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12 Incredible Landscape Photos Of America



The winners of the 2014 USA Landscape Photographer of the Year competition truly showcase the beauty of rural and urban America.

Photographers from around the world submitted their best landscape pictures of the U.S., and a panel of judges chose 12 winners and one "Judges' Choice" photograph. The panel featured well-known photographers from the U.S. and the UK, as well as Miriam Leuchter, editor-in-chief of "Popular Photography" and "American Photo."

The contest, which is sponsored by Discover America, aims to reward photographic talent, create a photographic showcase of U.S. landscapes, and give talented photographers a platform for success, according to its website.

"Light of the Wild," taken at Glacier National Park, Montana.

By Nagesh Mahadev, Photographer of the Year

"Reynold's Wrap," taken at Glacier National Park, Montana.

By Nagesh Mahadev, Photographer of the Year

"Soul of the Ancients," taken at Glacier National Park, Montana.

By Nagesh Mahadev, Photographer of the Year

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The Most Mouthwatering Dishes At The Aspen Food & Wine Classic


Food and Wine Aspen hamburger

From oysters and ahi tuna to bloody marys and burgers, this weekend's Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado had something for everyone.

Every day, there were two grand tastings, where attendees roam two massive tents trying glass after glass of wine from 300 exhibitors and countless bites of food from restaurants and brands all over the world.

We tried it all during the three-day festival where over 5,000 celebrity chefs, foodies, wine-os, and fans gather for one gluttonous weekend.

Welcome to the Food And Wine Classic, where grand tastings take place in these tents twice a day Friday through Sunday.

Upon entrance, you are immediately greeted with cocktails.

Patrón always has a great booth, complete with themed Tequila cocktails like Bloody Marias, Rocky Mountain Mojitos, and Colorado Mules.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

A Box Worth $1,000 Sold For $138,000 After Two Asian Bidders Went To War


chinese porcelain dragon box

Things got intense at the Bonhams auctionhouse in Sydney earlier today.

A Chinese blue-and-white porcelain "dragon" box with an estimated value of around $1,000-$2,000 sold for a whopping $138,178.

William Albano points us to an Art Daily report, which explains that the bidding came down to two unnamed collectors, one online and one in the salesroom.

According to Art Daily, the in-room bidder won.

The box is 16.3 cm high, 23.8 cm wide, and 23 cm deep.

Some folks have warned that art valuations are in a bubble. However, this is really the concern of only the super-rich.

Legendary short-seller Jim Chanos has recommended shorting auctionhouse Sotheby's to play the bubble.

"This is still driven by art, which is socially acceptable conspicuous consumption," Chanos said. "It's one of the ultimate barometers of the 1 percent, or the one-tenth of 1 percent."

For now, auctions like this recent one in Sydney continue to confirm that art prices are still going up.

SEE ALSO: 16 Facts About China That Will Blow Your Mind

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Incredible Presentation From Wall Street Bank Shows How Sugar Is Destroying The World



A new study from Wall Street bank Credit Suisse exposes the "dietary impact of 'sugar and sweeteners' and their role in the ongoing health debate surrounding obesity and diabetes."

The accompanying video — "Sugar: Sweet With a Bitter Aftertaste" — visualizes the sorry state of sugar consumption.

The harrowing effect of sugar consumption on American waistlines isn't necessarily new news, but Credit Suisse does an excellent job of breaking down just how out of control it has gotten (especially in the U.S., where they had to literally adjust the y-axis of one of their charts so that U.S. soda consumption could be mapped).

We grabbed some screenshots from Credit Suisse's video to break it down.

400 million people worldwide are affected by Type 2 Diabetes.

4.8 million die of the chronic disease every year.

Costs to the global health care system: $470 billion, representing over 10% of all health care costs.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The 4-Minute Workout To Break Up Your Day

One Of Manhattan's Most Famous Restaurants Has To Move Because The Rent Is Getting So Crazy


Danny Meyer

Chef Danny Meyer — of Shake Shack, Gramercy Tavern, and The Modern fame — is being forced to move his flagship restaurant, Union Square Cafe, out of its now-hip namesake home, says The New York Times.

Yes, the restaurant does have NYC culinary landmark status, but that still doesn't save it from the same problem plaguing establishments all over Manhattan — the rent is too damn high.

The space that Meyer rented out for $8 per square foot, or $43,000 a year, in the mid-'80s is now going for $650,000. Meyer says that increase, combined withe renovations it needs to maintain the quality of the entire experience, makes it impossible for him to stay.

Plus, Meyer doesn't believe in taking money from one restaurant to sustain another (i.e. taking Shake Shack money to prop up Union Square Cafe). His model is that if an establishment can't stand on its own, it can't thrive.

So what model is working? The same one New Yorkers have been seeing restaurants and clubs take on since the financial crisis and even before. Many are finding homes within hotels, malls, apartment buildings, and the like that offer restaurants and clubs lower rent because they draw in foot traffic.

Meyer first rented the space from the current owner, Ari Ellis', father. The younger Ellis, for his part, thinks it's better for both parties if they part ways.

"There are landlords out there willing to do back flips to get a Danny Meyer restaurant," he told the NYT.

Later adding: "A Shake Shack could do very well in that space."

For the full story (with some choice quotes from Chef Bobby Flay) head to the NYT>

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The 10 Best Books Of The Year (So Far), According To Amazon



On a summer day, there's nothing better than lounging in the sun with a good book.

Amazon's editors have just released their picks for the best books of the year so far, all released between January and June 2014.

Here are the top 10 books of 2014 thus far, as chosen by Amazon editors. 

1. "Updike" by Adam Begley: This illuminating biography of John Updike details his entire life's journey up until his death in 2009. With the help of in-depth interviews and extensive research, readers will learn how Updike's eventful personal life shaped his writing.

2. "The Book of Unknown Americans: A novel" by Cristina Henríquez: This inspiring novel chronicles the lives of nine families who moved to United States from their homes in Latin America. It focuses on the Rivera family, who comes to America because of their daughter's injury. Soon after arriving, the Riveras lives become entangled with the Toro family from Panama, and so forms a web of love and guilt that carries throughout the novel.

3. "Redeployment" by Phil Klay: This heavy novel pulls readers into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With stories about everything from a man forced to shoot dogs to a Mortuary Affairs Marine who has to collect the remains of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers, "Redeployment" will enlighten readers about the struggles faced by soldiers both while they're at war and when they return home.

4. "Euphoria" by Lily King: Inspired by the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead, "Euphoria" details the romantic love triangle between English anthropologist Andrew Bankson and his two colleagues. This historical novel will leave you wanting more.

5. "No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State" by Glenn Greenwald: This is a fearless account of Greenwald's meeting with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, and features brand new information about the NSA's abuse of power provided by Snowden himself. Greenwald also uses this book to question why the government should be allowed to pry into the lives of private citizens. "No Place to Hide" is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the surveillance state.

6. "In Paradise: A Novel" by Peter Matthiessen: This story takes place during a weeklong retreat at a former concentration camp. Though the purpose of this trip is to be mindful of the location's history, tensions arise among the participants, and the aim to find closure is abandoned. The novel follows the main character Clements Olin, and how the discord of the retreat forces him to fully embrace his family's history.

7. "The Invention of Wings: A Novel" by Sue Monk Kidd: The "Secret Life of Bees" author brings the historical Grimké sisters to life in this incredibly powerful novel. When Sarah Grimké is given ownership of a slave named Handful for her birthday, it is the start of a lifelong friendship. When Sarah is older, she and her sister Angelina become two of the earliest voices in the abolitionist movement. This novel is guaranteed to touch all readers.

8. "Red Rising" by Pierce Brown: This action-packed novel details life on Mars and the struggle between Reds, members of the lowest caste in society, and Golds, members of the highest caste. This book has many similarities to the popular books "The Hunger Games" and "Ender's Game." 

9. "Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art" by Carl Hoffman: Award-winning journalist Carl Hoffman sets out on an adventure to solve the mystery of billionaire Michael Rockefeller's death in New Guinea. Was he really killed by cannibals of the Asmat tribe? Hoffman solves this dark mystery while also exploring the culture of the Asmat. 

10. "Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children)" by Ransom Riggs: This is the sequel to the 2011 bestseller "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" and features the same eerie vintage photographs that made its predecessor stand out. This young adult novel will thrill readers of all ages.

To see the best books so far broken down by category, visit www.amazon.com/bestbookssofar

SEE ALSO: 12 Houses That Are Straight Out Of 'Lord Of The Rings'

DON'T FORGET: Follow Business Insider on Twitter!

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The Trendiest Hotel In Times Square Lives Up To The Hype



One of the hottest brands in the hotel industry, Amsterdam-based chain CitizenM opened its first U.S. location in Times Square in April. Stopping by recently, it was easy to see why there's so much buzz.

The hotels are a combination of high design — with work from artists like Andy Warhol and David LaChapelle lining the walls — and high tech — with high-speed touchscreen check-in and complimentary Samsung Galaxy tablets that control everything in the rooms.

The brand's emphasis is on affordable luxury: Each of the 230 rooms has the same layout, and rates start at $199 a night.

CitizenM also operates branches in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, London, Glasgow, and Paris, with plans to open in New York City's Lower East Side later this year and spreading elsewhere in the U.S. and Europe, too.

As hot as the brand is, competition is fierce and there's always a risk of bigger brands catching up.

"We have two kinds of competitors: hotels in the direct vicinity of our properties and aspirational lifestyle brands," co-founder Michael Levie told Caterer and Hotelkeeper in 2011. " Products like W [Hotels] created a way people like to be and [W owner] Starwood got that right. But it's also much more expensive and product for product we are very competitive."

Welcome to citizenM Times Square.

Even before you enter the hotel, you'll see a wall full of art and knickknacks.

There's no reception desk at this hotel. Instead, guests use this kiosk of touchscreen computers to check in, though hotel 'ambassadors' in red shirts stand close by if you need help.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Here's The Difference Between Wealthy US And Chinese Home Buyers


China’s wealthy real estate buyers are snapping up property a lot more often than their American counterparts, according to a new report from Sotheby’s International Realty, which breaks down profiles of wealthy real estate buyers around the globe.

According to the report, 96% of affluent Chinese consumers have purchased a property within the past three years. In comparison, just 54% of affluent American consumers  those who have over $2 million in assets  have bought a property.

Chinese luxury home buyers Sotheby's

American luxury home buyers Sotheby'sChinese real estate investors also rate location as a top priority, favoring Asia over both Europe and North America for their mansions. 48% want their home to be eco-friendly.

For American real estate investors, location is also still a top priority. They prefer to live in North America, and value a property that they have designed themselves over an estate that is eco-friendly, historically significant, or with famous former owners.

The annual Sotheby’s International Realty Luxury Lifestyle Report was compiled with data from a survey sent out to its affluent consumers over 25 years of age all over the world between January 28 and February 18, 2014. They also collected data from sothebysrealty.com from Google Website Analytics between January 1, 2013 and January 1, 2014. You can read more about the methodology here.

SEE ALSO: Here's What Wealthy People Want In Their Homes

DON'T FORGET: Follow Business Insider's Life On Facebook!

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17 Easy Habits To Start Today That Will Help You 5 Years From Now


long color runWhat can we do today to help out our future selves in 2019?

A recent Quora thread was full of such contemplations, originally addressed to a 23-year-old physics student but applicable to everybody. 

Here are the takeaways. 

1. Pick up an athletic hobby that you can do through the years. Otherwise, the sedentary lifestyle you start in college — and continue into the office — will do awful things to your posture, back, and gut. Your office job is trying to kill you. It's your job to prevent that from happening. —David Cannon

2. Write down the key points of what you did for the day. This may seem trivial, but it will show how you spend your day. Harvard Business School research shows that as little as 15 minutes of written reflection at the end of the day can make you way more productive on the job. —Stan Hayward

3. Talk to one stranger every day. Strangers = opportunity. Opportunities to make new friend, to get new ideas, to get rid of that fear of talking to strangers, to start a business venture, and much more.Who you know predicts your career, happiness, and health, so expand your network as much as you can. —Ashraf Sobli

4. Learn to listen well.People love to talk about themselves, so cultivate the ability to let them do that. —Charles Tips

5. Waste less time. Life is composed of days, days of hours, hours of minutes. And you only get so many in a lifetime. —Anonymous

6. Find happiness in the process of accomplishing your dreams. Avoid the "deferred life plan." Instead of "doing what you have to do" now and then "doing what you want to do" at some hazy time in the future, find a way to do what you like today. —Dan Lowenthal

7. Build strong friendships, and be kind to people. You're more like your friends than you think. —Edina Dizdarevic

8. Diversify your experiences. The broader your life experiences, the more creative your ideas and the better you can relate to people. —Dan Lowenthal

9. Save money. Put a little bit away with each paycheck, and do it automatically so you don't miss it. —India L. J. Mitchell

10. Drink with old people. They've been there, done that, and have lived to tell you the tale. —Ben Hinks

11.Start meditating. It trains your brain to be able to deal with the madness of each day. —Anonymous 

12. Learn to work with shame and doubt. Everybody experiences these emotions, as sociologist Brené Brown has evidenced, but few people learn how to healthfully cope with them. —Diego Mejia

13. Go outside. It's easy to stay indoors all the time. So go for hikes. Cognitive psychologists have shown that a little "wilderness bathing" can be a tool against depression and burnout. —Stephen Steinberg 

14. Get to know people who are different from you. If you're a liberal, make friends with conservatives. If you're part of Occupy Wall Street, befriend a banker. If you're a city mouse, get to know a country mouse. Why? Many reasons, one of them being that we make better decisions in diverse groups. —Judy Tyrer

15. Date everything. Whether you're connecting with a person, taking notes during a meeting, or stuffing takeout into the fridge, knowing the date of when something happened is useful in ways you can't predict. —Dee Vining

16. Read novels. Fiction is "emotional and cognitive simulation;" novels train you in understanding other people's experiences of life. —Anunay Arunav

17. Set minimum goals. Read 15 pages a day, do 20 pushups, floss one tooth. This way you can break gigantic projects into day-sized tasks. —Christopher Webb

SEE ALSO: 9 Ways Highly Successful People Think Differently From Everyone Else

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The Best Places To Eat And Drink In Rio De Janeiro, According To Anthony Bourdain

The Goldman Sachs Elevator Guide To Flying Like A Pro


private jet embraer

Check in early. Stay hydrated. Bring hand sanitizer. Consolidate credit card and hotel points. Thanks Condé Nast or USA Today; should I be taking notes? The only thing missing are the words ‘life hack.’

Simply put, there’s nothing glamorous or exciting about commercial air travel, especially domestically in the US. Although sitting between a Lager Lout and a ginger Scouse on an EasyJet flight from Luton Airport to Barcelona is hardly any better – except that you end up in Barcelona, instead of in Cleveland.

So I thought I’d share with you the accumulated wisdom of my years spent traversing the globe – a definitive guide to make air travel palatable for you and those around you:

  • Don't fly an airline where your checked bags might cost more than your seat.
  • No first class selfies.
  • Only use Frequent Flyer miles for upgrades or international flights. Using 60,000 miles to get to Philly is like throwing a bag of kittens in a river.
  • If they have Wi-Fi, don’t use it. You’ll end up doing exactly what you do at your desk. Watch a movie. Read a book. Tune out and shut off.
  • If you have checked baggage, when you land, stop at a bar and have a drink on your way to baggage claim.
  • Unless you are flying first class international, never eat the food, period.
  • If the flight is less than four hours and you have to relieve your bowels, then you are an idiot.
  • If you get stuck with a middle seat, take the next flight.
  • If you are afraid of flying, listen to Britney Spears on takeoff. You’ll be fine; no one is destined to die like that.
  • If you bring a favorite pillow from home, and sit next to me, I'm assuming you were in an episode of ‘Teen Mom’
  • Pre-gaming with Bloody Mary’s sounds awesome, but the sodium is a killer at high altitude.
  • Be nice to the stewardess; she got drunk and passed out at the Midway Hotel in Newark last night.
  • Take advantage of the #1 rule of air travel: no matter what time it is, it’s always acceptable to drink.
  • If there is a male steward, always keep your seat belt buckled. You don't want him with his hands in your lap when you are passed out before landing.
  • I already have enough friends, don’t f*cking talk to me. And I don’t want your business card either.
  • Unless it’s to a remote island, the word “Connection” should not appear on your itinerary.
  • Have the stewardess fill up the water glass with wine too, or just ask her for two glasses. You’ll be doing her a favor.
  • Never drive yourself to the airport when your flight is over two hours. Odds are, you'll be getting off the return flight smashed.
  • When flying internationally, befriend one of the male stewards. They know the best clubs and how to get drugs.
  • When you squeeze by me, don’t give me “the ass” or “the crouch”; just don’t get up. If you must, allow me time to move into the aisle to make way for you.
  • Louis Vuitton in Economy class. No matter how you look at it, your priorities are screwed up.
  • The easiest way to figure out if a girl is marriage material is if she brings a hair dryer in her suitcase. You know she’s never seen the inside of a Four Seasons.
  • Don’t ever Facebook check-in at a lounge. Willy Loman would get lounge access today.
  • Sorry HTO, ACK, and MVY, if it’s got propellers, it doesn’t count as a private plane.
  • Spare change should never be the reason for holding up the security line.
  • The exit row is first class for poor people.
  • No one knows this, but if you wear dark, pleated, and cuffed slacks with a golf shirt, you drink for free. (There can be no other explanation for this airport fashion phenomenon.)
  • Don’t ask me to switch seats with you, unless you are offering me a better seat.
  • Don’t leave home without your (prescription) Ciprofloxacin… and Ambien, Xanax, and Klonopin.

John LeFevre is the creator of the @GSElevator Twitter feed and the author of the soon-to-be-released Straight To Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, and Billion-Dollar Deals. 

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15 Things You Should Do Before You Turn 30

CALL FOR NOMINATIONS: Who Are The Best Executive Assistants In America?


the devil wears pradaCall for nominations!

Behind every executive is an assistant who makes stuff happen.

We're not talking about low-on-the-totem-pole employees who get coffee and dig up unpublished "Harry Potter" manuscripts for their bosses.

For our list of Most Powerful Executive Assistants In America, we want to acknowledge the behind-the-scenes operators who carry decision-making power at their companies, and make an impact in the lives of their employers, co-workers, and clients. We're looking to include assistants in all industries, from finance to tech to entertainment.

Nominate a powerful executive assistant by sending an email to lists@businessinsider.com, including the executive assistant's name, email address, a brief description of their role and impressive feats, and any relevant website links.

To be eligible, candidates must work in the United States.

We'll be accepting nominations through Friday, July 4.


SEE ALSO: 11 Assistants Who Run Hollywood

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14 Fascinating Facts About The Majority Of Americans


flag kid

As divisive as things get these days, it's easy to lose track of what unites the majority of Americans.

Based on Census data, Pew and Gallup polls, and more, we've identified some simple facts that are true about the majority of the 318,278,722 U.S. citizens.

50.5 percent of U.S. adults are married, down from 72 percent in 1960.

Source: A 2012 Pew poll of Americans over the age of 18.

53 percent of Americans believe the war in Iraq was a mistake.

Source: 2013 Gallup Poll

58 percent of Americans support legalizing weed.

Source: 2014 Gallup Poll

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The Best Hotels In The US Under $200


hotel le marais

When airfare prices climb, as they often do, your travel budget can become a bit tight. Even so, a low hotel price point doesn't have to mean mediocre digs.

We worked with Hotels.com to create an exclusive list of the best inexpensive hotels in America. To create this list, Hotels.com found the highest-rated hotels in 27 big cities around the U.S. with rates under $200 per night.

From Honolulu to New York, these hotels offer comfort and style for a reasonable price.

ATLANTA: Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta ($199)

75 14th St. NE, Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta's midtown Four Seasons is a steal, with luxury amenities at reasonable prices. The hotel is a mere two miles from downtown, and offers perks like daily afternoon tea time at Park 75, the hotel's restaurant, and free chilled towels as you lay poolside. The hotel's 244 rooms include complimentary Wi-Fi and spacious bathrooms with both tubs and showers.

AUSTIN: The Driskill ($179)

604 Brazos St., Austin, Texas

Built back in 1886, The Driskill is a member of The Historic Hotels of America. Originally made as a showplace for cattle baron Jesse Driskill, the building has now become a decadent hotel in Downtown Austin. Room treats include iPod docks and designer toiletries, while the hotel itself houses The Driskill Grill, an award-winning restaurant. 

BOSTON: Envision Hotel Boston, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member ($199)

81 S. Huntington Ave., Boston, Massachusetts

This boutique Boston hotel is a bit far from the heart of the city, but its rooms and proximity to public transportation make up for its distance. It's a great spot for guests on a budget who value clean, spacious rooms with amenities like Keurig coffee makers, flat screen TVs, microwaves, and refrigerators. The hotel also includes a fitness center and cafe.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

HOUSE OF THE DAY: At $118.5 Million, This Giant Ritz-Carlton Penthouse Could Be NYC's Most Expensive Home



Three units in the Ritz Carlton Battery Park are selling as one penthouse apartment for $118.5 million, making it the most expensive listing in New York City, according to the Wall Street Journal

The massive penthouse takes up the top two floors of the Ritz Carlton and has indoor space totaling 15,434 square feet, as well as 2,193 square feet of terrace. The three units are not yet combined, but cannot be purchased separately, according to the Journal.

The Journal reports that one of the three apartments is owned by Gary Segal of Five Star Electric in Ozone Park. It was on the market last year for $56.5 million before being taken off. The second of the three apartments is a three-bedroom unit also owned by Segal. 

The final apartment is a four-bedroom, five-bathroom unit owned by financier Randall Yanker. It was listed earlier this year for $23 million, then was taken off the market shortly after its price was lowered to $19 million.

Even if this combined penthouse doesn't sell for its exact asking price, there's a good chance it will become the most expensive home ever sold in New York. A mansion at 15 Central Park West currently holds the record at $88 million.

Ryan Serhant of Nest Seekers International is the listing agent for this property.

This stunning penthouse has four separate terraces, each with a great view.

This terrace offers fantastic water views.

This wide staircase has a very modern feel.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

A Father-Daughter Duo Hunted Down Suspected Home Burglars In Insane Car Chase


Houston Doctor Burglar Screenshot

A father-daughter duo didn't just call the cops when they witnessed their home being burgled. They chased down the alleged burglars, leading to some harrowing moments, a case of whiplash, and one wild video. 

Kevin Smith, a Houston-area plastic surgeon, and his daughter, Alana, chased down the thieves after seeing their red Ford F-series truck pull out of the family's driveway, reports local station KHOU11. The pair reportedly decided to give chase out of fear that Smith's other daughter, Kara, who was at home at the time, may have been abducted, according to CNN.

"I locked eyes on them, and their eyes were terrified. I know that they had done something terrible, " Alana told CNN. " I didn't know what happened to my sister, and I didn't know if she was OK. My instinct was this was my only chance to get these guys." 

With Alana behind the wheel of their Audi A8 sedan, dad, Kevin filmed the whole chase on his cell phone. The duo tailed the suspects as they fled the family's upscale south Houston neighborhood, with the truck's driver at one point stopping in the middle of the road and reversing into their car. After being corned in a cul-de-sac, the alleged burglar rammed the family's car, causing both vehicles to crash into a ditch.

Police arrived on the scene a few minutes after the conclusion of the video, and captured two of the three suspected burglars, who are now facing criminal charges. 

CNN reports that Kevin suffered no injuries, while Alana was released from the hospital after being checked for whiplash. The family's Audi wasn't so lucky, suffering damage to its front and rear bumper. They were also able to retrieve a television, laptops and other possessions that were taken from their house. As for Kara, she wasn't able to answer her sister's frantic calls because she was working out at the gym. 

SEE ALSO: Air Traffic Controller's Prank Supposedly Caused A Delta Pilot To Abort Landing

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This Opera Coach Will Take Your Presentations To The Next Level


mary birnbaum jpg

The next time you're falling asleep during a presentation, take notice of the disembodied head bobbing around on stage. 

"A lot of times people, especially smart people, will present from the neck up," says Mary Birnbaum, a New York-based theater and opera director who moonlights as a speaking coach. "But the most dynamic people are alive from their feet up." 

Birnbaum, 30, did her undergrad at Harvard before studying movement and design at the École Jacques Lecoq in Paris. She's directed productions at the Julliard School, the Seattle Opera, and on Broadway. 

When she's not directing, she coaches executives, lawyers, and therapists on how to have their whole selves show up on the many stages of life, rather than just their heads.

Because speaking well — or singing amazingly — isn't just vocal, she says.

It's physical.

You can see it in the best opera singers. They use all of their breath to sing as loudly as they do: not just breathing into their chest, but deep into their lungs, almost down to the pelvis. This involves the whole body, as feet, legs, and hips support the song.  

You call this "breathing to the floor" in opera. It's the sign of someone who's going to electrify the audience. The below trailer from the Seattle production of Wagner's Ring Cycle — which Birnbaum served as associated director for — is such an example.

But many of us — untrained in the ways of the stage — are deaf to the language our bodies are speaking with. 

The reason for this is that many people, including opera singers, don't have the conviction that they can "own stage property," Birnbaum says. In the arts and in corporate America, the folks who make it up on stage tend to be brilliant overachievers, but they don't have a physical sense that they deserve to be there. 

If you don't feel like you "own the spotlight," as Birnbaum says, then you'll hide even while you're on stage, presenting from the neck up. 

She coached us in a few ways to start singing, speaking, or presenting with the whole body. 

First, wake up your body. 

To "wake your body up," Birnbaum says to start with a vinyasa, a traditional yoga sequence of that looks like a mixture of lunges, pushups, and backbends. This gets your whole body involved, including the spine. 

Second, get into your breath. 

At the center of your chest is a bundle of nerves called the solar plexus. This is where you want to start your breath: not hiding your chest below your keyboard hunch, but standing broadly in a power pose 

"If you elevate your solar plexus and breathe into that you immediately feel more powerful," Birnbaum says. "Not only do you have more space to breathe, but you appear more sure of yourself." 

From the solar plexus, move out: breathe into the lower lungs, then all the way into the floor. Visualize that your whole body is breathing. 

"If you activate your feet and toes and your knees, you'll feel something," Birnbaum says.

Third, get your voice ready. 

Whether you're singing or speaking, people want to hear a clear, crisp, steady voice from you, which is hard to do if you're not ready. 

"You want to sit in your lower register, and never allow your breath to make your voice high and jumpy," Birnbaum says.

The key is to not only prepare what you want to say, but warm up your voice so you can actually say it.

Actors and directors have built a great body of knowledge around these warm-up exercises; Birnbaum recommends the work of Kristin Linklater and Cicely Berry, both renowned British vocal coaches. Here's an interview with Linklater to get an idea of her work: 

Fourth, make eye contact.  

"The way people convince other people in this world is largely through eye contact," Birnbaum says. "It has somewhat to do with the argument you make, but the most important thing is connecting with people and looking people in the eye."

When you're giving a presentation, pick 10 or more people in the audience and actually connect eyes with them. Make people feel like you actually care about them, Birnbaum says, rather than defaulting to viewing the audience as one gigantic blob. 

Fifth, occupy the right space. 

Whenever you walk into a room, look for the most powerful space — that will be your stage. In a boardroom it could be a place where the light is good and the architecture complimentary. At a cocktail party it might be a hub where many people can cross by. 

She says to think of your placement as a framing device: Wherever you're standing sets the stage for the "movie" of you. 

Your body, your breath, your space — all of these things can be used to help you own the stage. But most presenters aren't used to using these things as tools.

"The point is," Birnbaum concludes, "everything's a tool."

SEE ALSO: 3 Public Speaking Secrets From The Most Successful TED Talks

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Study Shows People Will Pay More For Food If You Make It Look Like Art


Not only does food taste better when presented like art, people are also willing to pay more for it, a new study published in the journal Flavour suggests. We originally saw the paper on WonkBlog's KnowMore site.

The paper starts with a quote from Massimo Bottura, Chef at Osteria Francescana, from an interview in Swide:

I try to interpret the artist's message and to make it mine, to translate it in my life and in the dishes.

Here's how the researchers came to their conclusions.

They plated out a salad in three ways: 1) to look like a Kandinsky painting (the first block) 2) as a simple stack of ingredients and 3) in a "neat" presentation with all the food bits separate. Here are the example salads, with an actual Kandinsky painting on the far left:

fancy salad platingThe salad had 30 ingredients, including fancy mushrooms, broccoli, endive, and red and yellow peppers. It also had multiple sauces and vegetable purees.

They had people dine on the salads in a dark room, with all white sheets. The food lit with a simple desk lamp. It actually looks kind of romantic:

2044 7248 3 7 2The participants filled out a questionnaire about the food, ate, then filled out another. The researchers, led by Charles Michel of the University of Oxford, concluded:

[T]he art-inspired presentation resulted in the food being considered as more artistic, more complex, and more liked than either of the other presentations. The participants were also willing to pay more for the Kandinsky-inspired plating. Interestingly, after consumption, the results revealed higher tastiness ratings for the art-inspired presentation.

art food chartThat increase in price? The 60 participants said that, on average, they'd pay over $8 for the dish (4.25 British pounds). They'd only pay about $3.50 (2.08 British pounds) for the stacked salad and a tiny bit more (2.14 British pounds) for the "neat" one.

There were some limitations to the study: 1) The flavors may have mixed differently in the different presentations, since there were multiple sauces on the salad. 2) The lab is a weird place to eat a fancy meal. 3) The participants were paid to eat, which may have changed their feeling about how much they'd spend on the meal.

Would you pay $8 for this Kandinsky salad? It's tiny!kandinsky salad

SEE ALSO: How Food Photographers Make Every Plate Look Like Art

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