December 10, 2007
Lawrence Van Gelder's "Arts, Briefly" item in today's New York Times seemed to eat my brain a la "The Manchurian Candidate": I found myself at Amazon, having just ordered "Abba's Greatest Hits," before I realized what I'd done.
Here's the Times' mention.
- Abba Museum Planned
A museum dedicated to the Swedish disco group Abba is to open in Stockholm in June 2009, Agence France-Presse reported. The museum, a short walk from the city center in a waterfront heritage site that was once a customs hall, will fill three floors and more than 43,000 square feet. Initiators of the project said all four members of Abba — Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad — have given their backing to the museum and will provide clothing, instruments and music. Despite breaking up a quarter of a century ago, Abba still sells two million to three million albums a year.
Personal Parking Curb
Perhaps you know someone who sometimes has difficulty knowing where to stop when parking.
Perhaps you know someone who has a garage that shows the results.
Perhaps you're both.
This post's for you.
From the website:
- Heavy-Duty Parking Curb
Added reassurance when parking in a tight, confined space.
With its bright yellow striping and reflective glass beading, it guides you in safely.
The hefty nine-pound weight will keep it in place and you'll know when you've gone far enough.
Use it in the garage or in your driveway.
Made from recycled tires.
22" x 4" x 6".
Helpful Hints from joeeze: Levitating* Christmas Tree
This came in back in June from my Iceland correspondent Anna Rögnvaldsdóttir as a comment on my Levitating Lamp post of June 12 but since at the time it seemed a bit early even for me to start thinking about Christmas I tabled it until today.
- Levitating Christmas Tree
For years I've had levitating Christmas trees. They conveniently hover about 3-5 inches from the ground so all I have to do is place a large water-filled earthenware bowl on the floor and slide it under the tree so the sawn-off end is suspended in water. Keeping an eye on the water level and replenishing it is simple and easy.
Thing is, these Christmas tree contraptions (and the whole business of trying to fix things so that the tree stands straight) used to drive me to the brink of insanity — which doesn't do much for the hollyday spirit. Then I hit upon the simplest solution imaginable: just suspend the f***ing tree from the ceiling. All that's needed is a small metal hook in the ceiling.
If you use transparent fishing line, it really will appear to be levitating.
*As in "illusion of"
Rotoflexion Massaging Backpack
James Ferguson featured it in his "Pat Pending" feature in the December 7, 2007 Financial Times "How To Spend It" magazine.
Mark Zuckerberg gives a lesson
He may be only 23 and a Harvard dropout but he knows far more about how to run a multibillion dollar business than most of Harvard's proud MBAs ever will.
His quick reversal and apology for his company's wrong-headed policies — most recently Beacon — show a maturity and wisdom that the arrogant grand panjandrums running most big corporations will never be capable of.
Very cool guy.
TigerTaco — 'Just bend down a box flap and slide on a taco'
As one busy professional to another, I salute him: Thanks, Chris!
But I digress.
From the TigerTaco website:
TigerTacos make shipping and moving boxes easier.
You just fold down a flap and slide on a TigerTaco; in seconds, a box is just a box; with the flaps out of the way, you get more space, convenience, and less hassle — all just because you were clever and smart enough to get TigerTacos.
Below, Chris stars in a video which might be called "Hold That Tiger."
Four plastic TigerTacos (like the one below)
For those who are satisfied with nothing but the best, there's the steel TigerTaco (below),
each one made from "One full pound of 20-gauge cold-rolled steel, laser-cut, powder-coated, baked to 400° and hand-finished by Chris and George in the the United States of America."
What, not signed by Chris and/or George?
At that price you'd think they might deign to put a Sharpie squiggle or two on them.
But I digress yet again.
Four for $18.95.
Herodotus — Multiple perspectives make him the world's first Cubist historian
My only regret after reading Edward Rothstein's "Connections" column about Herodotus and a new annotated translation of "The Histories" in today's New York Times was that I won't begin the book until tomorrow, when it will arrive courtesy of Amazon Prime One-Day Shipping.
I got more and more excited reading Rothstein's appreciation of Herodotus, at the same time wondering how it was that I haven't ever read any of his work.
One omission remedied as of mañana, that.
Here's the Times piece.
- Herodotus Now: ‘Omnivorous Curiosity’ and Double Vision
Egypt, Herodotus tells us in “The Histories,” is a land with “more marvels and monuments that defy description than any other.” Not only is the Nile unlike any other river in the world, overflowing its banks in summer not in the early spring, but Egypt’s inhabitants also have “manners and customs” that in most ways are “completely opposite to those of other peoples.” Women go to the marketplace to sell goods, while men stay home to weave cloth; men carry loads on their heads, while women bear them on their shoulders; and “women urinate standing up, men sitting down.”
Not a single aspect of life in fifth century B.C., from the most intimate to the most ceremonial, seems to have escaped Herodotus’ gaze. And since he traveled through much of the known world, he had many things to say about manners and customs, gathering oral histories and anecdotes about long-lost tribes, assessing their accuracy and accounting for varied fates.
There is good reason for Herodotus being called the father of history. Before him we have no records of any seemingly dispassionate observer doing anything similar.
But that alone would not explain why Herodotus is still so imposing a figure, or why the publication of “The Landmark Herodotus” (Pantheon) — which includes a new translation by Andrea L. Purvis, and extensive annotation by scholars — is such a worthy occasion for celebrating Herodotus’ contemporary importance.
It may even be that this book makes Herodotus seem less monumental than he appears in other editions, as mystery is stripped away from the book’s exotic allusions and geography. Maps — 127 of them — outline Herodotus’ world; even the text is clearly mapped out, with wide margins offering summaries of each paragraph and identifying the time period.
The headings, index and footnotes let you know precisely where you are in this notoriously winding narrative, providing a set of landmarks far more detailed than anything Herodotus could have found during his tours. The appendices, nonjargony bits of scholarship by various authors, come at Herodotus from as many perspectives as he brings to his inquiries: Herodotus and Athenian government, Herodotus and tyranny, Herodotus and the poets. Photographs of artifacts and statues, most as little worn by the intervening millenniums as Herodotus’ conversational prose, help make history’s abstractions concrete. And the probing introduction by Rosalind Thomas increases readers’ knowledge and curiosity.
The project also seems suited to its subject. This book, like “The Landmark Thucydides” (1996), which sold an astonishing 30,000 copies in hardcover and more than 40,000 in paper, was conceived and edited by Robert B. Strassler. Mr. Strassler made his fortune in the oil business, then joined the board of what is now Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Mass., and returned to a passion for Greek history that he first explored as a Harvard undergraduate.
He recruited scholars to work with him on these textual “landmarks”; a volume on Xenophon is next. I defer to classicists for more elaborate judgments, but the impression is not one of grand theories but of transparency and clarity.
In his preface Mr. Strassler refers to the “omnivorous curiosity” of Herodotus, and that seems right. Herodotus’ monumental character is strangely ordinary, derived not from linguistic or intellectual fireworks but from his immersion in human voices telling multiple stories, each with its differing justifications. He offers assessments but also expects the reader to draw conclusions.
Firsthand observation mixes with hearsay, genre tales with genealogies, encyclopedic perspectives with small details. There are legends (the musician Arion saved from drowning by riding the back of a dolphin) and accounts of tyranny (a subordinate is cruelly fed the cooked carcass of his son). There are examples of military subterfuge (a slave’s head is tattooed with a secret message hidden by growing hair) and allusions to oracles (go to war against Persia, King Croesus was told, and a great empire will fall — as it did: his own).
It is not just as a collector of detail that Herodotus amazes. Those details feed into one strong current, exploring the causes of the great Persian wars (480-479 B.C.), in which Greek forces defeated Persia, ushering in the era of classical Greece. But at this moment of triumph Herodotus, with his encyclopedic tale of the rise and fall of Persia, Greece’s greatest rival, wasn’t just a Greek telling Greeks what they wanted to hear. He wasn’t like Virgil, who sang the glories of Rome’s founding to a Caesar. Herodotus, writing when the war was still recent memory, was telling Greeks about the kind of world they were inheriting, its riches and peculiarities and dangers.
This made him not just the father of history, as Cicero called him, but the father of a particular kind of history, which tries to reconcile and examine, embodying in its elaborate storytelling, assessments and judgments that anticipate the Western tradition of scientific inquiry. The book’s multiple perspectives offer an early incarnation of multicultural sensibilities. Herodotus, after all, was born not in the heart of ancient Greece, but in Halicarnassus, which Ms. Thomas’s introduction says was “on the edge of both Athenian and Persian empires,” inspiring a double vision.
Herodotus hits his Greek readers at the heart of their convictions from the start, when he looks at how abductions of women have led to wars, effectively shrinking the mythically momentous Trojan War into a skirmish. And he mocks the supposedly savvy Athenians for their “silliness” in falling for a tyrant who dressed a six-foot-tall woman like the goddess Athena to herald his ascendancy. This may be one reason that Herodotus was also called the father of lies: He often hit too close to home. Even 500 years after Herodotus’ death Plutarch was disgusted by how Herodotus seemed to give the barbarians equal sway with the Greeks.
But Herodotus’ track record has been hailed by historians. And this year his much derided suggestion that the ancient Etruscans (who lived in what is now Italy) actually migrated from the Near East was confirmed by DNA analysis.
In any case his anecdotes reveal again and again the uncertainties of human life. That must have helped him preserve that double vision. Nothing stays the same; no triumph is eternal, he warns.
But by the time you reach the accounts of the Persian war, the accumulated effect is not of arbitrary events, in which the Greeks and Persians are forces clashing in darkness. Instead two world views collide: the Western and Eastern. They may not represent absolute virtue and absolute evil; Herodotus is too savvy about the peculiarities of each realm. But Persia’s heritage of tyranny — untempered by reflection — means that its huge army and empire composed of scores of differing cultures are never really bound together by anything but fear. Tyranny has its frailties.
In Greece, though another diverse world was taking shape under the force of a set of ideas that would set the course of the West for millenniums. In that sense Herodotus’ book, with its celebration of humanity, its curiosity about difference, its ambitious pursuit of the truth and its homage to imagination and reason, is not just chronicling Greece’s triumph. It is a demonstration of it.
If Apple made microwaves...
... they'd have one button that said "Add minute."
The way it should be.
Who can be bothered with the keypad with all those numbers and crazy instructions?
When you're ready to hit the microwave you're not in the mood for linear algebra or the culinary equivalent — you just want it hot, fast and easy.
Which is why the only button I ever use is the one that says "Minute Plus," repeatedly hammering it until I get an amount of time that's close enough.
Hey — it's not computer science....
In the meantime there's this
Microwave Apple Cooker.
From the website:
- Microwave Apple Cooker
It doesn't take hours to produce baked apples any more.
Fill the apple's centre with raisins, sultanas, nuts or muesli and in 3-5 minutes you'll have a dessert to be proud of.
Two for £4.59.