Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Lounge Lizards

The Lounge Lizards are a jazz group formed in 1978 by saxophone player John Lurie.

Initially a tongue in cheek "fake jazz" combo, drawing on punk rock and no wave as much as jazz, The Lounge Lizards have since become respected for their creative and distinctive sound.

The first line-up was John Lurie, his brother Evan (piano and organ), Arto Lindsay (guitar), Steve Piccolo (bass guitar), and Anton Fier (drums). This ensemble recorded the group's self-titled debut, which contained two Thelonious Monk songs and was produced by Teo Macero, famed for his work with Miles Davis. The record received positive reviews, with one scribe noting "while there's definitely great respect shown here for the jazz tradition, the members are obviously coming at it from different backgrounds." Especially notable is Lindsay's noisy guitar: He had earlier honed his distinctive, untutored and unconventional technique with the band DNA.

After this line-up dissolved, the Lurie brothers formed a new group, which has been described as "less compelling" than the earlier ensemble. Their sole record, 1983's Live from the Drunken Boat, remains the only Lounge Lizards album never to have been issued on compact disc.

In the years following their inception, they lost the moniker of "fake" almost completely and comprised some of the best musicians from the avant-garde New York jazz scene: Roy Nathanson (saxophone), Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), Marc Ribot (guitar), and Erik Sanko (of Skeleton Key) (bass guitar), Dougie Bowne and EJ Rodriguez on drums and percussion. (Fowlkes and Nathanson would pursue duo performances, which metamorphosed into The Jazz Passengers).

This edition of the Lounge Lizards recorded three albums in two years, and demonstrated John Lurie's increasingly sophisticated and multi-layered compositions that often stray rather far from conventional jazz: He was able to integrate elements of various world musics (he often favors tango-inspired passages in his songs), which retain a distinctive flavor, but avoid gimmickry. One critic notes traces of "Erik Satie and Kurt Weill".

The Luries formed a new version of the Lounge Lizards in the early 1990s; prominent members included Steven Bernstein (trumpet), Michael Blake (saxophone), Oren Bloedow (bass guitar), David Tronzo (guitar), Calvin Weston (drums) and Billy Martin (percussion).

Recent years have found the Lounge Lizards less active; John Lurie has been increasingly occupied with writing music for motion picture soundtracks, while Evan Lurie has worked on The Backyardigans, a children's show that highlights multiple musical genres.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cuchifritos

Cuchifritos refers to various fried foods prepared principally of pork, in Puerto Rican cuisine. They include a variety of dishes including but not limited to morcilla (blood sausage), papas rellenas (fried potato balls stuffed with meat), chicharron (fried pork skin), and various other parts of the pig prepared in different ways. Cuchifritos vendors also typically serve juices and drinks such as passionfruit, pineapple, and coconut juice, as well as ajonjolí, a drink made from sesame seeds.

In New York City, vendors advertising cuchifritos are particularly notable because they tend to make use of colorful external lighting and big flashy signs that quickly catch the eyes of passersby. These establishments have dotted the Puerto Rican and Dominican areas of New York City for the past fifty years, particularly Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, South Bronx, Brooklyn, and other primarily Puerto Rican and Dominican neighborhoods.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Carmen

Carmen is a French opéra comique by Georges Bizet. The libretto is by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on the novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée, first published in 1845, itself possibly influenced by the narrative poem The Gypsies (1824) by Alexander Pushkin. Mérimée had read the poem in Russian by 1840 and translated it into French in 1852.

The story is set in Seville, Spain, c. 1830, and concerns the eponymous Carmen, a beautiful Gypsy with a fiery temper. Free with her love, she woos the corporal Don José, an inexperienced soldier. Their relationship leads to his rejection of his former love, mutiny against his superior, and joining a gang of smugglers. His jealousy when she turns from him to the bullfighter Escamillo leads him to murder Carmen.

The opera premiered at the Opéra-Comique of Paris on 3 March 1875, but its opening run was denounced by the majority of critics. It was almost withdrawn after its fourth or fifth performance, and although this was avoided, ultimately having 48 performances in its first run, it did little to bolster sagging receipts at the Opéra-Comique. Near the end of this run, the theatre was giving tickets away in order to stimulate attendance. Bizet died of a heart attack, aged 36, on 3 June 1875, never knowing how popular Carmen would become. In October 1875 it was produced in Vienna, to critical and popular success, which began its path to worldwide popularity. It was not staged again at the Opéra Comique until 1883.

Since the 1880s it has been one of the world's most performed operas and a staple of the operatic repertoire. Carmen appears as number four on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America.

Bizet's final opera not only transformed the opéra comique genre that had been static for half a century, it virtually killed it. Within a few years, the traditional distinction between opera (serious, heroic and declamatory) and opéra comique (light-hearted, bourgeois and conversational with spoken dialogue) disappeared. Moreover, Carmen nourished a movement that was to win both celebrity and notoriety first in Italy and then elsewhere: the cult of realism known as verismo.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Przewalski's Horse

Przewalski's Horse, or Dzungarian Horse, is a rare and endangered subspecies of wild horse (Equus ferus) native to the steppes of central Asia, specifically China and Mongolia. At one time extinct in the wild, it has been reintroduced to its native habitat in Mongolia at the Khustain Nuruu National Park, Takhin Tal Nature Reserve and Khomiin Tal. The taxonomic position is still debated, and some taxonomists treat Przewalski's Horse as a species, Equus przewalskii. In China, the last wild Przewalski's horses were seen in 1966. The Przewalski's Horse Reintroduction Project of China was initiated in 1985 with the creation of the Xinjiang Wild Horse Breeding Center.

Common names for this equine include Asian Wild Horse and Mongolian Wild Horse. Historical but obsolete names include true tarpan and Mongolian tarpan. The horse is named after the Russian geographer and explorer Nikolai Przhewalski.

Most "wild" horses today, such as the American Mustang or the Australian Brumby, are actually feral horses descended from domesticated animals that escaped and adapted to life in the wild. In contrast, Przewalski's Horse has never been successfully domesticated and remains a truly wild animal today. Przewalski's Horse is one of two known subspecies of Equus ferus, the other being the extinct Tarpan (Equus ferus ferus). The Przewalski's Horse is considered the only remaining truly wild "horse" in the world and may be the closest living wild relative of the domesticated horse, Equus caballus. There are still a number of other wild equines, including three species of zebra and various subspecies of the African wild ass, onager and kiang.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Prince Rupert's Drops

Prince Rupert's Drops are a glass curiosity created by dripping hot molten glass into cold water. The glass cools into a tadpole-shaped droplet with a long, thin, tail. The water rapidly cools the molten glass on the outside of the drop, while the inner portion of the drop remains significantly hotter. When the glass on the inside eventually cools, it contracts inside the already-solid outer part. This contraction sets up very large compressive stresses on the exterior, while the core of the drop is in a state of tensile stress. It can be said to be a kind of tempered glass.

The very high residual stress within the drop gives rise to unusual qualities, such as the ability to withstand a blow from a hammer on the bulbous end without breaking, while the drops will disintegrate explosively if the tail end is even slightly damaged.

When the tail end is damaged, the large amount of potential energy stored in the drop's crystalline or amorphous atomic structure is released, causing fractures to propagate through the material at very high speed. Recently an examination of the shattering of Prince Rupert's Drops by the use of extremely high speed video made by Dr. Srinivasan Chandrasekar at Purdue University has revealed that the "crack front" which is initiated at the tail end propagates in a disintegrating drop within the tensile zone towards the drop's head at a very high velocity (~ 1450-1900 m/s, or up to ~4,200 miles per hour, a number that in air would be Mach 5.5).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Leon Lett

Leon Lett, Jr. is a former star American football defensive tackle in the National Football League who played for the Dallas Cowboys (19912000) and the Denver Broncos (2001), after playing college football at Emporia State University. Lett was a two-time Pro Bowler, with selections in 1994 and 1998. He wore jersey number 78 and was 6'6, 292 pounds during his playing days. He is best remembered for two infamous plays in Cowboys' team history.

Lett was a talented player and a cornerstone of the Cowboys defense during his tenure, but fans likely remember him for his infamous plays. Two of the top three of ESPN's "25 Biggest Sports Blunders" are attributed to Lett. The fans ranked him #1 and #3, whereas an expert panel placed him at #2 and #3.

The first play (ranked #1 in the ESPN fan list, #2 in the ESPN expert panel) occurred in January 1993, in Super Bowl XXVII. Late in the fourth quarter, Lett recovered a fumble on Buffalo's 45 yard line and ran it back towards the endzone. When he reached the 10 yard line, he slowed, and held the ball out as he approached the goal line. However, he didn't see a hustling Don Beebe, chasing him down from behind. Beebe knocked the ball out of Lett's outstretched hand just before he crossed the goal line, which sent the ball through the endzone, and resulted in a touchback that cost Lett his touchdown. Lett later said he was watching the Jumbotron, and trying to do a "Michael Irvin", where he put the ball out across the goal line.

The Cowboys had a commanding 52–17 lead at the time, and the play did not affect the outcome of the game, but it certainly embarrassed Lett, and it is still well known by football fans today. Lett's gaffe also cost the Cowboys the record for most points scored in a Super Bowl (55, by the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV).

The second play (ranked #3 in both ESPN lists) occurred during the very next season and was actually more serious as it resulted in a Cowboy defeat. On Thanksgiving Day in 1993, during a rare snow and sleet storm in Dallas, the Cowboys, who came into the game with a 7-3 record, were leading the 8-2 Miami Dolphins 14–13 with 15 seconds remaining in the game. The Dolphins attempted a 41-yard field goal to take the lead but the kick was blocked. While most of his teammates began celebrating, Lett attempted to recover the ball. He slipped on the ice as he tried to pick up the football, and Miami recovered the "muff" on the Dallas one yard line. Had Lett simply done nothing, the Cowboys would have automatically received possession and could have run out the clock. By touching the ball and then failing to hold onto it, Lett enabled the Dolphins to take possession and then try another field goal with 3 seconds left on the clock. This second attempt was successful and the Dolphins won the game 16–14 as the clock expired. The play actually didn't hurt the Cowboys' season as they won all of their remaining regular-season games and went on to win the Super Bowl, whereas the Dolphins (who took over sole possession of the lead in the AFC East with the win) would not win another game for the rest of the year, dropping their last five games and finishing out of the playoffs. In 2008, the game was named the third-most memorable in the history of Texas Stadium by ESPN.

Post-Prandial Somnolence

Post-prandial somnolence is a state of drowsiness or lassitude following a meal. Post-prandial somnolence has two components – a general state of low energy related to activation of the parasympathetic nervous system in response to nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract, and a specific state of sleepiness caused by hormonal and neurochemical changes related to the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream and its downstream effects on amino acid transport in the central nervous system.

Although the passage of food into the gastrointestinal tract results in increased blood flow to the stomach and intestines, this is achieved by diversion of blood primarily from skeletal muscle tissue and by increasing the volume of blood pumped forward by the heart each minute. The flow of oxygen and blood to the brain is extremely tightly regulated by the circulatory system and does not drop after a meal, and is not a cause of post-meal sleepiness.

A common myth holds that turkey is especially high in tryptophan, resulting in sleepiness after it is consumed, as may occur at the traditional meal of the American holiday of Thanksgiving. However, the tryptophan content of turkey is comparable to chicken, beef, and other meats and does not result in higher blood tryptophan levels than other common foods. Certain foods, such as soybeans, sesame and sunflower seeds, and certain cheeses, are high in tryptophan. Although it is possible these may induce sleepiness if consumed in sufficient quantities, this is not well studied.

When alcohol is consumed with a meal, this may contribute to sleepiness after the meal, but is a nonspecific response to alcohol consumption and can occur independent of eating.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sitcom

A television situation comedy, often shortened to sitcom, is a genre of comedy that features recurring characters in a common environment such as a home or workplace, accompanied with jokes as part of the dialogue.

A situation comedy may be recorded before a studio audience. Some also feature a laugh track. Such programs originated in radio. Today, sitcoms are found almost exclusively on television as one of its dominant narrative forms.

As opposed to stand up comedy and sketch comedy, a situation comedy has a storyline and ongoing characters in, essentially, a comedic drama. The situation is usually that of a family, workplace, or a group of friends.

Traditionally comedy sketches were presented within a variety show and mixed with musical performances, as in vaudeville. The emerging mass medium of radio allowed audiences to regularly return to programs, so programs could feature the same characters and situations each episode and expect audiences to be familiar with them.

Sitcom humor is often character driven and by its nature running gags often evolve during a series. Often the status quo of the situation is maintained from episode to episode. An episode may feature a disruption to the usual situation and the character interactions, but this will usually be settled by the episode's end and the situation returned to how it was prior to the disruption. There are exceptions to this. Some shows feature story arcs across many episodes where the characters and situations change and evolve.

Comedies from past civilizations, such as those of Aristophanes in ancient Greece, Terence and Plautus in ancient Rome, Śudraka in ancient India, and numerous examples including Shakespeare, Molière, the Commedia dell'arte and the Punch and Judy shows from post-Renaissance Europe, are the ancestors of the modern sitcom. Some of the characters, pratfalls, routines and situations as preserved in eyewitness accounts and in the texts of the plays themselves, are remarkably similar to those in earlier modern sitcoms such as I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners. The first television sitcom is said to be Pinwright's Progress, ten episodes being broadcast on the BBC between 1946 - 1947. In the U.S., director and producer William Asher, has been credited with being the "man who invented the sitcom," having directed over two dozen of the leading sitcoms, including I Love Lucy, during the 1950s through the 1970s.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Basmati

Basmati is a variety of long grain rice grown in India and Pakistan, notable for its fragrance and delicate, nuanced flavour. Its name means "the fragrant one" in Sanskrit, but it can also mean "the soft rice." India and Pakistan are the largest cultivators and exporters of this rice; it is primarily grown through paddy field farming in the Punjab region.

The grains of basmati rice are longer than most other types of rice. Cooked grains of Basmati rice are characteristically free flowing rather than sticky, as with most long-grain rice. Cooked basmati rice can be uniquely identified by its fragrance. Basmati rice is available in two varieties - white and brown.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza in the historic West End district of downtown Dallas, Texas (U.S.), is the location of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The Dealey Plaza Historic District was named a National Historic Landmark in 1993 to preserve Dealey Plaza.

Dealey Plaza was completed in 1940 as a WPA project on the west edge of downtown Dallas where three streets converge (Main Street, Elm Street, and Commerce Street) to pass under a railroad bridge known locally as the triple underpass. The plaza is named for George Bannerman Dealey (1859–1946), an early publisher of the Dallas Morning News and civic leader, and the man who had campaigned for the area's revitalization. Many believe the monuments outlining the plaza are there to honor President Kennedy, but they actually honor previous prominent Dallas residents and predate President Kennedy's visit by many years. The actual Dallas monument to Kennedy, in the form of a cenotaph, is located one block away. Dealey Plaza is historically known as the site of the first Masonic temple in Dallas (now razed), and there is a marker attesting to this fact in the plaza.

Dealey Plaza is bounded on the south, east, and north sides by 100+ foot (30+ m) tall buildings. One of those buildings is the former Texas School Book Depository building, from which, both the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded, Lee Harvey Oswald fired a rifle that killed President John F. Kennedy. There is also a grassy knoll on the northwest side of the plaza, from which, the House Select Committee on Assassinations determined, based on controversial and disputed acoustic analysis, there was a "high probability" that a second gunman also fired at President Kennedy, but missed. At the plaza's west perimeter is a triple underpass beneath a railroad bridge, under which the motorcade raced after the shots were fired.

Today, the plaza is typically filled with tourists visiting the assassination site and The Sixth Floor Museum that now occupies the top two floors of the seven story former Book Depository. Since 1989, more than 5 million people have visited the museum.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Naked Came the Stranger

The book Naked Came the Stranger was a literary hoax perpetrated by a number of prominent journalists in 1969. The project was conceived by Mike McGrady of Newsday, who assembled twenty-four journalists to write a deliberately terrible book with a lot of sex, to illustrate the point that popular American literary culture had become mindlessly vulgar.

Mike McGrady, a well-known Newsday columnist, was convinced that popular American literary culture had become so base—with the best-seller lists dominated by the likes of Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann—that even a wretchedly written, literarily vacant work could succeed if enough sex was thrown in. In order to test his theory, McGrady recruited a team of Newsday cohorts to collaborate on a sexually explicit novel with no literary or social value whatsoever. Writing under the pseudonym Penelope Ashe (portrayed by McGrady's sister-in-law for photographs and meetings with publishers), the group wrote the book as a deliberately inconsistent and mediocre hodge-podge, with each chapter written by a different author. Some of the chapters had to be heavily edited, because they were originally too well written.

Fulfilling McGrady's cynical expectations, the book was wildly successful. As sales continued to increase, many of the co-authors felt guilty about the large amounts of money they were earning, and went public. The authors gave their "confession" on The David Frost Show, after being introduced as "Penelope Ashe" and walking out on stage, single file, as the orchestra played the song "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody".

The book eventually spent one week on the New York Times Best-Seller List, although by that time its authorship was common knowledge. It is unclear how much of the book's success was due to its content and how much to publicity about its unusual origin.

Subsequently, McGrady and his collaborators were approached about writing a sequel; they refused. In 1970 McGrady published Stranger Than Naked, or How to Write Dirty Books for Fun and Profit which told the story of the hoax.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Brother Theodore

Brother Theodore, born Theodore Gottlieb, was a German-American monologuist and comedian known for rambling, stream-of-consciousness dialogues which he called "stand up tragedy."

He was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, where his father was a magazine publisher. Theodore attended the University of Cologne. At age 32, under Nazi rule, he was imprisoned at the Dachau concentration camp until he signed over his family's fortune for one Reichsmark. After being deported for chess hustling from Switzerland he went to Austria where Albert Einstein, a family friend and alleged lover of his mother, helped him escape to the United States.

Theodore's career as a monologuist began in California in the late 1940s, with dramatic Poe recitals. He moved to New York City, and by the 1950s his monologues, now darkly humorous, had attracted a cult following. In 1958 he presented a one man show that promoted the idea that human beings should walk on all fours. He reached a wider audience through television, with 36 appearances on The Merv Griffin Show in the 1960s and '70s, and was also a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Dick Cavett Show, and The Joey Bishop Show. As his nightclub and TV appearances in the 1950s and '60s waned, he was forgotten, and he retired in the mid 1970s.

He was pulled out of retirement and booked by magician Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brooks in the Magic Towne House on New York's upper East side for special weekend midnight performances. This resulted in a resurgence of interest in Brother Theodore that brought him success in his later years starting with Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show in 1977 followed by more TV appearances and movies. Talk-show viewers probably remember Theodore for his 16 appearances on NBC's Late Night with David Letterman in the 1980s.

Just prior to his death from pneumonia, he taped several monologues for the controversial documentary series, Disinformation, and voiced the character of an ointment expert on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday audio version of Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer in 1995.

Brother Theodore died in New York City on April 5, 2001, at the age of 94 in Mount Sinai Hospital,[1] and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.

His headstone reads: Known as Brother Theodore / Solo Performer, Comedian, Metaphysician / "As Long As There is Death, There Is Hope"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jesus Nut

Jesus nut or Jesus pin are colloquialisms for the main rotor retaining nut that holds the main rotor to the mast of some helicopters, such as the UH-1 Iroquois helicopter. The term may have been coined by American soldiers in Vietnam; the Vietnam War was the first war to feature large numbers of soldiers riding in helicopters. Other sources suppose that the term may be coined as early as by Igor Sikorsky, a pioneer of rotor wing aircraft, who was a deeply religious person .

The term may have come from the idea that, if the Jesus pin were to fail in flight, the helicopter would detach from the rotors and the only thing left for the crew to do would be to pray to Jesus. In addition, A person must have faith in the Jesus bolt to do its intended job without failure. Real examples of the Jesus pin failing are few and far between. However the pin must be checked before the flight. Some more recent helicopter systems do not have a Jesus nut.

More recently, it has come to be a generic engineering term referring to any single component of a system whose failure would cause catastrophic failure of the whole system.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brown Dog Affair

The Brown Dog affair was a political controversy about vivisection that raged in Edwardian England from 1903 until 1910. It involved the infiltration of University of London medical lectures by Swedish women activists, pitched battles between medical students and the police, police protection for the statue of a dog, a libel trial at the Royal Courts of Justice, and the establishment of a Royal Commission to investigate the use of animals in experiments. The affair became a cause célèbre that reportedly divided the country.

The controversy was triggered by allegations that, in February 1903, William Bayliss of the Department of Physiology at University College London had performed illegal dissection before an audience of 60 medical students on a brown terrier dog—adequately anaesthetized, according to Bayliss and his team, conscious and struggling, according to the Swedish activists. The procedure was condemned as cruel and unlawful by the National Anti-Vivisection Society. Bayliss, whose research on dogs led to the discovery of hormones, was outraged by the assault on his reputation. He sued for libel and won.

Anti-vivisectionists commissioned a bronze statue of the dog as a memorial, unveiled in Battersea in 1906, but medical students were angered by its provocative plaque—"Men and women of England, how long shall these things be?"—leading to frequent vandalism of the memorial and the need for a 24-hour police guard against the so-called "anti-doggers." On 10 December 1907, 1,000 anti-doggers marched through central London, clashing with suffragettes, trade unionists, and 400 police officers in Trafalgar Square, one of a series of battles known as the Brown Dog riots.

In March 1910, tired of the constant controversy, Battersea Council sent four workers accompanied by 120 police officers to remove the statue under cover of darkness, after which it was allegedly melted down by the council's blacksmith, despite a 20,000-strong petition in its favour. A new statue of the brown dog was commissioned by anti-vivisection groups over 70 years later, and was erected in Battersea Park in 1985. Peter Mason writes that all that is left of the old statue is a hump in the pavement in what is now the Latchmere Recreation Ground, the sign on a nearby fence reading, "No Dogs."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Marduk

Marduk was the Babylonian name of a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon, who, when Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi (18th century BCE), started to slowly rise to the position of the head of the Babylonian pantheon, a position he fully acquired by the second half of the second millennium BCE. In the perfected system of astrology, the planet Jupiter was associated with Marduk by the Hammurabi period.

When Babylon became the capital of Mesopotamia, the patron deity of Babylon was elevated to the level of supreme god. In order to explain how Marduk seized power, Enûma Elish was written, which tells the story of Marduk's birth, heroic deeds and becoming the ruler of the gods. This can be viewed as a form of Mesopotamian apologetics. Also included in this document are the fifty names of Marduk.

In Enûma Elish, a civil war between the gods was growing to a climactic battle. The Anunnaki gods gathered together to find one god who could defeat the gods rising against them. Marduk, a very young god, answered the call and was promised the position of head god.

To prepare for battle, he makes a bow, fletches arrows, grabs a mace, throws lightning before him, and fills his body with flame. Then he sets out for battle, mounting his storm-chariot drawn by four horses with poison in their mouths. In his lips he holds a spell and in one hand he grasps a herb to counter poison.

First, he challenges the leader of the Anunnaki gods, the dragon of the primordial sea Tiamat, to single combat and defeats her by trapping her with his net, blowing her up with his winds, and piercing her belly with an arrow.

Then, he proceeds to defeat Kingu, who Tiamat put in charge of the army and wore the Tablets of Destiny on his breast, and "wrested from him the Tablets of Destiny, wrongfully his" and assumed his new position. Under his reign humans were created to bear the burdens of life so the gods could be at leisure.

Marduk was depicted as a human, often with his symbol the snake-dragon which he had taken over from the god Tishpak. Another symbol that stood for Marduk was the spade.

Babylonian texts talk of the creation of Eridu by the god Marduk as the first city, "the holy city, the dwelling of their [the other gods] delight".

Nabu, god of wisdom, is a son of Marduk.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Make A Wish

Make A Wish was an American television series which ran on ABC from 1971 to 1976. Produced by ABC News, it was hosted by musician Tom Chapin and created and produced by Lester Cooper. It replaced Discovery, a similar series for children also produced by ABC News (which began in 1962).

The series, originally broadcast on Saturday mornings but later moved to Sunday mornings, focused on a particular theme. One episode, for instance, was about snakes, another about motorcycles. Chapin would introduce the topic in much the same manner: "I think a snake is what I'll be. Imagine all the possibilities." After that there would be a sort of free association featuring stock footage, animation, and Chapin's music and voiceover commentary.

The series won a Peabody Award for Best Children's Series in 1971.

The music performed on the show was written by Tom's brother, Harry Chapin. One song written for the show was "Circle."

Make A Wish would be replaced in 1976 with Animals, Animals, Animals.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pierre Parrant

Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant is recognized as being the first person of European descent to live within the borders of what would eventually become the city of Saint Paul, Minnesota. His exploits would eventually propel him to local fame and infamy in addition to seeing his name briefly adorn the village that would one day become Minnesota’s capital city.

There are conflicting sources as to Pierre Parrant’s exact history before settling in the Minnesota Territory. However, most sources indicate that he was of French Canadian origin and born near Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, in or around 1777. For most of his adult life Parrant made his living as a fur trapper while working for a company called McKenzie and Chouteau. During his days as a fur trapper “Pig’s Eye” Parrant, so called because he was blind in one eye, would start to gain a somewhat dubious reputation with law enforcement. This is most likely due to his dabbling as a part-time bootlegger.

With the onset of age and the decline in the fur trade, Parrant began seeking new endeavors to earn a living. His search for new opportunities would bring him to a fledgling new settlement near a military outpost called Fort Snelling in the Minnesota Territory.

Arriving at Mendota in 1832, Parrant would begin to carve out a new life for himself while residing in a squatter’s colony near Fort Snelling. His new career found him distilling his own liquor which he then sold to other squatters, the indigenous people of the area, and even to the soldiers of the fort.

This new business served “Pig’s Eye” (French: L'Oeil du Cochon) well until 1838 when the squatters were forced off the land surrounding the fort due to their strain on surrounding resources. It was at this time that the sixty-plus year old Parrant made a claim on a tract of land at the entrance of what was known as Fountain Cave. This cave was situated on the North bank of the Mississippi River just south of what is now Downtown St. Paul.

Then, on or around June 1, 1838 Parrant completed building a small shack that, according to a historical publication by Albert A. Jones, dated 1892, became “the first habitation, and the first business house of St. Paul.” Thus Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant became the first inhabitant of the future city of St. Paul.

Fountain Cave was an excellent location for Pierre Parrant to select for his claim as the spring inside the cave provided a steady water supply for his still. Parrant’s bar, known as “Pig’s Eye” or “Pig’s Eye Pandemonium” was easily accessible to local residents, riverboat crews working on the river, and to the soldiers from nearby Fort Snelling as well. Parrant had become so popular, in fact, that when a nearby resident named Joseph R. Brown sent a letter to a friend in 1839 he listed the return address simply as “Pig’s Eye.” Not long after, Brown actually received correspondence back at the address he had listed.

Consequently, the growing community around Pierre’s bar became known as “Pig’s Eye.” The city’s name might have remained Pig’s Eye had it not been for the arrival of a Catholic priest named Lucien Galtier. So aghast was Galtier that the village on the river derived its name from a man of such ill-repute that, when he built his small chapel in the area in 1841, he reportedly stated, “Pig’s Eye, converted thou shalt be, like Saul; Arise, and be, henceforth, Saint Paul!" It is somewhat disputed whether or not Father Galtier actually said those words. However, whether he did or not, the story complements the deeds of Parrant, and contributes to the folklore of the city.

In 1844, Pierre Parrant lost his claim at Fountain Cave and was forced to vacate the land where he had become so successful. However, it is not clear exactly why he was forced to give up his claim at Fountain Cave. Some sources indicate that he was involved in a border dispute with a neighbor; while other sources say he was forced to sell his claim because of mounting debts. In either case it is clear that Pierre Parrant’s golden age had come and gone.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

3 Feet High and Rising

3 Feet High and Rising is an influential debut album from American hip hop trio De La Soul, released in 1989.

The album marked the first of three full-length collaborations with producer Prince Paul, which would become the critical and commercial peak of both parties. It's consistently placed on 'greatest albums' lists by noted music critics and publications. Robert Christgau called the record "unlike any rap album you or anybody else has ever heard." In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source Magazine's 100 Best Rap Albums..

A critical, as well as commercial success, the album contains the well known singles such as "Me Myself and I", "The Magic Number", "Buddy", and "Eye Know". On October 23, 2001, the album was re-issued along with an extra disc of B-side tracks, and alternative versions. The album's title was inspired by a line in the Johnny Cash song "Five Feet High and Rising". The album is discussed in detail by De La Soul in Brian Coleman's book Check the Technique.

Lyrically, the album was unusual for its time. Even beside its exhortations for peace and harmony, many of the songs are personal and heartfelt recountings of early sexual intercourse ("Jenifa Taught Me"), love ("Eye Know") and insecurity regarding personal appearance and fashion ("Can U Keep a Secret", "A Little Bit of Soap" "Take It Off"). With the exception of "Do As De La Does", there is very little profanity on the album, in contrast to most hip hop albums from the time period. Many of the lyrics are humorous and/or nonsensical, and are inventive and original, stylistic predecessors of MF Doom and Busta Rhymes.

It is listed on Rolling Stones' 200 Essential Rock Records and The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums. When Village Voice held its annual Pazz & Jop Critics Poll for 1989, 3 Feet High and Rising was ranked at #1, outdistancing its nearest opponent (Neil Young's Freedom) by 21 votes and 260 points. It was also listed on the Rolling Stones The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Released amid the 1989 boom in gangsta rap, which gravitated towards hardcore, confrontational, violent lyrics, De La Soul's uniquely positive style made them an oddity beginning with the first single, "Me, Myself and I". Their positivity meant many observers labeled them a "hippie" group. Sampling artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Hall & Oates, Steely Dan and The Turtles, 3 Feet High and Rising is often viewed as the stylistic beginning of 1990s alternative hip hop (and especially jazz rap).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vestigial Twin

A vestigial twin is a rare form of conjoined (Siamese) twinning or more accurately, of parasitic twinning, where the parasitic 'twin' is so malformed and incomplete that it typically consists of extra limbs or organs. The result is a person with – for example, an extra arm or leg attached to him or her.

This phenomenon occurs when a fertilized ovum or partially formed embryo splits. If the fetus splits completely, the result is two identical twins. However, if the fetus does not split fully, the result can be anything from two whole people joined by a bit of skin (conjoined / Siamese twins), through to one person with extra body parts: the extra parts are the body of the vestigial twin.

Most vestigial limbs are non-functional, and although they may have bones, muscles and nerve endings, they are not under the control of the host. The possession of six or more digits on the hands and feet (polydactyly) usually has a genetic or chromosomal cause, and is not a case of vestigial twinning.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Indian Camp

"Indian Camp" is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway. The story was published in a literary magazine in 1924, and a year later in the American edition of Hemingway's In Our Time.

The story shows a young boy—Nick Adams—who accompanies his father and uncle on an early-morning trip to help an Indian (Native American) woman through a difficult childbirth. In the story Nick's father performs an emergency operation on the woman, after which they discover the woman's husband has committed suicide.

The story is the first to feature Hemingway's semi-autobiographical character Nick Adams. Critics consider the story important because it shows the emergence of Hemingway's understated style, his use of counterpoint, and themes that permeate much his work.

The story opens as a young Nick Adams crosses a lake in a canoe with his doctor father and uncle, on their way to an Indian camp. They have been asked to assist a pregnant woman who is having difficulty giving birth. Arriving at the camp, they find the woman in a cabin, lying on a bunk; in the bed above lies her injured husband. Nick's father is forced to perform a Caesarian operation with a jack-knife as Nick holds a basin. After the baby has been delivered, Nick's father finds the woman's husband covered in blood from having slit his neck with a straight edged razor. Nick's father finally sends him out of the cabin. The uncle has disappeared. The story ends with Nick and his father, again in the canoe, on a lake, paddling away from the camp. Nick asks his father why the woman's husband killed himself, silently asserting he will never die.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Winged Victory of Samothrace

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace, is a second century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory). Since 1884, it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world.

Discovered in 1863, is estimated to have been created around 190 BC. It was created to not only honor the goddess, Nike, but to honor a sea battle. It conveys a sense of action and triumph as well as portraying artful flowing drapery through its features which the Greeks considered ideal beauty.

Modern excavations suggest that the Victory occupied a niche in an open-air theater and also suggest it accompanied an altar that was within view of the ship monument of Demetrius I Poliorcetes (337-283 BC). Rendered in white Parian marble, the figure originally formed part of the Samothrace temple complex dedicated to the Great Gods, Megalon Theon. It stood on a rostral pedestal of gray marble from Lartos representing the prow of a ship (most likely a trihemiolia), and represents the goddess as she descends from the skies to the triumphant fleet. Before she lost her arms, which have never been recovered, Nike's right arm was raised, cupped round her mouth to deliver the shout of Victory.

The work is notable for its convincing rendering of a pose where violent motion and sudden stillness meet, for its graceful balance and for the rendering of the figure's draped garments, depicted as if rippling in a strong sea breeze, which is considered especially compelling. Nike of Samothrace is seen as an iconic depiction of triumphant spirit and of the divine momentarily coming face to face with man. The power of the work is enhanced, to many people, by the very fact that the head and arms are missing.

The statue’s outstretched right wing is a symmetric plaster version of the original left one. As with the arms, the figure's head has never been found, but various other fragments have since been found: in 1950, a team led by Karl Lehmann unearthed the missing right hand of the Louvre's Winged Victory. The fingerless hand had slid out of sight under a large rock, near where the statue had originally stood; on the return trip home, Dr Phyllis Williams Lehmann identified the tip of the Goddess's ring finger and her thumb in a storage drawer at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, where the second Winged Victory is displayed; the fragments have been reunited with the hand, which is now in a glass case in the Louvre next to the podium on which the statue stands.

The statue now stands over a supplementary platform over the prow that allows a better contemplation but was not present in the original. The different degree of finishing of the sides has led scholars to think that it was intended to be seen from three-quarters on the left.

A partial inscription on the base of the statue includes the word "Rhodhios" (Rhodes), indicating that the statue was commissioned to celebrate a naval victory by Rhodes, at that time the most powerful maritime state in the Aegean.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Emmanuel Bronner

Emmanuel H. Bronner (February 1, 1908 – March 7, 1997) was the eccentric maker of Dr. Bronner's castile soap, a concentrated liquid notable for the vast amount of lather produced from a few drops and the vast amount of tiny text on its packaging. Although his parents were killed in the Holocaust, Bronner believed in the goodness and unity of humanity.

He was born in Heilbronn, Germany, to the Heilbronner family of soap makers. He emigrated to the United States in 1929, dropping "Heil" from his name. As his father was Jewish, he pleaded with his parents to emigrate with him for fear of the then-ascendant Nazis, but they refused. His last contact with his parents was in the form of a postcard saying, "You were right. —Your loving father."

He started his business making products by hand in his home. The product labels are crowded with statements of Bronner's philosophy, which he called "All-One-God-Faith" and the "Moral ABC". Many of Bronner's references came from Jewish and Christian sources, such as the Shema and the Beatitudes; others from poets such as Rudyard Kipling. They became famous for their idiosyncratic style, including hyphens to join long strings of words and the liberal use of exclamation marks. In 1947, while promoting his "Moral ABC" at the University of Chicago, Bronner was arrested and committed to a mental hospital in Elgin, Illinois from which he escaped after shock treatments.

After moving his family several times, he settled in Escondido, California, where eventually his soap-making operation grew into a small factory. At his death in 1997, it produced over a million bottles of soap and other products a year, but was still not mechanized. The firm has been the subject of many published articles and has supported many charitable causes.

After Bronner's death, his family continued the business. They have said the labels he wrote will not change except when required by government regulations. As of 2009 the Bronner company still lists hemp oil in addition to jojoba oil in the ingredients.