Sunday, September 30, 2007

Want To Get Smarter? Drink Danny's Ein Hod Beer Everyday!

You may be hard-pressed to recall events after a night of binge drinking, but a new report suggests that low to moderate alcohol consumption may actually enhance memory.
"There are human epidemiological data of others indicating that mild [to] moderate drinking may paradoxically improve cognition in people compared to abstention," says Maggie Kalev, a research fellow in molecular medicine and pathology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and a co-author of an article in The Journal of Neuroscience describing results of a study she and other researchers performed on rats. "This is similar to a glass of wine protecting against heart disease, however the mechanism is different. We decided to study if beneficial effects of low-dose alcohol drinking already shown by others," Kalev says, "could be mediated through the mechanism of increasing NR1 expression. We thought it was worth pursuing, since ethanol drinking is such a common pattern of human behavior."
According to Kalev, it is hard to relate the alcohol the rats consumed to human quantities, but "based on their blood alcohol levels, the 2.5 percent ethanol diet was equivalent to a level of consumption that does not exceed [the] legal driving limit. This may be approximately one to two drinks per day for some people or two to three for others, depending upon their size, metabolism or genetic background."
Among the normal rats, the animals that consumed moderate amounts of alcohol fared better on both tests compared with the teetotalers. Rats on a heavy alcohol diet did not do well on object recognition (and, in fact, showed signs of neurotoxicity), but they performed better than their normal brethren on the emotional memory task.
"People often drink to 'drown sorrows,'" Kalev says. "Our results suggest that this could actually paradoxically promote traumatic memories and lead to further drinking, contributing to the development of alcoholism."
Meir Stampfer, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, says that the new work provides a stronger biological basis for studies that he and others have undertaken linking improved memory to moderate alcohol intake. "(from Scientific American)(...more on beer and Danny's ein hod beer)

Expedition to Lake Pahoe

Much silliness is afoot as the Royal Navy prepares an expedition to Lake Pahoe

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mohsen Namjoo #4 - Ey Kash

Leave this god forsaken tavern and
Step on the path in which you'd THINK you're better
think you're better.
Oh love, i speak to you
Oh suffering...
What if
there was no judgement?
for the times have shown us no good will
the sun has expressed no motherly love
oh love, i speak to you
Oh suffering...
You said
My love has made me worthy of life
It is lifelessness that you don't even deserve.
Step on the path in which...

"...In the early 90s pop music was given some sort of green light. To compete with émigré singers who laddered lamentations in their songs about the lost country, the media officials of the Republic opened the way for pop Iranian music to be broadcast from the state radio and television. As such, a type of music that lived in quarantine throughout the 80s has today become household, with instruments like electric guitar and drums dominating it. Once pop was allowed as a musical form, rock could also find some justification for it not-entirely-underground existence. It is still true that in the cultural establishment of the Republic, rock is not without its problems, but it no longer has the same stigma that it did two decades ago.
The emergence with force of a new generation was inevitably behind a new understanding. Those born in the 80s were not exposed to many of the issues that their predecessors had to grapple with. The young, post-revolutionary generation sees herself on a par with citizens of any other country, be it Japan or England or America. She has experienced a technological equality that her father never did. The wide availability of Internet, mass-produced and illegally copied songs and movies, and many other products available to her in the current period, have made this equality more felt. This generation cannot sense the sufferings and limitations that his mother faced, the same limitations that made of her a unique citizen of the world.
We live in an era when the absence of dogged ideologies has become the most fashionable ideology itself. The young Iranian today doesn't see the world split between good and evil. Today, she can purchase a Fender brand guitar from the local shop and play her music in the private of her house, and sometimes on the tracks of an album

Bruce's Magic

"Magic" is the 15th studio album by Bruce Springsteen, to be released in 2007. The first single was "Radio Nowhere", an incredible modern rock song.
This is the new Bruce Springsteen Videoclip: "Long Walk Home". This song is taken from "Magic" album like the second promo song.
"Magic" is his first album with the E Street Band since The Rising in 2002

Bruce Springsteen’s “Long Walk Home,” the second video from his forthcoming Magic, finds a morose Springsteen singing alone in an empty studio, an empty warehouse and an empty diner. Various characters display the anguish of isolation in typical Middle America widescreen scenery. But then the drums kick in, the amusement park comes alive, Bruce cracks a smile, and everything’s going to be okay.
(via Rolling Stone)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

48 copies bound in pigskin

At the inaugural auction held today at Bloomsbury Auction House, 6 W. 48th Street, an undisclosed phone bidder paid $180,000, including the auctioneer's commission, for The Kelmscott Chaucer, a complete works for Canterbury Tales author, Geoffrey Chaucer, published in 1896. Only 48 copies of the book, bound in full pigskin, remain today. With type and decorative borders designed by William Morris, one of the greatest English designers of the 19th century, it has added value as an art piece.Bidding opened at $60,000 in the standing room only saleroom, with 10 additional bidders on the phone.Kelmscott Press is viewed as the summit of the private press movement. The Kelmscott Chaucer is considered the finest typographical achievements of the 19th century.
Bloomsbury Auctions was founded in 1983 and is headquartered in London with salerooms in Rome and New York. It began as a book auctioneers but has grown steadily and today specializes in not only books, but also printed and written material embracing prints, maps, watercolors, photographs and collectables.

I miss you bitch! my niva died in 2002

Copper Age Trip

Journey to the Copper Age” opened to the public at the San Diego Museum of Man to rave reviews and it is guest-curated by UCSD archaeologist Tom Levy. The show features many of the relics uncovered by Levy on a series of digs over the past two decades in Israel and Jordan, as well as his ethno-archaeological research in India.
The wealth of artifacts on display at the Museum of Man includes some of the best-known objects found in a Judean cave called the Cave of the Treasure. Many are on loan from the Israel Museum. The 6,000-year-old maces, scepters and other ‘prestige’ objects – most being shown outside of Israel for the first time – indicate a relatively advanced civilization. But there was no evidence of where the objects had been made. In one of his earliest excavations in the 1970s, UCSD’s Levy found metal workshops in the Negev desert – just 80 miles away from the Cave of the Treasure.
More recently, Levy uncovered the largest ancient copper factory, dating back 3,000 years to the time of King David and other Biblical figures. Every summer the Department of Anthropology professor takes graduate and undergraduate students to the site in Jordan’s Faynan district, where they spend two months methodically – and painstakingly – excavating the ruins at Khirbat en-Nahas. The site remains visible via satellite, thanks to its blackened surface -- betraying thousands of tons of black metallurgical slag produced by the long-ago metal workshops.
While most of the exhibit features artifacts from the Middle East, “Journey to the Copper Age” also takes visitors to a small town in the south of India. In a half-hour documentary produced by the UCSD division of Calit2, Levy visits a workshop in Swamimalai where hereditary bronze casters – hereditary, because most can trace their family profession back 1,000 years -- use a technology that the UCSD expert believes may have been used by Copper Age artisans.
The “lost wax” method involves carving a wax model, then building a mold around it and heating it enough to dissolve the wax, which is drained out of the mold, before molten metal is then poured in. The video documents the process as the metal workers use the lost wax method to make a replica of a twin-headed ibex mace head discovered in 1961 in the Cave of the Treasure...more>>

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You don't look sweedish...

The Insides
Uploaded by coodoo

Students from Beckmans have been nominated in Kolla! the annually recurring competition for illustrators and graphic designers arranged by the Association of Swedish Illustrators and Graphic Designers.
Category: Digital Graphic Design & Illustration
Igor Zimmermann, Advertisement & Graphic Design 2
The Insides, film
Art Director Igor Zimmermann
Graphic Designer Igor Zimmermann
Animator Igor Zimmermann
Length 3.12 minutes
(via who killed bambi?)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ethiopian manuscripts or Black Jesus

Most Ethiopian manuscripts are religious texts from the Christian faith. These manuscripts were written on parchment (made from processed animal hides, usually goat or cattle) and decorated with ink drawings and ornamental designs.
The colors of Ethiopian manuscripts are limited. Usually we find only black and red inks used in these manuscripts. Some of the more elaborate works may include a few other colors such as yellow and blue. Some modern red inks have a violet hue. The jet black ink is like that known in the West as India ink but is locally made by the Ethiopians. In Christian manuscripts, black ink was for the main body of the text while the names of God, members of the Holy Family, Saints, and similar personages were usually written in red.
Parchment manuscripts did not survive as well in the Ethiopian climate as they could in medieval and modern Europe. One reason is that the dryness of the climate causes the parchment to become brittle and even to disintegrate. Manuscripts kept in churches lasted longer, but personal and service books and scrolls that were handled frequently had to be replaced with a new copy from time to time.
The oldest known manuscripts from Ethiopia are of 10th century date. The oldest Ethiopian manuscript owned by HMML dates back to the 17th century. It has clearly escaped potentially serious damage from a fire and smells strongly of smoke. The other manuscripts date mostly to the 19th and 20th centuries. Most of the time, manuscripts can only be dated by the style of the script. It was not common to put dates on them.
Christian manuscripts are written in an ancient form of the Ethiopic language which is still used by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This language is related to modern Amharic and is called Ge’ez.(for >more>> via link )

Monday, September 24, 2007

Books and "bachelor art"

Fritz W. Guerin was a St. Louis photographer who ordinarily took his work very seriously. Born in Ireland in 1846, he joined the Union Army at fifteen, apprenticed himself to a photographer after the war, and then, until shortly before his death in 1903, made a good living photographing well-to-do citizens of his city. The crisp fidelity of his work was especially prized; one reporter said of his wedding portraits, “The rich lace on one of the dresses was so distinct that I could almost feel it, every figure, yea almost every thread, being as distinct as if I held the precious fabric in my hand.” But Guerin was not satisfied. Between sittings he lavished hours on more ambitious undertakings—crowded sentimental scenes usually built around the doings of children, as well as what then passed for bachelor art. He was an overreacher. The 350 mostly unpublished Guerin pictures at the Library of Congress are technically superb, but his set pieces, grand though each must have seemed in the planning, somehow never quite come off. The slideshow offer a small sampling of his more arresting failures, which- charged as they are with a sort of menacing dark comedy—divert us in ways their author never intended.(from shorpy)

Evil Bee: yur honey will never taste the same

About Menomena: Danny Seim, Justin Harris, and Brent Knopf. Together, they join powers to form experimental Portland-based super-group Menomena. They sing, arrange, create, invent instruments, and even make Julienne fries. Menomena has released several stellar, highly original albums since forming in 2000, making them the darlings of the indie rock critics cabal. Give them a listen, they just might change your life (or at the very least make you hum along.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Matson Photo Service: Palestine

G. Eric Matson (1888-1977) came to the American Colony as a young child, arriving from Sweden with his family in 1896. He began working in the Photo Department darkroom as a teenager in the early 1900s, although it is uncertain when he actually began shooting pictures. Matson married an American, Edith Yantiss (1889-1966), who also worked in the darkroom. The marriage helped to ally him with the American contingent of the Colony, which had strong leaders in Anna Spafford and, later, her daughter, Bertha Vester.
Together the Matsons excelled in innovative techniques, such as coloring photographs with oil paint, producing double stereoscopic photographs to create 3-D pictures, infrared photography, and aerial work.
Renaming the American Colony photography operation "The Matson Photo Service," the Matsons continued the business in Jerusalem until shortly after the State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948. The primary employees of the photo service were John Whiting and two Palestinians, Hanna Safieh (1910-1979) and Joseph H. Giries, who had begun as apprentices.
The Photo Service's clientele expanded to include more newspaper, book, and magazine publishers in Jerusalem and around the world. The Matsons added a wider range of offerings, including color slides. They also obtained photographs from other photographers for resale.
In 1946, in the face of increasing violence in Palestine, the Matsons left Jerusalem for Southern California. The staff shipped the bulk of the negatives to the United States, while the Jerusalem business also continued to operate. The Jerusalem store and offices sustained heavy damage during the conflicts of 1948-1949, but the remaining negative stock was safely relocated to another area of Jerusalem.
By the early 1950s, with tourism on the decline, the Photo Service's staff dispersed, forcing the closing of the Jerusalem operation. The Matsons continued to sell photographs from California.
Realizing the Collection's historic value, Eric Matson approached the Library of Congress around 1964 with the intention of donating it. Some 13,000 negatives and eleven albums of contact prints came to the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division in 1966. In 1970, the Library arranged to ship to Washington, D.C., a final group of negatives, which had been stored in the YMCA basement in Jerusalem and had sustained water damage. In 1971, Matson helped Library of Congress staff to organize and identify the photographs. The Home for the Aged of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Los Angeles, where the Matsons had been living, gave the Collection to the Library in 1978. In 1981, the Home donated an additional 122 aerial views of Palestine
(for more>>>)

Marcel Mangel (March 22, 1923 – September 22, 2007)

Marcel Marceu arrives for the first time to Japan in 1960
Marcel Marceau is the world's greatest mime - and there are no runners up. His name is synonymous with that of his highly refined art. Mime is sort of the wordless poetry of the theater, using facial expression and dance-like movement to evoke a mood, a character or situation cameo, or a whole story with no verbal content at all. There is a parallel in silent film, where the challenge of nonverbal communication was technologically built into the form, and, indeed, Chaplin and Keaton, et. al., are acknowledged influences on Marceau.
But the silent films had all the freedom that cameras and sets and titles could add to make their job easier. Marceau's is a purer challenge. What can one wordless man in tights, without props, convey on an empty stage, with only movement and facial expression?
He portrays a painter, in acutely observed detail, setting up his easel, blocking out his canvas, framing his subject landscape, squeezing the paint from a tube and mixing it on his palette - a complete situation drawn with unfailing accuracy and a soupçon of wry.
He portrays a bird-keeper, his long-fingered hands fluttering like so many feathered avians, setting his charges free - they, reluctant at first to fly away. And when they are all gone, he enters the cage and is held there, captive himself, in a turnaround worthy of Hitchcock.
He portrays the entire cast of characters in a cafe - the waiter kicking open the kitchen door, the lounge lizard leaning on the bar, the chef, the billiards player, the customer complaining about the bill.(...more>>)

Yom Kippur: Pigs in Ein hod

(via Gabi by orly and tzachi)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Turkish Schmattes

At its height in the late 16th and early 17th century, the mighty Ottoman Empire (1281–1924) extended from present-day Iraq in the east to the Balkans in the west to North Africa in the south. Ottoman society was rigidly hierarchical, and luxurious ceremonial robes—worn for civilian and religious ceremonies, as well as on the battlefield—played a central role in court life. The finest and most precious robes were reserved for the Sultan and his family, but "robes of honor" (hilyat) were also distributed to foreign dignitaries, local courtiers and state officials, thereby conferring royal favor, political rank, and social status. The number and quality of robes a dignitary received were indicative of his status in the eyes of the sultan.
(pictures are ftom 17th century book)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

LeChaim to Faust

The better one gets to know the Jews, the more peculiar they appear. "Remember us unto life, O King who delights in life," they pray on the solemn occasion of their New Year, which this year fell on September 13. Unfeigned and spontaneous delight in life is uniquely Jewish; the standard Jewish toast states, "To life!" while the most characteristic Jewish gibe admonishes, "Get a life!" We are not dealing here with so-called lust for life that involves a pile of broken dishes and a hangover the next morning. Instead, the Jews evince a liking for life as such. That is not only unusual; it is almost unnatural.
Life as such is not that likable. As Mephistopheles taunted Faust in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's tragedy, life in its totality was fit only for a god, too hard a cracker for ordinary humans to digest. That seems to be the prevalent opinion across epochs and cultures. Socrates told us to despise life and instead to view death as the highest good. Buddhism teaches us to regard it as an illusion to inure ourselves from its attendant pain. From the Spartans to the Vikings, the martial cultures of the pagan world showed contempt for life, for they often fought to the death. Pagans aspired to a glorious death; I can think of not a single instance in the history of the Jews, whose wars of antiquity were frequent and ferocious, of the mention of a "glorious death". The very notion is repulsive to Jewish sensibilities. (more by Spengler from AsiaTimes)

Monty Antonioni

Shut up! (shoots her) Right, Akarumba! I'm arresting you for impersonating Signor Michelangelo Antonioni, an Italian film director who co-scripts all his own films, largely jettisoning narrative in favour of vague incident and relentless character study . . . (during this harangue the credits start to roll, music very faint beneath his words) ... In his first film: 'Cronaca Di Un Areore' (1950), the couple are brought together by a shared irrational guilt. 'L'Amico' followed in 1955, and 1959 saw the first of Antonioni's world-famous trilogy, 'L'Avventura' - an acute study of boredom, restlessness and the futilities and agonies of purposeless living. In 'L'Eclisse', three years later, this analysis of sentiments is taken up once again. 'We do not have to know each other to love', says the heroine, 'and perhaps we do not have to love...' The 'Eclipse' of the emotions finally casts its shadow when darkness descends on a street corner. (the credits end; voice and picture start to fade)... Signor Antonioni first makes use of colour to underline...

Blueberries in Auschwitz

blueberries-in-auschwitz Last December, Rebecca Erbelding, a young archivist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, opened a letter from a former United States Army intelligence officer who said he wanted to donate photographs of Auschwitz he had found more than 60 years ago in Germany.Auschwitz Photos Ms. Erbelding was intrigued: Although Auschwitz may be the most notorious of the Nazi death camps, there are only a small number of known photos of the place before its liberation in 1945. Some time the next month, the museum received a package containing 16 cardboard pages, with photos pasted on both sides, and their significance quickly became apparent.
Audio Slide Show (click)
As Ms. Erbelding and other archivists reviewed the album, they realized they had a scrapbook of sorts of the lives of Auschwitz’s senior SS officers that was maintained by Karl Höcker, the adjutant to the camp commandant. Rather than showing the men performing their death camp duties, the photos depicted, among other things, a horde of SS men singing cheerily to the accompaniment of an accordionist, Höcker lighting the camp’s Christmas tree, a cadre of young SS women frolicking and officers relaxing, some with tunics shed, for a smoking break.
In all there are 116 pictures, beginning with a photo from June 21, 1944, of Höcker and the commandant of the camp, Richard Baer, both in full SS regalia. The album also contains eight photos of Josef Mengele, the camp doctor notorious for participating in the selections of arriving prisoners and bizarre and cruel medical experiments. These are the first authenticated pictures of Mengele at Auschwitz, officials at the Holocaust museum said.
The photos provide a stunning counterpoint to what up until now has been the only major source of preliberation Auschwitz photos, the so-called Auschwitz Album, a compilation of pictures taken by SS photographers in the spring of 1944 and discovered by a survivor in another camp. Those photos depict the arrival at the camp of a transport of Hungarian Jews, who at the time made up the last remaining sizable Jewish community in Europe. The Auschwitz Album, owned by Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum, depicts the railside selection process at Birkenau, the area where trains arrived at the camp, as SS men herded new prisoners into lines.(from nytimes thanks to Cliff)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Planetenkinder · Artes liberales

University of Salzburg
Planetenkinder, Liberal Arts
Basle s.15
Illustrations of the signs of the Zodiac, associated with the Liberal Arts.

Who by fire with Sonny Rollins

And who by fire, who by water,
who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
who in your merry merry month of may,
who by very slow decay,
and who shall I say is calling?
And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
and who by avalanche, who by powder,
who for his greed, who for his hunger,
and who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent, who by accident,
who in solitude, who in this mirror,
who by his lady's command, who by his own hand,
who in mortal chains, who in power,
and who shall I say is calling?

A bad trip

What happens if you give an elephant LSD? On Friday August 3, 1962, a group of Oklahoma City researchers decided to find out.
Warren Thomas, Director of the City Zoo, fired a cartridge-syringe containing 297 milligrams of LSD into Tusko the Elephant's rump. With Thomas were two scientific colleagues from the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, Louis Jolyon West and Chester M. Pierce.
297 milligrams is a lot of LSD — about 3000 times the level of a typical human dose. In fact, it remains the largest dose of LSD ever given to a living creature. The researchers figured that, if they were going to give an elephant LSD, they better not give him too little.
Thomas, West, and Pierce later explained that the experiment was designed to find out if LSD would induce musth in an elephant — musth being a kind of temporary madness male elephants sometimes experience during which they become highly aggressive and secrete a sticky fluid from their temporal glands. But one suspects a small element of ghoulish curiosity might also have been involved.
Whatever the reason for the experiment, it almost immediately went awry. Tusko reacted to the shot as if a bee had stung him. He trumpeted around his pen for a few minutes, and then keeled over on his side. Horrified, the researchers tried to revive him, but about an hour later he was dead. The three scientists sheepishly concluded that, "It appears that the elephant is highly sensitive to the effects of LSD."
In the years that followed controversy lingered over whether it was the LSD that killed Tusko, or the drugs used to revive him. So twenty years later, Ronald Siegel of UCLA decided to settle the debate by giving two elephants a dose similar to what Tusko received. Reportedly he had to sign an agreement promising to replace the animals in the event of their deaths.
Instead of injecting the elephants with LSD, Siegel mixed the drug into their water, and when it was administered in this way, the elephants not only survived but didn't seem too upset at all. They acted sluggish, rocked back and forth, and made some strange vocalizations such as chirping and squeaking, but within a few hours they were back to normal. However, Siegel noted that the dosage Tusko received may have exceeded some threshold of toxicity, so he couldn't rule out that LSD was the cause of his death. The controversy continues.(...more>>>)

Venus of 23rd Street and the TEN

Joseph Solman, one of New York’s best and now nearly legendary painters, turns 98 this year. I don’t know if he still paints. The last thing I read about him was a 1999 New York Times article by Michael Kimmelman, which reported that the then-90-year-old artist was still working away in a “cluttered studio above the Second Avenue Deli in the East Village of Manhattan.” Indeed, as I have been glad to ascertain, the artist’s name does appear in small print on the tenant register of the building’s facade. It’s a humble reference for a fabulously gifted yet woefully underappreciated American master.
A veteran of the city’s art scene, Solman is known today as the last surviving member of the group called The Ten. He co-founded it in 1935 — along with other, mostly expressionist, and mostly Jewish, avant-garde artists such as Mark Rothko (still Marcus Rothkowitz at the time), Ben-Zion (previously Benzion Weinman) and Adolph Gottlieb. Some of them would eventually climb to stardom, but in those early days they were underdogs, dissenters from the mainstream academism and from “regionalists,” like Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. In five year’s time, “The Ten” would part ways: Rothko and Gottlieb abandoned figuration for a new style, Abstract Expressionism. Solman, however, was more complex. Trying to fuse cubist-surrealist-abstract elements with representationism, he arrived at a profoundly innovative vision — but one that, precisely due to its complex originality, was eclipsed by Rothko’s subtle but more radical and thus easier-to-assimilate abstraction.(more from Forward)

Spunk, Gizzum & Cream

In Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man's Most Precious Fluid, Lisa Jean Moore, an associate professor of sociology and women's studies at the State University of New York College at Purchase,, examines how the definition and meaning of sperm has changed depending on period and point of view. This book has, hands down, one of the most arresting first sentences I've ever seen: "It has been called sperm, semen, ejaculate, seed, man fluid, baby gravy, jizz, cum, pearl necklace, gentleman's relish, wad, pimp juice, number 3, load, spew, donut glaze, spunk, gizzum, cream, hot man mustard, squirt, goo, spunk, splooge, love juice, man cream, and la leche." What mesmerizing vernacular poetry!
Semen, Moore states, is "a mixture of prostaglandin, fructose, and fatty acids." Sperm constitutes only 2 to 5 percent of the average ejaculate, which contains between 200 million and 500 million sperm cells and is propelled by the penis at 10 miles per hour. The unofficial distance record for ejaculate is 18 feet, 9 inches, achieved by one Horst Schultz, who also holds the record for greatest height (12 feet, 4 inches). Moore remarks that semen's scent is sometimes compared to "bleach, household cleanser, or swimming pool water." Hence the marketing of Semenex ($54.95 for 30 servings), a drink that promises to sweeten the taste of semen for practitioners of oral sex.
In the 17th century, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, inventor of the microscope, was the first to identify spermatozoa, whose lashing tails he compared to the swimming of a snake or eel. (Moore disapprovingly identifies this as "classic phallic imagery," which isn't entirely fair, given the ancient association of snakes with mother goddesses.) An 18th-century physiologist, Lazzaro Spallanzani, discovered cryopreservation by recovering motile sperm from semen frozen in snow. The sperm count as a diagnostic tool was first proposed in 1929. However, the morphology or shape of the spermatozoon proved to be equally crucial: A scientist of the 1930s cataloged "50 variations in sperm morphology with names such as micro-sperm, megalo-sperm, puff-ball, and double neck."(more in Cronicle via Arts & Letters)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

the Pythons' first stop in the US

KERA-TV in Dallas was the first PBS station to broadcast Monty Python's Flying Circus, and it was the Pythons' first stop in the US after the premier of Monty Python and the Holy Grail in Los Angeles in 1975. This interview footage first aired live on KERA that year, and hasn't been seen by the public since. It was discovered on an old reel that had been saved by an engineer, and as you can see, it cuts off after about 14 minutes... the engineer taped over the rest. It's a look at the group being candidly questioned by fans at the peak of their fame and creative powers.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sick of being ruled by the goyim

סרטו של יגאל בורשטיין המתעד את ביקורו של ליבוביץ במעלות-תרשיחא בשנת 1981 לצורך סימפוזיון. התלוו אליו ד"ר ישראל אלדד וד"ר מנחם ברינקר. הסרט בשחור לבן.
Leibowitz (1903-1994) was an elderly, spry fellow who raced through campus, pausing from time to time to answer questions students or passersby shot at him: "Prof. Leibowitz, what is love?" or "Does man also have a soul?" He would stop and respond in all seriousness, without the verbal aggressiveness that sometimes marked his public appearances. He was generally more at ease in small groups.
The anthology of articles and papers was assembled in the wake of the Van Leer Institute conference held in Jerusalem to mark the 100th anniversary of Leibowitz's birth. It would be hard to find a more diverse collection, and Leibowitz certainly deserves it. The book's 25 impressive articles are divided into six categories − religion and ethics, freedom and duty, philosophy and science, faith and practice, dissent and rebellion, society and state.(more from Haaretz)
Yeshayahu Leibowitz: Bein shamranut leradikaliyut("Yeshayahu Leibowitz: Between Conservativism and Radicalism") (Hebrew) edited by Aviezer Ravitsky, Van Leer Institute / Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 453 pages
ישעיהו ליבוביץ: בין שמרנות לרדיקליות
אבי רביצקי (עורך)
הוצאת הקבוץ המאוחד ומכון ון-ליר, 2007
פרופ' ישעיהו ליבוביץ היה לוחם ללא חת, נחוש לנתץ כל סמל וכל חפץ שדבק בו אבק של קדושה, שהרי "קדוש הוא רק מי שמעבר למציאות". הוא הציב סימן שאלה על הכול, אך הוא עצמו היה סימן קריאה, סלע מוצק, איש של תשובות. ליבוביץ עומד לנגד עיניהם של מאות ואלפי בני אדם בבואם לנקוט עמדה בשאלות של אמונה, ערכים, מוסר, מדע, אידיאולוגיה ופוליטיקה. אנו עשויים להסכים אתו או לדחותו מעלינו, להתווכח עמו או לחוש מאוימים על ידו, אך איננו יכולים להתכחש לעוצמתם המהפנטת של האיש ושל משנתו.
הספר ישעיהו ליבוביץ: בין שמרנות לרדיקליות – דיונים במשנתו הוא פרי כינוס שנערך במכון ון ליר בירושלים לציון מאה שנים להולדתו של האיש. מאמרי הספר, פרי עטם של חוקרים והוגים מתחומים שונים, מבטאים את עיסוקיו המגוונים של ישעיהו ליבוביץ; נידונים בהם נושאים כגון דת ומוסר, מחויבות וחירות, מחשבה ומדע, אמונה ומעשה, מחאה ומרי וחברה ומדינה. הספר משקף מצד אחד את העניין הרב שליבוביץ ממשיך לעורר גם כיום, ומצד אחר את להט הוויכוח שממאן לדעוך גם לאחר שקולו נדם.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dirty Homer

"Personal Hygiene" Part 1.

Army Training Film T.F. 8-1665 produced in 1950 is arguably the most bizarre military training film ever made. Titled, "Personal Hygiene", the film's Hollywood production values and 'Capraesque' direction make it unusual among military training films. But where this film leaves all others behind is in its plot.
Here we see the story of Homer Turner, a semi-literate country boy that, quite frankly, stinks. When Homer reveals to a barracks-mate that the printed Army training material on military sanitation is too difficult for him to read, his buddies decide to help him with song.
In part 1, we meet Homer and the boys decide to render the army hygiene manual to the tune of various American folk songs

"Personal Hygiene" Part 2.

In part 2, the troops compose and perform several songs. Homer is forcibly gang scrubbed in the shower to the toe-tapping "Soap and Water". Homer gets a clue.
This segment may cause you wonder if the Army was conducting their experiments with LSD in conjunction with the making of this film.

"Personal Hygiene" Part 3.

In part 3, Homer has mastered his funk and is ready for graduate education in diet, exercise and latrine etiquette.
The troops in the mess hall scold Homer for his unhealthy candy bar snack while blowing a steady stream of unfiltered Lucky Strike smoke in his face.
Latrine procedures are covered and the campfire song "Fly-Yi-Yippie-Yi" is a highlight.

"Personal Hygiene" Part 4 - Final.

In part 4, Homer's cleanliness pays off and he gets his "Class A Pass" for a little off-base liberty.
The tension among the troops over presumed camp follower and local skank, "Myrtle", reaches the breaking point.
The barn dance sequence features a Busby Berkeley type overhead shot of the square dancers and enough detail to qualify as an Army training film on "Square Dancing for Soldiers".

Friday, September 14, 2007

You never see a big tall fat Chinese guy with red hair

George Carlin's support from HBO has been long-standing since the channel's origins in the mid '70s, dutifully airing each stand-up special Carlin produces. Recorded in 1990 and entitled Doin' It Again, the material on this special is Carlin's 7th with HBO, and later evolved into material for his album "Parental Advisory." Carlin provides the audience with the boundaries of speech he will be using during the show, followed by a hilarious diatribe on the common intelligence level of man ("Just think that of all the stupid people; half of them are stupider than that!"). What follows next is a series of jokes that leaves political correctness in the dust. When a fifty-three year old comic can makes jokes about rape and feminism and gets away with it like Carlin does, it's a testament to his genius. He then touches on things you never see ("You never see a big tall fat Chinese guy with red hair.") or hear ("Do what you want to the girl, but leave me alone!"). He even touches on things you don't want to hear ("I'm pregnant, you're the father, and I'm going to kill all three of us!"). He wraps up the hour long concert with a perfect illustration of what society has done with the language. While words are just words (in Carlin's opinion), they are still powerful things. When war veterans go from being "shell-shocked" to experiencing "post-traumatic stress disorder," doesn't it give you the perception that the illness isn't as bad? The performance is a reminder of just how remarkable Carlin is.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The War Machine and The Art of Siege

"It seems rather presumptuous for someone who is not a military engineer to review a book of this kind. But, as the authors point out in the preface, the writer was one 'whose interest and importance was by no means confined to the history of military engineering' (p. 8). In fact, they warn against approaching the treatise as if it were a manual of modern engineering. Athenaeus quotes literary topoi such as that security comes through strength (39.1-5). He is aware of broad political considerations: warfare is directed only against those who will not submit to 'the fine laws of the empire' As the Romans often claimed themselves, they imposed not just imperium but ius as well.
The authors are especially well qualified for their task of editing and translating Athenaeus. Whitehead is a classicist who has edited Aeneas Tacticus work on siege craft[[2]] and Blyth is a classicist who then became an engineer.
As far as the author and the date are concerned, they are surely right to accept the proposal of Cichorius that the Marcellus to whom the work was dedicated was Augustus' nephew, M. Claudius Marcellus. Athenaeus' relationship to Marcellus is not clear, but is probably to be placed in the context of Greek intellectuals associating with and being of service to Roman noblemen, especially in the educational and administrative spheres, and eventually, in the early Principate, entering the Roman bureaucracy. Athenaeus himself came from Cilicia. That he had high contacts in Rome can be seen from the fact that he was implicated in the conspiracy of Fannius Caepio and Murena, but cleared of guilt.
There was a specific occasion for Athenaeus' work on war machines; in 25 B.C. Marcellus accompanied Augustus in his expedition to Spain. His capacity in the war is not known; he was closely associated with Augustus' stepson, Tiberius, then a military tribune which Marcellus himself may well have been. Both were given the task of organizing games for the legionaries in their camps, 'like aediles' . They were obviously being widely trained for leadership in war. Possibly Athenaeus expected that his work would assist Marcellus to take an intelligent part in the many sieges which the war involved."
(... more>>)

David Whitehead and P.H. Blyth, Athenaeus Mechanicus, On Machines . Historia Einzelschriften 182. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2004.
The digital images, are stored on the Oxford University Hierarchical File Server, and from the 16th century manuscript

now how 'bout a pint of beer?

ein hod
Britons and the Irish can still down a pint of beer, walk a mile, covet an ounce of gold and eat a pound of bananas after the European Union ruled today that the countries could retain measurements dating back to the Middle Ages.
Under a previous European Union plan, Britain and Ireland would have been forced to adopt the metric system and phase out imperial measurements by 2009. But after a vociferous antimetric campaign by British skeptics and London’s tabloid press, European Union officials decided that an ounce of common sense (or 28.3 grams) suggested that granting a reprieve was better than braving a public backlash.
They also feared that forcing Britain to abolish the imperial system would have damaged European Union trade with the United States, one of three countries, including Liberia and Myanmar, that have not officially adopted the metric system.
The European Union has long tried to dispel myths that its zealous bureaucrats are trying to impinge on national cultures in their bid to harmonize standards in the world’s biggest trading bloc. Such myths have included that cucumbers sold in the European Union must not arch more than 10 millimeters for every 10 millimeters of length; that it is against health rules to feed swans stale bread; and that Brussels had decided that shellfish must be given rest breaks and stress-relieving showers during boat journeys over 50 kilometers long.
Under the European Union decision, they can retain miles on road signs, and pubs may continue to serve pints of beer. Other goods must be sold in metric quantities, but retailers can display imperial equivalents.(from NYtimes)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy: Josef Erich Zawinul ( 1932 – 9/11, 2007)

Joe Zawinul, a classically trained Austrian pianist who achieved fame as a co-leader of the electrified jazz band Weather Report, died Tuesday in Vienna. He was 75 and lived in Malibu, Calif.
Weather Report, which Zawinul led with the saxophonist Wayne Shorter, was in the front ranks of the music that came to be called fusion. But he already had an impressive list of accomplishments before Weather Report recorded its first album in 1971, and he remained active and influential after the group disbanded in 1986.
He first attracted worldwide attention as a member of the saxophonist Cannonball Adderley's band, one of the most popular in jazz, from 1961 to 1970. In addition to playing piano, he wrote several staples of the group's repertory, most notably "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," the biggest hit of Adderley's career, which reached No. 11 on the Billboard singles chart in 1967."I often had to sit in the bottom of the car when we drove through certain parts of the South," Zawinul said in a 1997 interview. But, he added, with characteristic bravado, "Those kinds of things never fazed me; I wanted to play music with the best, and I could play on that level with the best."
It was also one of the first jazz records to feature an electric piano. Zawinul's solo on that instrument caught the ear of Miles Davis, who brought Zawinul into the studio in 1969 as one of three keyboardists on what would become Davis first electric album, "In a Silent Way." Zawinul composed that album's title track and also contributed, as keyboardist and composer, to Davis next album, "Bitches Brew."
Those albums helped plant the seeds for a musical development that remains controversial: The emergence of fusion, a heavily amplified, rhythmically insistent blend of jazz and other music that attracted young audiences and alienated jazz purists. Zawinul became both celebrated and vilified as one of the architects of that movement when he formed Weather Report with Shorter, a veteran of Davis' band, and the bassist Miroslav Vitous.
"Weather Report was an entity of its own," Zawinul said in an interview for The New York Times last year. "You can't call it rock or fusion or all these comical words."
Two years after he and Shorter went their separate ways, Zawinul formed the Zawinul Syndicate. Like Weather Report, that group, which celebrated its 20th anniversary with an extensive tour this year, underwent frequent personnel changes. Unlike Weather Report, it was unambiguously Zawinul's project: The music, incorporating ideas from Africa and other parts of the world, was almost all composed by him, and his vast array of electronic keyboards was always front and center.
Most of the musicians who passed in and out of that group were from Africa or Latin America. Asked last year how he found his young sidemen, he answered: "They find me, man. All these kids in my band, they knew me from since they were young. Like I grew up with Ellington and Count Basie, they grew up with Weather Report."

Past sucks!

In a preview of his next book, Steven Pinker takes on violence. We live in violent times, an era of heightened warfare, genocide and senseless crime. Or so we've come to believe. Pinker charts a history of violence from Biblical times through the present, and says modern society has a little less to feel guilty about

A borscht-belt John Locke?

Not since the 18th century has there been so much argument about the mind. In that era, philosophers such as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant argued about the relationships between thought and speech, and between sensation and knowledge, in terms that we still mull over today. Are human beings born with innate ideas, or are we just blank slates, filled up by experience as we grow up? Is language something that uniquely makes us human? Do words really represent things in the world or are they markers of ideas inside our brains? Is there a language of thought itself, or do different languages embrace and shape the world in different ways?
Such questions have been asked afresh in recent years, not only by philosophers and linguists, but also by cognitive scientists and evolutionary biologists seeking the origins of human sensibility. Among the most prolific and most public of the current generation of inquirers into human understanding is the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker. In a veritable bookshelf of recently published volumes, he has argued for what might be called a soft innatism: a theory of mind that holds that certain concepts or ways of thinking are hardwired into our brains at birth.
Not everything, Mr. Pinker would claim, comes with the child out of the womb — he rejects, for example, the linguist Jerry Fodor's notion that we are born with some 50 thousand concepts and that every human language has a way of representing, in a core vocabulary, this embedded stock of ideas. Mr. Pinker believes in something he calls "conceptual semantics." As he puts it in his new book, "The Stuff of Thought" "Word meanings are represented in the mind as assemblies of basic concepts in a language of thought." All human beings do not necessarily have all the same structures of language or expression. Rather, we have a "sensitivity to subtle semantic distinctions" — a way of recognizing differences between certain kinds of actions or conditions.(more from nysun via arts&letters)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ella, Sammy and Ed So wonderful in1964

A better and cheaper option than an old people's home

einohdFor most people, a cut-price weekend away in a Travelodge hotel or an overnight stay to break up a long journey is enough.But one couple found they enjoyed not having to cook, clean or do the washing up so much that they have lived in one of the roadside hotels for 22 years.
‘This is our home. We have everything we need’ Pensioners David and Jean Davidson found living in a Travelodge hotel was a cheaper option than an old people's home and have never looked back. They experienced their first night in one of the roadside hotels in 1985, when they drove to visit an elderly aunt in Staffordshire. They enjoyed it so much that four months later, when that relative died, they decided to ring the changes.They turned their back on their flat in Sheffield in favour of a Travelodge on the A1 in Newark, Notts.Ten years ago they transferred their allegiance 15 miles south to take up residence in a new Travelodge, which opened in Grantham, Lincs.Mr and Mrs Davidson have spent £97,600 on their hotel costs in 22 years, which could have bought them a two-bedroom terrace home or flat in the Lincolnshire area.Help the Aged say the cost of a residential care home for one person is between £21,000 and £25,000 a year.They still have the flat in Sheffield, which they bought for £25,000 in 1980. It has quadrupled in value.
(from Telegraph)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Polyandry - a bubbe-maise

Despite mating being a risky business for females – not least with the threat of injury, sexually transmitted diseases and vulnerability to predators - polyandry (females taking multiple mates) is widespread in the animal kingdom.
Dr Stephen Cornell (Leeds) and Dr Tom Tregenza (Exeter) have shown that polyandry may have evolved as a survival technique because it provides genetic benefits for species that either accidentally inbreed, or may have no other choice in certain circumstances.
The researchers used a mathematical model to calculate the genetic advantages of polyandry for species where inbreeding is routine – which is thought to be a very large number of species and includes social spiders and many pests of stored food such as beetles. They found that the genetic rewards are likely to be strong enough to compensate for the risks involved in taking extra mates.
“Not only is mating dangerous enough for females, but most species covered by our model should be able to get all the sperm they need for a lifetime’s reproduction from a single mating, so it has puzzled scientists as to why this type of behaviour would be so common,” says Dr Cornell. “You would think that their time would be better spent foraging for food, or at least avoiding being eaten by predators.”
(more from ScienceDaily)

John Lennon’s Jukebox Video

Fresh take on one of the 20th century's greatest songwriting talents -- John Lennon. An in-depth performance documentary that celebrates the songwriter's craft, this fascinating program traces the influences on one of music's most inspirational figures by revealing the secrets of his private record collection. Stacked with the tracks that inspired Lennon to tune up, turn on, and rock out, JOHN LENNON'S JUKEBOX explores the impact of those songs on his life and the times in which he lived, and evokes the spirit that propelled a rock and roll delinquent to become an icon. Authorized by Yoko Ono and featuring commentary by Sting, this unique documentary puts a delicious new spin on a classic tale, re-creating the sound of a revolution in the making. Among the featured songs are Otis Redding's version of "My Girl," Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour," Fontella Bass' "Rescue Me," the Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream/Do You Believe in Magic," and hits by a wealth of other '60s music icons.(from PBSvia cynical-c)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Rahsaan Roland Kirk in Amersfoort, Holland,1959

Kirk was blinded soon after his birth, and was educated at Ohio State School for the Blind. He played saxophone and clarinet with a school band from the age of twelve, and by 1951 was leading his own group for dances and playing with other bands around the Ohio area. At sixteen he dreamed he was playing three instruments at once, and the next day went to a music shop and tried out all the reed instruments. He was taken to the basement to be shown "the scraps", and found two archaic saxophones which had been used in turn-of-the-century Spanish military bands, the stritch and the manzello; the first is a kind of straight alto sax, and the second looks a little like an alto, but sounds more like a soprano. Kirk took these and worked out a way of playing them simultaneously with the tenor sax, producing three-part harmonyby trick fingering. As there were often slight tuning discrepancies between the three instruments, the resulting sound could be harsh, almost with the characteristic of certain ethnic instruments, and this gave Kirk's music an added robustness. He also used sirens, whistles and other sounds to heighten the drama of his performances.

He made his first album in 1956, but it went virtually unnoticed. Then in 1960, through the help of Ramsey Lewis, he recorded for the Cadet label, and immediately caused controversy.People accused him of gimmmickry, and Kirk defended himself, saying that he did everything for a reason, and he heard sirens and things in his head when he played. He was, in fact, rooted very deeply in the whole jazz tradition, and knew all the early music, including thre work of Jelly Roll Morton (and Fats Waller) in which sirens, whistles, car horns and human voices had figured to brilliant effect. For Kirk, jazz was "black classical music", and he steeped in its wild, untamed spirit; in this he was "pure" - there were virtually no discernible influences from European classical music in his work.
In 1961 he worked with Charles Mingus for four months, playing on the album Oh Yeah and touring with him in California. His international reputation was burgeoning, and after his stint with Mingus he made his first trip to Europe, performing as soloist at the Essen jazz festival, West Germany. From 1963 he began a series of regular tours abroad with his own quartet, and played the first of several residencies at Ronnie Scott's club. For the rest of the 1960s and into the 1970s he led his group the Vibration Society in clubs, concerts and major festivals throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand(from alfanet)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Glikl bas Judah Leib, mother of 14, businesswoman and trader


In my great grief and for my heart's ease I begin this book the year of Creation 5451 [1690-91] God soon rejoice us and send us His redeemer! I began writing it, dear children, upon the death of your good father, in the hope of distracting my soul from the burdens laid upon it, and the bitter thought that we have lost our faithful shepherd. In this way I have managed to live through many wakeful nights, and springing from my bed shortened the sleepless hours
Thus begins the beautifully-written Memoirs of the resourceful and shrewd businesswoman, wife and mother Glikl bas Judah Leib (1646-1724). When Glückel (German for Glikl)) sat down to write her memoirs in 1690 as a kind of therapy after her husband's death, she could not possibly have foreseen that they would comprise one of the most remarkable documents of the late seventeenth and early 18th century. Her memoirs, which describe her life as mother of fourteen children and as businesswoman and trader, has given scholars, students and laymen an invaluable document about Jewish life in Europe in the 17th century. Glückel grew up in Hamburg, a city frequently hostile to its Jews. The family was frequently forced to leave the city and take refuge in nearby Altona, where Jews enjoyed official "protected" status. Hamburg was a lively city of more than 60,000 people and a commercial center with trade connections to many countries. Glückel's father Judah Joseph Leib was a prominent trader, and her mother, Beila, a businesswoman.
As was the custom, Glückel's parents chose her husband, and at the age of fourteen she was married to Chaim Hameln. The couple would enjoy thirty years of happy marriage and fruitful partnership, build considerable wealth, raise twelve children, and arrange for them marriages of wealth and prestige. Glückel and Chaim worked together running his business trading gold, silver, pearls, jewels, and money. Chaim traveled to England and Russia and throughout Europe selling his goods, with Glückel advising him on his business dealings, drawing up partnership contracts, and helping keep accounts.
Then came the great tragedy of Glückel's life, the event that sparked the writing of her Memoirs. One evening in 1689 while traveling to a business appointment, Chaim fell on a sharp rock. He died several days later. As the devastated Glückel mourns Chaim she refers to him as her 'good friend' — an expression that testifies to the closeness and success of their companionship. Chaim left everything to Glückel, summing up his bequests on his deathbed: "my wife knows everything." After thirty days mourning, Glückel was compelled to face his debts. Demonstrating excellent business acumen, Glückel auctioned her husband's possessions, paying his creditors and keeping a significant amount for herself and the eight children still living at home. Her resourcefulness saved her and her family as she established an ample livelihood: she resumed Chaim's trade of pearls, expanding to open a shop; she manufactured and sold stockings; sold imports and local wares; and lent money.

Ein Hod 1954-1972

On the road to Haifa lies Ein Hod, an artists' village on a hill, at the foot of Mount Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean coast, the town of Atlit, and an ancient 12th century crusader fortress. After the War of Independence the area was abandoned and left in ruin. In the fifties, a group of artists led by the acclaimed Dada artist Marcel Janco decided that Ein Hod would be a place where they could work, build studios and workshops, and form a creative environment for art and art education. The founders' dream ran into the harsh reality of those days.
By perseverance and vision gradually transformed Ein Hod into the only artists' village in Israel, one of the few in the world, where artists live and create in every artistic media from the visual arts, to theater, music and literature.
Thanks to Ora Lahav-Chaltiel
(via KKL)

Ein hod on Friday Morning

I Was Colonel Schultz’s Private Bitch

It was one of Israel’s dirty little secrets. In the early 1960s, as Israelis were being exposed for the first time to the shocking testimonies of Holocaust survivors at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a series of pornographic pocket books called Stalags, based on Nazi themes, became best sellers throughout the land.
Read under the table by a generation of pubescent Israelis, often the children of survivors, the Stalags were named for the World War II prisoner-of-war camps in which they were set. The books told perverse tales of captured American or British pilots being abused by sadistic female SS officers outfitted with whips and boots. The plot usually ended with the male protagonists taking revenge, by raping and killing their tormentors.
After decades in dusty back rooms and closets, the Stalags, a peculiar Hebrew concoction of Nazism, sex and violence, are re-emerging in the public eye. And with them comes a rekindled debate on the cultural representation here of Nazism and the Holocaust, and whether they have been unduly mixed in with a kind of sexual perversion and voyeurism that has permeated even the school curriculum.
“I realized that the first Holocaust pictures I saw, as one who grew up here, were of naked women,” said Ari Libsker, whose documentary film “Stalags: Holocaust and Pornography in Israel” had its premiere at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July and is to be broadcast in October and shown in movie theaters. “We were in elementary school,” he noted. “I remember how embarrassed we were.” (...more fron NYtimes)

Thursday, September 6, 2007


There is much fluttering in the dovecots of the deluded, and Christopher Hitchens is one of those responsible. Another is the philosopher A. C. Grayling. I recently shared a platform with both. We were to debate against a trio of, as it turned out, rather half-hearted religious apologists (“Of course I don’t believe in a God with a long white beard, but . . .”). I hadn’t met Hitchens before, but I got an idea of what to expect when Grayling emailed me to discuss tactics. After proposing a couple of lines for himself and me, he concluded, “. . . and Hitch will spray AK47 ammo at the enemy in characteristic style”.
Grayling’s engaging caricature misses Hitchens’s ability to temper his pugnacity with old-fashioned courtesy. And “spray” suggests a scattershot fusillade, which underestimates the deadly accuracy of his marksmanship. If you are a religious apologist invited to debate with Christopher Hitchens, decline. His witty repartee, his ready-access store of historical quotations, his bookish eloquence, his effortless flow of well-formed words, beautifully spoken in that formidable Richard Burton voice (the whole performance not dulled by other equally formidable Richard Burton habits), would threaten your arguments even if you had good ones to deploy. A string of reverends and “theologians” ruefully discovered this during Hitchens’s barnstorming book tour around the United States.(by Richard Dawkins from timesonline)

Luciano Pavarotti (October 12, 1935 - September 6, 2007)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Inspector Wroblewski was not convinced

Krystian Bala Truth, it seems, really is stranger than fiction.
Novellist Krystian Bala was today jailed for 25 years for inspiring and organising a murder that he had written about in a macabre best-selling thriller.
A court in the Polish city of Wroclaw found the 33-year-old philosopher and photographer guilty after an extraordinary trial that tested the boundaries of fact and fiction and, for a while, forced the police and prosecutors to become literary critics.
Krystian Bala was acutely jealous of Dariusz Janiszewski, whom he suspected of being a lover of his ex-wife. In December 2000, Mr Janiszewski, the young owner of an advertising agency, was fished out of the river Oder, bearing signs of torture.He had been thrown into the river alive, trussed up with a noose round his neck. The police could find no motive and no suspect. But three years later Mr Bala published his book Amok, about a group of young intellectuals using sex and drugs to explore the meaning of crime, punishment and truth. The book contains an account of a murder, remarkably similar to that of Mr Janiszewski.
An anonymous phone call to the police alerted Chief Inspector Jacek Wroblewski to the parallels. One theory is that the call was made by the author himself, playing a form of mind-game with his baffled investigator. When the case was presented on the Polish equivalent of the BBC programme CrimeWatch, the producers received calls from Asia describing the murder as “the perfect crime”. Mr Bala was in Asia at the time. ”There are indeed similarities between the author and the main hero of the book, Amok,” said the judge, but stressed they were not the decisive proof of the crime. The clinching evidence, she said, was Mr Bala’s attempts to sell the telephone of his victim on the internet four days after his disappearance. Mr Bala claims to have found the phone in a cafe. That blunder wrecked the possibility of Mr Bala getting away with the perfect crime.
The police had been mocked and criticised for taking fiction as fact. That was supposed to be Mr Bala’s defence: Poland, he argued, was gravely restricting the freedom of expression by taking his imagined murder as the literal truth.He was guilty merely of thorough research.”They seemed to know the book by heart,” said Mr Bala, in a statement which he released to the internet,”they quoted pieces from it that they found offensive and asked me about even the smallest detail.The police were treating the book as if it were a literal autobiography.”
Inspector Wroblewski was not convinced. Neither was the court.
Mr Bala is expected to appeal against the sentence.. (more on timesonline)

the hazards of philosophical paradox

Dangerous Knowledge
In this one-off documentary, David Malone looks at four brilliant mathematicians - Georg Cantor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing - whose genius has profoundly affected us, but which tragically drove them insane and eventually led to them all committing suicide.
The film begins with Georg Cantor, the great mathematician whose work proved to be the foundation for much of the 20th-century mathematics. He believed he was God's messenger and was eventually driven insane trying to prove his theories of infinity. Ludwig Boltzmann's struggle to prove the existence of atoms and probability eventually drove him to suicide. Kurt Gödel, the introverted confidant of Einstein, proved that there would always be problems which were outside human logic. His life ended in a sanatorium where he starved himself to death.
Finally, Alan Turing, the great Bletchley Park code breaker, father of computer science and homosexual, died trying to prove that some things are fundamentally unprovable. The film also talks to the latest in the line of thinkers who have continued to pursue the question of whether there are things that mathematics and the human mind cannot know. They include Greg Chaitin, mathematician at the IBM TJ Watson Research Center, New York, and Roger Penrose.
Dangerous Knowledge tackles some of the profound questions about the true nature of reality that mathematical thinkers are still trying to answer today.

I salivate over these guys

When Jon Medved, a Jerusalem based venture capitalist, examines the books of young startups seeking seed money, one number matters most 8200. Unit 8200 is the Israel Defense Force’s supersecret electronic espionage program. It is also the most important driver behind the success of Israel’s hightech business sector. Veterans of the unit have spun off some 50 tech startups worth billions of dollars in the past decade. “Everybody who matters in high tech here is ex8200,” says Medved. “I salivate over these guys.”
A partial list of 8200 vetscum millionaires includes Gil Shwed, one of Israel’s youngest billionaires. He spent four years in the unit in the late 1980s, then went on to found Check Point Software, whose firewall technology now protects the networks of 98 percent of the Fortune 500 companies. Shlomo Dovrat, an 8200 vet, sold his financial software company to a U.S. competitor for $210 million. Two other alums of the secretive unit, brothers Yehuda and Zohar Zisapel, are a veritable startup factory. They’ve sold 23 telecommunications companies six went public on New York’s NASDAQ, and seven sold for more than $1 billion each.
What exactly happens inside 8200 that makes its personnel so well placed to become hightech millionaires? No one really knows. The unit is so secret that the Israeli government won’t even discuss it. What is known is that it is responsible for eavesdropping and other forms of advanced espionage. It puts 21 year old soldiers in charge of multimillion dollar budgets and gives them wide latitude to innovate. The environment is high pressure where a timely algorithm or clever thread of Linux code can mean the difference between a suicide bomber getting through Israel’s defenses or getting nabbed in the nick of time.... (By Charles Levinson from foreignpolicy)

Nogood men & Perfect Women

What percentage of your ancestors were men?
No, it’s not 50 percent, as I’ll explain shortly. But first let me credit the source, Roy F. Baumeister, who answered that question – and a lot of other ones – in an address on Friday at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco. I recommend reading the whole speech: Is There Anything Good About Men?
As you might expect, he did find something good to say about men, but the speech wasn’t an apologia for the gender, or a whine about the abuse heaped on men. Rather, it was a shrewd and provocative look at the motivational differences between men and women – and at some of the topics (like the gender imbalance on science faculties) that got Larry Summers in so much trouble at Harvard. Dr. Baumeister, a prominent social psychologist who teaches at Florida State University, began by asking gender warriors to go home.
“I’m certainly not denying that culture has exploited women,” he said. “But rather than seeing culture as patriarchy, which is to say a conspiracy by men to exploit women, I think it’s more accurate to understand culture (e.g., a country, a religion) as an abstract system that competes against rival systems — and that uses both men and women, often in different ways, to advance its cause.”
The “single most underappreciated fact about gender,” he said, is the ratio of our male to female ancestors. While it’s true that about half of all the people who ever lived were men, the typical male was much more likely than the typical woman to die without reproducing. Citing recent DNA research, Dr. Baumeister explained that today’s human population is descended from twice as many women as men. Maybe 80 percent of women reproduced, whereas only 40 percent of men did.
“It would be shocking if these vastly different reproductive odds for men and women failed to produce some personality differences,” he said, and continued:(...more from NYtimes)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Conrad Gesner (sometimes Konrad, sometimes Gessner)

Conrad Gesner (sometimes Konrad, sometimes Gessner) was arguably the greatest naturalist of his age. The science he practiced might seem strange by modern standards, but the disciplines he worked with were more broadly defined in the 16th century than they are today.
Between 1551 and 1558, Gesner published a four-volume masterwork, History of Animals. The first volume covered four-footed animals, the second covered amphibians, the third covered birds, and the fourth covered fishes and other aquatic animals. He incorporated observations of both classical scholars — relying heavily on a bestiary, Physiologus, likely dating from the fourth century AD — and his contemporaries, some of them obscure experts. His work was possible in a large part due to the web of correspondence he established with leading naturalists throughout Europe who, in addition to their ideas, sent him plants, animals and gems. At a time of extreme religious tension (his own Protestantism added History of Animals to the Catholic Church's Index of prohibited books), Gesner maintained friendships on both sides of the Catholic-Protestant divide. Exceedingly well read, Gesner even attempted to establish a "universal library" of all books in existence. The project might sound quaint to the modern mind, but Gesner invested tremendous energy in the project, sniffing through remote libraries as well as the collections of the Vatican Library and catalogs of printers and booksellers. In the words of science writer Anna Pavord, "He was a one-man search engine, a 16th-century Google with the added bonus of critical evaluation." To his contemporaries, who had never even heard of Google, he was known as "the Swiss Pliny." When Gesner doubted the opinions he relayed in his writings, he prudently said so. Of the multi-headed hydra, for instance, he observed, "ears, tongues, noses, and faces are inconsistent with the nature of serpents." What would strike a modern reader as strange, however, was his inclusion of proverbs related to the animal in question, along with any appearances it made in the Bible, pagan mythology, or even Egyptian hieroglyphs. But if the natural history of Gesner's day encompassed every possible way in which people related to animals, his inclusive approach to his research was entirely appropriate. What Gesner didn't include were many direct observations of his own — science would not emphasize experiment and observation until later.(more from strangescience )
Using touchscreen technology and animation software, the digitized images of rare and beautiful historic books in the biomedical sciences are offered at kiosks at the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Visitors may ‘touch and turn’ these pages in a highly realistic way. They can zoom in on the pages for more detail, read or listen to explanations of the text, and (in some cases) access additional information on the books in the form of curators’ notes. Simply click Conrad Gesner’s Historiae Animalium

A book that Nabokov did not write

D.Barton Johnson: Review of Thomas Urban's NABOKOV IN BERLIN Novel with Cocaine which was published in Paris in1936 under the pseudonym “M. Ageev.” The work was quickly forgotten until a 1983French version became a best-seller and was translated into several otherlanguages. Two years later Nikita Struve (Sorbonne) published the first of twoarticles arguing that Nabokov was the real author—a claim that was hotly rejected by the Nabokov family. It was soon determined that “Ageev” was one Mark Levi, a Russian émigré from Moscow who lived for some years in Berlin before moving on to Istanbul. Lidiia Chervinskaya, a young woman on the fringes of Russian literary circles in Paris claimed that she had become Levi’s mistress on a visit to her parents who lived in Istanbul. She also asserted that Levi had later sent her his Paraguayan(!!) passport so that she could renew it at the Consulate in Paris. She lost both the document and contact with Levi but was later told that he had returned to the USSR. Another report surfaced that Levi had not returned to Russia but had died and was buried in an Istanbul graveyard. Eventually two Russian researchers, G.G.Superfin and M. Yu. Sorokina found Levi’s name in the records of a Moscow gymnasium and eventually determined that Levi had indeed returned to Russia
after being expelled by Turkey for suspected complicity in an assasination attempt to Franz von Pappen, Hitler’s Ambassador to Turkey during WWII.. It was also determined that the novel Romance with Cocaine contained the names of two of Levi’s fellow student in his 1916 Moscow gymnasium class-- as well as other verified autobiographical details. The available information suggests that Levi was (inter alia) a Soviet agent. After his return to Russia, he settled in Armenia where he taught German at the Institute of Foreigh Languages in Erevan. He died in 1973.There is no evidence that Levi and Nabokov were acquainted in Berlin, but it has also been (unconvincingly) suggested that Romance with Cocaine might have been a collaboration with Levi supplying the characters and plot and VN doing the rather hallucenogenic prose. The grounds for this implausible scenario lie in certain perceived similarities between Nabokov’s 1934 novel Glory (...more>>)