Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Yahoo Answers--Not for getting real answers about anything

OK, I just lost the entire post of this after typing it out for an hour. It will be reposted again, soon. Stay tuned!

Happened to me again!  I wrote this out for an hour and a half and it still didn't post.  Well, I guess I wasn't meant to write this post.   I'm not going to write the post a third time.

Long story short, Yahoo Answers is only a good place to get answers on things like how to make toast or pour milk.  It's not a place to get real answers to real questions.  Virtually none of the posts are backed up with fact and most of them are based on common opinions and attitudes.  There was a legal question in the photography forum (I am a photographer and a "law junkie" who considered law school and decided it wasn't for me) and all the responses were completely wrong and off base.  Even when the question was closed and a few factual links to copyright laws were posted in the comments section, the response to the OP was "Gee, you just have to have the last word!  You're still wrong!".  It makes me think that the people who hang out there are all children.

On that question,  one guy answered by saying he would sue a librarian for $150,000 if he went to a library and found that they used photo of his on a educational display.  Seriously, you're going to walk into a law office and ask to sue a public library, run by a governmental institution which has sovereign rights and limited liability, for $150,000 over a single small picture on an educational display?  I understand being annoyed and even being a little angry (and perhaps asking them to remove the photo from the display), but come on! Same person also said that educational and non-profit use has nothing to do with "fair use".  Huh?  Have you read the copyright act and the four factors to determine "fair use"?  His answer was picked as the best answer.  Yeah, best stupidest answer.  I think that answer was chosen best answer as a joke.

Has this person ever tried to sue anyone?  There is a photography copyright infringement case still open after 8 years and the highest settlement, so far, is $20,000.  And, in this case, the infringement was blatant and obvious theft and appropriation as about as far away from fair use as one can get.

Anyway, before I get too far off point, I would like to tell people not to take Yahoo Answers seriously.  In fact, unless you like to be insulted (yes, someone WILL insult you on that site sooner or later, especially if you ask any questions), stay away from there.  I would post a link to the question, but, frankly, as a photographer, I'm too embarrassed of my colleagues who answered it to do so.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Last of the Curlews by Fred Bodsworth

This is a must read for anyone interested in wildlife conservation, animals, or birds.  It's a very short read. Depending on what edition you get, it can be anywhere from 110 to 140 pages long.  The book was first published in 1955, about ten years after the last pair of Eskimo curlew were sighted at that time.  Some editions are heavily illustrated, have added commentary and list more recent Eskimo curlew sightings that will add more pages to the story.

First, I would like to say that there will be spoilers to this review.  I will disclose the ending of both the book and the After School Special of the same name based on this book.  This review will be in two parts.  Part one will be the book, part two will be the After School Special.  Later, I will also add a Squidoo Lens where you can see more pictures of actual Eskimo curlews and buy products related to this subject.

Plot summary:

This is a story about a lone Eskimo curlew, perhaps the last male Eskimo curlew in the world, in search of a female.  For most of his life, he has been completely alone, never seeing any of his own kind amongst the other shorebirds that nest in the same area, though he's certain there has got to be one out there.  Every year, he makes the long treacherous migration from the high tundra to southern Argentina and never sees another of his own kind.  Until, one year, a female finds him.  They immediately begin courting as they make the long trip back to the north.  They take their time and get to know each other, but do not mate.  The male courts her by feeding her and they both preen and show affection to each other, but they weren't ready for mating.  Finally, as they are almost at the nesting grounds, the female agrees to mate and while in the distraction of mating, a farmer shoots at them, hitting the female, who doesn't die right away.  The fly away from the area, as fast as they could, but the female can't keep up.  After making a loving, quirrling call, she lands on the ground and begins writhing in agony before she finally is still.  The male stays with her through the night, but leaves in the morning when she no longer responds to his call or offers of food.  He returns to his nesting ground and begins defending it for his instincts tell him that, surely, a female will be coming.

Breakdown and analysis:

Anthropomorphism:  I would like to address what others have said was anthropomorphism in this book.  Honestly, I think there's very little of it, especially compared to other animal stories.  There is no talk of "being in love", "mourning", and very little talk about loneliness which many other authors would write about in this story.  The story is pretty straight forward, Bodsworth makes it clear that the bird is acting on instincts and hormones and really does very little reasoning and thinking ahead.  I don't really think you can call this story anthropomorphic is any way

I found this story to be almost depressing and makes me ashamed to be a human being.  I am ashamed of the compatriots of my ancestors who slaughtered these birds so badly that now I am deprived of enjoying them or having my descendants enjoy them.  However, I did enjoy the story of the struggle of the little bird as well as the little facts written between chapters in the form of notes from a fake publication.  I think writing that way allowed the story to flow better without seeming preachy.  I absolutely loved this book and it's going to be one of the books that holds a special place in my heart.

Last of the Curlews--ABC After School Special:

This was the very first After School Special, aired in 1972 and was an animated film by the great animators Hanna-Barbera.  The storyline is similar to the book with a few very distinct and strongly emotional additions that I will mention later.  The video for the show is on YouTube, but the beginning and ending is cut off.  Below is the first part of the show.  You can usually find the second part after finding the first part, so I will not post them all here.  There was, in total, five parts.

Differences between the book and the movie:

This is one of the rare occasions where the movie was pretty true to the book.  However, there are some glaring additions to the After School Special that brings out more emotion to the one watching.  

1.  The first and most obvious difference is the introduction of the two hunters, father and son.  They did not appear in the book.  By adding them, it allowed people to relate to something human in case they weren't the type to watch an animal show or could related to the curlews.  Also, it emphasized that hunting and hunters were to blame for the demise of this species if not by ignorance, but by attitude.  It also gave hope for the future through the young man who really doesn't want to hunt and kill animals and seems concerned for the nature around him.  

2.  The music is very emotional and profound.  Many people who remember this special mention how powerful the music was, especially the ending song, a slow melancholy ballad song right after the death of the female.  Unfortunately, lyrics are copyrighted and even posting a couple small snippets can be considered infringement.  This is unfortunate because unless you know someone who has the entire show recorded from when it aired in 1972 or the few times it was repeated, you will never hear these songs or know their lyrics.  So, I am only posting the first couple of lines:
Once, on golden wings
You and I went wandering
With no one there to tell us that
Golden wings wouldn't last

The song went on about how life was only a dream and fleeting and how the two enjoyed their company even though time was short. 

There's also another, fun song when they are courting and had just passed through the worst part of their migration. Unfortunately, since song lyrics are copyrighted, I can't post the entire song here. But, I do know them if anyone wants. Here are the lyrics that affected me most:

The end lyrics were the most emotional:

Ahhh, you're gone away
You were mine
A little while
The sounds on golden wings
I remember and I smile.
The rest of the song, before that last couple of lines, was about the memory of when they were together and how free they were without worries.  It talked about how things used to be for them and how excited they were to be alive.  It's an entire shame that no one will hear those songs again unless they have an old video tape.  I don't even think this episode was part of the After School Special collections that actually were released for sale.

Music often adds an emotional component that people don't even realize that affects them.  You don't get this affect when you read the book.  In the second song, the birds are jumping around, singing and playing in the first part when the tempo is fast, but when it slows down, they are flying off together into their future.  The ending song was done right as most people were feeling grief of loss and sadness.  

3.  This is a big kicker for me and I think what also brought people watching the show to even more grief:  One final statement that is not implied in the book:  

There were once thousands of Eskimo curlews
Then there were two
Now there is one
Soon, there'll be none.

It was basically saying that there is no longer any hope for this species because of that farmer's shot.  The last female has died and now the male must continue on alone, defending his territory and hoping for a female that doesn't exist.  Nowhere in the book does it ever say that these are the very last two Eskimo curlew in existence.  It actually says, in the beginning on the first page:

"For the Eskimo curlew, originally one of the continents's most abundant game birds. . . Now, the species lingers on precariously at extinction's lip.  The odd survivor still flies the long and perilous migration. . . to seek a mate of its own kind. . .They now fly alone."

This paragraph mostly states that there are now so few Eskimo curlews that they almost never, if at all, have contact with each other.  In another part of the book, it mentions about how they are so spread apart that it is difficult for males and females to find each other.  It never says that the protagonist and his mate is the very last of the species.  It gives hope.  However, the male, now, has an even harder time finding a mate because there is one less female alive.

4.  Talk about anthropomorphism:  The show enhanced it by showing happy birds dancing, singing.  The little plovers sharing food with the curlew and the curlew giving food to the plovers who had their worm stolen by a heron.  The narration suggested that the male bird was extremely lonely in the beginning and when he found his mate, he was ecstatic because now he will never be lonely again.  There will be a family, and then a flock.  The book did not mention any of this. 

Many people remember the After School Special very well.  Some, especially people who were younger than 10 when they saw it, say they cried for a week or were even traumatized by it.  Some say they wouldn't wish this show on their worst childhood bullies.  It started out cute and fun and I think many people were unprepared for what was about to happen.  Unlike many children's stories, this one wasn't neatly wrapped up in a bow.  It did not say "everything will be OK", but, instead, the opposite.  Some older kids may have read the book in preparation for the upcoming show and were, most likely, less affected by it.  

So, did you read this book or see the After School Special?  How did you feel about it?

Me?  I was very young and don't remember seeing this one, but I seem to remember some of the music and I do remember seeing an animated special so good that I never liked any of the other After School Specials.   The special only aired one more time, I think, a year later, though I do know that some stations re-aired it through the mid-1970s.  I think it should be re-released, but many of today's kids would laugh at the animation compared to today's standards.  Perhaps, they should remake it, but use the same music.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Private Selection Frozen Foods

I was chosen to do the Private Selection Frozen Foods program through Bzz Agent.  I got a coupon to try one of their frozen pizzas, appetizers, and desserts for free.  Unfortunately, my local Ralphs store, where Private Selection products are sold in my area (Kroger sells them in other areas) did not have the appetizers.

I tried the vegetarian style frozen pizza with a flat bread crust.  I liked the crust, it came out very crispy and tasted good.  But, I wasn't really impressed with the toppings or the sauce.  For one, it had way too much garlic for my tastes and I like garlic.  The sauce wasn't bad, it was different than other sauces.  The cheese and other vegetables were pretty good, though.

I liked the dessert a lot better, but I think I chose the wrong one for me.  I chose the berry tarts and they were too berry-ish for my taste, but other people might like them.  I think I should have tried one of their cheesecakes or chocolate molten cakes instead.  But, I would get those again if I had a coupon and had guests.

I wanted to try the spanakopita appetizers, but couldn't find them.

One thing that might discourage me from buying these products is the price.  I think the regular price of pizza was almost six dollars and the dessert was five dollars.  I think that's a bit high.  I would buy the dessert on sale with a coupon.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Movie Review: Rango

Last night, I saw the movie Rango using Cox Cable's On Demand feature.  Rango has actually been out for a while (since March 2011), but last night was my first time seeing it.  I actually enjoyed the movie.  I like westerns, anyway, and I love movies with this type of animation.  It was done by Nickelodeon Studios and starred Johnny Depp,  Isla Fisher, and Ned Beatty.

The storyline goes that a pet chameleon was accidentally dumped on a busy desert highway in the Mojave Desert just outside of Las Vegas.  Though he has been alone his whole life, he find some desert creatures and moves to the town of Dirt and works to fit in.  Pretty much by accident, he becomes a hero when he kills a large red-tailed hawk that terrorizes the town and is appointed sheriff.   Anyway, that's the beginning and I don't want to give away the whole movie.  Let's just say things happen to drive him out of town and then he ends up saving the entire town at the end.

I liked this story because the characters are loveable and I like western and desert themes.  I liked trying to identify the different animals in the film.  I also liked how "real life" was incorporated into the storyline.  I do find the story, though, a little predictable.

However, I was surprised at some of the subtle sexual innuendos throughout the film and wondered if this was really suitable for young children.  For example, there is a scene where Rango is visiting some moles whom he thought had stolen the town's water.  So, he arranges a play to distract him.  One of the lines was "thespians--why that's illegal in seven states!".  Another part where people where trying to figure out a problem, someone said "It's a puzzle, a pure mammogram".  One time Rango wears Beans' (the female protagonist) dress and  falls his butt on someone's face.  The person he falls on says, after the skit was pulled off his head, "well, that wasn't all that bed for me, either".  Even though things like this will go over most kid's heads, I would be aware that some of those comments might elicit some questions from young children.

Anyway, I think adults, teens, and pre-teens would like this movie.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ralphs/Kroger's Truly Awesome Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies

I got to try the Ralphs (in some areas, it's Krogers) Truly Awesome Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies yesterday as part of my membership with BzzAgent. Being a BzzAgent means that I try things and then create buzz around the product such as writing blog posts, reviews, or just talking about them. This time, I got two packages of these cookies to try.

The cookies come in a package of 8, but they're fairly large, about 120 calories each.  The suggested retail price is $2.79, but my local Ralphs is having a ten cents off special.  My first impression is that the cookie was too hard for my taste.  I like softer, chewier cookies.  A friend that I gave a cookie to felt the same.  However, the taste was good with no funny aftertaste that you get with some of the other chocolate chip cookies.  Perhaps that was due to having real butter instead of whatever other cookie companies use.

On the box were several suggestions on how to serve the cookies. One of the suggestions was to warm it up in the microwave. I saw on BzzAgent that someone else had tried that and it didn't do very much in their case. But, when I put one in my 900 watt microwave for 35 seconds, it totally softened up. They tasted just like they came out of the oven. If I hadn't done that, I would have given this cookie a mediocre review. After I warmed them up, I can say that they really are awesome and homestyle.  

Another suggestion was to make ice cream sandwiches with two cookies.  That would work as they're big enough.  I would suggest warming them up and letting them sit for a minute or two before putting ice cream between them.  If the cookies are too warm, it will be messy.

My main complaint is that I think they're a bit expensive compared to other chocolate chip cookies on the market. Having a coupon makes them a better deal. They can be found in the cookie isle with the other chocolate chip cookies.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Land of Painted Caves by Jean Auel

I am a fan of the series and have read the other five books of which book five was published several years ago.  Though the last book, Shelters of Stone, was repetitive and excessively long, I still wanted to read this book and finish up the series and the story of Ayla and Jondalar.

I was lucky to have read this book via audiobook so that I could do something else while I was "reading" it.  The audiobook contained 29 disks with about 30 hours of listening to it.  However, it took me about two months to get through it.  Here's what I thought of it.

***May contain spoilers***

Since it was a long time since I read the last book, I appreciated the re-telling of many of the things that happened in the past, at least during the first part of the book.  But, it didn't stop at that first part, but the entire storyline seemed to be repeated throughout the book all the way until the end.

The last half of the first part and just about all of the second part consisted of detailed verbal descriptions of a variety of caves and what seemed to be every nuance of every cave painting or carving in each cave.  This was interesting, at first, but began to really drag me down after hours and hours of these descriptions.  In my opinion, detailed descriptions should have only been given about the first few caves and maybe a vague or passing description of all the other caves so to move the storyline forward.  I did enjoy the part where they go Ayla's donier tour and meet new people and see new places.

The third part was actually where the story began (with Ayla's "calling") and if the entire book consisted of only this part, I would have loved it.  However, I was a bit disappointed in how flat the story was and how nothing new or exciting was revealed about the characters.

I suggest that if you're like me and don't remember a whole lot about the first five books, read about 1/3 of part one, 1/4 of part two and skip to part three.

I swear I can recite the Mother's song by heart as it was repeated so much all throughout the book.

Critique of the series

I really enjoyed the first three books of this series, but after that, it began to lose its touch.  One thing that I was glad about the last book, Shelters of Stone, was that Auel toned down the graphic descriptions of sex scenes that have been so prevalent in the series.   I don't mind that Ayla and Jondalar were "perfect" as I've heard other reviews state that they seem to be.

One of the things that I wish was toned down was Ayla's ability to domesticate or tame animals.  It may have been possible and believable for her to have a pet wolf.  There is evidence that people may have been starting to have pet wolves at that time (about 25-30,000 y.a.) so it wouldn't have been a big deal.  However, it's extremely unlikely that she would have tamed and ridden horses, which were only domesticated about 5-6000 years ago. I guess it adds to the mystique of Ayla and the story.

One of the things I hoped, throughout the series, is that Ayla finds her original people.  I think it was hinted in the third for forth book of who her people might be, but nothing definite.  I would have loved to have seen someone claim her to be a long lost family member of their tribe or that they remember their tribe losing a member of their family (or an entire family group) around the same time Ayla came to the clan.  Then again, maybe all of Ayla's tribe died in the earthquake.  I just wish there was something that placed Ayla's origins a little more securely.

I would suggest checking this book out of the library rather than buying it.  But, if you want to buy it, here are some links for you:

Amazon hardcover

Amazon paperback

Audiobook CD

A note on the audiobook, the person reading it is really slow!  However, she does a good job at doing different voices.