Friday, December 31, 2010

Lobster Roll

A lobster roll is a kind of sandwich filled with lobster meat. A traditional lobster roll contains the fresh cooked meat of a lobster, tossed with mayonnaise and served on a grilled hot dog bun or similar roll, so that the opening is on the top rather than on the side. The filling may also contain diced celery and/or scallion, or may use drawn butter instead of or in addition to mayonnaise. The sandwich may also contain lettuce, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Traditional New England restaurants serve lobster rolls with potato chips or french fries on the side. As far back as 1970, chopped lobster meat heated in drawn butter was served on a hot dog bun at road side stands such as Red's Eats in Maine, but have since given way to the chilled lobster "salad" prevalent today everywhere but Connecticut.

Lobster rolls in the U.S. are especially associated with the state of Maine, but are also commonly available at seafood restaurants in the other New England states and on Eastern Long Island, where lobster fishing is common. They tend to be virtually unheard-of in landlocked regions (such as the Upper Midwest), where fresh lobster is more expensive and more difficult to obtain.

Lobster rolls prepared in Maine generally have several common characteristics: first, the roll itself is a regular split hot dog roll that has been lightly buttered on the outside and lightly grilled; second, the lobster meat in the roll is usually served cold, rather than warm or hot; third, there can be a very light spread of mayonnaise inside the bun. The lobster meat is usually knuckle, claw, and tail meat chunks.

They are a staple summer meal throughout the Maritime provinces in Canada, particularly Nova Scotia where they may also appear on hamburger buns, baguettes, or other types of bread rolls — even pita pockets. The traditional sides are potato chips and dill pickles.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reciprocating saw

A reciprocating saw is a type of saw in which the cutting action is achieved through a push and pull reciprocating motion of the blade.

The term reciprocating saw is commonly assigned to a type of saw used in construction and demolition work. This type of saw, also known as a recipro saw, Sabre Saw, or Sawzall (a trademark of the Milwaukee Electric Tool Company) has a large blade resembling that of a Jigsaw and a handle oriented to allow the saw to be used comfortably on vertical surfaces. The typical style of this saw has a foot at the base of the blade, also similar to a jigsaw. The user rests this foot against the surface being cut so that the tendency of the blade to push away from or pull towards the cut as the blade travels through its cycle can be countered.

Designs range widely in power, speed, and features, from less powerful portable, handheld models that are usually shaped like a cordless drill, to high-power, high-speed, corded models. Modern reciprocating saws almost all have variable speed, either through trigger sensitivity or through a dial. Another feature that has become important to the way these saws are used is the inclusion of an orbital action. The action consists of oscillating the traversed reciprocation in up and down fashion (perpendicular to the motion of cut) causing the tip of the blade to move in an oval pattern, up and down as well as back and forth. This feature is primarily for wood, allowing quick cuts.

The Reciprocating saw is a popular tool used by many window fitters and construction workers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


"Heroin" is a song by The Velvet Underground, released on their 1967 debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Written by Lou Reed in 1964, the song is one of the band's most celebrated compositions, overtly depicting heroin use and abuse. Critic Mark Deming writes, "While 'Heroin' hardly endorses drug use, it doesn't clearly condemn it, either, which made it all the more troubling in the eyes of many listeners".

It was among a three-song set to be re-recorded at T.T.G. Studios, Hollywood before being included on the final release of The Velvet Underground & Nico (along with "I'm Waiting for the Man" and "Venus in Furs"). This recording of the song would be the album's second longest at 7 minutes and 12 seconds, being eclipsed only by "European Son" by about thirty seconds.

"Heroin" begins slowly with Lou Reed's quiet, melodic guitar and hypnotic drum patterns by Maureen Tucker, soon joined by John Cale's droning electric viola and Sterling Morrison's steady rhythm guitar. The tempo increases gradually, mimicking the high the narrator receives from the drug, until a frantic crescendo is reached, punctuated by Cale's shrieking viola and the more punctuated guitar strumming of Reed and Morrison. Tucker's drumming becomes hurried and louder. The song then slows to the original tempo, and repeats the same pattern before ending.

Maureen Tucker actually got lost during the recording and stopped drumming for several moments at the five minutes seventeen seconds mark, before picking up the beat again. This coincidental pause came at a dramatic shift in the song, however, and her "mistake" remains an essential element of the song.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Helen Kane

Helen Kane was an American popular singer; her signature song was "I Wanna Be Loved By You". Fleischer Studios animator Grim Natwick used Kane as the model for his studio's most famous creation, Betty Boop.

Born as Helen Clare Schroeder, Kane attended St. Anselm’s Parochial School in the Bronx. She was the youngest of three children. Her father, Louis Schroeder, the son of a German immigrant, was employed intermittently; her Irish immigrant mother, Ellen (Dixon) Schroeder, worked in a laundry. Kane's mother reluctantly paid $3 for her daughter's costume as a queen in Kane's first theatrical role at school. By the time she was 15 years, Kane was onstage professionally, touring the Orpheum Circuit with the Marx Brothers in On the Balcony.

She spent the early 1920s trouping in vaudeville as a singer and kickline dancer with a theater engagement called the 'All Jazz Revue', and played the New York Palace for the first time in 1921.

Kane's first performance at the Paramount Theater in Times Square proved to be her career's launching point. She was singing "That's My Weakness Now", when she interpolated the scat lyrics “boop-boop-a-doop.” This resonated with the flapper culture, and four days later, Helen Kane’s name went up in lights.

Oscar Hammerstein’s 1928 show Good Boy, was where she first introduced the hit "I Wanna Be Loved by You" . Then it was back to the Palace, as a headliner for $5,000 a week.

As she took on the status of a singing sensation, there were Helen Kane dolls and Helen Kane look-alike contests, appearances on radio and in nightclubs. This cult following reached its peak in late 1928 and stayed there until early 1929. With the hardships of the Great Depression biting, the flamboyant world of the flapper was over, and Kane's style began to date rapidly.

She died on September 26, 1966 at age 62, in her apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens (New York City). Her husband of 27 years was at her bedside. Her remains were buried in the Long Island National Cemetery.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Quaalude is a brand name of Methaqualone, a sedative-hypnotic drug that is similar in effect to barbiturates, a general central nervous system depressant. Its use peaked in the 1960s and 1970s as a hypnotic, for the treatment of insomnia, and as a sedative and muscle relaxant.

Methaqualone was first synthesized in India in 1951 by Indra Kishore Kacker and Syed Hussain Zaheer, and was soon introduced to Japanese and European consumers as a safe barbiturate substitute. By 1965, it was the most commonly prescribed sedative in Britain, where it has been sold legally under the names Malsed, Malsedin, and Renoval.

At about the same time, it was becoming a popular recreational drug . In 1972, it was the sixth-bestselling sedative in the USA, where it was legal under the brand name Quaalude; at that time "luding out" was a popular college pastime.

Quaaludes became increasingly popular as a recreational drug in the 1970s. The drug was often used by people who went dancing at glam rock clubs in the early 1970s and at discos in the late 1970s. One slang term for Quaaludes was disco biscuits. In the mid 1970s, there were special bars in Manhattan called juice bars that only served non-alcoholic drinks that catered to people who liked to dance on methaqualone.

The drug was more tightly regulated in Britain under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and in the U.S. from 1973. It was withdrawn from many developed markets in the early 1980s (in 1982 in the United States), being made a Schedule I drug in the U.S. in 1984.

Clandestinely produced methaqualone is still seized by government agencies and police forces around the world.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

White Nose Syndrome

White nose syndrome is a poorly understood malady associated with the deaths of more than a million bats. The condition, named for a distinctive fungal growth around the muzzles and on the wings of many affected animals, was first identified in a cave in Schoharie County, New York, USA, in February 2006, and started showing up in the news after January 2007. It spread to other New York caves and into Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut in 2008. In early 2009 it was confirmed in New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and in March 2010 in Ontario, Canada, and northern Tennessee. As of spring 2010, the condition had been found in over 115 caves and mines ranging throughout the Northeastern US as far south as Tennessee and as far west as Oklahoma and into Quebec and Ontario Provinces in Canada .

The US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has called for a moratorium on caving activities in the affected areas, and strongly recommends that any clothing or equipment used in such areas be decontaminated after each use.

The National Speleological Society (NSS) maintains an up-to-date page to keep cavers apprised of current events and advisories.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Truce

The Christmas truce was a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front around Christmas of 1914, during the First World War. Through the week leading up to Christmas, parties of German and British soldiers began to exchange seasonal greetings and songs between their trenches; on occasion, the tension was reduced to the point that individuals would walk across to talk to their opposite numbers bearing gifts. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many soldiers from both sides – as well as, to a lesser degree, from French units – independently ventured into no man's land, where they mingled, exchanging food and souvenirs. As well as joint burial ceremonies, several meetings ended in carol-singing, or – famously – games of football.

Though there was no official truce, about 100,000 British and German troops were involved in unofficial cessations of fighting along the length of the Western Front. The first truce started on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium.

The Germans began by placing candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across the 'No Man's Land', where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and alcohol, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held. The fraternisation was not, however, without its risks; some soldiers were shot by opposing forces. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but it continued until New Year's Day in others.

Bruce Bairnsfather, who served throughout the war, wrote: "I wouldn't have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything. ... I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I should think, and being a bit of a collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons. ... I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pocket. I then gave him two of mine in exchange.

General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, commander of the British II Corps, was irate when he heard what was happening, and issued strict orders forbidding friendly communication with the opposing German troops.

Friday, December 24, 2010


A tourtière is a meat pie originating from Quebec, usually made with minced pork and/or veal, or beef. It is a traditional part of the Christmas and/or Christmas Eve réveillon and New Year's Eve meal in Quebec, but is also enjoyed and sold in grocery stores all year long. This kind of pie is known as pâté à la viande (literally, meat pie) in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region.

Tourtière is not exclusive to Quebec. Tourtière is a traditional French-Canadian dish served by generations of French-Canadian families throughout Canada and the bordering areas of the United States. In the U.S., namely in the states of Michigan, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Minnesota, and New York, citizens of Quebec ancestry have introduced the recipe. Every family has its own "original" recipe, passed down through the generations. Like the recipe, there is no one correct filling, as the pie meat depends on what is available in regions. In coastal areas, fish such as salmon is commonly used, whereas pork, beef, rabbit, and game are used inland.

The name supposedly comes from a pie-making utensil but by 1611 tourtière more or less referred to the meat pie as we know it today. Historically, the tourtiere was the pie-pan named for the key ingredient: the cooked meat of the once abundant and now extinct passenger pigeon, the "Tourte".

The tourtières of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area and Eastern Quebec are slow-cooked deep-dish meat pies made with potatoes and various meats (often including wild game) cut into small cubes. Elsewhere in Quebec and the rest of Canada, this variety of tourtière is sometimes referred to, in French and in English, as tourtière du Lac-Saint-Jean or tourtière saguenéenne to distinguish it from the varieties of tourtière with ground meat.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Singing Dogs

The Singing Dogs was a musical recording project under whose name two 45rpm singles were released in the 1950s.

The idea for the Singing Dogs came from Don Charles, a producer working in Copenhagen, Denmark. He made recordings of four dogs barking (their names were Dolly, Pearl, Caesar, and King), spliced them on reel-to-reel tape, and arranged the pitches to the tune of the Stephen Foster song "Oh! Susanna". This was eventually released by RCA Victor as the A-side on a 7" single, with the B-side a medley of "Pat-a-Cake", "Three Blind Mice", and "Jingle Bells". The novelty record became a hit, reaching #22 on the U.S. Billboard Pop Singles chart. The disc eventually sold over half a million copies. In 1956, the troupe of dogs were again recorded, yielding the single "Hot Dog Rock 'n Roll" b/w "Hot Dog Boogie".

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Le déjeuner sur l'herbe

Le déjeuner sur l'herbe is a large oil on canvas painting by Édouard Manet. Created in 1862 and 1863, its juxtaposition of a female nude with fully dressed men sparked controversy when the work was first exhibited at the Salon des Refusés. The piece is now in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. A smaller, earlier version can be seen at the Courtauld Gallery, London.

Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe is not a realist painting in the social or political sense of Daumier, but it is a statement in favor of the artist's individual freedom. The shock value of a nude woman casually lunching with two fully dressed men, which was an affront to the propriety of the time, was accentuated by the familiarity of the figures.

Manet's wife, Suzanne Leenhoff, and his favorite model, Victorine Meurent, both posed for the nude woman, which has Meurent's face, but Leenhoff's body. Her body is starkly lit and she stares directly at the viewer. The two men are Manet's brother Eugene Manet and his future brother in law, Ferdinand Leenhoff. They are dressed like dandies. The men seem to be engaged in conversation, ignoring the woman. In front of them, the woman's clothes, a basket of fruit, and a round loaf of bread are displayed, as in a still life. In the background a lightly clad woman bathes in a stream. Too large in comparison with the figures in the foreground, she seems to float above them. The roughly painted background lacks depth — giving the viewer the impression that the scene is not taking place outdoors, but in a studio. This impression is reinforced by the use of broad "photographic" light, which casts almost no shadows: in fact, the lighting of the scene is inconsistent and unnatural. The man on the right wears a flat hat with a tassel, of a kind normally worn indoors.

Despite the mundane subject, Manet deliberately chose a large canvas size, normally reserved for grander subjects. The style of the painting breaks with the academic traditions of the time. He did not try to hide the brush strokes: indeed, the painting looks unfinished in some parts of the scene. The nude is a far cry from the smooth, flawless figures of Cabanel or Ingres.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Veldt

"The Veldt" is a short story written by Ray Bradbury that was published originally as "The World the Children Made" in the September 23, 1950 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, later republished in the anthology The Illustrated Man in 1951. The anthology is a collection of short stories that were mostly published individually in magazines beforehand.

George and Lydia install the latest technology in their house. The house does everything for the family from clothing them to feeding them to rocking them to sleep at night. They call this new technology the “Happylife Home” and it cost the family $30,000 to install. The nursery becomes a virtual reality room, able to reproduce any setting.

George and Lydia soon realize that there is something wrong with the nursery and even their way of living. Lydia longs for a vacation, George takes up smoking and drinking. The children become spoiled and end up ruling the roost. Besides the African setting, George and Lydia find personal recreations of their belongings in the nursery. Strange screams have been heard.

They discover a problem with the nursery when it appears to be stuck in an African setting. This includes the hot sun and even lions feeding in the distance. George and Lydia do not understand why their children would be concerned with Africa or with death. They decide to call a psychologist. David McClean suggests they turn off the room and the house, and leave. The children talk their way into one last nursery visit before their parents shut the room down. The children trick their parents and lock them in and the virtual reality that manifests deadly lions. The parents are slain.

David McClean comes to the house, and the children offer him tea. They go on living as if nothing has happened. The African setting continues.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sweyn Forkbeard

Sweyn Forkbeard was king of Denmark and England, as well as parts of Norway. He was a Viking leader and the father of Cnut the Great. On his father Harald Bluetooth's death in late 986 or early 987, he became King of Denmark; in 1000, with allegiance of the Trondejarl, Erik of Lade, he was ruler over most of Norway. After a long effort at conquest, and shortly before his death, in 1013 he is said to have founded Swansea (which is often said to come from "Sweyn's Ey"). He then became King of England. In the last months of his life, he was the Danish sovereign of a North Sea empire, which only his son Cnut was to rival in northern Europe.

Many details about Sweyn's life are contested. Scholars disagree about the various, too often contradictory, accounts of his life given in sources from his era of history. Some historians, such as Lauritz Weibull, have argued that Sweyn's wife described in the sagas – Swedish dowager queen Sigrid the Haughty – is purely fictional, whereas others have accepted her existence on the evidence of the Norse sagas.

Sweyn Forkbeard's nickname, which was probably used during his lifetime, unlike many royal nicknames, refers to a pitchfork-style moustache which was fashionable at the time, particularly in England, where Sweyn may have picked up the idea. Similar type moustaches can be seen depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Black Cocaine

Black cocaine, also known as Coca Negra, is a combination of regular cocaine hydrochloride and various chemicals, such as potassium thiocyanate, usually added at 40% admixture. This renders it undetectable to drug sniffing dogs and the regular chemical tests. Since the result is usually black, it is generally smuggled in as toner in fake IBM or HP brand toner cartridges, fingerprint powder, fertilizer or pigment. The potassium thiocyanate substance is separated out after delivery with a solvent such as acetone and discarded.

The Securtec "Drugwipe test" has been one of a few that have worked in detecting the mixture.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Edward Penfield

Edward Penfield was a leading American illustrator in the era know as the "Golden Age of American Illustration" and he is considered the father of the American Poster. His work has been included in almost every major book on American Illustration or the history of the poster. He is also a major figure in the evolution of graphic design.

He was born 2 June 1866 in Brooklyn, New York to Ellen Lock Moore and Josiah B. Penfield. He first studied at New York's Art Student's League. He worked under George de Forest Brush, who was known for his romantic scenes of American Indian life. He first worked for Harper's Weekly and later became art director. He developed his own unique style of simplified figures with bold outlines in settings free of extraneous detail. He wrote and published a book titled Holland Sketches, which was published by Scribner's in 1907.

His posters were bold and stood out from a distance with great clarity. As artists like Alphons Mucha, Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen and Toulouse-Lautrec popularized the poster in Europe, Penfield accomplished the same feat in the United States. For his posters, Penfield utilized simple, shapes and a limited palette of colors that lent themselves to the primitive methods of reproduction of the era.

Friday, December 17, 2010


"Ue o muite aruko" is a Japanese song that was performed by Japanese crooner Kyu Sakamoto, and written by Rokusuke Ei and Hachidai Nakamura. It is best known under its alternative title "Sukiyaki" in English-speaking parts of the world. The song reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the United States in 1963, and was the only Japanese language song to do so. In total it sold over 13 million copies internationally. The original Kyu Sakamoto recording also went to number eighteen on the R&B charts.

The lyrics tell the story of a man who looks up and whistles while he is walking so that his tears won't fall. The verses of the song describe his memories and feelings. The title, sukiyaki (which is a Japanese steamboat dish), has nothing to do with the lyrics or the meaning of the song; the word served the purpose only because it was short, catchy, recognizably Japanese, and more familiar to most English speakers. A Newsweek columnist noted that the re-titling was like issuing "Moon River" in Japan under the title "Beef Stew."

Sakamoto's follow-up to "Sukiyaki," "China Nights (Shina no Yoru)," charted in 1963 at number fifty-eight. That was the last song by an artist from Japan to reach the U.S. pop charts for sixteen years, until the female duo Pink Lady had a top forty hit in 1979 with their English-language song "Kiss in the Dark".

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Periodic Table

The periodic table of the chemical elements is a tabular display of the chemical elements. Although precursors to this table exist, its invention is generally credited to Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869, who intended the table to illustrate recurring ("periodic") trends in the properties of the elements. The layout of the table has been refined and extended over time, as new elements have been discovered, and new theoretical models have been developed to explain chemical behavior. The periodic table is now ubiquitous within the academic discipline of chemistry, providing a useful framework to classify, systematize, and compare all of the many different forms of chemical behavior. The table has found many applications in chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering, especially chemical engineering. The current standard table contains 118 elements to date.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Surimi is a Japanese loan word referring to a fish-based food product intended to mimic the texture and color of the meat of lobster, crab and other shellfish. It is typically made from white-fleshed fish (such as pollock or hake) that has been pulverized to a paste and attains a rubbery texture when cooked. The term is also commonly applied to food products made from lean meat prepared in a similar process.

Surimi is a much-enjoyed food product in many Asian cultures and is available in many shapes, forms, and textures. The most common surimi product in the Western market is imitation crab meat. Such a product often is sold as sea legs and krab in America, and as seafood sticks, crab sticks, fish sticks or seafood extender in Commonwealth nations.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

God Mode

God mode is a developer's code, or backdoor, that facilitates testing of a particular game. As the name suggests, the player's character becomes akin to a 'god' in the game world, with the associated invulnerablility to most sources of damage.

Debug codes such as 'God mode' are typically accessed by way of a button sequence or a command on the game's console; often, the codes will reference events, places or persons particular to the game's developers, so that a player would be unlikely to stumble upon them by accident during normal game play.

Used most often to test the game's artificial intelligence and level design without having to actually survive the game's hazards, lists of debug codes such as 'God mode' have been widely available on the Internet for many years. Occasionally, developers will patch the debug codes so that they're inoperative in a given version of the game. Such patches are uncommon, however, because of time-constraints and the effort it would take to remove the debug code without causing errors in other parts of the game.

Some developers caution against the use of debug codes, warning that use of the codes can cause the game to act in an unintended manner, or render it entirely unplayable. Accordingly, most developers will not provide technical support in cases where it's obvious the player altered the game via one of these codes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

R. Budd Dwyer

Robert "Budd" Dwyer was an American politician from the state of Pennsylvania. He served from 1971 to 1981 as a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate representing the state's 50th district, and he served from 1981 until 1987 as the 30th Treasurer of Pennsylvania.

In the early 1980s, it had been discovered that Pennsylvanian government workers had overpaid federal taxes, and many accounting firms competed for a multimillion-dollar contract to calculate the amount to be repaid to each employee. Dwyer was convicted in 1986 of receiving a bribe from a Californian firm meant to persuade him to ensure that the company received the contract. He consistently maintained throughout his trial and after his conviction along with many others that he was completely innocent of this charge and that he had been framed.

On the morning of January 22, 1987, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with a revolver during a televised press conference at his office in Harrisburg, the state capital of Pennsylvania.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Vasari Corridor

The Vasari Corridor is an elevated enclosed passageway in Florence, central Italy, which connects the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo Pitti. Beginning on the south side of the Palazzo Vecchio, it then joins the Uffizi Gallery and leaves on its south side, crossing the Lungarno dei Archibusieri and then following the north bank of the River Arno until it crosses the Ponte Vecchio. At the time of construction the Torre dei Mannelli had to be built around using brackets because the owners of the tower refused to alter it. The corridor covers up part of the façade of the chiesa di Santa Felicità. The corridor then snakes its way over rows of houses in the Oltrarno district, becoming narrower, to finally join the Palazzo Pitti. Most of it is closed to visitors.

The Vasari Corridor was built in 5 months by order of Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici in 1564, to the design of Giorgio Vasari. It was commissioned in connection with the marriage of Cosimo's son, Francesco, with Johanna of Austria. The idea of an enclosed passageway was motivated by the Grand Duke's desire to move freely between his residence and the government palace, when, like most monarchs of the period, he felt insecure in public, in his case especially because he had replaced the Republic of Florence. The meat market of Ponte Vecchio was moved to avoid its smell reaching into the passage, its place being taken by the goldsmith shops that still occupy the bridge. At the latter extremity, the corridor was forced to pass around the Mannelli's Tower, after the staunch opposition of that family to its destruction.

In the middle of Ponte Vecchio the corridor is characterized by a series of panoramic windows facing the Arno, in direction of the Ponte Santa Trinita. These replaced the smaller windows of the original construction in 1939, by order of Benito Mussolini.

After the Ponte Vecchio the Corridor passes over the loggiato of the church of Santa Felicita; at that point it had a balcony, protected by a thick railing, looking into the interior of the church, in order to allow the Grand Duke's family to follow services without mixing with the populace.

In its Uffizi section the Vasari Corridor is used to exhibit the museum's famous collection of self-portraits.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Terroir comes from the word terre "land". It was originally a French term in wine, coffee and tea used to denote the special characteristics that geography bestowed upon particular varieties. Agricultural sites in the same region share similar soil, weather conditions, and farming techniques, which all contribute to the unique qualities of the crop. It can be very loosely translated as "a sense of place," which is embodied in certain characteristic qualities, the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the manufacture of the product. Terroir is often italicized in English writing to show that it is a French loanword.

The concept of terroir is at the base of the French wine Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) system that has been the model for appellation and wine laws across the globe. At its core is the assumption that the land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality that is specific to that region. The amount of influence and the scope that falls under the description of terroir has been a controversial topic in the wine industry.

Over the centuries, French winemakers developed the concept of terroir by observing the differences in wines from different regions, vineyards, or even different sections of the same vineyard. The French began to crystallize the concept of terroir as a way of describing the unique aspects of a place that influence and shape the wine made from it.

Friday, December 10, 2010


A tomte is a mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore. Tomte were believed to take care of a farmer's home and children and protect them from misfortune, in particular at night, when the housefolk were asleep. The Swedish name tomte is derived from a place of residence and area of influence: the house lot or tomt. The Finnish name is tonttu.

The tomte was often imagined as a small, elderly man (size varies from a few inches to about half the height of an adult man), often with a full beard; dressed in the everyday clothing of a farmer. Despite his smallness, the tomte possessed an immense strength. Even though he was protective and caring he was easy to offend, and his retributions ranged from a stout box on the ears to the killing of livestock or ruining of the farm's fortune.

One was also required to please the spirit with gifts – a particular gift was a bowl of porridge on Christmas night. If he wasn't given his payment, he would leave the farm or house, or engage in mischief such as tying the cows' tails together in the barn, turning objects upside-down, and breaking things.

The tomte is connected to farm animals in general, but his most treasured animal was the horse. Belief had it that you could see which horse was the tomte's favourite as it would be especially well taken care of and healthy. Sometimes the tomte would even braid its hair and tail. (These tomte braids were in fact most likely caused by insufficient brushing.) Sometimes actually undoing these braids could mean misfortune or angering the tomte.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Black Flag

Black Flag was an American punk rock band formed in 1976 in Hermosa Beach, California. The band was established largely as the brainchild of Greg Ginn: the guitarist, primary songwriter and sole continuous member through multiple personnel changes. They are widely considered to be one of the first hardcore punk bands.

Black Flag forged a unique sound early on that mixed the raw simplicity of the Ramones with atonal guitar solos and frequent tempo shifts. The band was also known for the intense and evocative lyrics found in their songs, most of which were penned by Ginn. Like other punk bands of this era, Black Flag gave voice to an anti-authoritarian, non-conformist message, featuring songs punctuated with descriptions of isolation, neurosis, poverty, and paranoia, themes that would be explored further when Henry Rollins joined the group as lead singer in 1981. Most of the band's material was released on Ginn's independent label, SST Records.

Black Flag was—and remains—well respected among their underground punk culture, with their influence primarily in their tireless promotion of a self-controlled DIY ethic and aesthetic. They are often regarded as pioneers in the movement of underground do-it-yourself record labels that flourished among the 1980s punk rock bands. Through constant touring throughout the United States and Canada, and occasionally Europe, Black Flag established an extremely dedicated fan base. Many other musicians would follow Black Flag's lead and book their own tours, utilizing a word-of-mouth network.

Over the course of the 1980s, Black Flag's sound, as well as their notoriety, evolved in ways that alienated much of their early punk audience. As well as being central to the creation of hardcore, they were part of the first wave of American West Coast punk rock and are considered a key influence on the punk subculture. Along with being among the earliest punk rock groups to incorporate elements and the influence of heavy metal melodies and rhythm (particularly in their later records), there were often overt freestyles, free jazz, breakbeat and contemporary classical elements in their sound, especially in Ginn's guitar playing, and the band interspersed records and performances with instrumentals throughout their career. They also played longer, slower, and more complex songs at a time when many bands in their milieu stuck to a raw, fast, three-chord format. As a result, their extensive discography is more stylistically varied than many of their punk rock contemporaries.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Doors of Perception

The Doors of Perception is a 1954 book by Aldous Huxley detailing his experiences when taking mescaline. Mescaline is the principal agent of the psychedelic cactus peyote, which has been used in American religious ceremonies for thousands of years. The title comes from William Blake's poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

The book takes the form of Huxley’s recollection of a mescaline trip which took place over the course of an afternoon. Huxley recalls the insights he experienced, which range from the "purely aesthetic" to "sacramental vision", he also incorporates later reflections on the experience and its meaning for art and religion.

Huxley had been interested in spiritual matters for some time, in the late Thirties he had become interested in the spiritual teaching of Vedanta and in 1945 he published The Perennial Philosophy, which set out a philosophy which he believed was found amongst mystics of all religions. Huxley had first heard of peyote use in ceremonies of the Native American Church in New Mexico soon after coming to the USA in 1937. He first became aware of the cactus’s active ingredient, mescaline, after reading an academic paper written by Humphry Osmond, a British psychiatrist working at Saskatchewan State Mental Hospital in early 1952.

After reading Osmond’s paper, Huxley sent him a letter on 10 April, 1952 expressing interest in the research and putting himself forwards as an experimental subject. His letter explained his motivations as being rooted in an idea that the brain is a reducing valve that restricts consciousness and hoping mescaline may help access a greater degree of awareness.

After a brief overview of research into mescaline, Huxley recounts that he was given 4/10 of a gram at 11.00 am one day in May 1953. Huxley writes that he hoped to gain insight into extraordinary states of mind and expected to see brightly-colored visionary landscapes. When he only sees lights and shapes, he puts this down to being a bad visualiser, however, he experiences a great change in the external world.

By 12.30, a vase of flowers becomes the "miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence". The experience, he asserts, is neither agreeable nor disagreeable, but simply "is". He likens it to Meister Eckhart’s ‘istigheit’ or ‘is-ness’, and Plato’s ‘Being’ but not separated from ‘Becoming’. He feels he understands the Hindu concept of Satchitananda, as well as the Zen koan that ‘the dharma body of the Buddha is in the hedge’ and Buddhist suchness. In this state, Huxley explains he didn’t have an ‘I’, but instead a ‘not-I’. Meaning and existence, pattern and colour become more significant than spatial relationships and time. Duration is replaced by a perpetual present.

Huxley concludes that mescaline is not enlightenment or the Beatific Vision, but a 'gratuitous grace' (a term taken from St Thomas AquinasSumma Theologica). It is not necessary but helpful, especially so for the intellectual, who can become the victim of words and symbols. Although systematic reasoning is important, direct perception has intrinsic value too. Finally, Huxley maintains that the person who has this experience will be transformed for the better.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Pictorialism is the name given to a photographic movement in vogue from around 1885 following the widespread introduction of the dry-plate process. It reached its height in the early years of the 20th century, and declined rapidly after 1914 after the widespread emergence of Modernism. The terms "Pictorialism" and "Pictorialist" entered common use only after 1900.

Pictorialism largely subscribed to the idea that art photography needed to emulate the painting and etching of the time. Most of these pictures were black & white or sepia-toned. Among the methods used were soft focus, special filters and lens coatings, heavy manipulation in the darkroom, and exotic printing processes. From 1898 rough-surface printing papers were added to the repertoire, to further break up a picture's sharpness. Some artists "etched" the surface of their prints using fine needles. The aim of such techniques was to achieve what the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica termed, in discussing Pictorialism, "personal artistic expression".

Despite the aim of artistic expression, the best of such photographs paralleled the impressionist style then current in painting. Looking back from the present day, we can also see close parallel between the composition and picturesque subject of genre paintings and the bulk of pictorialist photography.

One of the most important publications that promoted Pictorialism was Alfred Stieglitz's "Camera Work" 1903 - 1917. Each publication had up to 12 plates that were reproduced in Photogravure, Halftone or Collotype. These plates are now collected and very sought after in the art world. Most of the photographers that made up the issues were members of the Photo-Secession, a group that promoted photography as art and soon moved away from the ideals of pictorialism.

By the year of 1910, when Albright Gallery bought 15 photographs from Stieglitz' 291 Gallery, a major victory was won in the battle for establishing photography as art. Pictorialism, which had served to open the museum doors for photography, was now already regarded as a vision of the past by the spearheading photographers of that time.


A blintz is a thin pancake. It is somewhat similar to a crêpe with the main difference being the fact that yeast may be used in blintzes, but not in crêpes.

Blins had a somewhat ritual significance for early Slavic peoples in pre-Christian times since they were a symbol of the sun, due to their round form. They were traditionally prepared at the end of the winter to honor the rebirth of the new sun (Butter Week, or Maslenitsa). This tradition was adopted by the Orthodox church and is carried on to the present day. Bliny were once also served at wakes, to commemorate the recently deceased.

Traditional Russian bliny are made with yeasted batter, which is left to rise and then diluted with cold or boiling water or milk. When diluted with boiling water, they are referred to as zavarniye bliny. The bliny are then baked in a traditional Russian oven. In fact, the process of cooking bliny is still referred to as baking in Russian, even though these days they are almost universally pan-fried, like pancakes. French Crêpes made from unyeasted batter (usually made of flour, milk, and eggs) are also not uncommon in Russia, where they are called blinchiki and considered to be a borrowed dish (most people in Ukraine consider it their native dish and think that the French got it from the occupying Russian army). All kinds of flour may be used for making bliny: from wheat and buckwheat to oatmeal and millet, although wheat is currently the most popular by far.

Blintzes were popularized in the United States by Jewish immigrants who used them in Jewish cuisine. While not part of any specific religious rite in Judaism, blintzes that are stuffed with a cheese filling and then fried in oil are served on holidays such as Chanukah (as oil played a pivotal role in the miracle of the Chanukah story) and Shavuot (when dairy dishes are traditionally served within the Ashkenazi minhag).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ros Serey Sothea

Ros Serey Sothea was a famous Cambodian singer during the nation's thriving cultural renaissance of the 1960s. She sang from a variety of genres but romantic ballads emerged as her most popular works. Despite a rather short career she is credited with producing hundreds of songs and even starring in a few movies. Details of her life and fate during the Khmer Rouge is relatively unknown but it is generally accepted she did not survive.

Ros Sothea was born in 1948 to Ros Sabun and Nath Samean in Battambang Province. Growing up relatively poor, Ros Sothea was the second youngest of five children and displayed vocal talent around the age of three or four. Her talent would remain relatively hidden until she was persuaded by friends to join a regional singing contest in 1963. After winning the contest she gained the attention and praise of the province and was invited to join Lomhea Yothea (a musical troupe) which regularly performed at Stung Khiev Restaurant in Battambang. It is believed that Im Song Seurm, a singer from the National Radio heard of Sothea's talents and invited her to the capital, Phnom Penh in 1967.

In Phnom Penh, she adopted the stage name Ros Serey Sothea and became a singer for National Radio performing duets with Im Song Seurm. Her first hit, Stung Khieu debuted the same year and she quickly attracted fans with her clear and high pitch voice. Eventually she became a regular partner with Sinn Sisamouth another famous singer of the era and they were a smashing success. She also performed with other prominent singers of the era such as Pan Ron, Houy Meas, and Sos Mat.

Recognized as a national treasure she was honored by King Norodom Sihanouk with the royal title of "Preah Reich Theany Somlang Meas", the "Golden Voice of the Royal Capital".

The style of music early in her career is characterized by traditional Cambodian ballads and duets. She would eventually shift to a more contemporary style by combining romantic ballads drenched in loss, betrayal, and death with Western instruments. This change of style is most likely be attributed to her traumatic marriage with fellow singer, Sos Mat.

By the 1970s, Sothea began experimenting in other genres. Her high, clear voice, coupled with the rock backing bands featuring prominent, distortion-laden lead guitars, pumping organ and loud, driving drums, made for an intense, sometimes haunting sound that is best described today as psychedelic or garage rock. And like the leader of the music scene, Sinn Sisamouth, Sothear would often take popular Western rock tunes, such as John Fogerty's "Proud Mary" and refashion them with Khmer lyrics.

Her career would continue until the Khmer Rouge captured the beleaguered capital, Phnom Penh in April 1975.

Like everyone else when the Khmer Rouge took over, she was forced to leave Phnom Penh. There are many speculations regarding her fate from a variety witnesses.

Some say Sothea was forced by Pol Pot to marry one of his assistants in 1977 who was said to have argued with her and beaten her often. She then disappeared under typically mysterious circumstances and is almost certainly dead. Other accounts believe that she died from being overworked in a Khmer Rouge agricultural camp. Another account said that she was still alive when the Vietnamese invading forces arrived in Phnom Penh and died of malnutrition shortly after in a hospital.

Finally, her sisters insist that Sothea along their mother and children were taken to Kampong Som province and executed immediately following the Fall of Phnom Penh.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Fordlândia ("Ford-land") is a now-abandoned, prefabricated industrial town established in the Amazon Rainforest in 1928 by American industrialist Henry Ford for the purpose of securing a source of cultivated rubber for the automobile manufacturing operations of the Ford Motor Company in the United States. Ford had negotiated a deal with the Brazilian government granting his newly formed Companhia Industrial do Brasil a concession of 10,000 km² of land on the banks of the Rio Tapajós near the city of Santarém, Brazil, in exchange for a nine percent interest in the profits generated.

Ford intended to use Fordlândia to provide his company with a source of rubber for the tires on Ford cars, avoiding the dependence on British (Malayan) rubber. The land was hilly, rocky and infertile. None of Ford's managers had the requisite knowledge of tropical agriculture. The rubber trees, packed closely together in plantations, as opposed to being widely spaced in the jungle, were easy prey for tree blight and insects, a problem avoided by the Asian rubber plantations where transplanted Amazonian rubber trees faced no such natural predators. The mostly indigenous workers on the plantations, given unfamiliar food such as hamburgers and forced to live in American-style housing, disliked the way they were treated — they had to wear ID badges, and to work midday hours under the tropical sun — and would often refuse to work. In 1930, the native workers revolted against the managers, many of whom fled into the jungle for a few days until the Brazilian Army arrived and the revolt ended.
Ford forbade alcohol and tobacco within the town, including inside the workers' own homes. The inhabitants circumvented this prohibition by paddling out to merchant riverboats moored beyond town jurisdiction and a settlement was established five miles upstream on the "Island of Innocence" with bars, nightclubs and brothels.

Ford tried again, relocating downstream to Belterra where better weather conditions to grow rubber existed, but by 1945, synthetic rubber was developed, dampening the worldwide demand for natural rubber. Ford's investment opportunity dried up overnight without producing any rubber for Ford's tires, making Fordlândia a total disaster. In 1945, his grandson Henry Ford II sold it for a loss of over $20 million. Despite repeated invitations from residents and periodic promises to do so, Henry Ford never actually visited his ill-fated jungle city.