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Whale Watching in Upstate New York

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that came out of nowhere.

I was recently in Boston for a weekend with the family and a Monday morning meeting at WGBH. We were supposed to take the kids to the aquarium on Sunday. But then I heard about the whales.

An exceptionally large gathering of endangered right whales was apparently feasting on plankton in Cape Cod Bay. Despite my husband's objections - all valid and practical - I spent several hours on Saturday afternoon trying to find a way out on to the water. I was unsuccessful, but tenacious (a character trait valued by journalists, but not necessarily by husbands.) I woke up Sunday and called Captain John in Plymouth at 7:30 a.m. A woman answered the phone and told me to be at the dock by 11:30 a.m.

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Are you smart? trustworthy? sober?

Ten random strangers are willing to judge you, based exclusively on your looks, when you upload your picture to Facestat.com. The site uses Amazon Mechanical Turk, an automated web service named after an 18th-century chess-playing mannequin, which turns artificial intelligence on its head by making requests of humans. On Facestat, people judge faces. Among other things, they’ll estimate your intelligence, relationship status, and whether or not you were drunk at the time the picture was taken.

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Secret Confessions from Skitty

Skitty says, "I SO dig Gnarls Barkley."

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Point of View

Music can help you see things differently.

Thelonious Monk, for example, has a way of turning a melody every which way, like he's figuring out a Rubik's Cube. The pace quickens and slows. You can feel him thinking. You can dart glimpses and see the colors of the song in new configurations.

Ani DiFranco can show you things, too. I've shot pool since I was a kid but never looked at a table like she did in Untouchable Face...

There's a changing constellation of balls as we are playing.
I see Orion and say nothing.

Seu Jorge is another one. His acoustic covers of Ziggy Stardust and Life on Mars, sung in Portuguese, impressed even David Bowie, who found his songs imbued with a new level of beauty.

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Yo-Yo Ma takes your questions now

Thanks to Gerry Szymanski, Andrew Galbraith-Ryer, Christoph Sahar, Eric Fundin, RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman and my mom for coming up with great questions for superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma. I asked him all of your questions, and you can hear his answers in this interview.

Yo-Yo Ma talks about losing his cello, the upcoming Beijing Olympics, and playing with a robot conductor next month. He was warm, funny, and forthright. He’ll appear with the RPO on Monday, May 5th.

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Castles Made of Sand

Do you remember those Tibetan monks who visited Rochester years ago? They made a painting in sand at the Memorial Art Gallery, working slowly and carefully, grain by grain, to create a detailed image over the course of several days. There was time allotted for public viewing, and I think there was some kind of ceremony.

Then they swept it all up and dumped it in the river.

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Pride & Prejudice

It’s official!

October 21st is the date of the Pre-Broadway Premiere of Pride & Prejudice, the musical by Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs. Eastman Theatre, Rochester.

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Have you seen the pics?

If you have a kid who is a Hannah Montana fan or if you watch the news, then you have probably seen or at least heard about the Vanity Fair pictures of Miley Cyrus. Cyrus is the 15-year-old actress who plays Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel show and the majority of her fans are younger girls in the 6-12 age range.

At best, the pictures taken by famed photographer Annie Liebovitz can be described as risqué - artistic in a sense, but risqué for a girl who is 15.

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Yo-Yo, Robot

After Yo-Yo Ma leaves Rochester next week, he’ll play under the baton of a robot with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, according to Wired magazine.

A robot might have done a better job than guest conductor Alexander Mickelthwate, who made his first appearance with the RPO this past weekend. The D & C’s Stuart Low got it right: the hot, young conductor from Winnipeg was boring. Unnamed sources say local musicians concurred.

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Rochester Radio Chorus of the Air

The other evening I was walking down Park Avenue, it was warm, windows were down in cars going by. Some loud inspired singing broke through the night air, crept up from behind and stopped at the adjacent corner’s red light.

Two young women completely committed to the moment and the song.

The half public, half private world inside a moving automobile has hosted probably more spirited renditions of popular song than any location outside your shower.

What songs inspire you to sing along?

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