Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Refreshing Olympic Spirit

John Shuster:
U.S. curling captain John Shuster stuck out his tongue in the middle of a match and uttered for all to hear on television at home, "I hate this stupid game."

That's the Washington Post. The NY Post quotes him differently:

"I'm sick of this stupid game" Shuster said after the eighth end and stuck his tongue out.

I'm pretty sure the Washington Post is wrong on this. Figures.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

DrawMyTweets is drawing Tweets, such as this one: "My friend Dave the Moose was just named North American Moose Lawyer of the Year! He's a sweet guy and a terrific moose lawyer."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Innocent Shams

I'm generally not a huge fan of the Pakistani army, but this (retired) Colonel Innocent Shams seems like a worthy person.

Abseiling down a church tower.

Finding a rare and precious artifact.

If the Pakistani Army keeps arresting Taliban leaders in Pakistan, with or without outside help, I'll be even more well disposed to them. Even if they are not living in the UK and (presumably) Anglican.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Winter Sports

For someone who doesn't appreciate sports, I've been enjoying my share of the Winter Olympics on US television via NBC. Some tangential thoughts.

1) Identify the following flags (note: some may be flipped, rotated, fabricated, or unkempt):

[* See KEY to flags* below.]

2) Speaking of flags, a high proportion of flags at the Winter games bear crosses (Georgia's has five). Very few winter medal-winners' flags feature other designs such as the crescent, Star of David, or Wheel of Dharma. Deduction: Torture devices of the ancient Romans are important to nations interested in winter sports.

3) Figure skaters (or perhaps judges) seem to think that the music best suited to skating was composed in late 19th Century Russia. (It's not the only era represented, but it's the most likely one.) I'd like to see skating to something by Steve Reich--honestly. Clapping or Drumming or Piano Phase or, if worse comes to worse, Music for 18 Musicians:

4) I enjoy curling, but today I heard a commentator talk about the tremendous conditioning of the curling competitors. Don't bullshit a bullshitter, NBC.

5) In the USA, the tension between physical exuberance versus marketing, cheap myth-making, branding, jingoism, and mush is painful. Someday maybe we'll be able to watch the events we want to watch and not have them packaged by bloodless cynics.

[* KEY to flags: the point of this exercise is that a lot of flags are similar. That's the key.]

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Habitina -- For Breakfast!

Habitina was the catchy name for a proprietary concoction, available in USA in the early 1900s, meant to cure opium and morphine addicts. Here's the formula:

With this stuff around, who would need to buy opiates ?

A testimonial (from a trial, not an advertisement):

Mr. W. J. H., Missouri, testified that he purchased Habitina to cure himself of the morphln habit. He Increased from a bottle a week to a bottle a day, and at last ordered six bottles at a time, which the company always sent without question.
Source: Nostrums and quackery , Ed. 2, 1912, by the American Medical Association. Their fuller story about Habitina and its purveyors is most interesting, as are many other parts of this book -- and often entertaining, too. I suppose if I knew more about the history of the AMA fighting other types of medical practitioners, it would be even more illuminating.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hypnotic -- or worse

Advertisement found in the Eclectic medical gleaner, Vol 2. 1906.

Let's see. Chloral Hydrate and Cannabis and hyoscyamine in one easy-to-abuse elixir. Wonder how many turn-of-the-century Michael Jacksons died from that?

Or Mickey Finns?

Bromidia was still for sale in 1922, when the Journal of the American Medical Association published the case report ACUTE DELIRIUM APPARENTLY DUE TO BROMIDIA POISONING. It begins:

Mrs. R. B., aged 32, white, actress, admitted to the service of Dr. M. H. Bochroch in the psychopathic wards of the Philadelphia General Hospital, June 5, 1922, was unconscious, May 30, when her husband arrived home in the evening. In about ten minutes she revived, and talked rationally. That night she became delirious and talked at random, but had no fever. The next day she imagined that she was receiving electric shocks; she heard voices saying bad things about her, and thought that people were persecuting her father, and also trying to kill her with radio. No visual hallucinations were present. The history was unimportant until December, 1920, when the patient developed a pelvic inflammatory condition. At this time a physician prescribed Bromidia for insomnia. The patient took from one-half to 1 ounce daily of her own accord for nervousness, sleeplessness and pain for eighteen months.
Not sure it's worth paying for the rest of that article, but -- wow.

UPDATE: Another Google Book from the era [Nostrums and quackery from the AMA] lists the ingredients as

Chloral hydrate 15 grains
Potassium bromid 15 grains
Ext. cannabis indica 1/8 grain
hyoscyamus 1/8grain

I'd say Mrs. R. B. wasn't the only delirium sufferer due to this concoction. Libertarians take note: you are denied the opportunity to indulge yourself with Bromidia. Revolt!

Note to Self

Senator Evan Bayh may try to run for something else in the future. The manner in which he announced his retirement yesterday -- making it maximally likely a Republican will replace him -- should be recalled if he ever does so.

The guy is a policy lightweight, none-too-bright, unprincipled, cowardly and generally worthless. The only thing I recall that he's fought for is making it easier for Paris Hilton to inherit more money. Despite this, he bizarrely considers himself a deficit hawk.

If he cashes in and then tries to return to public life, I'll have these notes to refer to.

Oh -- and he's an asshole.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Early Woody Allen 1952-1971

Early Woody Allen: At WFMU's Beware of the Blog,

Friday, February 12, 2010

Candide 250

Voltaire's Candide was published 250 years ago. There's a lot of genuinely funny stuff today that isn't as funny as that book.
“Well, my dear Pangloss,” said Candide to him, “when you were hanged, dissected, whipped, and tugging at the oar, did you continue to think that everything in this world happens for the best?” “I have always abided by my first opinion,” answered Pangloss; “for, after all, I am a philosopher, and it would not become me to retract my sentiments; especially as Leibnitz could not be in the wrong: and that pre-established harmony is the finest thing in the world, as well as a plenum and the materia subtilis.
New York Public Library has exhibits on line (including the 2 minute Candide) and in the Library. [I'd love to see that Fame and Fancy: or Voltaire Improved pseudonymously published in Boston, 1826.]

French-language etexts are available, as are multiple English ones, too. And Kindle. And paper books.

And don't forget Bernstein's charming operetta (with lyrics by a pretty imposing crowd: James Agee, Dorothy Parker, John Latouche, Richard Wilbur, and Lillian Hellman).

Of course, that Lisbon earthquake happened just so Voltaire could get a book out of it. All for the best.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hey, it's That Guy!

A fine compendium of many well known (make what well seen) character actors. Not sure why Harry Dean Stanton isn't there -- but it's still a stellar list.

Via Roger Ebert.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Meaningless Juxtaposition

Kim statue image from The Telegraph.
Morecambe statue image from Panoramio.

Saw a photo of the Kim Jong-Il statue and it reminded me of the statue of Eric Morecambe.

If only our world had more despots and fewer beloved comedians. Or perhaps a combo.
Kim Jong-Morecambe in bronze by Riffle.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Too Many Elections

Scott Cohen won the Democratic Party slot for Illinois Lieutenant Governor thanks to spending $2 million and to a large field that split the vote in that primary. There was little coverage of his background before the primary.

As it turns out he has what is politely referred to as a checkered past. He apparently raped his ex-wife. Earlier he lived with a prostitute and slashed her with a knife: the charges were dropped because she didn't show up in court. He claims he didn't know she was a prostitute but thought she was a "massage therapist," which is pretty funny because massage therapists require licensure in Illinois and I have a feeling his paramour didn't hold one.

He faces questions about an incredible array of sleazy dealings in this video, and is not only a moral leper but is also very stupid.

The video is stunning.

I am myself my own fever and pain

I attempt from Love's sickness to fly in vain,
Since I am myself my own fever and pain.

No more now, fond heart, with pride no more swell,
Thou canst not raise forces enough to rebel.
I attempt from Love's sickness to fly in vain,
Since I am myself my own fever and pain.

For Love has more power and less mercy than fate,
To make us seek ruin and love those that hate.
I attempt from Love's sickness to fly in vain,
Since I am myself my own fever and pain.
Exploring minor and major tendrils, this smart ca. 1695 setting by Purcell of an evocative John Dryden idea says far more than it should. Young people, listen up!

Emma Kirkby wasn't really a Capital S Singer when she started performing early music. I got the impression she was a very talented amateur who got mixed up with The Taverner Choir and the Consort of Musicke back when "period performance" was looked down upon. She worked hard, exploited her musicality and developed her brilliant voice, and she made this blissful recording and many more.

One of the many characteristics that lured me to early music recordings was the very light (often for instrumentalists, non-existent) vibrato. I hope I never have to listen to vocal wobble again.

If you don't have Kirkby and others singing Abbess Hildegard's "A Feather on the Breath of God" to play on days that require it, you are losing out.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Criterion Out of Print Sale

Criterion Out of Print Sale

Criterion Collection does generally fantastic releases of movies -- excellent prints transferred with great care. I've never seen the movies they release look better than in their editions. They try to keep everything in print, too. Unfortunately it appears that some of the licenses for their great releases are being forcibly transferred and they will have to cut some movies from their catalog. I am particuarly fond of Coup de torchon, based on a pulp novel by weirdo Jim Thompson, but moved from the US West to West Africa by Tavernier; Peeping Tom, a good movie which probably ruined Michael Powell's career; and of course their "Spine Number One,"the masterful Grand Illusion by Renoir.

Criterion really cares about movies: sorry to see them lose these. Thanks to them for notifying viewers and cutting prices on these titles.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Communication Gap

I studied immortal HeLa cells * at university. I knew there was a mystery about their origin, but had no idea anyone involved thought something like this:
We’ve got your wife. She’s alive in a laboratory. We’ve been doing research on her for the last 25 years. And now we have to test your kids to see if they have cancer.
Amazing story. Thanks to Rebecca Skloot for documenting this.

* "Immortal cells" is a misnomer. The cells are mortal, but the cell line appears not to be.
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