August 8, 2020

Library apps: Overdrive, Hoopla and Libby

Libraries have two strikes against them during this Covid-19 outbreak. They are not considered essential services and they risk attracting numbers of people who may catch or spread the disease. I understand the rationale, but if ever we needed the comfort of books, it is now.

Library apps to the rescue. If you have a library card number, you have access to a wealth of downloadable material on at least three different apps. Overdrive lets you download e-books, audiobooks and magazines like Oprah, Newsweek, Prevention, House Beautiful and Forbes, among others.

https://www.overdrive.com/explore

Hoopla not only carries ebooks and audiobooks, but movies, comics, an impressive catalogue of recorded music and a treasure trove of television shows both old and new. The library card holder is limited to six selections per month however.

https://www.hoopladigital.com/my/hoopla

Libby, an off-shoot of Overdrive, specializes in audiobooks and ebooks. The user is able to set preferences like genre, language and availability. One can explore new releases with the ability to put holds on the most popular titles. Libby estimates how many weeks one will have to wait for a title. I always have one or two books downloaded from this easy-to-use app.

https://www.overdrive.com/apps/libby/

If you have the money, please order a book from your local bookstore. If, however, you are pinching pennies, you can be grateful Overdrive, Hoopla and Libby apps are free. We have our public library system to thank for this. Books, to my mind, are essential.

El Greco: Ambition and Defiance exhibit at the AIC – Museum now closed

I was deeply disappointed when it became impossible to catch the exhibit, El Greco: Ambition and Defiance at the Art Institute of Chicago. The show opened on March 7, but the museum closed shortly thereafter due to the corona virus outbreak.

The AIC has listed the exhibit up until June 21, 2020 so let us hope that we may yet get to see several El Greco masterworks at our beloved museum.

El Greco, which means “the Greek,” was born in 1541 on Crete which was part of the Venetian empire. He lived in Venice and Rome, before making his ultimate home in Toledo, Spain.

Here is a two minute overview of the AIC’s show,
El Greco – Ambition and Defiance:

If you are so inclined, you may want to seek out other images of his artistic output on Google Arts & Culture.

El Greco paintings at Google Arts &n Culture

Virtual Tours of Notable Places: The Prado in Madrid

People have been posting ideas on how to use one’s “home time.” As much as I love music, I do, on occasion, need to explore other topics.

I was remembering visits to favorite art museums which led to thinking about famous museums that I have not yet visited. Uppermost on my wish list is the Prado in Madrid, Spain. Here is a five minute clip that highlights some of the Prado’s art treasures, including paintings by El Greco, Velazquez, de Goya and my personal favorite, the triptych work by Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights.

I erroneously assumed that Guernica by Pablo Picasso was also at the Prado. In reality, the famous large canvas is in Madrid, but at the Museo Reina Sofia.

Here’s to seeing Madrid and its art treasures when the world returns to health.

FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) and Snopes

With all of the talk about fake news, two web sites have become indispensable for my determining what may or may not be true.


FAIR’s tag line is “Challenging media bias since 1986.” The web site posts stories on current topics using a variety of news sources and aims to provide Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. I especially like FAIR’s list of sites they frequently use for news reporting.

http://fair.org/take-action-now/online-news-sources/

Three of the major categories include Alternative News with sites like Mother Jones, The Nation and the Utne Reader. The Corporate News category contains the world’s heavy news hitters such as Le Monde, BBC World News, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Reuters. The Media Criticism and Resources section includes Crooks and Liars (with a funny Nixon cartoon logo), the daily howler, the Vanderbilt Television News Archive and world-newspapers.com which provides links to numerous global newspapers.

I challenge you to check out one new site daily, for a week, to shake up the way you view your news.


If you have a specific news event which you’d like to verify, consider snopes.com, also known as the Urban Legends Reference Pages. Created by Barbara and David Mikkelson in 1995, they amusingly named the site after an unpleasant family in William Faulkner’s novels.

Other sites that test the veracity of topics include:
TruthOrFiction.com
FactCheck.org
The Straight Dope (fighting ignorance since 1973) – http://www.straightdope.com/
The Skeptic’s Dictionary – http://www.skepdic.com/
MythBusters – http://www.mythbusters.com/

In the words of character Joe Friday (played by actor Jack Webb) on the tv show Dragnet, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”

Google Arts and Culture site

google-arts-and-culture-logoWhen traveling, I love visiting museums, gardens and venues of visual beauty. Unfortunately, my wish list of places to visit continues to grow, while my time to travel remains relatively small.

Google Arts and Culture comes to the rescue with a comprehensive web site that allows the viewer to virtually visit a host of cultural and natural sites all across the world. biodivwand_c_carola-radke-mfnBio Diversity Wall at the Natural History Museum in Berlin

Some of the web site headings include Your Daily Digest, Stories of the Day, Zoom in and Explore by time and color. A seemingly endless number of virtual tours are available including Ford’s Theater in Washington,  10 Downing Street in London and the Taj Mahal in India. One can do searches by art movements, artists, historical events or places along with a host of other topics. Every visit to Google Culture and Art home page could be a different, enlightening experience.

I see from the internet address that Google Arts and Culture is still in beta-testing mode, but the site looks quite polished and professional in its current state.
On my next Google Arts and Culture experience, I plan to make virtual visits to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and to the Great Barrier Reef. Excuse me while I pack my virtual suitcase.

https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/

iRealPro app for your portable device or desktop

All you jazz singers and instrumentalists may want to check out an app called iRealPro.
At just $12.99, it could be one of the best investments you can make as a musician.

After purchasing the app for my iPad, I was able to download 1,300 hundred standard tunes which I could view by genre, composer or by title. These chord lead sheets do not contain melodies or lyrics, but this app has many other features. You can easily transpose the key of the song. This is indispensable when you hand your iPad to an accompanist at an open mike or party who may not transpose or doesn’t quite know the tune.

For practice sessions, you can choose the tempo and style of your bass and drums accompaniment. This has been excellent for singers, pianists or other instrumentalists who want to practice the song form or sing or play better in tempo. Those working on improvisation can also benefit from hearing the rhythm section play the  chord changes.

Some may be familiar with the Jamey Aebersold play-along LPs, cassettes, or CDs which have been around for decades. Individual packages would have around ten tunes in lead sheet form with melodies for voice/piano or for solo instruments. The most useful practice tool of its day, you could not change the tempo or “feel” of the pre-recorded rhythm sections on your disks or tapes however. The Aebersold site still sells some indispensable packages for jazz study, but iRealPro beats it hands down if the vocalist/musician needs only the chord charts for popular standards. http://www.jazzbooks.com

In iRealPro you can create your own lead sheets, avail yourself of the member forum or download more genres of music. I recently downloaded 317 Gypsy Jazz tunes for free. You can also download other gratis material including Latin Styles Pack which contains Brazilian sambas, Cuban boleros and Argentinian tangos.

IRealPro can be used on your iphone, iPad, desktop or Android devices.

The app made Time Magazine’s list of best 2010 inventions. This gigantic “fake book” is truly a great addition to one’s electronic musical arsenal.

Order iRealPro from your preferred app store or directly from their web site.

http://irealpro.com/