Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from September 2005

University and Technikum, with marble monuments and music to follow…

September 30th, 2005 · Comments Off on University and Technikum, with marble monuments and music to follow…

Photos from the past two days in Vienna, much fun, and now it’s time to sleep. All best, Betsy

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Snowman, court jester, in bed…

September 30th, 2005 · Comments Off on Snowman, court jester, in bed…

… or would a cat in a bar, plus naked people, work better?

Create your own New Yorker cartoon by matching up items from formulaic lists

Thanks to Jason Kottke for the link.

Tags: Learn to write funny

Pre-blogging blogging: Beautiful Vienna

September 29th, 2005 · Comments Off on Pre-blogging blogging: Beautiful Vienna

In 2002, about 6 months before I ever thought of blogging, Frank and I spent two-plus weeks in beautiful Vienna.

Here’s my online journal (with pictures) from that magical time. In addition to lots of practical tips on seeing Vienna, you can also find out there:

  • Why Emperor Franz Joseph ate Tafelspitz every day for lunch…
  • What the Freud museum has that the Beethoven museum lacks…
  • Which titanic statue was censored by Maria Theresa with a very surprising extra figleaf placement….
  • Why Nicholaus Dumba is buried in the St. Marxer Friedhof next to Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms…

Now we’re back in Vienna again, only four days this time–but even a month would be not enough time for Vienna and Reinhold and Renate and Diane.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

No exploding toads and no Beatles

September 28th, 2005 · Comments Off on No exploding toads and no Beatles

We’ll say goodbye to Hamburg tomorrow, early. It’s a handsome North German city, full of good-looking industrious, fast-walking people. But rectitude hasn’t made Hamburg dull or stiff–you hear happy bursts of laughter from neighboring diners and even see an occasional jaywalker.

I did not have the stomach to visit its famous exploding toad pond, although our hotel is quite near it.

And I’m sorry I didn’t go see the Reeperbahn “shrines” where Beatles fans can remember their early days of thrilling near-starvation. Here is somebody who did, and came back with photos.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Polish police catch red-hot meteorites

September 28th, 2005 · Comments Off on Polish police catch red-hot meteorites

Meteorite chunks are selling for more than gold nuggets, with predictable results, says a recent Mosnews article (love their picture!):

Customs officers in Dorohusk, on Poland’s border with Ukraine, have made an unusual seizure, confiscating nearly 530kg of meteorites they found hidden in a Russian-registered truck…According to the truck’s payload ledgers, its cargo was quartzite, a tough stone composed almost entirely of quartz grains, derived from sandstone.

These fragments aren’t just any old meteorite, says the Vladivostok News:

The pieces weighing a total of 529 kilograms are part of a Sikhote-Alin meteorite collection, the experts from Warsaw’s Geological Museum said. According to them, the three biggest pieces with a weight of 178, 150 and 130 kilograms, each are engraved with numbers and could belong to some museum collection.

The ferric Sikhote-Alin meteorite, ranked among the world’s ten biggest meteorites, fell in Primorye’s Ussurisky taiga in February of 1947. The weight of the fragments found on the spot amount to a total of 30 tons, the biggest one weighing 1,745 kilograms. The world’s greatest museums boast exposing this meteorite’s fragments in their collections.

No word on which boasted collection was the source of this truck’s all-too-hot meteor fragments.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Hamburg nocturne for harpsichord, jet lag, and two gingkos

September 27th, 2005 · Comments Off on Hamburg nocturne for harpsichord, jet lag, and two gingkos

Frank and I hopped off our transatlantic flight Tuesday morning at 5:15 a.m.

But I can’t go to sleep without blogging this magical afternoon, an impromptu concert in Frank’s honor by Susanne von Laun on historic keyboard instruments, from a 1540 cembalo on up to a grand piano, at Hamburg’s Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (Arts and Crafts).

These piano-ancestors are wonderfull quirky! Built-in sound effects included glass harmonica, “oboe” ( a spooky buzz when parchment touches the strings), a drum, and a tinkling bell. Susanne von Laun used just the right touch–and just the right music choices, from pre-Baroquerie to Chopin– to bring out the special features of each instrument. And Frank got to play them too, comparing the sounds and touches of different keyboards.

We’ve spent happy hours listening to Robert Greenberg explain the trajectory of piano inventions, by composers and keyboard builders, in between Haydn and Beethoven. So it was amazing to be able to hear this ourselves.

I forgot my own camera (drat!) but here are a Yale group’s photos of some of the instruments.

Many thanks to Susasnne von Laun, and to the generosity of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, especially Dr. Bernhard Heitmann (curator of Medieval art) and Frederika Reuter (head of the Museum Friends organization) for making this magical afternoon a possibility.

And the two gingko trees? They continue their more-than-a-century of existence in a sunny courtyard created by huge museum wings now built up on all four sides of them. If you go to the cafe for tea and Apfeltorte, you can watch them existing through giant light-filled windows.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

The magnetism of Mingus (and Queen Victoria)

September 25th, 2005 · Comments Off on The magnetism of Mingus (and Queen Victoria)

Edmund Shaftesbury was, in his day, a top guru of “personal magnetism”…or was he? According to
Marc Abraham’s weekly Guardian column

Edmund Shaftesbury was a pen name used by Dr Everett Ralston, the Ralston of Ralston-Purina, the food company that was ingested by Nestlé four years ago.
Ralston was itself a concoction, an acronym for “regime, activity, light, strength, temperation, oxygen, nature”.
The man was actually named Webster Edgerly.

In other improbable Marc Abrahams news: Hot off the presses, just in time for this year’s IgNobel Prize ceremony….The Ig Nobel Prizes 2: An All-New Collection of the World’s Unlikeliest Research (ISBN 0525949127).

So what about jazz great Charlie Mingus and not-amused icon Queen Victoria? Each of them, for a very different reason, owned Shaftesbury’s Personal Magnetism.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Out of love with a bigco who stopped paying attention

September 22nd, 2005 · Comments Off on Out of love with a bigco who stopped paying attention

Funny “Dear John” letter by Lisa Williams to Staples:

When I first met you, you were different….Your aisles were wide, well lit, every millimeter as well organized as the sock drawer of drill sergeant with OCD.

Read the whole thing! And then write one to your own ex-darling bigco. My letter to Kinko’s would be even more scathing, I’m afraid.

Tags: Learn to write funny

Congrats to 25 new MacArthur geniuses!

September 20th, 2005 · Comments Off on Congrats to 25 new MacArthur geniuses!

MacArthur Foundation announced this year’s 25 “genius grants” today.

Way back in 1982, when the program was young and prize amounts depended on how old you were (older folks got more money) and Frank had recently turned 31 … Frank and I and 7 year-old Amity and zero-year-old Mira went over to England so Frank could do some physics. Later, we headed off for a family trip, haphazardly aimed toward lovely, mysterious Avebury with its stone circles.

We found a farm bed and breakfast where Amity could help herd geese. Each morning, after porridge with creamy milk fresh from the cow, we’d go see some antiquities. Each afternoon, we’d come back to the big farm kitchen to drink tea made on their huge silver Aga.

A few days into this idyll, Frank had to phone Cambridge. Great excitement–everyone had been trying to find him! We were completely astounded. A MacArthur Prize? Wow!

Anyway, if you need a post-Katrina boost of optimism, check out this year’s list of prizewinners. Their impressive and varied talents will lift your heart.

Tags: Nobel

Halley’s in the hospital…

September 19th, 2005 · Comments Off on Halley’s in the hospital…

Warm, generous, funny Alpha-Male advocate, stealth-disco-ing Ms. Halley Suitt is in the hospital with chest pains. She seems to me a billion years too young for that! Please get well quickly, Halley, our bloggiverse needs you…

Tags: Metablogging