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Archive for November, 2009

old-books-300x205“Old books smell like grass, with a tang of acidity and a hint of vanilla, according to scientists who have discovered a way to tell the condition of an [sic] works by their odour.

“The system can measure the degradation of old books and historical documents on the basis of their aroma.

“Now the scientists say their non-destructive ‘sniff’ test could help libraries and museums preserve a range of prized objects, some of which are degrading rapidly due to advancing age.

“Matija Strlic, a chemist at University College London, and lead author of the study, and her team note that the well-known musty smell of an old book, as readers leaf through the pages, is the result of hundreds of so-called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the air from the paper. . . .

“Conventional methods for analysing library and archival materials involve removing samples of the document and then testing them with traditional laboratory equipment. But the new approach involves no damage to the document.

“The new technique analyses the gases emitted by old books and documents without altering the documents themselves.” (more @ The Telegraph UK, via Melville House)

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Gopnik Cookbooks“Vicarious pleasure? More like deferred frustration. Anyone who cooks knows that it is in following recipes that one first learns the anticlimax of the actual, the perpetual disappointment of the thing achieved. I learned it as I learned to bake. When I was in my early teens, the sick yearning for sweets that adolescents suffer drove me, in afternoons taken off from school, to bake, which, miraculously, meant just doing what the books said and hoping to get what they promised to yield. I followed the recipes as closely as I could: dense Boston cream pie, Rigó Jansci slices, Sacher Torte with apricot jam between the layers. The potential miracle of the cookbook was immediately apparent: you start with a feeling of greed, find a list of rules, assemble a bunch of ingredients, and then you have something to be greedy about. You begin with the ache and end with the object, where in most of the life of appetites—courtship, marriage—you start with the object and end with the ache.” (more @ The New Yorker)

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jazz band“Long before we debated what real punk-rock was, what true hip-hop was, or what made indie-rock authentic, jazz heads grappled with what is and isn’t jazz music. Now, the debate is whether jazz is dying off or not.

“Not long ago Jae Sinnett, a jazz drummer, composer, educator and radio personality, told NPR that jazz is dying because people are falling out of love with it. Hip-hop, Sinnet says, stole jazz’s thunder. He also blamed club owners for removing pianos from their venues to save space over the years.

“Sinnet’s claims are not unfounded. The Wall Street Journal‘s Terry Teachout reported in August that the audience for America’s great art form was withering away, based on data in the latest survey of public participation in the arts. According to the report, America’s jazz audience is not only shrinking, it’s aging. Attendance at jazz performances has dropped 30% since 2002. The median age of concert patrons in 2008 was 46; in 1982 it was 29. . . .

“Teachout said the problem is that most Americans see jazz as a form of high art. Sinnet confirmed that ‘the masses don’t understand the music,’ largely because there are fewer places to hear it. Getting ‘these kids’ to ‘realise [jazz] is something worth their time is difficult because they don’t hear it on TV or MTV.’ The word ‘jazz’ itself has even become sandbagged with lofty associations (Time Out London goes so far as to call it the ‘J Bomb’).” (more @ Intelligent Life)

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Robert Johnson“The mystery surrounding bluesman Robert Johnson‘s life and death feeds the lingering fascination with his work.

“There’s the myth he sold his soul to the devil to create his haunting guitar intonations. There’s the dispute over where he died after his alleged poisoning by a jealous man in 1938. Three different markers claim to be the site of his demise.

“His birthplace, however, has been verified. The seminal bluesman came into the world in 1911 in a well-crafted home built by his stepfather in the Mississippi town of Hazlehurst.

“Now, 71 years after his death, local officials want to restore the home in hopes of drawing Johnson fans and their tourism dollars to Copiah County, about 100 miles from the Delta region that most bluesmen called home.” (cont’d @ Variety)

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I’m not sure why I feel compelled to post this, but:

SCOTUS_baseball_card“If you’re a fan of the U.S. Supreme Court bobbleheads that can be found on the desks of powerhouse lawyers and law professors nationwide, then you’ll like the next brainchild of the bobbleheads’ creator: Supreme Court baseball cards.

“The first one, commemorating Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. as the Court’s ‘pitcher,’ has been issued to cognoscenti who subscribe to the unconventional law review Green Bag. Editor Ross Davies, who commissioned the bobbleheads, cooked up the trading cards too.

“Roberts is shown in the image of Mordecai ‘Three Fingers’ Brown, the famed Chicago Cubs pitcher who, like Roberts, grew up in Indiana. In the background is legendary umpire Bill Klem — a nod to Roberts’ 2005 statement that the Court must strive to be a ‘fair and unbiased umpire.'” (more @ Law.com)

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OED“Ever wonder how people really talked in the 1800s, or 1500s, or earlier?

“You can stop building the time machine. Such questions are now easier to answer than ever before, with the publication—after 44 years of work—of the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. At almost 4,000 pages and about 800,000 meanings, this mind-boggling reference work is the biggest thesaurus ever and the world’s first historical thesaurus: It takes the enormity of the OED and arranges it thematically and chronologically.” (cont’d @ GOOD)

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WhoIsAJew“The questions before the judges in Courtroom No. 1 of Britain’s Supreme Court were as ancient and as complex as Judaism itself.

“Who is a Jew? And who gets to decide?

“On the surface, the court was considering a straightforward challenge to the admissions policy of a Jewish high school in London. But the case, in which arguments concluded Oct. 30, has potential repercussions for thousands of other parochial schools across Britain. And in addressing issues at the heart of Jewish identity, it has exposed bitter divisions in Britain’s community of 300,000 or so Jews, pitting members of various Jewish denominations against one another. . . .

“The case began when a 12-year-old boy, an observant Jew whose father is Jewish and whose mother is a Jewish convert, applied to the school, JFS. Founded in 1732 as the Jews’ Free School, it is a centerpiece of North London’s Jewish community. It has around 1,900 students, but it gets far more applicants than it accepts. . . .

“By many standards, the JFS applicant, identified in court papers as ‘M,’ is Jewish. But not in the eyes of the school, which defines Judaism under the Orthodox definition set out by Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Because M’s mother converted in a progressive, not an Orthodox, synagogue, the school said, she was not a Jew — nor was her son. It turned down his application.

“That would have been the end of it. But M’s family sued, saying that the school had discriminated against him. They lost, but the ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal this summer.” (more @ NY Times)

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