn our attention to the Marmota monax, better known as the groundhog (aka woodchuck or land beaver) and we not only celebrate his prognostications, but call attention to a true classic film released in 1993 from Columbia Pictures, GROUNDHOG DAY starring Bill Murray and Andy MacDowell.

The film honors Punxsutawney Phil and his annual prediction for the start of spring, but the true crux of the story highlights an unusual premise and asks: “What would it be like if you had to live one day in your life, over, and over, and over again, just so you could get it right?”

As most of the nation is currently digging out from the great snowstorm of 2011, this comedic/fantasy/love story is sure to make you feel a tad bit better (along with the fact that Phil has predicted an early spring, however, this remains to be seen.)

The movie is rated PG for “some thematic elements” and is available to download free from StageVu.

It’s a fun fantasy romp, which is thought provoking and worth revisiting, particularly in the depths of winter.

IMHO, the movie provides lots of excellent ”what if” talking points.

If you could live your life over again until you got it right, what would you do differently?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union address versus satirical fake news

Jon Stewart at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear CC 2.0
“If you watch the news and don't like it, then this is your counter program to the news.”
~ Jon Stewart ~

Today is not necessarily a slow news day as there are articles galore to read, ponder and discuss.

A favorite topic for the last several days seems to be predictions that pundits are making about the contents of President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight. Heady stuff indeed, if you happen to be a journalist and make the correct call.

Take your pick for suggested talking points; it could be the deficit, healthcare, jobs, Afghanistan, foreclosures, banking regulation – perhaps all of the above plus more - the list is pressing and seems endless.

Then again, maybe in light of so many national concerns we should turn our attention to something more frivolous.

The video below will momentarily take your mind off reality; it’s a satirical fake-news segment that was produced several months ago by The Onion, the Chicago-based tabloid and online news source, which often creates controversial news of its own.

In my humble opinion, I wish the problems facing our country were a bit more like this.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The color of transparency...

“And while some people have to be public, what we really encourage is for other people to not be martyrs but to give us material. Keep your job, sit down and relax, let us do the work. We’ll protect you as best we can and we have never lost anyone so far.” ~ Julian Assange ~

Today’s post title is an oxymoron at best but it actually fits like a proverbial glove.

On Monday, Jan. 17, 2011 Rudolph Elmer, former executive-turned- whistle-blower from the Julius Baer Group, a private Swiss banking concern in the Cayman Islands, turned over two discs at a London press conference to WickiLeaks founder/editor Julian Assange, which allegedly contains information on 2,000 multinational banking clients who have been squirreling away funds from 1990 to 2009 in a possible effort to evade taxation in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany.

The dishy data, pilfered from private Baer files was provided by other insider whistle-blowers that passed the information to Elmer.

Scheduled to go on trial Wednesday, Jan. 19 in Switzerland, for previously breaching banking secrecy to WickiLeaks, which got him sacked from Baer in 2002, Elmer obviously believed at this juncture he had nothing to loose.

The discs are said to contain sensitive information on corporations, politicians, business people, artists and a few banks – one in particular, Elmer’s former employer. (Talk about ‘don’t get mad, get even.’)

Assange, who himself is out on bail and fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden for questioning over alleged crimes of a sexual nature, was quoted saying, "He (Elmer) is clearly a bona fide whistle-blower... We have some kind of duty to support him in that matter."

Elmer, who was privy to the mysterious world of off-shore banking for eight years, was also quoted by the press saying, "I know how the system works... It's damaging... (I want) to educate our society."

Whether you agree or disagree with the dissemination of private files to WickiLeaks, one thing for certain is the information is vetted before release.

In the meantime, we’ll all have to wait till the bugs hit the fan, but in case you just can’t get enough good gossip and conspiracy, your invited to visit this visual effort at transparency at the Julian Assange (online) Coloring Book; a place where you’ll be able to make your own colorful statement and even print it out.

As Jack Paar, one of the very first hosts of the Tonight Show would say, “I kid you not.” (Click the picture link below to take a look.)

The Julian Assange Coloring Book

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Extreme cuteness goes viral and her name is 'Heidi'

“Ich bin beeindruckt. Mehr als 100.000 Fans. Wahnsinn.
Ihr könnt mich ab dem 1. Juli 2011 in der Tropenerlebniswelt Gondwanaland im Zoo Leipzig besuchen - ich freue mich auf euch :)
Just for you:” ~ Heidi ~

She’s an Internet sensation; she’s garnered over 240,000 Facebook fans worldwide, and she’s a cross-eyed opossum named “Heidi.”

The translation to Heidi’s statement from her fan page a couple of days ago was as follows: “I'm impressed. More than 100,000 fans. Madness.You can reach me from 1 July 2011 in the tropical world of adventure Gondwanaland in the Leipzig Zoo visit - I look forward to you:) Just for you.”

After those remarks were added, in a matter of two days time, Heidi added another 144,000 new fans - impressive to say the least.

Heidi’s online presence started on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011 when a handful of news organizations reported about her arrival at the Leipzig Zoo, and about the unusual eye abnormality that afflicted the 2.5 year old opossum.

Sudden fame ensued, and in addition to her Facebook page, she has her own song, a faux movie trailer and numerous tributes on the Internet.

This snowball media effect took even zoo officials by surprise.

Without doubt, this little critter’s charm rivals the adorable Knut the polar bear who captured world attention and hearts in 2006 when he was born in captivity at the Zoologischer Garten Berlin.

Heidi has two siblings, a brother Teddy and sister Naira, who live with her at the Leipzig Zoo, and you’ll read much more about them by following this link to the zoo’s homepage.

The video below, courtesy of ITN, tells more about Heidi’s eye condition, which according to veterinarians may be caused by being overweight.

Currently, Heidi is on a diet, and will officially be greeting her public in July.

Enjoy, she is adorable.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The 12 Days of Internet music: Day 12

“I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
And I think to myself:
‘What a wonderful world!’" ~ Music and lyrics by
Bob Thiele and George David Weiss ~

The song “What a Wonderful World” was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and featured the original recording by the late Jazz legend Louis Armstrong.

When “Wonderful World” was first released in 1968 as a single, the recording did rather poorly in sales in the United States for lack of promotion, but surprisingly reached the top of the charts in the United Kingdom.

Today, the song is considered a signature of Armstrong’s career, and his version has been featured in the soundtracks of motion pictures and performed as a cover by many artists.

Thanks to Fonkelstar’s Youtube Channel for this inspiring video version, which features a beautiful musical interpretation by Celine Dion.

As this New Year dawns, the song’s message is perhaps more relevant than ever. We do indeed have a “wonderful world” if we take time to appreciate the gifts that are given.

Blessings to you and yours in this New Year, and may you always have time to appreciate our wonderful world.