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Archive for April, 2013

Cool custom layout tool for the artistically inclined

I love WordPress

It’s an amazing platform to showcase your work and thoughts as well as to discover some really interesting things that others have put out for your viewing and reading pleasure. With that being said, I also enjoy another similar tool called Tumblr. With that being the case, I thought I’d share a site I found that can be a major asset to any graphics enthusiast who might want to design his or her own layout without having to be heavily technically skilled.

The site by Totally Layouts is provides a Tumblr theme generator allowing you to customize everything from fonts to backgrounds with just a little creativity on your part. If you use this platform at all or are considering doing so, this might just be a good place to start.

I know that being a provider of creative graphic services and recently starting to help others with SEO efforts through social media, the visual and creative can be just as important to drawing attention to your work as it is fun to work on in the first place.

tumblr theme

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American Idol top 4 week recap

So for the first time in the history of American Idol, we have an all-girl Top 4. And rightly so I believe. While each of the ladies continues to try to step up her game, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Angie Miller American Top Top 4

Angie Miller singing “Who Are You” courtesy of zimbo.com

Here’s how I rank last night’s first performances:

1. Angie

2. Amber

3. Kree

4. Candice

Last night’s second performances:

1. Angie

2. Candice

3. Kree

4. Amber

Last night’s duets:

1. Angie and Candice

2. Amber and Kree

Overall (with brief commentary):

1. Angie – Wonderful tone and so much raw emotion in the first song. Her second was soft and slow and while not the best song, she’s so good it didn’t even matter. Angie outshined Candice a bit in their duet with her incredible range.

2. Kree – Her first song showcased a bluesy confidence and good vocals. Her second song was sort of beautiful in its simplicity. The duet was lively and catchy and more suited to Kree than is was to Amber.

3. Candice – The first song was soulful and smooth. The second featured good vocals but she didn’t show off her range or power. She brought both the power and soul in the duet.

4. Amber – Her first song was an amazing vocal performance with a confident vibe. The second song was a bad choice even with decent singing. She did OK in the duet but was the weaker of the two singers.

Final thoughts:

The first round of songs as a whole was better than the second. It didn’t take much for Angie to take the second round considering the rest of the performances where just OK.  That’s just one of the reasons she took the night, again. For the first time, Candice looks a bit vulnerable. I figure she was pretty much even with Kree last night but it is quite possible (but not a sure thing) that Kree may get a boost in her voting base now that the other “country girl,” Janelle, is gone. Amber seems to have come on a lot lately and her first performance was great. But it looks more and more like she doesn’t quite match up with the rest of the girls. It could be a shocker tonight as that history says that if often is. But no matter what happens, it should be interesting.

“Won’t Back Down” – a powerful and inspirational movie

Have you ever had one of those experiences

in which you hear about a movie coming out and think to yourself – “wow, that looks pretty good” but somehow life gets in the way and the film slips from your mind. I think we’ve all been there. But sometimes, we’re lucky enough to come across that movie again months or even years down the road. This was the case for me with the film “Won’t Back Down.”

First off, considering it is based on a true story and set in my hometown of Pittsburgh, I knew there would be lots of Pittsburgh scenes and that’s always something I enjoy in  a movie. The subject matter seemed interesting the film features a talent-filled cast including Maggie GyllenhaalViola Davis, Holly Hunter, Ving Rhames, and Rosie Perez just to name a few.

The plot focuses on a failing public school within the city’s district and one desperate parent’s fight to do something about it. That parent encounters resistance from the principal, teachers, some other parents, the school board and the powerful teacher’s union along the way. But she never gives up and her determination wins over and inspires others in the process.

If you like movies with both entertainment value and a message, you really should check this one out.

won't back down movie

Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal and others in Won’t Back Down Courtesy of EV.com

American Idol Top 5 week recap

Now that we’re down to an all-girl top 5 on American Idol, things are getting really interesting. All in all the singers did very well last night with a few issues regarding song choice and arrangement mixed in. but in general, the competition is really heating up and it seems like each and every contestant is stepping up her game.

Angie Miller singing “I’ll Stand By You” Photo courtesy of Denver.metromix.com and Michael Becker of FOX

Here’s how I rank last night’s first performances:

1. Angie

2. Kree

3. Candice

4. Amber

5. Janelle

Last night’s second performances:

1. Angie

2. Amber

3. Kree

4. Candice

5. Janelle

Overall (with brief commentary):

1. Angie – She made a great song choice for both rounds. The first was heartfelt, emotional and flat out outstanding. The second was right on the money, so powerful and beautiful.

2. Kree – Her smooth, engaging voice and wonderful tone allowed for a pretty good first performance. However, the second really showed off her range and was well done.

3. Amber – The first song was in her wheelhouse, a bit soft but good in the higher parts. The second was classy and simple with and was beautifully subtle.

4. Candice – The first song was done a bit too slow. It was good but not her best. The second was good but didn’t show off her range until the end.

5. Janelle – The first song was classic country. It was simple but not bad overall. The second was more upbeat and came across as a fun, catchy tune. It worked out well. 

Final thoughts:

While there were some memorable performances last night, some of the ladies didn’t make the greatest song choices. This was especially true of the firth round of songs. Angie has always been among the top contenders but she more that redeemed herself after a bit of a drop off last week. Conversely, Candice made a bad arrangement choice in her first song and didn’t really play to her biggest strengths. She’ll still be around after tonight but she has shown her vulnerability. Going into the night, the bottom spot was likely to be a battle between Amber and Janelle. But last night, Amber’s second performance probably saved her and then some. We’ll see how thing play out tonight.

Support for Boston through art

MIT Flag in Boston

MIT’s Green Building

Brooklyn Boston bombing support

In Brooklyn, a group of visual artists projected a message of solidarity on the side of the Brooklyn Academy of Music:

Boston art bombing sadness

Sending Love to Boston

Praying for Boston

Praying for Boston

 

 

 

 

How to overcome writer’s block

No matter what professional or recreational activities we may engage in, at some point, we’re all going to be off of our game. A surgeon may struggle with shaky hands, a public speaker may slip into a bit of a stutter, or any other number of samples can apply. But in many cases, these problems are more mental than they are physical.

One of the most notorious examples in the world of literature is that pesky little condition known as writers block.

writer's block

Photo courtesy of Marya Jan

First off, make no mistake, it happens to everyone.

But as I can suggest by personal experience, there is really only one reliable way to deal with it and overcome this problem – writing through it.

Whether you are a sports fan or not, the easiest way to explain what I mean is through the world or athletics. Let’s take baseball. Even the best and most productive hitters in the game fall into a slump from time to time. During those slumps a pitch that they might normally knock right out of the park might send them to the bench as a victim of a strikeout. And worse yet, it keeps happening over and over again. But how does the hitter finally break out of the slump? He keeps hacking away until he succeeds and gets back into his typical rhythm.

The same approach should and must be taken when you find yourself in a state of writer’s block.

Here are two practical ways to do so:

1. Write for the sake or writing during a case of block. Just keep going despite the quality. This is essentially exercise and nobody ever even has to see what you write.

2. Use the condition as inspiration. Yes, write something, anything, about writer’s block. A few yea’s back I had a poetry assignment I had to write for a class and just couldn’t get going. So, I decided to write the poem about the need to be inspired. In the end, I got an A.

In the end, when you take the time to work through the frustration, things will work out just fine.

American Idol Top 6 week recap

Well, we’re down to the top six and the competition on American Idol is getting very tight. Unfortunately, for some reason the theme this week wasn’t great.  The first round of songs where quite limiting but at least the second round allowed for a little more flexibility. I was also a bit disappointed that virtually none of the contestants took the chance to think outside the box in the first round to make major changes to the arrangements and possibly make the songs their own. With all that being said, it is what it is and some singers still shined while others struggled.

Candice Glover American Idol

Candice Glover sings “Lovesong” courtesy on Hollywoodreporter.com

Here’s how i rank last night’s first performances:

1. Candice

2. Kree

3. Amber

4. Angie

5. Janelle

6. Lazaro

Last night’s second performances:

1. Candice

2. Angie

3. Kree

4. Janelle

5. Amber

6. Lazaro

Overall (with brief commentary):

1. Candice – She had good inflection on her first song but didn’t really get going until she hit the power notes and from then on she crushed it. Her second song really played to her strengths. It was powerful, pure and beautiful.

2. Kree – Her first song was sweet and bluesy in parts with a strong vocal. The second one was classic country that came across as pure, raw and very, very good.

3. Angie – She has a nice flow and good tone in her first song but it was a bit slow and old fashioned. This amazing singer redeemed herself several times over with her time at the piano singing a powerful, emotional and awesome second performance.

4. Janelle – In the first song, she came across as highly confident but did have a few trouble spots. Her second song was a great choice. It was right on the money and very good overall.

5. Amber – She started off smooth and upbeat in her first song for a very good performance. Her second song had a rough start. She did better in the chorus. It was pretty good but not great.

6. Lazaro – He started off with a classy, simple song but the vocals were off and way too soft. In his second song, the vocals continued to be off until he hit the high parts. He didn’t have a very good night.

Final thoughts:

It could very easily be a clean sweep for the ladies as Lazaro should be on his way out tonight. However, I do believe that the judges still have time to use the save and would likely do so if any of the ladies finds themselves in the bottom spot.

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