I am a big fan of Benvenuto Cellini’s. Okay, maybe it sounds a little strange to say that, at this end of time: but the man’s personality is an endless fascination to me. He was an exquisitely talented painter and sculptor who worked for popes and kings, a contemporary and acquaintance of Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci; an incorrigibly opinionated boaster, duelist and brawler, an occasional jailbreaker (for that fast mouth of his got him in trouble more than once), and an indefatigable self-promoter and traveling PR show, with an ego the size of the planet. He wrought as he lived, hugely. And one of the most magnificent things he ever made was a salt-cellar, a saliera.
…it was oval in form, standing about two-thirds of a cubit, wrought of solid gold, and worked entirely with the chisel. While speaking of the model, I said before how I had represented Sea and Earth, seated, with their legs interlaced, as we observe in the case of firths and promontories; this attitude was therefore metaphorically appropriate. The Sea carried a trident in his right hand, and in his left I put a ship of delicate workmanship to hold the salt. Below him were his four sea-horses, fashioned like our horses from the head to the front hoofs; all the rest of their body, from the middle backwards, resembled a fish, and the tails of these creatures were agreeably inter-woven. Above this group the Sea sat throned in an attitude of pride and dignity; around him were many kinds of fishes and other creatures of the ocean. The water was represented with its waves, and enamelled in the appropriate colour. I had portrayed Earth under the form of a very handsome woman, holding her horn of plenty, entirely nude like the male figure; in her left hand I placed a little temple of Ionic architecture, most delicately wrought, which was meant to contain the pepper. Beneath her were the handsomest living creatures which the earth produces; and the rocks were partly enamelled, partly left in gold. The whole piece reposed upon a base of ebony, properly proportioned, but with a projecting cornice, upon which I introduced four golden figures in rather more than half-relief. They represented Night, Day, Twilight, and Dawn. I put, moreover, into the same frieze four other figures, similar in size, and intended for the four chief winds; these were executed, and in part enamelled, with the most exquisite refinement.
And for once he’s not bragging too much about the beauty of the piece. …So I was very, very annoyed when the Saliera was stolen in from its museum-home in Vienna in 2003.
But they got it back in January!! I had no idea.
And today the thief was sentenced. (Or in this case maybe “artnapper” is a better word: the guy decided he would return the piece after a ransom was paid.) He’s claiming the theft was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I’m not entirely convinced.
The funny thing is that he got caught by sending one SMS too many.
[tags]Cellini, saliera, salt cellar, saltcellar[/tags]
Of course, the real joke is that the fries are actually Belgian in origin. (The WWI US “doughboys” who discovered them had simply wound up in a French-speaking part of Belgium.) The best evidence of this provenance — not concrete, granted: the dish is too old for that — can be found in the fact that every other language assigning fries a national origin associates them with either the Belgians or the Dutch. Only US English calls fries “French”.
Much more on the subject here.
(Argh, I wish I was standing in the main square in Brugge right now, outside that little frietkot that sits down by the door of the Bell Tower, with a paper box of fries. Or down at that frituur around the corner from the apartments we stay in when we’re visiting there. [BTW, I agree with the photographer: this guy unnerves me somewhat.] …Oh well: back to work)
[tags]France, French fries, French, freedom fries, freedom, Congress[/tags]
Don’t know if I’d call them that, but unquestionably the find is important.
The discovery of the Psalter or Book of Psalms in the south Midlands has already been hailed by experts as the greatest find from a European bog.
The find is said to be one of the most significant discoveries in European and world archaeology in decades and has been referred to as the Irish equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Specialists have said it is impossible to know how the manuscript ended up in the bog, but believe it may have been lost in transit or dumped after a raid possibly 1,000-1,200 years ago — while estimates date the book to 800AD.
A version of the story with many more details is here.
[tags]Ireland, Dead Sea Scrolls, manuscript, psaltery, bog[/tags]
The question comes up once again, as the one-cent piece now costs more to produce than it’s worth.
…The U.S. Mint could lose a mint, or $43.5 million, producing the coin this year, according to at least one expert.
…The Mint is also losing a pretty penny on the nickel. The agency, which plans to produce 1.7 billion of them this year, shells out 6.4 cents for each five-cent piece. Yet, there has been far less hoo-ha over the nickel.
“There is more sentimentality associated with the penny,” said Anthony Zito, 53, former president of the Massapequa Coin Club and avid penny collector. “It has a beloved president on it and has inspired a host of sayings, such as ‘penny-wise and pound-foolish,’ ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’ and ‘a penny for your thoughts.’ It is more ingrained in our culture than any other currency.”
Well, the “pound-foolish” saying would have come from the British side of things, or at least the pre-dollar side.
Another take on the situation from further on in the article:
Another penny advocate, Mark Weller, executive director of Americans for Common Cents, an advocacy group, argues that the elimination of the penny would hurt consumers and many charities, which rely on penny drives as part of their donation collections.
Most convenience stores would round up instead of round down, costing consumers $600 million, said Weller, citing a study by Raymond Lombra, a Penn State University economist.
Weller added that Kolbe is pushing the legislation because Arizona is a copper-producing state. The elimination of the penny would force the Mint to make more nickels, which are mostly composed of copper, he said.
“This is special interest legislation at it worst,” Weller said.
…There was a lot of noise, I seem to remember, when the euro was first being structured, as to whether or not there should be a one-cent coin. I can’t now recall all the justifications for the “yea” or “nay” positions. Whatever: we’ve got it now.
Meanwhile, it’ll be interesting to see if our cent outlasts the US one…
[tags]money, penny, US Mint[/tags]
Last week, like a thunderbolt from Zeus himself, an unexpectedly large horde of pre-Christian devotees descended on Mount Olympus for the annual Prometheus festival.
Many wore white robes although a minority, it is true, came wearing little more than their love for the 12 ancient gods. But a bit of near-nudity notwithstanding, their arrival might have gone unnoticed had it not been for the fact that there were 4 000 of them dancing in the wood-encircled meadow halfway up the mountainside.
Apparently, though, this has really, really annoyed some people.
This year, despite fierce protests from the Orthodox Church, pagans were allowed to set up a cultural association. Now they want to take their battle to the ancient temples of Greece in the hopes of one day having the religion officially recognised.
…”What their worshippers symbolise, and clearly want, is a return to the monstrous dark delusions of the past,” hissed Father Eustathios Kollas, who presides over the community of Greek priests. “They should be stopped.”
This should be interesting to watch. I have strange visions of this issue winding up in front of the European Court of Justice at some point, if some involved EU citizen feels his or her right to worship freely is being infringed…
[tags]Greece, religion, paganism, pagan, Greek Orthodox, Olympus[/tags]
Lots of people come to our Irish recipe pages at the European Cuisines website in search of “the genuine Irish Coffee” recipe. We’ve had the recipe in text form for a long time, but now the website of the World Irish Coffee Festival has given Irish Coffee its own online presence detailing its history and the recipe itself…and about time. Because of where Irish Coffee was invented, the WICF website is closely associated to the website of the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, located at Foynes, County Limerick, on the banks of the River Shannon. And thereby hangs a tale, because something new and really marvelous has just opened up there.
The Museum is a refurbishment of the original Foynes Flying Boat Base terminal building, where all transatlantic air traffic of the late 1930’s stopped on its way elsewhere. (If Rick Blaine flew from New York to Casablanca on his inbound leg, he would have stopped or changed planes at Foynes.) The Museum contains a theater, exhibits and graphic displays, and (in the Radio and Weather Rooms) the base’s original transmitters, receivers and Morse equipment.
That said, they’ve for some time wanted a replica of the inside of one of the flying boats that served the base during the wartime years — particularly the most famous of them, the Boeing B314 “Yankee Clipper”, which became the backbone of the original Pan Am fleet. This flying boat, after testing in 1937 and ’38, ran the world’s first scheduled transatlantic passenger air route starting in June 1939. It was quite a plane — a multiple-level vessel with cabins, sleeping berths, reading room, dining room, and lounge, and a flight deck that was big enough to actually be called a deck. (See here and here for more interiors.) One of the passengers on the inaugural flight (Port Washington [Long Island, NY] – Botwood [Newfoundland] – Foynes – Horta – Lisbon – Marseilles) wrote home about his flying experience:
“The public rooms and the upholstery are works of art of the decorators’ guild. The ship is perfectly vibrationless, and is insulated to the point where you can speak in an ordinary voice. A couple of bridge games are in progress. We have a couple of boys who like to play chess, and the letter writing, of course, is about as popular as ever. At 7 o’clock, dinner was served, and what a dinner it was. We had a six-course affair, with breast of chicken, asparagus, strawberry shortcake and, of course, after-dinner coffee…”
(sigh) It was the kind of thing that today’s air traveler can only dream of. Unfortunately, none of the actual planes remained in the world to be bought and refurbished for the Flying Boat Museum: having become obsolete in the early- to mid-1940’s, they were all sold off to start-up airlines, cannibalized for parts, or simply destroyed, and by the 1950’s they were all gone. So, with a replica cabin in mind, the Museum approached a UK-based set designer with the wonderful name of Brian Fallover. However, Fallover apparently refused to build just a replica of a cabin: he insisted in building the whole plane. And now — according to an interview with the museum director this morning on RTÉ Radio 1 — there it sits, a complete replica Yankee Clipper of 1939, parked outside by the old embarkation/debarkation ramp at Foynes. So cool!
(Unfortunately there seem to be no pictures of it on the website as yet — only some artists’ impressions in a “museum expansion plan” PDF document dated 2005. However, we’re going to go out that way in the near future: after we’ve been there, we’ll add pictures to this posting and put some up on Flickr. So watch this space.)
[tags]flying boat, flying boat base, Foynes, County Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, Boeing B314, B-314, B314, coffee, Irish, Irish coffee, golden age of travel, Pan Am, Pan Am Clipper, Yankee Clipper[/tags]
As C. J. Cregg would say, “Ya think??”
Yes indeed. But there’s more to it than that. A little ways down the article…
While drinking and dancing are part of many modern New Year’s celebrations, the early Egyptians probably would have disapproved of the partying because they viewed such activities in a very different light….
“The Festival of Drunkenness was not a social occasion for them,” said Betsy Bryan, who led the dig. “People did not come to enjoy themselves. They drank to enter an altered state so that they might witness the epiphany of a deity.”
According to Bryan, the Festival of Drunkenness began with attendees appeasing a lion goddess deity, such as Mut, with red beer that received its color from red ochre.
Oho…now I know where we are. We’re celebrating the time when the Great God Ra got pissed off at mankind about something, and told Hathor to go kill them a little to get his point across. So she did, taking the shape of the lion-goddess Sekhmet for greater effectiveness in the job (since Hathor’s normal shape was that of a divine cow or cow-headed woman, and even under optimum conditions a divine cow can’t kill as many people as fast as a divine lion).
After a while Ra said, “Okay, that’s enough now,” and Hathor said, “No, I’m liking this — !” and killed a whole lot more of mankind, so that the earth ran red with their blood, as if it was the Nile overflowing its banks.
And Ra said, “Wait a minute, if this goes on, we’re not going to have much mankind left at the end of the day!” — and he told some of the gods to get him mandrakes, and told the rest of them to Make Beer, Fast. Which they did. And they then made beer, and put the mandrakes in it, and then went to Hathor, and said, “Hey, after a long day killing mankind, we know you work up one heckofa thirst. And so…it’s Beer Time!”
And Hathor drank the beer, and got plastered, and stopped killing mankind. Everyone said “Whew!” And the next morning, when Hathor got up and walked off rubbing her head and wondering what they’d put in that beer, Ra said to the rest of the gods, “From now on we do this every year at this time — at the New Year, when the Nile overflows its banks — in case she gets the same idea around then. Oh, and mankind can have some of the beer too. It’ll keep them off our case, and remind them that if they get out of hand again, there’s always Hathor.”
And so it came to pass.
Now somebody get me a kriek (which is a pretty color of red without anybody putting red ochre in it)…
Ready for this? The Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway”…otherwise known as “The Daddy Longlegs Railway”….
…A railway that needed a sea captain.
Because it was travelling over the sea, the only way the Pioneer could obtain a licence was to have a trained sea captain actually operating it or being available at all times. He knew whether the sea was safe to travel over. The Pioneer had to have a lifeboat on the back and a number of lifebelts round the edges so that if there was a problem people would be able to get away. In effect, it was treated almost as though it was a ship.
Just plain astounding.
Everyone who’s read cyberpunk will have been here before me. (And ever so briefly, I’ve been there myself.) But the thought of that time’s crazed inventiveness, coupled with today’s materials and energy technology…what an alternate universe that would be.