September 4, 2020

First Growth

Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855

First Growth (French: ‘Premier Cru’) status is a classification of wines primarily from the Bordeaux region of France.

The need for a classification of the best Bordeaux wines arose from the 1855 World’s Fair, the ‘Exposition Universelle de Paris.’ The result was the ‘Bordeaux Wine Official Classification,’ a list of the top ranked wines, named the ‘Grand Crus Classés’ (Great Classified Growths). With several thousand Chateaux producing their wines in Bordeaux, to be classified was to carry a mark of high prestige. Continue reading

September 1, 2020

Windshield Phenomenon

Decline in insect populations

The windshield phenomenon is a recent observation that fewer dead insects accumulate on the windshields of people’s cars. It has been attributed to a global decline in insect populations caused by human activity.

As early as the 2000s, it became a commonplace observation among drivers that windscreens after a long drive no longer had to be cleaned of a myriad of insects. In 2016, Canadian naturalist John Acorn noted that the phenomenon had recently become a meme but questioned whether it is ‘reasonable to assume that windshields can tell us something about the overall numbers of insects’ and also that ‘humans are notoriously bad at detecting trends.’ Continue reading

August 24, 2020

Your Show of Shows

 Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca

Your Show of Shows was a live 90-minute variety show that was broadcast weekly in the United States on NBC from the winter of 1950 through the summer of 1954, featuring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. Other featured performers included comedian Carl Reiner, actor Howard Morris, singer and actor Bill Hayes, baritone singer Jack Russell, pop singer Judy Johnson, jazz band The Hamilton Trio, and the soprano Marguerite Piazza. Actor José Ferrer made several guest appearances on the series.

Writers for the series included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Danny Simon, Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, Selma Diamond, Joseph Stein, Michael Stewart, Tony Webster (the only Gentile among the show’s writers), and Carl Reiner who, though a cast member, also worked with the writers. (Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen joined the writing staff for later Caesar ventures.) The series is historically significant for the evolution of the variety genre by incorporating situation comedies (sitcoms) such as the running sketch ‘The Hickenloopers’; this added a narrative element to the traditional multi-act structure. Continue reading

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August 18, 2020

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

Midnight City

“Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” is the sixth studio album by French electronic music band M83, released in 2011. It is M83’s last album with keyboardist Morgan Kibby and the band’s first full double album.

Prior to recording Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Anthony Gonzalez had moved from his native France to Los Angeles. Describing the move in an interview, Gonzalez said: ‘Having spent 29 years of my life in France, I moved to California a year and a half before the making of this album and I was excited and inspired by so many different things: by the landscape, by the way of life, by live shows, by movies, by the road trips I took alone… I was feeling alive again and this is, I feel, something that you can hear on the album.’ Continue reading

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August 15, 2020

Karen

Central Park birdwatching incident

Karen is a pejorative term used in the United States and other English-speaking countries for a person perceived as entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is appropriate or necessary. A common stereotype is that of a white woman who uses her privilege to demand her own way at the expense of others.

Depictions also include demanding to ‘speak to the manager,’ anti-vaccination beliefs, being racist, or sporting a particular bob cut hairstyle. As of 2020, the term was increasingly being used as a general-purpose term of disapproval for middle-aged white women. Continue reading

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August 13, 2020

Iceberg Slim

pimp

Robert Beck, born Robert Lee Maupin, (1918 – 1992), better known as Iceberg Slim, was an American pimp who subsequently became an influential author among a primarily African-American readership.

Scottish author Irvine Welsh said ‘Iceberg Slim did for the pimp what Jean Genet did for the homosexual and thief and William Burroughs did for the junkie: he articulated the thoughts and feelings of someone who had been there. The big difference is that they were white.’ Continue reading

August 11, 2020

Off-White

Virgil Abloh

Off-White (stylized as OFF-WHITE c/o VIRGIL ABLOH) is an Italian luxury fashion label founded by American designer Virgil Abloh. The label has collaborated with Nike, Levi, Jimmy Choo, IKEA and Évian. In 2019, José Neves, owner of Farfetch, an online luxury fashion retail platform, purchased New Guards Group, the parent organization of Off-White for US$675 million.

The company was first founded as ‘PYREX VISION’ by Virgil Abloh in the Italian city of Milan in 2012. The name was abandoned after coming under criticism for printing ‘PYREX 23’ on the classic Ralph Lauren rugby flannel silhouette, and reselling them for a premium $550 price tag. Abloh then rebranded the company as Off-White, which he describes as ‘the grey area between black and white as the color off-white’ to the fashion world.

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August 6, 2020

Gamehendge

The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday

Gamehendge is the fictional setting for a number of songs by the rock band Phish. Most of the songs can be traced back to ‘The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday’ (or TMWSIY), the senior project of guitarist and primary vocalist Trey Anastasio, written while he attended Goddard College in 1987.

The recording of TMWSIY has been heavily circulated among fans and is considered by some to be an unreleased Phish album. Outside of the songs from TMWSIY, there are numerous other songs set in the fictional universe of Gamehendge. Continue reading

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August 2, 2020

Dead Birds

Dani

Dead Birds is a 1963 American documentary film by American anthropologist Robert Gardner (1925-2014) about the ritual warfare cycle of the Dugum Dani tribe in New Guinea. The film presents footage of battles between the Willihiman-Wallalua clan and the Wittaia clan with scenes of the funeral of a small boy killed by a raiding party, the women’s work that goes on while battles continue, and the wait for enemy to appear.

The film’s theme is the encounter that all people must have with death, as told in a Dugum Dani myth of the origins of death that bookends the film. The film uses a nonlinear narrative structure of parallel or braided narrative that traces three individuals through a season of three deaths and one near-death as relayed by an expository voiceover that describes scenes and the thoughts of the film’s protagonists. Continue reading

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July 22, 2020

Art Car

Department of Mutant Vehicles

An art car is a vehicle that has had its appearance modified as an act of personal artistic expression. Art cars are often driven and owned by their creators, who are sometimes referred to as ‘Cartists.’

Most car artists are ordinary people with no artistic training. Artists are largely self-taught and self funded, though some mainstream trained artists have also worked in the art car medium. Artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and others have designed BMW Art Cars, a project introduced by French racecar driver and auctioneer Hervé Poulain In 1975, and their work has been reflected in racing cars like the BMW V12 LMR. Continue reading

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July 20, 2020

Low-background Steel

Background radiation

Low-background steel is any steel produced prior to the detonation of the first nuclear bombs in the 1940s and 1950s. With the Trinity test and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and then subsequent nuclear weapons testing during the early years of the Cold War, background radiation levels increased across the world.

Modern steel is contaminated with radionuclides because its production uses atmospheric air. Low-background steel is so-called because it does not suffer from such nuclear contamination. This steel is used in devices that require the highest sensitivity for detecting radionuclides. The primary source of low-background steel is sunken ships that were constructed before the Trinity test, most famously the scuttled German World War I warships in Scapa Flow. Continue reading

July 7, 2020

Perfect is the Enemy of Good

La Begueule

Perfect is the enemy of good is an aphorism which is commonly attributed to French philosopher Voltaire, who quoted a similar Italian proverb in his ‘Dictionnaire philosophique’ in 1770. It subsequently appeared in his moral poem ‘La Bégueule.’ Aristotle, Confucius, and other classical philosophers propounded the principle of the ‘golden mean,’ which counsels against extremism in general.

The ‘Pareto principle,’ or 80–20 rule, explains this numerically. For example, it commonly takes 20% of the full time to complete 80% of a task, while to complete the last 20% of a task takes 80% of the effort. Achieving absolute perfection may be impossible and so, as increasing effort results in diminishing returns. Robert Watson-Watt, who developed Britain’s first radar detectors, propounded a ‘cult of the imperfect,’ which he stated as ‘Give them the third best to go on with; the second best comes too late, the best never comes.’