New Harry Potter Film not going so well…


It was to be one of the biggest science experiments ever seen yet there was not a bunson burner or test tube in sight. Around 1,500 students kitted out in waterproof ponchos discovered exactly what happens when you drop a mint sweet into a bottle of Coca Cola, in an attempt to break a world record. The students, from Belgium, tried to out-fizz the previous record for so-called Mentos fountains by simultaneously putting Mentos mints into bottles of the soft drink.The resultant chemical reaction shot hundreds of streams of carbonated soda into the air.The explosive record-breaking event was held in Ladeuzeplein square in Leuven, Belgium.

From the Daily Telegraph

Is this the Big One?


Are we truly screwed with this latest hike in gas prices? Two articles today want to make me break out the bicycle clips. The Wall Street Journal says Why This Oil Shock is the Big One in this article.

With the price shock of 2007-08, spending on energy as a share of wage income has shot up above 6%, topping the 1974-75 and 1990-91 shocks to be the worst since the 1980-81 runup. Comparing the additional cost of energy to income growth (especially sluggish in recent years), the current shock is far worse than any of the three prior ones, Mr. Carson says.
The figures “suggest that energy costs will crowd out other spending components because income growth is being stifled by weakness in payroll employment,” he writes. “Moreover, relatively thin saving flows offer consumers little cushion against the rising oil prices.”

That’s because everybody’s paying (or not paying) off huge credit card debt, or work for peanuts, or a combination of those and other disastrous factors. Check out that graph. Yikes. Then there’s the New York Sun today which also has the cheerful news that Gasoline May Soon Cost $10/gallon:

The forecasts calling for a jump to between $7 and $10 a gallon are based on the view that the price of crude is on its way to $200 in two to three years.
Translating this price into dollars and cents at the gas pump, one of our forecasters, the chairman of Houston-based Dune Energy, Alan Gaines, sees gas rising to $7-$8 a gallon. The other, a commodities tracker at Weiss Research in Jupiter, Fla., Sean Brodrick, projects a range of $8 to $10 a gallon.
While $7-$10 a gallon would be ground-breaking in America, these prices would not be trendsetting internationally. For example, European drivers are already shelling out $9 a gallon (which includes a $2-a-gallon tax).

Wheeeeeeee!! How you like your gas guzzlers now, America?

REVIEW FROM HERE : The Renaissance meets Mughal Empire


April 27, 2008 8:37 AM

THE ENCHANTRESS OF FLORENCE
Fiction
Salman Rushdie
Random House, $26

Vladislav III, aka Vlad the Impaler, the real Romanian voivode who became the inspiration for Count Dracula, met his end sometime around 1476. Some say he died on the battlefield against the Turks, some have him assassinated by his own men. But the most fantastic and Gothic demise for Vlad has him decapitated and his head sent back to the Sultan in Istanbul, preserved in a jar of honey.
The honey jar episode makes its way into one page of Salman Rushdie’s new novel, “The Enchantress of Florence,” with Vlad just a footnote. But it’s emblematic of this sprawling, fantastic work, the culmination of 10 years of research by the author.
Set during the Renaissance and taking in both its title location and the Mughal Empire (roughly present day India and lands to the north), “The Enchantress of Florence” spins a tale of imaginary and real women, of barbarism and civilization, and of storytelling itself. If it feels like an encyclopedia of knowledge crammed into its 350 pages, don’t worry — Mr. Rushdie includes an extensive bibliography at the end. For those who find his blend of fairy tale, history, and the so-fantastic-it-probably-actually-happened too overwhelming to sift through, there’s always, ahem, Google.
But what of the story, which proceeds less like a straight line and more a series of concentric loops with a zigzag through them? A mysterious traveler from the West arrives at the palace of Akbar the Great bearing a letter from Queen Elizabeth I, but, more importantly, a story that only the Emperor can hear. Akbar, as we have been shown, would rather behead a man than listen to anything a know-it-all foreigner could say, but a wave of enlightenment and a surging feeling of self-doubt have taken a recent hold of him. The man from Florence claims lineage from the complicated family tree of the Mughal Empire and now reaches back to spin a yarn to prove — and also save — himself.
From the start, Mr. Rushdie lets us in on the probable fiction of this man’s tale. But as we are already within a novel that is sewn together from both history and imagination, and where the Emperor’s top wife is a woman that has been created out of the imagination (much to the consternation of his other hundred wives), the waters, while golden around the Emperor’s palace in Fatehpur Sikri, have a considerable muddiness to them.
The storyteller goes by the name of Mogor Dell’Amore (“the Mughal of Love”) but that is not his real or his only name. But as readers follow Mr. Rushdie into the story, they will find that names, like identities, have a way of changing to suit the situation. Everything becomes fluid in “The Enchantress of Florence,” as every character seems to have several names — the main criticism to levy against the book is its potential for confusion for the reader who cannot make it through large chunks of the novel in one sitting. Niccol0x98 Machiavelli takes a starring role, as do the brothers of a certain Amerigo Vespucci (who disappears from the novel in order to have a continent named after him). Literary allusions pop up among the historical ones, and the Three — no, strike that, four — Musketeers turn up in the second half as well.
Mr. Rushdie writes with enjoyable aplomb, spinning on the fantastic and flowery to drop in a street-level bit of realism and humor to mix things up a bit. “The Enchantress of Florence” feels like an old children’s book written for adults, a reminder that the image of far-off lands or of perfect lovers can possess us at any age, and that imagination can change history in the weirdest of ways.

Salman Rushdie will discuss his work with author Pico Iyer at 4 p.m. May 4 at UCSB Campbell Hall as part of UCSB Arts & Lectures. Tickets are $25 general, $15 UCSB students. For tickets, call 893-3535 or go to www.artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

DRINK OF THE WEEK : THE NUGGET’S PARASOL


NIK BLASCOVICH PHOTO
Ted Mills
April 25, 2008 11:41 AM
Way back in the mists of political time, The Nugget in Summerland received a visit from Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton and entourage, which put this wood-paneled restaurant on the local news for a while. T-shirts were sold, as were burgers. Bill may never have returned, but faithful locals have, for years and years, since the restaurant opened its doors in 1960.
Our mixologist entourage may not have a Secret Service detail, but we did enjoy the attention of bartender Wendy Sanders when we dropped in to sample the full bar section of The Nugget. The Clinton burger may have come and gone, but The Nugget’s Bloody Caesar remains on the menu. It’s a brunch favorite (and some say hangover cure) that fans swear by, substituting the garden variety tomato juice with Clamato, and — here’s the odd bit of trivia — remains a popular cocktail in Canada.
The Nugget’s secret is the marinated vodka used in the drink — a week of infusing red, green, and jalapeño peppers in the alcohol produces a spicy base. Along with the usual Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco, Sanders adds balsamic vinegar to the mix. Celery salt lines the rim and a marinated green bean joins the celery stalk. It was not as spicy as one might think, but the pepper taste remained long in the mouth.
The Nugget also has a tradition of serving up martinis in pint glasses and letting the customer use the Hawthorn strainer themselves to pour into the traditional Martini glass. This way, the customer gets two strong drinks for the price of one (and probably winds up drinking them faster too). Sanders, who has been serving since last October, made us one from Chopin vodka, with both an onion and an olive for garnish. Very strong, it was.
In the same vein, Sanders introduced us to the drink that she had been working on for a week, the Parasol. Like its cousins the Sea Breeze and Bay Breeze, the Parasol was born when her friend wanted a light vodka drink (the name, she says, comes from Mary Poppins). With two fruit juices, one to add color, and Triple Sec for more citrus flavor, the Parasol was light and summery. But as a fellow fan down the end of the bar remarked, “it sneaks up on ya!”
For being such a graceful host, Wendy and her concoction get the Drink of the Week.

THE PARASOL

3 oz. Grey Goose vodka
1/2 oz. Pineapple juice
1/2 oz. Cranberry juice
splash of Triple Sec
Mix ingredients in shaker over ice and strain into martini glass. Garnish with lime.
The Nugget
2318 Lillie Ave., Summerland
969-6135

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

The Worst Food in America


A disgusting, high-calorie list from Men’s Health:

Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing
2,900 calories
182 g fat 240 g carbs

Even if you split this “starter” with three friends, you’ll have downed a dinner’s worth of calories before your entree arrives. Follow this up with a steak, sides, and a dessert and you could easily break the 3,500 calorie barrier.

ONSTAGE : Steps to success – D.C. satirists return to Lobero for an evening of song and sketches


The Governator gets a makeover when The Capitol Steps come to town.
DAVID BAZEMORE PHOTO

By Ted Mills, News-Press Correspondent
April 25, 2008 11:14 AM
The Capitol Steps, that beltway bunch of musical satirists returning to the Lobero for their 11th year, run on a fuel that consists of 30 percent parody and 70 percent puns — really groan-worthy puns. For an example, check a slew of song titles: “Help Me Fake It to the Right” (about Mitt Romney), “What Kind of Fuel Am I?” (about bio-fuels), “Electile Dysfunction,” and the title of their latest CD collection, “Campaign and Suffering.”
“I am the culprit behind most of those,” admits co-founder Elaina Newport.
The story of how the Capitol Steps went on to become one of Washington, D.C.’s most reliable institutions and exports — aside from scandals, their bread and butter — has been thoroughly documented. Former Republican staff members on the Senate Subcommittee on Energy, Nuclear Proliferation, and Government Processes, Elaina Newport and Bill Strauss started writing satirical ditties, which led to a performance at a Christmas show in 1981. The success earned them requests, new members (both Republican and Democrat) and a side-career that they eventually made full-time and open to the public.
“It was a fun time for satire,” says Newport about those early years. “Reagan had just come in. He was going from acting to politics and we went from politics to performing.” Bill Strauss has a career in law ahead of him, but chose comedy instead. “I think Bill was also wondering if he’d be in front of a committee one day, being asked, ‘Did you write a song against the President in 1981?”
Strauss passed away late last year at the end of a long illness, but the group, which has seen some 30 odd members in its lifetime, continues on.
As a topical-humor group, the Steps find it the hardest when a politician does not offer obvious traits to puncture. Newport said former candidate Fred Thompson wasn’t too funny until they latched onto his Beverly Hills connection (resulting in a Beverly Hillbillies parody). Or they may be ahead of the audience’s perceptions — when Rudy Giuliani looked to be the obvious GOP nominee, the Steps were making fun of his constant reference to 9/11. The routine “wasn’t quite connecting” until Joe Biden pointed out, in his now famous quote from the debates, “there’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb and 9/11.” Then the routine worked ? and Rudy dropped out.
“We had a song called ‘McCain’s Campaign Is Clearly Down the Drain,’ when we didn’t know who was going to be the main candidate,” she adds. But then, nobody looks to a comedy troupe for prognostication. For the most part, songs about the economy, scandals, and other countries remain popular. A skit about airport security also does well, and springs from the group’s own experience. “The TSA has seized some of our props on tour,” Newport says. “We do skits on terrorism, so we have plastic grenades and guns. We had a skit with a gas-mask, that never made it through either.” No wonder the Steps dress up their TSA security guard as an axe-wielding barbarian.
The Steps remain fiercely bipartisan, but unlike Congress, they all get along well. Newport, like all the others, has to bite her tongue even when a politician she likes is the subject of derision. “I was upset when they tried to swift-boat John Kerry,” she says. “I mean, he did serve in Vietnam.” The group still went ahead with their parody “Fakey Purple Heart,” set to the Billy-Ray Cyrus song.
Still, their targets take it all in stride. Most even request their songs, like former presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. Others are disappointed when there isn’t a song about them. And for those politicians who don’t have any sense of humor at all?
“I can’t name them,” Newport says, sounding protective. “Because they don’t turn up.”
THE CAPITOL STEPS
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday
Where: Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St.
Cost: $25 to $35
Information: 963-0761, www.lobero.com
©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

ONSTAGE : Primordial modern – Eiko & Koma brings mournful, earthy dance to UCSB


COURTESY PHOTO
By Ted Mills, News-Press Correspondent
April 25, 2008 11:10 AM
“Sometimes I feel that part of ‘evolving’ is a liberty to de-evolve,” says Eiko of Eiko and Koma, the wife and husband dance duo. “We do a lot of animalistic movement, but that is not imitation. That is us remembering what it was like to be animals.” The provocative career of this couple, now in its third decade, has long explored those connections of man and the environment, as well as its disconnect. Eiko and Koma’s often-ghostly white pallor, the strange beauty of their movements, and their archaic stage environments will all be taken to the next level in their live collaboration with avant-garde pianist Margaret Leng Tan this Thursday night at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. The evening-length work is entitled “Mourning.”
Eiko underlines the idea of Tan as collaborator, not just accompanist, and that “Mourning” should be seen not as an evening of dance with music, but rather one of music with dance. “Tan is a fellow artist,” Eiko says. “She’s a strong performer and pianist. As such she is very much in her own world.”
But the same could be said about Eiko and Koma. Both developed their art while in college in Tokyo, during the turbulent years of the late ’60s and early ’70s. As in the West, the youth of Japan rebelled against their government, and by extension, all authority.
“We were both part of the anti-Vietnam, post-war questioning that was going on,” Eiko says. “Before we met each other we were both active. And we both dropped out. Even among the anti-war sects there was a lot of antagonism. So I went to talk to my dance teacher. I wanted something to grapple with. I wanted to find a way to communicate my ideas without arguing.”
Eiko’s teachers were Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno, both modern dance legends who are seen as the originators of Butoh dance. Though Eiko and Koma’s works share some qualities with Butoh, such as the unsettling imagery, white make-up, and grotesque movement, Eiko says they never properly studied the style.
“I don’t think of them as Butoh masters,” she says. “We have a spiritual tie with them, but ? we were bad students anyway.” Any teachers at that time, she says, were still authority figures.
Instead, once Eiko had met Koma, they developed their own style and moved away from Japan to Germany, then to New York.
“It was a way of trying out our relationship,” she says. “And along the way we realized what we could do. We realized we had become one.” That relationship has held strong over the years since their first performance in 1971. They have always performed as a duo, and Eiko says that through this time, certain themes have continued: “The relationship with nature, how things that are vulnerable change so rapidly; how technology has caused these things.”
Those themes continue in a way with the collaboration with Tan. The pianist, who is well-known for her recordings of John Cage works — she worked closely with the composer in the last decade of his life — brought hours worth of selections to the first (professional) meeting with Eiko and Koma two years ago.
“She played for hours from her repertory,” says Eiko. Some of the pieces that made their way into “Mourning” include Somei Satoh’s “Litania” and Cage’s “In the Name of the Holocaust.” The Cage piece caused some problems from the point of view of a dancer.
“The first time I heard it I immediately thought, this is not good,” says Eiko, “This is kind of impossible to dance to ? we knew it would be a very dangerous place that we were stepping into. The emotion that goes with it ? it’s a very strong wave of emotions. It’s almost unwelcome.”
But entering that uncomfortable space, being in it, and, as Eiko points out, highlighting the space as much as the dancer, is part of Eiko and Koma’s art. Even this far into their career, for Eiko and Koma to feel unsure and to push forward shows they haven’t lost their nerve.
“Margaret’s playing is so precise, so necessary, so urgent, and our dance is . . . arbitrary,” she says with half a laugh. “It’s suicidal for us to be working with her.”
EIKO & KOMA, with MARGARET LENG TAN
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Campbell Hall, UCSB
Cost: $35 general, $19 students
Information: 893-3535, www.artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu
©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

The Art of Scott Teplin


Scott Teplin draws/watercolors intricate Escher-like rooms devoid of people, but containing intriguing domestic goods and hidden vaults, all visibile through his Ukiyoe-meets-video game isometric view. I think, also, his style reminds me a bit of the artist on the HBJ editions of Stanislaw Lem books.
Here’s a page at the Adam Baumgold Gallery, which is showing his works, including the latest, Alphaville. Here’s his blog.
By way of Boing Boing.