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Archive for January, 2011

“My mission is to create works of fiction that will capture a reader’s heart and add thoughts of social issues and family relationships.”

This is the thoughtful, articulate vision of independent romance author LK Hunsaker. In a word, she eats, drinks, sleeps, breathes and lives for the written word. Like any passionate, published scribe, a blank page (or computer screen) is her most prominent keepsake.

With five published novels to her credit, Ms. Hunsaker is a writer on the rise, and nothing stands to block her path to literary stardom and success. In addition to romantic fiction, her creative curriculum vitae includes being a seasoned poet, essayist and short story writer.

This University of Maryland graduate currently publishes for the indie label Elucidate. When she’s not scribbling away, Ms. Hunsaker’s hobbies include art, music, riding her husband’s Harley and gardening in the spring.

Here is a log line from one of her published works, entitled “Protect The Heart”:

Protect The Heart

Entrenched on his father’s farm in southern Idaho’s Snake River Valley, Abraham Luchner pulls up roots to join the war effort. Joined by his friend Cameron Terry, an impulsive adventure seeker, Abe determines to sever ties at home in order to minimize distractions. His greatest connection with his beloved canyon and farm is in the form of charcoal sketches he works on each night to escape his present conditions, as well as the letters Cameron reads aloud from his beloved.

Maura Laerty has been claimed as Cameron’s betrothed in the eyes of the community. Determined not to become a war widow or caregiver of one more soul who needs her ongoing assistance, she refuses his proposal, at least until he returns. Despite her efforts, Maura soon finds herself saddled with responsibilities that tax her resolve and turn the townspeople away. Her greatest ally comes from a twist of fate as winding and unpredictable as the great Snake River itself.

To find out more, visit http://lkhunsaker.blogspot.com/ and http://www.writing.com/main/handler/item_id/1064372-LK-Hunsaker-Writingcom

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The more I concertedly avoid the incessant, monotonous, auto-tuned barrage of radio “music,” the more I adamantly desire the days of bands and songs that cared more about substance that style. Enter Minor Threat.

From 1980-83, this Washington, D.C.-based quartet helped put the city’s hardcore punk scene prominently on the music map. Along with punk allies Bad Brains and Black Flag, Minor Threat unleashed a raw, uninhibited, unapologetic primal sound, that became the voice for a generation of young, disillusioned, highly-impressionable outcasts. That voice left a mark, like two prolific middle fingers, in the dried cement of pop music.

The band, consisting of Ian Mackaye (vocals), Lyle Preslar (guitar), Brian Baker (bass) and Jeff Nelson (drums), quickly established themselves as a unique contradiction, during their short-lived career. Their live shows were notorious for being void of stage security, which allowed for all types of youthful debauchery and anarchy, yet the band’s lifestyle, which became coined as “straight-edge,” was equally void of alcohol and drugs.

It was their “In My Eyes” EP, released in December of 1981 on Dischord Records (an indie label owned by Mr. Mackaye and Mr. Nelson) that officially launched Minor Threat into the hardcore-punk hemisphere. The EP, topping out at a mere 7 minutes, 38 seconds, is nothing short of a raucous, rambunctious assault on the senses. It’s ferocious stance against the establishment and substance abuse, make it a pure masterwork of punk ingenuity and passion. The self-titled lead off track, a fervent anti-smoking/peer-pressure anthem, was famously covered by Rage Against The Machine, on their final studio album “Renegades.”

Each member of Minor Threat went on to other bands and solo careers. But to this day, their small but seminal discography, remains the music blueprint, for saying no to all things destructive and saying yes to the eternal power of meaningful music. Minor Threat had a heart full of nitroglycerin and a soul full of savage serenity.

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Having played drums for over a decade, I know this much; I could practice 24 hours a day, seven days a week (setting aside a bit of time to eat and sleep), and I couldn’t even come close to what you see in this video.

This is footage of the prolific Rush drummer, getting his groove on, at a Buddy Rich memorial concert in NYC. The date of the show is unknown.

His cross-overs, stick work and fills make my head spin round!

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When most classical music enthusiasts cite their favourite artists, internationally-known names like Hilary Hahn, Sarah Chang, Rachel Yamagata, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Detroit Symphony, London Symphony and the NY Philharmonic are the first to be rattled off.

DOACM firmly believes it’s time to add another formidable artist to this cannon. Look no further than the humble locale of Louisville, Kentucky, and one of its most treasured musical gems, the neo-classical sextet Rachel’s.

Formed in 1991, this experimental vocal-less ensemble consists of Rachel Grimes (piano/organ), Christian Frederickson (viola), Edward Grimes (percussion), Greg King (keyboards), Eve Miller (cello) and Jason Noble (guitar/bass — for knowledgeable indie rock fans, a former member of Rodan).

The group, who record for the indie label Quarterstick Records, have a rich discography that encompasses a garden variety of music influences and styles. The highlight of this catalogue, undoubtedly, is their second LP, “Music For Egon Schiele.” Released in February of 1996, the project was composed, primarily by Ms. Grimes, as a backing score, for theatre director Stephen Mazurek’s production entitled “Egon Schiele,” a bio about the acclaimed 18th Century Austrian painter.

The production was staged, at the University of Chicago-Illinois’ Itinerant Theatre, in May of 1995, to critical acclaim and sell out performances. Upon a first listen of “Music for Egon Schiele,” one can quickly gather why. Lead off track “Family Portrait” sets the somber yet starkly beautiful mood, straight away. Cello, piano and viola combine to produce a sensually graceful, introspective starter. Other exceptional tracks include “Egon & Gertie,” “Wally, Egon & Models In The Studio” and “Third Self Portrait Series.”

“Music” takes great, unassuming pride in stepping far outside the lines of classical convention. The recording has all of the sweeping power of a symphony performance, yet manages to easily retain its intimate, subdued and esoteric nature.

On a scale of one to ten stars, “Music For Egon Schiele” deserves 15. It’s perfect, playful, potent, haunting and undeniably unforgettable.

For more information on the group, please visit http://www.rachelsband.com/.

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Many artists, whether they be musicians, actors, painters, photographers, writers or dancers, tend to stay within their respective artistic comfort zones. For exceptionally talented creative expressionist Katayoon Zandvakili, the world is her comfort zone and she loves exploring it.

This Persian-born, University of California-Berkeley-educated, San Francisco-based Renaissance phenomenon, is a published poet, painter, screenwriter, novelist, musician and all around classical bohemian. She enjoys covering a canvas and filling a page with beautiful poetic observations, as much as she adores listening to violinist Sarah Chang and jazz/soul singer Melody Gardot.

Here is an excerpt from her fantastic published poem “Mary Jane Song”:

America

was special boulders with  butterflies
hiding behind
peekaboo trails —
boyfriend murderers

was the 1/2-believed, fluttering
phrase yielding great …    oh, great —    delivered with great

élan (totally wrong word),   flair (even worse),   oh what is the word
(Now)

oh yes, great happiness    plain insight       promises like soft kitchen light
one morning, some mornings

Is this what you meant?  Are we
getting closer to getting it now?  Does it begin to make Sense?  Apply?
It’s not what I went to business school for,
nope.  (Runny pancake syrup.)  Not quite.

Try again.
No space.
America

was friends you hoped you could
keep swaying to be your friend —  business shakes —
was the chocolate Nesquik homemade kind of truth, thick,
and tomatos begging to be spread over lettuce and avocado

was being a real sensitive kid —

was always leaving a square of your heart on
the coastal highway, the One,
from your tropical armchair at home
where you learned to own things without
possession, dreaming them light blue all the same

To discover more of Ms. Zandvakili’s brilliant portfolio, please visit:

http://www.katayoon.net/, http://www.katayoonart.com/ & http://www.katayoonblog.com/

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“Death of a Cultured Man” is proud to present Elizabeth Harrington. She’s a New York-based, Columbia University-educated psychologist, specializing in quantitative/qualitative market research. In other words, she helps entrepreneurs and CEOs better understand what makes companies consumer-oriented and profitable.

In addition, Ms. Harrington is also a seasoned creative wordsmith, evidenced by the sample poem below.

My First Father(For Leland Perry Harrington)

I am nearly new. You are nearly a doctorbending over my crib,my baby brain sniffing you out.You’re my me, my not me,
my orange neck and eyes blinkingeverywhichway through glass. I imagine youwith your shirt open–nothing hotterthan Houston in July–
or in one of those sleevelessT-shirts men used to wear in the 40’s.You pat my belly round as bread.You would slice it to make me laugh.
My lungs are starting to function.Yours have a gun at their back.You must have whispered.Were you warm against my ear,
my heart popping its brand new beat?I would get it back if I could: a gasp,a suck, a song of lakey syllables. The likelylaughter, your footsteps fading down the hall.
Might as well bang a soda machine for lost coins.You were no sooner thoughtthan gone-my unready eyes losing youbefore learning you by heart.

To find out more about Ms. Harrington’s professional work, and her plentiful collection of poetic prose, please visit http://www.allaboutqualitative.com and http://www.eharringtonwrites.com

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On 17 November 1993, seminal L.A. alt-rockers Stone Temple Pilots took to MTV’s New York soundstage, to record their edition, of the music station’s groundbreaking series “MTV Unplugged.” The result was nothing short of exhilarating.

During the band’s intimate seven song set (which remains the shortest in the history of “Unplugged”), STP dazzled their audience, with unique, acoustic renditions of hits such as “Creep” and “Plush,” from their debut smash album “Core.”

At the time, STP were applying finishing touches to their follow up album “Purple.” In a stroke of brilliant musical PR, the quartet pleasantly surprised the crowd, with a soulful rendition of forthcoming track “Big Empty,” which would go on to propel the soundtrack for the movie “The Crow” to multi-platinum status.

The indisputable highlight of the set, however, is its climatic conclusion with a jazzy, lounge-lizard-esque version of the most controversial track off “Core,” the testosterone-heavy, sexually corrosive anthem “Sex Type Thing.” Ironically, the acoustic rendition gives it a bizarre tone of innocent playfulness.

Unlike other bands who performed for the series, STP’s set was never officially released on CD. Select tracks from the show can be found on YouTube and various file sharing sites (not that illegal downloading is being condoned!).

For any die-hard fan of the band, this show proved to be an indelible highlight of the band’s highly successful, though decidedly tumultuous career. It proved that Scott Weiland and Co., so accustomed to playing ferocious, power ballad anger rock, could be as soft, serene and subdued as a winter evening in January.

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Margaret Nance with the doll that has been calming to her at the Beatitudes nursing home. Todd Heisler/The New York Times

(note: “Residents” and “patients” will be used interchangeably in this entry as the nursing facilities discussed are “live-in” care facilities.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/01/health/01care.html

It is both fascinating and heartening to see innovation, like that at Beatitudes nursing home, in caring for the aging populous.  It is not a stretch to see how the alternative, more “traditional” approach to “the vanishing mind” can remind one of Nurse Ratched and her iron-fisted approach toward willful patients like Randall P. McMurphy.

The patient care philosophy found at Beatitudes (located Phoenix, AZ) dares to ask the following questions: Why not make the elderly as comfortable and happy as possible in the final years?  Why insist on “sticking to the rules,” i.e. set bedtimes, set mealtimes, high fiber/bland food nobody wants to eat, regimented medications?  The staff there believes that often trying to exert authority and “tough love” seems to miss the mark in effective care taking in these special Alzheimer’s cases.

The less of a transition patients/residents have to make from one’s former life to the lifestyle in the care facility, the more content the atmosphere becomes.  If a resident loved caring for others her whole life (in the case of Margaret Nance), why not give her a doll to direct her focus on something that brings her peace and a sense of purpose?  If a chocolate bar calms an elderly patient as much as taking some sedative, why not prefer the non-pharmaceutical option?

I see the treatment at Beatitudes (A) compared to other nursing homes more generic and lacking creativity in their approach (B) as similar to the comparison of digital to analog.  Let’s take the case of the chocolate for instance.  If a resident requests chocolate at B and is denied for the reason of dietary restrictions, the resident is likely to become combative, at least to some degree.  They are then diagnosed (or their previous diagnosis is further confirmed) as needing medication to calm them down and make their disposition more manageable for the staff/other residents.  The resident takes the medication which does have the desired effect, but is lacking in the regard that the resident feels like they had their desires respected and wishes fulfilled; it denies them a sense of dignity.  The mental health benefits contained in the latter consequence is what A has picked up on and run with.

The care at B is digital in that it contains the necessary bits and triggers like medication and basic survival needs (the 1’s and 0’s) to make its residents function from day-to-day, but is insufficient in providing the information (care) between the 1’s and 0’s that help to make its residents’ mental and emotional states content through a holistic and sustainable methodology.

At A, the analog approach respects the idea that people want to be treated with dignity.  The digital approach picks off the surfacing symptoms of Alzheimer’s and treats them.  In contrast, the analog approach is based on the larger picture of one’s life; at Beatitudes, they study the biographies of their residents provided by their families.  They see the application of past hobbies or preferences to treating the more recent development of Alzheimer’s as an essential mechanism to providing the best quality of life for their aging residents.

The methodology at Beatitudes parallels the timeless parenting tactic of “picking your battles.”  If a resident in say the more advanced stages of Alzheimer’s wants to bathe at 2 a.m., what is the harm done in indulging that compulsion?  What is the lasting benefit for a) the nursing staff or b) the resident in insisting on following the set bathing schedule that presumably does not include the hour of 2 a.m.?  It seems that the heavy-handed approach that would regard this as a “teaching moment” to reinforce the roles of both authority and obedience is as antiquated as frontal lobe lobotomies or paddling disruptive children in the principle’s office.

Admittedly, I am writing this from the seat of one who does not have any direct experience with the elderly in nursing care facilities.  Maybe there are key arguments for the traditional “One Flew Over the Cucukoo’s Nest” approach that I am missing and that are not included in Pam Belluck’s reporting.  Nevertheless, in reading what is included about Beatitudes’ creative and flexible philosophy in caring for difficult Alzheimer’s patients, I’ve made up my mind about the type of nursing homes I’d want either myself or family members to go if it comes to that point.  It’s relieving to know that there are options.

(A note of appreciation to DJ Easy D. for alerting me of this story, originally appearing in the Health section of the New York Times on 31 December 2010.)

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For every 10 movies that feature lackluster performances, a wooden script and a thoroughly implausible story, one movie comes along to balance everything out. “Rounders” is the latter.

Released in 1998, this story of high-stakes poker revolves around Mike McDermott (a very enjoyable Matt Damon), an ambitious law student who seems to have it all; an Ivy League education, a beautiful girlfriend (Gretchen Mol) and an inside track to an internship with a prestigious Manhattan law firm. The only problem is, Mike is also palpably addicted to the game of poker and his financial demons, via the game, continue to haunt him.

As Mike dutifully tries to live on the straight and narrow, both for his sake and that of his girlfriend’s, he receives a fateful phone call, one day, from his best friend Worm (an exceptionally brilliant Edward Norton). He’s about to be released from jail and, as Mike soon finds out, doesn’t want to waste any time in returning to the world he and Mike love, but have no business being a part of anymore.

Inspired by Worm’s passionate conviction, determination and sketchy motivations, Mike gleefully returns to the card table to stoke the fire of his real dream; to play in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and take home the multi-million dollar grand prize.

As their plan progresses, Worm encounters an old nemesis. He discovers that his multitude of outstanding poker debts have been consolidated, and are now in the hands of a crazy, Oreo eating, gambling-obsessed Russian mob boss (John Malkovich as you’ve never seem him before). Worm, poor and destitute, is told he has a finite amount of time to pay the money back, in full, or limbs will get broken in alphabetical order.

Worm explains his situation to Mike. With great reluctance, Mike extends a helping hand to his friend. The race against the clock begins.

In addition to flawless performances, “Rounders” comes complete with a razor sharp script, superb directing courtesy of John Dahl (“The Last Seduction”) and a series of tantalizing twists and turns, that will have you hanging on to the edge of your sofa and popcorn bowl.

Deal me in.

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Rarely does a band’s name directly reflect its sound. As far as Talk To Angels are concerned, that sort of conventional thinking has gone the way of the Spice Girls.

The quartet, who hail from a town called Bradford, in the prominent northern English county of Yorkshire, have such a boisterously beautiful sound, it would seem they were destined to skip the pub circuit and head straight for top billing at the O2 in London. Led by charismatic frontman Craig Kaye (lead vocals/guitar) along with Chris Robbins (bass/vocals), Mickey Dale (keyboards) and Jamie Lofthouse (drums), TTA is yet another example of why England continues to one-up America, in the DIY-independent music world.

TTA’s discography, thought incredibly modest, is bursting with ambition, passion, ingenuity, grace and loads of potential. Their debut EP, “Enemies Closer,” which was released on 18 October 2010 (via UK indie label Warp Speed Carousel) was met with rave reviews and hearty acclaim. The album’s second track, “She,” is the indisputable highlight. It delivers an intoxicating combination of Mr. Kaye’s throbbing vocals, sweeping guitars and a heavenly touch of orchestral accompaniment. The pure energy invested in this track could easily light up London for a month.

Although Oxford, Sheffield and Reading seem to procure much of the UK indie music spotlight, Talk To Angels is further proof that Bradford is about to step on stage.

For more information on the band, please visit http://www.talktoangels.co.uk or http://www.myspace.com/talktoangels

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