Monday, November 30, 2009


Kapparos is an ancient Jewish ritual to save oneself from a harsh Heavenly decree by it being effected on another object. Vegetables, fish, money, and other objects have been used throughout the centuries, and this is done on the eve of Yom Kippur. The service is performed by grasping the object and moving it around one's head three times, symbolically transferring one's sins to the object. The object is then slaughtered or donated to the poor, preferably eaten at the pre-Yom Kippur feast. If one is using a chicken, preferably, a man should use a rooster, and a woman should use a hen for the ritual.

In modern times, Kapparos is performed in the traditional form mostly in Haredi communities. Members of other communities perform it with charity money substituted for the chicken, swung over one's head in similar fashion. Other Orthodox Jews simply prefer to not participate in the custom.

The ritual is preceded by the reading of Psalms 107:17-20 and Job 33:23-24.

As the object is swung about the head, the following paragraph is traditionally recited three times:

This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement. (This rooster (hen) will go to its death / This money will go to charity), while I will enter and proceed to a good long life and to peace.
The custom has been strongly opposed by some rabbis, such as Maimonides, who generally considered sacrifice to be inferior to prayer and philosophical meditation. Other rabbis, such as Nahmanides, Solomon ben Adret, and Joseph Caro considered it a pagan ritual in conflict with the spirit of Judaism, which knows of no vicarious sacrifice. But it was approved by Asher ben Jehiel and by his son Jacob ben Asher. The ritual appealed especially to Kabbalists, such as Isaiah Horowitz and Isaac Luria, who recommended the selection of a white rooster as a reference to Isaiah 1:18, and who found other mystic allusions in the prescribed formulas. Consequently the practice became generally accepted among the Jews of eastern Europe.

Rabbi Yosef Karo, in his Shulchan Aruch (the major authority on Jewish law), discourages the practice, and the Mishnah Berurah explains his reasoning to be based on its similarity to polytheistic rites. Rabbi Moses Isserles' commentary to that section disagrees and encourages the practice. In Ashkenazi communities especially, Isserles' position came to be widely accepted. The late 19th century monumental work Kaf Hachaim approves of the custom for the Sefardic community as well.

Some Jews also oppose the use of chickens for kapparot on the grounds of tza'ar ba'alei chayim (unnecessary pain to animals). On erev Yom Kippur 2005, a number of caged chickens were abandoned in rainy weather as part of a kapparot operation in Brooklyn, NY; some of these starving and dehydrated chickens were subsequently rescued by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Jacob Kalish, an Orthodox Jewish man from Williamsburg, was charged with animal cruelty for the drowning deaths of 35 of these kapparot chickens. In response to such reports of the mistreatment of chickens, Jewish animal rights organizations have begun to picket public observances of kapparot, particularly in Israel.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

John The Conqueror

John the Conqueror, also known as High John the Conqueror, John de Conquer, and many other folk variants, is a folk hero from African-American folklore. He is associated with a certain root, the John the Conquer root, to which magical powers are ascribed in American folklore, especially among the hoodoo tradition of folk magic. The root and its magical uses are mentioned in a number of blues lyrics.

John the Conqueror was an African prince who was sold as a slave in the Americas. Despite his enslavement, his spirit was never broken and he survived in folklore as a sort of a trickster figure, because of the tricks he played to evade his masters. Joel Chandler Harris's 'Br'er Rabbit' of the Uncle Remus stories is said to be patterned after High John the Conqueror.

In one traditional John the Conqueror story told by Virginia Hamilton, John falls in love with the Devil's daughter. The Devil sets John a number of impossible tasks: he must clear sixty acres (25 ha) of land in half a day, and then sow and reap the 60 acres (240,000 m2) with corn in the other half a day. The Devil's daughter furnishes John with a magical axe and plow that get these impossible tasks done, but warns John that her father the Devil means to kill him even if he performs them. John and the Devil's daughter steal the Devil's own horses; the Devil pursues them, but they escape his clutches by shape-shifting.

The root known as High John the Conqueror or John the Conqueror root is said to be the root of Ipomoea jalapa, also known as Ipomoea purga, an Ipomoea species related to the morning glory and the sweet potato. It is typically used in sexual spells of various sorts and it is also considered lucky for gambling. When it is employed as an amulet, it is important that the root used be whole and unblemished. Dried pieces and chips of the root are used in formulating oils and washes that are used in other sorts of spells.

Other roots are linked to the same body of legends.

Low John is the root of the trillium or wake-robin, Trillium grandiflorum. It is carried on the person for assistance in family matters. It is also known as Dixie John or Southern John, and additionally is the basis for a hoodoo formula called Dixie Love Oil.

"Chewing John" is galangal, Alpinia galanga -- a member of the ginger family. This is chewed much as chewing tobacco is chewed, to sweeten the breath and to calm the stomach. It is said that if you spit the juice from chewing this root onto the floor of a courtroom before the judge enters, you will win your case. Other names for this root are Little John and Little John to Chew. (This is called "Low John" in the Deep South.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009


The trireme is a class of warship used by the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean, especially the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks and Romans. In English, no differentiation is made between the Greek triērēs and the Latin triremis. This is sometimes a source of confusion, as in other languages these terms refer to different styles of ships.

The trireme derives its name from its three rows of oars on each side, manned with one man per oar. The early trireme was a development of the penteconter, an ancient warship with a single row of 25 oars on each side, and of the bireme (Greek: διήρης), a warship with two banks of oars, probably of Phoenician origin. As a ship it was fast and agile, and became the dominant warship in the Mediterranean from the 7th to the 4th century BC, when they were largely superseded by the larger quadriremes and quinquiremes. Triremes played a vital role in the Persian Wars, the creation of the Athenian maritime empire, and its downfall in the Peloponnesian War.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Jocelyn Wildenstein

Jocelyn Wildenstein is a wealthy socialite who has frequently been seen in the tabloid press because of her numerous cosmetic surgeries. Her appearance has led to the press giving her many nicknames.

Jocelyn grew up in Lausanne, Switzerland where she became a skilled hunter and pilot. Her skills led to an invitation to a shooting weekend held at the 66,000 acre private Kenyan game reserve owned by billionaire art dealer, Alec N. Wildenstein. Wildenstein was a son of Daniel Wildenstein, the owner of one of the world's largest and most successful art conglomerates, Wildenstein & Company. On April April 30, 1978 Alec and Jocelyn were married in Las Vegas. The couple had two children together, a daughter Diane and a son, Alec Jr. A lover of exotic animals, Jocelyn kept a capuchin monkey, called Cocoa, which traveled with the couple on their private jet. She also kept a pack of five Italian greyhounds.

She has spent around $2 million on plastic surgery.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Alice's Restaurant

"Alice's Restaurant Massacree" (commonly referred to simply as "Alice's Restaurant") is one of singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie's most prominent works, a musical monologue based on a true story that began on Thanksgiving Day 1965. Guthrie, in a radio interview, said the song points out that any American citizen who was convicted of a crime, no matter how minor (in his case, it was littering), could avoid being conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War.

The song lasts 18 minutes and 34 seconds, occupying the entire A-side of Guthrie's 1967 debut record album, also titled Alice's Restaurant (Warner Reprise Records). It is notable as a satirical, first-person account of 1960s counterculture, in addition to being a hit song in its own right. The final part of the song is an encouragement for the listeners to sing along, to resist the U.S. draft, and to end war.

Apart from the chorus which begins and ends it, the "song" is in fact a spoken monologue, with a repetitive but catchy ragtime guitar backing. It recounts a true but comically exaggerated Thanksgiving Day adventure as a satirical, deadpan protest against the Vietnam War draft.

The Alice in the song was restaurant-owner Alice M. Brock, who in 1964, using $2,000 supplied by her mother, bought a deconsecrated church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where Alice and her husband Ray would live. It was here rather than at the restaurant, which came later, where the song's Thanksgiving dinners were actually held.

On that Thanksgiving, November 25, 1965, the 18-year-old Guthrie and his friend Richard Robbins, 19, were arrested by Stockbridge police officer William "Obie" Obanhein for illegally dumping some of Alice's garbage after discovering that the town dump was closed for the holiday. Two days later they pleaded guilty in court before a blind judge, James E. Hannon; the song describes to ironic effect the arresting officer's frustration at the judge being unable to see the "27 8-by-10 color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us". In the end, Guthrie and Robbins were fined $50 and told to pick up their garbage.

The song goes on to describe Guthrie's being called up for the draft, and the surreal bureaucracy at the New York City induction center at 1 Whitehall Street. Because of Guthrie's criminal record for littering, he is first sent to the Group W Bench (where those draftees wait who cannot be inducted except under a "moral waiver") then outright rejected as unfit for military service. The ironic punchline of the story's denouement is that, in the words of Guthrie, "I'm sittin here on the Group W bench 'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug."

The final part of the song is where Arlo tells the audience that should they find themselves facing the draft they should walk into the military psychiatrist's office and sing, "Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice's restaurant," and walk out. Thus is born, "the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement, and all you got to do to join is to sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar."

Alice's Restaurant received its first public performance, with Guthrie singing live, on New York radio station WBAI one evening in 1967. The song proved so popular that for months afterward the non-commercial station rebroadcast it only when listeners pledged to donate a large amount of money. It is regularly played on Thanksgiving by many classic rock radio stations and has become a tradition. It is not often otherwise aired, due to its length. The original album rose to #17 on the Billboard chart.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


The jackalope is an imaginary animal of North American folklore described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns or deer antlers and sometimes a pheasant's tail. The word jackalope is a portmanteau of "jackrabbit" and "antalope", an archaic spelling of antelope.

It is possible that the tales of jackalopes were inspired by sightings of rabbits infected with the Shope papilloma virus also known as Epidermodysplasia verruciformis, which causes the growth of horn- and antler-like tumors in various places on the rabbit's head and body. However, the concept of an animal hybrid occurs in many cultures, for example as the griffin and the chimera. Indeed, the term 'chimera' has become the categorical term for such composites within the English language.

The legend of the jackalope has bred the rise of many outlandish (and largely tongue-in-cheek) claims as to the creature's habits. For example, it is said to be a hybrid of the pygmy-deer and a species of "killer rabbit". Reportedly, jackalopes are extremely shy unless approached. Legend also has it that female jackalopes can be milked as they sleep belly up and that the milk can be used for a variety of medicinal purposes. It has also been said that the jackalope can convincingly imitate any sound, including the human voice. It uses this ability to elude pursuers, chiefly by using phrases such as "There he goes! That way!" It is said that a jackalope may be caught by putting a flask of whiskey out at night. The jackalope will drink its fill of whiskey and its intoxication will make it easier to hunt. In some parts of the United States it is said that jackalope meat has a taste similar to lobster. However, legend has it that they are dangerous if approached. It has also been said that jackalopes will only breed during electrical storms including hail, explaining its rarity.

Jackalopes are legendary in the U.S. -- attributed to by the New York Times in 1932 to Douglas Herrick (1920–2003) of Douglas, Wyoming, and thus the town was named the "Home of the Jackalope" by the state of Wyoming in 1985. The state of Wyoming trademarked the name in 1965. According to the Douglas Chamber of Commerce, a 1930s hunting trip for jackrabbits led to the idea of a Jackalope. Herrick and his brother had studied taxidermy by mail order as teenagers. When the brothers returned from a hunting trip, Herrick tossed a jackrabbit carcass into the taxidermy shop, which rested beside a pair of deer antlers. The accidental combination of animal forms sparked Douglas Herrick's idea for a jackalope. The first jackalope the brothers put together was sold for $10 to Roy Ball, who displayed it in Douglas' La Bonte Hotel. The mounted head was stolen in 1977. The Douglas Chamber of Commerce has issued thousands of Jackalope Hunting Licenses to tourists. The tags are good for hunting only during official Jackalope season, which occurs for only one day: June 31, from midnight to 2 AM. The hunter may not have an IQ greater than 72.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Paul is Dead"

"Paul is dead" is an urban legend alleging that Paul McCartney of The Beatles died in 1966 and was replaced by a look-alike and sound-alike.

The legend hinges on supposed hints among the Beatles' many recordings and presumed to be deliberately placed by The Beatles or others. Hundreds have been cited at various times; they include statements heard when a song is played backwards, symbolic interpretations of obscure lyrics, and ambiguous imagery on album covers. Some of these have become well known, such as the fact that McCartney is the only barefooted Beatle on the cover of Abbey Road, or the belief that Lennon says "I buried Paul" in a slow, deep voice over the final refrain of "Strawberry Fields Forever" (Lennon later said the phrase is actually "cranberry sauce").

It is often unclear how many proponents of this story spread it as a joke, as opposed to a real conspiracy theory. The rumour has been the subject of much sociological examination, since its development, growth, and rebuttal took place very publicly.

A claim that a hoax was perpetrated by The Beatles themselves, either as a joke or to stimulate record sales, has been denied by the band members.

Monday, November 23, 2009


A Samosa is a stuffed pastry and a popular snack in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, throughout the Mediterranean Sea (Greece), Southwest Asia, the Horn of Africa and North Africa.

It generally consists of a fried or baked triangular-, half-moon-, or tetrahedron-shaped pastry shell with a savory filling of spiced potatoes, onion, peas, coriander, lentils, minced meat, or sometimes fresh paneer. Non-vegetarian samosas may substitute fillings of minced meat or fish. The size and shape of a samosa as well as the consistency of the pastry used can vary considerably, although it is mostly triangular.

The word samosa can be traced to the Persian ‘sanbosag’. The name in other countries also derives from this root, such as the crescent-shaped sanbusak or sanbusaj in Arab countries, sambosa in Afghanistan,"samosa" in India, "samboosa" in Tajikistan, samsa by Turkic-speaking nations, sambusa in parts of Iran and chamuça in Goa, Mozambique and Portugal. While they are modernly referred to as sambusak in the Arabic-speaking world, Medieval Arabic recipe books sometimes spell it sambusaj.

The Samosa has been a popular snack in South Asia for centuries. It is believed that it originated in Central Asia (where they are known as samsa) prior to the 10th century and were introduced to the Indian subcontinent in the 13th or 14th century by traders from the region.

Amir Khusro (1253-1325), a scholar and the royal poet of the Delhi Sultanate, wrote in around 1300 that the princes and nobles enjoyed the "samosa prepared from meat, ghee, onion and so on".

Ibn Battuta, the 14th century traveller and explorer, describes a meal at the court of Muhammad bin Tughluq where the samushak or sambusak, a small pie stuffed with minced meat, almonds, pistachio, walnuts and spices, was served before the third course, of pulao.

The Ain-i-Akbari, a 16th century Mughal document, mentions the recipe for 'Qutab', which it says, “the people of Hindustan call sanbúsah”.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Single Bullet Theory

The Single-Bullet Theory (or Magic-Bullet Theory, as it is commonly called by its critics) was introduced by the Warren Commission to explain how three shots fired by Lee Harvey Oswald resulted in the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy. The theory, generally credited to Warren Commission staffer Arlen Specter (now a U.S. Senator), posits that a single bullet, known as "Warren Commission Exhibit 399" (also known as "CE399"), caused all of the non-fatal wounds in both President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally. (The fatal head wound to the President was caused by a bullet other than this alleged "Single Bullet").

According to the single-bullet theory, a one-inch-long copper-jacketed lead-core 6.5-millimeter rifle bullet fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository passed through President Kennedy’s neck and Governor Connally’s chest and wrist and embedded itself in the Governor’s thigh. If so, this bullet traversed 15 layers of clothing, 7 layers of skin, and approximately 15 inches of tissue, struck a necktie knot, removed 4 inches of rib, and shattered a radius bone. The bullet that is supposed to have done all this damage was found on a stretcher in the corridor at the Parkland Memorial Hospital, in Dallas, after the assassination. The Warren Commission found that this stretcher was the one that had borne Governor Connally. This bullet became a key Commission exhibit, identified as CE399. Its copper jacket was completely intact. While the bullet's nose appeared normal, the tail was compressed laterally on one side.

In its conclusion, the Warren Commission found "persuasive evidence from the experts" that a single bullet caused the President's neck wound and all the wounds in Governor Connally. It acknowledged that there was a "difference of opinion" among members of the Commission "as to this probability", but stated that the theory was not essential to its conclusions and that all members had no doubt that all shots were fired from the sixth floor window of the Depository building.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


"Sabotage" is a 1994 song by the American Rap rock group Beastie Boys. It appears on their album Ill Communication. The song's style is characterized as rapcore, featuring traditional rock instrumentation (Adrock on guitar, MCA on bass, and Mike D. on drums), turntable scratches and heavily distorted bass guitar riffs.

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked "Sabotage" #475 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In March 2005, Q magazine placed it at number 46 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks.

"Sabotage" is noted for its acclaimed music video, directed by Spike Jonze and played extensively on MTV. As an homage to (and parody of) 1970s crime drama television series like Hawaii Five-0, The Streets of San Francisco, S.W.A.T., Baretta, and Starsky and Hutch, the video is presented as the opening credits of a fictional 1970s-style police show called Sabotage, with the band members appearing as the show characters. Each band member is introduced as a fictional actor, and the names of the characters are also given.

The characters appearing on the show are (in order of credits):

  • Sir Stewart Wallace guest-starring as himself (played by MCA)
  • Nathan Wind as Cochese (also played by MCA)
  • Vic Colfari as Bobby, "The Rookie" (played by Ad-Rock)
  • Alasondro Alegré as "The Chief" (played by Mike D)
  • Fred Kelly as Bunny (played by DJ Hurricane)

Some scenes had to be removed when this video was shown on MTV, including a knife-fight sequence, a falling-off-a-bridge scene, a scene in which one of the men were thrown out of a car on the street, as well as some brief scenes of MCA in yellowface, playing a kung-fu master. In addition, the Beastie Boys Video Anthology featured a mock interview of the "cast" of Sabotage conducted by Jonze's then-wife Sofia Coppola.

In the DVD commentary for the 1996 film Trainspotting, Danny Boyle credits the film's opening credits to those used in "Sabotage".

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lotus Seven

The Lotus Seven was a small, simple, lightweight two-seater open-top sports car produced by Lotus Cars (initially called Lotus Engineering) between 1957 and 1972. It was designed by Lotus founder Colin Chapman and has been considered the embodiment of the Lotus philosophy of performance through low weight and simplicity. The original model was highly successful with more than 2,500 cars sold, due to its attraction as a road legal car that could be used for clubman racing.

The Lotus Seven was launched in 1957, after the Lotus Eleven was in limited production. The Seven name was left over, due to a model that was abandoned by Lotus; a car that would have seen Lotus entering Formula Two with a Riley-engined single-seater in 1952 or 1953. However, the car was completed around Chapman's chassis as a sports car by its backers and christened the Clairmonte Special.

Based on Chapman's first series-produced Lotus 6, the Seven was powered by a 40 bhp (30 kW; 41 PS) Ford Side-valve 1,172 cc engine. It was mainly for lower budget club racing on short tracks (750 motor club).

The Lotus Seven Series 2 (S2) followed in 1960, and the Series 3 (S3) in 1968. In 1970, Lotus radically changed the shape of the car to create the slightly more conventional sized Series 4 (S4), with a squarer fibreglass shell replacing most of the aluminium bodywork. It also offered some "luxuries" as standard, such as an internal heater matrix. The S4 model was not widely welcomed, and Lotus sold few cars.

The British tax system of the time (Purchase Tax) meant the car could be supplied as a kit (known as "completely knocked down" or CKD) without attracting the tax surcharge that would apply if sold in assembled form. Tax rules specified assembly instructions could not be included, but in a typical Chapman-inspired piece of lateral thinking, there was no rule covering the inclusion of disassembly instructions. Hence all the enthusiast had to do was to follow these in reverse.

Having joined the EEC on 1 January 1973, the UK had to abolish Purchase Tax and adopt VAT instead. VAT does not allow for concessions such as "CKD", so the tax advantage of the kit-built Lotus Seven came to an end. (Note that VAT does allow for variable rating and even zero-rating" of certain goods and services; but the Government still opted not to indulge the kit-builder).

In 1973, Lotus decided to shed fully its "British tax system"-inspired kit car image and concentrate on limited series motor racing cars. As part of this plan, it sold the rights to the Seven to its only remaining agents Caterham Cars. After a brief period producing the Series 4, including assembly of the last "kits" supplied by Lotus, Caterham introduced their version of the Series 3, and have been manufacturing and refining this car ever since as the Caterham Seven.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lux Interior

Lux Interior was an American singer and a founding member of the legendary garage punk band The Cramps from 1976 until his death in February 2009.

Born Erick Lee Purkhiser in 1946 in Akron, Ohio, he grew up in the Akron and Stow, Ohio area. He met his wife Kristy Wallace, better known as Poison Ivy, a.k.a. Ivy Rorschach, in Sacramento in 1972, allegedly while she was hitchhiking. The couple founded the band and moved from California to Ohio in 1973 and then to New York in 1975 where they became part of the flourishing punk scene.

Lux Interior's name came "from an old car commercial", having previously flirted with the names Vip Vop and Raven Beauty, while his wife's name change was inspired by "a vision she received in a dream". The couple called their musical style psychobilly, originally claiming it to have been inspired by a Johnny Cash song, and later saying that they were just using the phrase as "carny terms to drum up business."

Lux Interior died at 4:30 a.m. on February 4, 2009, in Glendale, California. The cause of death was aortic dissection. He is survived by his wife Ivy and two brothers, Michael Purkhiser and Ronald "Skip" Purkhiser. The memorial service for Lux was held on February 21st at the Windmill Chapel of the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. This was a very private ceremony but a report of it, agreed to by Ivy, has been posted for fans of Lux by long time friend Jonny Whiteside. Lux's brother, Mike, also provided insight into his relationship with Lux in a newspaper article.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Heavy Water

Heavy water is water that contains a higher proportion than normal of the isotope deuterium, as deuterium oxide, D2O or ²H2O, or as deuterium protium oxide, HDO or ¹H²HO. Its physical and chemical properties are somewhat similar to those of water, H2O.

Relatively pure heavy water was produced in 1933, soon after the discovery of deuterium, the stable heavy isotope of hydrogen. With the discovery of nuclear fission in late 1938 and the need for a neutron moderator which captured few neutrons, heavy water soon achieved importance in relation to early nuclear programs during World War II. Due in part to German reliance on scarce heavy water for reactor research in this war, Germany did not succeed in producing a functioning reactor during World War II. Since this war, heavy water has played a part in a number of reactor designs, both in designs for power and for nuclear weapon-making. Reactors which use enriched uranium, however, are able to use normal “light water” for neutron moderation, and remain the most common type of reactor in use today.

Heavy water itself is not radioactive, and has physical properties similar to water save for being about 11% more dense. However, as commercially made, heavy water contains whatever tritium was present in the water from which it was isolated. When the water in eukaryotic organisms is replaced by more than about 25 to 50% heavy water, they experience toxicity due to interference by the deuterium with the mitotic apparatus of these cells. Higher organisms, including mammals, if given only heavy water, soon become ill and die at the point that about half their body water has been replaced. Bacteria, however, are able to grow slowly in pure heavy water.

Small concentrations of heavy water are nontoxic. The adult human body naturally contains deuterium equivalent to the amount in about 5 grams of heavy water, and comparable doses of heavy water are still used as safe non-radioactive tracers for metabolic experiments in humans and other animals.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bombay Castle

Bombay Castle (also Casa da Orta) is one of the oldest defensive structures built in the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay). The current castle is a structure built by the British on the site of the Manor House built by a Portuguese nobleman Garcia de Orta. Orta had leased the island of Bombay from the King of Portugal between 1554 and 1570.

The castle was built of local blue Kurla stone and red laterite stone from the Konkan region to the south. In 1662, after the islands came under the hands of the British, the British East India Company took possession of the castle in 1665. Over the next ten years, they built a defensive structure around the manor. Around the same time, a wall was being built around a new urban centre. The wall was later demolished in 1865 after the city grew rapidly. Fragments of this wall however still exist in some areas.

Few records of the original Portuguese castle remain and historians are trying to piece together the original location of the manor. Two gates of the manor are located within INS Angre, a naval station in South Mumbai. A sundial thought to date back to the Portuguese era is also present. This sundial does not mark out the 12 hours of a day, but marks out certain periods which are deemed to be important to people of those days.

The main building within this castle is the Governor's House (Raj Bhavan) in which Gerald Aungier, the first Governor of Bombay used to stay. The residence was later moved to Parel and then to Malabar Hill over the next two centuries. The current building houses the offices of the Flag Officer Commander-in-Chief of the Western Naval Command.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Swingle Singers

The Swingle Singers are a vocal group formed in 1962 in Paris, France with Ward Swingle, Anne Germain, Jeanette Baucomont and Jean Cussac. Christiane Legrand, the sister of composer Michel Legrand, was the lead soprano in the group. There are a total of eight members in the group: two sopranos, two altos, two tenors and two basses.

The group, directed primarily by Ward Swingle (who once belonged to the French vocal group Les Double Six), began as session singers mainly doing background vocals for singers like Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf. They also did some jazz vocals for Michel Legrand. The eight session singers sang through Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier, as a sight reading exercise and found the music to have a natural swing. They recorded their first album 'Jazz Sebastian Bach' as a present for friends and relatives. Many radio stations picked it up which led to the group recording more albums and winning a total of five Grammy Awards.

The group is now based in London, England. The Swingle Singers are an a cappella group. They produce complicated, technically impressive covers ranging from modern classics Björk, Annie Lennox, and (The Beatles) to classical music Bach to Contemporary Music Luciano Berio, Pascal Zavaro and Azio Corghi. Their arrangements are often informed by jazz harmonies and stylings.


Futura is a geometric sans-serif typeface designed between 1924 and 1926 by Paul Renner. It is based on geometric shapes that became representative visual elements of the Bauhaus design style of 1919–1933. Commissioned by the Bauer type foundry, Futura was commercially released in 1927.

Although Renner was not associated with the Bauhaus, he shared many of its idioms and believed that a modern typeface should express modern models, rather than be a revival of a previous design. Renner's initial design included several geometrically constructed alternative characters and ranging (old-style) figures.

Futura has an appearance of efficiency and forwardness. The typeface is derived from simple geometric forms (near-perfect circles, triangles and squares) and is based on strokes of near-even weight, which are low in contrast. (This is most visible in the almost perfectly round stroke of the o, but the shape is actually slightly ovoid.) In designing Futura, Renner avoided the decorative, eliminating non-essential elements. The lowercase has tall ascenders, which rise above the cap line. The uppercase characters present proportions similar to those of classical roman capitals.

Futura's success spawned a range of new geometric sans-serif typefaces from competing foundries, and remains one of the most used sans-serif types into the twenty-first century. Futura remains an important typeface family and is used on a daily basis for print and digital purposes as both a headline and body font.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


In Roman Catholic theology, transubstantiation means the change of the substance of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ occurring in the Eucharist while all that is accessible to the senses remains as before.

Some Greek confessions use the term "transubstantiation" (in Greek, metousiosis), but most Orthodox traditions play down the term itself, and the notions of "substance" and "accidents", while still holding that the elements of bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. Other terms such as "trans-elementation" ("metastoicheiosis") and "re-ordination" ("metarrhythmisis") are more common among the Orthodox. Most or all Protestant Reformation churches do not accept an actual change.

The earliest known use of the term "transubstantiation" to describe the change from bread and wine to body and blood of Christ was by Hildebert de Savardin, Archbishop of Tours (died 1133), in the eleventh century and by the end of the twelfth century the term was in widespread use. In 1215, the Fourth Council of the Lateran spoke of the bread and wine as "transubstantiated" into the body and blood of Christ: "His body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread and wine having been transubstantiated, by God's power, into his body and blood."

The Council of Trent defined transubstantiation as "that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood – the species only of the bread and wine remaining – which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation".

This council thus officially approved use of the term "transubstantiation" to express the Catholic Church's teaching on the subject of the conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, with the aim of safeguarding Christ's presence as a literal truth, while emphasizing the fact that there is no change in the empirical appearances of the bread and wine. But it did not impose the Aristotelian theory of substance and accidents: it spoke only of the "species" (the appearances), not the philosophical term "accidents", and the word "substance" was in ecclesiastical use for many centuries before Aristotelian philosophy was adopted in the West, as shown for instance by its use in the Nicene Creed which speaks of Christ having the same "οὐσία" (Greek) or "substantia" (Latin) as the Father.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


A mezzaluna is a chopping instrument consisting of a single or double curved blade with a handle on each end. It is often used for chopping herbs or very large single blade versions are sometimes used for pizza or pesto.

Mezzaluna means "half moon" in Italian, after the rough shape of the blade, and is the most common name used in the UK. Other names used include herb chopper or hachoir which is its French name. It is also similar to the Inuit ulu.

They may be found sold with a wooden block that has a shallow indentation in it, ideal for containing the ingredients (such as herbs) to be chopped.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Kitchen Debate

The Kitchen Debate was the first high-level meeting between Soviet and U.S. leaders since the Geneva Summit in 1955. As recounted by William Safire who was fortuitously present as the exhibitor's press agent, it took place in a number of locations at the exhibition but primarily in the kitchen of a suburban model house, cut in half so it could be viewed easily

It has also been called “splitnik,” a play on words of the Soviet Union’s satellite Sputnik. The two men discussed the merits of each of their respective economic systems, capitalism and communism. The debate took place during an escalation of the Cold War, beginning with the launch of Sputnik in 1957, through the ­U-2 Crisis in 1960. Most Americans believed Nixon won the debate, adding to his domestic prestige. It was recorded on color videotape, a new technology pioneered in the U.S.; during the debate Nixon pointed this out as one of the many American technological advances. He also boasted achievements such as dishwashers, lawnmowers, supermarkets stocked full of groceries, Cadillac convertibles, makeup colors, lipstick, spike-heeled shoes, hi-fi sets, cake mixes, TV dinners, and Pepsi-Cola. It was Nixon’s emphasis on America’s household appliances, such as the dishwasher, that helped give the event its title, “The Kitchen Debate.”

Both men argued for their country’s industrial accomplishments, with Khrushchev stressing the Soviets’ focus on “things that matter” rather than luxury. He satirically asked if there was a machine that "puts food into the mouth and pushes it down". Nixon responded by saying at least the competition was technological, rather than military. In the end, both men agreed that the United States and the Soviet Union should be more open with each other. However, Khrushchev was skeptical of Nixon's promise that his part in the debate would be translated into English and broadcast in the U.S.

The kitchen was designed for Florida builder All-State Properties by architect Andrew Geller at Raymond Loewy Associates. Following the debate the company was inspired to market affordable second homes.

In the United States, three major television networks broadcast the kitchen debate on July 25. The Soviets subsequently protested, as Nixon and Khrushchev had agreed that the debate should be broadcast simultaneously in America and the Soviet Union, with the Soviets even threatening to withhold the tape until they were ready to broadcast. The American networks, however, had felt that waiting would cause the news to lose its immediacy. Two days later, on July 27, the debate was broadcast on Moscow television, albeit late at night and with Nixon’s remarks only partially translated.

American reaction was initially somewhat mixed, with the New York Times calling it “an exchange that emphasized the gulf between east and west but had little bearing on the substantive issue” and portrayed it somewhat as a political stunt. The newspaper also declared that public opinion seemed divided after the debates. On the other hand, Time Magazine, also covering the exhibition, praised Nixon, saying he “managed in a unique way to personify a national character proud of peaceful accomplishment, sure of its way of life, confident of its power under threat.”

In spite of the undiplomatic nature of the exchange, Nixon ultimately gained popularity after his trip to Moscow, after a generally lukewarm relationship with the public. The trip raised Nixon’s profile as a public statesman, greatly improving his chances for receiving the Republican presidential nomination the following year.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Lorax

The Lorax is a children's book, written by Dr. Seuss and first published in 1971. It chronicles the plight of the environment and the Lorax (a mossy, bossy man-like creature resembling an Emperor Tamarin), who speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler. As in most of Dr. Seuss works, most of the creatures mentioned are original to the book.

The book is commonly recognized as a fable concerning industrialized society, using the literary element of personification to give life to industry as the Once-ler (whose face is never shown in any of the story's illustrations or in the television special) and to the environment as the Lorax. It has become a popular metaphor for those concerned about the environment.

The Lorax has sparked significant controversy. In 1988, a small school district in California kept the book on a reading list for second graders, though some in the town claimed the book was unfair to the logging industry. Several timber industry groups sponsored the creation of a book called The Truax, offering a logging-friendly perspective to an anthropomorphic tree known as the Guardbark. Just as in The Lorax, the book consists of an argument between two people. The logging industry representative emphasizes their efficiency and re-seeding efforts whereas the Guardbark, a personification of the environmentalist movement much as the Once-ler is for big business, refuses to listen and repeatedly lashes out.

The line "I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie" was removed more than fourteen years after the story was published after two research associates from the Ohio Sea Grant Program wrote to Seuss about the clean-up of Lake Erie. The line remains in the DVD release of the special.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

George Lawrence Price

Private George Lawrence Price (Regimental Number: 256265) (15 December 189211 November 1918) was a Canadian soldier who is traditionally recognized as being the last Commonwealth soldier killed during the First World War.

He was born in Falmouth, Nova Scotia on December 15, 1892, and raised on Church Street (in what is now Port Williams, Nova Scotia). He lived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan when he was conscripted on the 15th of October 1917. He served with "A" Company of the 28th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

On the 11th of November, Price was part of an advance to take the small village of Havré. After an unauthorized crossing of the Canal du Centre into the town of Ville-sur-Haine under German machine gun fire, Pte. Price and his patrol moved toward a row of houses intent on pursuing the machine gunner who had harassed their crossing of the canal. The patrol had entered the house they had thought the shooting had come from, but found the Germans had exited through the back door as they entered the front. They then pursued into the house next door and again found it empty. George Price was fatally shot in the region of his heart by a German sniper as he stepped out of the house into the street, against contrary advice from a house occupant, at 10:59 a.m., November 11, 1918, and died just 1 minute before the armistice ceasefire that ended the war went into effect at 11:00 a.m.

He is buried in the St Symphorien military cemetery, just southwest of Mons. Coincidentally, St. Sympohorien is also the final resting place of John Parr the first British soldier killed during the Great War.

Augustin Trébuchon

Augustin-Joseph Victorin Trébuchon (30 May 1878 – 11 November 1918) was the last French soldier killed in the World War I. He was shot 15 minutes before the Armistice came into effect, at 10.45am on 11 November 1918. The French Army, embarrassed to have sent men into battle after the treaty with the Germans had been signed, recorded the date of his death as earlier by one day.

Augustin Trébuchon was born at Montchabrier (near Le Malzieu-Ville in the Lozère) on 30 May 1878, with four younger brothers and sisters. His mother died when he was young and his father nine years later. He had been in the army since the war began in 1914. He was a communal shepherd and played accordion at village marriages before volunteering for the army on 4 August 1914. He joined the 415th Infantry Regiment as a messenger. He had already served in the second battle of the Marne and at Verdun, Artois and the Somme before arriving in the Ardennes at the end of the war. He had twice been wounded, including badly in his left arm by an exploding shell. Promotion to second-class soldier in September 1918 brought the mention that he was "a good soldier having always achieved his duty, of remarkable calm, setting the best example to his young comrades."

Trébuchon is buried in grave 13 at the cemetery at Vrigne-Meuse.

The date on his memorial at Malzieu-Forain and in the village records is 10 November 1918. The Germans had asked for an armistice on 9 November and it came into effect on 11 November. Nobody knows who ordered the death date to be changed but it is said to be so for all French soldiers who died on 11 November. Speculation that the army was ashamed of sending men into battle knowing the armistice had already been agreed grew when the 115th Infantry Regiment was not invited to the victory parade through Paris on 14 July 1919.

Trébuchon is named on the village memorial as Victorin—his second given name—rather than Augustin.

A street at Vrigne-Meuse, where he died and where he is buried with 17 colleagues in the cemetery, has been named after him.