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Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday links

Here's What Happens When You Crash-Test a Shopping Cart at 73 MPH.

Italian teenagers to get €500 'culture bonus' on their 18th birthday.

It's his birthday this weekend: LBJ: The President Who Marked His Territory.

Harry Potter and the Hopefully Benign Colon Polyp, and more middle-aged Harry Potter books.

Panama Canal Timelapse from a Ship’s POV.

The History Of Mac And Cheese.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include a set of humongous tunnel boring machines, a supercut of improbable weapons, the U.S. Senate monorail under Washington D.C., and the anniversary of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and destruction of Pompeii in A.D. 79.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Here's What Happens When You Crash-Test a Shopping Cart at 73 MPH

How well does a shopping cart protect your groceries at highway speeds?​

Popular Mechanics:

Sweden's Dynamic Test Center is known for running unusual crash simulations. Simply put, these technicians like to have fun. There's a purpose to this test beyond just watching stuff get smashed—in this case, DTC shows how much damage a runaway shopping cart can do to the side of your car.

But what you really want to see is how a shopping cart holds up after crashing into a wall at 117.8 km/h (73 mph). Yes, that's a new shopping cart speed world record.

The test center also crash-tested a golf cart:

Ever wondered what would happen if a fully loaded tractor plowed through stopped traffic? They’ve tested that. Or just how much damage is caused when two skiiers collide? They’ve tested that too.

Wanna dress like a crash test dummy for Halloween, or just because? Amazon has a selection:

Leonard Bernstein's birthday

Any great work of art ... revives and readapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world ... the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air. 

~ Leonard Bernstein (wiki) ("What Makes Opera Grand?", Vogue, December 1958) 

Einstein said that "the most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious." So why do so many of us try to explain the beauty of music, thus depriving it of its mystery? 

~ Bernstein (The Unanswered Question

Bernstein has been disclosing musical secrets that have been well known for 400 years. 

~ Oscar Levant (1906-1972)* (Memories of an Amnesic

Perhaps the chief requirement of [the conductor] is that he be humble before the composer, that he never interpose himself between the music and the audience; that all his efforts , however strenuous or glamorous, be made in the service of the composer's meaning - the music itself, which, after all, is the whole reason for the conductor's existence. 

~ Bernstein (Bowen, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Conducting

Today is the anniversary of the birth of American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein (wiki) (1918-1990) in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the son of Ukrainian-Jewish parents. Bernstein showed extraordinary musical talent at the piano at an early age and after attending the Boston Latin School, majored in music at Harvard. After graduation, he went to Philadelphia's Curtis Institute, where he studied piano, conducting (under Fritz Reiner), and composition. Afterwards, in New York, Bernstein worked for several music publishers and became associated with the comedy troupe of Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Judy Holliday. 

Beginning in 1940, he began studying conducting at Tanglewood under the Boston Symphony's Serge Koussevitzky and got his famous "big break" in November 1943, when as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, he substituted for the ailing Bruno Walter to major acclaim. Bernstein later became the music director of the New York City Symphony Orchestra, and his growing international reputation led to guest-conducting gigs all over the world. Meanwhile, he divided his compositional activities between musical comedy and symphonic music and eventually produced three symphonies, a variety of other orchestral works, and Broadway musicals such as On the Town (1943), Wonderful Town (1953), Candide (1956 - actually an operetta), and his exquisite West Side Story (1957). 

Between 1958 and 1969 he served as musical director of the New York Philharmonic, conducted many world premieres of both old and new music, and almost single-handedly revived interest in the music of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). He became even more famous as a music lecturer on television, which led to his best-selling books, The Joy of Music (1959) and The Infinite Variety of Music (1966). Later in his career Bernstein turned increasingly to conducting opera, in both the United States and Europe. As one of classical music's most popular superstars, he remained active as a guest conductor until the time of his death to a heart attack in 1990. 

* N.B. Oscar Levant was an American pianist, composer, comedian, and author, particularly remembered for his sardonic wit. 

The great Leonard Bernstein was such a showman of a conductor that he didn’t even need to use his baton to coax a great performance from the Vienna Philharmonic in this concert. 
Watch Bernstein use only his eyebrows (and the odd bit of smiling and grimacing) to give the orchestra all the information they need about tempo and dynamics for Haydn’s Symphony No. 88. Amazing stuff:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

They Drew Fire is a collection of paintings selected from the works of the World War II combat artists.

U.S. Senate Monorail - A Private Subway System for Senators Under Washington D.C. Since 1909

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include which bathroom stall you should choose if you want the cleanest one, how people call cats in different countries, making bread in the Middle Ages, the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and how sunflowers track the sun across the sky.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Gene Kelly's birthday: here the famous "Singin' In The Rain" dance

Today, 23 August, is the anniversary of the birth of extraordinary American dancer (Eu)Gene Curran Kelly (wiki) (1912-1996) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Kelly worked his way through college as a dancer and teacher and joined a Broadway chorus line in 1938. Within two years, he had scored the dance lead in Pal Joey, and went on to Hollywood for his film debut in For Me and My Gal (1942). 

Kelly served in the Navy during World War II but soon resumed his career after the conflict in such films as On the Town (1949), An American in Paris (1951), and Singin' in the Rain (1952) - each appearance marked by his spirited, athletic, and seemingly effortless dancing. Subsequently, he became a celebrated choreographer, played straight dramatic roles in such films as Inherit the Wind (1960), and directed the 1969 film version of Hello, Dolly! 

His performance in the title song of Singin' in the Rain is perhaps his most memorable. Watch full screen!

Related posts:

It's Fred Astaire's birthday - here are clips of some of his best dancing.

Happy Birthday, Rita Hayworth: here's an excellent compilation of her dancing, set to Stayin' Alive.

Tuesday links

St. Bartholomew's Day - some history (including the massacre), a brief documentary, and Monty Python.

We finally know how sunflowers track the sun across the sky.

Which bathroom stall you should choose if you want the cleanest one?

How to Undress in 20 Seconds or Less, and the tactical order of re-dressing.

How People Call Cats In Different Countries.

Bread in the Middle Ages.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include Dorothy Parker's birthday and the long, weird journey of her ashes, the United States' first trip to the Olympics, the world's only surviving tattoo shop for medieval pilgrims, and a supercut of technology breaking down, then being beaten until it works again.

Monday, August 22, 2016

How to Undress in 20 Seconds or Less

From the blog of the excellent Art of Manliness: If attempting to save someone from drowning, it’s best to disrobe before you jump in, especially if they’re in open water, and a ways away. Clothes and shoes will only weigh you down, and make a difficult task much more difficult. The weight of your soaked garments may end up sinking the both of you. Of course every second matters when you’re trying to save someone, so you have to be able to undress with lightning speed.

The 1952 edition of the Handbook for Boys (the Boy Scout manual), admonishes young men to be able to strip down to their underpants or swim trunks in 20 seconds or less, holding up 15 seconds as the ultimate goal. The manual includes a diagram of how this can be accomplished, recreated here:

The original illustration lacked captions, but the sequence seems to go like this:
  1. Remove coat while removing your shoes.
  2. Slip your shirt off your shoulders as you step out of your pants.
  3. Remove your arms from the sleeves of the shirt. (It’s hard to tell from the original illustration, but the figure may be re-buttoning one of the buttons on his shirt here, perhaps to turn it into a more effective towing device.)
  4. Peel off your socks as you clamp your shirt between your teeth.
  5. Jump into the water.
  6. Extend your shirt to the victim to hold onto. Even when you get into the water with the victim, it’s best to have them hold onto something and tow them ashore, rather than getting close enough to get clawed, grabbed, and/or kicked. If you don’t have something to extend to him or her, swim behind them, and wrap your arm around their chest, keeping their head above water. Swim ashore.
  7. Throughout every step, you should keep your eyes on the victim, so you don’t lose track of where they are, and know if they slip underwater.
Then there's the tactical order of dressing:

If you were suddenly awoken in the middle of the night and needed to go outside to fight off a threat or evacuate from your home, in what order would you don your clothes?

David Guttenfelder. AP
First you pull on your pants, because you’re going to need something to protect your lower body from brush, debris, hot shell casings, and what have you. Then you’ll put on your boots. If you’re not going far, you might be able to get by in barefeet, but you’ll need to be shod if you’ll be moving out over rough terrain. 

Of course, if a threat is truly imminent, you may need to face it down in whatever it is you wore (or didn’t wear) to bed. Like this soldier in Afghanistan who was roused from sleep by enemy fire on his post in eastern Afghanistan, and took on the enemy in his pink “I Love New York” boxers.

More at the Art of Manliness blog.

Related posts:

Because it's important to always be battle-ready: How to Poop Like a Samurai.

Grandbaby pictures

Update August 22:


and Charlotte:

For those of you who requested it, here are some recent photos of the new girl cousins (Addie, born 2/4/16 is sitting up, and Charlotte, born 4/14/16, is reclining) in their semi-matching pink camo outfits:

And just hanging out:

Their "Best Friends" shirts, which their parents purchased when they found out both were pregnant:

Earlier, Addie, age 11 weeks, and Charlotte, age 10 days:


 And Addie:

And here's a group shot of all of our local grandkids (seven of them, out of a total of fourteen scattered about):

Monday links

Dorothy Parker's birthday: quotes, poems, a brief bio, and the weird journey of her ashes

Five Ancient Athletes Who Dominated the Olympics Thousands of Years Ago, and The United States' First Trip to the Olympics.

In Jerusalem, the World's Only Surviving Tattoo Shop For Medieval Pilgrims.

Excellent supercut of technology breaking down, then being beaten until it works again.

The Rules About How to Address the U.S. Flag Came About Because No One Wanted to Look Like a Nazi.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include bizarre Victorian inventions, hackers and lock picking, missing counterfeit money, and Australian weird wildlife.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dorothy Parker's birthday: quotes, poems, a brief bio, and the weird journey of her ashes

A few favorite attributed quotes from Dorothy Parker (wiki):

“Their pooled emotions wouldn’t fill a teaspoon.”

“You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think.”

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”

“I require three things in a man: he must be handsome, ruthless, and stupid.”

Today is the anniversary of the birth of American humorist, literary critic, and writer Dorothy Parker ( (1893-1967), born Dorothy Rothschild in West End, New Jersey. Parker grew up in New York City and in her twenties worked on the magazine Vanity Fair with Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood. With them, she founded a legendary writer's luncheon group known as Algonquin Hotel's "Round Table" (wiki), (PBS) which ultimately included James Thurber, E.B. White, Ogden Nash (my personal favorite Nash here), and Ring Lardner

After 1927, Parker published incisive book reviews in her "Constant Reader" column in the New Yorker and made her literary mark with a series of poignant short stories about the cruelty and absurdity of city living. Later, she collaborated on several screen plays, including A Star is Born (1935), and served as a war correspondent in the Spanish Civil War. Her successes, including two Academy Award nominations, were curtailed as her involvement in left-wing politics led to a place on the Hollywood blacklist.

A few more favorite quotes/poems:

“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”

“Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

“One more drink and I’ll be under the host.”

"That woman speaks eighteen languages and can’t say ‘no’ in any of them."

“It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.”

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.

"If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised." 

"It's not the tragedies that kill us, it's the messes." 

My land is bare of chattering folk;
the clouds are low along the ridges,
and sweet's the air with curly smoke
from all my burning bridges. 
By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying -
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

If you have some time, watch this - The Ten-Year Lunch; Wits & Legends of the Algonquin Round Table (Complete):

Dorothy Parker's memorial and the story of her remains - here's the short(ish) version:

Four suicide attempts never succeeded for Dorothy Parker. When she turned 70, she told an interviewer who asked what she was going to do next, "If I had any decency, I'd be dead. All my friends are." But death waited until she was 73, and a fatal coronary came on June 7, 1967.

Her will was plain and simple. With no heirs, she left her literary estate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She'd never met the civil rights activist, but always felt strongly for social justice. She named the acerbic author Lillian Hellman as her executor. Parker didn't want a funeral, but Hellman held one anyway, and made herself the star attraction.

Within a year of her death, Dr. King was assassinated, and the Parker estate rolled over to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. To this day, the NAACP benefits from the royalty of all Parker publications and productions.

She was cremated, and this is where the story takes a sharp right turn. Parker was cremated June 9, 1967, at Ferncliff Crematory in Hartsdale, New York. Hellman, who made all the funeral arrangements, never told the crematory what to do with the ashes. So they sat on a shelf in Hartsdale. Six years later, on July 16, 1973, the ashes were mailed to Mrs. Parker's lawyer's offices, O'Dwyer and Bernstein, 99 Wall Street. Paul O'Dwyer, her attorney, didn't know what to do with the little box of ashes. It sat on a shelf, on a desk, and for 15 years, in a filing cabinet.

Hellman went to court to fight the NAACP over Parker's literary estate. Hellman lost in 1972 when a judge ruled that she should be removed from executorship. Hellman was adamant that she get Parker's money, and came out of the mess painted as a racist. She was sure the will was supposed to give her a huge sum. Hellman said, "she must have been drunk when she did it."

In 1988, someone figured out that Mrs. Parker's ashes were unclaimed, 21 years after her death. New York tabloids ran stories and readers sent in letters about what should be done with the dust. But the NAACP stepped in and took the box from Paul O'Dwyer's drawer. The NAACP built a memorial garden at the national headquarters in Baltimore, and interred the ashes there.

From Christopher Hitchens' 1999 Atlantic article on Parker: Rebel in Evening Clothes:
A small memorial garden was prepared on the grounds of the organization's national headquarters in Baltimore, and a brief ceremony was held at which Mr. Hooks improved somewhat on the terse line about "excuse my dust." It might be better, he said, to recall her lines from "Epitaph for a Darling Lady":
Leave for her a red young rose
Go your way, and save your pity.
She is happy, for she knows
That her dust is very pretty.
"Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) Humorist, writer, critic, defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph she suggested "Excuse My Dust". This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind, and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people."

More at her website. The Portable Dorothy Parker for a "greatest hits" selection, and, if you'd prefer a biography, What Fresh Hell Is This?.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Dorothy Parker.