Sunday, November 29, 2015

Julianna Margulies publishes children's book in tribute to late father

Actress Julianna Margulies has paid tribute to her late father by publishing a children’s book he wrote for her and her two sisters when they were little. The star of The Good Wife has penned Three Magic Balloons, which is based on a tale her dad Paul used to recite when she was a child. After he passed away in 2014 at the age of 79, Julianna thought it was fitting for his wonderful story to be shared with the youngsters of today. “He was a special guy, and it feels good to be able to put something out into the world that he wrote,” she told People magazine. “It’s a very loving, sweet story, and it’s just about giving.” The book tells the story of three sisters whose father gives them money for treats at the zoo, but they use it to buy food for the animals instead. It has been illustrated by Grant Shaffer, who is married to Julianna’s co-star on the hit CBS drama Alan Cumming, and the 49-year-old thinks the pictures elevate the story to a whole new level. “A balloon man who has been watching them gives them magic balloons because they have kindness in their hearts,” she explained about the plot. “They tie them to their beds at night and the balloons make them go up, up, up into the sky, and all these angels and majestic animals come out to greet them. All because of the kindness that they show.” The actress thinks her father would be delighted to see his story being made available to other children so many years after he originally came up with the idea. “I think he would love it,” she smiled. “He wanted everyone to have love in their hearts. He hated any kind of animosity, he really wanted everyone to find peace. That’s what this book is bringing to people. I feel lucky enough that I could have gotten it out there for him. It’s just a really sweet, hopeful story that I think the world could use right now.” YOU Amazon.com

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Bing Crosby

Twelve Days of Christmas Photo Wikipedia
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby, Jr. (May 3, 1903 – October 14, 1977)] was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark warm bass-baritone voice made him the best-selling recording artist of the 20th century, having sold over one billion records, tapes, compact discs and digital downloads around the world.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Season's first snow is Chicago's largest November snowfall in 120 years By Marwa Eltagouri

The season's first snowfall dropped as much as 17 inches across Chicago's northern suburbs, and the total of 11.2 inches at O'Hare International Airport made it the largest November snowfall in 120 years. The steady stream of snow began Friday evening and carried into Saturday, bringing cold winds and slushy puddles to Michigan Avenue. But it also fashioned a wintry backdrop to the annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, transporting Chicagoans into a life-sized holiday snow globe. Lake County was walloped. By about 2 p.m. Saturday, there were reports of 17 inches in Grayslake, 16.5 in Hawthorn Woods, and 15.5 inches in Mundelein, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jamie Enderlen. McHenry County also was socked, with 13.6 inches in Bull Valley, 12.5 inches in Woodstock and 9.5 inches in Hebron by about 7 a.m. Saturday, according to the weather service. Communities further south saw less precipitation. Naperville had 6.4 inches of snow as of midafternoon, and Romeoville had 4.7 inches as of early evening, according to the weather service. Batavia had 7.5 inches by late afternoon. As of about 6 p.m. Saturday, 11.2 inches of snow was measured at O'Hare International Airport, where some airlines reported delays of up to 20 minutes and more than 260 flights were canceled. Midway Airport reported 5.8 inches. Naperville Sun reporter Susan Frick Carlman and freelance reporters Gary Gibula and Denys Bucksten contributed. Chicago Tribune

Laith Al-Deen

Bilder von Dir Photo Amazon.com
Laith Al-Deen, born February 20, 1972 in Karlsruhe, Germany, is a German language pop musician. Born of an Iraqi father and German mother, Al-Deen grew up in the United States and Mannheim, Germany. He achieved his first fame with his debut album, Ich will nur wissen (English: I Only Want to Know), from which came his first two singles, Bilder von Dir (English: Pictures of you, German version of the 1995 hit Everlasting Pictures of B-Zet with Darlesia) and Kleine Helden (English: Little Heroes). His second album, Melomanie, released in 2002, resulted in the singles Dein Lied (English: Your Song) and Jetzt, Hier, Immer (English: Now, Here, Always), and was just as successful as his debut album. Al-Deen was also nominated for the Comet, a music award given by the German broadcaster VIVA in the category of Hip hop/R&B, which he declined, saying that he would only seek recognition for German-language music rather than an international award Wikipedia

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tracy Porter at Poetic Wanderlust

I'm keeping Pearl. As for our bedding it's available @macys @bedbathandbeyond @nordstrom @bloomingdales @dillards @belk Tracy Porter

Adele’s Hello to New York, Plus Cate Blanchett at MoMA’s Film Benefit By Marshall Heyman

Hello It isn’t really possible to overstate how special the Adele concert was on Tuesday night at Radio City Music Hall. The British singer, whose new album “25” will be released on Friday, hadn’t performed live in New York since 2011, so she was especially anxious and excited and giddy at the same time. The Wall Street Journal Photo Amazon.com

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Should Gay, Endangered Penguins Be Forced to Mate? By John R. Platt

What do you do when a species is rapidly disappearing in the wild and two of its most likely in-captivity studs decide to cuddle with each other instead of with eligible bachelorettes? That's the problem Toronto Zoo is encountering this week as two endangered male African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) recently brought to the zoo for breeding purposes seem more concerned with spending time with one another than with two eager females. Penguin homosexuality is not unknown in nature or in zoos, and although it's not yet known if Pedro (age 10) and Buddy (age 20) are actually homosexual, Toronto Zoo is already planning on separating them to more forcefully pair them with mates who already have a case of puppy love for the newcomers. It's kind of sad, actually. "The two girls have been following them; we just have to get the boys interested in looking at them," Tom Mason, the zoo's curator of birds and invertebrates, told the National Post. African penguins (also known as black-footed penguins) only live on South Africa's southern coast. Their population in the wild has dropped nearly 75 percent in the past two decades, from as estimated 225,000 in the 1990s to around 60,000 today, most likely due to changes in food availability brought on by climate change. The population drop is even more dramatic when you look at a broader time period. According to a 1999 IUCN report (pdf), just one of their breeding colonies was home to 1.4 million birds back in 1910. Other threats the penguins have faced include egg harvesting (a practice that is now prohibited) and numerous oil spills in their habitats. With the penguins' wild population at risk, zoos are actively taking up the breeding mantle. According to the National Post, "the sexual partners of almost all captive African penguins are carefully mapped out by researchers at Chicago's Population Management Center. There, penguins are paired, split up and even moved to different zoos purely on the basis of maximizing genetic diversity." Separating the two male penguins might be enough to get them breeding. A study released in 2010 by the Center for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology and published in Ethnology found that supposedly gay penguins weren't solely attracted to the same gender, but were instead just "lonely." Scientific American Photo

Friday, November 13, 2015

Why music is good for you By Philip Ball

A survey of the cognitive benefits of music makes a valid case for its educational importance. But that's not the best reason to teach all children music, says Philip Ball. Remember the Mozart effect? Thanks to a suggestion in 1993 that listening to Mozart makes you cleverer, there has been a flood of compilation CDs filled with classical tunes that will allegedly boost your baby's brain power. Yet there's no evidence for this claim, and indeed the original "Mozart effect" paper did not make it. It reported a slight, short-term performance enhancement in some spatial tasks when preceded by listening to Mozart as opposed to sitting in silence. Some follow-up studies replicated the effect, others did not. None found it specific to Mozart; one study showed that pop music could have the same effect on schoolchildren. It seems this curious but marginal effect stems from the cognitive benefits of any enjoyable auditory stimulus, which need not even be musical. The original claim doubtless had such inordinate impact because it plays to a long-standing suspicion that music makes you smarter. And as neuroscientists Nina Kraus and Bharath Chandrasekaran of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., point out in a review published July 20 in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, there is good evidence that music training reshapes the brain in ways that convey broader cognitive benefits. It can, they say, lead to "changes throughout the auditory system that prime musicians for listening challenges beyond music processing." This is no surprise. Many sorts of mental training and learning alter the brain, just as physical training alters the body, and learning-related structural differences between the brains of musicians and non-musicians are well established. Moreover, both neurological and psychological tests show that music processing draws on cognitive resources that are not music-specific, such as pitch processing, memory and pattern recognition--so cultivating these mental functions through music would naturally be expected to have a wider pay-off. The interactions are two-way: the pitch sensitivity imbued by tonal languages such as Mandarin Chinese, for example, enhances the ability to name a musical note just from hearing it (called absolute pitch). We can hardly be surprised, meanwhile, that music lessons improve children's IQ, given that they will nourish general faculties such as memory, coordination and attentiveness. Kraus and Chandrasekaran now point out that, thanks to the brain's plasticity (the ability to "rewire" itself), musical training sharpens our sensitivity to pitch, timing and timbre, and as a result our capacity to discern emotional intonation in speech, to learn our native and foreign languages, and to identify statistical regularities in abstract sound stimuli. Philip Ball's latest book is The Music Instinct (Bodley Head). Scientific American Photo 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

East-West Story: The Parallel Lives of Two World-Class Dancers By Samiha Shafy

Joy Womack is from California, Sergei Polunin from a poor city in Ukraine. One went East to pursue a career in ballet, the other West. For both, talent has proven to be a double-edged sword.
 
When she appears, the other dancers strike a quiet pose. She takes off, jumps and does a split mid-air in a swirl of white tulle. Her movements seem effortless, as if she requires no momentum at all -- not even a chance to catch her breath. She imperiously raises an arm, liberating the others from their paralysis. They fall into line behind her and follow her steps, for she is Myrtha, their leader, the Queen of the Ghost Girls in the ballet "Giselle." En pointe, with her head held high, the queen receives a round of applause. Then she glides away. Backstage, she lets herself fall on a yoga mat, panting and sweating. After a short pause, she's back to being Joy Womack, a 21-year-old from Santa Monica, California. In her company, the Kremlin Ballet Theater, she is one of the select few who dances solo. She is the first American to perform here, behind the walls of the Kremlin.
Dreams of Ballet Stardom
She lives for these moments. Womack is in Moscow because she wants to be one of the world's best dancers. She moved a lot closer to achieving her dream when, six years ago, she left the United States for the first time and traveled to Russia on her own. Today she is a prima ballerina in the ballet capital of the world. But she's still a bit shy of reaching her goal. Being here is a fight for survival. She is, as CNN reported in April, "the American dancing in the Kremlin for $8 a day." "Well," says Sergei Polunin, "I assume she agreed to these conditions herself." He has never met Womack. They come from different worlds. He hails from the East, while she is from the West. Yet theirs are similar stories of talent, the quest for perfection and childhoods that never were. Their lives are filled with agony and intoxication, triumph and defeat. Polunin, 25, is probably the most talented dancer of his generation. Critics compare him to Rudolf Nureyev, the dancer of the century. He was 19 when London's Royal Ballet conscripted him as the youngest First Soloist in its history. Today, Polunin gets to pick which world stage he wants to dance on. In the same week, he'll also be performing in Moscow at another staging of "Giselle" -- at the Bolshoi Theater, whose dance troupe is considered the most famous in the world. Polunin has achieved everything that Womack dreams of. And for him, that is cause for despair. A year ago, he was on the verge of giving it all up, Polunin explains, his voice soft and shy. He hated it, the drudgery and the pain -- and what for? Dancers torture their bodies and ruin their health, but even the best of them don't come close to earning as much as an opera singer or football player. The majority are exploited, Polunin says. "A ticket for a performance at the Bolshoi often costs more than a dancer earns in a month." At the high point of his existential crisis, Polunin met David LaChapelle. A British-American film team that had been following Polunin around arranged the meeting. The documentary film would be called "Dancer," but the protagonist already had bigger dreams of a Hollywood career now. Spiegel Online International Sergei Polunin

Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin to Unite at Sadler’s Wells By Roslyn Sulcas

LONDON — Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin, two of ballet’s biggest stars, will perform together in a program of new work by Russell Maliphant, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Arthur Pita at Sadler’s Wells next year. The theater announced the new partnership at a news conference on Thursday. It was the news about Ms. Osipova and Mr. Polunin that generated most excitement, however, particularly when they confirmed — after an intrepid question at the news conference — that they are a couple offstage. The Ukranian-born Mr. Polunin, who trained at the Royal Ballet School from the age of 13 and became the youngest-ever principal dancer at the Royal Ballet at 19, made headlines in 2012 when he abruptly quit the company, a year before Ms. Osipova joined it as a principal. Since then, Mr. Polunin has danced mostly with the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theater and the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, and has been little seen in Britain. His solo performance in a video by David LaChapelle has had over 13 million hits to date. The program of new pieces, which is to be performed from June 29 to July 2 next year, will feature a duet by Mr. Maliphant for the pair, as well as “a dance prequel” to Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire,” by Mr. Pita. It is not Ms. Osipova’s first foray into contemporary work; last year she performed all over the world with Ivan Vasiliev in “Solo for Two,” which included new works by both Mr. Cherkaoui and Mr. Pita. With Mr. Polunin as her translator, Ms. Osipova, who has not danced because of injury for the last few months, said that she felt it was important to tackle new styles of dance while she was still young. As well as holding a principal dancer contract with the Royal Ballet, Ms. Osipova is a regular guest artist with American Ballet Theater and at La Scala. On Tuesday, the Bolshoi Ballet announced that she will be a regular guest star over the next season. International New York Times

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Government dismisses Moody's report, calls it opinion of junior analyst

NEW DELHI: Government today dismissed a recent report quoted to Moody's Analytics, saying it was the personal opinion of a junior analyst which was passed off as a commentary on India by a rating agency "by the media to buttress the narrative it wants to portray." "It is with regret the Government of India notes the irresponsible and distorted reporting by certain sections of the Indian media on what was the personal opinion of a Junior Associate Economist employed with Moody's Analytics," an official release said. The Economic Times Photo

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Behind the scenes of Cirque du Soleil By Gurveen Kaur

It is 1pm on a Friday and just days before Cirque du Soleil's production of Totem opens here. In one corner of the troupe's tent - the training and preparation area for the 46 cast members - three women are sewing sequins onto dazzling costumes and adjusting the mane on a mask. Farther inside, a young man bounces 5m into the air on a pole held by two burly men, while another spins and jumps through hoops. Elsewhere, a massage therapist is kneading the back of a cast member, while the sound of weights clinking and powerful roars can be heard at the other end. The artistic tent - which includes a fully equipped training area, gym, dressing rooms, wardrobe area and physiotherapy room - stands alongside the trademark big top where the show takes place, the kitchen, entrance tent and offices housed in large steel containers. Welcome to Cirque du Soleil's mobile village, located next to Marina Bay Sands in Bayfront Avenue. Says Eric Hernandez, 25, a hoop dancer who is in two of 11 acrobatic acts: "Besides rehearsals, we pretty much decide when we want to train and practise. Many of us have been in the Totem production for so long that we know what to do." Since its premiere in 2010, Totem has been performed more than 1,600 times in 32 cities in seven countries including the United States, the Netherlands and New Zealand. Company manager Genevieve Deslandes says: "Our artists are professionals; they have competed in gymnastics or performed in circuses around the world. We can advise them on training routines, but most of them know exactly what their bodies need." Rehearsals for each act follow a specific schedule each week. On average, the cast performs eight to 10 shows a week in each city. They travel from one place to another for most of the year with a support team of 72 technicians and other staff. Each cast member is responsible for decorating his own face too. Between cities, they get a break of one to two weeks, says Ms Deslandes. They also head home once or twice a year for two to three weeks. The troupe is made up of performers from 17 countries including Belarus, China and Australia. A performer might be on stage for less than 10 minutes during the 2-1/2-hour show but he spends hours training every day. Canadian Sarah Tessier, 24, who is one half of the fixed trapeze duo, says: "Our act is only about seven minutes but warming up, practising and putting on make-up can take up to four hours before each show." Cast members are disciplined in the maintenance of their bodies and perfecting their routines. Tessier says it can be a challenge to do the same act over and over again. She has performed her routine more than 1,000 times. She adds: "The repetition and staying alert can be tough, but knowing that it is the audience's first time seeing the act makes us give 100 per cent each time." For the duo, it was a dream come true to join the world-renowned troupe. They both trained at the National Circus School in Montreal, Canada, and were selected for Cirque du Soleil in 2012. While most of the performers have to go through auditions, Russian acrobat Nikita Moiseev was born into the troupe. "We are one big happy family who support one another and have formed deep connections," he says. The Straits Times Photo