Archive for the ‘Human Interest’ Category

Singing Live on the Radio

Today’s modern radio station has many functions while maintaining a daily voice to keep listeners informed, entertained and occupied as they go about their daily business. But it’s not just about talk and playing the latest hits from a playlist comprised mostly of the top 20 most popular songs of the moment, interlaced with commercials from local businesses and national product and service providers.

People who like to listen to the radio like to experience new things alongside the daily same old same old. So what better way to use some of the valuable radio air time than to give some over to musicians and singers who might enjoy performing their songs live on air?

Some radio stations are already doing this and have been for decades, but these tend to be the smaller local stations eager for anything that will fill their schedule with items that are interesting and entertaining. Just imagine how amazing it would be for musicians and singers to be given the chance to put themselves out there in a live situation and proudly show the world what they can do!

Of course, to get to the level where you can perform live on air without making a bunch of mistakes and sounding awful, you need to be pretty accomplished in your art as well as being well rehearsed and tight. To get there you need to have had some good professional tuition and know exactly what you need to do in order to practise and make your performances as perfect as they can be.

For singers and musicians just starting on along this road, the best recommendation you can get is to take some professional courses such as instrument classes and vocal coaching for singers, which you can read all about at Web Music Star. That’s a great site where you can find reviews on all the top online courses for singers and musicians so you can pick and choose the best one for you.

Being able to play and sing in any live situation to an audience no matter how small or how large takes a lot of dedication to your art in learning the ropes and practising to get yourself perfect. Having a great start by being professionally tutored in the first instance is a great way to take yourself to the next level and beyond so that your performances are always amazing and entertaining for your audience whether they’re sitting in a bar, function room, auditorium or sports stadium or just listening at home on their favourite radio station!

Free Celtic Festival

This weekend, starting the 26th July you’ll be able to catch a really exciting sounding Celtic Festival in Caras Park.  Yes the world famous Celtic festivities brought to our doorsteps and it’s a chance for all to enjoy because it’s absolutely free.

With weather forecasts predicting a sunny weekend, then the Missoula Celtic Festival is set to be a real winner.  The organizers promise a combination of all sorts of Celtic entertainment, including Irish bands and dancing.

It’s not all Scottish and Irish entertainers though, as many local bands are participating too.  Some of the best of Montana’s rock bands should be in evidence during the weekend. Also the Missoula Irish dancing troupe will be performing through the weekend.

Saturday is the family day, with a kids area starting at noon and finishing early evening.   There will be lots of contests and lessons plus kids demonstrations to enjoy.

The evening will be for the adults with  a Irish rock concert with the headliners the Young Dubliners.  They are a very popular Irish band who have played Missoula before and are well worth watching if you’re in the area.  For many of us who enjoy this sort of music it’s a much more economical option than flying out to Dublin and Scotland.  In fact I have to watch most of these concerts online and have only just managed to get access to some on the Irish Broadcaster channel – RTE.

For those who are interested you can’t normally access all the Gaelic stuff on these channels from outside Ireland.  There are options though and I’ve been using this Smart DNS service – here, with great success to access the channel.  In fact it’s worth checking out, for other people too as it gives access to loads of other channels and someone actually got it working on my Roku as well as being able to switch which version of Netflix I can stream – there’s a link to a the best Smart DNS Service I used.

Commercial Media Sites ITV Player

I’ve always been very interested in what the future holds for them many media sites that operate online.  Some are there to genuinely embrace the medium, many sometimes look like they made a site just because they thought they better had.   You can see different approaches depending on which sector – radio sites are probably the most diverse, newspaper sites cover a wide area and there’s been enormous investment in some of the big broadcasters across the world like NBC, BBC and the UK’s biggest commercial station – ITV.


There’s no doubt that the biggest and arguably the best online media site is one of the pioneers – the BBC.  They have an advantage obviously with the backing of a UK license fee which anyone who owns a TV set has to pay, but they also pioneered the online streaming of television broadcasts.  You can see it in the quality of the site and how it has developed over the years, for anyone not in the UK you’ll need to use something like this to access it – Watch UK TV abroad.

But there huge advantage as mentioned is funding doesn’t have to be directly generated from the website.  The BBC can look at the BBC iPlayer as part of their overall strategy and not a specific income generation tool.  Of course commercial operations can’t operate like this, the costs involved in the website, infrastructure and bandwidth to stream programmes across the internet are substantial and that cost has to be covered some way.

Initially it looked like copying the broadcasters original model was going to be the way forward.  Just as streaming radio sites run adverts on their shows, TV stations ran video adverts during their content too.    At first there were problems in that viewers were speeding past the videos and not watching them, until at least  the players were adapted to counteract that.

In the UK the main commercial site – ITV was quite slow to develop their web site, but it’s now quite slick operation.   Anyone in the UK can use the ITV Player application to watch the vast majority of their broadcasts (apart from those licensed from other stations).  The adverts are compulsory and you are unable to fast forward them as was previously the case.   For anyone outside the UK, you’re going to have to impersonate a Brit – try this video – watch ITV Player in the USA.

This operated very similar to the US site Hulu, but both companies have seen the chance to extend their revenue model by operating a premium version of the site.  This involves paying a subscription fee were you can watch without the commercial breaks and have access to broadcasts for a longer period of time.   It seems likely that these benefits of these ‘Premium versions’ will expand and more shows will only be available on the paid sites.  It’s something that’s already happening in the Newspaper sector where the best news media sites are nearly all paid subscriptions now (with some noteable exceptions.)

It will be interested to see how these sectors develop over the next few years, but it seems likely more and more content on the internet will involve a paid subscription – a rather depressing thought.

Should Creationists be Speaking at a University?

There is controversy in the air at Montana Tech over the speakers list at the upcoming graduation ceremony.   There is a large contingent of students who are upset at two speakers who are prominent supporters of creationism.  In fact Greg and Susan Gianforte are engineers who make financial contributions to an earth creationist museum.

It’s called the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum, which presents it’s fossils in the context of biblical creation.  Of course most non-creationists would be rather confused how you present something millions of years old in the context of a 16,000 year old planet.   The students don’t like it though, stating that the couple are campaigners against science and should not be allowed to speak.

I feel this image is appropriate …….



It’s a difficult decision really, a University should be open minded and allow a platform for all valid arguments.  Unfortunately creationism really doesn’t make any sense and ALL the scientific facts state it’s nonsense too.  If scientists start believing in something like creationism they might as well go home as they can’t believe anything that is true either.

I’m kind of pleased the students are making a stand, there’s been some pretty pointless protests in Universities over the years but preserving truth is kind of a good one.   Others may point out that in Turkey creationists actively block access to anything that disagrees with their world view.  You can’t access many atheist web sites for instance without investing in fast proxy service like this to bypass.   Over the years there religious leaders have blocked access to other sites too – including the social networking site Facebook.

The couple have promised to not talk about their religious beliefs and are unlikely to attempt to disprove evolution in their keynote speeches.  It is nevertheless a place of learning and academia – and if you start believing that creationism is true you have a very different building ….it’s called a church.

Missolula’s New Film Makers

Making your first film during your retirement sounds an incredibly daunting prospect, but that’s exactly what Jan and Harold Hoem have done.  At the start of the project they didn’t even know how to use a video camera, but last week saw the premiere of their new film – a documentary called “Coal Road to China”.

It tells the story of coal, the fossil fuel that causes so much debate and so much damage to the environment.  The impetus for this film is the new coal export terminals which are being built in the North West.  These will help process the coal leaving from the mining in Missoula and sending the produce across the sea to China to fuel their massive industrial growth.

The documentary is written from a environmentalists viewpoint and includes interviews from several climate scientists and prominent environmentalists.   It is thought provoking and beautifully filmed for an amateur production.  One line made me think – “The pollution from coal burned in China comes back to us on air currents faster than the ships that took the coal there in the first place.”

It is a film that features many areas from Missoula and surrounding regions, it works as story as well as making some important environmental points.  The couple certainly did some travelling too whilst filming, they estimated that the traveled about 5000 miles including trips to Montana and Wyoming – both filming and researching the routes that coal takes from the mines.

The US is often criticized for it’s lack of concern for environmental issues, especially when it conflicts with economic concerns.  This film shows that there is a genuine worry about the environmental impact of coal mining both locally and obviously a global scale.  In some terms it relies me a little about some of the concerns being voiced in Australia who are among the biggest suppliers of fossil fuels to China.  There is increasing concern there especially when linked to the climate change effects on the country – you can get a feel of them in news reports and documentaries aired on the Australian media such as ABC Iview – use this proxy based in Australia to be able to watch from Missoula.

The debate is an important one and a “Coal Road to China” will almost certainly make you think about the potential issues and the path that the human race is taking.  It’s refreshing to see the concerns raised by real people who have no agenda, just a retired couple who genuinely care.  There are many environmental resources available online but my favorites come from the main UK broadcaster the BBC, you can access the site and all the documentaries online by masking your IP address (this video shows how)

The documentary is supported by MELT, the Montana Environmental Information Center, the Sierra Club, and the Northern Plains Resource Council.

Famous Sons and Daughters of Missoula

I read an interesting article the other day which listed the famous TV/film people born in Missoula.  There’s actually a whole set of lists on the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) website, it’s definitely worth a look if you are interested in films.

So is Missoula the home of thousands of movie superstars?  Well unfortunately not but it does have quite a few famous actors who were born here.  Possibly one of the most famous is the writer and director David Lynch.  He was born in 1946 in this city although he was raised in many cities as his father moved around a lot with his work.

He is of course famous for many great films and TV shos including Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet and Mullholland Drive to name but a few.  probablu one of the most famous current actors born in Missoula is Jesse Tyler Ferguson who has been a successful TV actor for many years.  He’s also starred in such films as Untraceable and Modern Family which were both box office successes.

For not so serious actors Missoula can count Dana Carvey as one of its own.  He was of course one of the stars of the box office smash – Waynes World which was released 20 years ago !!  I can’t believe the film is that old.  Although Carvey is probably better known nowadays for his stage shows where he excels in live routines.

Scott Michale Campbell starred in the remake of one of my favourite films – Flight of the Phoenix.    It tells the story of a group of people who are stranded in the desert when their plane crashes.  It’s a good little remake but not in the  league of the orginal.  His biggest role was probably Brokeback Mountain though which won several Oscars in 2005.

Incidentally if you enjoy TV shows and films it’s worth checking out the various online media sites.  Sites like Hulu, ABC and NBC rebroadcast a lot of their stuff online.  There are also some great dramas and documentaries available from UK based sites like BBC, Channel 4 and 5 online, although it should be noted that you will need access to a UK IP address to view these – this site shows how -  Be warned though the same restrictions apply to Hulu and others, so if you are outside the US for any reason you may not be able to connect through to  these sites without and American IP.

Being Aware of Your Diet

In a follow up to a previous post on the rising numbers of overweight and obese residents in Missoula where diet was highlighted as the major cause of the problem, it might be helpful to take a closer look at how people’s awareness of what they’re eating and drinking factors into the equation. That’s because when you look at it from an objective standpoint, it appears a lot of good can be gained from being more aware of what is being consumed on a daily basis.

But how do you become more aware of what you’re eating? That’s the main question we’ll be considering in this installment as we look at ways to make it easier to identify where some people are going wrong and to offer a healthier and more positive alternative to the problem.

Write it All Down

One of the most powerful ways of raising awareness of the things that you are consuming every day is to write down in a notepad every single thing that passes your lips every day for a week or longer if possible. The best way to do this is to keep a notepad and pen handy with you at all times and simply jot down what it is you eat and drink every time throughout each day.

Don’t go back and review it at the end of each day or even at any frequency, but just keep a daily record of your food and drinks consumption. You can review it all at the end of the week.

Using the Information

After the first week of keeping a daily diary of your food intake, you should then spend some time going back through the diary and looking at what you have written down. You may begin to see patterns in your eating habits where you are perhaps snacking between meals on high calorie sweet or savory things and maybe drinking a can of soda here and there.

Once you can see the obvious big calorie spikes throughout each day, you can take that information forward and look for ways to stamp them out. The best way to do that if you don’t think you have the will power to go cold turkey is to find alternatives.

Replacing the Bad with the Good

This can really make a difference to your weight if you can start replacing the high calorie snacks with other options and get into the habit of doing it every day. You will have identified the worst offenders through your daily food diary, so start by tackling those first.

If there is a slice of pie with a coffee or a can of soda mid morning for instance, then replace it with something else you like to eat that is much lower in calories and healthier, such as an apple or other piece of fresh fruit and swap the soda for a glass of plain water. It might seem strange at first, but do it anyway and after a while you’ll really get into enjoying it a whole lot more.

Go through your day systematically replacing bad foods with good ones and before too long, your reduced calorie intake will have a marked effect on your body weight as it drops steadily. You can read more about diet awareness and how it can help you manage your weight by visiting this website: and taking some time to read the articles there that expand on this practice in more detail.

Party Politics

Just as with the great chicken argument in Missoula, there is a split in the local community on the Thai island of Koh Phangan about the famous (or infamous) Full Moon Party that sees an invasion of young people descend upon the usually sleepy Thai island for a week of sex, drugs and trance music. There are those who welcome the shot in the arm that the party gives the economy of the island, and there are those who bitterly oppose how the party has changed the island.

Every month between 20 and 30 thousand people descend on Koh Phangan. Many come 3 or 4 days before the main party to get a cheap bungalow in Haad Rin. The parties start a week before the Full Moon. There is the famous foam party held by the Drop in Club. All the bars along the beach crank up the music to draw in the punters.

On the night of the party, the small town of Haad Rin becomes inundated with fluorescent paint daubed youngsters getting drunk, taking illicit substances and displaying a remarkable lack of embarrasment. It is like New Year’s eve every month.

The bars on Haad Rin Nai and Haad Rin Nok beaches take a lot of money as do the small ’bucket stands’ between the bars. The prices for accommodation not only in Haad Rin but all over the island go up and so the resorts also do very well from the party. And then there are after parties that go on until the following night that also do very well.

On the other hand, those who do not want to party but live in Haad Rin find it imposssible to sleep for 48 hours. The beach and town are inevitably left with lots of litter, broken glass and passed out bodies to deal with. The one hospital on the island cannot cope with the numerous injuries and ’psychological’ problems the party causes.

The police force have a field day collecting tourists who break the law and throw them in the cells. Their fate is usually a hefty fine and sometimes jail time. And of course, Thailand is traditionally a conservative Buddhist culture. The party is an affront to the traditional peaceful and reserved way of doing things in Thailand.

The debate between those who want the party and those that don’t is one that cannot be easily resolved. One small step in the right direction is the recent move to charge entry for the party. Some of this revenue is used to clean up the beach.

Hotel Chat

I once won a free night in a hotel in Japan when I was visiting friends from Missoula who were working out there. We went to karaoke and after we entered a free raffle. My partner and I drew out a lucky number and won a night in a hotel in the mountains. It was a famous holiday place locally, and so we thought what the hell? Let’s give it a try. The hotel was in nice mountain scenery but next to a freeway! The room was dull and like a million other Western style hotel rooms. The TV had 3 channels.

We took a bath and then decided to go for a walk before dinner. We discovered there was no pavement and thus very few walking options considering the busy road.

We fiddled around with the massage chairs upstairs while waiting for dinner. The dining room was full of old dears wearing sleeping kimonos. Everyone had crab and lots of side dishes. They tucked in heartily and soon were done. No sitting around drinking. The bar closed at 10pm. I was so bored. I’m never going to stay in a hotel like that again.

In contrast, we stayed in Bangkok on the way to Europe to visit some other friends. We got a last minute deal on a hotel in Siam called Siam@Siam Design. From the stiff formality of the Japanese into a hotel as cool as ice. It had a hard edge minimalist design and a Thai atmosphere. The bar crowd was a mix of Westerners and young monied Bangkok Thais. While being very modern, it was also very revealing about Thailand.

Bangkok is one of the most cosmopolitan cities I’ve been to. Around our hotel were shopping malls, Starbucks, banks and galleries. A few stops up the river were the amazing Grand Palace and reclining Buddha statue.

The difference in hotel experiences is marked. I would rather pay $60 to stay in a chic hotel in one of the best cities in the world than get a free night in a hotel eating free crab.

Don’t Be Taken In By TV Diet Commercials

They do a very good job of reminding you that you’re overweight and you need to do something about it, while suggesting the perfect remedy to your condition that is all too easy to sign up for and get started with. They are the television commercials for an array of different diet companies that are beating a path to your door to get you signed up with their latest, greatest success story diet that will have you getting back into shape in no time at all!

But don’t be taken in by these cleverly designed advertisements that can have you eating out of their hands in no time at all and reaching for your credit card soon after. They are not there to entertain you or to give you real hope. Their remit is to get you to want the diet they are promoting so bad that you fall for the false hope they dish out and find yourself fumbling for a pen to get the contact details so you can sign up as soon as is humanly possible.

Television commercials use the “wow factor” to visually and aurally stimulate your desire radar using well worn techniques for making you want their product so bad you are prepared to get on the phone or reach for your laptop to open the company webpage and sign up. The most successful diets that use TV advertising are virtually household names, like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem. So what can a person do to create their own pattern interrupt and take a step back long enough to see through all the hype and glamour and take some time out to do the necessary research on a particular diet program so they can at least make an informed decision as to whether to sign up or not.

One of the best ways to change the direction of your thought patterns is to grab your laptop and seek out some diet program customer review websites, then take some time to read through what real people thought of the program they chose. This will give you some real world perspective and keep you from making a big mistake if the diet turns out to get a particularly bad press from customers. On the other hand there may be enough evidence to make the diet worth your while investigating further as a potential solution to your weight problem. Either way, it is far better to go into any diet program with some facts and figures and eyes wide open so that you can rest assured that your money will be well spent and not wasted on a dud.

Why Sales Can Seriously Damage Your Health

Talk radio has always been a good forum for debate and so I’d like to bring a bit of that debating here! And the topic for today is out of control consumerism. I’m not some sort of hug a tree earth mother who gives her kids sticks as a birthday present, hell I seem to buy her a new set of Hello Kitty earrings almost every week, but I simply can’t, and won’t, get my head around the some of the antics my fellow humans get up to during a shopping trip.

This article is inspired by the news item concerning an employee of a retail outlet who was trampled to death, yes death, by a crowd of shoppers who went berserk during a Black Friday fire sale. This was reported in the New York Times by the way, I mention this because I imagine many of you will just assume I’m making the whole thing up, and why wouldn’t you!? The story reports that one man was killed and several other members of staff injured when crazed sale shoppers broke through the locked doors of their local Walmart. Now crazy behavior during sale is nothing new, it’s been going on for years and it’s not uncommon for arguments to blow up between customers and stores to be left in such a state that they look like a battlefield.

However, never in a million years would I have believed that a group of shoppers would just ignore and trample over a member of staff and leave him there on the floor to die. I’m sure some of these same shoppers must have walked past him on the way out, as he was wheeled into the ambulance. What went through their heads? Did they care that they’ed killed a man to get a cheap TV?

And if you were in any doubt, women are just as bad, if not worse, than men when it comes to this consumer insanity. I also read that in a Toys R Us two men shot each other and both died when they started fighting over a much sought after toy. And why did they start fighting? Because their wives had started the fist fight between themselves in the first place. This kind of consumerism is a disease…discuss!


Could You Live in a Developing Country?

In these troubled economic times in America it is tempting to give up on the American dream and to emigrate to a foreign country. It is not something as commonly done in the USA as Brits who move to Australia; but it is increasingly becoming a tempting option fro some Americans. Whereas many Americans fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft, the parlous condition of many Americans lives have made them think about seeking their fortune elsewhere.

Whereas developed countries in Europe as well as Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand are often expensive to relocate to, they offer more security and perhaps better career opportuniities. Or do they? Traditionally, many Brits went to Hong Kong until the reunification of the island with mainland China. There they made their fortunes and better lives for themselves then they could have done at home.

Many young people go traveling and they find a country and a culture that they truly love. They get a job, learn the language and end up staying permanently in a different country. These people often sacrifice material possessions for what they percieve as a better quality of life.

Today visa restrictions are tighter than ever, and as a consequence it is not always easy to start afresh in a new country. In some professions such as diving people are continually evading the law moving from one country to the next. They do this because they love diving.

A popular place to start a business is Thailand. It is a country blessed with great weather, a good standard of living and cheap living costs. People go to Koh Samui, Phuket, Changmai, Koh Lipe, Khao Lak and Koh Phangan often with the intention of setting up a small bar and living the rest of their lives in a tropical idyll. Other than running the gauntlet of continually applying for non-immigrant visas the only solutions are retirement visas or marrying a Thai. There are many success stories in Thailand of ex-pats making a new life for themselves, there are more horror stories of being cheated in business and even being posioned by their spouses.

The risks are high relocating to a developing country, but the dream remains. Maybe more so than the American dream.