Tuesday, April 29, 2014

1 Art & 2 Murders for Teachers Pay Teachers--My Creations for Teachers

The above is Archangel Raphael by Murillo as redone by me. I have spent a lot of days developing a coloring book for Teachers Pay Teachers. I took old master paintings of angels and ran them through the GIMP photo software to make them look like line drawings instead of paintings. I first used this ultra laborious process that I learned on You Tube from a fellow artist. Finally, I got sick of it, and invented something shorter which worked as well. 

The above is how it looked beforehand. Then I made my own version of St. Michael the Archangel Defeating Satan by Guido Reni in 1636, below.

The above is the original Reni painting. I developed ten of these angel line drawings and then added two group portraits of 5 each of the angels. Feel free to download both Michael and Raphael and let your grandchildren (or yourselves) color them.  You do not have to be a teacher to buy at TpT. Anyone can buy the items. The 12 line drawings of angels from paintings in art history are sold here at Teachers Pay Teachers. Also included are the original paintings from which they were derived. They are in a coloring book and then also in individual form for quick printing.

Next I had to go and amend two cases I'd written about for TPT. They were two juicy murders. 

First up was the Amanda Knox case of the Meredith Kercher murder. It involves the two female roommates in Italy, one from the UK and the other from the USA, one of whom ended up murdered and the other convicted of her murder under really bizarre circumstances. The four people pictured on the first slide are going clockwise from top left, Rudy Guede, a local small-time drug dealer and petty thief; Meredith Kercher, a 21 year old UK exchange student from the University of Leeds who was the murder victim; Amanda Knox, a 20 year old exchange student from the University of Washington in the USA; and Raffaele Sollecito, a 23 year old Italian engineering student at the University in Perugia, Italy. 

The Italian courts have surpassed double jeopardy and now are onto at least quadruple jeopardy.  Everything they do legally seems to be a trial de novo with yet a nice new shiny set of facts. This is seven years later and so I was eager to read the latest installment.  Here is what I wrote and added to my Amanda Knox Powerpoint on TPT.

On April 29, 2014 the last court which ruled released a 337 page document which purported to show the rationale behind its decision to convict Knox and Sollecito anew. The problem with this document is that it advances an entirely different motive for the murder, repudiates the old motive (which also came out of thin air), and has also seemingly unearthed evidence which has never been mentioned before. Specifically, the motive that the prosecutor imagined on his own, without a shred of evidence, the sexual game gone awry, is now specifically repudiated. Instead, both the victim and Knox are supposed to have argued about money and that Knox and Sollecito helped murder the victim with a complete stranger to them either after or while this stranger, Guede, was raping the victim.

Add on to this that the stranger was a black man and that the two aiders and abetters were white. Knowing how hard it still is for blacks and whites to trust one another just in ordinary life, especially for Americans, how believable is it that American Amanda Knox then and there decided to become the accomplice to a black stranger who was raping and murdering her roommate because she was missing some money? And that her white Italian boyfriend said, "Sure, fine, let me help you."

This takes this entire legal proceeding to new levels of lunacy. Imagine that you go back to your cottage and there run into a low life drug dealer and thief, a complete stranger to you, who is raping or raping and murdering your roommate. What do you do?  You decide to stick around and aid and abet this person in the murder because you had had a prior dispute with the victim over some missing money. Any person with a bare scintilla of a survival instinct would turn tail and run like hell out of there knowing that she would be next in line as victim as the rapist/killer could not leave a witness.

Also in this 337 page document are more statements from Guede, the convicted murderer of Kercher, which the court gave weight to against Knox and Sollecito even though Guede is the one with DNA evidence in and on the victim’s body. Guede was a stranger.  His DNA should not be in the cottage.  Knox lived there. Her DNA should be there. There is also now conflicting DNA info as to Knox.  The court is saying it has some DNA of hers yet earlier reports said either no, there was none except for a person living there, or what DNA evidence was there was contaminated by the Italian forensic workers. Which of all of these possibilities is it and why are there so many possibilities?

Finally, the court has determined on its own that more than one person had to be present in order to commit the crime(s). The court feels that one person alone could not commit these crimes.  Yet these crimes are overwhelmingly committed by one person all of the time throughout the world, i.e. rape and murder by one man of one woman with a knife and his hands. 

It should also be mentioned that all three college students were habitual and regular users of marijuana plus were drinkers on a daily basis.  To what extent a person would be incapacitated in the ability to fight back by such usage is not even included in this tome. No matter how much nicer Meredith Kercher was than Amanda Knox as a person, they were both daily addling their own heads by smoking marijuana and going to all night bars and drinking. Generally, such people lose capacity to think and react with notable reflex impairment. None of this is covered in the 337 pages.

Above, crime scene and related sites. This case reeks of the Italians now desperately trying to hold onto their honor in the way they conduct their legal proceedings. However, the Italian desire to make murder verdicts assuage national pride and honor is incompatible with finding truth and arriving at justice.

The Amanda Knox-Meredith Kercher Powerpoint Presentation is sold here at Teachers Pay Teachers. It is 16 pages long with full pictures.

The second murder I needed to add to was the Jodi Arias murder of Travis Alexander in Phoenix, Arizona. Arias mounted a bizarre defense theory of her being an abuse victim because she consented to (by her definition) kinky sex with him. In perhaps the only known courtroom instance, his erection was shown in the courtroom on huge monitors as evidence of his kinkiness to bolster her defense.  He had sent the photo of it to her with his cell phone (see photo below). With her sentencing hearing ending in a mistrial and the new one scheduled for September of 2014, this is what I wrote in summation of the import of this case.

A number of things were proven about Travis Alexander. He was still rooted in adolescence and could not enter into a mature relationship with a woman. He also led a double life as far as the Mormon faith. He wanted to be a Mormon and have Mormon girlfriends but he did not want to follow the premarital sexual prohibitions. He met a woman, Arias, with whom he could seemingly have both but she wasn’t really his type.  All of his girlfriends were good Mormon girls who found him too immature to be marriage material. He did treat Arias like a prostitute because that is the way he saw her. She was a prostitute in behavior compared to his other girlfriends. At most, all of this makes Alexander an immature jerk who needed to grow up and act like a man not a fifteen year old. But that is the worst that can be said about him.

Arias, by contrast, was a far darker personality. She consented to any and all sexual acts to have Alexander as a boyfriend.  She was obsessively attached to him and could not pull out of her compulsion to have him as her boyfriend. She was disturbed but not insane. When he continued to use her as just a sexual dalliance and nothing more, she let loose and savagely attacked and killed him.

American law has become more receptive to arguments from abused women that they had to fight back to protect themselves from abusive men who posed imminent bodily harm to them. Being raped is part of imminent bodily harm.

The problem with this case is that there was no bodily harm. Arias was never beaten by Alexander and all sex she had with him was consensual by her own admission. This is the slippery slope that American law has not wanted to slide down in opening the door to women defending themselves from domestically violent men.

To open the door wider means that American law would consider arguments about the psychological damage that a woman felt from a relationship as justification for murder. With that, the floodgates would be open for unrequited love to mask itself as psychological damage. It is quite a leap to go from battered women who are raped by their husbands and boyfriends to women who are psychologically damaged by the unhealthy relationships they choose to have with certain men.

The law has always been very clear about what it expects in the case of unrequited love.  It expects the unrequited lover to walk away and trouble the object of love no more. The law seems unlikely to change this stance and it would be vastly injurious to society as a whole if it did.

The Jodi Arias-Travis Alexander Powerpoint Presentation is sold here at Teachers Pay Teachers. It is 16 pages long with full photographs.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Living History Reenactments--sign me up!

20,000 people in this country have dedicated themselves to the hobby of Civil War reenactments. They vary in the level of zeal they bring to this enterprise. The bearded fellow in the upper right considers himself a hard core living historian. Among other things this means he soaks his buttons in urine, sews every stitch of his own clothing to conform to garments of 1860-1865, and spends untold hours perfecting his lying dead on the battlefield. The day of this picture he was working on his bloating as a corpse plus the rigor mortis of his hands. He brings method acting to this commitment. He derides anyone who brings less to this enterprise, calling them farbs, or "far from being authentic." If you would like to read about these people in detail go here.

Just to show how warped my mind is, when I first began reading about these people it was because I found this hobby ridiculous. But as I kept reading I found myself not only thinking it less and less ridiculous but my mind began mushrooming the entire concept.  I mean, why stop there? 

Thus my mind began to roam until I had a short list of much better American events to reenact and thereby commemorate. After all, why not pick events which have had a far greater effect upon our baby boomer lives? Here are some of the events which I think have much more appeal than the Civil War.

My first candidate is the JFK assassination. My fellow boomers and I can all remember where we were when we got the news. We also remember hovering by the tv set until we saw Oswald get shot live on camera. I am now plotting how to stage this. Of course, there are way too many of us to all head to Dallas to reconstruct a motorcade plus it would cost a fortune.  I think we should rent acreage instead and construct a facsimile of Dallas on that day. The Texas Book Depository is gone anyway so why not just erect a false front of it instead? We do have pictures of it for our set designers to use. Thanks to the online world we have photos of Jackie's pink dress, the convertible used in the motorcade and the grassy knoll. Hell, we have pictures of JFK lying dead in the hospital!  We could actually make a festival of this and the people who attended as our audience could all stand in the crowd watching the motorcade and merge into the living theater concept. At first I thought I might like to direct this but it is way too big a job for me.  No, I think I will work on costumes and just be part of the crowd for my acting duties. Although if I could be allowed to act in drag, I really think I could play a heck of a Zapruder taking movie footage.

The JFK assassination is potentially such a monumental pageant that my immediate follow up ideas seemed pallid in comparison. Other '60s assassinations, like MLK or RFK, lacked the sheer attention to detail we boomers could bring to JFK's. Moving right along I briefly considered the 1968 Democratic Convention riots in Chicago.  But what would we depict other than demonstrators and police clashing in the streets? There just wasn't enough there.

Closing out the '60s I considered the Manson murders. We'd have two houses, Sharon Tate's and the LaBiancas'. We'd have a cast of murderers and victims but not anyone else. It would be extremely gory and bloody.  Nah, it was no good either.
I was getting frustrated and who wouldn't?  The problem with the JFK assassination is that it had everything. 

My mind zoomed ahead and I thought of 9/11 and the Boston Marathon Massacre. They were both pretty dramatic.  We'd have to use scaled down models of course. Perhaps miniatures of the World Trade Center with model airplanes operated by remote control crashing into the towers.  Or perhaps with a closed off Boston street erupting in explosions. I don't think our crowd participants would be in any greater danger than when they shoot off the cannons for the Civil War ones.

But were these events too close in time?  9/11 happened almost fifteen years ago but is that enough to be reenacting it as history? For the Boston Marathon Massacre, it might seem a bit weird reenacting an event that occurred less than two years ago but again one hesitates to overlook the dramatic possibilities.  We'd need people good with explosives for either of these but there are all those Boomer veterans we could utilize. We have heroic firefighters, police, and medical personnel to depict in both Boston and New York which is always a crowd pleaser.

Finding the right guys to play the murderous Boston brothers would be pivotal plus the boat as the hideaway would have to be accurate down to the last detail. Costuming would be easy for both as people wear today what they wore then.  This is a real benefit of staging fresher history.  I bet we could buy the pressure cookers for the bomb making on eBay.

Now that I have really thought this through with all of the dramatic possibilities, how could I have wondered that 20,000 Americans couldn't find something better to do with their leisure time. Just give me one good reason why I should continue making art works, writing blog entries, going to the pool, reading books, interacting with present day people for present day events and so forth, when I could be closing out my days by reenacting the minutiae of my history.

Because it would be ridiculous? 
Well, there is that.

P.S. One of my friends just thought I was about to go do the above, especially try and get the JFK one off the ground and play Zapruder. The above was a satire.  I will not be doing any of the above. If you hear I am, please commit me.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Forums but No Togas Required

There are forums online for every conceivable interest group. I find forums to be of great use when I have a problem before me which I cannot solve in a real world way or the real world way will cost a fortune.

One problem I needed to solve was that the horn on our car would suddenly just start blasting away while we were driving it. Our usually astute body shop had seen nothing like it.  So I did a Google search for a forum which could address problems for Chrysler, make and model number inserted, with this problem.  I found an auto forum and they were discussing this problem with our car in every detail.  After I read through all of the responses it was clear that there was no way to fix the horn on the steering wheel, that we would have to install a new horn next to it after disabling that one.  It was an economical solution and fixed the problem. The answer had come from someone who had worked on those cars for decades as a mechanic for Chrysler.

Recently I had a Caliber ebook database search engine problem with my ebooks so I went to the most popular forum for ebook readers, Mobile Read Forums. I submitted the problem before I went to bed and when I woke up the solution was sitting there from a guy in India.

I need to get knee replacement surgery so went into a medical forum where patients were sharing their experiences. One guy, a marine my age, was relating his experience in graphic detail, including the unfortunate side effect from the surgery of swollen testicles. I was really glad to be female for this surgery!

I always start with a Google search as that will get me off to the best start. That usually pins me down to a few forums and I am off to explore how good they are.  I thought we would do such a forum search to show how valuable they can be in solving a problem.

Artists and craftspeople are some of the most ardent online users.  They are plugged into one another for help too.  So I drafted a query that was craft based and submitted it to Google regarding a forum for discussing sewing without patterns.

On the first page of my hits, this looked the most promising so I clicked over to it. There Martha Shaw was discussing this very issue in the Fiber Arts Forum of Wet Canvas. Helpfully she also gave two links to get one started on finding such clothing. So I followed those links. I had used Wet Canvas before so I knew it was a legit community of artists and craftspeople.

I didn't like the info at Martha's first link but the info at the second link was promising. It is shown to the left and is located here. After looking through the clothes though, I don't find anything I want to make. This means I need to do another Google search, probably trying another word combination to improve my results. I don't expect to solve this problem very quickly. These creative searches are rarely quick as there are a lot of solutions which just do not fit the other artist's taste level.

Jim just stuck my colonoscopy instructions in front of my face.  It is two weeks away.  I notice that I am using a different prep so this seems like a good time to go over to a medical forum and see what someone has experienced with it.  I find a patient who has logged a minute by minute account of using Moviprop as the gut blaster for clearing out the colon prior to the colonoscopy.  I will keep this nearby in case I get more interested in this account than I am right now.

There is a huge cancer forum presence online. All I need to do is put in a two word query, forum moviprep, and boom, I have tons of potential forums as a resource.

This account goes on and on beyond these two paragraphs. Because I've had colon cancer and endured all of its indignities, I don't find it the least strange that she has put together this diary and users are thanking her for it.

If politics is your thing, then there are plenty of forums to express your political views. I personally would not do so as I think such a forum is a likely place to start a flame war (online fight) and/or attract the notice of persons you don't want to attract. By contrast, the people on the mobile read, wet canvas, and the healing well forums are all fine. I've never had a problem with those people. Nevertheless, if you want to dive into political forums online, the following is typical of what you will experience.

Doing a google search for forum american politics yielded a ton of hits. I picked the first one listed.

Here are the topics. I pick any one of these to find myself in an ongoing discussion. I pick Illegal Immigration.

Here are the subtopics for Immigration and I select one of them. Note that the ads on this site are also different from what you are used to seeing.

Here is Jughead's response (his alias) to someone expressing his frustration on going through the Immigration & Naturalization Process.

I did not try and winnow the forum down to a conservative one or a liberal one.  It is easy enough to add either word into a Google search query.  However, then you are going to limit yourselves to forums where everyone agrees with one another.  That is not the aim of political forums! The whole point of logging onto such forums is to fight over your ideas.

In conclusion, there is a forum for just about everything. Stay away from flame wars and you should be ok on them.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Weekend Entertainment Recs for Seniors & Others

Music: One From the Heart soundtrack
Crystal Gayle and Tom Waits  

No one could believe the pairing of Tom Waits with Crystal Gayle but on this recording they were absolute magic. They were the entire musical act for Coppola's musical movie One From The Heart. Their voices were heard off screen while the characters enacted the love story on the screen. Their voices are an absolutely perfect pairing. Hers is perfect, sultry, clear, high.  His is low, raspy, tender. They were the musical incarnations of the characters played by Teri Garr and Frederic Forrest. Although the movie failed when released, this soundtrack earned Waits an Oscar nomination. The soundtrack also became the cult classic which the movie never quite attained but deserves as well. If you don't own this, you are missing a classic.

This album is available at Amazon's MP3 store and iTunes. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Movie: One From the Heart, Francis Coppola                     

At the time this came out, it received both rotten reviews and terrible box office.  It fared no better on video or DVD. At least it is more available today since it can be seen online with streaming services such as Amazon Instant Video. Coppola was forced to give up his studio Zoetrope because of this film's fantastic failure. I think the major problem was that most people could not envision the director of the Godfather movies and Apocalypse Now making a musical love story set on a soundstage which he built of Las Vegas (this rebuilding was utterly gorgeous). Then he violated another rule: none of the characters sang.  Instead, Crystal Gayle and Tom Waits sang off camera. 

Then there were the actors. The leads were not typical leads.  They were everyday types played by ordinary looking actors, Frederic Forrest and Teri Garr. The secondary actors, also the secondary love interests, were played by two powerhouses, both looks and talent, Nastasha Kinski and Raoul Julia. The ordinary lovers breakup and have romantic interludes with the secondary stars which border on being fantasies or dreams. It is a fantastic film and I've lost count of how many times I've seen it. If you have never seen it, you missed one of his major movies which has remained a buried treasure.

This film is available at Amazon Instant Video and  iTunes.  I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here. 

TV: Masters of Sex, Michael Sheen & Lizzie Kaplan                             
I watched the first episode of this show thinking that the scientific sex studies of Masters & Johnson was not likely to be riveting fare. The main reason I tuned in was that I have loved Michael Sheen in absolutely everything he's ever done. Why he wanted to play Bill Masters was beyond me but as an actor, he is first rate. Within five minutes, I knew I was seeing the best new series of the year. Bill Masters, the leading star OB-GYN at his hospital in Missouri, is a frustrated guy. This is because he has never wanted to be just a super successful doctor. No, for years he has been solidifying his position because he wants to do research into human sexuality. Everyone in medicine and research, however, is dead set against him. He has the absolutely wrong personality to try and get subjects to loosen up potential recruits. He is stiff, pedantic, arrogant and wholly lacking in magnetism. Enter Virginia Johnson, who becomes his secretary. He is no dummy. He can see that Johnson is probably as smart as he plus she is wonderful with people and is charismatic as can be. Plus she is wildly sexy. With that we are off and running as Masters and Johnson becomes every kind of story you could wish for, about sex, medicine, love, romance, family and all the nastier emotions which run alongside those things. Lizzie Kaplan is every bit as wonderful as Sheen. Really, drop everything you are doing and get this series. What a windfall!

This was on Showtime. If you get that premium cable channel, then you qualify for Showtime Anytime. The how-to instructions for watching this series online are at that website. If you do not get Showtime, the series will shortly be coming out on DVD.  I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Novel: We Need to Talk About Kevin 
Lionel Shriver, author; Coleen Marlo, narrator 

I started out by reading the print version of this book and switched shortly to the audio version. Boy, am I glad I did. The narrator is absolutely wonderful. (I did go back and finish reading the print version as well.) 

I think this is the first time i've heard a narrator do a woman and a man, husband and wife, and truly sound like both a man and a woman. Excellent as she is as the mother, her job as the father took my breath away. The writer's handling of the father is no less adept. For the father is constantly in Kevin's corner, believing him over the evidence which keeps piling up that something is wrong with Kevin and they better start talking about it. Whenever they try though, they occupy opposite poles, the husband believes every preposterous story Kevin proposes, while the wife sees straight through him as if he were transparent. Of course, the father loves the son unreservedly and with total commitment to him.

For those people who believe guns are the problem, the author does an interesting switch. The son has taken archery at school for six years and is an expert archer. He kills everyone with arrows he shoots from a crossbow. This is very clever because we need never get into discussing guns, gun control, whether guns kill people or people kill people, etc., etc., Archery is an olympic sport so everyone is blissfully unaware of why Kevin is becoming such an expert at it. Perhaps they just think he plans on being an olympic contender. You know from the start of the book that Kevin is a mass high school murderer. 

Much as I loved the non fiction book Columbine by David Cullen, this book covers entirely different territory. It gets deeply into the characters themselves in the family unit rather than pouring through evidence in the case. I think the extreme denial practiced by Kevin's father is very similar to the real life denial practiced by Eric Harris's father in Columbine.

This is excellent writing, excellent narrating. I think it would be a perfect selection for book clubs. The film which followed was also excellent.

This book is available at Amazon, Audible, iTunes and Overdrive (your public library app).  I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Laura Nyro, Inspirational Person of the Month

This month's inspirational person is the late singer and songwriter Laura Nyro. She saw herself as a musical artist and had an almost impossible time doing any musical compromise, bringing musical integrity to everything she accomplished in a career era which began in the 1960s. Her lyrics also expressed ideas and were not just one unrequited love song after another. For example, here are a portion of her lyrics from And When I Die: 

I'm not scared of dying and I don't really care
If it's peace you find in dying, well, then let the time be near
If it's peace you find in dying, when dying time is here
Just bundle up my coffin 'cause it's cold way down there
I hear that's it's cold way down there, yeah, crazy cold way down there

You can listen to her top songs here while studying the lyrics printed underneath each one.

She was also an early feminist and this seeped into her work as well. In her personal relationships she had trouble being with anyone but fellow artists and tended towards shyness.  She finished out her life living for 17 years with the late painter Maria Desidero. Although she finished out with a woman, she had started out with men and had a son, Gil-T, also a musician.  Her affinity with artists is shown in her song Louise's Church (sculptor Louise Nvelson) with these partial lyrics:

Sappho was a poet
Billie was a real musician
Frida drew the moon
I'm going by Louise's Church
She built in the city
Art of grace & style
That could make me smile
Talk to me
Goddess of life & music
Shine on me awhile

She had a very liberal, artistic and progressive childhood which impacted on the rest of her life, saying, "I was always interested in the social consciousness of certain songs. My mother and grandfather were progressive thinkers, so I felt at home in the peace movement and the women's movement, and that has influenced my music."

Born in the Bronx in 1947 of Russian, Jewish, Polish and Italian ancestry, she taught herself how to play the piano. Her father was a trumpet player who played in the Catskills. Educationally she got the best for a budding artist: Manhattan's High School of Music and Art plus the Sunday School at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Her aunt and uncle were both painters in New York City and had a pivotal role in her upbringing.

The streets of the city where she grew up also got her singing. She said, "I would go out singing, as a teenager, to a party or out on the street, because there were harmony groups there, and that was one of the joys of my youth."

She made a very good business decision at the start of her career which was to partner with David Geffen in Tuna Fish Music. She brought out her earliest music under Geffen.  They sold Tuna Fish very profitably.  He expected her to follow him to the next music venture but she signed instead with Columbia.  This was a bitter breakup for him but she wasn't good at this part of the business. She ultimately remained a lot artsier than he did anyway so it is unlikely they would have seen eye to eye in the next venture.

Although Nyro's own albums have a niche audience with faithful followers, such as myself, her work was and is more well known when it is or was performed by other singers. Three Dog Night, Linda Ronstadt, Frank Sinatra, Blood Sweat & Tears, Barbra Streisand, the Fifth Dimension and others sang her work and racked up huge sales with it. The way she performed her own work was a lot more complex and not as universally popular.  She also influenced many other songwriters. 

Elton John said, "The soul, the passion, just the out and out audacity of the way her rhythmic and melody changes came was like nothing I’ve heard before.”

Nyro's mother died of ovarian cancer at age 49. She also died of ovarian cancer at the exact same age in 1997. She discovered it on tour in 1995. Nyro worked on her last songs while she was undergoing cancer treatment. Angel In the Dark was one of her last songs and its lyrics were partially these:

Angel, hear my song because the night’s so long.
Come back to me, I don’t know how, I don’t know where.
I’ll be dreaming and on my feet again cause
I can’t laugh no more without and angel so if you’re there,
Come back to me, come back. Come back to me, come back. Answer my prayer.

Also on the Angel in the Dark Album, the song Triple Goddess Twilight with these lyrics partially:

Triple Goddess Twilight, slow down. Feel the land, violet everywhere, I'll meet you there.
Mother, you died young and left me. Your twilight colors, rose, ah, burgundy, coral mist.
What are the shades of loneliness?

There is a musical sampler of her work on YouTube which is 10 minutes long and contains clips from 19 of her songs. That video is here.

Nowadays you can also listen to Laura Nyro free on the Pandora internet radio station here or instead put the free Pandora tablet or phone app onto your Apple or Android mobile device.

You can also find all of her albums on Amazon here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Give me the Shot!!!!

How did I know that, to the left, was coming after me and not take evasive action? Simple, it was invisible to my naked eye as it is microscopic. So, yes, I did not get a flu shot this year.  I should have.  I am 65.  It is covered by Medicare. But I just didn't bother because I had so many other medical appointments. I shrugged it off as no big deal.  This is my fourth day down with it--no, prostrate with it--and I hope this is the last time I ever use that expression in describing myself with the flu.  If the body pains in every fiber of my being weren't enough, the constant fleeing to the toilet with my loosening bowels, certainly put this disease unto my future must-miss list. And to think that the 2013-2014 flu season is considered no big deal! I can't last recall when I was in this much pain!

I became very curious to see what could have been possibly worse about these really serious flus, which the internet resources confirm that I do not have. With my milder flu, they tell me I am at higher risk of death from it because I am elderly plus worldwide several hundred thousand people per year die of the flu. It sounds increasingly stupid of me to have skipped the shot.

Had I had a serious flu, I further read, like the 1918 one, I could have easily joined the twenty to fifty million people who died in it.  The 1918 flu caused more deaths than all the four years of the black death by the bubonic plague combined. 675,000 Americans died of it including half of the American servicemen in WWI. The enemy was only responsible for half of the death toll.

This 1918 flu killed rapidly, many people died within hours of getting the symptoms while others lasted a full day. Some people played bridge with one another one night, for example, and three out of the four of them got the flu during the night and were dead by morning. It was that virulent.

This flu particularly went for the victim's respiratory system. An especially viscous pneumonia was an early characteristic. Plus the lips turned purple, the face grey and the victim began to suffocate in his own fluids, becoming cyanotic. A blood tinged froth gushed out of the victim's mouth and nose.

Unusually this flu killed healthy adults far more than the elderly and new born because the immune system overreacted. Older and newborn people have weaker immune systems which were incapable of overreacting.

In 2005, scientists completed the sequencing of the genome of a 1918 flu victim'z viral RNA, which is where the 1918 flu lives. They dug up an Inuit woman's body. She had died of that flu but was frozen and preserved in the Alaskan tundra. Although this has not yet answered all the questions about the 1918 flu, it is a formidable resource tool. 

In 2009 we did get another version of the 1918 flu, shown right, which was also called swine flu but that naming led to the public's understanding the info being given it, especially to thinking that pigs and eating pork were the source of infection. However, just like the 1918 version, you got this flu by being exposed to another infected person's respiratory droplets. It was called swine flu because it was a recombined flu virus made up of previous human, swine, eurasian pig and avian flu virus strains. As this flu strain waned, critics said it had been blown out of proportion as it only killed 18,000 people. However, 284,500 is claimed by WHO as the truer number as the victim had to have had access to health care facilities to be counted in the death toll. Thus almost the entire death toll from southeast Asia and Africa went uncounted. Like the 1918 strain it went after healthy adults rather than the elderly and newborn.  It was also a respiratory assault like 1918's flu. My sister Dianna has a close friend who was hospitalized with this flu. She recovered but only after a long hospitalization and an induced coma during the worst of it. I was nervous about this flu the entire time it was ongoing in 2009 and 2010.  There were no flu shots but I had gotten the swine flu shot in 1976 and was told that probably would give me a very mild case of it if I got it at all.  I didn't.

My online research also showed that this flu season yielded great controversy over whether to get the flu shot. Many were skeptical about its worth.  I have only my experience to fall back on: when I get the flu shot, I don't get the flu.  That is enough for me to get another shot next year.  Some of the flu shot critics suggest I take elderberry extract or Vitamin D instead. This was not the first time I had been given similar advice.

Back in 2007 when I was undergoing severe chemo, I was told in the chemo room that elderberry wine could alleviate the potentially lethal diarrhea side effect. There is a lot of folk lore traded in such places. I enjoyed the elderberry wine while I also researched in an online library medical database about the then worldwide research on this issue. I did not turn up elderberry wine as the panacea but I did unearth that internationally there was a medical dispute over the issue. 

The Canadians gave their cancer patients anti diarrhea shots while in this fix while the Americans did not. The results worldwide favored the Canadians but the Americans stood fast on not using the shots. I marched off to my Cancer Center and demanded the Canadian shots.  I got them and problem solved. I never had another moment's problem with diarrhea in chemo. 

I resumed my flu reading online. Then, God help us, I learned that there is actually a cadre of people known as flu vaccine conspiracy theorists. What gave this cadre forward movement is that in 2012 the CDC did have one of its scientists commit research fraud during a trial for the swine flu of 2009. He was only suspended for four months rather than fired which is hard to understand. The conspiracy theorists also claim that the CDC greatly inflates its data when it is released to the public. This is a surprise? Do I need to say WMD? At the end of reading all of the alleged conspiracies though, the only thing everyone could agree upon was the most virulent aspect to the 2013-2014 flu and flu shot season was the controversy surrounding it. 

I still will take the shot over the way I am feeling tonight. I have written this while sleeping on and off most of the day.  I still hurt.  I still am on too good terms with the toilet.  I am hoping my respiratory system ignores the whole thing.  Thus, I have not read anything yet which makes me feel any less foolish for having skipped this year's vaccine shot.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Weekend Entertainment Recs for Seniors & Others

Novel: World War Z by Max Brooks
prepared to hate this but loved it!

I was enthralled by this book and mainly because i have always been a huge fan of WWII fiction. This too is a world war book and handles its subject matter exactly as if the third world war is against zombies. I kept telling myself the whole thing was preposterous but the author does such an excellent job of relating an oral history from everyone who fought it and survived it that I couldn't put it down. The tactics the allies had to develop against WWZ were absolutely ingenious. I loved the canine corp used with the soldiers. I loved the scenes where they had to deal with zombies in the oceans, lakes and rivers plus in the snow. They actually clung to the lid of a nuclear submarine as it surfaced! If like me you love historical war fiction, you will love this book. If you have seen the movie, the two are substantially different. The movie is good. The book is a work of art.

The author, Max Brooks, is the only child of Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks. Although Max won awards and acclaim as a writer for Saturday Night Live, that work was wholly eclipsed by this novel. He is now a cult campus figure and his talks on college campuses are jam packed. He wrote the novel while two life and death events were taking place in his life. His newly born son was just clinging to life in the hospital after a difficult birth while his mother was dying of cancer in another hospital, also in New York City. His father Mel Brooks remained at her bedside. Max Brooks wrote the entire book at his son's bedside. His son lived but his mother died. The book's theme of fighting for your life against a world wide attack of crazed Zombies couldn't have been more apropos.

This book is available at iTunes, Amazon's Kindle Store or Audible for immediate downloading, reading and listening. This is my review as an Amazon top reviewer. My other reviews are here.
Film: Two Lovers

Joaquin Phoenix is one hell of an actor.  He steals the thunder from everyone in this film. He dominates it from the first scene and never lets go. 
Gwyneth Paltrow is one of his two female costars. If you dislike Paltrow as a person, and many do, have no fear, her role here casts her as someone you will hate! Win-win!

He plays the Jewish son of a mom and pop business operation which has another mom and pop as a partner. His parents and the partner start pushing this young woman for him as a highly desirable wife. She comes across as a very good match for him since he plays his guy as no charismatic ball of fire. He plays him as an ok guy but no one you'd be dying to date much less marry. (Phoenix has played the opposite with equal effectiveness, exuding charisma and sexuality, again showing how good his acting chops really are).

Now here come the wrench. Gwyneth Paltrow appears and she is clearly above his touch. She is involved with an older, married professor. She is also a complete flake. You just know, if you aren't someone who is smitten with her, that she is nothing but trouble. She vacillates constantly over what she wants and flits around from interest to interest. I doubt you'd want her as a friend. So, of course, Phoenix falls for her like the proverbial ton of bricks.

To say anymore would ruin the plot. I thought it was a terrific film with an unusual plot line. It was focused, tight, well scripted and brilliantly acted.

This film is available at iTunes or Amazon Instant Video for immediate viewing. This is my review as an Amazon top reviewer. My other reviews are here.


TV: Endeavour
Morse returns!

I watched all of the Inspector Morse episodes and also read the novels. Little was I expecting that he would be resurrected for UK tv as a much younger man, at the start of his career. And I certainly wasn't expecting to like it as much or more than the original series! But indeed i do. This is absolutely first rate in every single episode. Shaun Evans is wonderful as young Morse. The series is called Endeavour because that is Morse's first name.  He hates it so signs everything E. Morse.

A smart decision they made was to make his mentor, detective Thursday, every bit as fascinating as Morse. This part is played by one of my very favorite actors from The Thick Of It, Roger Allam. Allam played Peter on that show and his deadpan humor was priceless. I can't imagine any better actor to play Morse's mentor. I enjoy Thursday much more than I ever enjoyed Lewis as Morse's partner.

Much like the UK show George Gently, this show also benefits by being set back in time, the sixties.

Each mystery is very complex and Morse brings to it all of his erudite abilities, which are wholly lacking by the rest of the force. No one lacks this ability more than the chief of the station, a man solely interested in the tried and true of old time police work.

If you have not watched this show yet and you are a fan of UK mysteries, you really need to start watching it now. 

This tv series is available at Netflix, iTunes or Amazon Instant Video for immediate viewing. This is my review as an Amazon top reviewer. My other reviews are here.

Music: Breakaway
Art Garfunkel 

Art Garfunkel was not the composing talent that Paul Simon was and is. However, he was and is the far superior singer. I loved this album back in 1975 and started listening to it again in this new century and loved it all over again. It is Garfunkel at his most romantic, lush best and he hits every song, every note, beautifully. "Lookin' For the Right One," and "I Believe When I Fall In Love" have always been exquisite favorites of mine but truly, every track is superb. I personally liked this album much better than the work done in the decade prior by the duo of Simon & Garfunkel. I don't listen to any of those songs by the duo now nor do I listen to Simon as a solo act.

This album is available at iTunes or the Amazon MP3 Store for immediate listening. This is my review as an Amazon top reviewer. My other reviews are here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Overdrive App & Library Access: How-To

There is a major resource seniors and many other people just don't realize is out there and ready for free use.  This is the Overdrive app which lets you use any public library's digital materials as long as you have a card. Most libraries now give you cards whether or not you are in their geographic areas. I have cards for three public libraries in northeastern Ohio and each of those three has many member libraries. They have put their digital titles on Overdrive for lending.  I am going to take you through some crucial steps for this and also send you to some resources for help installing Overdrive. Your best starting resource is to go to the Overdrive website and read the main page. That main page is here.

I have put Rebecca onto Overdrive on her iPhone.  I have all of my mobile devices and my Mac Air equipped with it. The number 1 reason users fail to install Overdrive successfully is that they do not understand the need for an Adobe ID.  This is worth explaining as once you understand how this works it will no longer seem a bewildering part of the process.

Your public libraries purchase rights to use digital media from publishers and other entities. These are not unlimited amounts of copies for unlimited use. The libraries pay per use of those licensed titles and thus there must be a mechanism in place for controlling the management and use of digital rights technology.

This is where Adobe comes into play. Adobe developed right from the get go of the internet publishing formats which could be universally read by computers and then mobile devices. The first of these was known as PDF and the adobe software known as Acrobat Reader was used to read it and interact with it. Later Adobe developed the ePub format. ePub has been hugely adopted by fiction publishers and non fiction which is heavy on text. PDF still remains better for highly pictorial books. Overdrive will also download to the Kindle App if you have also downloaded that app to your computer or mobile device.

It was logical that Adobe would remain the key to locking up Digital Rights Management Technology with libraries. So Adobe remains the key to the kingdom of public library use with Overdrive. Thus, first you get your library card. Then you download the Overdrive App. Third, to get the Overdrive App to work on anything, you must enter your adobe user name and password onto the settings of the Overdrive App. If you skip this step, nothing will work. You get your adobe ID by going here and setting up a user name and password. This is free and you do not give adobe any financial info to set it up.

Then you find a public library for which you have a card to use on Overdrive. You search for it on Overdrive, select it and to go your account at that library. You will be prompted to enter your library card number. Some libraries will also require you to set up a PIN. This is not the same thing as your adobe digital ID. They are completely different things! Check the box which asks if you want it to remember your password and/or PIN. You do!

Your library also has an Overdrive Media Station if you would prefer getting started that way. You can also gain the assistance of a librarian by going this route. The photo to the left shows what your library's overdrive media station looks like. You will be able to select items to take out and send those items to your computer, iPad or other device while you are in the library.

The best way of learning how to use Overdrive if you are still having problems is to go to its own Help pages which have videos and tutorials. These are specific for your exact computer platform or mobile device. That is located here.

You get your Overdrive app at the App Store or iTunes Store for Apple computers and mobile devices. For Windows and Android Systems plus Kindle Devices you go to the Google Play Store or Amazon's Android App store. The Overdrive app is free.

Overdrive keeps adding media.  When I started using it only ebooks and audiobooks were available. Movies and tv shows have since been added with music coming soon.  There are no fines used by Overdrive. When a title expires, it simply ceases working in the app. Thus items are always returned on time.

I made some image captures of my Overdrive app on my iPad which should help get you started.

Like every app, Overdrive has its settings. This is where you manage your Adobe ID. If you have done it correctly, your authorization will show, like mine does here.

After you touch Account, the page switches to where you enter your library password which is your card number. Some libraries also require you to set a PIN number at the time you get your card.  You enter a PIN number here as well too.

The titles you've selected are ready for download. You get to choose from two formats, Kindle and ePub. They will download ePub into the Overdrive app and the Kindle book into the Kindle app. You will read the books in the respective app. Some ebooks only come in one format.

Here is one of the books I downloaded. I have taken it to the first page of the story and placed a bookmark there. You can adjust the fonts and screen to suit your needs. I have visual needs so need to adjust the screen and fonts from the default.

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comment box below or use the contact me box at the bottom of the page.