Operation #OccupyTree

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The Cat-agious Movement Sweeping the World!

Orange cat in Christmas treeYou thought your cats were just cute kitties–sweet and fluffy. Dumb animals that can’t grasp the concepts of an organized movement to reshape society. That they couldn’t instigate their own potent paradigm of social action based on contagious memes.

That there was no way they could comprehend the construct of a global revolution that evolved as a result of the Occupy Wall Street protest. That they weren’t paying attention.

Cat-agorically WRONG. You have no idea.

While protesters occupied Wall Street and you were glued to the TV, arguing with neighbors and Gray cat toppling over Christmas treecoworkers, and perhaps organizing an Occupy protest in your community…

A fatally feline hairball of increasingly sophisticated and dynamic change was purrr-posely set in motion.

Cats around the world were plotting their own protest to end hunger for felines around the world.

A collaboration of such magnitude that it would transform the existing social order for the benefit of all cat-kind. Forever. Stealth and cunning, they waited for the perfect cat-a-clysmic moment to pounce…

CatXmasTree1

The Brazen Brains Behind #OccupyTree

Evidence of the claw-dacious overthrow is flooding in. The following video documents the sheer audacity. NOT for the faint of holiday heart. Grinch, move over! Cats everywhere are commandeering Christmas, demanding food and adequate shelter for everyone in their feline family around the globe.

“WHO is responsible for this ferocious feline movement?” authorities are asking.

  • Sources report that the cat-tankerous Twitter sensation @CatFoodBreath has shamelessly tweeted about #OccupyTree since 2011, and is thought to be the mastermind behind the entire movement.
  • Christmas Trees at the Happiest Place on Earth isn’t even safe. @DisneylandCats unabashedly tweets up their #OccupyTree victories throughout the Magic Kingdom.
  • And then there is Grumpy Cat. She’s used her fame to fan the flame of the feline revolt with her @RealGrumpyCat tweets to #EndWetFoodHunger.

Four Paws in Favor of Ending Feline Famine

As I’m sure you’ve realized, this post is pure parody. However, feline famine is very real. In the spirit of the holidays, here’s what you can bring much-needed comfort to a few furry forgotten souls:

  • Buy extra cat food next time you’re at the store, and drop it off at your local animal shelter.
  • If there is someone in your community who cares for feral cats, buy extra cat food and give it to them. Your donation is a tremendous benefit to the caregiver as well as the cats under their care.
  • Donate to a local animal rescue organization. The animal shelter in your area can provide you with a list of rescue organizations and how to get in touch with them.

As Charles Chaplin once said:

Who feeds a hungry animal feeds his own soul

 



What Sparks the Romance of Writing?

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The force behind the creative process…

JossWhedonQuote2What compels writers to subject ourselves to endless hours of isolation, the nagging weight of self-doubt, and endless abuse from our inner critics? Not the lure of millions, I dare say.

Yes, there are writers who hit the bestseller lottery. But if you asked them “why” they write, I would bet many reasons would come before the mention of money.

Umberto Eco summed elegantly up the source of the writer’s creative spark when he said, “To survive we must tell stories.”

Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) explained how writing is tangible therapy, a way to face and overcome weaknesses, fears, and insecurities.

And then there are writers, like Liv Rancourt, who embrace their craft out of the sheer love of the stories they create. Through the process they become the characters and live vicariously through them, experiencing their hopes, dreams, heartaches and joys.

Liv Rancourt on Romance and Writing

Liv Rancourt, is a paranormal romance author with a flair for witty dialog, quirky characters, and stories that resonate with the heart. I’m reposting an excerpt she wrote about why she writes fiction woven with romantic themes, because I can’t think of a better topic for the holiday season. Because everything is more magical when love is in the air

So, why romance? Yesterday I had a couple hours of downtime and spent it in the company of Aidan, Krys, Mirren, Lucy & their friends while reading the novel Redemption by Susannah Sandlin. Okay, there were vampires involved, but the love story rocked and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

That just about sums it up. Write a love story that’s grounded in reality (or some The Santa Drag coverparanormal version thereof), involving well-drawn characters and genuine conflict, and you will have me eating out of the palm of your hand…though that’s probably not an image we want to dwell on. Instead, know that I read to have fun, and good romances are almost always fun.

If I want real-world conflict (read: sadness & pain), I’ll go to work. Sometimes I don’t even have to go that far; conflict comes to me, invading my personal space. That’s how life is. When I read, I want the assurance that the characters are going to end up happy, which is one of the hallmarks of the romance novel.

And then there’s the whole falling-in-love thing. Like most people of the human persuasion, I love to fall in love. However, after seventeen years of marriage, pretty much the only falling I get to do these days is in the pages of a book. My husband is an awesome guy, but our infatuation days were a LOOOONNGGG time ago. With a romance novel, I can experience a little vicarious infatuation stretched out over two or three days, and almost always get dinner to the table on time.

It gets even better when I write my own. I have a whole thumb-drive full of crushes. My ideal romantic heroes are often tough guys with hard fists and soft hearts. Well, except for Joe, from my short story The Santa Drag. He’s an actor, and the heroine Mackenzie describes him as the Robert Downey Jr. type: good-looking, charming and just a little bit naughty. He’s turned up in a couple of my short stories now, flashing his “yep, I’m handsome” grin and driving Mack crazy.

To read an excerpt of The Santa Drag, go here.

The Santa Drag is available exclusively from Amazon [Kindle Edition] for only $0.99. You can buy it here.

Connect with Liv!

I can be found on-line at all hours of the day and night:

Stop by. We’ll have fun!

 


“The Santa Drag” ~ This Santa has a secret only true love can reveal!

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This season the biggest surprise isn’t under the tree…

The Santa Drag coverMackenzie’s an out-of-work actress who takes a job as a shopping mall Santa to pay the rent. She fools everyone with her Santa drag, until the day Joe McBride walks into the mall. Joseph Timothy McBride – the real-life, got a soap opera gig and you saw him in Scream II actor. The only guy she ever really loved.

Can Mack stay in character, or is it time to strip off the red coat and peel off the beard for good?

The Santa Drag is a 6,000 word short story about a Santa with a secret, stressed out parents in the mall, and one very handsome actor.

Black Friday FREEBIE! ~ Nov. 28-30

Don’t miss out on this delicious holiday treat! From 11/28 – 11/30/14, The Santa Drag is FREE from Amazon [Kindle Edition]!

Reviewers have called this story charming and funny. Want a quick holiday pick-me-up? Get it here with one-click: The Santa Drag.

The Santa Drag is available exclusively from Amazon [Kindle Edition]. After November 30th, you can buy it here.

Read an Excerpt:

A kid in my lap threatened to throw up, taking my full attention for several moments, and when I looked up again it was Joe’s turn. Maya gave him a way-too-friendly smile, which he returned with his standard, ‘yep, I’m handsome,’ grin. His kids stood behind him. The boy clearly thought he was too old for all this nonsense, and his sister was trapped in between the excitement of seeing Santa and her brother’s ennui.

“Come on, guys,” Joe said, tugging the boy forward with an arm around the shoulders. I paid strict attention to the kids. I did not want to look at his face or see the dimple in his chin.  He turned around to say something to Maya. I really didn’t want to look at his ass.

“Uncle Joe, this is so stupid,” the boy said. Uncle Joe. I almost jumped out of my chair. They must be his sister Kelly’s kids.

“Get over there, Saxton. We’re taking pictures for your mother’s Christmas present. Mabyn, you too.” Joe pushed his nephew in my direction. Saxton and Mabyn? Wow, Kelly must be seriously into her Irish heritage. Or something.

Saxton was dressed in a red and green striped soccer jersey and jeans, his longish brown hair slicked back behind his ears. Mabyn wore a green sweater and jeans, with her hair pulled back in a thick red braid. Joe had jeans on, too. I tried really hard not to notice how well they fit across his thighs.

“Uncle Joe, will you get us some ice cream after this?” Mabyn asked.

“If you smile pretty for the camera.”  Joe gave her a shadow of the grin that I remembered. She gave him a pretty decent grin in return, though her big front teeth overlapped and there was a gap where one eye tooth should have been. Braces must be coming soon.

“She wishes she could smile pretty,” Saxton sneered. Mabyn smacked him on the arm. “Ow, she hit me. She should get in trouble.”

I would have hit him harder.

With Joe standing so close, it was hard to remember that I was supposed to be Santa. I gave a half-assed “Ho-ho-ho,” which sounded strangled, even to me. He glanced over at me, and I accidentally met his eyes. I looked away immediately, but not before I saw the flash. Not recognition, exactly, but interest. I could feel him watching me. “Ho-ho-ho.” It came out heartier this time. I was so not going to give myself away.

Meet Liv:

I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire…or sometimes demon. I write funny. I don’t write angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog is the cutest thing evah(!), and we’re up to three ferrets.

I can be found on-line at all hours of the day and night:

Stop by. We’ll have fun!


“Illusions of Fate” Giveaway WINNER!

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This is to announce the winner of the giveaway for the author signed copy of Illusions of Fate, by Kiersten White.

You can read more about this awesome book here.

Illusions of Fate cover

 

And the winner is…

 ~ Drum roll ~

CONGRATULATIONS!

Rabiah

Tosses copious mounts of confetti!

I’ll email you to get an address where I can mail the book.

Author signed title page of Illusions of Fate, by Kiersten White


“Illusions of Fate” by Kiersten White ~ Author Signed Copy GIVEAWAY!

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Rich in imagination & deep in character…

IllusionsOfFate-coverThe people of Albion are different from anyone Jessamin has ever known: harsh, upright, and obsessed with wealth and rank. Jessamin knew as much when she left her sun-drenched island home to attend school in their gray, dreary country. 

But she had no idea how different they truly were.

She never thought she would discover a house with door that open onto a hundred corners of the city or a book that spends its days as a bird. She certainly never expected to become a pawn in a political and magical power struggle between the sinister Lord Downpike and the handsome, charming Finn Ackerly. And she never so much as imagined she’d win Finn’s affections—or that one day his shadow would follow her every step. 

Fortunately for Jessamin, fate has other ideas… (jacketflap)

If I had stayed on the thoroughfare that day, not taken the alley, I would never have met him. … I sit, defeated, and shuffle the cards for the hundredth time. I cut the deck, close my eyes, and draw a card at random. FATE. I always draw fate.

 

Magic, romance, intrigue, and a dash of steampunkery…

Jessamin swept me into her fictional 19th century world and immediately won me over with her sharp wit and strength of character. At the age of sixteen she left her tropical island home for a distant country, so she could better herself with an education she helped earn working as a servant in a hotel.

Jessamin’s meager finances put her at the bottom of Albion’s high-society caste. To make matters worse, her darker skin label her as a foreigner, making her even more of an outcast. Jessamin works hard to be the best in her classes,and getting little recognition. Still, she’s proud of holding her own. That is, until the fateful day Albion’s magical forces catch her up in their vicious snare. Strong spirited Jessamin fights back, battling her wits against evil magic, proving her island moxie is something to be reckoned with.

Why this book rocks…

ILLUSIONS OF FATE is flat-out fun–Witty dialog and scenes crafted with style and polished prose. I highly recommend this beguiling story to any young adult, or adult who is young at heart.

Here’s a few reasons why this book is so awesome:

  • Jessamin’s wit and fortitude gave me a  heroine I could laugh with, root for, and admire.
  • Jessamin is ordinary, not ‘the chose one’, so it’s easy to empathize with her.
  • Even though she has meager funds on which survive, Jessamin isn’t swayed by money and power. She knows her mind and sticks to her morals.
  • Lord Ackerly is wealthy, powerful, and of high social standing. He’s adept in casual social situations, but nervous when it comes to personal relationships of depth. His flaws make him vulnerable, and I couldn’t help hoping Jessamin would give him a chance.
  • The 19th century fantasy world has a steampunk patina that gives the setting depth, and brings the world to life.
  • Quirky secondary characters, such as Sir Bird and Eleanor, add humor and give depth to Jessamin’s character.
  • I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I didn’t see the ending coming. Better still, after the last twist was revealed, I was satisfied with the outcome because it was more than earned.

To win an author signed copy…

NOTE: The FREE giveaway of an author copy of this book is open to residents of the United Kiersten White holding a signed copy of Illusions of FateStates only, due to shipping costs. My sincere apologies.

Here’s how to enter to win:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog–explaining WHY you’d love to read this book– by midnight, November 20th (1 entry).
  2. Tweet about this giveaway, using #IOFGiveaway in your tweet (1 entry).
  3. I’ll put all *entries* in a hat and pick a winner blindfolded.

I’ll announce the winner on this blog Saturday, November 22nd.

Author signed title page of Illusions of Fate, by Kiersten White

May Fate be with you!

[Photo of Kiersten White taken at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, CA by moi]


No Tricks, All Treats ~ Movies That Put the “Happy!” in Halloween

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If you’re a die-hard (pun intended) fan of dark-and-scary, you might want to skip this post. I’ve seen my share of white-knuckle horror films, but I’m a happy-haunts kind of gal. Which is why I’m putting a light-hearted spin on a haunting holiday with the following movies…

ParaNorman

ParaNorman_posterThis hilarious stop-motion marvel is about a small town that comes under siege by zombies. The only person who has a ghost of a chance at saving the town, is a misunderstood boy named Norman. Norman isn’t the usual stuff heroes are made of. His only qualification for the hero job is that he can see and speak with the dead.

Unfortunately, zombies aren’t the only supernatural riffraff that Norman’s thrown up against. He also has to take on ghosts, witches and, worst of all… moronic grown-ups, to thwart a centuries-old curse. 

A la Joss Whedon, ParaNorman gets dark, scary, and then throws in the humor. At its core, ParaNorman is a heartfelt zombie comedy (ZomCom) with an added dash of macabre for spice. You can watch the trailer here.

Corpse Bride

Corpse Bride movie poster

Tim Burton’s quirky stop-motion tale about one wedding … two brides … and a grave misunderstanding.

Meet Victor, our accidental hero, who lives in a small European village in the 19th century. He’ been pledged to Victoria in a marriage arranged by his parents, and meets his bride-to-be for the first time the day before the wedding. Understandably nervous, Victor botches the wedding rehearsal on a nerdastic scale.

In hopes of improving his performance on his wedding day, Victor goes for a walk in the woods, practicing his vows along the way—not that it helps. When he reaches the part of ceremony where they exchange rings, Victor slips Victoria’s wedding band on what appears to be a tree branch, sealing his fate. You see, Victor unwittingly put the ring on the skeletal finger of the enchanted Corpse Bride, binding himself in matrimony to her for eternity.

To Victor’s shock and dismay, his new bride whisks him off to her dark and mysterious netherworld–the land of the dead. Terrified, Victor’s predicament goes from bad to wickedly worse as he realizes he actually loves the real-live fiancée he left behind. Victor’s desperate to return to the world of the living to be with his true love, but sinister forces stop at nothing to block his escape. 

This dark comedy comes full circle, delivering a well deserved happy ending that glows with compassion and redemption. You can watch the trailer here.

Practical Magic

“What’s Halloween without witches,” you ask?Practical Magic movie poster My point exactly for picking this classic tale of merry magic and spells gone deadly wrong.

The wry, romantic comedy follows the Owens sisters, Sally and Gillian, as they struggle to use their innate mystical gifts to overcome the obstacles in finding and keeping true love.

The Owens sisters always knew they were different. After their parents’ deaths, they went to live with their two eccentric aunts who gave them chocolate cake for breakfast and taught them how to use their magical skills for practical purposes.

Not everything about their magic was good, however. The Owens’ mystical birthright came with a price—some called it a curse:

Any man an Owens woman falls in love with is doomed to an untimely death.

The sisters learned how real the curse is when Sally loses her husband and Gillian her lover. The sisters efforts to reverse the curse result in supernatural forces retaliating and threatening their lives. The quiet Sally and the fiery Gillian must use all of their wits and dig deep into their powers to ward off the evil bent on destroying them all.

This movie gets a little dark, but never scary. And there’s plenty of fun to swing the scale into delightful. For one, these witches know how to rock a happy haunt. Sneak a peak at their midnight margaritas dance party, if you don’t believe me…



Have a Happy Halloween everyone!

Sandra Bullock & Nicole Kidman, Practical Magic


What are your favorite Halloween movies (scary or not)?


Joshua Bell ~ Incognito Busker to Subway Station Superstar

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Even if you’re not into classical music, you’ve probably heard of Joshua Bell. Meg Cabot mentions him in her Princess Diaries series and Vanished series. Or maybe you heard about that guy—the famous musician who played in a train station and no one noticed him. That Guy, was Joshua Bell.

The Urban Legend That Isn’t a Legend

In 2007, Joshua Bell posed as a common busker in a Washington D.C. metro station bell.joshua2012(during morning rush hour) as part of an experiment initiated by Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post. Only seven people, out of thousands, stopped to listen to him. Only one person recognized him. ONE. You can read the full story here.

Since then, Joshua Bell became known as “that guy” who played in a train station. Some people actually told him the story about that guy, not realizing he was that guy. He commented on Twitter that he felt he was in danger of being best known (in his career) as that-guy-who-played-in-the-train-station, and his tombstone would read: “Here he is, underground again.”

The Encore that Packed the Train Station

Union Station Washington DCA cavernous train station is not the usual venue for a classical music superstar. Joshua Bell has played in all the major concert halls around the world. So why would he want to go back to a train station where he was blatantly ignored in 2007?

You can let a situation define you, or you change the situation to reinvent the definition.

That’s just what Joshua Bell did. On September 30, 2014, Joshua Bell turned the tables on DC’s Union Station and created a the ultimate public experience for classical music. This time, his performance at DC’s Union Station was highly publicized and people came out in droves. People who knew the story, but may not have known anything about classical music, packed the gigantic space, pressed shoulder to shoulder, 1500 strong. [image: morguefile.com]

Joshua Bell Encore Concert at Union Station Washington DC Sept 30, 2014

Joshua Bell played the same music he did as an incognito busker (2007), except this time he held a capacity crowd spellbound. You can listen to the entire concert on YouTube Here.

The sheer size of the crowd that greeted him, and the warmth of their reception, made this encore a fitting compliment to his first train station experience. More important, he and the young artists who accompanied him brought beautiful music to the masses. I can’t think of a better ending to the story.

Honesty Hour: I feel compelled to write about Joshua Bell’s encore performance, because I’ve referenced his 2007 busking stint in two other blog posts. I never referred to him as That Guy. Not once. Honest.

PBS NewsHour Interview with Joshua Bell

The following PBS NewsHour video shows footage from Joshua Bell’s first busking experience and clips from his recent encore performance. In the personal interview that follows, Joshua Bell talks about the fate of classical music and the importance of keeping music in schools.

 

Encouraging and Instructing Young Artists

Joshua Bell puts action behind his words, contributing time and energy to the Education Through Music (ETM) program, among other philanthropic endeavors.

Most recently, he taught a Young Arts Master Class—some of his students accompanied him in his Union Station encore performance—which was the basis for a HBO documentary. See the following trailer for details.



Crazy Colloquialisms: More expressions that make you go, “Huh?”

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Anyone who learns English as a second language is a hero in my book. Seriously. There are so many rules that only apply half the time. And then there are the wacky phrases that get tossed about at whim, that have little or nothing to do with what is actually meant. I was confused by these colloquialism when I was young, and English is my first language.

So here’s a few more translations for idiotic idioms…

The Cat’s Pajamas ~ wonderful, remarkable

Cat in pajamas snuggling a teddy bearThe Cat’s Pajamas is one of the sillier colloquial conundrums. I first heard this expression when I was in grade school, while watching a black-and-white movie from the 1930’s. It’s disturbed me ever since.

The cat’s pajamas describes someone or something that is wonderful or remarkable. The American cartoonist, Thomas Aloysius “Tad” Dorgan, is credited with creating this whimsical phrase. The hipsters in the 1920’s used this expression to describe a person who is the best at what they do, or a person who was fun to be with. More recently it was popularized by the movie The School of Rock, starring Jack Black.

The cat’s pajamas is one of a handful of slang animal-centric expressions that came out of the 1920s. Others include the Bee’s knees, the canary’s tusks, and the flea’s eyebrows. Don’t worry. I won’t go there. (c) Can Stock Photo

Come Hell or High Water ~ a great difficulty or obstacle

Anyone determined to accomplish a task no matter what, will do it “come hell or high water”. It doesn’t matter how hard the task, or the odds against their success. They will get it done. Stubborn to the point of stupidity, but always in their favor.

This is an American expression, yet no one has discovered a clear derivation. Some think it may be an outgrowth of “the devil and the deep blue sea”. But that seems like a stretch, if you ask me.

Flooding street of a old West town, Universal Studios, CA

The earliest reference of “come hell or high water” was in the Iowa newspaper, The Burlington Weekly Hawk Eye, on May 1882. This seems fitting, as the saying rings with hardy Midwestern spirit.

The phrase became popular in movies in the early twentieth century, especially in Westerns. Cattle drives often involved crossing rivers and the large expanses of dry dusty plains. [Photo by moi: Western movie set, Universal Studios (CA) backlot]

Get Down to Brass Tacks ~ hard facts

BrassTacksThis phrase dates back to the turn of the nineteenth century, with its first appearance in January 1863 in a Texas newspaper. Other early occurrences are also from Texas, so it’s assumed that’s its place of origin. There are a couple of possible derivations for the phrase, and both refer to actual brass tacks.

The first theorizes that the brass tacks are the ones used in upholstery. Brass tacks have long been used in making furniture, due to their aesthetic appeal and ability to withstand rust. But that’s as far as the explanation for that theory goes. There’s no logical explanation that relates the meaning of the phrase to the brass tacks used in upholstering.

The most reasonable theory is about the brass tacks used as a measuring device for selling lengths of material in the old haberdashery trade. Measuring fabric by arm length wasn’t very exact. So to be more accurate, shopkeepers inserted brass tacks along the edge of their counters. When a customer purchased fabric, the cloth was measured along the counter using the distance between the brass tacks to determine the price. Hence the phrase, getting down to brass tacks.  (c) Can Stock Photo

Dead as a Doornail ~ devoid of life, unusable

This expression always bothered me. Of all things to compare death to, why a doornail? It made no sense. If it had to be a nail, why not a coffin nail?

Amazingly enough, the first reference of this phrase dates back to 1350. It appears in both the The Vision of Piers Plowman, and a translation by William Langland of the French poem Guillaume de Palerne. By the 16th century, the expression had become popular in England thanks to the lines Shakespeare gave the rebel leader Jack Cade in King Henry VI. Dickens kept the popularity growing by using the phrase in A Christmas Carol.

You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

close up of an old wooden door with a knocker

Doornails are large-headed studs that, in much earlier times, were used for strength instead of decoration. The practice was to hammer the nail through, and then bend the protruding end over to secure it. This process is called clenching, and is probably why a doornail can be considered dead. After a doornail is clenched it can’t be used again. Sounds true to me. How about you?  (c) Can Stock Photo

11 Year-Old Busking Violinist ~ Fifth Avenue’s Newest Star

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Pint-Size Prodigy Surprised by His Idol on National TV

There’s a new star on New York’s Fifth—Dylan Hamme, an 11 year-old busking violinist. But Dylan isn’t just any ol’ busker. No. He’s a child prodigy on the fast-track to becoming a concert violinist. He’s busking to raise money for conservatory training.

But wait. It gets  better.

Dylan has a sign propped up in his open violin case for passerby donations that states he’s following in the footsteps of his idol, Joshua Bell.

So far it’s true…

11 year-old Dylan Hamme playing his violin on 5th Ave NYC

Joshua Bell started playing the violin at the age of three, the same age Dylan picked up the instrument. Joshua Bell went on to become a world-renowned violin soloist. So far, Dylan is heading in that direction as well. His expert musicianship (along with his sign), caught the attention of NBC News, and they featured him on the Today Show, complete with a surprise visit from his idol. If you don’t cry watching the video clip below, I don’t want to hear about it.

Going out of his way to encourage a young musician is not uncommon for Joshua Bell. He regularly supports projects that teach and encourage young musicians around the world. Most recently, his work with the National YoungArts Foundation was the cover story in October Strings.


 

Joshua Bell’s Busking Experiment

While Joshua Bell is at home in a concert hall, he’s no stranger to playing on the street. Or a metro station to be exact. In 2007, Joshua Bell posed as a common busker in a Washington D.C. metro station (during morning rush hour) as part of an experiment initiated by Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post. The purpose of the experiment was to see how many commuters would stop and listen to one of the nation’s greatest violinist in an everyday setting. Sadly, not many. Only one person recognized him. ONE. You can watch the time-lapse video below, and read the full story here.

It’s fortunate Dylan Hamme got more recognition busking than did his idol. Joshua Bell is happy about Dylan’s popularity on the street too.



Dining with Giraffes… Are you game?

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The world’s only giraffe hotel rests in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. Yes, giraffe hotel.

Officially called Giraffe Manor, the estate is located near Nairobi, Kenya. Every morning the resident giraffes stroll up to the house, poking their heads through the windows in search of treats.

Giraffe Manor, exterior with giraffes poking their heads through windows

Can you think of anything more amazing than waking up to giraffes poking their heads through your bedroom window, and then having giraffes join you for breakfast? Seriously. Sign me up!

Breakfast with giraffes at Giraffe manor

The Makings of a Very Tall Tale

The original mansion was built in 1932 for a wealthy British family. But it wasn’t until 1974, when the property was purchased by Betty Leslie-Melville and her husband Jock, that the idea for a sanctuary dedicated to endangered Rothschild giraffes blossomed.

The first giraffe the Leslie-Melville’s took in was an 8-foot-tall (2.4 m), 450-pound baby they named Daisy, about whom Betty subsequently wrote the book Raising Daisy Rothschild that was later made into the film The Last Giraffe. So started the journey to protection for the endangered Rothschild giraffes. Giraffe Manor has been home to as many as 12 Rothschild giraffes at one time; currently there are eight in residence. The following image shows Betty Leslie-Melville having a quiet moment with Daisy Rothschild. [image: flicker.com]

Betty Leslie-Melville and Daisy Rothschild

In 1983, Betty’s son opened the Manor as a boutique hotel where guests could feed the giraffes from their breakfast table, through the front door, and from their bedroom windows. The Carr-Hartley family purchased Giraffe Manor in 1984 to continue the tradition of offering guests the rare opportunity to hang out with these gentle giants.

The hotel luxuriously caters to the resident giraffes and warthogs, as well the human guests who come from all over the world. A magical stay at Giraffe Manor is not cheap, but the one in a lifetime experience is priceless.

The proceeds generated by the hotel help to support a great cause: the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW). Not only is Giraffe Manor a sanctuary for an endangered species, but they also participate in a breeding program which introduces breeding pairs back into the wild.

The Tallest Living Mammals

The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is native to Africa, and is the tallest living terrestrial animal.

Fully grown giraffes are approximately 16–20 ft tall, with an average weight of 2,628 lb) for an adult male and 1,825 lb) for an adult female. Giraffes have a lifespan of  up to 25 years in the wild. Because of their size, eyesight and powerful kicks, adult giraffes don’t have any predators, with the exception of man and lions.

Giraffes at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

There are nine subspecies of giraffe, each with variations in markings that make them distinctly unique. Rothschild giraffes (that live at Giraffe Manor), named for Walter Rothschild, are also known as the Baringo or Ugandan giraffe. This subspecies’ natural habitat range includes parts of Uganda and Kenya. Fewer than 700 are believed to remain in the wild. Their endangered status makes the work done at Giraffe Manor for their protection all the more important. [image: Wikipedia, Rothschild’s giraffes at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya]

A Sneak Peak at Giraffe Manor

A real-life sneak peek…


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