Friday, August 14, 2015

Music Friday: Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam Sing About a 14-Karat Love in 1987's #1 Hit, 'Head to Toe'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam sing about a 14-karat love in their #1 hit from the summer of 1987, "Head to Toe."


Lisa Lisa (born Lisa Velez) uses jewelry metaphors to illustrate just how much she cherishes her guy — a guy that used to be her best friend and now is her boyfriend. She sings, "14-karat love, you are my jewel of the Nile / When we make love, diamonds are forever."

The dance number, which zoomed to the top of the U.S. Billboard 100 chart, is one of the iconic dance tunes of the 1980s. It features a Freestyle vibe seasoned with a generous sprinkling of soul, electro-funk, Latin rhythms and hip-hop. It's the type of song that would come up on a playlist alongside the early work of Paula Abdul, Gloria Estefan and Sheila E.

"Head to Toe" was composed by Full Force, a long-time production and songwriting powerhouse. According to music trivia web site, the girlfriend of Full Force member Paul Anthony blurted out what would become the song's catchy hook during their gym workout.

Apparently she was so impressed by his physique that she screamed that "she loved him from head to toe." Anthony brought that nugget to the rest of the group and, before long, a chart topper was born with the unforgettable hook, "Ooh, baby, I think I love you / From head to toe."

"Head to Toe" appeared on Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam's Spanish Fly album, a critically acclaimed work that sold more than one million copies and spawned two #1 hits. The other was the memorable "Lost in Emotion."

The Harlem-based Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam consisted of lead vocalist Velez, guitarist/bassist Alex "Spanador" Moseley and drummer/keyboardist Mike Hughes. The group was assembled and produced by Full Force, which has worked with a cavalcade of A-listers, such as Britney Spears, James Brown, Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, La Toya Jackson, Patty LaBelle and Selena.

Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam enjoyed a successful seven-year run from 1984 to 1991. We invite you to check out the official video of "Head to Toe." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Head To Toe"
Written by Full Force. Performed by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam.

Head to toe
I know

Today started with a crazy kiss
On our way home
We were in for a surprise
Who would have known

Who would have thought that we would become lovers
As friends we were so, so tight
Can't help myself, you make me feel so right
I got to, got to, got to tell you, darlin'

Ooh, baby, I think I love you
From head to toe
Ooh, baby, I think I love you
From head to toe

I think I love you from head to toe
I know

Here today, gone tomorrow
It's possible, but I doubt it
His kiss is credit in the bank of love
I never leave home without it

He's different from any boy I know
Body supreme
Bedroom eyes, head back to the side
Please don't be so mean

14-karat love, you are my jewel of the Nile
When we make love, diamonds are forever
Top to bottom I love you, I will leave you never
I got to, got to, got to tell you, darlin'

Ooh, baby, I think I love you
From head to toe
Ooh, baby, I've got to kiss you
From head to toe

Ooh, baby, I think I love you
You got to know
Ooh, baby, I think I love you
From head to toe

I think I love you from head to toe
You can't hurry love, you got to take it slow
But my angel, you forget your wings tonight [Heaven up above]
Baby, you got the love

14-karat love, you are my jewel of the Nile
When we make love, diamonds are forever
Top to bottom I love you, I will leave you never
I got to, got to, got to tell you, darlin'

Ooh, baby, I think I love you
From head to toe
Ooh, baby, I want to kiss you
From head to toe

Ooh, baby, I think I love you
You got to know
Ooh, baby, I think I love you
From head to toe

I think I love you from head to toe
I know

Ooh, baby, I want to kiss you
From head to toe
Ooh, baby, I think I love you
You got to know

Ooh, baby, I think I love you
From head to toe

Credit: Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam promotional image.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Earring-Back Debate Is Put to Rest as Disk Inventor Emerges to Set the Record Straight

Let us breathe a collective sigh of relief because the Great Earring-Back Debate has been settled — thanks to the guy who invented the plastic disk-shaped thingamabob at the core of the controversy.


An amused Ira Carlin, the 65-year-old self proclaimed "Earring Doctor," told the Toronto Star that there is no grey area when it comes to the purpose of the clear plastic piece that consumers often find affixed to their metal earring backs.


“You actually leave it on. Period. Categorically, emphatically, from the expert's mouth, you leave it on,” Carlin said. "It’s not part of packaging. It’s part of functionality.”

The item even has a name. Carlin invented "Le Disc Plus™" in the mid-1980s as an easy and inexpensive way to solve his wife's problems related to heavy earrings and droopy earlobes. The invention became a commercial hit and Carlin has sold tens of millions of them.


According to his web site at, "LeDisc Plus™" provides support and stability to earlobes, enhances earring presentation, provides extra comfort, prevents sagging earrings and eliminates back clasp irritation on the earlobe. They're also hypoallergenic.

Carlin described the dynamics of how the earring backs really work...

“If you were to hang a painting on a curtain it would tilt forward," he told the Toronto Star, "but if you put a board behind a curtain and then hung a painting on it, it would stay stable,” he said. “And that’s exactly what took place with my first item.”

Last week, we reported on the Twitter-fueled national debate over whether the plastic backings should be removed and tossed away, or whether they served a useful purpose. The issue was lampooned on The Today Show, and NBC conducted an online poll, where viewers let their opinions be know. Viewers overwhelmingly agreed — 92% vs. 8% — that the plastic part should stay on.


The earring drama originated with an August 1 tweet by Chelsea Smith, who revealed she had spent her entire life wearing her earrings “wrong.”

The 19-year-old posted photos of two earring backs, one with the plastic disk intact, and the other with the disk removed. Her revelation: “After my nineteen years of living I have now realized that you are supposed to take the plastic part off.”

Carlin called the Twitter debate "a hoot" and said he first learned about it when stories emerged on his Google Alert, which he has programmed to delivery "earring" stories.

He is also enjoying his 15 minutes of fame. "I’m getting so much fun out of it,” he said.

Credits: Ira Carlin via Getty Images; LeDisc Plus via; Twitter/Chelsea Smith

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

'Finest Opal Ever' to Make Its World Debut at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide

Billed as the "finest opal ever," the Virgin Rainbow will make its world debut at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide in September as the centerpiece of a larger exhibition to commemorate the centenary of opal mining in the Land Down Under.


Measuring 2.4 inches long and displaying a full spectrum of brilliant color, the finger-shaped specimen seems to have a light source all its own.

"It's almost as if there's a fire in there," museum director Brian Oldman told AFP. "You see all different colors. As the light changes, the opal itself changes. It's quite an amazing trick of nature."

Veteran miner John Dunstan is credited with discovering the Virgin Rainbow in the desert soil of Coober Pedy in South Australia in 2003. Dustan has mined opals for 50 years, but the internal fire of the Virgin Rainbow is unlike anything he's ever seen.


"That opal actually glows in the dark," he told ABC North and West SA. "The darker the light, the more color comes out of it. It's unbelievable."

Dustan explained that the Virgin Rainbow is a Belemnite pipe, which is essentially an opal that formed in the skeleton of an extinct ancestor of the common cuttlefish. He found it while digging into the tailings of an old mineshaft. At first, it didn't look like much because it was covered in sandstone. But, as Dustan cleaned it off, he realized he made a once-in-a-lifetime discovery.

"I knew it was one of the best ever," he said. "You'll never see another piece like that one, it's so special.

Dustan had intended to sell his magnificent opal at auction and was confident it was worth at least $1 million Australian dollars ($730,000). But when the bids did not meet his minimum, he decided to sell the gem to the South Australian Museum 18 months ago for an undisclosed amount. The deal would ensure that the opal stayed in Australia.

Coober Pedy is often called "The Opal Capital of the World." In 1915, a 14-year-old boy named Willie Hutchison was on a gold mining expedition with his father when he happened upon precious opals. Legend states that young Willie was instructed by his dad to stay at the camp but, instead, the young man set out to search for water. He eventually returned to camp with water and precious opal gemstones.

That discovery sparked a rush of mining activity that has generated top-quality gems for the past 100 years. Australia, in fact, produces more than 90% of the world's precious opals.

Scientists claim that between 100 million and 97 million years ago, Australia's vast inland sea, which was populated by marine dinosaurs, began retreating. As the sea regressed, a rare episode of acidic weather was taking place, exposing pyrite minerals and releasing sulphuric acid. As the surface of the basin dried further and cracked, silica-rich gel became trapped in the veins of the rock. Over time, the silica solidified to form opals.

Oldman believes that the new "Opals" exhibition at the South Australian Museum will be a memorable event — the finest collection of precious opals to have been brought to one place in the world. The exhibit runs from September 25, 2015 through February 14, 2016.

Photo by Richard Lyons, courtesy South Australian Museum.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

2,000 Tiny Gold Spirals Dating Back 2,900 Years Baffle Danish Archaeologists

Danish archaeologists are scratching their heads over the discovery of 2,000 tiny gold spirals that date back more than 2,900 years.


Unearthed in Boeslunde, Denmark, the mysterious, tightly wound spirals look a lot like the curled fabric ribbons that would decorate a birthday present. Archaeologists from the Danish National Museum and the local Museum Vestsjælland have never seen anything like these spirals before so they can only presume that these pure gold items were part of an elaborate costume.


“The sun was one of the most sacred symbols in the Bronze Age and gold had a special magic,” noted Flemming Kaul, a curator with the National Museum of Denmark. “Maybe the priest-king wore a gold ring on his wrist, and gold spirals on his cloak and his hat, where they — during ritual sun ceremonies — shone like the sun.” Kaul also noted that buried as carefully as they were, the gold spirals could have represented a sacrifice.


The 2,000 specimens were found in one clump. Evidence showed they once occupied a fur-lined box that has long since deteriorated. Some spirals measured 1.18 inches long and all were hammered flat to a thickness of just 0.1mm. The complete collection weighed approximately a half-pound and were dated between 700 BC and 900 BC.


It's not unusual for archaeologists to find Bronze Age gold ornaments in the Boeslunde region. The area has produced some of the largest gold finds from the Bronze Age in Northern Europe, including the recent discovery of four heavy gold arm rings, called oath rings. They each weighed more than a pound.

"It shows that the place had a special significance for the Bronze Age people when they chose to sacrifice several kilos of gold." Kirsten Christensen, curator at Museum Vestsjælland, told the Daily Mail.

Because of the excitement surrounding this latest find, Kaul announced that he and other archaeologists will be continuing their excavations in Boeslunde, a city which lies on the island of Zealand, between mainland Denmark and the tip of Sweden. Boeslunde is about 70 miles southwest of Copenhagen.

Credits: (first, second and fourth) Morten Petersen / Museum Vestsjælland; (third) Flemming Kaul / National Museum of Denmark.

Monday, August 10, 2015

British Lawmaker Says It's Time for the Legendary 'Koh-i-Noor' Diamond to Be Returned to India

British lawmaker Keith Vaz says it's time for the Queen Mother to return the legendary Koh-i-Noor diamond to India.


The Koh-i-Noor, whose name translates into "Mountain of Light," was seized by the East India Company in the mid-19th century and has become a sore symbol of Britain's colonial past. Vaz, who is a Member of Parliament, is pushing for return of the Koh-i-Noor to coincide with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Britain in November.


The 105.6-carat diamond is currently set in the platinum Crown of Queen Elizabeth and is displayed among the British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.


“What a wonderful moment it would be, if and when Prime Minister Modi finishes his visit, he returns to India with the promise of the diamond’s return,” said Vaz.

The Koh-i-Noor, which was once thought to be the largest diamond in the world, has a long and checkered history that dates back more than 700 years. The enormous rough diamond was unearthed at the Kollur Mine in India and first recorded in Hindu texts as early as 1306 in the time of the Kakatiya Dynasty. The 793-carat stone — the size of a hen's egg — was originally installed as one of the eyes of a temple goddess.

Over time, the diamond passed through the hands of numerous invaders, including Persian ruler Nadir Shah, who gave the precious stone its current name in the 1700s. In 1849, when the British East India Company took over the Punjab region (which is now eastern Pakistan and northern India), the Koh-i-Noor was surrendered by Maharajah Ranjit Singh to British Queen Victoria.


At the time, Britain's Prince Albert — the husband of Queen Victoria — was reportedly very disappointed with the dull look of the Koh-i-Noor, which weighed 186 carats. He spent £8,000 to have it recut to improve its brilliance. The resulting 105-carat oval-brilliant diamond had lost more than 40 percent of its weight, but the Prince reportedly was still not satisfied with the result. The Koh-i-Noor was eventually set in the Queen's crown, along with 2,000 other diamonds.


The on-again, off-again debate regarding the rightful owner of the Koh-i-Noor has gained traction recently. While one faction alleges that the British forcibly took the diamond from an Indian maharajah and should give it back, another faction claims it was generously gifted by the maharajah to the Queen. Still another group believes that a victor in war has the right to claim its spoils — with no givebacks or apologies necessary.

So far, British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the idea of returning the Koh-i-Noor to India was illogical and that he is more anxious to focus on the present than to "reach back" into the past.

Whoever ends up with the Koh-i-Noor will have to deal with the assertion that the stone may be cursed. Specifically, an ancient Hindu text warns, "He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity."

In possible deference to that warning, the only British royalty to have worn the Koh-i-Noor, so far, have been female.

Credits: Getty Images