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Understanding Modern Art - American Color Field Painting

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The extraordinary artistic movement known as American Color Field Painting both continued and challenged prior esthetic traditions. Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing through the 1960s, this movement influenced the entire world of art.

American Color Field Painting was a combination of shared revolutionary techniques and unique individual solutions to the traditional problems and considerations of artistic expression. This new type of art reevaluated traditional pictorial elements including naturalistic perspective, color use, the function of line and shape, and the role of formatting.

Although individual Color Field painters developed distinct modes of expression, they shared a common emphasis on color as a central aspect of painting. They also shared a rejection of the contemporary focus on the conscious social and political responsibilities of art. Their love of materials and their joyous and strenuous endeavors to redefine the boundaries of art are among their exceptional contributions to the ongoing evolution of modern aesthetic values.

Four of the major legacies of the Color Field Painters were an emphasis on the infinite potential for variations in light and color; the practice of creating multiple interpretations, known as a series, on a single theme; the relentless pursuit of the dual identity of art as both illusion and reality; and the use of landscape elements. These legacies were an extension of the practices begun by the Impressionists almost a century before.

The Impressionistic emphasis on distinct patches of solid color was carried to an extreme by Color Field painters like Kenneth Noland who created concentric rings of color in his "target" series. The scientific approach to color that was prominent in the 19th century asserted that a pure color placed next to another color will result in a more dramatic optical effect than colors that have been muted through traditional shading and rendering. Like many of the innovative Impressionists, the American Color Field painters sought to investigate the phenomenon of color contrasts in a deep and intuitive way. Their contributions helped to pave the way for a free-flowing approach to painting that focuses on a single aesthetic element rather than trying to duplicate the visual world around us.

Do I Need Professional Indemnity Insurance

A professional indemnity insurance policy is a financial product to compensate the insured (your business) in the undesirable event of damages accrued from a claim being made against the business due to contravention of duty within the policy period for neglect, error, or omissions. Still not sure? In its most basic form, this insurance policy covers your business for a loss that may arise from negligence caused by your business while carrying out such business. Professional indemnity insurance policies have a tendency to vary greatly in the amount of cover the policy provides.

There are a number of instances in which a business may have need to call upon their professional indemnity insurance policy. The first possibility is that a business provides a service to the purchaser, and due to a negligent act, a negligent omission, or other type of negligent error, carries out the work in a slipshod manner, which may lead to further issues arising down the road.

The same scenario could also apply to advice given by a business. PI insurance also protects against allegations of the supply of false, or otherwise generally misleading information. The third most common situation that may require the use of a PI insurance would be the unknowing or otherwise accidental encroachment of the intellectual copyright of another, be it an individual, a business, or other organisation. Intellectual material is also considered property, and the same copyright laws protect it.

A PI insurance policy may have a variety of aspects of coverage, but there are also particular elements that for a number of reasons have been excluded from the policy. Often, the insurance policy will include protection against claims made against your business from a civil liability case, claims that have arisen from the loss of documents, or if documents have been damaged. Legal costs such as those that may arise in the defence case include, but are not limited to, the hiring and retaining of lawyers, the court costs, hiring of professional witnesses or experts of the industry, and so forth, may or may not be included dependent on your selected policy.

Other elements not covered will usually include elements pertaining to war and terrorism (including nuclear activity), pollution unless considered as a breach of duty of the business, potential claims known about when the policy was first purchased, and claims that should be covered under an additional policy, such as buildings, contents, or employers liability.

Any physical products (except possibly software and programming products used for the business that have been amended in some way) are not covered by PI insurance. The insurance policy will also not cover any fines and penalties, or claims from by an insurance company unless a judgement has been received declaring otherwise. Certain warranties set by your business may also affect the coverage provided by your PI insurance, such as a guarantee of outcome, whether express or implied.

So who may need to have a professional indemnity insurance policy? The most common industries where businesses shop for an insurance quote are those whereby a service is provided as opposed to a physical product. This includes businesses in the fields of accounting or other financial services, graphic design firms, marketing and internet marketing businesses, and surveyors, and management or consultancy businesses.

Other, more product based rather than service based, businesses, may be better with a shop insurance quote. It is always possible to get a shop insurance quote and compare the two to see which will provide your business with the most appropriate coverage. Bear in mind that it is very easy to shop for professional indemnity insurance online. It is recommended to get a few quotes for comparison, and ensure you select a policy that is comprehensive enough for your requirements. For example, some policies are more inclusive and will cover the bracket of 'any civil liability'.

Discount Real Estate Agents in Los Angeles

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Each year, millions of United States residents make the decision to sell their home. If you are interested in becoming one of those individuals, you have a number of ways that you can go about selling your home. A large number of homeowners privately sell their own home, but even more obtain professional assistance.

If you live in or around the Los Angeles area, that assistance can come from a discount real estate agent. Discount real estate agents are agents that offer their services for a low or discounted price. Unfortunately, a large number of individuals believe that there is no such thing as a discount real estate agent. Los Angeles residents that believe this misconception could be paying more than they need to for real estate assistance.

To differentiate traditional real estate agents from discount real estate agents, you will have to determine the cost of using the services provided by each agent. This can easily be done by price comparison. Similar to comparing prices at your local supermarket, you will need to obtain price quotes from a number of Los Angeles real estate agents. After the information has been obtained, you can easily compare the prices to find the lowest fees.

The cost of service is not the only thing that should be examined when finding a discount real estate agent. Los Angeles residents are also urged to examine the services offered by each real estate agent. The service offered by each agent is important in determining what type of service you will receive for your money.

When examining the fees of discount real estate agents, it is likely that you will see their services differ from traditional real estate agents. The services are often not as inclusive as those offered by full price real agents. Just because the same services are not offered, does not mean that you should stop searching for a discount real estate agent. Los Angeles residents have found success using the services of a discount real estate agent. Many are more concerned with the amount of money they will be saving versus the level of service they would receive.

When searching for a discount real estate agent, you may find that there are only a select number of agents that can be considered discounted. This is because most real estate agents charge full price for their services. If you are interested in quickly finding a discount real estate agent, without having to compare a number of fees, you can use the internet to your advantage. You can easily perform a standard internet search to find a discount real estate agent. Los Angeles residents often search for agents this way.

Whichever way you choose to search for discount real estate agents, it is important to remember that they do exist. Do not believe hearsay from other homeowners or denials from full priced competitors. With a little bit of research, you can find a discount real estate agent. Los Angeles residents have been finding them for years and now you can too.

Minneapolis - Northern Mississippi Soul

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

From the first moment when you arrive in Minneapolis you will instantly understand why Mary Richards tossed her hat into the air with excitement for seven years every time The Mary Tyler Moore Show, set in this vibrant locale, played on television. There's a feeling in the air that can only be understood by the emotions which surely originate in the strong affinity with arts and culture that are an historic legacy of Minneapolis.

With luminaries past and present on the Guthrie Theatre stage that include Jessica Tandy (Fried Green Tomatoes, Driving Miss Daisy), her husband Hume Cronyn (Cocoon) whom she met at the Guthrie and T.R. Knight (George on Grey's Anatomy) it's not hard to understand the culture that is Minneapolis. Wherever there's a healthy arts community it seems like a thriving GLBT community is only a heartbeat away.

Open minded, vibrant, friendly, safe and forward thinking. However you describe Minneapolis it is an exciting new destination for the gay tourist. With the largest percentage of GLBT population of any city in the United States outside of San Francisco it's not surprising that a gay-friendly welcome is guaranteed in this mid-western metropolis.

The Minneapolis cultural landscape is currently experiencing an arts explosion with almost a half billion dollars being spent recently on new and upgraded infrastructure. With the new Public Library building, the stunning new Guthrie Theater, a new expansion to the Walker Art Center and a new wing at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and more to come in the next few years, this city is a rare treat for cultural aficionados or anyone with curiosity.

Three openly gay men who sit on the City Council and an openly gay Senator have enabled the existence of some of the most progressive same-sex legislation anywhere to be found in Bush country. Although there is no actual gay village it is abundantly clear that the local GLBT community is fully integrated in this cosmopolitan gem of the American mid-west.

Anything and everything you might be searching for on your gay vacation is available in Minneapolis. A vibrant GLBT community, fabulous food, great accommodations, lively nightlife and culture beyond imagination are waiting for you to experience and enjoy.

With the new trend around the world toward boutique hotels not surprisingly Minneapolis is ready and able to offer this type of lodging for the ultimate holiday experience.

The new Chambers Hotel opened in September of this year to great anticipation as a boutique design hotel featuring a multi-million dollar contemporary and edgy art collection of original works from around the world. An intimate, deluxe service, high design, luxury complex with sixty rooms, an open-air courtyard, lobby bar, rooftop lounge and Chambers Kitchen restaurant, this can only be described as an incomparable experience. For art lovers who've ever felt they didn't want to leave a gallery when the doors closed, then the Chambers is like sleeping overnight in that gallery. Whether or not you consider yourself an art lover, the stunning design will leave you breathless. Be sure to check out the fire escape mural-a unique work of art unto itself. Add to this experience the luxurious rooms and friendly, efficient staff and this will prove to be a holiday or honeymoon experience to remember.

The larger twenty-one story Graves 601 Hotel launched in August of this year adding another new landmark to the hotel scene in Minneapolis. Featuring an environment rich in design, modern art and state-of-the-art technology it is located in the centre of town close to shopping, businesses and the Guthrie Theatre. Each room includes a wall mounted forty-two inch plasma screen televison, two ambient light moods, a wireless digital keyboard for internet access, an edge-lit etched glass headboard depicting one of four Minneapolis scenes, a vast library of movie and music selections for download digitally and a top of the line mattress for a decadent night's sleep. In addition you will experience incomparable bathroom elegance which is out of this world for a truly pampered stay in this new brand of hotel.

For a more traditional hotel experience the Marriott City Center offers full amenities in the heart of downtown just a short walk to all that Minneapolis has to offer. Connected to all of downtown by the enclosed Skyways and near the theatres and nightlife this is a location worthy of consideration for your stay. A Sunday breakfast in bed with champagne and orange juice in the newly renovated rooms will help your recovery from the previous night's frivolity and set the tone to explore all that is offered in the heart of this city.

Sparkling lakes, inviting trails and green spaces beautify this landscape where every resident lives within six blocks of a park or open space. It's possible to bike, hike, pedal or paddle all within the limits of downtown.

The mighty Mississippi river courses through the heart of Minneapolis providing spectacular river-walks and skyline views of this urban playground. The city's history revolves around this river and today the local residents and visitors enjoy the historic landmarks along the river banks.

The historic Mississippi Riverfront district has transitioned from industrial to recreational land delighting outdoor enthusiasts with parks, picnic areas, walking trails, landmarks such as the Pillsbury Bakery and the only stone railroad bridge to cross the Mississippi. This history-rich neighborhood is a perfect afternoon retreat with restaurants, patios and shops for a complete escape from the nearby city across the river. You can experience a Segway magical history tour which is as close to a magic carpet ride as you are ever likely to get. If you've never ridden a Segway then you are in for a unique experience and full training is provided before you head out to glide along the riverside trails and pathways.

Returning to the downtown side of the river bank you can visit the Mill City Museum which is the latest addition to Minnesota's statewide network of historic sites. From 1880 to 1930 Minneapolis was considered the "Flour Milling Capital of the World" and this museum rises eight stories from the ground in the original ruins of the Washburn A Mill, a National Historic Landmark. The elevator ride to the rooftop observation deck culminates in a spectacular view of the Mississippi River valley and downtown Minneapolis. In the museum's theatre a twenty minute video provides an excellent fast-paced history of the region which will make you feel like an expert local historian. If that's not enough for a trip back in time then the aroma of freshly baked bread will transport you to the past.

When the past comes together with the present and looks to the future there can be no better example than the historic Guthrie Theater. Back in 1960 an eager invitation from Minneapolis community leaders brought internationally acclaimed director Sir Tyrone Guthrie to the city to consider it as a possible home for his new theatre. In 1963 the original Guthrie Theater debuted with a modern-dress production of Hamlet on a unique thrust stage. Over forty years later the spectacular new multi-million dollar Guthrie Theater complex opened in June of this year. This new performing arts centre with three stages remains true to the original concept with another thrust stage in an 1100 seat auditorium and the additions of a 700 seat proscenium and a 250 seat studio theatre. However, French architect Jean Nouvel has created an entire entertainment structure with restaurants, bars, a view of the Mississippi and an awe inspiring atmosphere worthy of some of the finest performances by actors today and tomorrow. This bold venture is certain to ensure that the prolific Minneapolis theatre community, which is also the soul of this city, will continue to aspire to greater heights now and in the future as this theatre's tradition deserves. A visit to this performing arts centre and a night at the theater will be the highlight of your visit to Minneapolis-guaranteed.

Dining in Minneapolis will be an adventure and will involve some very tough decisions. Wolfgang Puck's 20.21 at the Walker Art Center versus Cue at the Guthrie Theater? No choice you have to try them both! A really special place for breakfast is Hell's Kitchen, so that's an easy decision and a truly unique experience. Even if you're not staying at the Chambers Hotel you'll want to experience a multi-course dinner created by Chef Jean-Gorges at the Chambers Kitchen. An old police station is the setting for a dinner perfectly prepared by chef and owner Stewart Woodman at Five Restaurant and Lounge. Wait for the surprise of a "Boys in Blue" special dessert and when you go to the washroom be sure they don't throw away the "jail" key . At Wild Roast Café you can expect a warm welcome from owners and partners Dean and Tom at their coffee-house where the 1903 fireplace is the centerpiece and their great light fare is a true culinary delight to complement the relaxing at-home atmosphere. And of course there's always dinner on a Mississippi paddle boat night tour for a truly unique dining experience with a little romance thrown in for good measure.

Halfway between New York and Los Angeles but all the way out of the closet Minneapolis offers unparalleled nightlife for the energetic gay traveler. After everything this cultural city has to offer during the daylight and twilight hours those with incredible stamina can party into the wee small hours at approximately fifteen gay or gay-friendly bars, clubs and pubs. There's somewhere to drink and dance every night of the week and it's no wonder the locals are always out and about.

For those who enjoy shopping there are several neighbourhoods close to downtown with boutiques and community style shops. For a retail adventure The Mall of America is a must with over 520 stores, an amusement park and aquarium. With no sales tax on clothes this a perfect time to expand your wardrobe.

One of the best and most practical amenities of this city is Metro Transit which includes light rail transit and buses. For just two dollars and fifty cents you can ride in comfort from your airport terminal to the heart of downtown and many places in between. You can save that expensive airport transfer money common to most cities and spend it on fun.

The enthralling culture and soul of this city is only due to the incredible people that call Minneapolis home. The city's biggest asset is the warmth of its citizens. Everyone from bell-hops to waiters, the directors of museums and galleries, actors and people on the street give forth a gay-friendly greeting. It's easy to understand the pride in their city, the pride for their community but their welcome goes beyond that of any other equally proud cosmopolitan city.

Look out Big Apple and Broadway there's a new Mary throwing her hat into the ring !

Long-Term Care Insurance - Two Questions to Ask Your Insurance Professional Before Buying

Yes, I want you to consider buying long-term care insurance. No, we don't sell long-term care insurance, so it doesn't matter who you buy from. But, after nearly 20 years in the long-term care insurance field, I have learned that there are smart questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line.

With that in mind, I would like to share those questions and some explanation why each can save you money ... get you better coverage ... or even a combination of the two.

Question 1. Do you have access to policies from more than one company (and how many have you compared for me)?

There are between 40 and 50 different insurance companies today offering long-term care insurance policies. Each sets their own rates and depending on your age, health, marital status there can be quite a variance. For example, the Association recently requested rates for a 55-year-old from four leading insurers (Genworth, John Hancock, New York Life and Northwestern Mutual). These are all excellent companies.

There was almost a $1,000 a year spread (we won't tell you who was the highest because they could be the lowest had we changed some of the circumstances). But, this demonstrates the importance of having your insurance agent get rates from multiple companies. If they only have access to long-term care insurance from one company, they can't compare on your behalf. So you should.

Question 2. Do you think I can qualify for "Preferred" health discounts with the company you are recommending? If not, is there another company that to me?

Just as there are significant differences between what insurers charge, there are important differences between what health conditions they will find acceptable. Keep in mind that NOT everyone who applies for long-term care insurance gets accepted.

A preferred health discount can generally save you 10% each year. The best news is that once you qualify, the discount is not changed when your health changes (and it typically will).

Most agents today will not quote a rate showing a preferred health discount. They don't want to come back and tell you that you'll be paying more for protection. But some will. It's important to ask whether the rate they are projecting includes that discount. Or, if it doesn't ask them whether they think you might qualify for that savings based on their experience (you're not only looking for that information ... but to get a general sense of how much they really know about long-term care insurance).

These are probably the two most important questions you can ask. If you are comfortable with the answers, they sign away. If you are not, then you might want to see a second opinion. About two thirds of buyers today actually speak to more than one insurance professional before buying long-term care insurance.

Boston Real Estate - You Still Have Considerable Control Over the Sale of Your Boston Home

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Boston real estate is a hot topic. Daily newspaper articles comment on whether or not a bubble exists in the Boston real estate market, when and if it will pop, how interest rates affect the market, why Boston residents are snapping up interest-only loans, and how foreign investors in our treasuries keep interest rates low. There are articles about the location and amenities of Boston homes, why those factors make our region so desirable, and why the completion of the big dig is going to make Boston real estate even more desirable.

Journalists remark on the gentrification of our neighborhoods and the development of the Boston Seaport. Reporters poll Boston real estate agents for comments on the empty nesters moving out of suburban neighborhoods to buy luxury Boston condos, the rapid pace in which Dorchester homes are being converted into condos, whether large firms leaving the city might impact Boston real estate, or if bio-technology firms will continue to drive up home prices. We are flooded with theories and statistics of how the weather affects Boston real estate, or how the parking affects South Boston real estate. We hear about the growth of mortgage companies and the increase in mortgage products available to today's real estate consumer. It isn't unusual to hear dinner conversation revolving around the next investor hot spot, if having a buyer agent is a necessity, if a 5 year-arm is a good product for a Boston condo purchase, or if the success of the Patriots and Red Sox has any influence on the Boston real estate market.

However, as a Boston real estate agent, I do know that despite all of the external influence driving our market: foreign investors, fed hikes, an influx of jobs, and the relocation of Boston companies; the Boston homeowner still has a great amount of power and influence over the sale of their Boston home.


Despite what the Globe, the Herald, the Times or the WSJ reports about what drives the real estate market, people buy and sell homes. There are numerous factors that go into each home buying decision, and although everyone is different, there is some level of emotion that plays into the majority of home purchases. It could be that the buyer likes the cast iron lights that line the streets, the willow tree that shades the backyard, or the coffee-house at the end of the street. The prospective buyer might like the color of the living room or the view of the water from the second floor. It won't be the only reason to purchase your home, but for every purchase, there will be at least one defining influence that is based on emotion instead of reason.

And what that means for each seller is that when a prospective buyer walks into your Boston home, they are influenced by the color of your walls, the clutter on your shelves, the cleanliness of your windows. If your home looks like a page out of Home and Garden, then no matter how old, worn or non-existent their own furniture is, on some conscious or subconscious level, they will leave with the impression that their stuff would look this good if they moved into your home. Conversely, if your home looks like the before photo of Extreme Makeover, they might not be able to get past the wet dog smell or the fluorescent turquoise molding to see the beauty of your property. Here are a few guidelines that might be helpful when getting your Boston home ready for sale.

1) Don't give them reason to cross you off the list. While it would be ideal to put out flowers, light candles or bake a batch of cookies prior to open houses or showing appointments, the most important thing you can do is make sure there are no easy reasons to eliminate your house from the prospective pool of Boston housing stock. This means there should be no odors emanating from your home, pathways should be cleared for walking, and that nothing should be broken or falling down.

2) Paint walls neutral colors. In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of trendy paint colors, you might just love Tangerine Zing in the bathroom or Purple Rain in your kitchen. Consider repainting. It's much more difficult to have a hate relationship with Antique White or Ecru.

3) Eradicate clutter. Invest in some organizational storage equipment. You might ask yourself why you would make your home look perfect just as you are about to move out of it? It will be worth every penny and minute spent de-cluttering. You can take the letter sorter/shoe organizer/magazine holder with you. In the meantime, you want your countertops as clean and your closets as organized as possible.

4) Remove excessive furniture. Make rooms feel more spacious. If carpets are hiding nice hardwood floors, remove those too.

5) Let the sun shine in! Open blinds, pull back heavy curtains, but make sure the view is something that won't scare off a future buyer. Clean the windows so that they sparkle. Turn on all lights even during daytime showings. If you have views of the Boston skyline or shoreline, make them the focal point of the room!

6) Get curb appeal! Clean your gutters, get a new doormat, put a potted plant outside your door, and make sure your house number is visible.

The Boston real estate market is a complex and ever evolving marketplace. If you are looking to put your Boston home up for sale, being prepared and following our helpful tips on staging your home is the first step towards your success. Make sure you ask your listing agent how to enhance your Boston condo, single or multi-family home. Prospective buyers and Boston real estate agents will be scouring the MLS listings, websites and newspaper ads to find homes that are well kept and look appealing. As a seller in the Boston real estate market, you want your home to shine through in website photos, real estate ads and marketing materials.

Rooney Real Estate is a full service residential real estate company servicing South Boston, the South Boston Seaport, and Dorchester for more than twenty years. In 2003 Rooney Real Estate was recognized by LINK, the Listings Information Network, as the top real estate firm in South Boston, MA, in total sales revenue. On May 10, 2005, MLS (Multiple Listing Service) listed Rooney Real Estate as the top firm in South Boston, MA, in total sales and total dollar volume thus far in 2005. Rooney Real Estate also has an unparalleled record of giving back to the youth sports leagues and non-profit organizations in the communities they service.

Call 1-866 ROON DOG, or visit www.rooney-re.com for more information.

Getting Consolidation Loans With Bad Credit: Making A Difference To Credit Card Debt

Monday, June 24, 2013

There can be no doubt that credit cards are a major contributor to personal debt. In fact, in the US, the average homeowner has 4 credit cards creating a combined debt of as much as $50,000. So how can the problem be dealt with? Thankfully, being able to get consolidation loans with bad credit means there is a way out.

With the exception of a mortgage, most Americans count their credit card debt as their most worrying debt. This is partly because of the prevalence credit cards have in society, with most consumer spending being done via these plastic cards. As a result, clearing this debt alone can make a huge difference to the overall financial state of an individual.

Of course, having low credit scores means securing loan approval can be a challenge in its own way. But lenders are always open to financial solutions. With a consolidation loan, the intention is clearly constructive so approval is more likely than for regular loans. But can this loan really make a difference?

Clearing Your Credit Card Debt

The short answer to that question is Yes. What is more, because getting a consolidation loan with bad credit is not particularly difficult, it can be have an immediate effect on the financial status of the borrower. All that is needed is to secure the right terms.

Consolidation is an effective strategy because it gathers together the balances on multiple debts and replaces them with a single loan. With credit cards, for example, 4 cards with a combined balance of $40,000 can be cleared by a single $40,000 loan.

The advantage is that the credit score of the borrower is adjusted upwards to reflect the fact that these dents have been cleared. But there are other advantages to opting for a consolidation loan that show the move is worthwhile.

Lower Debt Repayment Costs

One of the biggest problems with credit cards is the interest rates charged, and the high costs that can be incurred so quickly. It does not take long for the debts to mount and the trouble to begin. But even when getting a consolidation loan with bad credit, the costs involved in clearing the debt can be much lower.

The simple reason is that the interest charged on 4 credit cards with late balances is much higher than the interest charged on a single loan repaid in line with an agreed schedule. In fact, by securing loan approval, even when the loan is $40,000, the repayments can be significantly less than the monthly minimum repayment.

The result is that funds otherwise eaten up by a credit card debt are now be freed up, and can be diverted to other debts that may need attention. In this way, getting a consolidation loan just to repay credit cards has a positive domino effect. However, the loan might also be large enough to cover all debts.

Choosing A Debt Consolidation Company

Banks and other lending institutions can offer relatively good terms to individuals seeking consolidation loans with bad credit. But these loans are usually restricted in size to perhaps $50,000. When the debt is more, then a debt consolidation company is the best option.

The companies specialize in clearing debts, especially credit card debt, and can help in instigating a strict financial schedule that should see your debt fall steadily each month. These companies will effectively clear your debt on your behalf, then accept repayments over an agreed period of time.

There are advantages, of course, to securing loan approval from regular lenders, but the key advantage of a debt consolidation company is that they take over your finances, thus removing the risk of failure. A consolidation loan is effective, but only if the debtor can stick to the schedule – which is not easy.

Community College - Your Last Fighting Chance?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My father sent himself to college and law school at night by working in the post office during the day and receiving some help from my mother. It has probably been four decades since a mailman's salary could cover college tuition and board.

My friend, Bill went to boarding school with me, graduated from Columbia University, became a stock broker, was given a pick slip, but then used the high school math and courses he took at De Anza community college to transform himself into a super computer manager. He paid for this career change by working as a truck dispatcher at nights, earning about $13 an hour, for two years. He jokes, "Columbia did nothing for me, De Anza college made me who I am today."

Increasingly people are going to be more like Bill and less like my father. The best of plans will be torn asunder and it will be community colleges that often help people put the pieces back together.

For about the last seven years I predicted an economic collapse based purely on 19th century economic theory. I guess MBAs did not read the same books, probably they don't read books at all. Production was getting more and efficient but the consumers who were to absorb all this production were shrinking. When those two lines crossed, there would be a collapse. Simple, basic elementary school math. One obvious example was that China and India were destroying the very middle class in America and Europe they would need to buy all their products. I did not know a thing about sub prime mortgages, but I did predict that American buying power had decreased dramatically and this drop was being covered by cheap credit---even groceries and pizzas were bought on credit. This Ponzi scheme would have to collapse one day. When my tasteless father bought his 1976 Ford Pinto, he paid $3600 in cash for it. That was about one month's salary for my father who was just a government employee. Few can pay cash for a car today, much less just one month's salary.

As a result of our collapsing economy and the rapid commodification of even the highest skilled professionals, such as lawyers and doctors, I predicted we would all need at least three revenue streams to guarantee our survival. "One job" was just a bit to close to "no job."

As such, I recommend that everyone who can, should go to community college to deepen, broaden, and modernize their skills set. Community colleges, especially California community colleges, are a great way to get a good and affordable vocational or academic education. As an undergraduate student and as a graduate student, I always worked in some high paying trade such as house painting, carpentry, or even hard core landscaping. I always figured trying to be too purely middle class in my job choices was too geeky and overspecialized (and it did not pay well for students). When I wasn't landscaping, I was teaching myself jewelry fabrication and casting, blacksmithing, welding, and metal machining. I have found these diverse skills helped my analytical ability and they have given me the confidence to know that I could learn new things, even if I was awful at them in the beginning.

As our economy changes I believe many of the big name schools will provide knowledge that is both expensive and obsolete. Their legacy and prestige will make them reluctant to change at the very moment they need to change the most. Like RCA, they will not adopt the transistor because of their huge inventory of obsolete tubes, but a young upstart company like Sony will, to their great profit. I believe the new hot careers will be taught at small community colleges rather than at hallowed institutions like Harvard. De Anza had a star program in animation 20 years ago when animation was just becoming interesting. Stanford University, the school I attended, did not. Instead they had a communication program and a snooty documentary film program. Animation blew up, but snooty documentary films and a bloated TV industry did not.

Affordable and relevant education will be key, whether its is academic or vocational in nature. Attending a top California community college is probably your most straight forward of obtaining either-especially for academic education. No onerous high school requirements like super high grades or SAT tests. You get in automatically. If you do well in the courses you need to transfer, you are pretty much assured of transfer. No soul searching essays about your most formative experience. No need for all those contrived extra-curricular activities. Best of all, it is relatively inexpensive.

If you use community college as part of your university career, do take your normal college courses, but also take a few less mainstream courses in organic farming, or solar electrification, or small business accounting. Take these courses and take them seriously. They may end up saving you. As my professor used to say "relying on reason alone is the quickest way to disaster." Chaos enjoys playing with all your well laid plans. For more and more of us, the worse case scenario will be the real scenario. Widen your options and become as adaptable as possible. That is how hominids have coped for a couple of million years.

Spreadsheets And Accounting – Is It Time To Move On?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Since its first introduction, the use of spreadsheet technology has become wide¬spread. It’s accessible, affordable, powerful, simple and intuitive to use. But more than 25 years have now passed, should we move on?

Understanding the popularity behind spreadsheets in accounting
There is no doubt that spreadsheets can be extremely useful tools and require very little knowledge in order to quickly develop complex models, from monthly management reports through to annual budgets. The endurance of their popularity is staggering, but it is quite understandable when you think that many accountants and financial professionals would prefer to stay within their com¬fort zone whilst ignoring all the inefficiencies of spread¬sheets.

As the demands and scale of businesses have changed, the humble spreadsheet has struggled to keep up and there is more and more debate over whether its limitations are actually slowing down the growth of an organisation. So what is exactly wrong with spreadsheets?

Certainly one of the biggest problems with spreadsheets is their ac¬curacy. Studies have revealed that 90% of all spreadsheets with 150 rows had errors. This is of course human error, and the likelihood of spotting these mistakes gets smaller and smaller with every change that’s made to the file.

So how can you reduce the reliance on spreadsheets?
I think we all agree that there’s a place for spreadsheets, they’re still a great tool for a number of tasks. But the lack of security and the likelihood of human error means that substitutes must be explored. The answer? Use a modern piece of accounting software, one that integrates with other systems and is available to non-financial staff, keeping all finance data in one place. Here are some more examples of why spreadsheets can be unreliable, and how devolved accounting techniques can solve these problems.

There’s no formula for control
What happens when workbooks are distributed and worked on by a variety of users at different locations? If there is a change in formula in one document, there is no safety mechanism to ensure that this has been amended in all the others. With a devolved accounting system, the work previously done in Excel can now be carried out within the accounting software. This increases accuracy of the data stored as it’s going to be updated in real-time.

Security and the ever-used ‘cut and paste’ function
Within the spreadsheet itself there are other pitfalls to consider. Because it is simply a file, it lacks security in terms of how and by whom it is accessed and there is also the danger of it simply being deleted.

Duplicating information can also be a major headache, because you are often cutting and pasting information from one system to another without taking into account that the data may well have already changed by the time it is put back into the system.

Nowadays, it’s easy to get your accounting software inte¬grated with all your other applications, so all the data is stored centrally. No more duplicating data or re-keying in numer¬ous times. All data is always synchronised in real-time.

So, try and look beyond the rose-tinted glasses when thinking about spreadsheets. Yes, they’re intuitive and sit within our comfort zone. But try to take a few minutes to think about how much time and money could be saved through eliminating inaccuracies and duplications – there are alternatives out there!

Real Estate Licenses

Friday, June 21, 2013

A real estate license is the key to a lucrative career in the real estate industry. A real estate license is a powerful tool in the property business. Real estate will always be a dominant market in America. Homes will continue to be bought and sold throughout the state. Getting a real estate license will allow a person to be a part of this booming industry.

People decide to get real estate licenses for many reasons. Many like to work with the public. Some want to be in control of their own schedules. Others are interested in buying real estate for themselves and think that agents have access to 'the best deals'. For this purpose, a real estate license is mandatory. Real estate brokers are constantly looking for new, ambitious real estate sales people and there is significant money to be made in real estate sales.

Obtaining a real estate license in any state where a person may have interest in doing business is not difficult. However, it is important to know that obtaining a real estate license is not solely about taking a real estate exam. The process may differ from state to state. There is no such thing as a national real estate license. Each state has adopted and enforced its own laws and regulations regarding the sale of real estate, for the general purpose of protecting the consumer. Almost every state requires that the candidate complete some form of real estate pre-licensensing course. The successful completion of that course and the minimum number of training hours must be shown, before they will allow the candidate to schedule a real estate license exam. Most states permit the person to take this course not only online, but also in live classrooms, or even by way of a correspondence course.

For a successful career in the real estate business, it is now required by law to have a valid license. Many online education portals provide guidance for the process of acquiring a license. These agencies also provide adequate information regarding the various laws applicable in different states.

Home Buyers and Sellers Real Estate Glossary

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Every business has it's jargon and residential real estate is no exception. Mark Nash author of 1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home shares commonly used terms with home buyers and sellers.

1031 exchange or Starker exchange: The delayed exchange of properties that qualifies for tax purposes as a tax-deferred exchange.

1099: The statement of income reported to the IRS for an independent contractor.

A/I: A contract that is pending with attorney and inspection contingencies.

Accompanied showings: Those showings where the listing agent must accompany an agent and his or her clients when viewing a listing.

Addendum: An addition to; a document.

Adjustable rate mortgage (ARM): A type of mortgage loan whose interest rate is tied to an economic index, which fluctuates with the market. Typical ARM periods are one, three, five, and seven years.

Agent: The licensed real estate salesperson or broker who represents buyers or sellers.

Annual percentage rate (APR): The total costs (interest rate, closing costs, fees, and so on) that are part of a borrower's loan, expressed as a percentage rate of interest. The total costs are amortized over the term of the loan.

Application fees: Fees that mortgage companies charge buyers at the time of written application for a loan; for example, fees for running credit reports of borrowers, property appraisal fees, and lender-specific fees.

Appointments: Those times or time periods an agent shows properties to clients.

Appraisal: A document of opinion of property value at a specific point in time.

Appraised price (AP): The price the third-party relocation company offers (under most contracts) the seller for his or her property. Generally, the average of two or more independent appraisals.

"As-is": A contract or offer clause stating that the seller will not repair or correct any problems with the property. Also used in listings and marketing materials.

Assumable mortgage: One in which the buyer agrees to fulfill the obligations of the existing loan agreement that the seller made with the lender. When assuming a mortgage, a buyer becomes personally liable for the payment of principal and interest. The original mortgagor should receive a written release from the liability when the buyer assumes the original mortgage.

Back on market (BOM): When a property or listing is placed back on the market after being removed from the market recently.

Back-up agent: A licensed agent who works with clients when their agent is unavailable.

Balloon mortgage: A type of mortgage that is generally paid over a short period of time, but is amortized over a longer period of time. The borrower typically pays a combination of principal and interest. At the end of the loan term, the entire unpaid balance must be repaid.

Back-up offer: When an offer is accepted contingent on the fall through or voiding of an accepted first offer on a property.

Bill of sale: Transfers title to personal property in a transaction.

Board of REALTORS® (local): An association of REALTORS® in a specific geographic area.

Broker: A state licensed individual who acts as the agent for the seller or buyer.

Broker of record: The person registered with his or her state licensing authority as the managing broker of a specific real estate sales office.

Broker's market analysis (BMA): The real estate broker's opinion of the expected final net sale price, determined after acquisition of the property by the third-party company.

Broker's tour: A preset time and day when real estate sales agents can view listings by multiple brokerages in the market.

Buyer: The purchaser of a property.

Buyer agency: A real estate broker retained by the buyer who has a fiduciary duty to the buyer.

Buyer agent: The agent who shows the buyer's property, negotiates the contract or offer for the buyer, and works with the buyer to close the transaction.

Carrying costs: Cost incurred to maintain a property (taxes, interest, insurance, utilities, and so on).

Closing: The end of a transaction process where the deed is delivered, documents are signed, and funds are dispersed.

CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange): The insurance industry's national database that assigns individuals a risk score. CLUE also has an electronic file of a properties insurance history. These files are accessible by insurance companies nationally. These files could impact the ability to sell property as they might contain information that a prospective buyer might find objectionable, and in some cases not even insurable.

Commission: The compensation paid to the listing brokerage by the seller for selling the property. A buyer may also be required to pay a commission to his or her agent.

Commission split: The percentage split of commission compen-sation between the real estate sales brokerage and the real estate sales agent or broker.

Competitive Market Analysis (CMA): The analysis used to provide market information to the seller and assist the real estate broker in securing the listing.

Condominium association: An association of all owners in a condominium.

Condominium budget: A financial forecast and report of a condominium association's expenses and savings.

Condominium by-laws: Rules passed by the condominium association used in administration of the condominium property.

Condominium declarations: A document that legally establishes a condominium.

Condominium right of first refusal: A person or an association that has the first opportunity to purchase condominium real estate when it becomes available or the right to meet any other offer.

Condominium rules and regulation: Rules of a condominium association by which owners agree to abide.

Contingency: A provision in a contract requiring certain acts to be completed before the contract is binding.

Continue to show: When a property is under contract with contingencies, but the seller requests that the property continue to be shown to prospective buyers until contingencies are released.

Contract for deed: A sales contract in which the buyer takes possession of the property but the seller holds title until the loan is paid. Also known as an installment sale contract.

Conventional mortgage: A type of mortgage that has certain limitations placed on it to meet secondary market guidelines. Mortgage companies, banks, and savings and loans underwrite conventional mortgages.

Cooperating commission: A commission offered to the buyer's agent brokerage for bringing a buyer to the selling brokerage's listing.

Cooperative (Co-op): Where the shareholders of the corporation are the inhabitants of the building. Each shareholder has the right to lease a specific unit. The difference between a co-op and a condo is in a co-op, one owns shares in a corporation; in a condo one owns the unit fee simple.

Counteroffer: The response to an offer or a bid by the seller or buyer after the original offer or bid.

Credit report: Includes all of the history for a borrower's credit accounts, outstanding debts, and payment timelines on past or current debts.

Credit score: A score assigned to a borrower's credit report based on information contained therein.

Curb appeal: The visual impact a property projects from the street.

Days on market: The number of days a property has been on the market.

Decree: A judgment of the court that sets out the agreements and rights of the parties.

Disclosures: Federal, state, county, and local requirements of disclosure that the seller provides and the buyer acknowledges.

Divorce: The legal separation of a husband and wife effected by a court decree that totally dissolves the marriage relationship.

DOM: Days on market.

Down payment: The amount of cash put toward a purchase by the borrower.

Drive-by: When a buyer or seller agent or broker drives by a property listing or potential listing.

Dual agent: A state-licensed individual who represents the seller and the buyer in a single transaction.

Earnest money deposit: The money given to the seller at the time the offer is made as a sign of the buyer's good faith.

Escrow account for real estate taxes and insurance: An account into which borrowers pay monthly prorations for real estate taxes and property insurance.

Exclusions: Fixtures or personal property that are excluded from the contract or offer to purchase.

Expired (listing): A property listing that has expired per the terms of the listing agreement.

Fax rider: A document that treats facsimile transmission as the same legal effect as the original document.

Feedback: The real estate sales agent and/or his or her client's reaction to a listing or property. Requested by the listing agent.

Fee simple: A form of property ownership where the owner has the right to use and dispose of property at will.

FHA (Federal Housing Administration) Loan Guarantee: A guarantee by the FHA that a percentage of a loan will be underwritten by a mortgage company or banker.

Fixture: Personal property that has become part of the property through permanent attachment.

Flat fee: A predetermined amount of compensation received or paid for a specific service in a real estate transaction.

For sale by owner (FSBO): A property that is for sale by the owner of the property.

Gift letter: A letter to a lender stating that a gift of cash has been made to the buyer(s) and that the person gifting the cash to the buyer is not expecting the gift to be repaid. The exact wording of the gift letter should be requested of the lender.

Good faith estimate: Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, within three days of an application submission, lenders are required to provide in writing to potential borrowers a good faith estimate of closing costs.

Gross sale price: The sale price before any concessions.

Hazard insurance: Insurance that covers losses to real estate from damages that might affect its value.

Homeowner's insurance: Coverage that includes personal liability and theft insurance in addition to hazard insurance.

HUD/RESPA (Housing and Urban Development/Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act): A document and statement that details all of the monies paid out and received at a real estate property closing.

Hybrid adjustable rate: Offers a fixed rate the first 5 years and then adjusts annually for the next 25 years.

IDX (Internet Data Exchange): Allows real estate brokers to advertise each other's listings posted to listing databases such as the multiple listing service.

Inclusions: Fixtures or personal property that are included in a contract or offer to purchase.

Independent contractor: A real estate sales agent who conducts real estate business through a broker. This agent does not receive salary or benefits from the broker.

Inspection rider: Rider to purchase agreement between third party relocation company and buyer of transferee's property stating that property is being sold "as is." All inspection reports conducted by the third party company are disclosed to the buyer and it is the buyer's duty to do his/her own inspections and tests.

Installment land contract: A contract in which the buyer takes possession of the property while the seller retains the title to the property until the loan is paid.

Interest rate float: The borrower decides to delay locking their interest rate on their loan. They can float their rate in expectation of the rate moving down. At the end of the float period they must lock a rate.

Interest rate lock: When the borrower and lender agree to lock a rate on loan. Can have terms and conditions attached to the lock.

List date: Actual date the property was listed with the current broker.

List price: The price of a property through a listing agreement.

Listing: Brokers written agreement to represent a seller and their property. Agents refer to their inventory of agreements with sellers as listings.

Listing agent: The real estate sales agent that is representing the sellers and their property, through a listing agreement.

Listing agreement: A document that establishes the real estate agent's agreement with the sellers to represent their property in the market.

Listing appointment: The time when a real estate sales agent meets with potential clients selling a property to secure a listing agreement.

Listing exclusion: A clause included in the listing agreement when the seller (transferee) lists his or her property with a broker.

Loan: An amount of money that is lent to a borrower who agrees to repay the amount plus interest.

Loan application: A document that buyers who are requesting a loan fill out and submit to their lender.

Loan closing costs: The costs a lender charges to close a borrower's loan. These costs vary from lender to lender and from market to market.

Loan commitment: A written document telling the borrowers that the mortgage company has agreed to lend them a specific amount of money at a specific interest rate for a specific period of time. The loan commitment may also contain conditions upon which the loan commitment is based.

Loan package: The group of mortgage documents that the borrower's lender sends to the closing or escrow.

Loan processor: An administrative individual who is assigned to check, verify, and assemble all of the documents and the buyer's funds and the borrower's loan for closing.

Loan underwriter: One who underwrites a loan for another. Some lenders have investors underwrite a buyer's loan.

Lockbox: A tool that allows secure storage of property keys on the premises for agent use. A combo uses a rotating dial to gain access with a combination; a Supra® (electronic lockbox or ELB) features a keypad.

Managing broker: A person licensed by the state as a broker who is also the broker of record for a real estate sales office. This person manages the daily operations of a real estate sales office.

Marketing period: The period of time in which the transferee may market his or her property (typically 45, 60, or 90 days), as directed by the third-party company's contract with the employer.

Mortgage banker: One who lends the bank's funds to borrowers and brings lenders and borrowers together.

Mortgage broker: A business that or an individual who unites lenders and borrowers and processes mortgage applications.

Mortgage loan servicing company: A company that collects monthly mortgage payments from borrowers.

Multiple listing service (MLS): A service that compiles available properties for sale by member brokers.

Multiple offers: More than one buyers broker present an offer on one property where the offers are negotiated at the same time.

National Association of REALTORS® (NAR): A national association comprised of real estate sales agents.

Net sales price: Gross sales price less concessions to the buyers.

Off market: A property listing that has been removed from the sale inventory in a market. A property can be temporarily or permanently off market.

Offer to purchase: When a buyer proposes certain terms and presents these terms to the seller.

Office tour/caravan: A walking or driving tour by a real estate sales office of listings represented by agents in the office. Usually held on a set day and time.

Parcel identification number (PIN): A taxing authority's tracking number for a property.

Pending: A real estate contract that has been accepted on a property but the transaction has not closed.

Personal assistant: A real estate sales agent administrative assistant.

Planned unit development (PUD): Mixed-use development that sets aside areas for residential use, commercial use, and public areas such as schools, parks, and so on.

Preapproval: A higher level of buyer/borrower prequalification required by a mortgage lender. Some preapprovals have conditions the borrower must meet.

Prepaid interest: Funds paid by the borrower at closing based on the number of days left in the month of closing.

Prepayment penalty: A fine imposed on the borrower by the lender when the loan is paid off before it comes due.

Prequalification: The mortgage company tells a buyer in advance of the formal mortgage application, how much money the borrower can afford to borrow. Some prequalifications have conditions that the borrower must meet.

Preview appointment: When a buyer's agent views a property alone to see if it meets his or her buyer's needs.

Pricing: When the potential seller's agent goes to the potential listing property to view it for marketing and pricing purposes.

Principal: The amount of money a buyer borrows.

Principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI): The four parts that make up a borrower's monthly mortgage payment. Private mortgage insurance (PMI): A special insurance paid by a borrower in monthly installments, typically of loans of more than 80 percent of the value of the property.

Professional designation: Additional nonlicensed real estate education completed by a real estate professional.

Professional regulation: A state licensing authority that oversees and disciplines licensees.

Promissory note: A promise-to-pay document used with a contract or an offer to purchase.

R & I: Estimated and actual repair and improvement costs.

Real estate agent: An individual who is licensed by the state and who acts on behalf of his or her client, the buyer or seller. The real estate agent who does not have a broker's license must work for a licensed broker.

Real estate contract: A binding agreement between buyer and seller. It consists of an offer and an acceptance as well as consideration (i.e., money).

REALTOR®: A registered trademark of the National Association of REALTORS® that can be used only by its members.

Release deed: A written document stating that a seller or buyer has satisfied his or her obligation on a debt. This document is usually recorded.

Relist: Property that was listed with another broker but relisted with a current broker.

Rider: A separate document that is attached to a document in some way. This is done so that an entire document does not need to be rewritten.

Salaried agent: A real estate sales agent or broker who receives all or part of his or her compensation in real estate sales in the form of a salary.

Sale price: The price paid for a listing or property.

Seller (owner): The owner of a property who has signed a listing agreement or a potential listing agreement.

Showing: When a listing is shown to prospective buyers or the buyer's agent (preview).

Special assessment: A special and additional charge to a unit in a condominium or cooperative. Also a special real estate tax for improvements that benefit a property.

State Association of REALTORS®: An association of REALTORS® in a specific state.

Supra®: An electronic lockbox (ELB) that holds keys to a property. The user must have a Supra keypad to use the lockbox.

Temporarily off market (TOM): A listed property that is taken off the market due to illness, travel, needed repairs, and so on.

Temporary housing: Housing a transferee occupies until permanent housing is selected or becomes available.

Transaction: The real estate process from offer to closing or escrow.

Transaction management fee (TMF): A fee charged by listing brokers to the seller as part of the listing agreement.

Transaction sides: The two sides of a transaction, sellers and buyers. The term used to record the number of transactions in which a real estate sales agent or broker was involved during a specific period.

24-hour notice: Allowed by law, tenants must be informed of showing 24 hours before you arrive.

Under contract: A property that has an accepted real estate contract between seller and buyer.

VA (Veterans Administration) Loan Guarantee: A guarantee on a mortgage amount backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Virtual tour: An Internet web/cd-rom-based video presentation of a property.

VOW's (Virtual Office web sites): An Internet based real estate brokerage business model that works with real estate consumers in same way as a brick and mortar real estate brokerage.

W-2: The Internal Revenue form issued by employer to employee to reflect compensation and deductions to compensation.

W-9: The Internal Revenue form requesting taxpayer identification number and certification.

Walk-through: A showing before closing or escrow that permits the buyers one final tour of the property they are purchasing.

Will: A document by which a person disposes of his or her property after death.

The Ancient Chinese Silk Route - Conduit of Culture

Small Beginnings

Arguably the most significant trade route of ancient Chinese civilisation, the Silk Road, or Silk Route as it is sometimes known, was named in the mid-19th century by German scholar, Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen. However, the route itself was in use since around the 2nd Century BC. Its original purpose had been political rather than economic and a court official from the Han Empire was sent westwards on a diplomatic mission, becoming the first traveller along what would become the most important east-west link ever. It was to be decades before his return, and when he did, the goods and information he'd gathered on his journey would spark the desire for trade.

Corridor of cultural exchange

Over time, the route became a conduit for the exchange of information and goods - it was to people of the time as the Internet is to us today; a means of linkage between diverse and geographically isolated civilisations.

What's in a name anyway?

"The Silk Road [http://www.oasisoverland.co.uk/truck_expeditions/middle_east/china_exploratory/index.html]" is a bit of a misnomer. Firstly, it was not really a single road. Rather, it was a wandering network of trails linking the Far East to Europe, Persia and Northern Africa. Secondly, silk was but one of a considerable number of valuable commodities traded along the route.

Exchanging ideas and ideologies

Scientific and technological innovations, such as gunpowder, ceramics, the magnetic compass, the printing press and mathematics, transferred along the Silk Road to the West. The religion of Buddhism reached China from India, and was later to play an important role in the evolution of Chinese culture. Of course, Buddhism was not to be the only religion to travel this road. The cultural effects of the rise of Islam can still be seen in many of the areas along the route. Art and language too came to be exchanged.

Silk by Sea

In the late 15th century, the discovery of a sea route from Europe to Asia made the Silk Road less popular as a trade route. Sea travel presented a new opportunity to trade at lower cost, with fewer dangers. These sea routes are sometimes considered as part of the greater "Silk Route".

The Silk Route Today

After what could perhaps be called an extended hibernation period, the Silk Route is once again growing in importance. The construction of modern roads and railways, the discovery of oil reserves and the industrialisation of surrounding areas has led to the reopening of parts of this route to some extent.

The historical significance of the route is well-appreciated by modern-day travellers. To walk in the footsteps of the likes of Marco Polo, to see first-hand the landscapes traversed by explorers centuries ago; it is surely a fantastic experience of cultural enrichment.

The potential that this area holds as a tourist destination is not lost on the authorities. Neither is its archaeological relevance.

Preserving the Past

Chinese authorities are doing their best to protect and restore many of the most important archaeological sites. The Dunhuang Research Institute has been examining and restoring the Mogao grottos and an extensive preservation project is currently underway. Excavations are undertaken all over, with significant finds relatively frequent.

One such find has been produced at the Astana tombs site, where the dead from the city of Gaochang were buried. The murals, clothing and other artefacts discovered, have provided significant insight into life along the old Silk Road.
There is much to see and learn from around the Taklimakan Desert; damaged grottos and ruined cities rich in their histories.

Unique People

Archaeology is not the only draw card though. Many visitors are attracted by the minority peoples - there are about thirteen different groupings in the region; the Han Chinese, the Tibetans and Mongolians in the east, and the Tajik, Kazakhs and Uzbeks in the west.

Then there's the lure of cities such as Kashgar, where the Sunday market maintains much of the old Silk Road spirit. People various nationalities selling everything from spice and ornaments to camels and carpets.

It is the kind of place that adventure travellers dream about. Rich in history and cultural legacy, surrounded by imposing geography, peopled by diverse minorities and relatively untouched by mainstream tourist machinations.

The Silk Route Legacy Lives On

From its founding during the early days of the Han Dynasty, the Silk Road has had an important role in international trade and politics, extending over three continents and leaving its mark on civilisations around the globe. It has had periods of boom and decline and it has been always come back to boom again. I would venture to suggest that the story of the Silk Road is far from over...

Get A Home Loan With Consideration

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Whether you are buying an existing home or trying to have a new one built, it is a big deal to get a homeloan. It could quite possibly be the most important purchase of a lifetime. Due to this, it is important to choose your finance company and options very carefully. A mistake in your decision can cost you a lot of money.

As with many other types of financing, credit histories and scores are a major factor. Lenders will use your credit as a way of determining your reliability with paying bills. They use your score to see how much credit you have. If you obtain a copy of your report ahead of time, you can see for yourself what will be looked at. You also have the advantage of catching and repairing any abnormalities before they can cause a problem with your approval.

Your budget will be another thing that you should plan out ahead of time. You will need to set a maximum amount that you can pay every month. Remember to count all of your other debts and expenses, including groceries, utilities, and household needs. Lenders will use these same guidelines during the application process. There are a lot of factors that lenders take into consideration, but your debt to income ratio is a large portion of it.

Get all of your necessary documents before you start the process. There still may be specific documents that are needed in addition to what you provide initially, but at least there will be less to worry about. Proof of income, tax records, and proof of residence going back at least two years will be needed. You will also need to provide all the names and contact information for several references.

There are a few types of loans. They are each different. Each type is structured to have different terms. You will see that time of repayment, requirements, and the interest rate will differ between them. Your monthly payments are also affected by the type of mortgage.

When you start looking for financing companies to apply with, do your homework. Look for reviews from clients and check with local monitoring agencies for serious complaints. You should also look for how long the companies have been in business and if there is adequate financial stability. Build a list of reputable lenders to contact.

There are different ways to access mortgages. You can go with a broker, bank, or credit union. A bank will offer financing for just about everyone that is credit worthy but there will be higher interest rates and more strict terms. Credit unions generally only offer mortgages to their customers and usually have lower interest rates and more selections for terms. Brokers do not offer financing themselves, but they work with multiple lenders on your behalf to negotiate competitive terms for loans.

Many people think that it is a difficult and lengthy process to get a homeloan. The truth is that it only takes a long time or has problems when buyers are not educated or prepared. Making an effort to learn about as much as possible and having things already put together can help avoid delays and stress.

The Benefits of a Real Estate Auction

Monday, June 17, 2013

Many situations occur that are tailor-made for a real estate auction, but most, if not all, would fit under the category "time is of the essence."

Property A is sold, and on the strength of this sale, your client purchases Property B. Now sale A develops problems in escrow and the sale cannot close. The client is now in a state of hysteria since his only hope of closing on Property B in 60 days is by closing on Property A. What do you do? Auction Property A and arrange a sale date well in advance of the closing date on Property B, stipulating that part of the terms and conditions of the real estate auction is a quick closing. This can only be accomplished with a real estate auction.

A type of situation which dictates the advantage of a real estate auction is the high divorce rate and the need to dispose of the real estate quickly. Often neither party can afford to hold a property that they previously owned as husband and wife.

When a partnership dissolves, the situation often demands an immediate sale of the assets, including the real estate. Private negotiated marketing cannot guarantee a sale within a set, short time period. A real estate auction can.

Heirs to an estate that involves real estate are usually highly motivated for a fast sale. Most states encourage a real estate auction as a method for generating the highest price in the shortest period of time. Illness, or the need for immediate cash, or the inability of the owner to hold and maintain the real estate is another reason you should recommend a real estate auction. Holding costs can be crippling. All too often, the carrying or holding costs during a private negotiated marketing effort won't be recovered in a higher selling price. Instead the price is reduced. Therefore, the sooner a property sells, the greater the bottom line dollars in pocket for the seller.

An exchange being held up waiting for a buyer on one of the legs - auction it. The real estate auction can also work especially well in a "Bull Market". The law of supply and demand, where the demand exceeds the supply, is an ideal market to expose the real estate to competitive bidding to get the maximum return. The real estate auction is highly desirable in overbuilt or stagnant markets, where no reading exists on how low prices will fall or how long the market will stay overbuilt.

The private negotiated method and auction marketing method are different. A real estate auction can most generally guarantee a sale within a short period of time, and the attention is directed to the property being auctioned. Private negotiated marketing can't accomplish this.

Clearly, real estate auctions offer owners of all types of real estate advantages that are not available with private negotiated real estate firms.

All of us in the real estate profession are salespeople first and foremost. Let's forget for a moment the fancy titles and diplomas we have earned during our years in the business. The bottom line of success in our profession is still determined by our ability as salespeople. We constantly look for sellers so we have more listings. Our next step is to find the buyers.

A professionally managed real estate auction is a method of marketing that will find the buyers crawling out of the woodwork, and it is this benefit that will enable you to gain additional sales by offering your clients the real estate auction marketing option.

Same Day Loans: Quick Money Without Any Apprehension

Sunday, June 16, 2013

If you are in some sort of financial difficulty and need additional financial help the same day, same day loans are for you. When you do not have finance and facing small cash problems due to shortage of money, here is the solution for you. This loan service can be termed as a feasible financial solution that meet your cash deficits without and hard and fast eligibility.

In order to get same day loans, you just need to be a permanent citizen of UK with the age of eighteen years or more. Moreover, you should be a regular employed earning at least £1000 per month. A bank account should be necessary to hold for direct transfer of money. After meeting the above requirements, you can easily get same day loans without any restriction and obligation at all.

No need to get hassle about undergoing long and messy credit checking process. This short term loan is free from credit checking process that remove the embarrassment of holding poor or blemished credit scores. Thus, no matter what type of credit status you have, you are eligible to get same day loans for unemployed help with ease and comfort.

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The Hudson River School of Painters

Saturday, June 15, 2013

1. Forces and Philosophies behind the Movement:

At the dawn of the 19th century, everything in America was new. Towns were new. Government was new. Infrastructure was new. Even its spirit was new. And a new breed of painters was about to capture it on canvas. But their origin, like many of the country's aspects, can be traced across the Atlantic to Europe-in this case, to the Romanticism movement.

Spreading across the continent during the previous century, and serving as the artistic core of poetry, painting, and even architecture, it replaced the traditionally restrictive, intellectual and factual approach to life with one of contemplation and expression, particularly of its awe-inspiring features, such as its vast forests and limitless skies. These, according to this philosophy, could only have been created by a Source far greater than the contemplator, and it took his limitless soul to be able to connect with it. Finite intellectual understanding, it was concluded, was no opponent for infinite creations.

Artistic works served as expressions of what may have been man's ascent back to his original, enlightened origins-namely, that he had begun to (re)realize that he was a combination of physical, intellectual, and emotional properties, and it was only the latter which had enabled him to replace reason with emotion, gaining a new relationship with nature in the process.

Like a series of lights re-lit after a long, dark winter, this philosophy spread across Europe, each of its countries beginning to flicker as they focused on their natural beauty.

Art, traditionally following form, now did the opposite. Instead of reflecting a formal English garden, for instance, paintings now increasingly represented informal nature, which was seldom so meticulously patterned and planned-at least not by man. Scenes appearing on canvases were representations--not artificial, idealized images-and with them came acknowledgment and acceptance of what "is" and not what "should be."

A counterforce, opposing order, balance, and symmetry, arose.

Society, again only subconsciously aware of its impinging enlightenment, evolved, as expressed by its shifting beliefs. Medievalists, for example, had viewed nature as sinful, seeped with Christianity-incompatible pagan gods, while Classicists felt that, if nature were left untamed, that it would remain chaotic. As a result, it could only be rearranged into proper order by the touch of man. But Romanticists saw it as a natural expression of faultless beauty to be enjoyed and appreciated, and man's hand only marred, spoiled, or uncreated it.

Although these forces and philosophies ultimately floated across the Atlantic, there were several fundamental differences to the movement, which began to take root in North America. The European philosophy was, first and foremost, a revolt against classical traditions and their established beliefs. Because the New World had no formal school of arts--whether they be of the painting, prose, or poetry genres--before the dawn of the 19th century, there was no need for such a counter-movement. Traditional portraiture constituted the primary artistic legacy of the latter, 18th- century Colonial period. That few examples of landscape painting remain from this era indicates that little value had been attached to it.

But 1800 would serve as both the threshold to the new century and to its shifting values. Having already established its foundation of independence and government, America now turned its attention to its aesthetic side, establishing pride in the natural beauty its new shores had provided. The principle medium through which this pride was expressed was art.

Like a collective canvas waiting for a brush, the Hudson Valley posed for painters, enticing them with its lush river, forest, and mountain vistas, and providing the stage where that beauty could be captured, expressed, and interpreted. The stage, in essence, served as the incubator of an American painting movement.

The Catskill Mountain House, the country's first resort, opened in 1824. Along with the Hudson River-dotted summer retreats, it attracted tourists and travelers, who were spurred into exploring the area by a flourishing economy. Since America's still budding, nature-expressing trend arose in original form as Romanticism in Europe, it is not surprising that it was carried across the ocean by a European, who became one of the earliest venturers to be lured here by its pristine beauty. His name was Thomas Cole.

2. Thomas Cole:

Born in Bolton-le-Moor, Lancashire, England, on February 1, 1801, Thomas Cole served as an engineering apprentice in a calico print factory before relocating to Philadelphia as a young artist. Despite having subsequently embarked on an overland wagon journey to Steubenville, Ohio, with his family, he quickly aborted the attempt, returning to pursue a career as a textile print designer. It provided an initial, albeit tenuous, connection to art.

That connection, however, was more firmly established in 1819 when he was given his first exposure to tropical seas and majestic mountains during a trip to St.. Eustasia. The images impressed on his soul would later be transferred on to canvas.

A self-taught artist, he elected to acquaint himself with painting fundamentals the following year, after which he became an itinerant portrait artist in Pittsburgh and Ohio. He first drew at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in 1823.

At the quarter-century mark, several career-shaping events occurred: he moved to New York City; traveled to the Hudson Valley for the first time; sold three, notoriety-sparking landscape paintings; and began to spend his summers on a Catskill farm called "Cedar Grove."

3. Cedar Grove:

Initially traveling to the village of Catskill in 1825, he returned the following year to board at, and establish a rural studio in, a small outbuilding on the 110-acre Cedar Grove farm, which sported a Federal style, mountain-facing house owned by local merchant, John A. Thomson. The view became his life-long inspiration.

Indeed, in his "Essay on American Scenery," written in 1835, he expressed how the landscape had featured "varied, undulating, and exceedingly beautiful outlines-(the Catskills) heave from the valley of the Hudson like the subsiding billows of the ocean after a storm."

Taking long, frequent walks alone, he became mesmerized by the vistas of both the Hudson River and the peaks triumphantly raising their heads to the sky behind it, sensing the Source which had created them.

As the arm of that Source, he both liaised between and expressed the two on canvas-in the process sparking the beginning of what would evolve into two early-19th century trends: a strong national interest in American scenery and the religious awe with which it became associated. Because nature was a form of God's work, landscape painters were credited with alerting others of this fact.

According to Matthew Baigell's book, Thomas Cole (Watson Guptill Publications, 1981), "...art ought to be a ladder by which people might rise to see spiritual reality shining above base nature..."

Aside from embodying this philosophy, Cole's paintings offered the viewer a unique perspective, implanting him, for the first time, in the raw, untamed, and uncensored American wilderness, which he recreated by means of colors and techniques, in unprecedented detail, demonstrating what traditionalists considered its "imperfections." These ranged from broken tree stumps to unsightly underbrush and jagged mountain edges.

Topographical variations, emphasized by sun and shade alike, evoked mystery and terror.

His painting process was also less than traditional. In an 1838 letter to fellow artist Asher B. Durand, he detailed his compositional methods and creative techniques. "...I never succeed in painting scenes, however beautiful, immediately on returning from them," he explained. "I must wait for time to draw a veil over the common details, the unessential parts, which shall leave the great features, whether the beautiful or the sublime, dominant in the mind."

Cedar Grove proved instrumental in both his professional and personal life. After a decade of summering there, he permanently planted his roots in Catskill soil on November 22, 1836, when he married Maria Bartow, one of Thomson's nieces, in the west parlor, subsequently taking up residence in the house's second-floor rooms. He also completed his first major series of paintings, "The Course of Empire," for which he was most known.

In order to accommodate the large canvases needed for the second series, entitled "The Voyage of Life" and commissioned by wealthy philanthropist Samuel Ward, three years later, Cole moved into a barn-resembling structure he designated the "Old Studio." Ward, in the event, died that November, before they could be completed.

The "New Studio," an Italianate building on a knoll overlooking the Catskills and the only building he ever designed himself, replaced the old in 1846, but it was only used for more 14 months until his own untimely death at age 47, of pneumonia, on February 11, 1848.

In addition to "The Course of Empire" series, which depicted the rise and fall of civilization, and "The Voyage of Life," which demonstrated its mutability, Thomas Cole left numerous paintings, including the "Lake with Dead Trees" of 1825, "Kaaterskill Falls," "Falls of the Kaaterskill," "Landscape," "A View Near Tivoli," "The Notch of the White Mountains," "The Old Mill at Sunset," and "Mount Aetra from Taormina."

Despite his short life, he nevertheless set the tone and revolutionized the themes, styles, and methods which became characteristic of American landscape painting, enabling future generations, in his own words, to "know better how to appreciate the treasures of their own country."

Cole's initial, and recurrent, inspiration can be viewed from the main house's porch, which provides a picture postcard view of the Catskill peaks, such as Palenville, gathering spot of Hudson River artists throughout the 19th century; Kaaterskill High Peak; and Thomas Cole Mountain. Their significance to him is expressed by his very poem, "The Wild," written in 1826 and reprinted on the porch's plaque. "Friends of my heart, lovers of nature's works, let me transport you to those wild, blue mountains, that rear their summits near the Hudson's wave."

Although Thomas Cole's untimely death may have signaled the end to his painting philosophies and styles, it had actually been just the beginning of them, since he had already passed the torch to a student. His name was Frederic Edwin Church.

4. Frederic Edwin Church:

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, to a family, which had been prominent since the city's very founding, Church knew, from an early age, that art had been his life's calling. The most pivotal step toward that goal had been his acceptance as a student of Thomas Cole, then considered America's most respected landscape painter, in May of 1844.

The two-year pedagogy, held in Cole's west bank Catskill studio and costing $300 per annum (plus $3.00 per week for room and board), enabled him to see through his teacher's eyes before establishing his own style. His teacher's influence was, nevertheless, evident in his later painting, "Morning," of 1856.

Like Cole, Church drew inspiration from the area's namesaked mountains. Serving as "lesson plans," they were considered "steps by which we may ascend to a great temple," and were transformed into drawings, sketches, and paintings. One such lesson, taught on a bluff designated "Red Hill" and located on the river's east side, enabled Church to both capture the Catskills from its greater elevation and lay the foundation from which his home would someday rise.

Although he had initially focused on painting landscapes in the Hudson Valley, he soon hungered to serve as intermediary between more of the world and his canvases. Particularly peaked, in interest, by Baron Alexander von Humbolt's Mexico, Caribbean, and South American Kosmos volumes, he elected to make his own sketching trips to the southern hemisphere in 1853 and 1857, during which its rich tropical foliage and mountain silhouettes provided the scenes for such paintings as "Chimborazo," "View of Cotopaxi," and "Heart of the Andes."

Church employed a progressive process to his creations, communing with nature during the summer and creating "sketch snapshots" in the form of graphite (pencil) drawings to preserve the visual memories, coupled with notes and verbal impressions. More than observing, he studied nature, becoming immersed in it and gaining considerable understanding of it before capturing it with his brushes. As interpreter, he recorded his translation in painting form, transforming it from three-dimensional reality to two-dimensional representation on usually very large oil canvases in his studio during the winter.

Several elements are indicative of his style. Abundant vegetation, for instance-usually appearing in the foreground-served to draw the viewer into the scene, placing him above and at some distance from the represented landscape. Using light, he captured water and ice with a wide range of colors, while streams and lakes served as sun-illuminated elements. Leaf, flower, rock, and boulder details were painted with infinitesimally detailed accuracy.

The sky served as Church's most consistent inspiration, enabling him to capture its cloud types, colors, shapes, and hues after obsessive study of them, and rainbows, most often associated with waterfalls, were also frequently featured.

By the end of the decade, Church temporarily turned his attention from painting to searching for a suitable location where he could raise a family, although even that was influenced by his budding years. Indeed, he could conceive of no more appropriate place than that which had allowed him to return to his roots.

5. Olana:

Acquiring 126 acres of fields and woodlands in early 1860, including the very Red Hill from which he and Thomas Cole had sketched, Frederic Church, now married to Isabel Carnes, built a white, clapboard house designed by Richard Morris Hunt and dubbed "Cosy Cottage." The mountains visible across the azure stretch of river from it at times resembled green velvet pyramids and at others waves suspended at their crests.

With the birth of his third child-and intermittent, premature deaths of his first two due to diphtheria-he purchased an additional 18 acres of land, which blanketed Summit Hill, in 1867, on which to build his definitive domicile, a French manor house equally designed by Hunt.

Yet, inspired by the European and Middle Eastern research trip he took between 1867 and 1869, he restyled it mid-stream, to feature Moorish elements, with the aid of Calvert Vaux, a noted architect who had worked for Andrew Jackson Downing. Aside from providing the material for his eventual, continuity-of-human-civilization series of paintings, the trip also enabled him to determine how a house of true strength and integrity should appear, as demonstrated by the stone structures seen in Beirut. Optimum elements, he had decided, included thick, almost fortress-indicative walls and a central courtyard in Persian style. His success as a painter left no monetary shortage for the project.

Vaux, replacing Hunt as architect, employed his reputation-earned flexibility in designing according to client need and suggestion, as Church definitively determined the house's height, architectural details, and decoration, using his own artistic talents and consulting books about Persian architecture to determine the most optimum ornamental motifs. The former, particularly, enabled him to create decoratively detailed elements, from staircase balustrades to interior wall stencil patterns, and resulted in a rich, if not eclectic, collection of Moorish tiles, Turkish carpets, Near Eastern brass, Italian Old Master paintings, and teacher (Cole) and student (Church) works.

Construction of the imposing Persian palace propped 600 feet above the Hudson and offering pristine views of the Catskill Mountains, was completed in 1872, but interior decoration was achieved over several more years, during which Church and his family already occupied the rooms.

He described his home as "Persian, adapted to the Occident," and explained that its "interior decorations and fittings are all in harmony with the external architecture." Its name, "Olana," was chosen in 1880 to reflect that of the fortress treasure house in ancient Persia called "Olane."

Church's numerous paintings were the result of both the vistas it afforded and his frequent trips. After returning from his European and Middle Eastern sojourn, for example, he produced "Parthenon" and "Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives," while local scenes were captured in "Scene in the Catskills" and "Catskill Mountains." Other notable works include "Niagara," "Sunset," "Cotopaxi," and "The Icebergs."
Illness ultimately proved his enemy. Progressively attacked by degenerative rheumatism, he lost the use of his right arm, electing to add a studio wing with a gallery, observatory, bedroom, storage room, and gilded Moorish glass window overlooking the Catskills in 1888 to replace his 30-year New York facility.
His final brush stroke preceded the loss of his left arm, rendering him incapacitated as a painter during the last two decades of his life.

Because of his wife's own decline, he offered management of Olana to his 21-year-old son, Louis Palmer Church, to whom he re-bequeathed it when she passed on May 12, 1899. Repurposing his trips from sketching to convalescing, he traveled to Mexico the following winter in search of more illness-compatible climates, but was himself defeated by his afflictions during its return portion on April 7, 1900, ironically the location of the studio where it had all begun while enroute to Hudson, location of the one where it had all ended. In a way, his life had mimicked the soul's journey in that its origin and destination had been the same.

Frederic Edwin Church had been the world's most-traveled artist, and the world is exactly what he captured-one brush stroke and one painting at a time. Of his numerous works, Olana had served as his last-and only three-dimensional-architectural and landscaped one.

Located across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge just outside the town of Hudson, and majestically perched on Summit Hill, Olana, now visitor-accessible, emphasizes its connection between student and teacher, who were physically separated by only a swim's distance. An integrated environment of art, architecture, and landscape, it is a masterpiece in the midst of nature, whose grounds cover 250 acres.

The former stable, coach house, and coachman's quarters serve as the present-day Visitor Center and gift shop, where the 17-minute film, "Frederic Church's Olana," is continuously shown.

Brushed with the same artistic touch as his paintings, Olana is the result of balance, composition, and fidelity to nature, exhibiting what is considered the finest surviving example of the Picturesque Style, whose cornerstone is the framed view. For the first and only time in his life, he rearranged the landscape, creating the "real thing." Like his paintings, it featured both fore- and middle-ground elements in a composition whose background otherwise remained the ubiquitous and unaltered Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains.

The scenery, having inspired both student and teacher, provided the natural setting to be depicted on canvas, demonstrating that the earth's purpose was a stage whose elements did not necessarily change, but whose representation and interpretation varied according to the "actor" currently using it.

According to the Olana website, "the distinctive land form (shaped to form a grassy stepped terrace) inevitably draws all visitors and functions as the viewing platform for the ultimate landscape experience at Olana. From that point, visitors experience the sublime in the truest sense of the word. The land falls away at one's feet. The Hudson River bends deeply and stretches toward infinity. The Catskill Mountains rise up from the south to their majestic peaks just across from Olana."

Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, although having settled in the Upper Hudson Valley, were not the only two artists who were inspired by it. Another painter lived further south, in Poughkeepsie. His name was Samuel Morse.

6. Samuel Finley Breese Morse:

Despite his reputation to the contrary, Samuel Finley Breese Morse was only secondarily an inventor. But without attracting any significant recognition of his artistic works, the reverse became the reality in the public's mind.

Born on April 27, 1791 just outside of Boston, in Charlestown, he was the son of Jedidiah Morse, who was a pastor and creator of geographies, and he traces his artistic awakening to the art class he took when he had been all of 11 years old.

Before graduating from Yale University (his father's alma mater), he had painted miniatures, but the dabbling evolved into more serious strokes when he had accompanied Washington Allston, a noted painter, to England for four years to study under him at the Royal Academy. It was at this time that he had determined that he would dedicate his life to art.

Like so many others, however, monetary necessity forced him to relinquish his passioned genre of history painting for portraiture.

Although portrait painting may have been less then fulfilling to him, it provided considerable monetary reward, enabling him to earn between $60 and $70 per canvas when he had been in Charleston, South Carolina.

Adopting the profile of the most successful, New York-based painters, he finally planted roots in that metropolis in 1826, forming and becoming head of the short-lived Drawing Association, itself an extension of the American Academy of Fine Arts. Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand ranked among its members. It was quickly replaced by the National Academy of Design, of which Morse became its president.

Also mimicking fellow painters, such as Cole and Church, he began spending his summers in upstate New York, before embarking on a three-year sketching tour of Europe, producing his second monumental, but not particularly successful, canvas, "The Grand Gallery of the Louvre," which succeeded the first, "The House of Representatives."

While crossing the Atlantic on the Sully on the return journey in 1832, however, he also crossed the line between art and science, for the first time discussing electromagnetism with fellow passengers and thus picking up the thread to his second interest. In fact, he would later rely on these passengers and their affidavits that he, and he alone, had been the inventor of the electro-telegraph and the dot-dash system used to transcribe its signals into words. It was known, of course, as "Morse Code."

The amount of time and attention devoted to his new life purpose increased until he was no longer able to concentrate on either painting or teaching.

Linking Baltimore with Washington by means of the telegraph line for the first time after Congressional funds had been granted, he succeeded in transmitting the world's first inter-city communication, via wire, from the Capitol Building in 1844. Reflective of his and his father's deep religious beliefs, it consisted of four words: "What hath God wrought!"

Like the strands radiating from a spider's web, his telegraph cables ultimately connected the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia.

Yet, despite the change in life strategy, he still followed in the footsteps of his fellow painters, eventually settling in the Hudson Valley in an estate named "Locust Grove."

7. Locust Grove:

After years of exclusive focus on his invention, and subsequent marriage to his second wife, Sarah Elisabeth Griswold, Morse purchased a 100-acre farm two miles from the village of Poughkeepsie for $17,500 in 1847, and its location, on a high bluff overlooking the Hudson River, was strongly reminiscent of the Cole and Church estates. In any case, it served to rekindle his painter's perspective, as indicated by the description of his new surroundings, which offered "every variety of surface, plain, hill, dale, glens, running streams, and fine forest..."

The working farm, tended by a live-in family and retaining its original, "Locust Grove" name, yielded crops and livestock.

Like Frederic Church's Olana, the original Federal-style house, built in 1830 by John and Isabella Montgomery, was subjected to considerable, European-influenced remodeling and expansion, this time by renowned architect Alexander Jackson Davis, who transferred it into a Tuscan villa with an octagonal plaza formed by its north and south wings; a four-story, westward (and hence, river-facing) tower; a billiard room on the east side; and a porte-cochere.

Also like Olana, Locust Grove featured framed views and beautiful vistas shaped by Morse's Romantic, 19th-century landscape design.

Waxing rhapsodic about the sanctuary located in the very setting he had often painted, he wrote in an 1848 letter to his brother, "You have no idea how lovely Locust Grove is. Not a day goes by that I do not feel it."
Morse died on April 2, 1872 in New York City. Having been a painter, photographer, professor, and inventor, he was considered one of the greatest men of the 19th century, having immeasurably improved commerce, politics, journalism, and communication during a period when the New World enjoyed a four-fold increase in land area and a catapult in population from four to 40 million. He had completed 300 canvases during it, but painting, alas, was not considered one of his principle accomplishments.

Purchased from Morse heirs in 1895 by William and Martha Young, a prominent Poughkeepsie couple, Locust Grove was subsequently occupied by them, their two children, and 12 servants, and subjected to expansion with the acquisition of the adjoining Southwood and Edgehill estates. A dining room was added on the north side, along with romantic gardens and carriage roads paralleling the Hudson River.

In 1963, it became the first Hudson Valley estate to be designated a National Historic Landmark, and 12 years later, Annette Innis Young, the last member to have occupied it, created a not-for-profit foundation to preserve it and its 150 acres for "the enjoyment, visitation, and enlightenment of the public."

The house, featuring all of the Young's furniture and possessions, remains virtually unchanged and is open to the public.

Its Morse Gallery, located in the Visitor Center, offers a glimpse of his life and a prelude to the house, featuring a collection of portraits, telegraph instruments and cables, an 1835 telegraph patent model (consisting of a transmitter and receiver), rival European telegraphs, wet-cell batteries, and an 1850 telegraph register. You can even try your hand at tapping out the dots and dashes of Morse code.

Internally, the house offers a rich collection of artwork, including 18th century Dutch landscapes, 19th century Hudson River School paintings (more about which see), and 20th century prints and drawings. Furniture styles range from Chippendale to Empire.

8. Hudson River School:

Frederic Church and Samuel Morse were only two of many members who belonged to what a newspaper reporter once called the "Hudson River School" of Painters, and Thomas Cole was considered its founder, father, and leading light, despite the fact that he played no organizational or administrative role in it.

Although they often lived in, were inspired by, and painted its namesaked valley, they were otherwise unrestricted by it. Most, in fact, were based in New York City.

Characterized by the European Romanticism movement's philosophy that nature is an expression of the Higher Power, which had created it, its landscape painters glorified this fact with an almost religious reverence and thus believed that art was an agent of spiritual transformation.

Considered the foremost American artist, Cole was credited with creating the independent category of "landscape painting."

Although the Hudson River School of Painters cannot be considered group members bound by prescribed or specified rules or limitations, they enjoyed both stylistic and social cohesion, belonging to the National Academy of Design and, by 1858, working at the first purposefully-built studio for artists, the Studio Building on West Tenth Street in Manhattan.

Aside from Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, and Samuel Morse, other members included Thomas Chambers, Samuel Colman, Thomas Doughty, Martin Johnson Heade, George Innes, Homer Dodge Martin, Jervis McEntee, Charles Herbert Moore, William T. Richards, Thomas P. Rossiter, Francis Augustus Silva, and Robert Walter Weir.

Like many artistic movements, however, the Hudson River School reached its peak of popularity before it descended toward a trough, at which point it was replaced by the Barbizon style, which first took root in the French village after which it was named.

Nevertheless, having spanned the half century from 1825-when Thomas Cole had first settled in New York-to 1875, when Church and Bierstadt had produced the huge, glorifying depictions of the Andes and the Rockies-it had served to define the "American artist." Synthesizing European Romanticism with American landscape painting, it established the ultimate trinity by connecting man, by means of nature, with God-or created with Creator.


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