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December 6, 2008

"My first encounter with the piano came from a Tom and Jerry cartoon, where Tom plays Lizst's 'Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2'" — Lang Lang

The 26-year-old Chinese pianist was quoted thus by Claire Wrathall in an interview in today's Financial Times "How To Spend It" magazine.

No, you can't read the interview for yourself 'cause it's not online — at least, not where my crack research team can find it to provide you with a direct link.

So you'll just have to take my word for it, won't you?

Who you gonna believe, anyway — me, or your lying ears?

Up top, the cartoon that launched Lang Lang's career.

Though I must have seen it when I was a boy, I can't have enjoyed it any more than I did just now — sheer brilliance.

FunFact: "... there are 40 million children learning the piano in China now," according to Lang Lang.

He added, "It's incredible. Scary...."


Lang Lang performs Lizst's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" at London's Royal Albert Hall during the Proms 2008 season.

December 6, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

R2-D2 Aquarium


Now here's a strange mashup.

If only the fish were from Tatooine.

Yo, joe — there are no fish on Tatooine.

Never mind.

From the website:

    R2-D2 Aquarium

    Modeled after the most well-known astromech droid in the galaxy, this R2-D2 holds a 1-3/4-gallon aquarium tank in his central compartment, ideal for a small freshwater family of goldfish, gouramis, or tetras.

    The domed head rotates with any vocal command you issue and he utters his familiar "bleeps" from the "Star Wars" movies.

    His radar eye houses the eyepiece to a built-in periscope that provides an intimate view of the aquatic activity below, allowing you to watch your charges swim towards the food you've dropped in from the dome's removable feeding door.

    Includes filter and overhead LED tank lights that randomly morph between red, blue, and green (lights can be disabled).

    Includes a two-sided waterproofed cardboard insert depicting scenes from the movie as a background.

    30"H x 16"W x 16"L.

    Plugs into AC.


$129.95 (fish —€” wherever they're from —€” not included).

December 6, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The glory that was Greece


Above, a 475 B.C. Greek red-figure terracotta rhyton [ancient Greek drinking horn], 20cm (8.5") long, in the shape of a donkey's head, one of 14 artifacts to be returned to Italy by the Cleveland Museum of Art after long negotiations.

December 6, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tetris IceBlox — 'The challenge arises as you try to get the pieces to fit together in your glass before they thaw'


Created by Czech designer Martin Zampach.


"Make some ice, play the game."


From a website:

Tetris IceBlox


Water, H2O, a simple everyday necessity; formless, clear and a little wet but a drop in temperature and its expansion of 9.6% puts a different slant on this.


This feat of physics alone can be further enhanced when combined with a touch of retro, as there's no school like the old school you may well find yourself humming that 1980's iconic game theme tune as you fill it with water and place it in the freezer.


The challenge arises as you try to get the pieces to fit together in your glass before they thaw. If you need more time to work with these you can always use the mould to produce mini-cakes, biscuits or add some color with jello as it is made from 100% food-grade silicone.

Tray dimensions: 14cm x 23.5cm x 2cm (5.5" x 9.2" x 0.8").


Blue, Green or Orange.



Official ice cube tray of the Ned Vizzini fan club.

December 6, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

MajorLeagueModels.com — It's not what you think


You've come to the wrong place, buster, if you think I'm going there.

From the website:

    Major League Models

    Major League Models creates the world's finest "made-to-order" replicas of your favorite ballparks. Our incredible scale sizes yield museum grade showpieces that consistently turn heads and bring favorite memories to the foreground.


Up top, designer Steve Wolf with his Fenway Park.

How much?



Obviously, size matters.

Plan on $15,000 to $25,000 for B) above.

His 49-square-foot model of Yankee Stadium as it was in 1961 (the year Roger Maris hit 61 homers and the Yankees beat the Cincinnati Reds in five games to win the World Series), featuring 64,000 individual seats, working lights, American flags, a Longines clock and myriad other period details, runs $100,000.

You could look it up.

[via Keith Olbermann]

December 6, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ceramic Pie Weights


From the website:

    Ceramic Pie Weights

    Better than beans and more hygienic than metal pie chains, our small round ceramic weights are a great way to keep all your pastry shells bubble- and shrink-free.

    Just cover a pierced, unbaked shell with cooking paper and fill with the pie weights before baking to prevent uneven rising.

    Remove weights after baking, wash and store them in their container for reuse.


    • Light, even weight distribution for bubble-free pie crusts without shrinkage

    • More durable than beans, more hygienic than metal pie chains

    • Ceramic design for quick, even conduction of heat

    • Reusable weights in convenient storage container

    • Oven-safe


December 6, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Gilbert Kaplan's One-Trick Pony: Mahler's Second Symphony


Like Isaiah Berlin's hedgehog, Gilbert Kaplan (above) knows one thing.

In Kaplan's case, it's Mahler's second symphony.

And, like the proverbial hedgehog, he knows it very, very well.

How well?

Long story short: an economist by training, Kaplan has over four decades become, in the eyes of many music professionals, the world's foremost conductor and interpreter of Mahler's overwhelmingly complex and difficult piece.

Details of his rise are contained in the Economist's November 27, 2008 article, which follows.

    Desperately seeking Mahler

    He conducts just one symphony, Mahler’s second. But Gilbert Kaplan has radically changed the way Mahler is perceived, both by audiences and other musicians

    One April Saturday in 1965, an economist at the American Stock Exchange was taken by a friend to an orchestral rehearsal at Carnegie Hall. He watched impassively as Leopold Stokowski, the aged Hollywood maestro who conducted “Fantasia”, stop-started Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.2 in C minor all afternoon. The economist thought little of it until later that night, when, sleeplessly, he tossed and turned, haunted by the music he had heard. Next morning he bought a ticket and at the concert “just found myself sobbing, absolutely hysterical”.

    The young man was about to launch a publishing business and, with it, to define an occupation. With $100,000 borrowed from Gerald Bronfman, a whisky magnate, and $50,000 from banks, friends and his own savings, Gilbert Kaplan, 24 years old, founded Institutional Investor, a monthly magazine that brought together bankers, analysts and money managers. It quickly became an essential means of communication for financiers, attracting 150,000 subscribers in 140 countries. Before the 1960s were over Mr Kaplan was a millionaire and on first-name terms with finance ministers and international bankers.

    But Mahler’s symphony would not let him rest. Over the next few years he attended every performance within reach, met his future wife in the adjacent seat at London’s Royal Festival Hall and, as the obsession intensified, took 18 months off work to study the score and discuss it with such leading interpreters as Leonard Bernstein, Sir Georg Solti and Leonard Slatkin. In September 1982, after an International Monetary Fund summit, he put his reputation on the line by conducting the American Symphony Orchestra in a private performance for financiers and politicians at the Lincoln Centre. A former British prime minister, Sir Edward Heath, himself a spare-time conductor, called it “a very remarkable feat”, but that was, if anything, an understatement.

    Mahler’s second symphony, known as the “Resurrection” for its rousing choral climax and theological theme, is one of the trickiest works in the repertory, a 90- minute epic involving a huge orchestra, chorus, two vocal soloists and an invisible offstage group of brass and percussion that seldom come in on cue. Discussing the purpose of life on earth, its unwieldiness regularly defeats the best efforts of famous maestros. For a rank amateur to accomplish a performance without breaking down in the vast finale was tantamount to a musical revolution. Privately Mr Kaplan now admits that if the musicians had failed to respond to his beat or the music fell apart (as it sometimes does in the best of hands), his fallback plan was to turn around to the audience and announce: “Ladies and gentlemen, dinner is served.”

    His feat, discreet though it was, reverberated throughout the music world. Over the following years Mr Kaplan was invited to conduct flagship ensembles at La Scala in Milan, in Munich and Vienna, to open the prestigious Salzburg festival and to give the work its Chinese premiere in Beijing. His recording, made in Cardiff in 1985, has outsold Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Claudio Abbado and all other contenders. On December 8th his odyssey reaches an emotional apotheosis when he conducts the work with the New York Philharmonic at the Lincoln Centre’s Avery Fisher Hall 100 years to the night after the composer, with the same orchestra, gave the piece its American premiere.

    Pleasing as this symmetry will be to the now-retired publisher, the results of his presumption are far-reaching. Mr Kaplan is acknowledged as the leading technical authority on Mahler’s second symphony, consulted by many professional maestros on matters of detail. He was the first to import television screens and cameras to communicate with the offstage band, a device now in common use.

    He owns the composer’s manuscript, acquiring it in 1984 from a Dutch foundation, publishing it in facsimile and obliging Vienna’s Universal Edition to print a corrected new score which is faithful to Mahler’s final amendments. The Vienna Philharmonic gave its first note-perfect performance under Mr Kaplan’s baton and he experienced his deepest satisfaction when the horn section, struggling in a recording session to accommodate the changes, played one passage 11 times in their earnestness to get it right.

    Mr Kaplan’s involvement with the second symphony has made it probably the most talked-about of Mahler’s works, diverting public attention away from the morbidity of his last great pieces. The long-standing image of Mahler as a composer of doom has been set aside, in part through Mr Kaplan’s advocacy.

    That an unskilled dreamer could teach professionals how to bring off a masterpiece is a fantasy that many share but few presume to achieve. Mr Kaplan, after his first performance, said: “I had a feeling that people in the audience were urging me to fulfil my dream. They were up with me on the podium that night, playing baseball for the Yankees, writing the book they never wrote or getting the girl they never got.”

    His has been a triumph of ambition over intractable matter, a fulfilment of Mahler’s faith in Arthur Schopenhauer’s idea that the human will can overcome any force on earth. Or, in more contemporary Obamist rhetoric, Yes We Can.




December 6, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

December 6, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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