poster

Deer Leader Rudolph

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Revisited“You know Dasher, and Dancer, and Prancer, and Vixen,
Comet, and Cupid, and Donder and Blitzen
But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?”

-from traditional song commemorating Deer Leader

It is the time of year once again when people the world over pay tribute to our great luminescent leader and true Emperor of the North, Rudolph the Radiant.
As benevolent patriarch to his countless offspring, Emperor Rudolph sees to it that all his children have a profound understanding of their father’s esteemed place in history. Once again this season, they take part in the reindeer games that were denied our young hero during his time of suffering and honor him by reciting the song that recounts his humiliation at the hands of his inferiors and his eventual redemption and glory.
As all loyal citizens know, the song tells the story of how brave Rudolph bore the taunting of his peers, only to emerge victorious in the end through sheer pluck and determination.
In subsequent verses added after his rise to preeminence, we learn how he showed compassion for his tormentors and oppressors, allowing the few that were deemed worthy of reeducation the opportunity to work side by side with the elves in the factories and mines, doing the good and necessary work of providing toys and coal for all children of the world.

All blessings upon good Rudolph and all his heirs! Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’s name has truly gone down in history.

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Syria’s Assad: Between Iraq and a Hard Place

“Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.” -Kurt Vonnegut ‘Cat’s Cradle’

As the second entry in my ‘ruthless despot’ series, I hereby present Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

It seems like only yesterday that South Korea’s Kim Jong Un was grabbing all the headlines for his nuclear threats against the west and his nearby neighbors. But no sooner had ambassador Dennis Rodman defused the situation there, than, like a endless game of Whack-a-Mole, another dictator pops up to grab the world’s attention.

Already, just a few weeks after Assad’s military launched a sarin gas attack on his own people, here in the U.S., the media’s focus has shifted more toward domestic budget issues for the time being.

Let’s hope the latest UN/Russian/US plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons doesn’t go up in smoke and the middle east can get back to it’s conventional mayhem.

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The Head that Wouldn’t Die

The Head that Wouldn't Die

the inspiration

 

I caught this story while listening to on public radio a couple of weeks back about a recent discovery to come out of Rice University’s Dept. of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. A faculty professor there, Janet Braam, found that some produce, which in her experiments included cabbage, responded to light and dark cycles, known as circadian rhythms, days after being harvested. Cruciferous veggies such as cabbage use these cycles to produce cancer-fighting compounds. For nutritionists, grocers, and food distributors, this finding will likely have a significant effect on the way fruits and vegetables are handled. By regulating the light and dark cycles to mimic nature, they’ll be able to coax the maximum health benefits out of their produce.

More info on Prof. Braam and her colleagues’ ongoing research can be found here.

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Kim Jong Un: North Korea’s Risky Business

North Korea's Kim Jong Un

As of this writing, North Korea’s mad boy king has yet to launch the missiles he has aimed at neighboring Japan and South Korea, best viagra but that could change at any moment.
When Kim Jong Un succeeded his father Kim Jong Il as Supreme Leader of North Korea in Late December of last year, some were hopeful that his youth and western education would give him the a more measured approach to global relations. Alas, that seems not to be the case.
The latest speculation is that to mark the April 15th birthday of his granddad, Kim Il Sung, in lieu of (or in addition to) ice cream & cake, Kim Jong Un may celebrate by launching his missiles.
If there’s any good to come from all this posturing on the part of North Korea, it could be that the US and China will find common ground, if even temporarily, in wanting to avoid all out war, and that a unified coalition may be able to get North Korea to rethink its aggressive behavior before it’s too late. Let’s hope.

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African Drums: the Djembe

“Where I come from we say that rhythm is the soul of life, because the whole universe revolves around rhythm, and when we get out of rhythm, that’s when we get into trouble.”— Babatunde Olatunji

I’ve always been attracted to and influenced by traditional African art, with it’s bold patterns and stylized imagery. That same boldness is also part of traditional African music. And of course the first instrument that comes to mind when considering African music, is the drum.

The goblet-shaped drum, called the djembe, is played with bare hands and produces a wide variety of sounds. It’s traditionally been used in the western part of Africa by men (women djembe players are extremely rare) for centuries.

While some african drums were used as a sophisticated means of long distance communication, the djembe’s primarily use was in ceremonies and celebrations, in short, to get people moving and to stir their souls.

Here’s a clip of the late Babatunde Olatunji, a great Nigerian drummer famous for bringing the traditional style of African percussion to a worldwide audience:

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The Evil Bean: in the clutches of “demon” coffee.

 

click on the image below to download PDF:

As addictions go, it could be worse. In fact, it seems like every year there are studies revealing as many health benefits (lower Parkinsons, diabetes and dimentia rates) to coffee intake as there are negative effects (higher blood pressure, heart rate, and possible irregular heartbeat).

If you are a home barista or, if you’re as lucky as I am, a spouse makes your lattes and espressos for you, there are methods to coffee brewing that can seem mysterious to the uninitiated. Timing is important and starting with fresh beans and clean equipment is crucial.

As part of my tireless research for this subject, I ran across this tidbit: The most expensive cup of coffee (about $50 US) is called Kopi Luwak and comes from Indonesia. It’s distinguishing characteristic and what makes it so pricey is the fact that every bean is harvested from the droppings of a small mongoose-like animal called a luwak, which ingests the coffee berries and excretes the beans whole. Sounds gross, but because the luwak’s digestive system breaks down some of the proteins associated with bitterness and also because the animal only chooses the tastiest coffee berries to begin with, the result is reportedly one smooth and satisfying cup o’ joe.

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