Monday, August 31, 2009

Black-Figure Pottery

Black-figure pottery is a style of ancient Greek pottery painting in which the decoration appears as black silhouettes on a red background. Originating in Corinth during the early 7th century BC, it was introduced into Attica about a generation later. Other notable black-figure potteries existed at Sparta, Athens, and in eastern Greece. The technique flourished until being practically replaced by the more advanced red-figure pottery technique in 530 BC, although later examples do exist.

Attic vases were made of a pale iron-rich clay which turned a reddish-orange color when fired, Corinthian and other fabrics had a creamy-white reserve color. The design was sketched in outline, then filled in using refined clay as paint. Details would be added with an engraving tool, scratching through the paint layer to the clay below. The vessel would then be fired in a kiln at a temperature of about 800°C, with the resultant oxidization turning the vase to a reddish-orange color. The temperature was then raised to about 950°C with the kiln's vents closed and green wood being added to remove the oxygen. The vessel then turned an overall black. The final stage required the vents to be re-opened to allow oxygen into the kiln, which was allowed to cool down. The vessel then returned to its reddish-orange color due to renewed oxidization, while the now-sintered painted layer remained the glossy black color created in the second stage.

Apart from black, other colors could be used by modifying the characteristics of the clay used to paint the vase. The most common was a yellowish-white derived from a purified iron-free clay, and a purplish-red derived from the same refined clay used to produce the black areas mixed with ochre (red iron oxide) and water.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

WD-40

WD-40 is the trademark name of a water-displacing spray widely available in a variety of retail outlets. Developed in 1953 by Norm Larsen, founder of the Rocket Chemical Company, San Diego, California. It was originally designed to repel water and prevent corrosion, and later was found to have numerous household uses.

WD-40 stands for Water Displacer. Larsen was attempting to concoct a formula to prevent corrosion, by displacing the standing water that promotes it. In the process, he arrived at a successful formula on his 40th attempt. WD-40 is primarily composed of various hydrocarbons.

WD-40 was first used by Convair to protect the outer skin of the Atlas missile from rust and corrosion. The product first became commercially available on store shelves in San Diego in 1958.

WD-40's formula is a trade secret. The product is not patented in order to avoid completely disclosing its ingredients

Monday, August 24, 2009

Toupée

A toupée is a hairpiece or partial wig of natural or synthetic hair worn to cover partial baldness or for theatrical purposes. While toupées and hairpieces are typically associated with male wearers, some women also use hairpieces to lengthen existing hair, or cover partially exposed scalp. The desire to wear hairpieces is a response to a long-standing bias against balding that crosses cultures, dating to at least 3100 BC. Toupée manufacturer's financial results indicate that toupée use is an overall decline, due in part to alternative methods for dealing with baldness, and to greater cultural acceptance of the condition.

While most toupées are small and designed to cover bald spots at the top and back of the head, large toupées are not unknown, particularly among television personalities.

Toupées are often referred to as "hairpieces", "units", or "hair systems" by those seeking to avoid the negative connotations that the word "toupée" conjures up.

It has been stated that many men often know they are fooling no one with the use of the toupée, but that the bias in Western culture against baldness is so strong that they feel the need to have hair on their heads. Unfortunately, in their desire for their baldness to be unnoticed, toupée wearers often become noticed for their toupées.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Giuseppe Ferlini

Giuseppe Ferlini (1800 – 1870), of Bologna, Italy, was an Italian doctor turned explorer and archaeologist who destroyed over 40 pyramids in a quest for treasure in the 1820s in Egypt and Sudan. He served as surgeon the Egyptian army, occupying Sudan. While the army stayed at Khartoum and Sennar, he went in 1834 to Meroë and destroyed many pyramids while searching for treasure. He found only one cache of gold. He tried to sell it to several European museums, but at this time nobody believed that such high quality jewellery could be made in Black Africa. His finds were finally sold, and remain at the museums in Munich and Berlin.

The Sudanese do not fondly remember this infamous rogue archaeologist. According to "Dark Star Safari" by Paul Theroux, Ferlini dynamited the tops of many of the Meroë pyramids, marring the formerly pristine relics and making off with the artifacts. Of particular note was the leveling of Pyramid N 6 of the kandake Amanishakheto.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Radler

A Radler (German for "Bicyclist") is a mixed drink made with beer and soda pop. As such, it is a type of shandy. The Radler is popular in Germanophone communities in Europe and around the world, where it has a long history. It is traditionally made by mixing a light lemon-lime soda, such as Sprite or 7-Up with a medium-dark beer, but today it is commonly made with lighter beers. The "Dunkles Radler" or "Dark Radler" is still popular in Bavaria, though even there it must be ordered explicitly. Some guides recommend mixing the beer and soda in a 3:2 ratio, favoring the beer.

It is currently thought that the Radlermass originated towards the end of the nineteenth century in one of the then-popular socialist bicycle clubs, but the identity of the actual inventor is probably lost to history. Lena Christ describes the serving of Radlermasses around the year 1900 in her memoirs, published in 1912.

Friday, August 21, 2009

La Specola

The Museum of Zoology and Natural History, "La Specola" is located in Florence, next to the Pitti Palace. The name "Specola" means observatory, a reference to the astronomical observatory founded there in 1790. It now forms part of the Museo di Storia Naturale di Firenze.

The museum has deep ties to history; parts of the collection trace back to the Medici Family. It is known for its collection of wax anatomical models from the 18th century. It's the oldest scientific Museum of Europe.

This museum is located in the former Palazzo Torrigani at Via Romana 17, near the Pitti Palace. The Imperial Regio Museo di Fisica e Storia Naturale (The Imperial-Royal Museum for Physics and Natural History) was founded in 1771 by Grand Duke Peter Leopold to publicly display the large collection of natural curiosities such as fossils, animals, minerals and exotic plants acquired by several generations of the Medici. At the time of its opening, and for the first years of the 19th century, it was the only scientific museum or Wunderkammer of its kind specifically created for the public to view. It opened on 21 February 1775 to the general public.

Today the museum spans 34 rooms and contains not only zoological subjects, such as a stuffed hippopotamus (a 17th-century Medici pet, which once lived in the Boboli Gardens), but also a collection of anatomical waxes, an art developed in Florence in the 17th century for the purpose of teaching medicine. This collection is very famous worldwide for the incredible accuracy and realism of the details, copied from real corpses. Also in La Specola on display are scientific and medical instruments. Parts of the museum are decorated with frescoes and pietra dura representing some of the principal Italian scientific achievements from the Renaissance to the late 18th century.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Streets

Michael Geoffery Skinner (born 27 November 1978), more commonly known by his stage name The Streets, is a rapper from Birmingham, England.

Skinner began experimenting with a keyboard when he was five years old. As a teenager, he built a miniature recording studio in his bedroom. He began writing hip hop and garage music in his home in West Heath in Birmingham, with a crew of other rappers including best friend Chris Panton. He describes his background as "Barratt class: suburban estates, not poor but not much money about, really boring." Skinner started making songs at the age of fifteen.

He has suffered from epilepsy since the age of seven.

In the mid-1990s, following secondary education at Bournville School Skinner was a student at Sutton Coldfield College, near Birmingham, and was working in fast food jobs while trying to start his own independent record label and sending off demos.

Despite having been raised in Birmingham, an area with a distinctive regional accent, he speaks with a London-influenced accent. Some critics have accused Skinner of using a "Mockney" accent. He can be heard speaking in his normal accent at the beginning of the song "Fake Streets Hats". Because of his accent, Skinner is identified with Birmingham; a keen supporter of Birmingham City, he even wore the club's replica shirt on stage.

"Has It Come to This?" proved to be a breakthrough hit for the Streets, going top-twenty in March 2001. For his debut album, Original Pirate Material, Skinner wanted to take UK garage in a new direction with material reflecting the lifestyle of clubbers in Britain. The track "Let's Push Things Forward" reflects the philosophy of the album. The album was released and proved to be successful both with critics and the general public alike. In the UK, the album was nominated for the Mercury Prize and was favourite with the bookies to win it (it was later won by Ms. Dynamite). The Streets was nominated for best album, best urban act, best breakthrough artist and best British male artist in the 2002 BRIT Awards. The NME named it as one of their top five albums of 2002.


Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a cold Spanish tomato-based raw vegetable soup, originating in the southern region of Andalusia. Gazpacho is widely consumed throughout Spain, neighboring Portugal (where it is known as gaspacho) and parts of Latin America. Gazpacho is mostly consumed during the summer months, due to its refreshing qualities.

Gazpacho has ancient roots. There are a number of theories of its origin, including as an Arab soup of bread, olive oil, water and garlic that arrived in Spain with the Moors, or via the Romans with the addition of vinegar. Once in Spain, gazpacho became a part of Andalusian cuisine, particularly Seville. Tomato was added to the recipe after it was brought to Europe after the Columbian Exchange which began in 1492. The dish remained popular with field hands as a way to cool off during the summer, and to use available ingredients (fresh vegetables and stale bread).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mad Magazine

Mad is an influential American humor magazine founded by editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines in 1952. The last surviving title from the notorious and critically acclaimed EC Comics line, the magazine offers satire on all aspects of American life and pop culture, politics, entertainment, and public figures. Its format is divided into a number of recurring segments such as TV and movie parodies, as well as freeform articles. Mad's mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, is typically the focal point of the magazine's cover, with his face often replacing a celebrity or character that is lampooned within the issue.

Comics historian Tom Spurgeon picked Mad as the medium's top series of all time, writing, "At the height of its influence, Mad was The Simpsons, The Daily Show and The Onion combined." Graydon Carter chose it as the sixth best magazine of any sort ever, describing Mad's mission as being "ever ready to pounce on the illogical, hypocritical, self-serious and ludicrous" before concluding, "Nowadays, it’s part of the oxygen we breathe." Joyce Carol Oates called it "wonderfully inventive, irresistibly irreverent and intermittently ingenious American." Monty Python's Terry Gilliam wrote, "Mad became the Bible for me and my whole generation."Critic Roger Ebert wrote:

I learned to be a movie critic by reading Mad magazine... Mad's parodies made me aware of the machine inside the skin—of the way a movie might look original on the outside, while inside it was just recycling the same old dumb formulas. I did not read the magazine, I plundered it for clues to the universe. Pauline Kael lost it at the movies; I lost it at Mad magazine.

Rock singer Patti Smith said more succinctly, "After Mad, drugs were nothing."

Platypus

The Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a semi-aquatic mammal endemic to eastern Australia, including Tasmania. Together with the four species of echidna, it is one of the five extant species of monotremes, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. It is the sole living representative of its family (Ornithorhynchidae) and genus (Ornithorhynchus), though a number of related species have been found in the fossil record.

The bizarre appearance of this egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal baffled European naturalists when they first encountered it, with some considering it an elaborate fraud. It is one of the few venomous mammals; the male Platypus has a spur on the hind foot that delivers a venom capable of causing severe pain to humans. The unique features of the Platypus make it an important subject in the study of evolutionary biology and a recognizable and iconic symbol of Australia; it has appeared as a mascot at national events and is featured on the reverse of the Australian 20 cent coin. The platypus is the animal emblem of the state of New South Wales.

Until the early 20th century it was hunted for its fur, but it is now protected throughout its range. Although captive breeding programs have had only limited success and the Platypus is vulnerable to the effects of pollution, it is not under any immediate threat.

Spahn Ranch

Spahn Ranch is a 500-acre ranch at 1200 Santa Susana Pass Road, Chatsworth, California. Situated in the Santa Susana Mountains, it is known as the place where Charles Manson and his group of followers, referred to as "The Family," lived in spring 1968.

The ranch, once owned by silent film actor William S. Hart, was used to film many westerns, including Duel in the Sun and episodes of Bonanza and The Lone Ranger. A Western village movie set stood there until it was destroyed by a wildfire in November 1970.

The ranch got its name from dairy farmer George Spahn, who purchased the property in 1948. While Spahn was living at the ranch in 1968, Manson and his "family" moved in after Manson arranged for family member Lynette Fromme, also known as "Squeaky", to have sex with Spahn and do his housekeeping in exchange for living there rent-free. In late 1969, Robert Hendrickson began filming the Manson Family at the Spahn Ranch for his documentary film "Manson". There he filmed "Squeaky", George Spahn, Bruce Clayton Elliott, "Clem", Nancy Pittman, Catherine "Gypsy" Share, Sandra Good, Paul Watkins, and others. Spahn died on September 22, 1974, and is buried in Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall, California.

The property is currently owned by the state of California.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Fall

The Fall are an English post-punk band, formed in Prestwich, Greater Manchester in 1976. The band has existed in some form ever since, and is essentially built around its founder and only constant member Mark E. Smith.

Initially associated with the punk movement of the late 1970s, the group's music has gone through several stylistic changes over the years. However, The Fall's music is often characterised by repetition, an abrasive guitar-driven sound, and is always underpinned by Smith's vocals and often cryptic lyrics, described by critic Steve Huey as "abstract poetry filled with complicated wordplay, bone-dry wit, cutting social observations, and general misanthropy (sometimes more implied than clearly stated, but apparent nonetheless)."

The band's output is prolific—as of April 2008 they have released 27 studio albums, and more than triple that counting live albums and other releases. They have never achieved widespread public success beyond a handful of minor hit singles in the late 1980s, but have maintained a strong cult following. The band were long associated with BBC disc jockey John Peel, who championed them from early on in their career and cited The Fall as his favourite band, famously explaining, "They are always different; they are always the same."

Nutella

Nutella is the brand name of a hazelnut-based sweet spread registered by the Italian company Ferrero at the end of 1963. The recipe was developed from an earlier Ferrero's spread released in 1949. Nutella is now marketed in over 75 countries across the globe.

Nutella is a modified form of gianduja. The exact recipe is a secret closely guarded by Ferrero. Gianduja is a type of chocolate containing approximately fifty percent almond and hazelnut paste. It was developed in Piedmont, Italy after taxes on cocoa beans hindered the diffusion of conventional chocolate. Pietro Ferrero owned a patisserie in Alba, in the Langhe district of Piedmont, an area known for the production of hazelnuts. In 1949 Pietro developed his first spread, which he started to sell in 1951 as "Supercrema".

In 1963, Pietro's son Michele Ferrero decided to revamp Supercrema, with the intention of marketing it across Europe. Its composition was modified, as well as the label image and brand name: the name "Nutella" (based on the word "nut") and its logo were registered towards the end of the same year and remain unchanged to this day. The first jar of Nutella left the Ferrero factory in Alba on April 20, 1964. The product was an instant success and remains widely popular. The estimated Italian production of Nutella averages 179,000 tons per year.

The Family

The Family is a secretive international movement founded in 1935 most often referred to as The Fellowship. Other names by which the organization is known include The Fellowship Foundation, The International Foundation, Fellowship Ministries, Fellowship House, and C Street Center. In the past, the organization has conducted its activities as:
  • National Fellowship Council,
  • National Leadership Council,
  • National Committee for Christian Leadership or NCCL,
  • International Christian Leadership or ICL, and
  • National Leadership Council.

The Family claims to be centered on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as the common ground across all religious and political divisions. It is led by Doug Coe and most widely known for organizing the National Prayer Breakfast, at which every President of the United States since President Dwight D. Eisenhower, including President Barack Obama in 2009, has spoken.

The Family believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help individuals who the Family believes were "chosen" by God to understand their role in his plan. As a result, the Family is associated with many influential leaders, including scores of Senators and members of Congress, executive branch officials, military officers, including several Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, corporate executives, the heads of religious and humanitarian aid organizations, foreign leaders and ambassadors. According to David Kuo, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, "The Fellowship's reach into governments around the world is almost impossible to overstate or even grasp."

Core members and associates deny that the Family even exists. The Family has been the subject of controversy and the press for its secrecy as well as its involvement in covering up extramarital affairs and other scandals involving its members, ties to third-world dictators and oppressive regimes, and approving references to the Mafia, Adolf Hitler, terrorist and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, and despots Siad Barre, and most notably Suharto and Cambodian despot Pol Pot.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II American fighter aircraft built by Lockheed. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Named "fork-tailed devil" by the Luftwaffe and "two planes, one pilot" by the Japanese, this unique aircraft was used in a number of different roles including dive bombing, level bombing, ground strafing, photo reconnaissance missions, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.

The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as the mount of America's top aces, Richard Bong (40 victories) and Thomas McGuire (38 victories). In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war.

The P-38 Lightning was the only American fighter aircraft in active production throughout the duration of American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to VJ Day.

The Lightning figured in one of the most significant operations in the Pacific theater: the interception, on 18 April 1943, of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of Japan's naval strategy in the Pacific including the attack on Pearl Harbor. When American codebreakers found out that he was flying to Bougainville Island to conduct a front-line inspection, 16 P-38G Lightnings were sent on a long-range fighter-intercept mission, flying 435 mi (700 km) from Guadalcanal at heights from 10-50 ft (3-15 m) above the ocean to avoid detection. The Lightnings met Yamamoto's two Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" fast bomber transports and six escorting Zeros just as they arrived. The first Betty crashed in the jungle and the second ditched near the coast. Two Zeros were also claimed by the American fighters with the loss of one P-38. Japanese searchers found Yamamoto's body at the jungle crash site the next day.

Godwin's Law

Godwin's Law is a humorous observation coined by Mike Godwin in 1990, and which has become an Internet adage. It states: "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."

Godwin's Law is often cited in online discussions as a deterrent against the use of arguments in the widespread reductio ad Hitlerum form. The rule does not make any statement about whether any particular reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that the likelihood of such a reference or comparison arising increases as the discussion progresses. It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued, that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact.

Although in one of its early forms Godwin's Law referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions, the law is now applied to any threaded online discussion: electronic mailing lists, message boards, chat rooms, and more recently blog comment threads and wiki talk pages.

Stigmata

Stigmata are bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus. The term originates from the line at the end of Saint Paul's Letter to the Galatians where he says, "I bear on my body the stígmata of Jesus" - stigmata is the plural of the Greek word στίγμα, stígma, a mark or brand such as might have been used for identification of an animal or slave. An individual bearing stigmata is referred to as a stigmatic.

The causes of stigmata may vary from case to case, though supernatural causes have never been proven. Stigmata are primarily associated with the Roman Catholic faith. Many reported stigmatics are members of Catholic religious orders. The majority of reported stigmatics are female.

Porfirio Rubirosa

Porfirio Rubirosa was a Dominican diplomat, polo player and race car driver who competed in the 1950 and 1954 24 Hour of Le Mans, but was best known as an international playboy for his jet setting lifestyle and legendary prowess with women.

Born to a middle-class family, he was the son of an army general. He grew up in Paris, France, after his father was appointed the chargé d'affaires at the Dominican consulate in 1920. He returned to the Dominican Republic at 17 to study law but did not complete his schooling, instead enlisting in the military.

Rubirosa married Flor de Oro Trujillo, daughter of Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina on 3 December 1932, when she was seventeen, barely a week after their first meeting. Trujillo dispatched Rubirosa to his first diplomatic post in Berlin. He later granted his daughter a divorce when it became obvious that Rubirosa had been unfaithful. Unable to return to the Dominican Republic, Rubirosa supported himself by selling Dominican visas to Jews seeking to flee Europe. Rubirosa soon got back into his former father-in-law's good graces, and continued to receive government posts until Trujillo's assassination.

He was linked romantically to Dolores Del Rio, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Soraya Esfandiary, Veronica Lake, Kim Novak, and Eva Peron. He dallied with his ex-wife Flor during his marriage to Doris Duke, and with Zsa Zsa Gabor during his marriage to Barbara Hutton. He was named a co-respondent in at least two divorces, the husbands charging adultery. He was also famous for the rumored length of his sexual organ -- to this day the extra-long pepper mills in French bistros are called "Rubirosas".

He married Danielle Darrieux on September 18, 1942. Marriages to Duke and Hutton made him wealthy: Duke gave him $500,000, a stable of polo ponies, several sports cars, and a converted B-25 bomber, and gave him a 17th Century house in Paris in the divorce settlement; Hutton bought him a coffee plantation in the Dominican Republic, another B-25, and paid him a reported $3.5 million in their settlement. His last marriage was at age 47 in 1956 to then-19-year-old French actress Odile Rodin. After an all-night celebration at the Paris nightclub "Jimmy's" in honor of winning the Coupe de France polo cup, Rubirosa crashed his Ferrari into some trees and died early in the morning on July 5, 1965.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mathew B. Brady

Mathew B. Brady was one of the most celebrated 19th century American photographers, best known for his portraits of celebrities and the documentation of the American Civil War. He is credited with being the father of photojournalism.

Brady was born in Warren County, New York, to Irish immigrant parents, Andrew and Julia Brady. He moved to New York City at the age of 16. Beginning in 1841, Brady's artistic aptitude allowed him to study under the skilled daguerreotypist Samuel F.B. Morse. By 1844, he had his own photography studio in New York City.

Brady's efforts to document the Civil War on a grand scale by bringing his photographic studio right onto the battlefields earned Brady his place in history. Despite the obvious dangers, financial risk, and discouragement of his friends, Brady is later quoted as saying "I had to go. A spirit in my feet said 'Go,' and I went." His first popular photographs of the conflict were at the First Battle of Bull Run, in which he got so close to the action that he only just avoided being captured.

In October 1862, Brady presented an exhibition of photographs from the Battle of Antietam in his New York gallery entitled, "The Dead of Antietam." Many of the images in this presentation were graphic photographs of corpses, a presentation totally new to America. This was the first time that many Americans saw the realities of war in photographs as distinct from previous "artists' impressions".

Following the conflict, a war-weary public lost interest in seeing photos of the war, and Brady’s popularity and practice declined drastically.

Mathew Brady died penniless in the charity ward of Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, at five o'clock, on January 15, 1896, from complications following a streetcar accident.


Uncanny Valley

The uncanny valley hypothesis holds that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The "valley" in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot's lifelikeness. It was introduced by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970.

Mori's hypothesis states that as a robot is made more humanlike in its appearance and motion, the emotional response from a human being to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes that of strong repulsion. However, as the appearance and motion continue to become less distinguishable from a human being, the emotional response becomes positive once more and approaches human-to-human empathy levels.

This area of repulsive response aroused by a robot with appearance and motion between a "barely human" and "fully human" entity is called the uncanny valley. The name captures the idea that a robot which is "almost human" will seem overly "strange" to a human being and thus will fail to evoke the empathic response required for productive human-robot interaction.

Citroën SM

The Citroën SM was a high performance coupé produced by the French manufacturer Citroën between 1970 and 1975. The SM placed third in the 1971 European Car of the Year contest, trailing its stablemate Citroën GS, and won the 1972 Motor Trend Car of the Year award in the US in 1972.

Citroën purchased Maserati in 1968 with the intention of harnessing Maserati's high performance engine technology to produce a true Gran Turismo car, combining the sophisticated Citroën suspension with a Maserati V6 engine. The result was the Citroën SM first shown at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1970. It finally went on sale in France in September of that year.

Emperor and religious icon Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia had an SM, while Ugandan strongman Idi Amin had seven of them. The Shah of Iran drove an SM. Actors Lorne Greene and Lee Majors, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR Leonid Brezhnev, composer John Williams, author Graham Greene, football star Johan Cruijff, comedians Cheech Marin and Thomas Chong, and The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts were among other prominent owners of the SM.

Klaus Nomi

Klaus Nomi was a German countertenor noted for his wide vocal range and an unusual, otherworldly stage persona.

Nomi was known for his bizarrely theatrical live performances, heavy make-up, unusual costumes, and a highly stylized signature hairdo which flaunted a receding hairline. His songs were equally unusual, ranging from synthesizer-laden interpretations of classical music opera to covers of 1960s pop standards like Chubby Checker's "The Twist" and Lou Christie's "Lightnin' Strikes". He is perhaps best remembered by the general public as being one of David Bowie's backing singers during a 1979 performance on Saturday Night Live.

Nomi was one of the first celebrities to contract AIDS. He died in 1983 at the age of 39 as a result of complications from the disease.

Crush, Texas

Crush, Texas was a temporary "city" established as a one-day publicity stunt in 1896. William George Crush, general passenger agent of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad known as the Katy Railroad, conceived the idea to demonstrate a train wreck as a spectacle, featuring two locomotives intentionally set to a head-on collision. Meant to be a family fun event with food, games and entertainment, the Crash turned deadly when both boilers exploded simultaneously, sending metal flying in the air.

Two wells were drilled at the site, 3 miles south of the town of West, Texas in McLennan County. Circus tents from Ringling Brothers were erected as well as a grandstand.The train engines were painted bright green and bright red , and a special track was built alongside the main track so that there was no chance a runaway train could get onto the main line. The trains toured the state for months in advance, advertising the event. As a result about 40,000 people showed up on September 15, 1896 making the new town of Crush, Texas the second largest city in the state.

About 4:00 pm on September 15, 1896 the two trains rolled back to opposite ends of a four mile track. The engineers and crew opened the steam to a prearranged setting, rode for exactly 4 turns of the drive wheels, and jumped from the trains. The trains each reached a speed of about 45 mph by the time they met very near the anticipated spot.

The impact caused both engine boilers to explode and debris, some pieces as large as half a drive-wheel, was blown hundreds of feet into the air. Some of the debris came down among the spectators killing two and injuring several more.

Mr. Crush was immediately fired from the Katy railroad. However, in light of a lack of negative publicity, he was rehired the next day. Ragtime composer Scott Joplin wrote a piano piece The Great Crush Collision to commemorate the event.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Decline of Western Civilization

The Decline of Western Civilization is an American documentary film filmed through 1979 and 1980. The movie was directed by Penelope Spheeris about the Los Angeles punk rock scene from 1979 to 1981. In 1981, the LAPD Chief of Police Daryl Gates wrote a letter demanding the film not be shown again in L.A. Over the years the film has gained cult status.

The film's title is a reference to famous music critic Lester Bangs' 1970 two-part review of The Stooges' Fun House for Creem Magazine. In the article, Bangs quotes a friend who had said the popularity of The Stooges signaled "the decline of Western civilization."

Featuring concert footage of legendary Los Angeles punk bands, and interviews both with band members, the publishers of Slash, and with the punks who made up their audience, the film offers a look into a subculture that was largely ignored by the rock music press of the time.

Let's Make a Deal

Let's Make a Deal is a television game show. The show was based around deals offered to members of the audience by the host. The contestants usually had to weigh the possibility of an offer being for a valuable prize, or an undesirable item, referred to as a "zonk". The show was hosted for many years by Monty Hall.

The original, most widely-known version aired from 1963 to 1976 on both NBC and ABC. A weekly nighttime syndicated version of the show aired from 1971 through 1977. Two more syndicated Let's Make a Deal series aired daily in the 1980s. The first, based in Canada, aired one season from 1980 to 1981. The second, called The All New Let's Make a Deal, aired for two seasons from 1984 to 1986.

When the series began, studio audience members wore suits and ties or dresses. Over time the show gradually evolved into the costume-wearing menagerie it became. In 2003, GSN featured the long-lost 1963 pilot episode of Let's Make a Deal.

In the special, Hall mentioned that two weeks into the series an audience member had brought in a small placard that read "Roses are red, violets are blue, I came here to deal with you." The placard caught Hall's attention and he chose the player to be a contestant. On later tapings more people began bringing signs. Again to get Hall's attention another audience member showed up at a taping wearing a crazy hat, which also eventually caught on with others. The costumes and signs just became a part of the show itself and got crazier and crazier as the show went on.

Michelada

The Michelada is a popular Latin-American alcoholic beverage of a genre known in Spanish as cerveza preparada (prepared beer) and in English as a variety of cocktail. There are several variations. In some cases it is similar to a Bloody Mary like in Mexico, or similar to a Margarita (like in Costa Rica) but containing beer instead of vodka or Tequila. The drink dates back to the 1940s, when mixing iced beer with hot sauce or salsa became popular in Mexico. In recent years, the drink has begun to become popular in the United States, and now various ready-made mixes are marketed and sold to US consumers.

Simply mixing beer with tomato juice is a popular version of cerveza preparada, but if lacking the salsa inglesa (Worcestershire sauce) or Maggi sauce, this concoction would usually not be referred as a michelada. If the Michelada has any type of hot sauce in it, in Mexico it may be called a "Michelada Cubana". The name is a double reference to both Cuba and the habanero pepper. The Habanero pepper is named after the capital of Cuba, "La Habana", and is one of the most intensely spicy peppers in the world and so this spicy drink takes its name as a strained reference to both.

Schultüte

A "Schultüte" (or School Cone, even though the word "Tüte" translates more as "bag" from German), often also called Zuckertüte ("sugar bag", especially in Eastern Germany) is a paper (and later plastic) bag in particular.

When children in Germany set off for their first day in school upon entering first grade, their parents and/or grandparents present them with a big cardboard cone, prettily decorated and filled with toys, chocolate, candies, school supplies, and various other goodies. It is given to children to make this anxiously awaited first day of school a little bit sweeter.

The tradition of the "Schultüte" leads back to approximately 1810, to Saxony and Thuringia in Germany. The first documented report of the cone-shaped Schultüte comes from the city of Jena in 1817, closely followed by reports from Dresden (1820) and Leipzig (1836). It started in the bigger cities but spread quickly to the small towns and villages, soon becoming an institution all over Germany.

At first the practice of the school cone, which did not spread to other parts of Germany at this time, was to not give the bag to the kids directly. Marked with the students' names, they were taken to the school by parents or godparents and in a ritual, reminiscent of the Mexican piñata, hung on a metal "Schultüten-Baum" (School cone tree) from which each child had to pick their cone, without breaking them. The story told to the children goes, that there is a Schultütenbaum growing at the school, and if the fruits (the Schultüten) are ripe and big enough to pick, it's time to go to school for the first time.

Karlheinz Stockhausen

Karlheinz Stockhausen was a German composer, widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important, but also controversial composers of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. He is known for his ground-breaking work in electronic music, aleatory (controlled chance) in serial composition, and musical spatialization.

One of the leading figures of the Darmstadt School, his compositions and theories were and remain widely influential, not only on composers of art music, but also on jazz and popular-music artists. His works, composed over a period of nearly sixty years, eschew traditional forms. In addition to electronic music—both with and without live performers—they range from miniatures for musical boxes through works for solo instruments, songs, chamber music, choral and orchestral music, to a cycle of seven full-length operas. His theoretical and other writings comprise ten large volumes. He received numerous prizes and distinctions for his compositions, recordings, and for the scores produced by his publishing company.

He died of sudden heart failure at the age of 79, on 5 December 2007 at his home in Kürten, Germany.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Principality of Sealand

The Principality of Sealand is a micronation located on HM Fort Roughs, a former World War II Maunsell Sea Fort in the North Sea 10 km (six miles) off the coast of Suffolk, England.

Since 1967, the facility has been occupied by former radio broadcaster British Army Major Paddy Roy Bates; his associates and family claim that it is an independent sovereign state. External commentators generally classify Sealand as a micronation. It has been described as the world's smallest nation. Sealand is not currently officially recognized as a sovereign state by any United Nations member.

Several dozen different Sealand coins have been minted since 1972. In the early 1990s, Achenbach's German group also produced a coin, featuring a likeness of "Prime Minister Seiger". Sealand's coins and postage stamps are denominated in "Sealand dollars", which it deems to be at parity with the U.S. dollar. Sealand first issued postage stamps in 1969, yet no stamp issues have been made since the start of the 21st century, and Sealand is not a member of the Universal Postal Union, therefore its inward address is a PO Box in the United Kingdom.

Mellotron

The Mellotron is an electro-mechanical, polyphonic keyboard originally developed and built in Birmingham, England in the early 1960s. It superseded the Chamberlin, which was the world's first sample-playback keyboard. The heart of the instrument is a bank of parallel linear magnetic audio tapes, which have approximately eight seconds of playing time each. Playback heads underneath each key enable the playing of pre-recorded sounds.

The earlier MKI and MKII models contained two side-by-side keyboards: The right keyboard accessed 18 "lead/instrument" sounds such as strings, flutes, and brass; The left keyboard played pre-recorded musical rhythm tracks in various styles.

The tape banks for the later, lighter-weight M400 models contain only three selectable sounds including (typically) strings, cello, and an eight-voice choir. The sound on each individual tape piece was recorded at the pitch of the key to which it was assigned. To make up for the fewer sounds available, the M400 tapes came in a removable frame that allowed for relatively quick changes to new racks of sounds.