June 30th, 2009

let me play the fool

I also read Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice recently. The following passages rang with truth…

From Act I scene 1:


You look not well, Signior Antonio;
You have too much respect upon the world:
They lose it that do buy it with much care:
Believe me, you are marvellously changed.


I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.


Let me play the fool:
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?
Sleep when he wakes and creep into the jaundice
By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio–
I love thee, and it is my love that speaks–
There are a sort of men whose visages
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond,
And do a wilful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be dress’d in an opinion
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit,
As who should say ‘I am Sir Oracle,
And when I ope my lips let no dog bark!’
O my Antonio, I do know of these
That therefore only are reputed wise
For saying nothing; when, I am very sure,
If they should speak, would almost damn those ears,
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers fools.

From Act I scene 2:


By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of
this great world.


You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in
the same abundance as your good fortunes are: and
yet, for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit
with too much as they that starve with nothing. It
is no mean happiness therefore, to be seated in the
mean: superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but
competency lives longer.


Good sentences and well pronounced.


They would be better, if well followed.


If to do were as easy as to know what were good to
do, chapels had been churches and poor men’s
cottages princes’ palaces. It is a good divine that
follows his own instructions: I can easier teach
twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the
twenty to follow mine own teaching. The brain may
devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps
o’er a cold decree: such a hare is madness the
youth, to skip o’er the meshes of good counsel the
cripple. But this reasoning is not in the fashion to
choose me a husband. O me, the word ‘choose!’ I may
neither choose whom I would nor refuse whom I
dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed
by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard,
Nerissa, that I cannot choose one nor refuse none?

June 30th, 2009

I’m sorry, America

I’ve only been here in the USA for a week and all America’s stars are dying left right and centre (or: center). David Carradine, Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays. I apologize for my deathly influence and will try my best to be more vital in the coming weeks.

I just read Steve Martin’s autobiography, Born Standing Up. A friend (Kasina) and I are watching Steve Martin movies. Trains Planes and Automobiles, we found, survived the years, whereas Father of The Bride seems to have quickly lost any semblance of credibility in a sludge of sentimentality and dated nineties humour. (However, the scenes in which Martin is alone and in his element remain strongest, e.g., when he loses it in the supermarket, after stressing out about the cost of his daughter’s planned wedding, demanding to have a number of hotdog buns that correlates with the number of hot dogs as they are packeted at the supermarket). Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with Michael Caine, remains a classic.

Today we’re going to watch The Jerk, which, according to Martin’s autobiography, apparently marks the stage of Martin’s career where he was turning his back on stand-up, in preference of the more social and collaborative art of filmmaking.

Little Shop of Horrors, in which Steve Martin has a supporting role as a maniacal dentist, was one of my favourite films when I was a kid. I watched it many many times. I hope it will still stand up.

Bowfinger, I have a sneaking suspicion, will not have aged well…Even though I enjoyed it when I saw it in my early teens… And, well, don’t talk to me about Cheaper by The Dozen and its sequel, Cheaper by the Baker’s Dozen, or whatever it’s called. My shock-proof shit detector (Hemingway) screened these movies out of my viewing agenda after seeing the trailers. Same goes for The Pink Panther remake and its sequel.

June 17th, 2009

new species


BBC Science has pictures of several new (hitherto undocumented) species discovered in South America.

June 16th, 2009

original syn

The New York Times has an article attempting to plot our progress to date in working out the puzzle of life’s origins on Earth.

So little fossil evidence has been found to explain the origins of life on Earth that scientists, in order to figure out how life may have begun, are taking the approach of attempting to recreate the conditions that might make this spontaneous synthesis of living cells possible. But there are many theories as to what these conditions might have been.

The three researchers, Jack W. Szostak, David P. Bartel and P. Luigi Luisi, published a somewhat adventurous manifesto in Nature in 2001, declaring that the way to make a synthetic cell was to get a protocell and a genetic molecule to grow and divide in parallel, with the molecules being encapsulated in the cell. If the molecules gave the cell a survival advantage over other cells, the outcome would be “a sustainable, autonomously replicating system, capable of Darwinian evolution,” they wrote.

“It would be truly alive,” they added.

Read more

June 16th, 2009

a bedtime morality tale…

Thanks Rob for the tip!

Music by Garret Davis, Animation by Garret Davis & Kirsten Lepore.

June 12th, 2009

bannock: bread on a stick


From The Kitchn:

Bannock was a staple in the diets of nearly all of North America’s first peoples. The European version was invented by the Scots and is made with oatmeal, while Aboriginal people prepared bannock with corn and nut meal, and flour made from ground plant bulbs.

Originally rolled in sand and cooked in a pit, or wrapped around a stick and toasted over an open flame, Bannock today is more commonly grilled, deep-fried, pan-fried or oven baked.

On Grill It!, Ontario’s Rugged Dude Carson, a hunting and fishing enthusiast, said bannock is popular with campers because the dry ingredients (he used just flour, baking powder and salt) can be easily carried and mixed with water to form a quick dough. He added lots of fresh blueberries to his dough, brushed it with canola oil and put it directly on the grill. The finished bread looked crispy on the outside with lots of nice grill marks, but soft on the inside, flecked with juicy blueberries.

Sounds fun! Something for the BBQ perhaps.

According to Wikipedia, the word Bannock is an Old English word of Celtic origin.

The Kitchn has more bread revelations: Why bagels are boiled before baking, punching v folding dough.

June 11th, 2009

geological time


Ebonmuse of Daylight Atheism wrote a wonderful meditation on.. a rock. Well it’s much more than a rock, as he explains beautifully. It represents the unimaginable stretch of time before us, and stands as an omen for our future.

Here’s the introduction:

It was out in the open with no ropes or glass around it, inviting visitors to touch it. I brushed a hand across its polished surface, which was as smooth and cool as a sheet of glass. Nothing about that touch hinted at the stone’s age or history; yet it had traveled down immense vistas of time to come here, to our era, so that I could see and touch it on that day. And in the moment of that touch, I knew, I as a modern Homo sapien was briefly reunited with predecessors ancient beyond imagining, perhaps some that date back almost to the origin of life on Earth itself.

The curious, gorgeously colored strata of this stone are called banded iron formations. The dark bands are layers of metallic iron oxide compounds such as magnetite and hematite, while the reddish layers are silica-rich quartz minerals like chert, jasper and flint. Banded iron formations occur almost exclusively in very ancient rocks, and are common in strata dating to between 2.5 billion and 1.8 billion years ago.

Read more at his blog

June 7th, 2009

Don’t Do That by Stephen Dunn

I stumbled across this poem by one Stephen Dunn and it’s a cracker:

It was bring-your-own if you wanted anything
hard, so I brought Johnnie Walker Red
along with some resentment I’d held in
for a few weeks, which was not helped
by the sight of little nameless things
pierced with toothpicks on the tables,
or by talk that promised to be nothing
if not small. But I’d consented to come,
and I knew what part of the house
their animals would be sequestered,
whose company I loved. What else can I say,

except that old retainer of slights and wrongs,
that bad boy I hadn’t quite outgrown—
I’d brought him along, too. I was out
to cultivate a mood. My hosts greeted me,
but did not ask about my soul, which was when
I was invited by Johnnie Walker Red
to find the right kind of glass, and pour.
I toasted the air. I said hello to the wall,
then walked past a group of women
dressed to be seen, undressing them
one by one, and went up the stairs to where

the Rottweilers were, Rosie and Tom,
and got down with them on all fours.
They licked the face I offered them,
and I proceeded to slick back my hair
with their saliva, and before long
I felt like a wild thing, ready to mess up
the party, scarf the hors d’oeuvres.
But the dogs said, No, don’t do that,
calm down, after a while they open the door
and let you out, they pet your head, and everything
you might have held against them is gone,
and you’re good friends again. Stay, they said.

I also enjoy his poem The Room — very clever!

June 7th, 2009

balsamic strawberries

Who’d a thunk it? Balsamic vinegar, sugar & strawberries, left for an hour, sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper. Actually fantastic!

Another inspired food combination I had today was Orange & Carrot Soup.

June 7th, 2009

print all pages


Robert Matthews decided to bring Wikipedia into the real world by printing its articles.

Believe it or not, the encyclopaedia above is comprised of only the featured articles on Wikipedia. If one were to print everything, it would look more like this:


Via spreadingjam, where they have a funny breakdown of the composition of the above image, as regards what type of content makes up what percentage of the composition.

June 6th, 2009

self-emulated crowd wisdom

An article in Scientific American describes how one can benefit from ‘the wisdom of crowds’ as an individual, by emulating the effect of a second person in one’s head.

The wisdom of crowds is the concept that the mean guess of a large group of people, when asked for an estimate, is more accurate than the typical individual guess tends to be — even if the individual guesses that comprise the crowd’s collective answer are way off. Rather, especially so; that’s how it works.

To benefit from this collective wisdom in individual situations, scientists tested the following method: First make your own guess. Then assume that this first guess is incorrect, and think of reasons why this may be. Make a second guess and then get the mean from the two guesses.

Neato! I’ll have to try that out. According to one of the commenters on the article, who is apparently also studying the phenomenon of collective thinking, we actually carry out something like the above method quite often without actively trying to.

Read the article at Sci Am

June 6th, 2009

shorpy roundup

Shorpy is never without new and fascinating images, but these two recent additions to their HD photo archive I thought were especially remarkable:

Nighthawk: 1943

April 1943. Washington, D.C. “Girl sitting alone in the Sea Grill waiting for a pickup. ‘I come in here pretty often, sometimes alone, mostly with another girl, we drink beer, and talk, and of course we keep our eyes open — you’d be surprised at how often nice lonesome soldiers ask Sue, the waitress, to introduce them to us.’ ” Medium-format nitrate negative by Esther Bubley for the OWI.


Newsflash: 1944

New York. June 6, 1944. ALLIED ARMIES LAND ON COAST OF FRANCE. GREAT INVASION OF CONTINENT BEGINS. “D-Day. Crowd watching the news line on the Times building at Times Square.” Large-format nitrate negative by Howard Hollem or Edward Meyer, Office of War Information.


As with all Shorpy entries, there are high definition versions of both of these pictures. I have the first one set as my notebook’s desktop wallpaper for the time being.

June 6th, 2009

moderation, intelligence and sharing

Home is an important, sobering film, but it’s also beautiful and optimistic. It’s available on YouTube in its entirety, in high definition, for free.

It is directed by the renowned aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, which affords the film a powerfully god-like perspective, albeit one weakened by a rather uninspiring narration; the information is good, but the diction is clichéd and the delivery flawed (some words are mispronounced by the narrator, hardly in-keeping with a god-like voice, and she often sounds unenthusiastic and disengaged, like she isn’t thinking about what she’s saying — give me David Attenborough or Dr. Ian Stewart!).

The effect of Bertrand’s aerial perspective is that we get to take a step back — avoiding sentimental human detours for the most part — and consider the earth as one big organism. Everything is linked, as the narrator reminds us constantly.

The general message to take home is that although our planet is in jeopardy, we can save it through “moderation, intelligence and sharing”.

There have been other films like this. This film stays quite general and factual in its approach however, choosing not to hammer away at any one specific point — simply letting the powerful images and facts do the work. The plain facts and footage it offers on meat production, for example, — without rhetoric demanding people stop eating meat — should be enough to convey to people the severity of the impact of humanity’s meat-fixation. That particular section was quite powerful, I thought, as that particular environmental issue has generally been skirted recently, as if it were not even an issue worth considering, or as if there were no sensitive way to broach the topic to a world of meat-lovers.

Cheers to Aengus who aroused my attention to this.

June 6th, 2009

Tom Swifties

Ben Schott’s New York Times blog, Schott’s Vocab is hosting a Tom Swifties contest. What are Tom Swifties?

“Tom Swifties” are curious puns that monkey with the description of reported speech for comic effect. For example:

“I manufacture table tops,” said Tom counterproductively.
“Let’s have a debate about cows,” Tom mooted.
“Who discovered radium?” asked Marie curiously.
“Just parsley, sage and rosemary,” said Tom timelessly.
“This sea-spray will ruin all the metal-work,” said Tom mistrustfully
“I can’t tell you how much it resembles a table,” said Tom veritably.
“Show no mercy killing the vampire,” said Tom painstakingly.
“It keeps my hair in place,” said Alice with abandon.

Some of the Swifties submittted are excellent. A few faves:

“That is an Irish conifer,” Tom opined.

“I believe someone poisoned my chickpea dip,” said Tom posthumously.

“My men will never mutiny,” said the Captain blithely.
— Richard Hacken

“Oh I dropped my toothpaste behind the sink,” he said, crestfallen.”
— Tony

This via kottke.

June 6th, 2009

Protected: a memory is gifted

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June 6th, 2009


Here’s the third of my five poems on leaving Dublin.

I know this Dublin well;
it’s pouring or ‘bucketing’.
I’ll get up with the light,
make a special breakfast
as if for me and my love.
I’ll haste to get ready,
as had I a lover,
whose forehead i’d kiss, and say,
sombrely, breathlessly,
“I miss you already”.

June 6th, 2009

BBQ Bananas

The BBC website has an appealing recipe for bbq bananas!

Have you ever ended up with a number of blackened, over-ripe bananas because you haven’t eaten them fast enough? Instead of throwing them away, why not try barbecuing them; they are absolutely delicious! For this recipe, either the grill of an oven or the barbecue can be used.

Recipe at BBC h2g2

June 5th, 2009

a girl like me

An alarming short video documentary about African-American girls and how they perceive themselves in American society. From the Media That Matters Film Festival.

Posted in Video | No Comments »

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