Archive for December, 2008

Happy New Year

It’s January 1st– New Year’s Day!  Happy 2009 to all.  And here’s wishing you the best in 2009– good health, happiness and peace. 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
And here’s a hand, my trusty friend
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne
 

 

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Remembering 12/26/04

December 26, 2004.  It’s been four years since an undersea earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, triggered the Great South Asia Tsunami, which killed over 225,000 and displaced nearly 1.7 million people in 11 countries.  The quake, which measured between 9.1 and 9.3, was the second largest quake ever recorded on a seismograph.

In spite of the unprecendented humanitarian response following the tsunami, many areas that were destroyed by the massive tsunami still have not recovered and tens of thousands of people are still homeless.

Above: A vigil being held on 12/26/08 on the beach in Phuket, Thailand, to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Great South Asia Tsunami and to remember the lives of those who were lost four years ago.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Where is That Drink?

Where is that drink?  With the holiday season in full swing and the New Year approaching, the beverage du jour is now champagne.  Or, in this particular case, a champagne cocktail.  This cocktail was served in a simple, classic champagne flute, with a one-of-a-kind view.  Where is it?

This tasty champagne cocktail was poured at the busy Rotunda Restaurant, located on the fourth floor of the Neiman-Marcus store at Union Square, San Francisco.  The restaurant surrounds the building’s iconic open-air rotunda, which is filled each holiday season with an enormous lighted Christmas tree– one of the largest and most dramatic in San Francisco.

To view a previous post with the recipe for a classic Champagne Cocktail, click here.

To view the menu from The Rotunda’s official website, click here.  To reserve a table at The Rotunda Restaurant (open for lunch and afternoon tea daily), go to opentable.com by clicking here.

To read previous posts in the “Where is That Drink” series, click here.

Photos taken: 12/26/08

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2008 Farewells

In 2008, we lost many well-known individuals, including the following:

January 15 - Brad Renfro, actor (Mark Shay in “The Client”) age 25
January 17 - Bobby Fischer, world class chess champion, age 64
January 18 - Lois Nettleton, actor (Evelyn in “Crossing Jordan”) age 80
January 19 - Suzanne Pleshette, actress (”Bob Newhart Show” and “Rome Adventure”), age 70
January 22 - Heath Ledger, actor (”Brokeback Mountain” and “The Dark Knight”), age 28
January 26 - Christian Brando, son of actor Marlon Brando, age 49
February 1 - Shell Kepler, actress (Amy Vining on “General Hospital” ) age 49
February 2 - Barry Morse, actor (Lt. Philip Gerard on “The Fugitive”) age 89
February 5 - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, taught transcendentalist meditation to the Beatles, age 96
February 10 - Roy Scheider, actor (Police Chief Brodie in “Jaws”) age 75
February 13 - David Groh, actor (Rhoda’s husband, Joe, on “Rhoda”) age 68
February 27 - William F. Buckley, author and conservative commentator, age 82
March 18 - Arthur C. Clarke, writer (”2001: A Space Odyssey”) age 90
March 19 - Paul Scofield, actor (”A Man for All Seasons”) age 86
March 24 - Richard Widmark, actor (”How the West Was Won,” “Madigan” ) age 93
April 5 - Charlton Heston, actor (Moses in “The Ten Commandments”) age 84
May 5- Jerry Wallace,1950’s musician (1950’s country singer) age 79
May 26- Sydney Pollack, Academy Award winning director, actor and producer (”Out of Africa”) age 73

May 29- Harvey Korman, actor (best known for his role on the Carol Burnett Show) age 81
June 1- Yves Saint Lauren, fashion designer, age 71
June 2- Bo Diddley, musician (one of the founding fathers of “Rock & Roll”) age 79
June 7- Jim McKay,sportscaster (anchored ABC Wide World of Sports)
June 13 - Tim Russert, political journalist and host of NBC’s “Meet the Press”
June 22 - George Carlin, Comedian (best known for his use of off color language) age 71
July 4 - Sen. Jesse Helms, (5 term Senator from N Carolina and outspoken conserative) age 86
July 22- Estelle Getty, actress (best known for her role on The Golden Girls) age 85
August 9 - Bernie Mac, comedian (starred in his own sitcom titled The Bernie Mac Show) age 50
August 10- Isaac Hayes, musician (famous for writing the musical theme to Shaft) age 65
September 26- Paul Newman, Academy Award winning actor, race car driver, philanthropist (starred in 50 films best known for “Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid” and “The Color of Money”) age 83
October 17- Levi Stubbs,Singer (front man for the Four Tops) age 72
October 19- Richard Blackwell, fashion critic (best known for his “Ten Worst Dressed Women” yearly list) age 86
October 24- Merl Saunders, musician/keyboardist (played with The Grateful Dead) age 74
November 4-  John Michael Chichton, author (best known for his best-selling book, “Jurassic Park”) age 66
December 1 - Paul Benedict, actor (best known as the quirky neighbor on the Jeffersons), age 70
December 7- Dennis Yost, singer/musician (best known as lead singer with the Classics IV), age 65
December 12- Van Johnson, actor and dancer, age 92
December 16- Samuel “Sam” Bottoms, actor and producer (best known as Lance Johnson in “Apocalypse Now”), age 53
December 18- Mark Felt, retired Associated Director, FBI (best known as “Deep Throat” in the Watergate scandal), age 95
December 24- Harold Pinter, Pulitzer-prize winnning writer, director and actor (best known as the writer of “Betrayal”), age 78
December 25-  Eartha Kitt, singer and entertainer (best known as “Cat Woman” in the TV series “Batman”)
December 27-  Robert Mulligan, film director (best known as director of the film, “To Kill a Mockingbird”), age 83

      

Above (left to right): Sydney Pollack, Tim Russert, George Carlin, and Paul Newman

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Today’s Quote

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.”

   – Charles Dickens

 To go to previous entries in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all!  Have a peaceful holiday.

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Today’s Quote

“You can’t have any successes unless you can accept failure.”

   –George Cukor

To go to previous entries in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Year-End Movie Rush

It’s not unusual for many big-budget, high-profile and “serious” films to be scheduled by their studio for wide release at year-end, in order to take advantage of holiday crowds and to qualify for annual award consideration.  This year, it seems that there is an unusually large number of big films (and likely award contenders) competing for screens at the local multiplex during Hanukkah and Christmas week.  The line-up is remarkably strong, including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, Gran Torino, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, and The Wrestler, among others.  Meanwhile, other prominent films that opened after Thanksgiving are now getting wider release, including Slumdog Millionaire (one of my current favorites), Milk, Rachel Getting Married, and others. 

The result?  A big rush of major movies packed into the final few weeks of the year, and a long, long dry spell during much of the remainder of the year.  The question?  Is the public really unable to absorb and support more serious films at times other than year-end? 

In any case, enjoy the holiday movie season.  And check back here within the next week or so for a list of my TOP 10 FAVORITE MOVIES for 2008.   In the meantime, click here for a link to a previous post with a list of my all-time TOP 10 FAVORITE MOVIES.

 

 

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Mumbai Hotels Re-open

Mumbai is back.  This week, the luxury Oberoi Hotel, Trident Hotel and Taj Mahal Palace and Tower reopened their doors to guests following a five-week closure resulting from the horrific terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of 164 people in Mumbai last month.  In an effort to regain normalcy, the Oberoi and Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, both of which suffered significant structural damage during the three-day siege, have reopened guest rooms and resumed hotel services in limited sections of the hotel, while repairs continue on the more heavily-damaged and burned areas of their properties.  Ceremonies were held at each of the properties to commemorate their re-opening and to pay tribute to the hotel guests, patrons, and employees who lost their lives or were injured during the attacks. 

According to Bloomberg.com, the historic main structure of the iconic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, built in 1903, may not be reopen until Spring 2009 due to the severity of the damage and the amount of restoration work required. 

In an address to the atendees at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower’s re-opening ceremony on December 21, Ratan N. Tata, Chairman of the Indian Hotels Company, Ltd., owner of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, made the following remarks:

“Today has been an incredibly moving day. The Taj has been reopened, after a massive concerted effort, in dedication to all of those who lost their lives in the attacks on Mumbai.  We have heard many stories of magnificent courage and selfless service, not just in the acts of the police and security forces, but also by the staff of the hotel. They have set new standards that we can only hope to aspire to.”

I think it’s a remarkable achievement– and a testament to the strength, determination and resiliency of the people of India– that these luxury properties were able to reopen so quickly following the massive attack last month– an event which has been called by some journalists as “India’s 9/11.”

 

 Above:  A view of the “heritage” wing of the iconic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, in Mumbai, taken on 12/21/08 during the re-opening ceremonies.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times (EPA/STR)

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Happy Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah to all!

Credit: Wondercliparts.com

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Welcome, Winter

  

Winter Solstice occurs today, December 21, at 4:40 AM, PST.  The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, as well as the official start of Winter.  The sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, and its noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice. Hence the origin of the word solstice, which comes from Latin solstitium, from sol, “sun” and -stitium, “a stoppage.”  Following the winter solstice, the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter.

For those of you who are missing the long days of summer, the good news is that each day will now get a bit longer. 

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Christmas Time is Here

Each holiday season, I look forward to watching the 30-minute classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which debuted on television in 1965 as the first of a series of specials based on the classic Peanuts characters created by Charles M. Shulz.  This beloved show was re-issued on DVD in October with remastered video and audio.  

To purchase the remastered deluxe edition DVD from Amazon.com, click here.  

One of the highlights of the film is the haunting song “Christmas Time is Here,” written by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson.  To hear Christmas Time is Here in an excerpt from the show, click on the arrow in the video image below.

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer

Fun for all that children call

Their favorite time of the year

 

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

 

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

 

Christmas time is here
We’ll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year…

CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE
Written by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson
 
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Giving Made Easy

Today’s website is JustGive.org, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to simplify charitable giving by matching donors with appropriate charitable organizations through effective and easy-to-use tools.  For the holiday season, JustGive.org provides an excellent, convenient way to purchase a gift card (e-card or printed and mailed) that allows the recipient to select their own charitable organization from a list of over 1.5 million charities from Just Give’s database.  The purchaser of the gift card receives the benefit of a tax deduction and the recipient is able to make a contribution to his/her favorite charity.  It’s a win for everyone, including the charitable organization!

A reasonable fee of $5.00 is charged to the purchaser of the gift card.

To learn more about JustGive.org, visit their official website by clicking here.  To purchase a Just Give gift card for the holiday season, click here.  And to learn about the JustGive.org mission, board and sponsors, click here.

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NY Times Top 10 Books

Earlier this week, the New York Times published its TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2008, which were selected by the editors of the Book Review from the list of 100 Notable Books of 2008.

NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2008

FICTION

DANGEROUS LAUGHTER
Thirteen Stories
By Steven Millhauser.
Alfred A. Knopf, $24.

In his first collection in five years, a master fabulist in the tradition of Poe and Nabo­kov invents spookily plausible parallel universes in which the deepest human emotions and yearnings are transformed into their monstrous opposites. Millhauser is especially attuned to the purgatory of adolescence. In the title story, teenagers attend sinister “laugh parties”; in another, a mysteriously afflicted girl hides in the darkness of her attic bedroom. Time and again these parables revive the possibility that “under this world there is another, waiting to be born.” (Excerpt)

A MERCY
By Toni Morrison.
Alfred A. Knopf, $23.95.

The fate of a slave child abandoned by her mother animates this allusive novel — part Faulknerian puzzle, part dream-song — about orphaned women who form an eccentric household in late-17th-century America. Morrison’s farmers and rum traders, masters and slaves, indentured whites and captive Native Americans live side by side, often in violent conflict, in a lawless, ripe American Eden that is both a haven and a prison — an emerging nation whose identity is rooted equally in Old World superstitions and New World appetites and fears.

NETHERLAND
By Joseph O’Neill.
Pantheon Books, $23.95.

O’Neill’s seductive ode to New York — a city that even in bad times stubbornly clings to its belief “in its salvific worth” — is narrated by a Dutch financier whose privileged Manhattan existence is upended by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. When his wife departs for London with their small son, he stays behind, finding camaraderie in the unexpectedly buoyant world of immigrant cricket players, most of them West Indians and South Asians, including an entrepreneur with Gatsby-size aspirations.

2666
By Roberto Bolaño. Translated by Natasha Wimmer.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, cloth and paper, $30.

Bolaño, the prodigious Chilean writer who died at age 50 in 2003, has posthumously risen, like a figure in one of his own splendid creations, to the summit of modern fiction. This latest work, first published in Spanish in 2004, is a mega- and meta-detective novel with strong hints of apocalyptic foreboding. It contains five separate narratives, each pursuing a different story with a cast of beguiling characters — European literary scholars, an African-American journalist and more — whose lives converge in a Mexican border town where hundreds of young women have been brutally murdered.

UNACCUSTOMED EARTH
By Jhumpa Lahiri.
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.

There is much cultural news in these precisely observed studies of modern-day Bengali-Americans — many of them Ivy-league strivers ensconced in prosperous suburbs who can’t quite overcome the tug of traditions nurtured in Calcutta. With quiet artistry and tender sympathy, Lahiri creates an impressive range of vivid characters — young and old, male and female, self-knowing and self-deluding — in engrossing stories that replenish the classic themes of domestic realism: loneliness, estrangement and family discord.

NONFICTION

THE DARK SIDE
The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals
By Jane Mayer.
Doubleday, $27.50.

Mayer’s meticulously reported descent into the depths of President Bush’s anti­terrorist policies peels away the layers of legal and bureaucratic maneuvering that gave us Guantánamo Bay, “extraordinary rendition,” “enhanced” interrogation methods, “black sites,” warrantless domestic surveillance and all the rest. But Mayer also describes the efforts ofunsung heroes, tucked deep inside the administration, who risked their careers in the struggle to balance the rule of law against the need to meet a threat unlike any other in the nation’s history.

THE FOREVER WAR
By Dexter Filkins.
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.

The New York Times correspondent, whose tours of duty have taken him from Afghanistan in 1998 to Iraq during the American intervention, captures a decade of armed struggle in harrowingly detailed vignettes. Whether interviewing jihadists in Kabul, accompanying marines on risky patrols in Falluja or visiting grieving families in Baghdad, Filkins makes us see, with almost hallucinogenic immediacy, the true human meaning and consequences of the “war on terror.”

NOTHING TO BE FRIGHTENED OF
By Julian Barnes.
Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95.

This absorbing memoir traces Barnes’s progress from atheism (at age 20) to agnosticism (at 60) and examines the problem of religion not by rehashing the familiar quarrel between science and mystery, but rather by weighing the timeless questions of mortality and aging. Barnes distills his own experiences — and those of his parents and brother — in polished and wise sentences that recall the writing of Montaigne, Flaubert and the other French masters he includes in his discussion.

THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING
Death and the American Civil War
By Drew Gilpin Faust.
Alfred A. Knopf, $27.95.

In this powerful book, Faust, the president of Harvard, explores the legacy, or legacies, of the “harvest of death” sown and reaped by the Civil War. In the space of four years, 620,000 Americans died in uniform, roughly the same number as those lost in all the nation’s combined wars from the Revolution through Korea. This doesn’t include the thousands of civilians killed in epidemics, guerrilla raids and draft riots. The collective trauma created “a newly centralized nation-state,” Faust writes, but it also established “sacrifice and its memorialization as the ground on which North and South would ultimately reunite.”

THE WORLD IS WHAT IT IS
The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul
By Patrick French.
Alfred A. Knopf, $30.

The most surprising word in this biography is “authorized.” Naipaul, the greatest of all postcolonial authors, cooperated fully with French, opening up a huge cache of private letters and diaries and supplementing the revelations they disclosed with remarkably candid interviews. It was a brave, and wise, decision. French, a first-rate biographer, has a novelist’s command of story and character, and he patiently connects his subject’s brilliant oeuvre with the disturbing facts of an unruly life.

Source: The New York Times

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2008 Top 10 Words

“Change” is the Top Word of 2008 according to the annual global survey of the English language by Global Language Monitor.  Meanwhile, the estimated number of words in the English language has increased to 998,751, just 1,249 from the million-word mark.

 

According to Paul JJ Payack, President of The Global Language Monitor, “Global English has been driven by three notable events during the course of 2008: The US Presidential Election, the Financial Tsunami, and the Beijing Olympics.”  He added, “For 2008 our words were culled from throughout the English-speaking world which now numbers some 1.58 billion speakers and includes such diverse cultures as India, China, Philippines, and the EuroZone.”

 

The analysis was completed using GLM’s Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI), a proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in the media and on the Internet. The words are tracked in relation to frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets, factoring in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum and velocity.

 

TOP 10 WORDS OF 2008

 

1.  Change – The top political buzzword of the 2008 US Presidential campaign.
2.  B
ailout – Would have been higher but was not in the media until Mid-September.
3.  O
bamamania – Describing the worldwide reaction to Barack Obama’s campaign and subsequent victory in the US presidential race.
4. 
Greenwashing – Repositioning a product to stress its Earth-friendly attributes.
5. 
Surge – Military and political strategy often cited as reducing violence in Iraq.
6. 
Derivative – Exotic financial instruments used to cleverly package junk-grade debt.
7. 
Subprime – Mortgages that were packaged as derivatives.
8. 
Foreclosure – The end-result of the sub-prime mess.
9. 
Phelpsian:  New word coined to describe the Phelpsian Pheat of winning eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.
10. 
Chinglish – The often amusing Chinese/English language hybrid that Beijing tried to stamp out before the Olympics began.

 

Source: Global Language Monitor

 

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The Nutcracker Returns

The San Francisco Ballet (SFB) returns to San Francisco this month with their highly-acclaimed production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” under the direction of Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson.  This dazzling new interpretation of “The Nutcracker,” set in 1915 San Francisco during the Pan-Pacific International Exhibition, was introduced by the SFB in 2004 to generally ecstatic reviews.  

Performances at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House run from December 11 through December 28.  Tickets can be purchased by phone from the SFB Box Office at 415-865-2000 or online by clicking here.

As part of its 75th Anniversary celebration, the San Francisco Ballet last month introduced a DVD version of its acclaimed The Nutcracker, filmed December 19-20, 2007 at the War Memorial Opera House.  The suggested retail price is $29.99.  To purchase The Nutcracker DVD from the San Francisco Ballet’s official Online Store, click here.  To purchase the DVD from Amazon.com, click here.

To read the San Francisco Chronicle’s 12/13/08 review of the “The Nutcracker,” click here.  To read The New York Times’s review on 12/21/04, click here.

“Five seasons after the unveiling of Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson’s luxurious production, the verdict is clear: This is one of the best “Nutcrackers” in the country and, by my estimation, the most visually elegant.”

   –Rachel Howard, The San Francisco Chronicle

If you want a surefire way to get into the holiday spirit, go see the San Francisco Ballet’s beloved “The Nutcracker” this month or purchase the DVD and enjoy it at home.

Photo Credits: The San Francisco Chronicle

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World Hum

Today’s website/blog is World Hum, a site that I discovered a few weeks ago and am now viewing on a regular basis. 

Here’s a brief description of World Hum from website Editors Jim Benning and Michael Yessis:

“World Hum is for the travel-addicted.  It’s dedicated to harnessing the power of the internet to tell great travel stories—through writing, conversation, slideshows and video. Its focus is the geography of wanderlust.

Most travel publications focus on destinations, offering tips on where to go, where to stay, what to do.  We started World Hum in May 2001 because we wanted to focus not only on destinations but also on the journey, on travel in the broadest sense of the word.

We don’t see travel only as a way to spend a couple weeks’ vacation every year.  For us, travel is a way to see the world when we’re abroad, but also a way to see the world when we’re at home.  Travel is a state of mind.

World Hum is dedicated to exploring travel in all its facets: how it changes us, how it changes the way we see the world, and finally, how travel itself is changing the world.

As for the name, “World Hum” is a phrase from Don DeLillo’s novel “The Names,” and it describes the rush we feel when we travel: a surge of adrenaline, electricity, glee and, sometimes, on this ever-shrinking planet, connection.”

Click here to check out World Hum.

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Today’s Quote

“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good, and the very gentle, and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry.”

    — Ernest Hemingway

To go to previous entries in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Top 10 Irritating Phrases

Researchers at University of Oxford have announced their list of TEN MOST IRRITATING WORDS AND PHRASES FOR 2008.  According to Jeremy Butterfield, lexicographer and author of Oxford A to Z of English Usage, the ten words and phrases were identified based on results from the Oxford University Corpus, an extensive and dynamic database that compiles texts—both written and spoken—in electronic form. Containing over 200 billion words of 21st century English, the Oxford University Corpus provides evidence of actual and contextual language usage worldwide. The database documents various forms of the English language ranging from literary novels, specialist journals, magazines and newspapers to blogs, chatrooms and emails.

The database alerts them to new words and phrases and can tell them which expressions are disappearing. It also shows how words are being misused.

In an interview, Butterfield said “We grow tired of anything that is repeated too often – an anecdote, a joke, a mannerism – and the same seems to happen with some language.”

TOP 10 MOST IRRITATING WORDS AND PHRASES FOR 2008

1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It’s a nightmare
8 - Shouldn’t of
9 - 24/7
10 - It’s not rocket science

 

What do you consider the most irritating word or phrase for 2008?

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Today’s Quote

“Oh!  You cursed brat.  Look what you’ve done.  I’m melting.  Melting!  Oh, what a world!  What a world!   Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?”

   –The Wicked Witch of the West, The Wizard of Oz, 1939

 

To go to previous entries in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Union Square at Night

The holiday season is here and San Francisco’s Union Square district is beautifully decorated and lit.  It looks particularly magical at night.

Above: A night view of San Francisco’s annual Christmas tree in Union Square, a 2.7-acre plaza built in 1850 and the centerpiece of The City’s downtown retail, restaurant and hotel scene.  Below:  An exterior view of the illuminated Christmas tree inside the rotunda of Neiman-Marcus.

Happy Holidays from San Francisco!

Photos taken: 12/12/08

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At the Rrazz Room

 

Vocalist, songwriter and musician Spencer Day returned to San Francisco this week for a limited engagement at the Rrazz Room at the Hotel Nikko to introduce songs from his upcoming album, “Vagabond,” which is targeted for release by a major label next Spring.  His previous CDs include ”Introducing Spencer Day” in 2004 and ”Movie of Your Life” in 2006.   In addition to concert and club dates in the Bay Area, Day teamed up with Rafe Chase on the musical theater piece “Someday, Love,” which premiered at the New Conservatory Theatre Center in 2005. 

Day has been described as a singer/songwriter who combines the talent and style of Harry Connick, Jr, Norah Jones and Chris Isaak.  His musical influences are jazz, soul, blues, country, Broadway, and the American standards songbook.  He gained national fame as a finalist on CBS’s Star Search in 2003.

To learn more about Spencer Day or to view his Schedule of upcoming performances, visit the official Spencer Day website, by clicking here.  Copies of his two CDs (pictured below) are available for purchase online from CD Baby.

 

And, congratulations to Rrazz Entertainment and Hotel Nikko San Francisco for opening the wonderful Rrazz Room following last year’s closure of The City’s beloved Plush Room in the York Hotel.  The new Rrazz Room offers some significant improvements over the old Plush Room, including a larger, more contemporary space with better sight lines, improved acoustics and expanded service bar.  The Rrazz Room is located in the Hotel Nikko San Francisco at 222 Mason Street. 

To view a schedule of upcoming performances at the Rrazz Room or to purchase show tickets, click here

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GorillaPod

If you occasionally find yourself “missing” from travel photos because you’re behind the camera, you might appreciate one of the GorillaPod products from Joby.  The GorillaPod is a lightweight, flexible camera holder that can serve as a traditional tripod as well as a versatile camera holder that you can temporarily attach to stationary objects.

While traveling in India last month, I used a mini GorillaPod and found it very useful and practical.  It also eliminated the need for me to search around for folks to take my photo. 

The GorillaPod is available in four different sizes/configurations (for video cameras, SLRs and compact cameras) and in different colors.  Suggested retail prices range from $24.95 to $54.95.  The products are available directly from Joby, your neighborhood camera store, and numerous online retailers, including Amazon.com.  Click here to view the products from the Joby online store.

If you wish to read previous posts in the “Gadgets, Gizmos, Gear” category, click here.

Photo Credits: Joby

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Get on Board

Today’s website/blog is Boarding Area, a portal site designed to provide business and frequent travelers with easy access to a selection of blogs from industry experts and other seasoned travelers. 

Boarding Area gives you quick, free access to some leading tavel blogs, including View from the Wing, The Gate, The CrankyFlier, One Mile at a Time, and others.  Most of the blogs focus on providing tips, recommendations and insights to frequent fliers, including information on maximizing the value of airline loyalty programs. 

Boarding Area is a nice way to get a quick view of the latest posts from the leading blogs and to quickly click your way to the details. 

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Today’s Quote

“Common sense shows that human life is short-lived and that it is best to make our brief sojourn on this Earth something that is useful to oneself and others.”

   –Dalai Lama

 

To go to previous entries in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Movie: Slumdog Millionaire

This week I saw Slumdog Millionaire, a remarkable new film by Danny Boyle (of ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Shallow Grave’ fame), that tells the harrowing, moving, and ultimately reaffirming story about Jamal Malik, a poor orphan who rises from the slums of Mumbai to win the big jackpot on an Indian TV quiz show.  The film, written by Simon Beaufoy and based on the debut novel “Q & A” by Vikas Swarup, is a thoroughly-original, audacious and deeply disturbing story that is shrewdly laid out in non-linear format.  It also features a wonderful, vibrant fusion of Indian music, dazzling cinematography in deeply-saturated colors, and sharp editing, combined with remarkable performances from a predominantly young cast.  As a bonus, the film includes an exuberant song-and-dance sequence during the final credits, which serves as a nice homage to traditional Bollywood films.

The National Board of Review yesterday named ‘Slumdog Millionaire” as Top Film of 2008.  To read the complete list of all 2008 awards from the National Board of Review, click here.

Slumdog Millionaire joins WALL-E, Chris & Don- A Love Story, Mongol, and The Visitor as one of my favorite films of 2008.  I am guessing that Slumdog Millionaire will nab at least five Oscar nominations– Best Picture, Best Director (Danny Boyle), Best Adapted Screenplay (Simon Beaufoy), Best Achievement in Cinematography (Anthony Dod Mantle), and Best Supporting Actor (Dev Patel).

To learn more about Slumdog Millionaire, visit the official movie website from Fox Searchlight Pictures by clicking here.  To find showtimes at a theatre near you, visit Fandango.com by clicking here.  To read the review from The Los Angeles Times, click here.   And to read the review from The New York Times, click here.

“The best old-fashioned audience picture of the year, a Hollywood-style romantic melodrama that delivers major studio satisfactions in an ultra-modern way.”

   –Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

Watch the trailer from Fox Searchlight Pictures by clicking on the arrow in the video image below.

Photo Credits: Fox Searchlight Pictures

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Today’s Word

Today’s (Japanese) word is KORAERU.  Koraeru roughly means “to endure” or to “withstand hardship or adversity.”  I particularly like this word.

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Top 10 Airports

For the seventh time in ten years, the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) was named the Top Airport in the World according to passenger surveys released by Skytrax.  Second and third place rankings were awarded to Singapore’s Changi Airport and Seoul’s Inchon Airport, respectively.  Not surprisingly, no USA airports were named to the Top 10 List.   

Opened in 1998, at a cost of US$20 billion, the new HKIA at Check Lap Kok replaced the old Kai Tak airport in Kowloon.  The achitects were Foster and Partners. 

SKYTRAX TOP 10 AIRPORTS 2008

Source: Skytrax

 

I was very impressed with the Hong Kong International Airport during my last visit in January 2007.  I thought the design was bright and airy and provided a perfect mix of travel necessities (airline check-in, waiting areas, Passport Control, security checkpoints, and gates), with convenience services (transportation, retail, restaurants, waiting areas, and airline lounges).  The most impressive feature was the beautiful integration of express train service between the airport terminal and key locations in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island (one-way fare ~US$11.00).  Travelers are able to directly board the express trains within the terminal complex for a short (roughly 30-minute) ride to Central in Hong Kong.  And, when departing Hong Kong, travelers can check their baggage and obtain their boarding pass at service counters at the express terminal in Hong Kong, and then simply hop on board the train to the airport.  Easy.  Convenient.  Love it.

As much as I miss the chaos, vibrancy and “drop from the sky” landings at the old Kai Tak Airport, I think the new(ish) HKIA is a stunning archivement.  Go, Hong Kong! 

Above:  View of a typical gate at the Hong Kong International Airport.  Below:  View of the HKIA Check-In Center in Central Hong Kong, where passengers are able to check their baggage and board express trains for the 30-minute ride to the HKIA.

To learn more about the Hong Kong International Airport, go to their official website by clicking here.

Photos taken: January 2007

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Happy Holidays

The 2008 holiday season is underway and Peggy and Lucy are busy with their annual holiday decorating and gift-shopping.  Below, Peggy (left) and Lucy, wearing their stylish holiday scarves,  take a brief pause from a hectic afternoon of decorating activities to send their best wishes to you.

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Today’s Word

Today’s (Thai) word/phrase is MAI PEN RAI.  Mai pen rai roughly means “It’s nothing” and also “Never mind,” “No worries,” or ”Don’t worry about it.”  I think it also represents a Thai way of thinking– “Bend with the wind; like a bamboo tree.”

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