Monthly Archives: March 2013

Poem for the Weekend

Since it’s Easter, I’ll give you a religious poem by the wonderful Victorian poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins.

God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1877)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

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Happy Ishtar!

The original pagan holiday, which is a celebration of sex, sounds like way more fun than the one many of you are observing today. So, Happy Ishtar!

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Weekend Links

The 50 best movies you’ve never seen.

Egypt’s revolution has been great for two groups of people: Islamists and tomb raiders.

There is ample anecdotal testimony from people living near the Great Pyramids at Giza that since the revolution large holes have been appearing in the ground there…The illegal digging is not just happening at Giza. In fact, an hour’s drive from Cairo, in Dahshur – close to the site of the famous Bent Pyramid of the Pharaoh Sneferu – some areas looked like a cratered lunar landscape because of the concentration of holes that had been dug…People living by the pyramids in Giza told us new tunnels were still appearing all the time, and that on occasions they had even seen trucks parking close to the tunnel entrances in the desert. In spite of assurances from the Egyptian authorities that armed guards were monitoring the sites and ensuring no more illegal digging could take place, we saw no evidence of that.

A new report ranks the states from most free to least free. North Dakota ranks at the top. And the least free state in the union? You guessed it. New York.

Game of Thrones tomorrow night, weeee!!! Here’s a great infographic and a fantastic Wired article which explores whether “The Wall” could survive science in real life.

A massive wall of ice protects the Seven Kingdoms from the dangers of the wintry north in HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones. But in the real world, an ice structure standing at half the height of the Empire State Building would face more problems from physics than any wildlings or White Walkers lurking in the lands Beyond the Wall…“Even at very cold temperatures, large ice masses deform under their own weight,” said engineer Mary Albert of the Ice Drilling Program Office at Dartmouth College. “And over long time scales, ice flows, so it would not hold its original shape for thousands of years.”…An attempt to build something on the scale of the huge Wall as envisioned in Game of Thrones would be a race against time. Even at sub-zero temperatures, the icy Wall would begin to “flow” and deform like a fluid over time under the pressure of its own weight, said glaciologist Bob Hawley of Dartmouth College. The lowermost parts of the Wall would end up bulging outward as the uppermost parts pushed down, similar to how a glacier flows downhill.

The two types of pessimism…although, it seems to me like the first is paranoia and the second is just realism!

Pessimists are of two types, the catastrophists, that is to say the types who look up in the starry heavens and see (metaphorically) only asteroids in the sky racing towards us to wipe us out as the dinosaurs were wiped out; and existential pessimists, that is to say those who see dissatisfaction as the permanent condition of mankind because of his inherent makeup, his contradictory desires and emotions, dissatisfaction that is perfectly compatible however with a great deal of enjoyment of life…The former kind of pessimist, those who foresee inevitable universal collapse, destruction, death by epidemic, and so forth, have no sense of humor, or at least of irony. For them, the furrowed brow and the shoulder weighed down by care are signs of intellectual and moral seriousness, the sine qua non genuine concern for humanity and (God preserve us) the planet. Like catastrophe itself, they are not much fun. The existential pessimist is light-hearted, for he knows that human life is not perfectible, and can therefore enjoy what it has to offer without any sense of guilt that he is not spending his every waking hour averting disaster or bringing perfection about. He does not deny that many diseases currently incurable will one day change their status and that this is a good thing, for taken in the round more life is better than less; but neither does he expect that, when formerly incurable diseases have become curable, human complaint and dissatisfaction will become things of the past. Golden ages in the future are just as mythical as golden ages in the past.

What is an expensive, idyllic resort doing in Eritrea? It’s complicated.

Every Jurassic Park dinosaur, ranked from worst to best. So awesome. I’m sure you can guess who’s the best (the velociraptor, duh.)

Letters and manuscripts of William Faulkner’s are expected to bring in around $2 million at auction in June.

March Madness history-style. Apparently, Genghis Khan wins.

And finally, because it’s Easter weekend, a little history lesson on crucifixion.

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Yay! It’s What the F**k Friday!

Victoria’s Secret has been selling panties to teenagers for years through their PINK line and apparently some parents are just now figuring this out. Here’s a suggestion for all the parents freaking out and expecting Victoria’s Secret to stop: PARENT your children. You might have to – gasp! – tell them, “No, I won’t let you shop there because you’re too young.” I know it’s a crazy concept that YOU – not society, corporations or the government – might have to teach values to YOUR children. Teenagers have sex, and that’s not Victoria’s Secret’s fault.

Speaking of the state of our nation’s children today, we continue to raise a generation of wusses who won’t be able to function in the real world. A school district in New Hampshire has banned dodgeball and other “human target games” because it supposedly leads to bullying. Listen, dodgeball is a microcosm of LIFE. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes you get hit with the ball, sometimes you throw the ball. If you can’t handle dodgeball, good luck handling life. Apparently, this idiotic view happens over the pond too. A school in Essex has banned triangle-shaped flapjacks, aka pancakes, because they have “sharp corners.” Flapjacks must now be cut into squares or rectangles because squares and rectangles don’t have corners. GOD.

Ke$ha has a new reality show on MTV. Need I say more?

Apparently, there are all kinds of conspiracy theories surrounding the movie “The Shining.” A new documentary, “Room 237,” is out today and The Daily Beast explores the film and the craziest of the theories, including a couple involving the Holocaust and the moon landings. Weird.

98 Degrees is back…with a song about their penises. Boy bands need to stop defying the one rule about boy bands: when you re-group in middle age, only play your old songs. You know, the ones everyone loved. The ones about girls. How hard is it? (No pun intended…ok, maybe it was a little intentional).

DC has now hopped on the major-cities-looking-to-fuck-over-food-trucks train.

Check out these creepy 1950s Chinese propaganda posters.

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Quote(s) for the Day – Happy Birthday Daniel Dennett!

“The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn’t need its brain anymore, so it eats it! It’s rather like getting tenure.”

~Daniel C. Dennett

“Every living thing is, from the cosmic perspective, incredibly lucky simply to be alive. Most, 90 percent and more, of all the organisms that have ever lived have died without viable offspring, but not a single one of your ancestors, going back to the dawn of life on Earth, suffered that normal misfortune. You spring from an unbroken line of winners going back millions of generations, and those winners were, in every generation, the luckiest of the lucky, one out of a thousand or even a million. So however unlucky you may be on some occasion today, your presence on the planet testifies to the role luck has played in your past.”

~Daniel C. Dennett

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Afternoon Links

Spring has sprung in India. Check out the colorful Holi Festival, which marks the end of winter and beginning of spring.

Toy Story and The Walking Dead are pretty much the same thing. Seriously.

The French are drinking less wine, which means the economy is really bad, the world is ending or both. Actually, it’s just because the current generation sucks.

Recent figures merely confirm what has been observed for years, that the number of regular drinkers of wine in France is in freefall. In 1980 more than half of adults were consuming wine on a near-daily basis. Today that figure has fallen to 17%. Meanwhile, the proportion of French people who never drink wine at all has doubled to 38%…People in their 60s and 70s grew up with wine on the table at every meal. For them, wine remains an essential part of their patrimoine, or cultural heritage. The middle generation – now in their 40s and 50s – sees wine as a more occasional indulgence. They compensate for declining consumption by spending more money. They like to think they drink less but better.

Members of the third generation – the internet generation – do not even start taking an interest in wine until their mid-to-late 20s. For them, wine is a product like any other, and they need persuading that it is worth their money.

The media hasn’t been covering Lebanon, but the ongoing horror in Syria has finally started to make Lebanon crumble. The one established Arab democracy is in jeopardy, with the resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister last week.

Twitter has been one of the few outlets for free speech in many oppressed countries and has, until now, been good at resisting pressure to censor content. Sadly, they caved to Vladimir Putin recently.

The Moscow Times reported last week that — according to the Kremlin itself — for the past several weeks Twitter has been blocking Russian access to any tweets designated by the Kremlin as “extremist.” Twitter has also deleted at least one user account at the Kremlin’s request. On its applicable agency website (known by its acronym Roskomnadzor), the Kremlin praises Twitter’s management team for its “constructive position” in reconfiguring its website in a manner “acceptable to Russian side.”

If you buy this t-shirt I will come to your house and punch you in the mouth.

Picasso’s Le Reve just sold for $155 million, the highest price ever paid by a U.S. collector for a work of art. 

Steven A. Cohen, whose SAC Capital just settled two insider-trading lawsuits with the government for $616 million, bought himself the belated gift after first agreeing to but it for $139milllion in 2006 from Vegas mogul Steve Wynn…But Wynn – former owner of the Bellagio and Mirage hotels in Vegas – put his elbow through the 1932 painting while he was showing it off to friends the day after the sale was agreed and caused a six-inch tear in it. The hotelier agreed at the time to release Cohen – who is worth around $9.3billion – from the sale and repair it. Now he has sold it to Cohen for $16 million more than the pre-damaged price. The painting – meaning The Dream – has since been restored to its original state.

Prokofiev was a brilliant composer, but not such a great husband. His foolish trust in the Soviet Union and an affair with another woman certainly didn’t help the marriage, which ended in Prokofiev abandoning the mother of his children to the Gulag…

Prokofiev had been churning out patriotic music during the war, and in peacetime returned to Moscow an even greater Soviet hero than when he left. Understandably, Lina refused to grant him a divorce – at least not until she and the boys were safely in the west. The stalemate between them ended in 1948 in spectacular fashion: Prokofiev suddenly fell from favour and the majority of his work was banned. As a non-person he was at the mercy of Soviet bureaucracy, which, for no discernible reason, decided that his marriage was invalid. This left Sergei free to marry Mira and deprived Lina of her last shred of protection. A few weeks after the wedding, NKVD agents arrested Lina on the charge of espionage. Her unceasing attempts to cultivate high-level contacts in western embassies – in the hope of getting an exit visa – had caused her name to get on the wrong list. After enduring 13 months of torture and interrogation, Lina was given a 15-minute trial and sentenced to 20 years in a forced labour camp.

Fantastically awesome and little-known facts about the Game of Thrones cast. (3 more days!)

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Weekly Recipe

Sweet Potato Rosemary Soup

Perfect for a chilly night when you want something warm and comforting!

Ingredients

A few tablespoons unsalted butter and extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

3 large shallots, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 pounds of sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into inch-size pieces

1 1/2 stems fresh rosemary (a stem should be about six inches long)

About 5 cups of low-sodium chicken broth or stock

1/2 mascarpone cheese

3 tablespoons maple syrup

Directions

In a large pot, melt the butter and oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook a couple minutes, until soft. Add the sweet potatoes, rosemary and chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until sweet potatoes are very tender, 20-25 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the rosemary stems. Transfer the mixture a bit at a time to a food processor or blender and blend until thick and smooth. Return to the warm pot and stir in the mascarpone and maple syrup. Season to taste with a bit more salt and pepper if necessary and serve. (If you’re a goat cheese fiend like me and you have some in the fridge, you can sprinkle a bit of that on top). Enjoy!

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