Help available for micro-penises

‘A new surgical procedure has allowed men with abnormally short penises to enjoy a full sex life and urinate standing up, some for the first time. Tiny “micro-penises” have been enlarged to normal size without losing any erogenous sensation, say UK doctors.

“Micro-penis” refers to any penis shorter than 7 centimetres when fully erect – approximately half of the average length (12.5 cm). Approximately one in every 200 men have a micro-penis, either because of a birth defect or because they have undergone cancer treatments.

“It’s not so much penile enlargement as penile construction,” says David Ralph at the University College of London, UK, who will describe the technique on Wednesday at a sexual medicine conference in London.’

More here from New Scientist.

Death of a Sherlock Holmes Scholar

A scholar of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes fiction is found dead of strangulation in London. The scholar, hot on the trail of a missing Conan Doyle archive, had claimed somebody was out to get him shortly before his death. The victim is found with a bootlace around his neck. Also found at the scene of the crime: a spoon; soft toys; and gin. When friends call the apartment, an unfamiliar American voice plays on the answering machine. A writer picks up the trail and finds himself face to face with a shadowy high-ranking Pentagon official and amateur Sherlock Holmes buff. This is all part of an unbelievably good New Yorker article coming out this week by David Grann, one of those New Yorker articles that only comes along once or twice a year. The article isn’t available online, but this interview with the writer is.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Eating Rough

‘A big steaming bowl of pig parts and starch might seem an unlikely choice for a swelteringly hot morning in the tropics. But after you take a mouthful, it all makes sense. Screamingly cold beers — straight out of the freezer — keep appearing in front of you. You kick off your flip-flops. Bare toes brush against worn wood. The hour grows later, and suddenly going to the beach does not seem that important anymore.’

Good news: Tony Bourdain has brought his signature gastronomic gusto to the Times’ food section. And while you’re at it, enjoy this account of the legendary Marcella Hazan visiting one of my favorite Chinatown establishments, the Dumpling House.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Holding on together i try to set the night on fire

Stepping briefly onto Dan’s turf, I wanted to mention a band whose first U.S. tour I caught at the Bowery Ballroom last week. Phoenix is an uberhip French outfit (video directed by Roman Coppola) following in the footsteps of Air as interpreters and synthesists of Anglo-American pop from a skewed but gorgeous Gallic angle. But Phoenix use vocals (the lead singer is a perfect dream of a French pop star, slender with lanky hair and a worried look on his face) in English to produce an uninhibited sense of irony-free but knowing sentimentality. (Sample koan-lyrics include the title of this post.) Musically, their Frenchness seems to enable a disarming disregard for generic boundaries, as in the ten-minute ‘Funky Squaredance.’ Anything is possible again: pop can invent a space of freedom. Their first album is ‘United,’ reviewed here at Pitchfork. The new one is ‘Alphabetical’. It’s pretty damn addictive.

Ancient Mexicans


In a current exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum In New York City you can find a small but wonderful collection of sculptures from ancient Mexico.

With so many ancient civilizations to learn about the discerning dilletante is put to quite a challenge. Still, one shouldn’t forget about the ancient civilations of Mexico and Central America.

Recent discoveries of Mayan Palaces in Guatemala promise a glut of new information in the years to come.

Tis the season for loads of crap Christmas records

We are inundated at the same time every year with tired retreads of otherwise joyous music from mildly talented popstars and/or would be adult-contemporary crooners. If you, like me, are finding yourself just-not-satisfied with, say, Jessica Simpson’s latest contribution to this merry pile of garbage, here’s a few suggestions…

1. John Denver & The Muppets: A Christmas Together: If you have kids, treat yourself and them to this record. They will remember you for it as they put you in a rest home.

2. Harry Connick Jr.: When My Heart Finds Christmas: An adult-contemporary crooner worth his weight in scotch & soda, Harry brings his showmanship and candor to these carols. And not without it’s softer side, the album features a lovely rendition of Ave Maria.

3. Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown Christmas: Rightfully a holiday (and jazz) classic that never goes away. One second your tapping your foot to “Linus and Lucy”, the next your caught up in the reverent melancholy of “Christmas Time Is Here”.

4. Handel’s Messiah: Christmas time, Old Testament-style. Full of drama, fire and brimstone, the Messiah is epic in or out of the context of the bible.

Happy holidays from 3 Quarks. Fa la la la…

New Iron & Wine EP due in February

Mr. Sam Beam of Iron and Wine prepares to add another EP to his rapidly expanding catalog. Entitled Woman King and scheduled for release via Sub Pop on February 22nd, the disc will contain six brand new songs– his first recordings since Our Endless Numbered Days.

Here, have a tracklisting.

01 Woman King
02 Jezebel
03 Grey Stables
04 Freedom Hangs Like Heaven
05 In My Lady’s House
06 Evening on the Ground (Lilith’s Song)

More here

Monday, December 6, 2004

New theory on Stonehenge mystery

_40592215_stonehenge203‘A fresh theory on how Stonehenge was built has been tested out by a group of experts and enthusiasts. 

Gordon Pipes, of the Stonehengineers group of scientists and archaeologists, has suggested that levers may have been used to move the giant stones.

They have tested his “stone-rowing” theory which involves a 45-tonne stone being levered on a track of logs.

“It’s akin to rowing a boat, weights can be picked up with levers using body mass and balance,” said Mr Pipes.’

More here at BBC News.

Scientists make phone cover that turns into flower

Storysunflower“Scientists said on Monday they have come up with a cell phone cover that will grow into a sunflower when thrown away.

Materials company Pvaxx Research & Development, at the request of U.S.-based mobile phone maker Motorola, has come up with a polymer that looks like any other plastic, but which degrades into soil when discarded.

Researchers at the University of Warwick in Britain then helped to develop a phone cover that contains a sunflower seed, which will feed on the nitrates that are formed when the polyvinylalcohol polymer cover turns to waste.”

More here from CNN.

Nature’s Operating Instructions: The True Biotechnologies

From a review of the book by Claire Hope Cummings in the San Francisco Chronicle:

When Andy Lipkis suggests that the city of Los Angeles could capture the rainwater it now throws away, and reduce its dependence on imported water, suddenly the idea seems so obvious. Similarly, wastewater treatment plants work more efficiently when they imitate living systems, and retrofitting urban architecture and transportation can reduce the use of fossil fuels. Coating chain-saw blades with fungus spores hastens the regeneration of forests, and while the antibacterial properties of mushrooms have been known for thousands of years, it took the genius of Paul Stamets to figure out how to put them to work digesting toxic pollution.

Still, it’s surprising to find out that there are grasses that gobble up heavy metals or that cows can be used to reclaim mining wastes. Or that a biochemist named Randall von Wedel brewed a special bacterial smoothie in a blender and used it to clean up old gas station sites and truck terminals…

The sheer breadth and audacity of some of these ideas make for fascinating reading, while others are essential reminders about what must be saved, like heirloom seeds, such as Malcolm Margolin and Dennis Martinez’s essays on the need to preserve what remains of traditional medicinal plant knowledge and indigenous land conservation practices in North America.”

More here.

Muschamp: Andy Warhol as Norman Bates

In case you didn’t know, Herbert Muschamp has given up as chief architecture critic for the NYT and is now writing a sort of cultural analysis called “Society” in the Style section. The latest of these is this article on Andy Warhol, which coincides with the release of a collection of his Interview magazine. The piece reveals some prurient details from Muschamp’s sleepovers at the Warhol home:

‘Sometimes I would hear him cry out for his mother in the middle of the night: ”Ma! Ma!” Minutes later, with a rustle of skirt, a shadowy presence would darken the doorway — cue Bernard Hermann — an apparition somewhat resembling a cross between Old Mother Hubbard and Mrs. Bates. An antiphonal exchange would ensue, a call-and-response duet that hinted at dark, primitive histories of tribal uprootedness and separation.
”Andy. . . . Andy. . . . ”
”Ma! Ma!”
”Andy. . . . ”
Some might call this the primal interview.’

The Ten Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

From a compilation by writer John Scalzi:

An Algonquin Round Table Christmas (1927)

Alexander Woolcott, Franklin Pierce Adams, George Kaufman, Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker were the stars of this 1927 NBC Red radio network special, one of the earliest Christmas specials ever performed. Unfortunately the principals, lured to the table for an unusual evening gathering by the promise of free drinks and pirogies, appeared unaware they were live and on the air, avoiding witty seasonal banter to concentrate on trashing absent Round Tabler Edna Ferber’s latest novel, Mother Knows Best, and complaining, in progressively drunken fashion, about their lack of sex lives. Seasonal material of a sort finally appears in the 23rd minute when Dorothy Parker, already on her fifth drink, can be heard to remark, “one more of these and I’ll be sliding down Santa’s chimney.” The feed was cut shortly thereafter. NBC Red’s 1928 holiday special “Christmas with the Fitzgeralds” was similarly unsuccessful.

Other Specials include:

The Mercury Theater of the Air Presents the Assassination of Saint Nicholas (1939)

Ayn Rand’s A Selfish Christmas (1951)

The Lost Star Trek Christmas Episode: “A Most Illogical Holiday” (1968)

More here (via Mark Blyth).

Sir Edmund Hillary on the Antarctic “Highway”

The original Everest climber is hacked off that the USA is building a highway through the middle of Antarctica. According to the BBC, “The aim of the 1,600-km (1,000-mile) road is to link McMurdo Station on the Antarctic coast to the Amundsen-Scott base, freeing up ski-equipped supply planes for other missions.”

The thing is, it’s not really a highway, but a “marked track” along a thousand miles of snow. Road Trip! – Spring Break 2005!

Read the story here.

Sunday, December 5, 2004

The Arcade Fire: Funeral


The title of The Arcade Fire’s debut Lp, while not in reference to the music, is meant literally. In the months leading up to recording, bandmember Regine Chassagne’s grandmother passed away. Less than a year later Win and William Butler’s grandfather died and bandmate Richard Parry’s aunt the following month. In the liner notes you’ll find their dedication towards the bottom of the second page, a total of nine names arranged beneath it. It is presumably for them, the dearly departed, that the album earned it’s austere title, Funeral. In contrast to the dark themes and melancholy that could mire an album made during such a period of loss, Funeral bristles with life. It is the sound of six young souls raging against the dying of light and it is one of the most exciting records of the year.

The Arcade Fire’s Official Website
A full review of Funeral at Pitchfork


From a short personal history by Jonathan Franzen in the New Yorker:

On my night table was the “Peanuts Treasury,” a large, thick hardcover compilation of daily and Sunday funnies by Charles M. Schulz. My mother had given it to me the previous Christmas, and I’d been rereading it at bedtime ever since. Like most of the nation’s ten-year-olds, I had an intense, private relationship with Snoopy, the cartoon beagle. He was a solitary not-animal animal who lived among larger creatures of a different species, which was more or less my feeling in my own house. My brothers, who are nine and twelve years older than I, were less like siblings than like an extra, fun pair of quasi-parents.

More here.

Max Richter’s The Blue Notebooks


Quoting Mark Pytlik’s review found on

“Conceptually, Max Richter’s The Blue Notebooks– German-born composer mixes contemporary classical compositions with electronic elements in a dreamscapy journalogue featuring excerpts from Kafka’s The Blue Octavo Notebooks as narrated by Tilda Swinton– reads like a relentlessly precious endeavor, as new age music for grad students, the sort of record that sagely pats you on the back for being smart enough to seek it out. And yet in practice, despite the fact that it is exactly as outlined above, Kafka quotes and all, there is absolutely nothing exclusive or contrived-feeling about it. In fact, not only is Richter’s second album one of the finest of the last six months, it is also one of the most affecting and universal contemporary classical records in recent memory.”

Max Richter’s new record, The Blue Notebooks, came out early in the spring of this year. His first North American release, it has yet to make much of a mark and most likely will go unheard by a wide audience. A shame because here Richter has composed a truly great modern classical and philosophical work full of drama, poetics, tension and release. I would recommended The Blue Notebooks to fans of everyone from Sigur Ros to Philip Glass to The Notwist to Brian Eno. The album was released on British indie label, Fatcat Records, which makes sense with its electronic flourishes and found-sound experimentation. Fatcat is also home to Mum, Mice Parade and Sigur Ros. To visit and listen, click here.

How did the great apes get to be so smart?

0000ed4e491a119ba6b483414b7f4945_1 “Perhaps the complexities of great ape social relationships selected for large brains. But orangutans challenge this ‘social intelligence’ hypothesis: in the wild, they mostly travel about by themselves, yet they are at least as smart as chimpanzees.

Van Schaik thinks that social factors are indeed pivotal in explaining orangutan intelligence, but not in the way proposed by the social intelligence hypothesis. In a beautifully written, compelling narrative that reads like a detective story, he weaves together several threads of evidence to argue that orangutan intelligence is intimately related to technological innovations that are passed down through social learning.”

Book review of Among Orangutans: Red Apes and the Rise of Human Culture by Carel van Schaik here, by Barbara Smuts in Scientific American.

Saturday, December 4, 2004