As my last official post of 2009, I wanted to say a big thank you to all who've visited and kept me motivated by giving me your opinions and ideas.
Here's to a safe and happy New Year's Eve and all the best in 2010!.
We know winter is upon us when that first snowstorm hits; phone trees are initiated, and jubilant children rush outdoors bundled up into balls of jacket eager to make a snow man. As in any situation, there are people who take the normal and step it up a notch, and take their “snowmen” very seriously. Here are 12 groups of intricate and exotic snow sculptures that will make your next snowman look like a drunken mistake.
The human fascination with animal life is expressed in any snow sculpture competition, as the American West is represented by herds of galloping stallions emerging from banks of snow, and life size blue whales titillate onlookers because of their awesome scale. The fluidity of these sculptures create a stunning illusion of motion.
Murals are typically paintings that show a broad scene, but with snow sculptors, they’re gigantic masterpieces carved out of a snowbank. With a scale that is awe inspiring, teams of sculptors furiously carve intricate and images straight out of the imagination. The amount of snow necessary to put together one of these designs is staggering, and that’s not even taking into account the mechanics of actually carving one of these temporary wonders.
As much as humanity is intrigued by animal life and nature, we’re still damn fascinated by ourselves. We love to make larger than life portraits that give a glimpse of a specific emotional state, or exaggerate typical human features to a humorous degree. The only way to show off these portraits? Take a photo in front of one, making a self portrait of your own.
When you approach an alabaster building glinting with icicles, you tend to expect it to be made of wood and stone. This isn’t true in the annual Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, where entire city halls and traditional Japanese architecture is exhibited in works that are at least life size. With waving flags, and thick columns, these temporary creations elicit a swelling of pride in home and country, as well as a troubling desire to grab a hunk of the building and throw it at a friend.
The comic ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ showcases a series of iconic snowman scenes created by the comic’s outrageous main characters: Giant snow monsters lurch toward low-lying buildings, snowmen melt with grimaces on their faces, and snow creations swim desperately away from swarming snow sharks in scenes straight out of a child’s imagination. Naturally, people like to bring these scenes to life.
Snow is flexible as a medium, and like illustration, it truly lets the mind go wherever it wants, but with much more stunning, three dimensional consequences. Snow creatures can have any appearance, and perform any action, or strange creatures can emerge out of nowhere and then disappear back into the ground… there’s almost no limit to where snow sculptors can take us.
Scenes from film and television, children’s shows, and folklore are common sources of inspiration. The Japanese animator Miyazaki’s popular creations, the Totoro, are a common sight, but if you dig further you can even find the famous standoff with the gigantic Stay Puft marshmallow man, from the film “Ghostbusters.” Trolls and fairies, domokun, and characters from Disney films, are all displayed in stunning form.
Some think bigger is better, and entire towns will unite to put together world record sized creations. Bethel, Maine is renowned for their construction of the largest snowman ever built, but they are far from the only people trying. Bulldozers and dump trucks stand in for the typical shovel and gloved hands, but the result isn’t too far different from your typical backyard snowman… just bigger… astonishingly bigger.
Artists are fascinated by the human hand, partly because a disembodied hand is more symbol than limb, and also because of its beautiful form. Regardless of the reasoning behind its popularity, snow sculptures across the world showcase the human hand holding symbols and objects that either exalt an ideal, or simply show a typical human activity on a much larger scale.
When one thinks of a snowman, the last adjectives that come to mind are “delicate” and “intricate,” but this is not the case with snow sculptors, who relish creating designs and visual images that seem too fragile to exist, at least, made out of snow. As soon as these designs are hit by the sun, they begin secreting the very water that keeps them stable, and the inherently temporary nature of snow sculptures lend them a grace that would not exist if they were made of stone.
Roger Federer just shared a cute family portrait of himself, wife Mirka and twin daughters Myla Rose and Charlene Riva (they turn five months tomorrow).
The 28-year-old Swiss tennis champ writes, “Many friends and fans have asked for an updated picture of our girls so we thought we’d post this picture for the holiday season. Our entire family wishes you a safe and happy 2010!”
Roger added, “2009 was an exciting year for me on the court after having won my first French Open, breaking [Pete] Sampras’ all-time Grand Slam record at Wimbledon and regaining the #1 ranking. I am looking forward to a lot hard work… to get ready for 2010. Next year will be very exciting.”
Throw in motherhood, marriage and a likeable subject, and it gets even better. Kim Clijsters fit the bill, giving the women's tour a real boost when she returned to the circuit last summer accompanied by American hubby Brian Lynch and daughter Jada, who's nearing 2 years old. After all, Dinara Safina wasn't playing like a No. 1, the Serbs were in flux, Maria Sharapova continued to work her way back from a shoulder injury and Elena Dementieva was being, well, Elena Dementieva.
Clijsters beat both Williams sisters en route to claiming a second U.S. Open and is one of the favorites at the Australian Open, which, would you believe, starts in a month. Old foe and fellow Belgian Justine Henin will be waiting.
In a phone interview with ESPN.com during last week's exhibition Thomas Cook Diamond Games in Antwerp, Belgium, Clijsters revealed one of her priorities in 2010 is to regain the No. 1 ranking. The 26-year-old can't wait to return to Australia and hopes to stay away from another major injury.
Source: ESPN via wta womens tennis blog
ESPN.com: Kim, what are your thoughts when you look back on Jada gleefully running around Center Court moments after you won at Flushing Meadows?
Kim Clijsters: I get so emotional, because obviously it was such a unique experience for me as well. I've won a lot of tournaments in the past, but this one it was so nice to be able to share with her, too. I was more intrigued by her reactions. She was just running on the court like she runs around the backyard at home.
ESPN.com: How does having a husband and child affect your mindset when it comes to wins and losses? Are the losses easier to digest?
Clijsters: They are. But you want to win, and the time I put into my tennis now, the quality is a lot higher than in the past. When I wasn't married and didn't have a daughter, well, I realize how much time I had to do everything I was supposed to during the day to be the best tennis player possible. Now I'm a wife and mother. I had to learn how to plan things a lot better, and I think that's something that's really helped me now when I'm on the court. I really feel like I'm a little more disciplined than I used to be because the quality of what I'm doing is so much higher than a few years ago.
ESPN.com: Why do you think you sometimes struggled to win big matches in your first stint on tour?
Clijsters: I was a little bit overwhelmed by the whole situation of being in a Grand Slam final. I think sometimes it can have a good effect on you and make you play better, and other times it can have a negative effect. I realize now that in a few of the finals I lost I wasn't playing the best tennis I could, and I think that's something through experience you learn. It's nice to know that about me, because at the time I felt I was nervous and this and that, but didn't know how to adjust and change those feelings and try to turn them into good things. As I'm older and have a new group of people working with me, it's just nice to have family and friends to keep my mind off tennis when I need to but also to keep me really focused on tennis when I have to. I think that's a good balance.
ESPN.com: This fall you were listed as the sixth-most-searched female athlete on Yahoo, behind only Americans or American-based athletes. What did that mean to you?
Clijsters: I remember when they told me. I was like, "Really?" because I won the U.S. Open before, and I was never in situations like this where there's so much more media attention. It's something that is flattering but something I also take very seriously. As a mother and athlete and being famous, especially here in Belgium, I want to give something back to the people who aren't so lucky. I've gotten so many letters from mothers who say they're really proud of me and my decision to come back has pushed them to go back into the office, for example, or to work harder. Those are really nice things to read and hear.
ESPN.com: How much are you looking forward to going back to Australia?
Clijsters: I'm so excited to go back. My husband has never been there, and I kind of explained to him how special it is to me because I've never won the Australian Open, but that doesn't even matter. The fans are so great. It's a different culture. They're so laid-back, but they're so into their sports and they embraced me as one of their own because I was engaged to [Australian Grand Slam winner Lleyton Hewitt] and together with him for such a long time. But even now, in the last few years I was there, they were still so supportive and that was a very nice feeling to have. I'm married to an American now, but I can't wait to share that experience with Brian and Jada because it's a beautiful country. The people have such an impact on you. You feel like when you walk around there everybody's in a good mood and nothing is a struggle, and that's nice to have, to be surrounded by people that are happy. I think that rubs off.
ESPN.com: What are your targets for 2010?
Clijsters: No. 1 is something that would be a great achievement, but that's not my main goal. The Australian summer is obviously an important one and I'm training to try to be in the best shape possible. If you do well and focus on one tournament at a time or one quarter of a year at a time, I think your results will come automatically. If you have good results, then you get closer and closer to the No. 1 spot. It's not like I'm focused on No. 1, but I think in the long run that would be something that would be a dream come true because although I've been No. 1 before, to be there again after having a baby and everything, I think it would be very special.
ESPN.com: Your coach says you're fitter and less injury-prone than in your first stint. How long do you now see yourself playing?
Clijsters: I don't really think about that -- that's something I learned from my first career. Especially for me, so many things can change. I love to play tennis, and I'm at a stage where everything is going well. But it can also change very quickly. That doesn't mean that I'll give up when things don't go the way I'd like them to, but I'm not willing to risk my marriage or my family for tennis because my first priority is still being a wife and mother. For now Brian looks forward to seeing me play tennis because he was never in that position before because he was playing [basketball]. That's something I would like to keep going for a few years, and Brian, he knows that. But anything can happen. I've had injuries and surgery on my wrist, and if anything like that happened again, I don't know if I'd be able to come back the way I did a few years ago when I was a lot younger. As for now, I'm very driven to keep things going and I think what's helped me a lot is setting short-term goals. I also don't have a full schedule, which makes it easier.
ESPN.com: You bought drinks for about 7,000 well-wishers in your hometown of Bree shortly after winning the Open. Will you buy everyone in the stadium free drinks if you win the Australian Open?Clijsters: That would be nice [laughs]. That actually might be a very good idea. I never thought about that. Maybe I'll do it.
Once upon a time, in Germany, the first gingerbread houses were built after bakers were inspired by the Brothers Grimm tale, Hansel and Gretel. Since that time, gingerbread house designs have exploded with popularity. Some gingerbread houses are not houses at all, but some have intricate architectural designs inside and out, more like a home with electricity. Here are some of the best gingerbread houses ever created. We hope you enjoy these 32 astounding architectural designs of gingerbread houses.
For some families, constructing a gingerbread house is a family tradition. This house was inspired by the winner of the Newfoundland Historic award. The original house is believed to have been designed by W.F. Butler, famed for designing many grand Queen Ann Revival Style homes. The intricate details on this gingerbread house are astounding.
The Victorian gingerbread house in the upper left took two months to create and is a replica of the Carson mansion in Eureka, California. The pink Victorian Christmas house was another winner in This Old House gingerbread house contest. Townhouses are another popular gingerbread major undertaking that pleases contest judges. Mansions and Victorian creations are wildly popular undertakings, even when they are blue.
This is a replica of Winchester Mystery House, a Victorian mansion and architectural marvel in San Jose, California. The real house, unlike most homes of its era, was a 160-room Victorian mansion that had modern heating and sewer systems, gas lights that operated by pressing a button, three working elevators, and 47 fireplaces. From rambling roofs and exquisite hand inlaid parquet floors, to the gold and silver chandeliers and Tiffany art glass windows, you will be impressed by the staggering amount of creativity, energy, and expense poured into each and every detail. The same holds true for the edible version.
Most gingerbread masterpieces are replicas of actual architecture, made with great patience and an eye for detail. What makes them so sweet is not sugar, honey, or even icing. It is the amount of love that goes into the project, from designing the house, to baking the gingerbread, to putting it all together for hours, weeks, sometimes months.
Not all gingerbread houses resemble a house. The top candy house is gingerbread but not warm and fuzzy with happy cheer. Enchanted lighthouse, complete with gingerbread mermaid and candy sea creatures was among the winners in a contest. The old mill house was another winner. The tree house, called Forever Autumn won the grand prize. There is no limit to what can be created in gingerbread house fashion, even Noah’s Ark.
Castles are magnificent architecture. Gingerbread castles are equally as marvelous, edible too even if rarely is such a creation eaten. The Sugar Castle, displayed in the historic Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco, took over 400 hours to create and was modeled after European architecture. Some of these castles were National Gingerbread House competition winners, but we think they are all winners.
Family tradition in baking gingerbread houses tend to make each house grander than the year before. This house was inspired by the winner of the Newfoundland Historic award. The original house is believed to have been designed by W.F. Butler, famed for designing many grand Queen Ann Revival Style homes. The intricate details on this gingerbread house are astounding. It took about 60 hours to complete this fantastic Victorian Rowhouse.
Some bakers set their eye on a high prize, so large and impressive it could only be the White House. Most of these fabulous creations go on to win prizes. Some don’t look like they were created from gingerbread, but each one was. The ones turned from obvious gingerbread to a lighter house took the white in White House quite literally.
This lighted wonder was a 2008 grand prize winner. Yes, it is made of gingerbread but this grand work of art will not be consumed as food. In fact, it might even have Secret Service protecting it.
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The actress died on Sunday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center near Beverly Hills, a hospital spokeswoman has confirmed.
The LA Times said Murphy went into cardiac arrest, but hospital sources would not release the cause of death.
Murphy was married to British screenwriter Simon Monjack. The couple lived in Los Angeles.
Reports said the LA fire department responded to a medical call at Murphy's home in West Hollywood at 0800 local time (1600 GMT).
Two hours later, she was pronounced dead at hospital.
Murphy grew up in New Jersey but moved to Los Angeles with her mother to pursue acting.
She got her start in the sleeper hit Clueless and rose to stardom in 8 Mile alongside rapper Eminem.
Her on-screen roles declined in recent years, but Murphy voiced characters for the hit US television series, King of the Hill, and animated movie Happy Feet.
She is due to appear in Sylvester Stallone's film, The Expendables, set for release next year.
Murphy once dated Ashton Kutcher, who co-starred with her in the 2003 romantic comedy, Just Married.
Kutcher tweeted Sunday morning about Murphy's death: "2day the world lost a little piece of sunshine."
"My deepest condolences go out 2 Brittany's family, her husband, & her amazing mother Sharon," his tweet said.
Source: BBC News
Another shocking death, we've lost so many great entertainers this year (all well before their time).
Brittany's talent has always been very underrated I think, but I've always liked her. Clueless remains one of my faves till this day.
My deepest sympathies go out to her family and friends.
No one, though, was more shocked than the fifteen-time Grand Slam champion.
As a woman who prided herself on her fitness, her form and her mental game, recreational drug use was a reprehensible idea. During the course of her career, Hingis had taken dozens of drug tests, both during and away from competition. None prior to Wimbledon ever returned positive.
“I said from the start that I was innocent,” Hingis said. “I have never used cocaine or any recreational drug. I have always been outspoken and have always told the truth, even when it was sometimes politically incorrect. If I had ever taken cocaine, I would have said so.”
She even voluntarily took a hair follicle test, which showed she had nothing in her system for the 90 days following Wimbledon. According to the International Tennis Federation, 42 nanograms per milliliter of a cocaine metabolite were found in Hingis’ system, a tiny trace amount that would have produced a negative result on a military drug test in the United States.
Unfortunately, for Hingis, the very locale where the drug test was administered has become a cocaine residue breeding ground. The UK’s Telegraph reported in 2005 that London’s Thames River was awash in cocaine, as over 150,000 lines of the recreational drug were smoked each day. Cross contamination has permeated through the water, restrooms and even bank notes.
Immediately after the ITF’s findings were publicized, Hingis launched a campaign to prove her innocence. The Swiss Miss spent $500,000 in legal costs to present her case to the ITF’s tribunal, which incidentally is composed of three members appointed and paid by the ITF, who ultimately dealt down a two-year suspension.
An appeal would have been expensive—and worthless—because the ITF requires players to identify the source of contamination, as in the recent case of Richard Gasquet’s cocaine-contaminated kissing spree. The amount of cocaine cited in Hingis’ case was so small that it was impossible to trace back to its source. Ironically, while Hingis was given the maximum penalty of two years, the rule has since been changed, as players may now receive a zero to two-year suspension for similar offenses.
Hingis’ only recourse? End her career for the second time and attempt to rebuild her life. Despite her immediate retirement, Hingis was still given a two-year ban that prevented her from even setting foot on the grounds of the four tournaments where she had experienced fifteen memorable victories.
Last month, On the Baseline’s Aaress Lawless reached Hingis for an exclusive interview about her future plans.
Do you feel as though you have a new lease on life as you start this next phase of your retirement?
“Well, I retired once before so I am quite used to it! Tennis has been and always will be a big part of my life. The difference now is that I can get to live a normal life and enjoy the type of life that I would not have been able to have if it wasn’t for tennis.”
“Because I have more flexibility now, I am able to make the most of some opportunities outside of tennis. For instance, recently I was a contestant on the BBC TV show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. I agreed to be on the show because I have always wanted to learn how to dance and how else would I get the chance to dance with a professional dancer for four hours per day, seven days per week – it was a fun experience, I only wish that I’d have stayed on the show longer!”
You have mentioned that your love for tennis remains strong. Do you have any plans for a future in the sport, perhaps by starting an academy or working as a consultant?
“Currently I play in exhibition matches and being a perfectionist, I always want to play my best so I play regularly. My mother has an academy in Switzerland, I practice a lot with her young players and give them encouragement and advice where I can. I don’t know what the future holds but I am confident that tennis will always be a big part of it.”
During your career, you were known for your sharp mental and tactical game. How would you hope to pass along this approach to the next generation of players?
“Being tactically aware is a huge advantage but in order to play a tactical game you must have mastered the basics. If you don’t have the foundation i.e. correct technique then you will never be able to play a smart tactical game. Having a smart tactical game will give you choices. This is how my mother coached me and how she continues to coach her pupils at the academy. It’s essential.”
“A coach must teach the correct technique and footwork, once this is in place then comes the strategy. It’s the same with all sports and I know this very well through my horse riding. With Dressage for instance, I know that I must get the basics right else I won’t be able to make the jump, it’s that simple and it certainly doesn’t come from luck, it comes from quality training, persistence and hard work. But then this is what all success is built from, right?!”
Persistence and hard work helped Hingis reign as the number one player in the world for four years, and although she would never want to repeat the past twenty-four months, she has remained resilient.
A flawed system may have banned her from the sport, but nothing can take away her love for the game—a love that one hopes will keep her legacy alive as one of the finest tennis tacticians of all time.
Good to know she will continue to stay connected with tennis (despite venturing into the world of horse jumping).
There are also rumors flying around that she will join the 2010 World Team Tennis (as she did back in 2005 resulting in a 2nd comeback to professional tennis in 2006).
This bit of news is leading many to believe she plans to do the same again.
Sorry to say, but I think that's highly unlikely.
No matter how much many of her fans (myself included) continue to wish and hope for it.
Also gotta point out one major typo with the fifteen-time grand-slam champion bit (I think the author meant to say five), unless of course they were subconsciously referring to Roger Federer ;).