Sep 18,2014: Elan Atias

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Sep 18,2014: Challenger Training Tennis

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AmericanTown’s Heroes: One Picture Saves A Life

You’ve heard the expression a picture is worth a thousand words, but did you know a picture can save a life? That’s the idea behind Seth Casteel’s effort to teach volunteers and staff working at animal shelters how to groom and photograph the animals to their best advantage.

The mission of A Picture Saves A Life is “to provide shelter staff and volunteers with the resources to successfully groom and photograph shelter pets, helping give them the second chance they deserve.”

Casteel is the photographer teaching and inspiring others to bring the best out in each animal with the photos they take. He offers tips like “Boo for sad faces, leashes and cages.” “Keep it positive!,” so you won’t see images that will break your heart, but rather ones that may make you go out and get yourself a pet.

Casteel has been volunteering since 2007, taking photos of homeless pets and helping them to find new homes. He recently released a book of photos of dogs swimming underwater that became a New York Times best seller. He is currently traveling around offering his point of view on pet lifestyle photography and delivering workshops and lessons to interested animal shelter volunteers and staff. You can see some photos and gather some tips at Second Chance Photos or learn more about the effort at A Picture Saves A Life.

Do you know someone who has a talent and puts it to use teaching others? Nominate them for next week’s AmericanTown’s Heroes.



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Sep 18,2014: Basics in Art

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AmericanTown’s Heroes: Lifeguards Honored for their Service

It was all hands on deck at a recent gathering of lifeguards. Not for an emergency rescue, but to honor their friends and colleagues who watch over us when we’re floating, splashing, swimming and riding the waves.

The job of a lifeguard is more than just sitting in a chair and if you’ve spent any time at the beach you’ve probably seen a lifeguard in action. Lifeguards learn teamwork, rescue and surveillance skills as well as CPR and first aid, so they can render help on the spot when someone is injured or rescued from the surf. They study the conditions, test the waters and are intimately familiar with the currents and the tides. They train and practice and work closely together to ensure we can have a safe and pleasant day in the water.

This year, seven lifeguards were chosen and honored by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce with awards and then treated to a celebration that included their friends and families.

In the past, the awards were handed out at a sedate breakfast, but this year they expanded the festivities to include the community who came out in force to thank those intrepid protectors of the seashore frolickers and bathers who make it look so easy.

When you think of first responders you probably think of policemen and firemen, but if not for the lifeguards who act quickly to render aid, a day at the beach would not be the pleasant experience we look forward to.

Summer may be on the way out, with most lifeguards gone from our beaches, but the next time you encounter a lifeguard by the shore, thank him or her for their service to your community.

Do you know someone or a group of individuals who deserve recognition for watching over us to ensure our safety? Nominate them for next week’s AmericanTown’s Heroes.



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AmericanTown’s Heroes: CJ Burford Bikes Cross Country for the Children’s Cancer Society

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart” sounds like something you might see on an inspirational poster. You know, the kind with the image of the sun breaking through the clouds or a hiker summiting a mountain. It’s actually a bit of verse, taken from the Bible, and it’s a statement that a young boy took to heart and has turned into a mission to help others.

CJ Burford loves to ride his bike, so he thought why not ride my bike for a reason, which was the seed for an idea to make a difference for others. CJ just embarked on a major bike ride! One that will take him from Oceanside, CA to St. Augustine, FL.

He started out on the first of September and plans to reach Florida in the middle of December. He is making the ride to raise awareness and monies for the National Children’s Cancer Society, so if you see him and his family along the way show your support in the way that feels right for you. And don’t worry, it looks like CJ’s dad is riding alongside him.

You can follow CJ’s progress on his Facebook Page, CJs Rides for a Reason, see photos of his adventure on the blog and learn more about him and his effort on his website, loveFAR.org (FAR stands for “For A Reason”). If you would like to donate, there are links on the website where you can also see all the businesses who have signed on to sponsor.

What do you love to do? Do you do it for a reason? Take inspiration from CJ and turn something you love into a way to make a difference in the lives of others.

If you know someone making a difference in your community, nominate them for next week’s AmericanTown’s Heroes.



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EarthTalk: Ethanol’s Unrealized Promise

Dear EarthTalk: I thought that putting ethanol in our gas tanks was going help fight climate change, but lately I’ve heard reports to the contrary. Can you enlighten?       -- B.B.

Ethanol and similar “biofuels” made from corn and other crops seem like a good idea given their potential for reducing our carbon outputs as well as our reliance on fossil fuels. But recent research has shown that the federal government’s push to up production of corn-derived ethanol as a gasoline additive since 2007 has actually expanded our national carbon footprint and contributed to a range of other problems.

 

U.S. corn producers started ramping up ethanol production in 2007 as a result of President George W. Bush’s Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), which mandated an increase in the volume of renewable fuel to be blended into transportation fuel from nine billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion by 2022. Ethanol now makes up 10 percent of the gasoline available at filling stations.

 

But environmentalists now say that the promise of ethanol has turned out to be too good to be true. For one, there is the issue of net energy produced. According to CornellUniversity ecologist David Pimentel, growing and processing corn into a gallon of ethanol requires 131,000 BTUs of energy, but the resulting ethanol contains only 77,000 BTUs. And since fossil-fuel-powered equipment is used to plant, harvest, process and distribute ethanol, the numbers only get worse.

 

The non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) warns that continued production of corn ethanol is not only “worse for the climate than gasoline” but also bad for farmers, the land and consumers: “It is now clear that the federal corn ethanol mandate has driven up food prices, strained agricultural markets, increased competition for arable land and promoted conversion of uncultivated land to grow crops.”

 

Additionally, the group reports that previous estimates “dramatically underestimated corn ethanol’s greenhouse gas emissions by failing to account for changes in land use,” citing a 2012 study documenting the conversion of eight million acres of Midwestern grassland and wetlands to corn fields for ethanol between 2008 and 2011. “These land use changes resulted in annual emissions of 85 million to 236 million metric tons of greenhouse gases,” says EWG. “In light of these emissions, many scientists now question the environmental benefit of so-called biofuels produced by converting food crops.”

 

Given the potential negative impacts of so-much corn-based ethanol, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly weighing a proposal to cut the amount currently required by law to be blended into gasoline by 1.39 billion gallons. If the federal government decides to do this, it could lower U.S. carbon emissions by some three million tons—equivalent to taking 580,000 cars off the roads for a year.

 

Meanwhile, researchers are trying to develop greener forms of ethanol, but none are ready for market yet. “The lifecycle emissions of ethanol ‘from seed to tailpipe’ depend on how the ethanol is made and what it is made from,” reports the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The best ethanol, they say, can produce as much as 90 percent fewer lifecycle emissions than gasoline, but the worst can produce much more. So there still may be room for ethanol in our energy future, but not if we keep doing it the way we are now.

 

CONTACTS: Renewable Fuel Standard, www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels; David Pimentel, vivo.cornell.edu/display/individual5774; EWG, www.ewg.org; UCS, www.ucsusa.org.

 

 

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com.

 



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Sep 17,2014: Ian Fleming & The Secret Agents

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Sep 14,2014: Tyrone Wells and Keaton Simons


Growing up a skinny preacher’s kid in Spokane, Washington, Tyrone Wells was discouraged from listening to pop music and only exposed to gospel. Little did he know a decade later, the roots of soul would become a key element of his passionate, irresistible and utterly unique songs. Combining pop, soul, and rock, Tyrone sings about true love, war and heartbreak with equal power and sincerity, coming across as a voice for a generation that’s both idealistic and confused.

In his five years on the music scene as a singer-songwriter, he has evolved in an honest and organic manner, first scrambling for gigs and selling albums from the trunk of his car to eventually packing out The House of Blues and having his songs featured prominently on television programs. Wells’ major label debut Hold On is a fresh release filled with new promises. The first single from the record “What Are We Fighting For?” exemplifies his ability to mingle different styles into a seamless composition. A pulsing rocker fueled by a love for RB, the song blends organic acoustic guitar, choir vocals and chiming organ into a complete array of sound. Lyrically, “What Are We Fighting For?” is just as multifaceted, addressing subjects like the difficulty of relationship, racial reconciliation and the futility of war.

“I was watching the news, and was just overwhelmed with all the death,” explains Wells. “And as I wrote the song, it started to take on its own life. I was thinking about people, communication and loving each other and then the rest of it just came out. I think it raises some important questions and I think there’s not enough of that going on.”

While “What Are We Fighting For?” raises poignant questions, it isn’t at all pessimistic, drawing inspiration in the bridge from Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech to convey a message of hope and love: “I have a dream/One day we’ll see/All men be free/I still believe.”

Other songs on the album are equally powerful, but in different ways. “Dream Like New York,” for example, is a sun-drenched ballad full of pop splendor and romantic yearning, combining conventional pop instrumentation with strings and piano. Featuring timeless lines like “Dream like New York, as high as the skyline/Aim for the stars, above those city lights,” the track has already been embraced for its regional significance and played during New York Mets games in Shea Stadium. In addition, it was featured in “Everyone’s Hero” (an animated film about legendary New York Yankee, Babe Ruth) and the trailers of the “50 Greatest Moments at Madison Square Garden” documentary.

Born the youngest of five children – and the only son – Tyrone grew up performing in the shadows of sisters who were accomplished. Belying his present on-stage ease, he recalls that paralyzing stage fright almost kept him out of the spotlight. “I knew I had a lot of fear in my eyes. I just kept getting up, embarrassing myself and doing it again, then one day it all came together.”

While Wells wrote songs as early as junior high and high school, he didn’t take the craft seriously until he attended college in Southern California. As an emerging singer/songwriter Tyrone needed a stage. He explains, “I went down to the local coffeehouse – McClain’s – and I asked the owner, ‘Would you give me a test run and let me play every Thursday for a month?’” The one-month gig turned into a three-year run. “Getting up in front of a crowd, winning the audience, trying new songs, that, more than anything in my career, has been the best thing I did.” On-stage, Tyrone began introducing other components – even yodeling — into his show. “Beyond being a singer/songwriter,” he avows. “I want to be a storyteller. When I feel like I’ve communicated something important to someone in the audience, that’s when I feel the magic.”

By the time he stopped playing McClain’s, the room was maxed out every week and crowds were spilling out of the doors of the venue and listening from outside. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is really working,’” Wells says. “The fact that it sustained itself and grew, and I had to go to a bigger room was great. I was selling a lot of records independently by doing things in a really grass roots fashion. I could see the growth and that was really exciting to me.”

Wells recorded his first studio album Snapshot, and then followed with Close: Live at McClain’s in 2005. He started working on Hold On in late 2005, and culled the songs from material he had written over the prior two years. Unlike his earlier records, which were primarily acoustic, Hold On is a full band album. Produced by Chris Karn, the record proves that Wells is just as capable of turning up the amps and rocking out as he is of soothing audiences with bittersweet lullabies.

“I was in such a great space when I wrote the record,” Wells says. “I was just going for it, and trying to write the best songs I could and I got totally lost in the process. I had just met my wife, I was making a living doing music and there was nobody telling me what to do.”

By early 2006, Wells was regularly selling out Los Angeles clubs like the House of Blues, The Viper Room, Troubadour and The El Rey Theatre and people in the music business were taking notice. Now signed to Universal Republic Records, Tyrone is touring full-time and his infectious, soulful voice and undeniable songs are being introduced to people all over the country. Wells said, “Whether I’m in a coffee-shop down the street or on a national tour, I’m grateful to be doing what I love.”



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Sep 13,2014: Fartbarf

Fartbarf is a three-piece analog electronic band that was formed in the South Bay of Los Angeles, California in the year 2008. Consisting of 66.6 percent analog synthesizers and 33.3 percent live drums, their music breaks unprecedented ground as they push progressive sound to the limits, mixing genres together with very minimal instrumentation and extreme high energy. The last 0.1 percent? Seems to be unknown.

Robotic, and somewhat unpredictable malfunctions create their live sound, as the very foundation is built on vintage synthesizers which notoriously drift out of tune depending on humidity, heat, age, how long they’ve been turned on, etc. The conceptual oxymoron in turn, becomes the futuristic primate.

And although one could consider them ahead of their time sonically, part of their appeal is that they are not a computer based band at all. It’s their refusal to use barely 10% of today’s available technology, while performing music that is near futuristic and taking the stage as three ambiguous Neanderthals (preventing the public’s knowledge of who’s who), that makes Fartbarf a curiosity in an age where nothing seems new anymore.

Typical expectations at a live showing are a mess of tangled patch cables covering the stage, draping from one synthesizer to the next, an assault of sounds hitting frequencies and decibels sometimes only dogs can hear, grotesque Neanderthal masks, and bright orange NASA jumpsuits (more frequently substituted for bleached white milkmen uniforms with black belts, blue Fila’s and button down shirts neatly tucked in). Topping it all off would be the look of confusion, horror and smiles from those in the audience that have never heard the band before [only if you can catch what they look like in the midst of their uncontrollable dance moves].



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