Sunday, May 24, 2009

Awesome Card Trick?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Scouse Vasectomy

After having their 11th child, a Liverpool couple decided that was enough, as the social wouldn't buy them a bigger bed and they weren't strong enough to nick one.
The husband went to his doctor and told him that he and his wife didn't want to have any more children.

The doctor told him there was a procedure called a vasectomy that would fix the problem but it was expensive. A less costly alternative was to go home, get a firework, light it, put it in a beer can, then hold the can up to his ear and count to 10.

The Scouser said to the doctor, 'I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I don't see how putting a firework in a beer can next to my ear is going to help me.'

‘Trust me, it will do the job', said the doctor.

So the man went home, lit a banger and put it in a beer can. He held the can up to his ear and began to count, '1, 2, 3, 4, 5,' at which point he paused, and placed the beer can between his legs so he could continue counting on his other hand.

This procedure also works in Leicester, parts of Wiltshire, and anywhere in Wales!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Super Saimon Deluxe

Super Saimon Deluxe is a classic brain game that will test your sonic recollection abilities. To play, just mash the big pretty buttons, or press the corresponding arrow keys in the correct sequence before the timer runs out! Exercise your brain and improve your mental response-time!

you can find more sequence memory games here

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Monday, May 04, 2009

The Strangest Song. Book review

The Strangest Song. Book reviewGloria Lenhoff was born prematurely in 1955. Although she was originally assessed as a healthy child, she did not develop normally. It was not until Gloria was in her 30s that her developmental problems were associated with a specific diagnostic label. Williams Syndrome was identified. This is a genetic condition that occurs once in 7,500 births. It results in a characteristic physical appearance: restricted physical growth, small pointed facial features and restricted intellectual development.

This book, written with Gloria’s parents, is the story of her subsequent life, paralleled by the story of Williams Syndrome itself. Williams Syndrome leads to one particularly fascinating characteristic: musical ability. Howard Lenhoff noticed that his daughter was especially attentive when he played the guitar or played a record. She seemed to respond particularly to sound and noise. This story is the narrative of how Gloria Lenhoff became a performing singer, and how her life was shaped by a musical competence at odds with all her other limitations.

That aspect of her story begins with an account of her bat mitzvah, when she sang from the Song of Songs, and also played the accordion that her mother had given her in an attempt to foster her developing musical interest.

The story continues with two related narratives. There is Gloria’s own career as a singer. She progressed to giving public performances andmaking recordings, able to memorize and perform songs in different genres and different languages. It is also the story of how her father Howard Lenhoff worked to establish the research credibility of the association between Williams Syndrome and musical ability. The narrative takes us beyond the Lenhoff family, to encompass theWilliams Syndrome Association and the eventual provision of musical opportunities for people affected by it.

This is not an academic study of Williams syndrome, nor is it a contribution to our general understanding of dysmorphic and other genetic syndromes.

Readers of this journal will, however, find it a fascinating case study of how parents of affected children can work to search for and establish meaning; how they can develop their own forms of expertise in trying to unravel genetic problems; how self-help groups can mobilize and sponsor scientific knowledge in specific conditions.

It is also an example of the savant narrative, another example of unusual creative or performing abilities associated with disabling conditions. It is a fascinating account of how one small deletion (on chromosome 7) can give rise to a complex picture of physical, personal and intellectual characteristics.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Toughest Show on Earth: My Rise and Reign at the Metropolitan Opera. Book review

The Toughest Show on Earth: My Rise and Reign at the Metropolitan OperaAs a researcher who studies the careers of executive-level arts managers, I found the opportunity to explore and learn about Joseph Volpe’s career as general manager of the Metropolitan Opera more than rewarding. Volpe, with Charles Michener, begins his book with a comprehensive discussion of his biographical background. From this historical overview of Volpe’s personal history arises the question: are leaders born or made? This question resurfaces repeatedly like a leitmotif from a Wagner opera, with Volpe providing only momentary glimpses of ways to begin constructing a sufficient answer. Nonetheless, Volpe presents the reader with an opportunity to better understand how characteristics and personality traits of leaders may manifest themselves as early as childhood. Volpe concludes his autobiographical outpouring by identifying one of his most significant mentors, Eddie Lapidus.

Several chapters in the book chronicle the history of the Met. Volpe reminds us of the country’s newly rich and their impact on the history of opera in the United States, particularly in the Northeast. The Met was formed in October 1883 for the social benefit and pleasure of a handful of New York’s wealthiest families.

Volpe provides useful stories to support this assertion. For example, the wife of William H. Vanderbilt, a son of Cornelius Vanderbilt, had been denied acceptance into the New York upper crust because she was precluded from receiving a box at the Academy of Music in 1880. Essentially, William H. Vanderbilt and others founded the Met. Still, as time progressed, the Met has grown beyond the ambitions and vanities of its original benefactors, and now more than 130 million people benefit annually from the creative and artistic genius of the world’s finest opera house.

Opera boards seek executive opera administrators with two or more years of executive or progressively responsible managerial experience. Executive-level managers in opera must demonstrate skills in the areas of budget preparation, human resources management, financial management, and strategic planning; they must also be capable of directing and leading the marketing, education, and fundraising departments, as well as negotiating contracts, interpersonal and community relations, and board development. Volpe introduces many case studies in these areas. For example, he relays intriguing stories regarding his dealings with donors Sybil Harrington and Louise Humphrey, two of the Met’s most infamous board members.

Harrington underwrote new productions of Don Carlos, Un Ballo in Maschera, Manon Lescaut, La Traviata, La Boheme, Francesca da Rimini, and a host of other projects (96–102). Humphrey, a onetime president of the Met’s board, was a fine hostess and generous benefactor (109).

Their generosity is the type we hope to The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society inspire in all board members, donors, and volunteers of arts organizations.

In the area of financial management, Volpe discusses an economically lucrative deal wherein the Met sold two properties that netted $4 million - $2 million in cash and $2 million as a mortgage with an interest rate of 12.5 percent (108, 250–58).

Another excellent financial management and strategic planning case study emerges in Volpe’s retelling of an anecdote about Lincoln Center’s unveiling of a mock-up of a new adornment for a plaza - an eighteen-foot-tall twisted bronze pylon with four clock faces, each emblazoned with the name of the clockmaker, Movado. In return for the right to advertise its name on New York City’s most prestigious cultural site, Movado agreed to pay Lincoln Center $250,000 a year for five years toward the upkeep of the plaza, as well as $750,000 to produce the work. Although Volpe was unsuccessful in preventing the project, he was able to convince Movado and Lincoln Center leaders to move the clock off the plaza into a public park maintained by the city (233–36). But perhaps the most revealing case study Volpe provides is in artistic administration and human resources management, necessary areas that are all too often forgotten in arts administration curricula.

Volpe’s demonstrable managerial instinct has perpetuated his global reputation as the manager who fired Kathleen Battle, Roberto Alagna, and Angela Gheorghiu (132–50, 219–22).

But Volpe also discusses his managerial approach in handling stage directors, whom he calls “The New Prima Donnas” (155). Stating, “One phenomenon none of my predecessors had to contend with was the rise of the prima donna director” (155). One director who particularly challenged Volpe was Elijah Moshinsky.

Volpe explains, “For nine seasons, from the spring of 1994 to the fall of 2001, Elijah Moshinsky was the closest thing the Met had to a house director. . . . For all the success of most of Moshinsky’s productions, he became increasingly difficult to work with” (157). Ultimately, Moshinsky, too, was released from his contract. Yet not all of Volpe’s interactions with opera professionals were difficult. He had excellent relationships with Renee Fleming, Susan Graham, Denyce Graves, Deborah Voigt, and a host of other artists at the Met. Volpe’s managerial style set a precedent that allowed executive-level arts managers to no longer tolerate the prima donnas. The November 2002 issue of Opera News, which surveys professional opera singers’ views on the use of the term prima donna, supports this belief (32–35).

In The Toughest Show on Earth, Volpe combines anecdotes, case studies, historiography, cameos of opera’s most intriguing characters, and straightforwardness to afford a fascinating peek into the career of an executive-level arts manager.

This book is a must-read for arts administration professors considering teaching a course in opera administration and for arts administration students aspiring to have a career in opera administration.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Building Louisiana: The Legacy of the Public Works Administration. Book review

Building Louisiana: The Legacy of the Public Works AdministrationRobert Leighninger provides an invaluable contribution to the study of public culture with his resurrection of the Spring 2009 77 forgotten legacy of the New Deal - the long-term capital outlays that created community structures of enduring importance.

In just six years, the Roosevelt administration transformed the face of the American landscape with its investment in infrastructure development.

These public works are largely taken for granted, and their provenance remains lamentably unknown. Leighninger’s studies provide a much-needed corrective to the widespread notion that public investments are of no importance and that government can play no role in improving people’s lives. Leighninger demonstrates the value of public works by an extensive use of descriptive analysis and visual images. It should be noted that the photographs were largely taken by the author.

Public infrastructure development is categorized as either physical or cultural.

In Building Louisiana, the author asserts that physical infrastructure constitutes the basic underpinnings of modern industrial society; the roads, bridges, canals, airports, sewer systems, waterworks, dams, and electrical power plants that we use to produce goods and services to move them and ourselves across the landscape, and to keep us safe and healthy at work and at home. (xviii) These issues are dealt with in Long-Range Public Investment, which discusses the activities of the various “alphabet soup agencies” involved in these construction projects: the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Public Works Administration (PWA), the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

To cite the work of one agency in one locale, the PWA in New York City built the Triborough Bridge, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, the Henry Hudson Drive, major parts of the Eight Avenue subway, and three Staten Island ferries among its 107 projects (Long-Range Public Investment 86). Among other iconic public works projects of the New Deal are Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, the San Francisco Cow Palace, Hoover Dam, the Mississippi River bridges at New Orleans and Vidalia, Washington’s National Airport, and San Antonio’s River Walk (originating as a flood control project, but elaborated with a network of walkways, shops, and restaurants).

The River Walk brings us to the component of New Deal public investment that would be of the greatest interest to the readership of JAMLS: the cultural infrastructure. This “consists of the facilities that allow us to educate our children and ourselves, conduct government, administer justice, and otherwise transmit our culture through museums and other venues for art performances and displays” (Building Louisiana xviii).

In a personal prelude, Leighninger notes the number of New Deal projects on the campus of Louisiana State University (LSU), where he taught for many years before moving to Arizona State. These include the university lakes (WPA), a sizable copper-domed coliseum (WPA), the faculty club (PWA), the geology building (PWA), the student health center (WPA), and the baseball and football stadiums (WPA). Full disclosure requires this reviewer to acknowledge that he is also a professor at LSU and knows the author (although more from cultural colloquia than from campus). Since this work is exclusively researched, beautifully photographed, and well written, there is no personal interest involved. At the same time, this reviewer is familiar with many of the works discussed here; consequently, his appreciation for what he learned was particularly heartfelt.

Given the vast array of projects nationwide - both spectacular and quotidian - Leighninger argues that “we need to see everything by one agency in at least one state before we can begin to reckon the importance of all New The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society Deal public works programs to America” (Building Louisiana xxiii). If I have a quibble with this methodology, it is the exclusive emphasis on the PWA.

Although the WPA was conceived as an emergency relief program for the employment of the needy and the PWA’s mission was in constructing major capital improvements, these distinctions were not always that clear-cut. To cite two already mentioned examples, the WPA built both the River Walk in San Antonio and LSU’s 6,000-person-capacity Parker Coliseum. These were identical to PWA projects in scope, impact, and cultural significance. As Leighninger observes, “What people remember about public works in the New Deal, if they remember anything at all, is the WPA” (Long-Range Public Investment 55). He might have done better to have dealt with both as the joint legacy of the New Deal.

Courthouses might be considered the PWA’s private presence. Eleven parish (county) courthouses were built in just three years - a record not surpassed before or since. Following PWA policies, they were built to last. “All are still standing, and all are the focus of parish judicial life. . . . Camerson Parish courthouse has survived two hurricanes while the buildings around it were flattened” (Building Louisiana 109). The courthouse architecture marked a distinct departure from the usual adaption of a historical motif. If not exactly modern, the dominant design was a variant of the art deco style adapted to conform to the expectations of a public building. Sometimes termed “PWA moderne,” the stylistic compromise has been variously labeled: “stripped-down classicism, starved classicism, American modern, and Greco-deco,” which “allowed a retention, though simplified, of the basic elements of the classical facade: base, column, and entablature. It permitted some ornament: simple bas-relief sculpture panels and similar low carving of capitals and cornices” (Building Louisiana 111). Overall, the courthouses pictured (as well as the school buildings) exude a feeling of architectural distinction and dignity.

Both of the books discussed herein provide a welcome reflection on the positive contributions that government can make in improving the nation’s well-being through investment in infrastructure development.

The importance of dams, roads, rural electrification, and, as Louisiana citizens are all too well aware, flood-control systems cannot be underestimated. As Leighninger eloquently argues, the cultural infrastructure built by the New Deal testifies to the value of public investment for community development: “The structures they built were contributions to a future where citizens are safer, healthier, better educated, and better administered” (Building Louisiana 182). The physical durability and aesthetic sensitivity that characterized these building projects bears witness to the nobility and seriousness of purpose that characterizes the public sector at its best.

Both of these books are of immense importance to understanding the politics of public purposiveness. Long-Range Public Investment disproves the facile dismissal of public works as “pork barrel,” or unnecessary undertakings best left to private initiative. Building Louisiana beautifully visualizes the contributions of aesthetics to the public sector. It should also animate similar studies to be undertaken in all the other states and many communities.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Butter on the Popcorn?

Now working just plain sucks in the first place, but working in a movie theatre has to be the worst (save for being a dishwasher). I don’t work at a normal movie theatre that shows all the good movies, I work at the IMAX theatre with the six story screen.

Normally the IMAX shows documentaries and short films, but every once in a while we get a full length film. Right now we have ‘The Polar Express’, which is a good movie the first 10 times you see it, but when it is the only movie playing and it plays about 5 times a day you can get real sick and tired of the damn thing. I can say all the lines for the last 20 minutes of the movie.

I’m not a people person in the first place, but get 400 people crammed inside a theatre lobby, with a long ass concession line, and it is getting close to the movie’s start time and all those people start to bitch and moan about how long it is taking for everything to go. I really don’t feel like getting fired at this particular moment so I try to explain that we are not staffed for this amount of people. They don’t listen to my explanation and just continue on, at that point I just leave and get back to work.

Our concession is so overpriced it is even funny, when someone orders even a small popcorn they are shocked at the three dollar price tag. Then they bitch about how slow we are when we are going as fast as we can to get everybody’s orders done. Usually it is the person ordering that takes forever because they don’t know what they want. How hard can it be, we only sell popcorn, coke, and candy.

When we let our customers into the movie we hand them 3D glasses, which we clean after every use. You would think that if you felt something damp on the glasses you would assume that it would be water. Nope, when someone feels wetness on their glasses they immediately turn to me and complain that their glasses are wet, I tell them they have just been washed and they shut up and move along. I really hate the people who inspect their glasses right in front of me to make sure they are clean, and if they don’t pass their inspection they assume I will hand them another. I take the glasses from them, look them over, tell them they are fine and to move along. That really pisses them off. Most of the scratches and water dots on the glasses aren’t even noticeable once the movie starts. I loathe the people who bring back their glasses broken. I’ve gotten to the point where I charge them five bucks for a new pair, I made almost fifty bucks one night. I’m not even going to start on the people who want glasses for their one year old.

After the movie lets out we have an announcement that tells everybody to exit out the back. Do the people listen? Not really, we still have a few who try but get told to go up. Then you got the old people who ‘can’t walk up the stairs’. How did they get to their seats in the first place? Then the cleaning of the theatre takes place. I don’t get it, you wouldn’t leave your food and spilled drinks all over your house, so why do you do that at a movie theatre? Do you completely forget courtesy when you enter a theatre? I wish I could slap every person who leaves their shit laying on the theatre floor.

I almost forgot the soundtrack, the thirty minute soundtrack that plays over and over. I’ve heard the same Christmas songs 16 times a day for the last two months. I am close to losing my fucking mind. I really hate it when I hear the songs in my head after I go home from work.

I hate this job, but it’s a paycheck and I need the money.