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February 4, 2005

The Big Showdown: Brady vs McNabb


Above, the best ad related to the upcoming Super Bowl.


A full page in today's USA Today, which made me smile from ear to ear when I opened the page to it.

I just love those uniforms.

"The Big Showdown's" $1 million online sweepstakes is irrelevant: they'll sell all the candy they ever dreamed of as a result of this sensational ad.



February 4, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Twilight of the Yobs'


The Economist's January 8 issue had a great story about the use of classical music for social control.

In the U.S., occasionally a 7-11 owner, dismayed by who and what's scattered around his store's parking lot, will play classical music and the crowd soon finds another, less aurally-hostile place.

In Britain, the "classical solution" is becoming more and more a mainstream phenomenon.

Grocery stores, underground stations, all manner of establishments are turning in desperation to the old "Ludwig van."

The underground has found that the most effective crime and loitering deterrents are anything sung by Pavarotti or written by Mozart.


Here's the story.

    Twilight of the Yobs

    How classical music helps keep order

    The question of how to control yobbish behaviour troubles many.

    One increasingly popular solution is classical music, which is apparently painful to teenage ears.

    Co-op, a chain of grocery stores, is experimenting with playing classical music outside its shops, to stop youths from hanging around and intimidating customers.

    It seems to work well. Staff have a remote control and "can turn the music on if there's a situation developing and they need to disperse people," says Steve Broughton of Co-op.

    The most extensive use of aural policing so far, though, has been in underground stations.

    Six stops on the Tyneside Metro currently pump out Haydn and Mozart to deter vandals and loiterers, and the scheme has been so successful that it has spawned imitators.

    After a pilot at Elm Park station on the London Underground, classical music now fills 30 other stations on the network.

    The most effective deterrents, according to a spokesman for Transport for London, are anything sung by Pavarotti or written by Mozart.

    When selecting a record to drive people away, the key factor, according to Adrian North, a psychologist at Leicester University who researches links between music and behaviour, is its unfamiliarity.

    When the targets are unused to strings and woodwind, Mozart will be sufficient.

    But for the more musically literate vandal, an atonal barrage probably works better.

    Mr. North tried tormenting Leicester's students with what he describes as “computer-game music” in the union bar.

    It cleared the place.

    If, however, the aim is not to disperse people but to calm them down, anything unfamiliar or challenging is probably best avoided.

    At the Royal Bolton Hospital, staff have begun playing classical music in the accident and emergency (A&E) ward, as well as in the eye ward and the main reception area.

    Janet Hackin, a matron in the A&E ward, says that patients do appear calmer, "rather than running around anxious and bleeding all over the place."

    But classical music might not have much effect on the consequences of more liberal licensing laws.


    "If they're stone drunk and past it then it doesn't have much effect," confirms Ms. Hackin.

February 4, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Star-nosed mole - World's fastest-eating mammal


Yesterday's Nature magazine contained a report on the blindingly-fast eating habits of the star-nosed mole (above).

The marsh-dwelling burrower can detect, identify and ingest its small prey (usually insect larvae or earthworms) in an average of 227 milliseconds (less than a quarter of a second).

By comparison, it takes a person about 650 milliseconds to brake after seeing a traffic light turn red.

The secret to the mammal's foraging ability is the star-shaped set of 22 appendages that ring its nose, helping it feel around in the dark for prey.

Flexible fingers and tweezer-like incisors also help.

Vanderbilt University biologists Kenneth Catania and Fiona Remple captured the moles' feeding behavior with a high-speed video camera.

The moles eat so fast that they frequently make mistakes, skipping over edible food only to return later for a second pass.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: you probably want to see the movies, don't you?

OK then: here they are.

They're spectacularly eerie.

Wait till James Cameron gets a look - he'll probably make them the stars of his next movie.

[via Michelle Healy and USA Today]

February 4, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Raytek MT4U MiniTemp No-Contact Thermometer with Laser Sighting


I was looking earlier today for a no-contact thermometer for the kitchen.

My quest started when I was ready to work with a free sample of ShapeLock that arrived a while back.


The instructions said to heat water containing the ShapeLock pellets to 150°.


But what if you don't cook much beyond your microwave, and don't have a kitchen thermometer?

I used to have a meat thermometer but that disappeared and anyway I don't think it's meant to measure how hot a pot of water is.

So I went all over the virtual place, Kitchen.com and Cooks.com and suchlike, but could not find a no-touch thermometer.


Then the UPS guy arrived with my Knipex Cobra pliers.


Wow, are they beautiful. But I digress.

I looked through the catalog from Tooltopia that came with the pliers and lo and behold, there on page 73 were not one but seven no-contact infrared thermometers, ranging in price from $57.33 to $313.18.

Talk about finding the mother lode.

The catalog's aimed at people in the automotive repair business: these thermometers are used by auto technicians to measure the temperature of engine blocks and suchlike.

That's why the most expensive one goes up to 1100°F.

I got news: if things in my kitchen get that hot, I'll be long since outa there.


I settled on the spiffy Raytek ($71.84) pictured at the beginning of this post.

It's got a backlit display in Celsius or Fahrenheit, measures from 0° to 500°F (18°–260°C), and has a laser pointer to show just where it's measuring.

Way cool.

Or hot.


Once it arrives I'll get down to some serious ShapeLock experimentation.

February 4, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Anya Gallaccio - 'The Look of Things'


British sculptor Anya Gallaccio's new show, "The Look of Things," is up at the 16th-century Palazzo delle Papesse in Siena, Italy through May 1.

Michael Glover of The Financial Times reviewed the show for yesterday's paper.

He noted that the artist, who was short-listed for the Turner Prize in 2003, is showing new, site-specific work along with a selection of earlier pieces.


She works with the perishable and the ephemeral, using natural materials that will inevitably decay: she believes art is not about endurance but, rather, evanescence.

You can listen to a BBC interview with her here.

Note that the works illustrating this post are from earlier shows.

The Financial Times story follows.

    Gallaccio's Trees of Life

    Nature meets artifice: on entering the courtyard of the 16th-century Palazzo delle Papesse in Siena, we are confronted by a tree.


    Its branches are bereft of leaves and it stands on the floor, rather lightly, its branches heavy with apples, threaded up the branches like beads along a string.

    This is a bronze tree, patinated to simulate wood, and the rather gnarled and nutty-looking apples are ceramic.

    Welcome to the unnatural natural world of Anya Gallaccio.

    Gallaccio, a contender for the Turner Prize a couple of years ago, is showing new, site-specific work and a selection of earlier pieces.

    An ancient palazzo such as this one is a difficult site for a sculptor-cum-installation artist such as her, as we see when we reach the second floor.


    For site-specific works to succeed they need to work with the rhythms of the building, and this building is not an architecturally neutral space.

    Created at the end of the 15th century as the residence of the sister of Pope Pius II, it craves attention in its own right.

    That makes it tricky for any artist accustomed to showing in a white cube or a purpose-built exhibition space.

    The rhythms of the suite of rooms where Gallaccio's works are being exhibited vary in size, from small to expansive; there is no easy flow-through; and their atmosphere changes with the architectural detail, from floor (sometimes marble, sometimes wood) to ceiling (from coffered to barrel-vaulted).

    Some rooms feel domestic, others petit- bourgeois.

    How does Gallaccio engage with such problems?

    One of the works here, "Days that cannot bring you near," consists of spilling clods of raw Sienese earth brought in from the fields and organised in a rough grid in four separate rooms.


    There are echoes of classic minimalism here, especially the austere work of Carl Andre, but because the rooms cut up the work into four separate segments, we cannot experience the entire piece extendedly.

    Gallaccio's works often change in the showing because they are created from organic matter.

    These clods of rich, brown Sienese soil (burnt Sienna, in fact) will gradually collapse into heaps of dust.

    Art, proclaims Gallaccio, is not about endurance; it is about evanescence.

    It is more about the quick passage from life to death than the slow eternity of art.

    In another room, Gallaccio is exhibiting a cluster of huge sculptural forms collectively entitled "Out of the Blue". Some are lying on the floor; others stand tall.

    These pieces are made from rolls of recycled cloth, dyed brilliant blues and reds or blue slashed with red.

    These pieces contradict our expectations about sculpture: though massive in length and girth, they are undeniably fragile, liable to change.


    And, once again, the fact that the sculptures consist of nothing more than the formal presentation of wrapped rolls of matter takes us back to Carl Andre and that moment when Frank Stella pointed to the unworked back of a piece whose front he had been carving, and said: "That's sculpture too."

    The most successful piece in the show - insofar as Gallaccio seems at last to have solved the problem of architecture vs art - is the delightful "Falling from Grace", which consists of strings strung vertically from floor to ceiling on to which apples have been threaded - Tuscan apples, we assume and hope.

    This piece, too, has to negotiate its way through several rooms divided by walls, but the whole thing has been set at a diagonal so that when we stand in the corridor between the rooms that it occupies, we can see how it appears to swim and cut through the walls like some ghostly, harmless blade.


    This time the installation seems to have swept aside the problems of its placing, with some easy gesture of spatial mastery.

February 4, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm — by Carl Phillips


So that each
is its own, now—each a fallen, blond stillness.
Closer, above them,
the damselflies pass as they would over water,
if the fruit were water,
or as bees would, if they weren't
somewhere else, had the fruit found
already a point more steep
in rot, as soon it must, if
none shall lift it from the grass whose damp only
softens further those parts where flesh
goes soft.

There are those
whom no amount of patience looks likely
to improve ever,
I always said, meaning
gift is random,
assigned here,
here withheld—almost always
as it's turned out: how your hands clear
easily the wreckage;
how you stand—like a building for a time condemned,
then deemed historic. Yes. You
will be saved.



February 4, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



From xs couture comes this stylish drink holder.

"The fur provides a luxurious sensual experience, indicating one's distinguished refinement while enjoying their to–go latte."

Material: fur, leather stripping and suede lining.

But wait: at the bottom of the website it says,

NOTE: The Furcozie is constructed with faux fur. xs couture does not endorse, or utilize, real fur in any product.


Me too.

But this time I'm smart enough to give you the email address for Shannyn Rivera and Will Ayers, the creative forces behind xs couture: info@xscouture.com

Ask me once, I go find it.

Ask me twice - I tell you where to find it.

Ask me a third time... are you sure you want to know?

Meret Oppenheim,


call your studio: your sequel is ready.

February 4, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Uchronia - Alternate History


Uchronia.com is a website lovingly assembled by Robert B. Schmunk.


It's a superb annotated bibliography of over 2,500 novels, stories, essays and


other printed material involving the "what ifs" of history.


I for one am impressed: every single book I've read in this genre is on his list, which he began in 1991.



February 4, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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