Polar Bears May Get Protection

Sometime within the next 12 months, polar bears may be added as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

In the last few years, polar bear numbers have experienced a steady decline due to loss of habitat as a result of global warming.

Find more information about polar bears and conservation efforts at the following sources:
- US Fish & Wildlife Service
- Greenpeace
- National Geographic


Five From My Playlist - 12/12/2006

From my Best of Christmas...

1. "O Holy Night" - David Phelps, featuring Anthony Burger on the piano. "Homecoming Friends - Christmas in the Country". This rendition of the beautiful Christmas classic gives me chills. David Phelps is certainly one of the most talented singers I have ever heard.

2. "The First Noel / Mary, Mary" - Sarah McLachlan. "Wintersong". Sarah's new album is fabulous. I love every song on there, but this one is my favorite.

3. "Mary Did You Know" - Mark Lowry. "Homecoming Friends - Christmas, A Time for Joy". This dramatic rendition by the songwriter of this modern classic is very impressive. This song also features Anthony Burger on the piano. Wow.

4. "Jesus the Light of the World" - Jessy Dixon. "Homecoming Friends - Joy to the World". I love the take on this spiritual carol.

5. "Merry Christmas, My Love" - Allison Durham Speer. "Homecoming Friends - Christmas, A Time for Joy". Allison wrote this beautiful Christmas love song.


Banker for the Poor

Dr. Muhammad Yunus, also known as the "Banker for the Poor", and his Grameen Bank won the Nobel Prize for 2006.

Dr. Yunus started his bank by giving small loans to some of the poorest women in the world. These women would never qualify for traditional bank loans. The money empowered the women, and helped them to build their own businesses. The bank also gives them access to other financial services.

As the recepients of the loans pay back their loan, the money is then distributed to others in need of a loan.

Find out more about Dr. Yunus and the Grameen Foundation at the foundation's website.


Green & Noteworthy - Limited Brands Announces New Environmental Policy

Limited Brands, owner of retail brand Victoria's Secret, announced a new and refreshing environmental policy.

The company will cease in using paper made of pulp from natural wildlife refuges, and use 10% post consumer content (recycled) or paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council instead. The clearance catalogs already use 80% post-consumer recycled content. 10% may seem small, but considering the mass mailings for Victoria's Secret, this number will definitely make a difference.

See the whole press release here.


Silent Reef Destroyers

The deceivingly beautiful creature that you see in this photograph is destroying one of our earth's most valuable natural habitats.

The Crown of Thorns Starfish feeds on the hard coral that is vital to the foundation of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. In the past number of years, the population of these animals has grown so largely, that they are destroying coral at a much faster rate than it can recover.

The Crown of Thorns Starfish is a natural part of the ecological system in the area. However, with the chemicals introduced into the water by farming and the removal of the animal's natural predators by over-fishing, the population has skyrocketed.

The rate at which these animals are destroying the reef is quite alarming.

There is not an easy solution to this problem without further affecting the ecosystem. Currently, there is a program which employs divers that patrol the reef. The divers use the Starfish's own venom, injected in each of its legs, to destroy the animal. This process is extremely unefficient because of the rate at which the population of the animal grows.

Discovery HD Theater aired an excellent documentary on the subject, entitled "Predators of the Great Barrier Reef", that provides lots of information and high quality footage of the reef. You can also find more information on the subject by going to the control program's website - here.


Person to Watch: Barack Obama

The US Senator of Illinois, Barack Obama, first made headlines around the nation with his captivating speech at the Democratic Convention during the last election.

Since that time, Obama's name has been popping up all over the place. He has been touring the nation (and the world) with a message of hope for the growing population of government cynics.

Right now our govenment needs to be less focused on party lines (goodbye red & blue, hello purple!) and more focused on fixing problems. Could this be the guy to make that happen?


New Music: Josh Groban

One of my favorite singers, Josh Groban has a new album out this month entitled "Awake". This album features more original material than the previous albums, but it maintains Josh's signature strong tenor sound.

Also noteworthy of this album is that Josh has teamed up with the beautifully pure acapella sound of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. (If you have never heard LBM before, you definitely should look them up. You can find more out more about them here.)

1. Mai
2. You are Loved (Don't Give Up)
3. Un Dia Llegara
4. February Song*
5. L'Ultima Notte
6. So She Dances*
7. In Her Eyes
8. Solo Por Ti
9. Now or Never
10. Un Giorno Per Noi
11. Lullaby (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo)*
12. Weeping (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Vusi Mahlasela)*
13. Machine (with Herbie Hancock)
14. Verita [Bonus]
15. Awake [Bonus]
16. Smile [Bonus]

"February Song":


Artist Spotlight: TaRanda Greene

Congratulations to TaRanda Greene, a friend of ours from Boone, who won both female artist of the year and song of the year from The Southern Gospel Music Awards.

TaRanda's sophomore solo project - "A Thing Called Love" contains a delightful mix of upbeat, catchy tunes (such as "Sky Full of Angels", which won the song of the year) to the powerfully worshipful experience of "Redeemer".

TaRanda sings with The Greenes, a traditional Southern Gospel group headquartered in North Carolina. They make appearances throughout the country, so go hear them if you get the chance. You can also see them on the Gaither Homecoming series. For more information, visit The Greenes website.


New Music: Sarah McLachlan

I have been a fan of Sarah's since I first heard her "Surfacing" album back in the late 90s (especially "Do What You Have To Do"). Anway, I was thrilled to hear that she was releasing a Christmas album.

Wintersong is just as fabulous as I imagined that it would be.

1. Happy Xmas (War is Over)
2. What Child is This? (Greensleeves)
3. River
4. Wintersong
5. I'll Be Home for Christmas
6. O Little Town of Bethlehem
7. The First Noel / Mary Mary (I think this one may be my favorite)
8. Silent Night
9. Song for a Winter's Night
10. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
11. In the Bleak Mid-Winter
12. Christmas Time is Here


Please Pray for Lillie

We just found out Lillie, the two and a half year old daughter of Jonathan's cousin, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, a rare but particularly agressive childhood cancer.

Please remember Lillie, her parents (Cory & Michelle) and her sister Hannah in your prayers.

Lillie's blog is here.


Make A Difference - Become (RED)

Each year 30 million people die of complications from AIDS. 60% (20 million) of these people live in Africa. AIDS is the leading cause of death right now in Africa. 5,500 Africans die each day from this disease.

These numbers are staggering. Countless numbers of these deaths occur simply because the victim did not have the financial ability or the access to obtain medication that could prolong his or her life.

There is a new campaign that has been put together by Bono and Bobby Shriver that will help raise money from the private sector to go to AIDS funding. The campaign is called (RED). The (RED) campaign has teamed up with iconic brands such as Armani, Gap, Converse and several others to produce (RED) branded products. A significant portion of the proceeds from these products will go to The Global Fund, assisting women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.

To find out more about the (RED) campaign and the products available for purchase here.


Artist Spotlight: The East Village Opera Company

Opera meets Rock in a blend that you have never quite heard before. And the result is amazing. That's what you get with The East Village Opera Company. The group features two powerful vocalists backed by an extremely talented band. Get ready to hear "La Donna E Mobile" as you have never heard it before.

I love every song on the CD, but my favorite is "When I Am Laid In Earth". The band really shines in their version of "Overture" (from "Le Nozze di Figaro).

This is definitely a fun and exciting spin on Opera.


Levi Strauss Goes "Eco" Friendly

Jeans staple Levi Strauss announced a new "Eco" collection of denim for the Fall of 2006. The new jeans will be made completely of organic cotton. Additional eco products will be announced next spring.

Why go organic? Organic cotton is grown with innovative, biologically safe methods without the use of agri-chemicals. Agri-chemicals are often toxic to the environment.

To find out more about organic cotton, go here:


Artist Spotlight: Joshua Radin

Lately I have been really into soulful folk rock with powerful lyrics and an equally powerful voice. Joshua Radin illustrates all of the above. His soft, yet strong poetic lyrics celebrate the beauty that love can be, even in heartbreak.

Visit his website for more information.


Five From My Playlist - 07/19/2006

1) "Closer" - Joshua Radin. This soft acoustical track takes me to a warm summer day with a cool breeze floating through the air. Really the whole album does. Sigh.

2) "Nothing in My Way" - Keane. So far I've been impressed with every song I've heard from this group. This melody makes me smile.

3) "Put Your Records On" - Corinne Baily Rae. A catchy tune with a fun message.

4) "Raindance" - K'Zula. I was looking for a relaxing track featuring African tribal drums. I found it.

5) "Main Ki Malhar" - Shivkumar Sharma. I wanted a track featuring the sitar, a traditional Indian stringed instrument. I found that too!


Five From My Playlist - 06/19/2006

1) "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" - Bing Crosby. My grandfather sang this song during our visit this past weekend. It really touched my heart to hear him talking about how he sang it to my grandmother.

2) "The Heart of the Matter" - India.Arie. India's smooth, soothing voice brings life into this cover.

3) "Crooked Teeth" - Death Cab for Cutie. Just a great simple song.

4) "Hey There Delilah" - Plain White T's. A beautifully sweet love song.

5) "Redemption Song" - Bob Marley. Marley at his best.


Dance Through the Ages

The best 6 minutes you will spend all day...


Five From My Playlist - 06/13/2006

This list is from an amazing pair of singers with a very similar style...

1) "Fool" - Donavon Frankenreiter. This is the best new song I've heard in a long time. The bass line is awesome.


2) "That's Too Bad" - Donavon Frankenreiter. A blues-y, jazz-y great.

3) "Constellations" - Jack Johnson. A beautiful song that will make you want to lay outside and watch the stars at night.

With Eddie Vedder:

4) "Banana Pancakes" - Jack Johnson. A lovely picture of a lazy day morning with your love.

5) "Do You Remember" - Jack Johnson. A whimsical love song reminiscing about the beginning of the romance.


Five From My Playlist - 06/06/2006

1) "Call and Answer" - Barenaked Ladies. This song was on a wedding collection. Um, not sure it's all that appropriate for the wedding, considering the hook, but it still is a great song.

2) "Steady, As She Goes" - The Raconteurs. This new song is different, but really cool.

3) "Somewhere Only We Know" - Keane. I fell in love with this song when I heard it on the background of "The Lake House" commercials.

4) "The Middle" - Jimmy Eat World. This is such a fun song.

5) "One Year, Six Months" - Yellowcard. - A great song for summer.


Five From My Playlist - 05/12/2006

1) "Tainted Love" - Soft Cell.  Classic 80s.

2) "Green Grass" - Cibelle. This CD is like nothing I've ever heard. Cibelle has a beautiful voice. Some of the CD is a little more than my tastes, but this song is sweet.

3) "The Cross Said It All" - Kim Hopper. This song has an amazing message.

4) "L'Amour" - Carla Bruni. Carla has a beautiful voice. A beautiful voice singing in French is breathtaking. The whole "Queslqu'un m'a dit" CD is fabulous.

5) "Upside Down" - Jack Johnson. Speaking of beautiful voices, I have recently become a devoted fan of Jack Johnson and his soothing melodies.


Artist Spotlight: The 5 Browns

I love to hear the piano. Throw in FIVE pianos, and I am definitely in awe. That's what I came across while downloading music - a talented group of 5 pianists. According to the New York Post, "One family, five pianos and 50 fingers add up to the biggest classical music sensation in years."

You can learn more about the Browns at their website. They currently have two albums available. "No Boundaries" (pictured) is their latest project.


Five From My Playlist - 05/03/2006

1) "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" - KT Tunstall. This track would fit right in on a Classic Rock station, but it's new.

2) "Standing Still" - Jewel. This ballad has been out a good while, but I really like the lyrics.

3) "Hanging By A Moment" - Lifehouse. Their latest single ("You and Me") is great, but I think this one is awesome.

4) "It's the End of the World As We Know It" - R.E.M. I have always been a fan of R.E.M., and this is my favorite of their songs.

5) "Green Onions" - Booker T. & the M.G.'s. This fun-loving instrumental is an all-time classic.


Five From My Playlist - 04/17/2006

Here's five more...

1) "Just a Little Talk With Jesus" - J.D. Sumner. J.D. had the world's record for the lowest voice. Listen, and be impressed.

2) "Let Us Break Bread Together" - The Stamps Quartet. This is J.D.'s quartet. Their blend is an example of harmonic perfection.  Pay close attention to the bass on this one too.

3) "Someone to Watch Over Me" - Ella Fitzgerald. A classic from the jazz great.

4) "Like a Rolling Stone" - Bob Dylan. Rolling Stone magazine called this the best song of the century. That may be a bit of an overstatement, but it is a great song.

5) "Over My Head (Cable Car)" - The Fray. I'm just in love with this song. It describes betrayal, and that feeling you get when things are not in your control.


Annie's Song

One of the most beautiful love songs ever written, by John Denver.


Five From My Playlist - 04/08/2006

These five are all from the remarkable Michael Bublé...

1) "Fever" - This track perfectly displays Michael's unique style.

2) "Sway" - This will make you want to grab a partner and dance the night away.

3) "Can't Buy Me Love" - Michael has a fabulously jazzy spin on this Beatles classic.

4) "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" - A fun version of this great Queen song.

5) "I've Got a Crush On You" - Hallmark released a phenomenal Valentine's CD


Five From My Playlist - 04/06/2006

I'm now a big fan of The Ten Tenors. Here's five of my favorites of theirs...

1) "Stonde" - Wow. This song is just beautiful. Truly beautiful.

2) "Destiny Lies" - This song shows the Tenors amazing harmonic range.

3) "Bohemian Rhapsody" - I love the spin on this Queen classic.

4) "Funiculi, Funicula" - The Tenors add a lot in their shows. At their Raleigh appearance, they had a great comedic routine with this song. (It may be one of those you just have to see...)

5) "Opera Without the Boring Bits" - The Tenors promise to show you the fun side of opera. This is probably another song that's best to see in person!


Five From My Playlist - 03/24/2006

I've been revisiting some more tracks from a few years back. Here's my latest list...

1) "Last Kiss" - Pearl Jam. A haunting song, made especially so by Eddie Vedder's emotionally lined voice.

2) "Give Me One Reason" - Tracy Chapman & Eric Clapton. I've always liked Tracy's version, but I recently came across this duet with Eric Clapton. It's great.

3) "Shot You Down" - Nancy Sinatra. I recently re-watched the Kill Bill movies again, and this song is just so appropriate for the Bride.

4) "God Walks the Dark Hills" - Vestal Goodman. The Queen of Southern Gospel outdid herself on this one. Another one of my favorites that she brings a lot to is "Rock of Ages"

5) "Killing Me Softly" - The Fugees. Lauryn Hill has such a soulful voice, and it really makes the remake of this song.


Five From My Playlist - 03/13/2006

Latest five on my list...

1) "The Scientist" - Coldplay. A beautiful love song.

2) "Right Here" - Staind. I love the emotional plea in this song.

3) "Girl Next Door" - Saving Jane. I wish I would have known this song in high school.

4) "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been" - Relient K. This track is just so out of the normal, that I find it interesting.

5) "Bad Day" - Daniel Powter. Everyone has bad days, right? The video makes me like this song even more. I feel that it will quickly be overplayed, though, if the local radio station is any indication. Video is copyrighted, but here is the audio.


Legendary Pianist Dies Suddenly

On February 22, legendary Steinway pianist Anthony Burger passed away suddenly while playing for one of the Gaither Homecoming cruises.

Burger was an extremely talented musician who often brought the audience to their feet in amazement while performing.

Further information on his life and career can be found at his website.


Artist Spotlight: The Ten Tenors

The Ten Tenors create beautiful harmony with beautiful songs. The group formed in 1995 when all original ten were studying opera in their native Australia. Now they have perfected their dynamic into a fabulously entertaining show of lights, music (of course), comedy and even dance.

The group highlights a wide variety of music styles from Opera ("Without the boring bits") to Queen (their "Bohemian Rhapsody" rendition is superb, as is their "Bicycle Race"). One of the most beautiful songs I have heard is their version of "Stonde". The Ten Tenors have something for everyone. Catch them when they are in your area!

(Just ignore the Quality of the picture on this next one!)


Five From My Playlist - 02/02/2006

Here are some more..

1) "Blueberry Hill" - Fats Domino. I love this guy. This song is a long-time favorite of mine.

2) "Answer" - Sarah McLachlan. This song was featured on an episode of General Hospital. It is just lovely.

3) "By the Mark" - Gillian Welch. I really don't like country, but I do like bluegrass. Yes, that's possible. And this song proves it.

4) "I Wanna Go to Heaven" - Mark Lowry. This is such a fun song. Mark sings all 4 parts, and the lyrics will make you smile. Here he performs with three others, but you still get to gear the lyrics.

5) "Extraordinary" - Liz Phair. A powerful song from a female perspective.


Five From My Playlist - 01/15/2006

Here's 5 more...

1) "Sunrise" - Norah Jones. Her voice is beyond her years.

2) "Silver Springs" - Fleetwood Mac. This song is simply a classic.

3) "Piano Man" - Billy Joel. Another classic.

4) "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" - My Chemical Romance. This one should prove my varied taste. The anger in this song is just so real. And, btw, I prefer the edited version, just because of the strong language.

5) "Kashmir" - Led Zeppelin. One of my all-time favorites.


New Year, New Edition

Early this morning, a new niece, McKensie Rain Boyte joined our family. She is the daughter of Tim & Melissa Boyte, and her proud big sister is Torie. More pictures can be found here.