The Scientifically Engineered Worst Song in the World

“We just listened to the track in full, and it’s not bad per se – that is, provided you dig batshit, emotionally jarring music, where children sing about Easter shopping at Walmart. It also features plenty of oompah horns and bagpipes, so at least it’s multiculturally offensive. (That’s not even mentioning the Dracula organ dirges, either.)” via Houston Press.

Send Me No Flowers?

A buyer ...

‘…[T]here’s increasing grumbling about Valentine’s Day, a vaguely defined occasion that forces people, at arrow-point, to declare their deepest emotions, and maybe even to manufacture some that aren’t there. Some call it FAD, “Forced Affection Day.” True, there are those who bemoan the commercialization of Christmas, or the seemingly contrived nature of Mother’s Day or Administrative Professionals Week. Yet Valentine’s Day is the only American celebration with a resistance movement. It comprises singles who resent the incessant emphasis on romantic love, parents who resent the necessity of procuring 24 Disney princess cards with red lollipops attached, and devoted couples, married and not, who resent the compulsion of it all…’ via WSJ.


GlaxoSmithKline pledges cheap medicine for world’s poor


Good news, if the cynic in me could only come to believe it:

‘The world’s second biggest pharmaceutical company is to radically shift its attitude to providing cheap drugs to millions of people in the developing world.

In a major change of strategy, the new head of GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty, has told the Guardian he will slash prices on all medicines in the poorest countries, give back profits to be spent on hospitals and clinics and – most ground-breaking of all – share knowledge about potential drugs that are currently protected by patents.

Witty says he believes drug companies have an obligation to help the poor get treatment. He challenges other pharmaceutical giants to follow his lead.

Pressure on the industry has been growing over the past decade, triggered by the Aids catastrophe…’

via The Guardian.

Diamond no longer nature’s hardest material

Diamond Age

‘Diamond will always be a girl’s best friend, but it may soon lose favour with industrial drillers.

The gemstone lost its title of the “world’s hardest material” some time ago, to man-made nanomaterials of slightly greater toughness. Now a rare natural substance looks likely to leave them all far behind – at 58% harder than diamond.

The first, wurtzite boron nitride has a similar structure to diamond, but is made up of different atoms.

The second, the mineral lonsdaleite, or hexagonal diamond is made from carbon atoms just like diamond, but they are arranged in a different shape.’ via New Scientist.


Spread Out the New York Times, Sunday Paper Style

New York Times Building

The New York Times keeps playing around with their online presentation, with interesting, helpful results. The “Article Skimmer” spreads stories out landscape style and ad-free, creating an easier read for laptops and wide-screen LCDs… [O]ne of the Times’ public prototype experiments, [it] presents a de-cluttered look at the front page, news sections, and the ever-popular “Most Emailed” list. No ads at all, at least in this early stage, until you click on the actual articles. If you find yourself quickly scrolling down the Times’ front page to grab more headlines than the boxed, column-style presentation allows, this might be a nice bookmark or home page replacement.’ via Lifehacker.

I have tried various ways to keep up with the Times on a daily basis since moving my news-reading entirely to the web. This is by far the best way I’ve found. And thanks to Lifehacker, another of my daily reads…

The Myth of Dresden

Dresden (Saxony, Germany) - View from town hal...

However immoral it may have been, the horrific 1945 bombing of Dresden had a clear military rationale, a British historian says, because it was “a major transport and communication hub less than 120 miles from the advancing Russians.” Each February, he says, protesting German neo-Nazis inflate “the myth that it was of no military or industrial importance” as “a tool to relativize Adolf Hitler’s Holocaust.” via Der Spiegel.

Interestingly enough, German Jews turn out in large numbers at the Dresden commemorations, to mourn the German dead. One Jewish demonstrator explained that they do not blame the Allies for bombing Dresden, but rather the Nazis who made it necessary.

Wild Thing

Neko Case

The New York Times Magazine profiles one of my favorites, ‘force of nature’ Neko Case:

In part because of the inexpensiveness and flexibility of digital technology, the universe of independent singer-songwriters is constantly expanding. But in that universe, Neko Case is near the center. She is to many what she herself would call “the Man!” Her last CD, an often surreal and melodically inventive collection of songs called “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood,” rose to No. 54 on the Billboard chart and ended up selling 200,000 copies. And publications like Rolling Stone and Spin and The Stranger, along with a growing cadre of intense, often lovesick fans, have lionized Case’s singing voice as uniquely clear and powerful. It may not vibrate as much as she would like, but it’s not the angel-sweet sound of Alison Krauss, either — it has real richness and body. And on her new CD, “Middle Cyclone,” to be released in March by Anti- (a division of the punkish label Epitaph that features all their artists who aren’t punk), Case displays a wide vocal and emotional range only intermittently present on her six previous recordings and in her regular releases with the Canadian power-pop band the New Pornographers. She has often been described as a belter, a force of nature, a kind of vocal tornado. So this increased admixture of playfulness, delicacy and orchestral effects strikes you as the kind of variegation that artists — and species — make in order to survive and thrive.

Towards a Talmudic Ontology of Consensus (by way of demons)

Jerusalem Talmud ma...

‘In his 1978 essay, “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later“, Philip K. Dick wrote, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” This ontology is challenged by a syndrome recently brought to my attention in a recent post on, “Hallucinations brought on by eye disease,” wherein David Pescovitz writes,

In recent days, both the Daily Mail and looked at Charles Bonnet Syndrome [CBS], a disease characterized by bizarre and vivid visual hallucinations. Interestingly, people who suffer from CBS aren’t mentally ill but have visual impairments such as macular degeneration. Even weirder is that the hallucinations often involve characters or things that are much smaller in size than reality.

Read the whole post and follow the link to this article at the Daily Mail on Charles Bonnet Syndrome, and this interview at Wired with neurologist Oliver Sachs. Together, they provide an insight for understanding a particularly fascinating method given in the Talmud for seeing Mazikin (lit. harmful spirits, ie. demons)…’ via Aharon’s Omphalos.

Japanese V-Sign

‘So why exactly do most Japanese folk do the V-sign when having their photos taken? According to Wikipedia, the earliest confirmed usage of the V-sign was by Winston Churchil during World War II – the V-sign meaning “Victory.” The Japanese Wikipedia for the entry Peace Sign however says that there is a theory that the two fingers mean that two nuclear bombs where dropped on Japan meaning that peace is near…

During the 1972 Winter Olympics in Japan, skater Janet Lynn (who was also a peace activist) was photographed by the Japanese media doing the V-sign. Although the V-sign was already recognized in Japan, it was apparently these photos of Lynn that popularized the use of the V-sign.

The Japanese entry in Wikipedia does not mention Lynn at all and instead says that the V-sign took off in the 80’s when usage of the V-sign was used when kids were having their photos taken.’ via Boing Boing.