Saturday, January 16, 2010

Memory: A Project

I created this vid using Xtreme Photostory on CD & DVD 7 (the new version is available now, but version 7 is still available at a reduced price).

There are countless vids of this nature available to view on Youtube and other video sharing sites.

This is the second vid I have made, but the first has gone missing from my hard drive.

The song used for this is called "Memory" and was written for the musical CATS, and performed by Elaine Paige. I listened to the song a few times, and was inspired to create this production.

As I listened to the song, I began formulating scenes to go along with the music. This isn't just a mish mash of random pictures as many vids of this type are. It has a progressive flow.

Synopsis: (lyrics, pictures, and explanation)

Midnight. Not a sound from the pavement... scenes of city streets at night.

Has the moon lost her memory? She is smiling alone...scenes of the moon over a city. These two parts set the stage for the next.

In the lamplight the withered leaves collect at my feet. And the wind begins to moan... Two pictures showing (respectively) a dog and a cat in silhouette in alleyways, meant to preface the true subjects.

Memory, all alone in the moonlight. I can smile at the old days, I was beautiful then. I remember the time I knew what happiness was. Let the memory live again. Every street lamp seems to beat a fatalistic warning. Someone mutters, and the street lamp gutters, and soon it will be morning... The pictures that accompany the song here are all of animals abandoned and left to die of illness and injury in urban areas. The first picture shown is of an injured kitten, walking along a sidewalk with people passing by. It illustrates the careless disregard of people, and the utter hopelessness many animals face when abandoned.

Daylight. I must wait for the sunrise. I must think of a new life, and I mustn't give in. When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too, and a new day will begin... These are pictures of animals that have been fortunate enough to be rescued from the streets, or from neglect and abuse, and are receiving care. They can look forward to their pain ending, and the possibility of a good future.

Musical score... Some more neglected and rescued animals, followed by scenes of animals in good health that have been abandoned into the shelter system for whatever reason (arguably better than being abandoned on the streets).

Burnt out ends of smoky days, the stale cold smell of morning. A streetlamp dies, another day is dawning, and soon it will be morning... scenes of animals being euthanized at shelters. Even when an animal is fortunate enough to end up in a shelter, they don't all make it out alive. A painless death is preferable to slow agony.

Touch me, it's so easy to leave me all alone with my memories of my days in the sun... I feel that this is the best scene in the vid. The first picture is a man reaching out to touch the paw of a cat in a cage. The following pictures illustrate the desperation of the animals abandoned at shelters. They were loved once, and they do not understand why they have been cast aside. They reach out for comfort.

If you touch me, you'll understand what happiness is. Look...a new day has begun. This final scene shows animals being adopted, given a second chance at happiness, and scenes of the joy they bring into their family's lives, as well as a thank you to those who have helped animals in need.

I really enjoyed making this vid. The pictures were gathered using Google search, and then edited in Photoshop Elements. In most of the pictures, I made them black and white, then added back color in certain areas to either draw attention to an injury, or imply a spiritual energy around the subject.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


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Years ago, when I was a small child, I was rifling though a bookcase of works collected by my parents, when I happened upon something truly marvelous...

The small book was not impressive to behold. A tiny and tattered little black paperback, about 3 inches by 6 inches in dimension, and a mere 1/4 inch thick. The cover of the book proudly proclaimed in bold, bright letters: Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Elliot. This particular book was published in 1967, though it's contents were originally copyrighted in 1939.

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is a collection of poems about...well, cats. The poems are humorous and entertaining, and Elliot shows a deep understanding of the ways of the feline race in his verse. He is clearly a "cat person" kind of guy. Following are two selections that serve to exemplify his understanding of the joys of knowing a cat.

The Rum Tum Tugger
"...The Rum Tum Tugger is a terrible bore:
When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He's always on the wrong side of every door,
And as soon as he's at home, then he'd like to get about.
He likes to lie in the bureau drawer,
But he makes such a fuss if he can't get out.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat-
And it isn't any use for you to doubt it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there's no doing anything about it! ..."

Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer
"...If the area window was found ajar
And the basement looked like a field of war,
If a tile or two cane loose on the roof,
Which presently ceased to be waterproof,
If the drawers were pulled out from the bedroom chests,
And you couldn't find one of your winter vests,
Or after supper one of the girls
Suddenly missed her Woolworth pearls:
Then the family would say: 'It's that horrible cat!
It was Mungojerrie -- or Rumpelteazer!'
And most of the time they left it at that...."

That little book became a favorite of mine, I still have it to this day, and I still pick it up and read a few verses now and again.

It was several years after my discovery of this book that I became aware that there was a Broadway musical named CATS. I didn't think much of it, until at some point I ran across the information that the production was actually based off of Old Possum's Book. And of course, after that discovery, I just had to see it! Finally, many many years later, I was given the long awaited opportunity. CATS was coming to town!

Andrew Lloyd Webber adapted T.S. Elliot's works into the stage musical. It premiered in London's West End theatre in 1981, and then on Broadway in '82. It ran for 21 years in London, and for 18 years in Broadway, winning both a Tony, and a Laurence Olivier Award.

The production is comprised mostly of poem's out of Old Possum's Book set to music, with the exception of Grizzabella's song Memory, which was based on Elliot's Rhapsody on A Windy Night, and the song performed by Old Duteronomy, The Moments of Happiness, was taken from another of Elliot's works, Four Quartets.

CATS is one of the world's longest running, and most successful musicals. It is still performed to this day, and has opened in 26 countries, and has been translated into 20 different languages.

My mother bought a pair of tickets to see CATS at the Phillups Center For The Performing Arts at the University of Florida in Gainesville as a Christmas gift.

I can't describe how excited I was to finally see it, and I was not disappointed. It was a wonderful production.

One of the things I found most interesting is how Webber adapted the poems from The Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats for the stage. There is no plot or storyline in the book; it is simply a book of poems, in no particular order. However, Webber ingeniously, and without compromising the integrity of Elliot's poetry, turned the book of poems into a marvelous story.

The setting for CATS is a junkyard, where the feline characters gather for an annual meeting called The Jellicle Ball (The Jellicle Ball). Munkastrap explains about how cats are named (The Naming of Cats) and that the highlight of the event is when the Jellicle leader, Old Deuteronomy, chooses which cat will ascend to The Heavyside Layer, and be born again into a new life.

The Jellicle Ball begins with a dance by Victoria, after which Munkastrap introduces Jennyanydots ( The Old Gumbie Cat). When she finishes, the flamboyant Rum Tum Tugger makes his entrance and tells us about himself (The Rum Tum Tugger).

An old, disheveled grey cat enters the stage. She walks furtively, glancing around her. The other cats hiss, and scatter before her. Some curious individuals approach her tentatively, and she gently reaches out to them. But they pull away, or are dragged away by others. One strikes out at her. The cats gossip about her story (Grizzabella: The Glamour Cat).

After Grizzabella exits, Bustopher Jones makes his appearance. Jones is a fat, black and white tom. He is an upper class gentleman (Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town), and has come to the Ball for only a brief visit.

Suddenly there is a huge crash, and all the cats scatter. Some yell "Macavity!" as they run to hide. All is quiet...and then whispers are heard. Two cats sneak onto the scene and tell their tales of sneak thievery, cat burglary, and general light hearted mischief (Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer).

The other cats come out of hiding, and announce that their leader, (Old Deuteronomy) has arrived. There is another crash, and the cats again scatter in fear of Macavity, but Dueteronomy calls them back, and and the ball continues with all the cats dancing, showing off their "Terpsichorean powers", and performing a battle reenactment (The Pekes and The Pollicles) to entertain Dueteronomy.

Grizzabella again attempts to include herself in the festivities, but she is again shunned by the others. She sings Memory in her sadness. (This is a particularly touching scene, a bit of a tear jerker).

As Grizzabella again leaves the ball, Jellylorum helps an ancient Gus to the center floor, and together they tell his story of his life as a stage performer in his younger years (Gus: The Theatre Cat). Gus gets worked up in his storytelling, and the the scene changes to show us when Gus played Growltiger (Growltiger's Last Stand) in a theatrical production.

Next we see a cat asleep on some boxes. He awakens to tell us how he is in charge of the night train to Glasgow, and how the train couldn't leave the station without him (Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat).

Yet another crash, and an evil laugh coincide with the entrance of the villain, Macavity (Macavity: The Mystery Cat). Macavity and two cohorts kidnap Old Dueteronomy, and carry him away. Munkustrap attempts to give chase, while Bombalurina and Demeter tell us about the villain. Old Dueteronomy comes back on stage, but Demeter reveals that it is actually Macavity in disguise. A fight ensues between Macavity, Munkustrap, and Alonzo. The cats rise up, and drive Macavity out, but his cohorts have gotten away with the real Old Dueteronomy.

As the cats worry about how to get their leader back, Rum Tum Tugger suggests that they ask the magical Mr. Mistoffelees (Mr. Mistoffelees), and tells of his magical feats. Mr. Mistoffelees succeeds in magically bringing Old Deuteronomy back to the Ball, and is praised by everyone in attendance.

It is near dawn, and time for the Jellicle Choice to be made. Grizzabella appears again, and Dueteronomy allows her a chance to address the cats. Her age and infirmity make it impossible to dance, and give her difficulty in making her musical appeal. Exhausted, she collapses to the stage, and appears to be dying.

The other cats, now moved by her appeal, go to her. They comfort her, and choose her to be the one to go to The Heavyside Layer. As she ascends, the cats rejoice.

After Grizzabella's ascension, Old Dueteronomy turns to the audience in the final scene, and tells us how to properly address a cat (The Ad-dressing of Cats).

This truly was a wonderful production. The music and story range from tear-jerking, to comic, and the dancing is vibrant. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and will go back to see it again whenever it comes back to town. I highly recommend it to any one that enjoys the theatre, poetry, or cats.
Note: The italicised words in parenthesis that appear in the plot descriptions are the actual names of the poems from which the scenes were adapted.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Relationships: The Grass Is Greener

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What is wrong with people in regards to relationships these days? Why do so many marriages end in divorce now when compared to decades past? What's up with all these "broken homes" and single parents?

One possible explanation for this is the moral decline in society. It is no longer considered "taboo" to have sexual relations outside of marriage. In fact, it has become not only the norm to engage in sex prior to, and outside of marriage, but the "in thing" to do. It is now a requirement to be fully accepted into many social circles.

Another explanation, somewhat related to the first, is how easy and socially acceptable the institution of divorce has become.

While these are both compelling arguments, I believe they fall short of fully encompassing the whys and where fors of the entire issue.

A lot of relationships end simply because people seem to think that if that person was right for them, everything should be perfect. There would be no arguments, no disagreements, certainly no serious fights.

From childhood, we are exposed to conflicting ideas when it comes to relationships and love. On one hand, we are exposed to casual sexuality as a normal state. At the same time, we are taught that love is all powerful and ever lasting. We are told that sex is an expression of love between two people, at the same time being told that sex has nothing to do with love at all. This results in massive confusion and an inability to cope with relationships.

Many of us grow up with this fairy tale idea that one day we will meet the person of our dreams, fall in love, and live happily ever after. To complicate this, many get the idea that "true love" is infallible.

For many people, the meaning of true love is a relationship in which there are never any problems, with a person who is a perfect match (basically).

The problem with the true love fairy tale is that it's just that, a fairy tale, complete bunk. There is no such thing as "true love". "The One"... does not exist. Too many people go about their lives and base their relationship decisions on the false ideal, whether consciously or subconsciously, that they will find their "one true love" and live happily ever after.

Through the process of dating, and the social acceptance of young people engaging in romantic and sexual relationships, we have learned as individuals to be picky. When we add to that the "true love" factor, we end up being disappointed on a constant basis, and unable to make any relationship work.

In casual dating, we stop seeing someone for tiny imperfections in personality, or physique. Maybe the way they laugh has gotten annoying after a few weeks. Or you just found out they have ugly feet. Maybe they don't like dogs very much, or whatever.

To a certain extant, it pays to be picky. If there is something about someone that you know you can't or won't deal with down the line, then there is no reason to pursue the relationship further. However, if there is a mutual attraction, and you enjoy each other's company, and have at least a few similar interests, then other minor differences can be either over looked , or a compromise can be made.

The problem is, we are taught through the stories that we hear or read, and the movies and TV programs that we watch, and through the process of dating itself, that we don't need to compromise; that there will always be someone better for us, somewhere.

Fact is, there will be.

The Grass is Greener

Everyone knows that relationships tend to get stale, and "boring" as time goes by. It may not be boring per se, but the excitement will fade. Hopefully it fades into comfort and a system of mutual love and support.

There is this belief that if one truly loves someone, then they won't ever be able to have deeper (than sexual) feelings towards someone else. This occlusion of reality can destroy a perfectly good relationship.

It causes the person who realizes they are developing feelings for someone outside of an existing relationship to end said relationship, in favor of pursuing something new. They question the validity of their feelings towards their partner. They begin to find fault in the relationship. They begin to find reasons to be unhappy, all the while finding things about the new person that seem better than the current.

Let's say one is in a long term relationship. Everything is great. You enjoy spending time together, the sex is good, you get along well, no major relationship issues, just normal minor arguments and disagreements. One day at work, you run into a new co worker. You feel an immediate attraction for this person. When you speak to them, it becomes obvious that the attraction is mutual. As the weeks go by, you find yourself engaged in conversation more and more often. The attraction grows, and you start to wonder...maybe this person is better than the one you're with.

More often then not, the existing relationship is ended in favor of the new one. Generally speaking, there's nothing inherently wrong with this outcome. However, if one were to examine the circumstances a bit more thoroughly, one might find fault in the thought processes that led to the final decision.

New relationships are fun and exciting. Whether they're based purely on sexual attraction, or on intellectual compatibility. When one is in a long term relationship, no matter how fulfilling it may be, it is only a matter of time and circumstance until one finds themselves feeling a deeper attraction to someone else.

When you find yourself in a situation like the one discussed above, it can be very hard to think clearly. A new love interest makes you feel good. It's nice to know you are still attractive to others. But, is it really worth throwing away what you have for a few weeks of exhilaration? After all, the new relationship won't be new forever, and you'll find yourself back in square one. You might be better off, you might be worse off. Statistically... more likely worse, but who knows?

What I do know is that whatever you do, there will always be someone else that comes along that makes you feel good, and makes you doubt what you have... until there isn't. A line must be drawn, or you may end up alone, with nothing, and no one.

If you already have something good, even if it's not new and exciting, then you're already way ahead of the game.

All we can reasonably ask for in love is to be happy. To be with someone we care about, who genuinely cares about us. Love is not a fairy tale. Relationships are not vacations. They are work. An equal partnership of mutual support, time, and effort. Problems will arise, some minor, some major. It's how we cope with these problems and learn to work through them that makes a relationship last.

No one ever said love was easy, but the payoff is well worth the investment.

Opinion vs.Fact: Welcome To My Blog!

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As this blog will be a compilation of my thoughts and opinions, as well as occasional forays into subjects of a factual nature, I feel it is important to forward with a discussion on the differences between "opinion" and "fact".

Having been a contributing member of discussion boards on the Internet for many years, as well as occasionally engaging in face to face conversation with *gasp!* real live people a few times in my life...I have come to the realization that there is an alarming lack of understanding as to the differences between "opinion" and "fact"; or more poignantly, the difference between stating an "opinion" and stating a "fact" which one believes to be true.

Definitively speaking, a stated "opinion" cannot be wrong. An opinion is a statement about how one feels about something, and while feelings can be misguided, or inappropriate, they cannot be "wrong".

A "fact", however, can be wrong. One can state something as a "fact" and have no idea what they are talking about.

The confusion between fact and opinion can become problematic in two ways. The first is when one or more participants in a conversation attempt to use opinion as fact, and vice-versa. The second problem arises when someone engaged in conversation attempts to argue with someone stating a legitimate opinion.

Let's explore these concepts, shall we?

For example, If you and I were having a conversation about, say, snakes...and you were to say "Snakes scare me, they are creepy and gross." That would be a stated opinion. I could not argue with that, or attempt to tell you you are incorrect. The above statement describes how you feel about snakes.

If you were to then say "I don't like snakes because they can be dangerous." You would be stating a fact. In this case you would be stating a true fact, and I would therefore not attempt to correct you.

However, the following statement "I don't like snakes because they are slimy, and evil." is an attempt at presenting a point based on erroneous facts. I would argue this statement by presenting true facts, such as: "Snakes are not slimy, they do not possess any glands or organs to secrete any sort of substance through there skins, and that evil is a man made term used to describe an innate desire to do wrong simply for the pleasure derived from causing pain to others. No entity on this earth is capable of "evil" except for man, because man is the only known entity that has the capacity to understand the concept of morality.

If you were to say "in my opinion..." or "I feel that..." followed by "snakes are reptiles" you would be attempting to state a fact as an opinion. It is not you're "opinion" that snakes are reptiles. It is a fact. You don't get to have "feelings" on this, it just is.

As an aside, if you've ever watched King of The Hill, Peggy Hill is infamous for stating just this kind of "opinion" and it makes her sound like a pompous ass (intentionally by the show's writers), as it will anyone who attempts to use this form of point-making.

The major breakdown in intelligent conversation and debate, is when people allow their emotions to supersede their ability to reason. This generally results in the conversation degenerating into a series of personal attacks on the participants.

For example; I like snakes. You don't like snakes. If you were to say that "I don't like snakes, they are mean", and I were to respond with: "Well, you are an ignorant idiot", that does nothing to further the conversation.

I may desire to attempt to sway your opinion. The only way to accomplish this would be to provide facts that may show you a different view point on the subject. If I simply insult your intelligence, you will not listen to anything I have to say, and it would be a lost cause.

In conclusion, in any posts I may make in the future, some will be informative and based on facts. I make it a point to not attempt to state anything as a fact unless I have researched the topic and can be certain it is in fact, true.

There will also be posts based entirely on my opinion, which will in turn be based on true facts.

I welcome any opportunity to discuss or debate on any topic I may write about. However, I refuse to engage in juvenile name calling arguments.

Please feel free to engage in discussion. Please refrain from causing any discussions to degenerate into the realm of blatant idiocy.

Have a nice day! =)