headline of the day

Bottom line: Doc explains mysteriously massive buttocks

Snakes’ Feat May Inspire Heart Drugs

Pythons are known for their enormous appetites. In a single meal they can devour animals at least as big as they are — deer, alligators, pigs, household pets.

I’m meeting Sarah in Chicago for dinner Wednesday evening.

clusterflock riddle

They are easy to catch with wet hands.

The Murder of Van Gogh

60 Minutes did a segment on the possibility that, contrary to historical assumption, Vincent Van
Gogh was murdered
, or shot accidentally, rather than committed suicide. You can watch the second segment below the fold.

Read more

more on the possible iOS 5 Assistant

I posted a week or so ago about Assistant, a potential voice controlled personal management system available with the next version of the iPhone software. Joel was skeptical, Michael was amused. Here is what Norman Winarsky, the co-founder of Siri, which the software would be based on, thinks about the possibilities:

Let me first say I have no knowledge of what Apple plans to do with the Siri purchase. I read the rumors just like everyone else and it appears that Apple is getting ready to reveal what it has done with Siri over the past year and a half (we were actually expecting it at WWDC). Make no mistake: Apple’s ‘mainstreaming’ Artificial Intelligence in the form of a Virtual Personal Assistant is a groundbreaking event. I’d go so far as to say it is a World-Changing event. Right now a few people dabble in partial AI enabled apps like Google Voice Actions, Vlingo or Nuance Go. Siri was many iterations ahead of these technologies, or at least it was two years ago. This is REAL AI with REAL market use. If the rumors are true, Apple will enable millions upon millions of people to interact with machines with natural language. The PAL will get things done and this is only the tip of the iceberg. We’re talking another technology revolution. A new computing paradigm shift.

I guess we’ll see tomorrow.

The Star Wars Celica

In 1977 Toyota and Twentieth Century Fox teamed up to offer a Star Wars Celica sweepstakes. Since the promotion, it’s gone missing.

The Star Wars Celica was designed by Delphi Auto Design in Costa Mesa, California, and awarded sometime after the end of 1977, probably in January 1978. While the sweepstakes were a joint venture hosted by Toyota and Twentieth Century Fox, the awarding dealership remains a mystery, as does the identity of the winner and the vehicle’s VIN number.

The Official Star Wars Blog wants your help finding it, old Jedi.

Not a spam name, but a genuine listserv name

that set me pondering the wonders of inversion. Is he “Dickson Chigariro” or “Chigariro Dickson”?

From 102 to 67…

In 36 hours. Out on the patio, I’m shivering.

Errol Morris, Believing Is Seeing

Errol Morris’s first book, Believing Is Seeing, comprised of revised essays on photographic truth that originally appeared in The New York Times, is now available. This is from a review by Kathryn Schulz:

Before his filmmaking career took off, Morris had a day job as a detective, and he urges us, here, to read his essays “as a collection of mystery stories.” That’s easy advice to follow. As the de facto protagonist of his own book, Morris reminds me of no one so much as Sherlock Holmes, for whom private investigation was a form of practical epistemology. Like Holmes, Morris believes that truth can be revealed by impartially attending to details overlooked or misinterpreted by others. Like Holmes, he is patient, compulsive and unafraid of legwork. Of the Fenton photographs, he writes: “My hunch was that the lighting and shadows on the cannonballs might be the key to ordering” the images. “I wanted to experiment with lighting the cannonballs from various directions, replicating the directions of the sun and time of day. But first I needed an 1850s cannonball.” Off he goes to find one.

I’m looking forward to this one.

Previously on clusterflock.

Wanted: Old Water Ski Rope

Posted to the Dubuque Freecycle group Tue Aug 16, 2011 9:05 am (PDT)

Need ski rope that you use to pull a person behind a boat with. Does not need to have the handle on it nor does it need to be in great shape, really, the older the better. I’m not using it to pull a skier.


The Somerton Beach Mystery (or the enigma of the “Unknown Man”)

Let’s start by sketching out the little that is known for certain. At 7 o’clock on the warm evening of Tuesday, November 30, 1948, jeweler John Bain Lyons and his wife went for a stroll on Somerton Beach, a seaside resort a few miles south of Adelaide. As they walked toward Glenelg, they noticed a smartly dressed man lying on the sand, his head propped against a sea wall. He was lolling about 20 yards from them, legs outstretched, feet crossed. As the couple watched, the man extended his right arm upward, then let it fall back to the ground. Lyons thought he might be making a drunken attempt to smoke a cigarette.

Half an hour later, another couple noticed the same man lying in the same position. Looking on him from above, the woman could see that he was immaculately dressed in a suit, with smart new shoes polished to a mirror shine—odd clothing for the beach. He was motionless, his left arm splayed out on the sand. The couple decided that he was simply asleep, his face surrounded by mosquitoes. “He must be dead to the world not to notice them,” the boyfriend joked.

The journalistic equivalent of The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World.

(via the browser)

The Very Cold Case of Judge Crater

Though no longer in wide use, the phrase “to pull a Crater” means to disappear. For many years following Crater’s disappearance, “Judge Crater, call your office” was a standard gag of nightclub comedians and was often heard on public address systems.

In order to promote the 1933 film Bureau of Missing Persons, Warner Bros. advertised they would pay $10,000 (equivalent to about $169,536 in today’s funds) to Crater if he claimed it in person at the box office. In the third season episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, “Very Old Shoes, Very Old Rice”, the character of Rob Petrie mistakes a judge named Judge Krata for the missing judge. A 2010 novel, The Man Who Never Returned by Peter Quinn, investigates the Crater case through the lens of a 1955 fictional detective.

Corona Jackass Clawhammer. Clawhammer.

Courtesy of Brian Beatty. Says this kid is his new hero. I say yes. We need new heroes.

Achillea millefolium

Common yarrow [Achillea millefolium] is frequently found in the mildly disturbed soil of grasslands and open forests.”

I snipped my yarrow at midnight by the light of the moon, standing in grasses up to my chin.

Other names for yarrow are devil’s nettle, sanguinary, milfoil, and soldier’s woundwort.

I especially like sanguinary, as one traditional use of yarrow is the stanching of wounds. When I got my yarrow indoors under lamplight, I noticed that one of the blossom clusters was tinged with something that looked like a blood clot.

Which makes the odd splotch on my chin in this mobile phone photo all the more interesting to me.

Why not now?

My Dallas friend Steve tipped me to a photo of a Dubuque ghost sign, a faded advertisement for Uneeda Biscuits that I’m certain I’ve seen (though I may be confusing it with another, a sign promoting Bull Durham tobacco).

And I remembered my favorite ghost sign ever. It was in Chicago. Maybe it still is, but it’s no longer visible, perhaps obscured by recent construction. I saw it every morning as I rode the El to work downtown at the Harold Washington Library. The hand painted sign read:

Why not now?

That is all.

Why not now?

Once I stumbled upon a possible clue to the slogan’s significance, but I can no longer recall what nor where. It may have been connected with a long-gone bar or tavern.

But I’m not sure whether I really want to solve the mystery.

nearly translucent larval eels

This is a short video of an eel in the larval stage. Pretty stunning how beautiful, and almost invisible, they are.

Over the 20th century, biologists searched for the at-sea breeding grounds of various eel species, which migrate thousands of miles from inland waters to specific open-ocean locales. The journey is made in reverse by their offspring, with the translucent larvae becoming literally more substantial as they swim towards an adult home.

Click through to get an understanding of how misunderstood eels have been as a species.

Summer Pudding

As many of y’all know, I am one of those Americans who loves England and Englishers. Sometimes people even think I may have lived there, I am so steeped in English ways.

But I’m still conflibberated by the concepts of Pudding and Dessert. I mean, I know what I consider pudding, and generally speaking, I’d place pudding within the larger category of dessert. Except for the Yorkshire pudding my English grandmother made. It is the idea that any dessert might be considered pudding that baffles me, and in any event I think I have got the idea wrong. I don’t know the rules.

So I give up. And dream of the perfect summer pudding, whatever that might be.

Seagull Steals a Camera

Garrett and I think it’s fake, but it’s certainly a lovely fake.

Peter Falk || Gena Rowlands || “A Woman Under the Influence” || (1974) || d. John Cassavetes

There is a Criterion version available.


The announcement is “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine”.

coming soon to a theater bookstore near you

I guess today is Errol Morris day on clusterflock, but he announced this morning that his book Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography will be available at the end of the summer.

Elaine Morgan, my new favorite octagenarian

Watch her. She’s intoxicating. I like her theory, I also like hearing her explain it.

Goreyesque, or

The Listing Promenade.

Nick Cave reissues courtesy of Mute

Oftimes Nick grates on my nerves, but he sure does have some flat-out transplendent tunes. Mute has reissued four worthy titles: Let Love In, Murder Ballads, The Boatman’s Call, and No More Shall We Part.

(Thanks to Ju Ju for the tip.)

Hardly an offbeat choice for a dearly beloved, but damn. Nobody’s Baby Now. From Let Love In (1994).

A Favorite Book of Stories by Lydia Davis

I have been reading the brief stories of Lydia Davis with pleasure for years, and one of her books I keep coming back to is Samuel Johnson Is Indignant. Here is one of the stories in it that I have read often enough to hold now in memory:

Happiest Moment

If you ask her what is a favorite story she has written, she will hesitate for a long time and then say it may be this story that she read in a book once: an English language teacher in China asked his Chinese student to say what was the happiest moment in his life. The student hesitated for a long time. At last he smiled with embarassment and said that his wife had once gone to Beijing and eaten duck there, and she often told him about it, and he would have to say the happiest moment of his life was her trip, and the eating of the duck.

I hesitate to spoil things by speaking of what I love about this piece–but since when have I been able to keep quiet about such matters? I love the way the question is never answered–but is. The question evolves in the way that all stories do, given that connections between readers is what makes them live. We write about what matters to us; but who is the author of that? Even in the making of stories we are walking through the lives of others and finding our own words there. We are made of stories. And sometimes a very brief story can open upon the largest understanding we may hope to hold.

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