Waverly dance
Monday, April 30, 2007
"The Producers" Sets Out to Prove That You Can Make More Money Failing Than Succeeding

The Producers – 2 Stars (Average)

The Producers is a Broadway musical featuring a washed up producer and creative accountant who set out to prove that you can make more money by failing than succeeding.

Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) was once on top of Broadway's world and now cannot get a show past opening night. When neurotic accountant Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) arrives on the scene he proposes a nifty scheme to put Max back in the chips: raise more money than he needs and make sure his show flops so he can pocket the difference.

Max comes to love the idea since he has been reduced to romancing rich old ladies to get seed money to operate.

Max and Leo proceed to produce a musical called "Springtime for Hilter", written by escaped Nazi Franz Liebkind (Will Farrell). They get the insanely flamboyant and gay Roger DeBris (Gary Beach) to direct the play. To fill in the missing piece they hire the loopy Swedish bombshell Ulla (Uma Thurman).

This combination creates a pure entertainment film that is zany, funny and ridiculous. If you guessed that the screenplay was written by Mel Brooks you are right. If it sounds familiar you are right again.

The Producers is a remake of the original Producers written and directed by the same Mel Brooks 37 years earlier. Brooks won an Oscar for Best Writing in 1968, and Gene Wilder was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Role as Leo Bloom.

The original cast featured Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock, Kenneth Mars as Franz Liebkind and Lee Meredith as Ulla.

The name Bialystock was taken from the Polish city that was home to Mel Brooks' ancestors.

Because of the "Springtime for Hilter" musical number in 1968, the film was banned in Germany, and was not shown in Germany until it was included in a film festival featuring the works of Jewish filmmakers.

It has also been suggested that the term "creative accounting" may have originated in the 1968 production of The Producers.

If you cannot read music, you have something in common with Mel Brooks. "Springtime for Hilter" and "Prisoners in Love" (as were all the songs Brooks wrote for his films) were hummed into a tape recorder and transcribed by an expert.

Brooks is an incredible talent. He adapted The Producers as a stage musical in 2001 featuring (who else?) Nathan Lane as Max and Matthew Broderick as Leo, and it proceeded to win a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards.

Mel Brooks is not your usual talent. He may well be more of a stranger to sanity than comedy.

Trust me when I say that the 2005 version of The Producers is meant to be enjoyed without looking for a comfortable story line or serious message. It is nothing more or less than pure entertainment.

It seems as if this film has a cast of thousands, and everyone has bought into Mel Brooks idea of a good time. Every movie needs a director and Susan Stroman must have had her moments in keeping this production on task.

The 2005 version of The Producers was nominated for 4 Golden Globes: Best Picture, Best Original Song ("There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway" by Mel Brooks), Nathan Lane as Best Actor and Will Farrell as Best Supporting Actor.

You may remember Thurman from Dangerous Liaisons (1988), Pulp Fiction (1994), Gattaca (1997) and two Kill Bill movies (2003 and 2004). She earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress as Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction.

Despite the nonsensical good fun, I enjoyed watching Uma Thurman as Ulla, proving that the right blond with the right sex appeal never gets old.

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

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Friday, April 27, 2007
Hillary and the Inquisitor

"Mrs Clinton, we are aware that as a candidate to the Presidency you have shown a great deal of composure and assurance before the probing questions of a number of panels, television hosts, press conferences and those ad hoc conferences on the way to the elevators, the bar or the relief habitats. How did you develop such talent?'

"The hard way. In this business you are liable to run into all kind of inquisitors some of whom search for the way to make you contradict yourself, disguise the truth of a given situation or evade the questions as best you can. Disraeli said that official inquiries are like visits to the dentist; either you bite the hand that tortures you or you lose the tooth!"

"Any special incidents?"

"As a matter of fact I was just thinking about one of the first grillings I had. I was questioned by a Senator known for his dislike of my party, our ideology, our history and my person. It appeared like a personal form of some imaginary revenge or perhaps some atavistic hatred. Let me recount the incident.

"The first few minutes of the session were enough to unnerve a school bus. For a moment there, the Inquisitor looked as if he would scream the moment I sat down in front of him. He had raised a copy of the Constitution in his right hand and with his left index finger pointed at it with vehemence. But he did not say a word. Instead, he looked at me, who had taken pains to dress tastefully and, I hoped, appeared relaxed and not in the least nervous or apprehensive. His look was a mixture of hatred and, somehow, a tiny glimmer of envy. I realized that my dress was a stunning, yet sober creation that was elegant and solemn. He almost forgot that I was a witness in a national inquiry.

At last, he came out of his momentary lapse and putting the Constitution down, said:

"Now, we have irrefutable evidence that during your last year in High School, you placed no less than 8 pieces of chewed gum under your desk. This offense has not been discovered until recently thanks to the untiring work of our trained investigators. You realize that defacing government property is a federal offense. Further, I feel that your silence all these years has probably been its own punishment, by keeping this onerous offense locked in your heart, if you happen to have one. . ."

I looked at the Inquisitor squarely in the eye and replied in my well modulated voice, enhanced with a slight trace of a Midwestern accent:

"If I recall correctly, there were 9 pieces of regular Spearmint Wrigley's Chewing Gum, 5 Adams, 2 Bubble gums and one piece of anchovy that had stuck to my braces. Your Inquisitors do not seem very proficient. They also missed the traffic ticket I never paid when I was vacationing in Millinocket in Maine in 1968. That was August 19 at about 6 P.M., your Honor. Or should I call you your Blessed and Exalted Excellency?"

"Sarcasm will get you nowhere. Now, what about the files?"

"What files?"

"The ones that turned up at your family quarters in the White House"

"Sir, when we moved form Arkansas to Washington, we packed 165 boxes with books, records, pictures, Oxford awards, Rhodes certificates, photo albums, old letters, hand written copies of my husband's letters to girlfriends of his, and a complete music sheet library of popular tunes for saxophone and claves. From my office, we shipped 92 boxes with files, old bills, last wills, college thesis, legal briefs, yellow pads, pencils and green leather pillows. We put all the boxes in Vice President Quayle's office, which is now the laundry room, and began taking some upstairs as the need arose."

"Like what?"

"Well, the saxophone sheet music for one. My husband helps my mood by blowing a couple of old romantic tunes once in a while, you know. . "

"How about the files from your legal days?"

"Same thing. My secretary brings up a box occasionally when looking for old correspondence and records. Most people keep old boxes in the attic and once in a while get a box down when they look for something. The only difference is that we use an ex-Vice President's office instead of an attic and bring boxes to rooms that were once occupied by Washington, Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman and Carter."

The Senator's eyes lit up. He leaned forward and in his usual aggressive tone concluded:

"Ah! You admit moving the boxes! Just what I thought! It is clear to this investigating committee that you have been guilty of tampering and concealment of evidence. . ."

I had no recourse other assuming a serious tone when I replied before he had finished the question:

"Your Exalted Honor, or whatever, first of all this is not a trial. It is more like a voluntary deposition and my appearance here answers to Article 23, Paragraph 51 of section 122 of Chapter 9 of the Derivative Amplified Legal Introspection code of 1932. You are certainly familiar also with the protection afforded me by several legal precedents such as the Timmons versus State of Idaho in 1912, the famous Pickering and Barton case against the Caspian Society of Irvine, California and the well publicized decision involving Garcia Pacheco Morales and the San Bernardino City Council. Any questions?"

The Inquisitor heard every word but his mind was elsewhere. He kept looking at me with a great deal of interest. I know that the dress gave me unique poise and elegance. It was clear to me that it made him wonder how it would look on him. His mood changed and he smiled to himself. But this time it was a soft look, full of admiration and maybe even envy. There was the usual dramatic silent interlude before he asked:

"Where did you buy that dress?"



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Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The James Bond Movies

One of the best loved movie series of all time and popular with generation after generation of cinema goer are the James Bond movies and the release of Casino Royale last year has shown that the film series remains as popular as ever.

From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, every actor to have stepped into the shoes of the world's most famous secret agent has his own dedicated followers, and while each actor's films maintain elements that we now associate with the Bond movies, the style of the films has changed radically on several occasions.

The early years

The first two Bond films starred Sean Connery, who remains the most popular actor as James Bond. Physically looking the part, he brought both toughness and a sense of humour to the role, something that the literary character had always lacked. Plot wise these films – Dr No and From Russia With Love – were little different to the books of Ian Fleming, but by the time of the third film, Goldfinger, the filmmakers decided to start introducing over the top gadgets, this time in the form of the Aston Martin DB5 with ejector seat.

After Goldfinger came Thunderball, and although it remained close to the book, it too had a whole host of gadgets, from underwater breathing equipment the size of a cigar tube to a hydrofoil that splits in two.

Fleming abandoned

After Thunderball came You Only Live Twice, but rather than base the script on the book, it was decided to write an original story using Fleming's characters and location. The film is over the top in every way, with more gadgets - including Little Nellie, the autogyro - a less plausible story and an over the top villain. The film was a success although it was also advertised Sean Connery's last outing as James Bond.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service came next, staring George Lazenby as Bond. It was his only time in the role and allegedly difficult to work with, but he decided to retire from the role before On Her Majesty's Secret Service had even been released on the advice of his agent! The film once again returns to Ian Fleming and is the last Bond film to stick rigidly to its literary original.

Comedy Bond

Sean Connery was persuaded to return to the role of James Bond in the following film, Diamonds Are Forever. However, Fleming was again abandoned in favour of an original story that started to see much more comedy, including a huge car chase in which half the Las Vegas police force seemed to be written off.

This comic trend continued with the introduction of Roger Moore as the films slid further away from the spirit of Ian Fleming and a raised eyebrow was all it took for the Bond girl to fall into bed with him.

Live And Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me became less and less plausible, with sillier gadgets and more laughs, but after Moonraker the filmmakers decided they needed to plant Bond's feet back on the ground.

The result was For Your Eyes Only, probably the best of the Roger Moore Bond movies, playing a tougher, more ruthless 007 with less reliance on gadgets and comedy. Unfortunately this didn't last – Roger Moore's last two films, Octopussy and A View To A Kill, are perhaps the low point in the series.

The Dalton years

Timothy Dalton's debut as James Bond, The Living Daylights, saw a mixture of styles. On one hand the filmmakers wanted to return to the books, although by now all the novel's titles had been used; on the other they just couldn't leave the gadgets and comedy out of the film.

The result was a film that was head and shoulders above most of Roger Moore's films, but would have been be even better if the moments of stupidy had been left out. One scene that springs to mind is when Bond fires two missiles from his Aston Martin to destroy a truck in his path followed by a scene when the car enters a wooden shed, which he then drives about on a frozen lake. How Ian Fleming would have turned in his grave.

Dalton's second and final film was License To Kill. Bond fans tend to be polarised into loving or hating it, and although the title is original some of the scenes were taken from the book Live And Let Die. Bond was hard, dark, unsmiling… and boring. Dalton's contract was for three movies, but the series was put on hold while the producers went to court over a rival Bond series and when they were ready to film again Timothy Dalton decided not to continue.

The shadow of Roger Moore

Pierce Brosnan's Bond was introduced in Goldeneye, which abandoned the dark side of Bond for what some people have dubbed "Roger Moore-lite". With gadgets and humour, the films are a long way from Ian Fleming although it should be noted that his third film, The World Is Not Enough does include some elements from the books. Tomorrow Never Dies, the second film, is instantly forgettable and Die Another Die, while reasonable good in the first half, has too much science fiction, including an invisible car.

A return to Fleming

After Die Another Day the producers saw that the series needed a shot in the arm and looked to move the next film in a different direction. One of the results of the court action was that they had the rights to make Casino Royale, the original James Bond book to which Ian Fleming had sold the film right independently to the other titles. Deciding to reboot Bond they released that they'd need a younger actor, eventually picking Daniel Craig for the part.

Although Daniel Craig attracted much criticism when filming began, he confounded all but his harshest critics and turned the film into a huge box office success. Bringing a physicality that had been missing since Sean Connery hung up his shoulder holster, Casino Royale drops most of the gadgets and all but the subtlest of humour; the film effectively brings Bond back to his roots and while the story has been expanded from the book, there is much that is faithful to Ian Fleming.

Brosnan's films saw the pre-title sequences (PTS) getting longer and longer – around 20 minutes in Die Another Day – which are just too long, especially compared with what many consider to be the classic PTS in Goldfinger - but in Casino Royale it seems much too short, leaving you wanting more.

From Dr No to Casino Royale, the James Bond series has been phenomenally successful and despite changing with the times and to suit the actors, it appears to have turned full circle. With Bond 22 currently in the planning stages we can only wait and see what the next instalment in the saga holds for us.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007
There Are Many Reasons For Owning An Ipod - Types, Kind, And Batteries Make The Difference

There are many reasons for owning an iPod. Depending on which iPod you own, how much it can contain and its battery life determines what you can do with it.

Many people want just music as they jog along the trails either in the city or in the open country air. At our Sports Center, the clientele are doing their thing on the jogging machines listening to all the jazz music. You can find that the faster the music you listen to, the more energy you can put forth in working on your exerciser.

Or maybe you can be one of those enterprising individuals who can, pat his head and circle his stomach, so to speak. By that I am referring to people who can listen to music and still work at his desk or computer.

The different size of the MP/3 or MP/4 player can determine how much music you can store and how long the battery life is when you play it.

Let us take the Video iPod with an MP3/Video Player. You are an individual who has a long train ride or a bus ride to work and back each day. You can load your video iPod up in the morning while you are eating your breakfast, and then watch the video as you are riding on your way to work. Or for that matter, load your Video iPod up at lunch and then watch it on the way home.

This can be a nice way to relieve the tensions of the day and set your mind in other directions. It also will help to have a change of pace before you open the door at night and are greeted by the family, the dog or the family cat, and definitely by a caring wife.

Many different articles can go with an iPod and you can become well versed with reading about each of them.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Getting Started in Voiceovers

The more people I meet, both online and in person, the more I talk about my voiceover business. A natural result is that I'm increasingly presented with the question: "How can I get into doing voiceovers?" or "what's your advice on getting started?"

I'll do my best to give some answers to these questions here. Before I do, let me acknowledge that there are already several excellent articles on this topic to be found online; hopefully my own take on this subject will be of value to anyone asking the question(s). I don't assert that this information is 100% definitive, and exceptions do occur to the "rules" in this Business we call Show. Take this in and weigh it against other articles, as well as your own experiences. So, off we go...

It's Not About Your Voice.

Usually accompanying the "how do I start" inquiry is the qualifier "People tell me I have a great voice!" The good news? If you're being told this, odds are that those people are correct. The bad news? The reason they're probably correct is that most people do have a "nice voice", or at least a voice of reasonably pleasant tonal quality that doesn't send the listener into crippling spasms. The worse news? Having a "good voice" means virtually nothing with regard to having a successful VO career. I've received countless compliments on the quality of my voice; while I accept them as sincere, I know full well that the reason I have a voiceover career is that I've learned how to use that voice. If you don't have any acting experience or training, get some. Whether it's a ketchup commercial, an instructional tech video, or an animated Pixar blockbuster, the skills you need to bring to the mic are those of an actor.

This is Serious Stuff.

Another aspect of the Big Question is that it's often asked earnestly but wistfully; you can practically see the questioner's gauzy vision of getting up in the morning, sitting behind the mic for an hour or so, collecting a fat paycheck for the session, and taking off the rest of the day...or even the week. Just to be sure, there are voice talents for whom that's a normal day; that list is pretty short, though, and getting on that last requires lots of time + lots of work + a bit of luck. (Not to mention that those guys stay quite busy.)

How much time? How much work? How much luck? The answer, as with so many things, is different for everyone; in pretty much every case, however, it means focusing on developing your skills. It means spending time marketing your services. In other words, even if you only want to work in VO part time or "on the side", you still have to take it seriously, develop your craft, and pursue the gigs; and to get those gigs, you'll need to convince the (potential) buyers of your services that you're a dedicated professional. (That's getting ahead of the game a bit, however. Moving on...)

This is Fun Stuff!

Lest you think at this point that I'm a curmudgeon about this stuff, think again! This is one of the most fun jobs imaginable, and even the little annoyances are far outweighed by the rewards. By "rewards", I'm not even referring to money; most VO talents will never earn millions upon millions of dollars. This is all the more reason to love what you do. (If the odds against earning vast riches are putting you off of this whole VO thing, or if you've only considered VO because it seems like an easy way to rake in big bucks, you might as well stop reading now.) I mention the hard work involved because it's true, but hard work doesn't have to mean drudgery. Enjoy yourself! Listeners (that is to say, potential clients) can tell, and are more likely to look your way.

Having worked at a number of radio stations, I can confirm that there are times when non-professional voice talents are asked to read copy for commercials and/or PSAs (Public Service Announcements). It happens, especially when deadlines are looming, or when an advertiser chooses to voice their own copy. What often occurs is that an otherwise literate and intelligent person delivers a reading that suggests they're still learning the English language: flat, monotone, and devoid of rhythm or pace. This isn't to put down people for not having instant pro voiceover skills; in fact, most people aren't used to reading text aloud on a regular basis, and even though the words may leap off the page and tell a vivid story when they read it with their eyes, they have trouble getting their mouths to perform that same translation. As a voice artist, your job is to do this every time you step up to the mic.

This brings us back to the need for...acting skills! Words are not mere conveyances of data, they're living things that need your help to be fully realized. Even if you don't have formal training (yet), take a chance when you read! Use your vocal range; it's probably wider than you think. Exaggerate, overemphasize, even yell! If the read doesn't seem right, try something else! It's always easier to tone it down from "exciting" than to build it up from "dull".

Do Your Homework

No matter from where you're starting out, be it absolute beginner or somewhat-experienced, you have an advantage going in: the research has pretty much been done; all you have to do is look it up!

Okay, that's perhaps not quite as easy as I've made it sound; it still takes time and focus, but you can find a great deal of information online regarding the VO world. Do a Google or Yahoo! search for "voiceovers", "voice talent", "voice acting", and look through the results.

Back to School

As I mentioned before, some degree of training is essential, and it should happen before you begin creating demos and trying to market your services. (It should also happen after those steps as well; as in any other field, VO education is an ongoing process.) If you don't have any acting experience, I highly recommend looking up a local community theatre organization and volunteering; most such outfits are always looking for new faces. You'll likely learn absolutely nothing about microphone technique or how to fit an overwritten piece of ad copy into 30 seconds, but you will gain invaluable experience using your body and voice to tell a story and/or sell an idea. 'Informal' or 'Ongoing' education programs are another great way to dip your toes into the acting waters. Many of these programs will even have an introductory-level voiceover class or two, so get to Googling and see what's available in your area.

In addition to the general acting training referenced above, you need to have plenty of practice reading scripts; you can gain a lot of experience by drawing on exercises found in books like The Art of Voice Acting by James Allburger, as well as several other fine VO books. If you've already got a basic voice-recording setup with a microphone and computer, record yourself reading scripts, ad copy from magazines, even stories with different characters. Practice this and listen back until you're hearing a performance that brings the copy to life.

A note: I'm betting that some of you are reading the above and thinking, "look, Dave, I know you mean well, but I've got loads of natural talent and have been 'acting' and creating characters since I was in diapers, so I hope you don't mind if I plan to skip the whole classroom-experience bit."

If so, then please know that I don't mind in the slightest. You can (and certainly should) draw on your natural abilities when performing VO work. My point is that if you haven't had some degree of training from a bona fide teacher, it will eventually show in your work. Again, I say - with no facetiousness - if you happen to be the exception, and find that you're able to be successful in VO without putting in the groundwork, then more power to you. (This is in no way meant to demean or belittle those successful VO artists who have avoided the theatrical-acting route; they deserve their success and certainly don't need me to tell them how it should be done. However, even those VO folks will tell that you've got to educate yourself - or be educated, by a qualified teacher - about the business and craft of voiceover.)

Momentarily putting aside my earlier point about not being in VO for the money: you're proposing to enter a field wherein, when you're working steadily, you can (potentially) earn as much as a working attorney or physician. The latter two occupations require going to school for eight, ten, twelve years (or more) after high school. There's no requirement that you attend any sort of formal classes to be a voiceover artist...but you do have to have the same level of commitment as those professionals. If you like the idea of a self-taught CPA doing your taxes, or an untrained mechanic working on your car, then by all means plow ahead in that same vein.

A Seat at the Table

Regardless of how much or how little training you've had, a resume' of acting experience does little when it comes to landing VO jobs. You've got to bring something to the table, and that something needs to be your demo. In fact, you'll need several demos in different categories, and each of them needs to stack up against pros who are already working steadily. However, before we put the proverbial cart too far in front of the horse...

Don't get too impatient; you need to be ready to perform before you get started creating your first demo. If you've been practicing and absorbing information from VO pros (via the resources and methods listed previously), then you can start putting materials together for the demo.

While you might want to concentrate on completing one demo category at a time, it's important to know what the main ones are: Commercial, Narration, and Character. There are others, such as radio/TV imaging, subcategories of Narration like Medical, Scientific and Corporate, etc., but let's stick to the basics for now.

Finding material for a Commercial demo is easier than you might think, but also a little tricky; while you can contact studios and ad agencies to search for old legitimate advertising copy, you can also find the same material in any magazine or newspaper - it's simply formatted differently. The trick is to look for copy that mirrors the better ads you've heard on radio and TV; by "better", I mean copy that stands apart from the same old advertising cliches ("plenty of free parking" or "our friendly, knowledgable staff"), and grabs the listener.

Finding Narration material is equally simple; go to the website of nearly any large company, and you'll likely find an "About Us" or "Mission Statement" section. It's not uncommon for that same material to be used by the company for training and promotional audio, so take advantage of a ready-made resource. (Be cautious, however, of actually using the company name in the demo.)

A Character demo should be more than just audio of you doing funny voices; this is where your acting chops really come into play. Use copy that requires you to get inside the character, and create the voice from within that. Also keep in mind that the Character demo is something of a "specialty", even within VO work; several voice artists do plenty of work without ever pretending to be a frog. If certain types of characters or accents or dialects aren't your strong suit, by all means leave them on the shelf for now, and showcase the strengths you do have.

That's all for now. Best of luck, and lay off the dairy products...

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Monday, April 16, 2007
Norman Rockwell Art Prints

Norman Rockwell is revered as one of the great American artists of the 20th century. His distinctive style and unique choice of subjects were appreciated in his day as well as decades after his death. By 1916, he had created his first of many Saturday Evening Post covers - three hundred and seventeen in all. By the early 1920s, his work for magazines was growing in popularity and bringing in numerous requests. In 1920, he made a painting for the Boy Scouts of America calendar, a project he supported until just before his death. Today, Norman Rockwell art prints are in high demand.

Life in Arlington

Rockwell lived in Arlington from 1939 to 1953, one of the most important and acclaimed periods in his career. It was an era of rapid post-war growth and significant world change; Norman Rockwell art prints reassured the nation that cherished small-town values would not disappear. During those 14 years, he produced some of his most famous paintings, including, Saying Grace, The Gossips, Christmas Homecoming, Girl at Mirror, the Four Freedoms, Breaking Home Ties, and Rosie the Riveter.

Four Freedoms Series

In 1942, Rockwell painted one his most overtly political and important pieces. In response to a speech given by President Franklin Roosevelt, the artist created a series entitled the Four Freedoms. Throughout the mid-1940s, these paintings traveled around the country in an effort to help raise funds for the war through the sale of bonds. Viewed by more than a million people, their popularity was considered a representation of the war effort at home. During the late 1940s and 1950s, Rockwell maintained his reputation as one of the most prolific and recognized illustrators in the country.

Breaking Home Ties

Rockwell painted Breaking Home Ties for the September 25, 1954 cover of the Saturday Evening Post. It depicts a boy from a ranch in New Mexico who is about to leave home for the first time. His youthful optimism is contrasted with the serious look of his father as they sit on the running board of an old truck. Though the two figures are not looking at each other, the sense of family ties is very powerful in the iconic 1954 picture. It is one of Rockwell's most popular and most often reproduced images, and is considered by Rockwell experts to be one of his masterworks. Breaking Home Ties has been included in a number of national and international exhibitions since 1955. For the first time in decades, the painting was put on view in 2003 at the Norman Rockwell Museum.

Rosie the Riveter

In 1942, a popular song about a patriotic female defense worker called Rosie the Riveter served as the inspiration for a new kind of American woman. Norman Rockwell painted Rosie the Riveter for the May 29, 1943, cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Rosie the Riveter represents the six million women who worked in the manufacturing plants that produced munitions and material during World War II while the men were off fighting the war. The painting was originally meant to represent strong American support for the war. Like the Four Freedoms, Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter was taken on a nationwide tour to promote the sale of war bonds during the World War II to help raise funds to support the war effort.

Norman Rockwell art prints have become American cultural icons. They represent simplicity embedded with complex meanings and metaphors. Rockwell was a visionary, an artist well-ahead of his time. He redefined art with his unique techniques, and managed to maintain traditional American values while being innovative.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007
Celebrity Homestyles - Candice Bergen

Emmy award winning actress Candice Bergen easily transplanted her West Coast casualness into a home she shares with husband Marshall Rose in East Hampton. Transporting her easy interior design look into this handsome shingle-style home sited on lush ample grounds took some adaptation from both the architect and Mr. Rose who had a long history with the home. When Bergen came into Rose's life, the bones of their country home were stark and the living spaces were divided into a formal plan. With help from a noted urban interior designer, Bergen accomplished her goal of lightening, harmonizing and relaxing, what is still a "statement house."

Long covered verandas provide outside dining and entertaining areas, back-dropped by expansive windows which flood the interior with natural light. Deeply cushioned chairs and sofas, oodles of books, and splashes of color make this a coveted destination for Bergen and Rose. Texture is an important ingredient here, carpets, wall hangings and draperies, though never heavy, add a warmth and scale to what could be a voluminous building. Carefully selected accessories compliment and add interest throughout a home that oozes style, but one that beckons you to interact and luxuriate in it.

Enjoy more Celebrity Homestyles featuring: Hannah Storm, Princess Marie-Chantel of Greece, Sofia Coppola, Meredith Viera, Pamela Anderson, Giorgio Armani, Anjelica Houston, Helen Mirren and more. Do you have a celebrity that would like to be featured in an upcomming Celebrity HomeStyles article? Include the celebrities name, home location, along with photos of the exterior, gardens, living spaces and master bedroom.

© Copyright 2007 Mark Nash

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Thursday, April 12, 2007
Gwen Stefani "Love, Angel, Music, Baby" Pop Music CD Review

Not sure what's happening with me on this one, but it seems like the more I listen to it, the better Love, Angel, Music, Baby gets. Love, Angel, Music, Baby simply stated is one of Gwen Stefani's best CDs to date.

Gwen Stefani has been a super star in the Pop genre for quite a while now and Love, Angel, Music, Baby is an excellent illustration as to why.

One of the refreshingly nice things about this CD is the way all of the participating artists seem to be really enjoying themselves. Combine that with the overall presentation and you've got one of Gwen Stefani's most impressive releases ever.

This is a first rate CD, delivering a little something for everyone. I give it two thumbs up. It's quite simply great listening. A must buy if you're even mildly into Pop music.

My SmoothLee Bonus Pick, and the one that got Sore [...as in "Stuck On REpeat"] is track 6, Luxurious. It's a great track!

Love, Angel, Music, Baby Release Notes:

Gwen Stefani originally released Love, Angel, Music, Baby on Nov 23, 2004 on the Interscope Records label.

CD Track List Follows:

1. What You Waiting For?

2. Rich Girl - (with Eve)

3. Hollaback Girl

4. Cool

5. Bubble Pop Electric - (with Johnny Vulture)

6. Luxurious

7. Harajuku Girls

8. Crash

9. The Real Thing

10. Serious

11. Danger Zone

12. Long Way To Go - (with Andre 3000)

Personnel include: Gwen Stefani (vocals); Andre 3000 (vocals); Eve (rap vocals); Linda Perry (guitar, keyboards, programming); Tony Reyes (guitar, bass guitar); Rusty Anderson (guitar); Tony Kanal (keyboards, synthesizer, programming); Mark Batson (keyboards, keyboard bass); Dallas Austin (keyboards, drums); Mike Elizondo, James Wright (keyboards); Jimmy Jam (bass guitar); Jason Lader (programming); Mimi Parker, Seven, Bobby Ross Avila (background vocals).

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Acting For The Disney Channel

Many young actors and actresses (and their parents) often wonder what it takes to begin acting for shows on the Disney Channel. Unfortunately, the Disney Channel and their associated programs basically follow the same routines as any other commercial film or television endeavor. Disney does have auditions for their live shows, but they probably won't be much help for your film and television dreams.

Don't fret though, all is not lost! One thing that I think is important to realize as a young actor starting out in the business is that if you are a solid actor (or actress) that is mature, focused and professional, you stand an excellent chance of succeeding. In truth it can be quite difficult to find the right combination of traits in younger actors that will translate into a smooth working situation for the crew.

The first thing to understand before you embark on an acting career in your youth is that your parents must be heavily involved. The amount of time that is required to drive you to auditions, take you to acting classes and basically become a 'manager' to your career is tremendous. If your parents aren't just as motivated as you are, you're probably going to have a tough time of it.

Most importantly, there are a lot of people that will prey on your youth and lack of experience. Do not ever contact anyone regarding your acting career without letting your parents know exactly what you are doing and with whom. Getting scammed would be terrible, but putting yourself in danger is the more worrisome thing here, so be careful and let your parents know! Trust me, you're not going to 'make it' without Mom and Dad by your side...please don't try.

Now, assuming your parents are willing and able to provide that level of support, the next step is up to you. The second thing you will have to realize about acting professionally is that, as a general rule, the work is long, boring and tedious. As a young professional, there are rules regarding how much and how often you can work, but during the time that you are working, it can be really arduous...even on the Disney Channel.

There are a lot of responsibilities that are placed on you when you act professionally and a ton of money is riding on what you do on set. You must be willing to set aside a lot of time to learning lines, rehearsing and shooting. Once you get a job, you are contractually obligated to continue that job and as such, you are going to miss out on a lot of experiences that you may take for granted right now. Hanging out with your friends on a Friday night or going to school functions like dances and plays or participating in sports is going to become a rarity, if not non-existant in your life.

You also must be professional. When you are on a film or television soundstage, whether on a Disney Channel show or any other, you will be expected to act as professionally as any other adult on set. When it's time to roll the cameras, you have to work. Even if you're sick, bored, tired, restless...whatever, you will be expected to do your job. If you cost the production time and money by throwing tantrums or not cooperating, you will quickly gain a bad reputation and you won't get hired anymore.

And lastly, you must be able to deal with rejection constantly. Now, your chances of success are, in my opinion, much greater when you start out at a young age, but the competition is still quite fierce. You will be turned down for most of the jobs you go out for. And, by most, I mean nearly all of them. If you are booking one job out of a hundred auditions, you would be doing fantastic. Keep that in mind, becuase to continue on month after month like that takes a lot of diligence and patience from you and your parents.

To sum up, acting for the Disney Channel is going to require the same path that any other acting job would require, but if you are smart, dedicated and professional you will have an excellent chance of succeeding. Get your parents involved and let them know what you want to do. Take the time to talk with them and together you may find yourself on your favorite show!

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Sunday, April 08, 2007
Hugh Masekela "Sixty" Smooth Jazz Music CD Review

The exceptionally talented Smooth Jazz artist Hugh Masekela has released his CD entitled Sixty. I am very confident and happy to announce that I believe Hugh Masekela fans, and Smooth Jazz fans alike will be pleased with this one. With the release of Sixty Hugh Masekela's artistic excellence is on full display as he has once again delivered a brilliant collection of tracks that could very well be his best work to date.

This CD will grab your attention right from the very first note with Fela and doesn't let go until the very last note of the very last song Koshana, which by the way is another great track.

One of the refreshingly nice things about this CD is the way all of the participating artists seem to be really enjoying themselves. Combine that with the overall presentation and you've got one of Hugh Masekela's most impressive releases ever.

Listen to Sixty and I believe you'll find there's not much to dis-like about it. The songs are inspired, and the production is simply outstanding.

While this entire album is really very good some of my favorites are track 2, Thanayi, track 6, Mgewundini, and track 12, Been Such A Long Time.

My SmoothLee Bonus Pick, and the one that got Sore [...as in "Stuck On REpeat"] is track 5, Mbombela. Good stuff!

Sixty Release Notes:

Hugh Masekela originally released Sixty on Jun 13, 2000 on the Shanachie Records label.

CD Track List Follows:

1. Fela

2. Thanayi

3. Shango

4. Mamoriri

5. Mbombela

6. Mgewundini

7. Nomalizo

8. Bo Masekela

9. Tamati So So

10. Ziphi'nkomo

11. Lizzy

12. Been Such A Long Time Gone

13. Koshana

Personnel: Hugh Masakela (trumpet); Don Laka (various instruments, brass, strings, acoustic & electric pianos, bass); Arthur Tshabalala (acoustic & electric pianos, keyboards); John Selolwane, Kenny Matheba (guitar); Fana Zulu, Victor Ntoni (bass); Vusi Khumalo (drums); Dave Reynolds (steel drums); Godfrey Mgcino (percussion).

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Friday, April 06, 2007
Bar Magic - Nine Coins

This simple but effective bar trick will amaze and entertain anyone who sees it. And unlike most magic, you can repeat this trick as many times as you want without anyone discovering how it works.

Right, you'll need nine coins, and an accomplice with a bottle of beer and a beer mat, or some other subtle reference point. Don't worry, all will be explained.

It doesn't matter what type of coins you use. Just collect nine coins that are in your pocket or lying around on the bar.

And the coins don't all have to be the same. In fact, it will add more mystery to the trick if you use a variety of different coins, as some of the more inquiring people in your crowd will try looking for patterns of coin use that just don't exist.

Take the nine coins and lay them on the table in a square, three rows of three.

The trick begins with you claiming that you can guess which coin someone touched last.

You can wrap this basic premise up any way you want, by claiming that you can see, hear, smell or even feel the psychic every surrounding the coin.

All that matters is that you make it entertaining and mysterious.

Once you've decided who will be choosing a coin, leave the room, perhaps to go to the bar or the toilet, and give them a few moments to make their choice.

After you return, take your time and consider each of the coins in turn. After a few seconds, point to the coin that was selected and wait for the looks of disbelief on the faces of your audience.

How did you do it?


This is where your accomplice earns his free drink. When you leave the room, make sure that your accomplice knows what to do and is sitting in a place where you can subtly look at them without arousing suspicion.

As you leave the room, your accomplice should take a drink from his bottle and keep a close eye on the coin selected. Then, it's just a case of subtly placing their bottle on a certain part of the beer mat or other reference point that will indicate the chosen coin.

Right in the middle indicates the middle coin. Each of the corners represents a corner coin and the middle of each side of the mat correlates to the remaining four coins.

As soon as you return, you'll be able to tell at a glance with coin was selected. From that point until you reveal the answer it's just a case of putting on a good show. Do whatever you have to in order to increase the suspense, for example, pretending to sense the psychic waves emitted by each of the coins etc.

Once you reveal the right coin, the buzz from your audience is amazing. They'll be convinced that you somehow say the person making their choice, or that you noticed that one of the coins was moved etc. Just don't be surprised if you have to do the trick again...and again, as they try to work out how you managed to outwit them. But they won't.

With careful timing, subtle actions and a lot of theatrics, you can do this trick as many times as you want and nobody will ever suspect a thing.

And if you want to further reduce your chances of being found out, make sure that your accomplice subtly picks up or moves his bottle as soon as he knows you've seen it. Make sure that they act naturally and pretend to be as amazed as the rest of the crowd when you choose the right coin. But whatever happens, make sure that they don't overdo it, as an over-reaction is just as much of a giveaway as an under-reaction.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007
UFC - Tito Ortiz A No-Show For Exhibition Match With White

Due to the absence of Tito Ortiz for his weigh-in Friday, the much-awaited battle between the UFC fighter and Dana White, President of the Ultimate Fighting Championship has been cancelled, at least for now.

White was scheduled to make his professional boxing launch on March 24, 2007, against his former client Tito Ortiz. This was also an attempt to work out their feud, supposedly contending in a three-round boxing exhibition. In fact, Ortiz previously sent daring messages to White asserting his determination, as well as the authenticity of the fight. However, Ortiz left a message indicating his decision to let White "off the hook." The decision of Ortiz actually left many people puzzled and surprised, especially the Nevada State Athletic Commission which previously lauded Ortiz for his

professionalism in these types of events. Given this, it's hard to

imagine what instigated Ortiz's failure to show up.

Ortiz, a 32-year old American-Mexican mixed martial arts fighter from Huntington Beach, California, began his martial arts career as a wrestler in his sophomore year in high school. After a series of successful competitions, he headed for more prestigious competitions worldwide.

Previously, he headlined many pay per view championship cards and graced the covers of several magazines. Also known as "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,"

his awards and accomplishments includes the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion with 5 title defenses, a 2006 Golden Gloves, a 2006 Fight of the Year, and a

2006 Feud of the Year among others. At present, he has 15 wins, 5 losses and 0 draws.

Others speculate that Ortiz's nonappearance is due to his desire to acquire more money since Spike TV intended to broadcast segments of the their fight as a promotional tool for the highly anticipated UFC 69. Meanwhile, others perceive his move as an avoidance of the possibility of his defeat in the hands of White.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Horse's Hoofs, and Old Soldiers (November, 1969; Week Two in Basic Training))Part Three))

Horse's Hoofs, Old Soldiers

(November, 1969; Week Two in Basic Training)

Part Three, to; "Last Moment of Light"



In the barracks it was chilly. The Drill Sergeants smell worst. I knew my smell. Why be polite, it was long days in back of me and in front, long days running, and today I had to run around a field three times, two miles each lap, six miles complete, in some specified time, can't remember it exactly. I took a number of salt tablets as I ran; some of the men were eating chocolate, to keep their energy up. I quickly learned running was part of the Army, like white on rice.

Yes indeed, running is part of a soldiers life, I told myself, after two weeks (about to go into the third) of running everyday, sometimes with our M14 rifles held over our heads, sometimes carrying our duffle backs full of cloths, and now, today, around in circles. The voice beside me said, "China, China…" a Chinese man, small in stature, who wanted to be an American. In time we would become good friends, and go on to Advance Training in Alabama together, but at this particular moment, it was of course unknown. He had come over to San Francisco, from China, got drafted into the Army, given the choice to join, or return to China, but the offer of citizenship was too great to pass up, so he allowed himself to be drafted into the US Army. He was here on a visit of some kind, originally.

The two divine Drill Sergeants were standing on the side of the circle as I passed them, going on and into my third circle, anger on their faces; they only smiled when you obeyed them. Smiley was right in back of me, my friend from Alabama. It was a hot mid morning, an insane day to be exact, and I was still somewhat drowsy, my brain that is, had gotten drunk the night before, as usual, and was paying for it now (a second time). And here were all these bodies running, running the length of the field, and China, keeping up with all (all his 110-pounds); many of the men just dropped to the ground, passed out from heat exhaustion. But us three kept going. It was the whole company today, all four platoons, perhaps 160-men in total.

One man came along by my side, said: "I say where we are?" and dropped to the ground, just like that, as he dropped I said, "In hell…!"

I think the Drill Sergeant, the older one, was faint and felt almost dead from exhaustion, he had run around the circle once to show he could; I stopped a few times, my hat had fallen off my head for the 3rd time, "Get moving," he yelled, the old fart couldn't do it himself, but expected me, I gave him one of his same old grimaces back.

The third stop somehow allowed me to catch my wind and I started back up after a brief swallow of air into my stomach, Smiley, had stopped, was resting on the side now, couldn't go any further, I think cramps did him in; next, I got back into my running posture and finished the third circle. Perhaps there were about twenty of us, ready to go into a forth, but the Drill Sergeant, told us to stop, and like the others I rested, found the few select people I liked from our platoon, Smiley among them, and China. We all grunted a bit. Moreover, the young sergeant, came up to us and said, "Well," he then struck his chin, adding (I merely looked at him) "Get down Siluk and do fifty pushups," (for being cocky I suppose, and to show the rest of the group how out of shape I was. I said, "Fifty, is that all!" And I did the fifty in a few minutes, got back up, and he said again, "Get down and do fifty more!" And I did, and I got up and said, "I will make note of this…" implying, the necessary sum that he could make me do was at its point, and I was not afraid of him, consequently, if he wanted me to do more, I could legally defy him, this he did not want, no challenges.


Horse's Hoofs

I didn't make any friends this day of course, and felt a little under the horse's hoofs, several of the platoon faces, recruits, like me, felt I was a trouble maker (for them I suppose), and I was I suppose. And this got back to the Captain, whom would confront me in time on this very issue, in another two weeks to be exact. It was mid November, and we heard we'd be going home for Christmas, and have to return to basic training to finish it, thereafter. One of the soldiers would not have enough money to go home, and we all pitched in from the platoon and made that possible, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The young Drill Sergeant led us to the front of the barracks, and had us do several exercises, he said it was because there was a soldier with a bad attitude in the platoon, and all would have to suffer from that. The older sergeant vaguely looking at me from afar, but I read his lips, "Siluk, you again!"

"Squat, crouch, and walk around the barracks," commanded the young sergeant. This was not only humiliating for the platoon, because we looked like ducks, but tiresome, thus, I got a few unfriendly faces, and whispers like: Siluk, stop causing trouble, straighten up…and so forth and so on. And I simply went, or said "Quack, quack…" to all this—loud!

"Who said that? "Asked the young drill sergeant, then he walked along side of me…"It's you again, I know it's you Siluk, another walk around the barracks," he announced, and then I whispered to the guys, "Ok, ok…I'll shut up (but I couldn't help it, I did it a second time, then I shut up)) for now))"

After it was all done (the duck walk), most everyone collapsed comfortable on their beds, while the drill sergeants adjusted their smirks.

Enormous pomposity was shown in the two drill sergeants, and displayed around me, or perhaps I was the only one that saw these expressions, gestures, everyone else too busy being nervous about what was next. It was going on to the third week of November, that the Captain had called me into his office, and I asked what for, and he said, "Just wanted to see who you were," and he kept an educated serious face about the matter, and dismissed me, yet I knew something was coming.

For the most part, I was in a new world, and having a hard time devouring the customs, the inexpressible nuance of the pretense they expected out of me, willingly—to appreciate their fine work in sculpturing a soldier out of a neighborhood bum. My uncouthness was not appreciated either.

That night, the night that followed the duck-walk, Smiley was to meet me at the EM Club, it was the end of the second week, and we were allowed now, to buy freely at the PX, and go to the Company Recruits club to drink, 3.2 Beer, that is, beer that taste like water. But I was already into the EM Club, and drank there. They, the Drill Sergeants had actually escorted us that first day to the PX, like tourists.

I gave Smiley a consultation on my EM club drinking, and told him to meet me there this evening, around eight or nine o clock; our bed time now was 10:30, lights off, or the last moment for lights, at 11:00. PM, weekends, lights off at 12:00 midnight, and now bed check, being 11:00 PM. Life was improving.

As I waited for Smiley, I thought about what the older Drill Sergeant had told the platoon, that next week there was going to be a show for us, the 82nd Airborne, whom was stationed there, would jump out of airplanes, parachuting down to where we would be sitting. I told myself, only birds and their droppings fall out of the sky, and thus, let it be at that. (But when the day came, the old sergeant asked me, sitting on a hill, "Go down there and join up, Siluk!" And I said, "I'm not a bird…!" And he kicked me, and I rolled down the hill, and waved to him, from that position. Another peeve he had with me.



There was a young female, a Froilan, German girl unmarried woman, who was the waitress at the EM club, a daughter I expect to one of the higher ranking sergeants on base (she spoke with a broken English accent but clear clean German, perhaps twenty-one, or younger; perhaps a second marriage I thought between an older sergeant and German. Anyhow, she was dangerously appetizing I thought, I never did chat with her, a long chat that is, other than, a hello and goodbye, I figured I was under observation at the club (and a few young bucks were always around her at the bar when she finished serving her drinks), and as long as I kept to my own, they left me lone, and should I try to get a date with her, they would expose me as recruit, I was sure of that, and I'd have to go to the main drinking hall, with the rest of my Company.

She was lean, perhaps five foot three inches tall, lovely in many ways, and friendly, and customers liked her. She wore tight dresses, benignant in a way, with breasts that bulged slightly out of her blouse, and had small hands, dark hair—penetrating eyes.

Written 4-1-2007


Sunday, April 01, 2007
Secrets To Performing Magic Tricks For Beginners

Many common magic tricks are easy to learn and only require common items such as matchboxes, cloths and coins to perform successfully. The most common tricks are playing card and coin tricks which are both a good way to practice technical and audience distraction skills.

Card tricks are one of the oldest forms of conjuring and perhaps the best introduction to learning magic tricks and performance for beginners. Whilst you can buy special card kits and find free magic tricks online, you should start out with a normal deck of playing cards and learn specific card magic techniques that don't rely on props.

Start small and practice, practice, practice

Some magic tricks can be complicated and take months to perfect the illusion of reality. As a beginner or novice it's important to start small with more simple tricks that require far less practice and patience. You'll get results faster, gain confidence and experience the rush and delight of being a magician for the first time.

The most basic magic tricks can still be impressive without requiring expert skills but it's important to practice as often as possible. The legendary Harry Houdini started by picking locks. He practiced so much that he could pick any lock with his hands tied or eyes blindfolded.

You can use simple household objects such as cloths, cups and bags as your props until you get the hang of each trick, then maybe you will want to buy more specialized equipment to amaze and amuse your friends and family all the more. In the meantime, it's important to gain confidence in your magic tricks and abilities before performing in front of friends, family or any audience as your ability to perform and direct a crowd is as vital to your success as your speed with a deck of cards.

The art of distraction and misdirection

The most exciting aspect of any magic trick is it's effect on a live audience. Whether you perform a magic show in front of a few friends and family or a crowd of hundreds, the buzz of hearing gasps of wonder and applause will keep you hooked for life.

Once you've mastered the basics and gained confidence in your technical abilities, you'll need to start thinking about your audience and how to use distraction and misdirection to take your magic skills to the next level. Many of the greatest magic shows and tricks use a combination of misdirection and theatrical performance to control the audience while the magician performs his secret moves.

You'll also need to develop your own style of performing magic tricks, not only to make your magic more entertaining, but as an additional prop that's just as important to your success as your box of tricks. Developing dexterity or slight of hand and practicing eye contact skills with your subjects are both essential skills of any proficient performer of magic.

Top 5 tips for learning magic tricks

  • Start simple - begin with tricks that don't require any props such as card tricks or coin tricks. Choose one trick and stick to it until you are proficient before learning another.

  • Practice - practice magic tricks until you are completely confident that you can make it work every time. Only then begin to perform it in front of others.

  • Confidence - Practice will give you confidence which is essential to convince your audience that not only is your magic trick magical but you are as well.

  • Attention and distraction - learn to hold the attention of your audience and control it with eye contact, humor and well practiced movements.

  • Performance and style - the best magicians are memorable not only because of their tricks, but because of the way they perform them. Give a thought to your appearance, your voice, your humor, your props and your location when performing a magic show.

  • Once you master these techniques, your magic tricks should leave the audience entertained and more importantly, mystified wanting to know more.

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