Wednesday, 22 December 2010
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Here is a list of some of the IMDb's top-rated films, measured against the Bechdel Test. And here are some graphs.
So where are all the women? Well, probably the same place all the female screenwriters and directors are. In Hollywood, 19% of screenwriters are women. In television it's 28%.
And, far from getting easier, it's actually getting harder for women to get writing work in Hollywood. You can read more about that here.
As you'd expect, there's a connection between the number of women working as writers, directors and producers, and the number of female characters onscreen. More on that here.
From The Guardian:
Sunday, 1 August 2010
Thanks to the NZ Geographic for this link.
Saturday, 31 July 2010
The site of the impact, Chicxulub crater; is a circle 170km across, with half on the Yucatan Peninsula, and the other half in the water of the Caribbean Sea.
On land, a trough along the outer edge of the crater contains a vast semicircle of "cenotes", deep limestone sinkholes filled with fresh water.
This BBC clip explains:
Many of the cenotes are connected by an even deeper network of flooded caves which leads to the sea. Freshwater percolating down from rain on the surface and seawater flowing in from the Caribbean form "haloclines", distinct layers of water which don't mix. This clip shows the strange optical illusions caused at the boundary between the layers:
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
The text reads : Woodhouse's Balsam of Spermaceti or Pectoral Cough Drops for Consumptive or Other Coughs, also for Colds, Shortness of Breath, Asthma, Wheezing and other Afflictions of the Chest.
Spermaceti is produced by whales, you can read about it here. If swallowing bits of whale for the sake of your chest sounds silly, the discovery of streptomycin (the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis) had to wait until 1944. If you'd like to read about the history of tuberculosis and its treatments, the Wikipedia article is interesting.
In former times, the touch of your King or Queen was thought to be efficacious:
"Persons of royal blood were thought to have the 'God given' power of healing by this condition by touch, and sovereigns of England and France practiced this power to cure sufferers of scrofula, a form of tuberculosis of the bones and lymph nodes, commonly known as the "King's or Queen's Evil" or "Morbus Regius". In France it was called the "Mal De Roi". Curiously William the Lion, King of Scotland is recorded in 1206 as curing a case of Scrofula by his touching and blessing a child who had the ailment. Charles I touched around 100 people shortly after his coronation at Holyrood in 1630. It was only rarely fatal and was naturally given to spontaneous cure and lengthy periods of remission. Many miraculous cures were recorded and failures were put down to a lack of faith in the sufferer. The original Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church contained this ceremony."
"The custom lasted from the time of Edward the Confessor to the reign of Queen Anne, although her predecessor, William III refused to believe in the tradition and did not carry out the ceremony."
"Queen Anne, amongst many others, touched the 2 year old infant Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1712 to no effect, for although he eventually recovered he was left badly scarred and blind in one eye. He wore the medal around his neck all of his life and it is now preserved in the British Museum. It was believed that if the touch piece was not worn then the condition would return. Queen Anne last performed the ceremony on 30 March 1712. George I put an end to the practice as being "too Catholic."'
"The monarch himself / herself hung these touch piece amulets around the necks of sufferers. In later years Charles II only touched the medalet as he unsurprisingly disliked touching diseased people directly. He 'touched' 92,107 people in the 21 years from 1661 to 1682, performing the function 8,500 times in 1682 alone." [Wikipedia]
So now you know. The whole bizarre Wikipedia article on "touch pieces" (=healing talismans) is here.
Sunday, 13 June 2010
Sometimes nature comes up with something so funny-looking you can't quite believe it. Funny-looking to us, anyway. I wonder what we look like to them?
Check out this item on piglet squid. And Google offers a range of other images almost as funny.
In other crazy nature news, jaguars are attracted to Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men fragrance. This is a boon for animal biologists trying to study the elusive big cats, but you might want to think twice before wearing it on your rainforest holiday.
Saturday, 12 June 2010
'"Without a doubt he's the greatest player in our sport, ever," says national Scrabble representative Warner, who, like many serious exponents of the game, considers it a sport."
'"You go to international tournaments and everyone's sitting around at the end of the day telling Nigel-stories," says Warner. "Of course, he's never there, so the legend grows."'
"Richards' only two interests are obsessions: Scrabble, and cycling. He cycles 600km a week, including long rides before the 8am start of each day of tournament play. Everyone in Scrabble knows the story of Richards' first appearance at a New Zealand championship, when he knocked off his job in the Christchurch City Council's water department at 5pm, cycled for 14 hours to Dunedin in atrocious conditions overnight, played all his games over the weekend, then cycled home having won his division, spurning offers of a lift."
Read the whole Stuff article here.
Thursday, 10 June 2010
Tuesday, 1 June 2010
Here is the Season 1 trailer (try and ignore the Spanish subtitles!):
And here are the award-winning opening credits:
Amazon has a good deal on box sets of the whole series. Click here to see them.
Monday, 31 May 2010
Or watch the animation:
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
The BBC recently had this nice story of a minute waterlily brought back from extinction through stored seed:
"Two years ago, this delicate bloom went extinct in the wild due to over-exploitation of its habitat.
Luckily its seeds were kept in storage - and were used by Carlos Magdalena to regrow the plant at Kew Gardens - just outside London.
It took him months to find the ideal conditions for growth. He hopes now that the Thermal Lily will flourish once again in the hot springs of Rwanda...." (read more)
There is also a passionate piece on the urgency of banking seed as a way of safeguarding species for the future:
"Kew's Millennium Seed Bank is a unique, global asset. It is the largest facility of its kind in the world and contains the world's most diverse seed collections.
Over the past 10 years, more than 3.5 billion seeds from 25,000 species have been collected and stored in their country of origin and in Kew.
Species are chosen by country partners according to whether they are rare or endangered or of particular potential use - for example as medicine, food, animal fodder or shelter.
Described by Sir David Attenborough as "perhaps the most ambitious conservation initiative ever", the partnership will announce on 15 October the banking and conservation of 10% of the world's plant species." (read more)
"There are four bodies lying and crouching in our tiny back garden. The ecologists from the Natural History Museum (NHM) got here only minutes ago, but, while the kettle boils, they are already grubbing about behind our bins, under our windowsills, in the lawn, flowerbed and log pile.
They are doing a "bioblitz" – trying to find as many species of animal and plant as possible in this small, suburban south-west London garden. Our back garden is only 12 paces long and seven wide, with, now I look at it through the eyes of ecologists, pitifully few flowers. Happily, they appear undaunted. "The great thing is, even with gardens like this that look fairly sterile, there's always something there," says the museum's insect specialist, Stuart Hine. "We'll move plant pots, and we'll have a look through your log pile . . . Lots of spiders, centipedes, woodlice, slugs – they'll all be there."" (read more)
Friday, 21 May 2010
Here is a video of Georg from Sigur Ros talking about Gogoyoko, a new music store designed for artists to sell directly to their fans.
Check out Gogoyoko here. It looks very smart.
Update: The Information Is Beautiful figures have been questioned as they exclude a number of important factors, such as marketing costs, recording costs (if these are paid for by the artist they get a much bigger share of the final proceeds, if not costs may be recouped before any royalies go to the artist). And a statutory royalty payment is always made to the writer(s) of a song whether or not the performers receive one. So remuneration in the music business is really very complicated!
The good news is that the Internet offers a multiplicity of options for artists. Some that seem to offer a very good return to artists are: CDBaby, which charges artists a flat $4 per CD sold, and allows them to set the retail price as they wish; Bandcamp, a site which currently delivers 100% of the digital download fee to artists who own their own recordings, less PayPal transaction fees; and Amplifier, which takes a 20% cut on music sold (this compares with the about 85% cut taken by itunes)
I'm indebted to Russell Brown, Simon Grigg, and Samuel Scott for explaining some of these matters to me.
If you're interested, this ars technica article graphs the market shift from albums to individual tracks and from download to streaming content. Things are changing in the music business, that's for sure.
Monday, 17 May 2010
The device used here is sometimes known as a "Zeusaphone", because of the, uh, lightning bolts!
According to Wikipedia:
"Zeusaphone, also called a Thoremin, is trademark for a high-frequency, solid state Tesla coil, when its spark discharge is digitally modulated so as to produce musical tones. The high-frequency signal acts in effect as a carrier wave; its frequency is significantly above human-audible sound frequencies, so that digital modulation is able to reproduce a recognizable pitch. The musical tone results directly from the passage of the spark through the air.
This is a variant of the plasma arc loudspeaker, designed for public spectacle and sheer volume rather than fidelity."
If you fancy the musical sparks, you can buy one, here.
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Monday, 5 April 2010
Thanks to Mekayla for sending me pictures from the Museum for Communication in Frankfurt. By Jean Luc Cornec,These sheep are re-purposed telephones.
You can see more of the telephone sheep on Flickr, here.
Sunday, 4 April 2010
These and many other points are discussed and explained. Some take a while to get your head around, but it's worth the effort! Thanks to Niels for the link.
Saturday, 3 April 2010
The Kindness of Strangers: (Kitchen Memoirs) by Shonagh Koea
I have been savouring this wonderful book in which Shonagh Koea's essays about food allow her to discuss many other things about her life, writing, and experiences. Sometimes she is frivolous, sometimes deadly serious; often she makes droll anecdotes out of horrifying things, and finds amusing details even in the saddest parts of her story. Many of the recipes she includes make something good out of unpromising ingredients, and the same goes for her life story: she makes a witty and magnificent tale out of adversity and hardship.
And the recipes are wonderful! Her "Air India" samosas are the best I've ever had.
Here are some samples:
"When I was in High School my mother sometimes used to make marmalade. There were grapefruit trees growing out the back of the house we lived in and they fruited generously, but the fruit was a pale colour, thin-skinned and possibly not suitable for marmalade. She used to mince the fruit using and old metal mincer that screwed on to the kitchen table and I think she added grated carrot to make the mixture more orange. the results were stiff, extremely opaque and they sat in jars with a sort of grimly globular intensity that was almost alarming. I never ate any of it but my mother would spread it dutifully on her toast, saying meanwhile, 'You don't know what you're missing.' In a culinary sense I do not think I missed much, but the point I missed at the time was that there was nothing else for her to do but make the best of what she had and she did so with scant encouragement."
"I have cultivated quite wild and spreading plants so there is an atmosphere of largess and tropical wildness in my garden and through this I walk carefully with a cup of coffee in one hand an a doorstep of homemade bran loaf spread with marmalade in the other, once I tripped on a low-lying leaf of my big flax plant and fell flat on my face, so I have walked through my garden with greater care since then. I had thought, as it was my very own garden, that I would be able to do anything there and be unharmed but this was just a fanciful thought -- I am apt to have such fancies and think that because it is me that everything with be all right. it mostly is but sometimes not, like the time I tripped over the flax leaf."
"If you are a writer people always imagine that what you write is true, particularly if they know you. Of course it is not because fiction is fiction and can be manipulated to make a good story, and truth often has no resolution of horrors and terrors so is useless to place upon a page masquerading as a tale simply because there is not one. The truth is mostly a jumble of unresolved and sometimes very unrelated facts that collide in a meaningless way. People would not pay good money to read it. They have difficulty enough living it, I imagine. After I wrote The Lonely Margins of the Sea I lost count of the number of times people sidled up to me and said, in a hasty aside, 'You can tell me who you stabbed -- I won't tell a soul' The novel was about a woman who had stabbed her married lover and had gone to prison. [...] It was flattering, I suppose, to be considered so dangerous when I cannot, in real life, even dismember a chicken from the supermarket. My carving of meat is so inexpert that once, in the days when I used to make some pretence of having people to dinner, I hacked at a piece of beef with such a blunt knife that the candles fell out of the candlesticks and nearly set fire to the tablecloth."
Friday, 2 April 2010
"The Mosher Survey recorded not only women's sexual habits and appetites, but also their thinking about spousal relationships, children and contraception. Perhaps, it hinted, Victorian women weren't so Victorian after all. Indeed, many of the surveyed women were decidedly unshrinking."
Stanford Magazine has a fascinating article about both the survey and the woman who compiled it, here. It concludes:
"In her own writings, Mosher was acutely aware of her foresight, and of the possibilities that lay ahead for women once sex became less of a secret and gender less of a burden. "Born into a world of unlimited opportunity, the woman of the rising generation will answer the question of what woman's real capacities are," Mosher wrote in 1923. "She will have physical, economic, racial and civic freedom. What will she do with it?""
Thanks to N for the link.
Thursday, 1 April 2010
missie & the gentle kings- live at spiegeltent
missie | MySpace Music Videos
Hey, Missie, you rock :-) Let us know when we can buy the CD.
Monday, 22 March 2010
Thursday, 4 February 2010
Friday, 29 January 2010
"A wise society would accept the potential inevitability that through birth, accident, illness or aging we're all functionally incompetent or incapacitated at some point in our lives. We would design environments, systems and structures that accommodate functional diversity."
Read the whole post here. And Patson's own website, Diversity New Zealand, is here.
Monday, 25 January 2010
"While the chytrid fungus has blown whole [frog] populations away single-handedly in a season's shooting spree, many species undergo a slow, inexorable decline more akin to starvation or an ancient torture; squeezed into corners by the expanding human habitat, poisoned by farmland chemicals, eaten by bigger invasive neighbours, hunted for meat, stressed by temperature rise and stalked by viruses - or any combination of the above."
"As the plot of that detective story becomes clear, it seems that scientists are beginning to write another with a very similar narrative, but this time with bees cast as the victims."
"Bee populations - wild and cultivated - have always had their ups and downs, their years of plenty and years of absence. But about five years ago, commercial beekeepers in the US began reporting total wipe-outs of hives on a scale not documented before, leading to the term colony collapse disorder (CCD)."
Read the whole article here.
Sunday, 24 January 2010
Saturday, 23 January 2010
"Shiftwork is endemic (involving more than a quarter of workers) and keeps increasing with the demands of our 24/7 consumer society. People with a natural rhythm of getting up late and going to sleep late ("owls" as opposed to "larks") are discriminated against. Adolescents, who have a biological tendency to follow an owlish rhythm, are forced to attend school at early hours when they are still half asleep. Managers and other presumably important people are shuttled back and forth across the Atlantic as if jet lag was just a fairytale."
"There is always going to be a certain amount of night-time work that is essential. A big part of it could be covered by intelligent use of the natural variation between peoples' biorhythms. The larks among us will be happy to start work at 6am, while the owls don't really mind being out until 2am. For the most unpopular hours in the middle of the night, science can help workers adapt."
Read the whole thing here.
Friday, 22 January 2010
Thursday, 21 January 2010
Monday, 18 January 2010
From the BBC comes this hilarious report of a trip to an ice-cream parlour in Venezuela where 860 different flavours of icecream are made. The selection caters for all tastes, many of them non-traditional.
"The selection includes chilli, tomato, gherkin, onion, mushrooms in wine, garlic, and cream of crab."
"To put out the fire on my tongue, I go for the plantain flavour which is incredibly realistic. As is the cheese, which I would not at all recommend."
"Perhaps some things, like cheddar, should not be made into ice cream." observes the reporter.
Read the whole thing here.
Usually only plants can make food directly from sunlight, but a sea slug has been discovered which incorporates algal chloroplasts into its own cells and is performing photosynthesis:
"Some related slugs also engulf chloroplasts but E. chlorotica alone preserves the organelles in working order for a whole slug lifetime of nearly a year. The slug readily sucks the innards out of algal filaments whenever they’re available, but in good light, multiple meals aren’t essential. Scientists have shown that once a young slug has slurped its first chloroplast meal from one of its few favored species of Vaucheria algae, the slug does not have to eat again for the rest of its life. All it has to do is sunbathe."
Sunday, 17 January 2010
National Geographic has a photo feature of the cave of giant gypsum crystals at Naica, near Chihuahua, Mexico. Click through for more images and information. Thanks Matthew for the link.
Update: there is a BBC video clip of the cave here which is quite mindblowing.
PS National Geographic is selling complete DVD-ROM sets of every National Geographic issue since 1888! That also does my head in. When I was a child my family had a shelf with about 6 feet of National Geographics, but that was only a few years' worth....
Saturday, 16 January 2010
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
"a hill stretched
out its brown arm and
drew me close I could
smell the sweat of its
crevices at every turn
then a harbour licked
my ear whispering the
things harbours say
to all the girls about
other places they have
touched but you’re the
one babe hey you’re
read the whole thing online here (click the tab that says, "from Fugacity 05 Online Poetry Anthology")