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Neil Diamond, II

September 24, 2008 Leave a comment
Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond

I wrote last night about our plans to see Neil Diamond at Seattle’s Key Arena tonight. We did, and we’re glad we did, because we got to see a genius. His genius lies not in the music, as good as it sometimes is (and as bad as it also sometimes is), but in his ability to draw in the crowd, take us on a journey, create an intimacy even in a huge arena, make us one. I’m not normally much for being one with thousands, but resistance would have been churlish and ungrateful.

Then again, how can one resist a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn who made good? (Plus, he attended my mother’s alma mater, Erasmus Hall High School.)

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Categories: Music

Perpetual Motion

September 24, 2008 Leave a comment

In my post last night on Neil Diamond, I wrote about my stay at the Barrington Court Hotel in Leeds in the summer of 1977, describing in particular evenings spent in the lounge watching BBC on the TV. I recalled two highlights: broadcasts of the final round of the Open golf championship and of a Neil Diamond concert. Let me tell you about another televised highlight, the live demonstration of a perpetual motion machine.

I am neither a historian of science nor a physicist, so I am not well positioned to describe the centuries of effort to build perpetual motion machines or the reason that such efforts are doomed to failure. Roughly, such machines can’t exist because of the principle of conservation of energy. A perpetual motion machine, if it were to exist, would be a mechanical device that moves in some ordered way forever. After construction, one would apply an initial force to get it moving, then one would sit back and watch it move in the same way unceasingly, without further application of energy. In normal everyday life, we know that when we start something moving, it eventually stops, due to other forces acting on it, such as friction. A perpetual motion system would somehow be free of the effects of friction, or other forces. It would just keep moving along. This is what’s impossible.

Nonetheless, I saw such a machine on British TV in July 1977. It was demonstrated on some sort of comedy revue, a sketch show. I marvel at the idea that one would have a physics demonstration on a mass appeal television show, a comedy at that. Clearly the producers had great respect for the audience, recognizing that it would understand, at least intuitively, that a perpetual motion machine is silly, and even something worth laughing at.

Here’s how it worked. A picture would help, but I’ll try to describe it with words alone. Read more…

Categories: Culture, Science, Television

Troopergate

September 24, 2008 Leave a comment

Donald Craig Mitchell, an attorney in Anchorage, has an article in the Alaska Dispatch that provides an excellent account of Sarah Palin’s response to the Troopergate investigation of her. Particularly interesting is his discussion of Palin’s appointed state attorney general, Talis Colberg.

Here’s one passage from the article:

One of the individuals who was subpoenaed was Todd Palin. But most of the others were state employees. It also is important to know that, pursuant to Alaska Statute 24.25.080, an individual who refuses to comply with a legislative subpoena can be fined up to $500 and jailed for up to six months.

So how did Attorney General Colberg, the chief law enforcement officer of the State of Alaska, respond to the subpoenas?

In a letter to Hollis French dated September 16 Talis first noted that the state employees who had been subpoenaed (who he characterized as his “clients”) were in an “untenable position” because “the Governor [i.e., Sarah Palin] has so strongly stated that the subpoenas issued by your committee are of questionable validity.” He then asked Hollis to withdraw the subpoenas and thereby “relieve” his “clients” from “the circumstance of having to choose where their loyalties lie.” He then concluded by announcing that if the subpoenas were not withdrawn “our clients will not appear in response to the subpoenas until either the Alaska Senate or the full Alaska Legislature convenes to issue a resolution requiring their presence before the appropriate legislative committee.”

As Mitchell notes (and I urge you to read the article in full), here we have the state’s AG taking legal advice from Palin, who is not a lawyer, rather than providing legal advice to her. Bizarre. Or worse.

Categories: Politics, Today's News

Cheeseburger Spring Rolls

September 24, 2008 Leave a comment

Frank Bruni’s review in today’s New York Times of the restaurant Delicatessen on Prince Street has whet my appetite. He opens the review with admiration for one of their inventions:

This invention is called the cheeseburger spring roll, and it’s just that: a spring roll with the makings (ground beef, melted American) of a cheeseburger inside, or rather four such spring rolls, because that’s how many come per order, nestled in their look-how-plain-and-functional-I-am metal pail and ready to be dipped in the ketchup nearby.

And the point of them, the brilliance of them, isn’t how they taste, which is sort of vacuously oily, crunchy and beefy, truth be told. It’s the name, the idea, the tidy wedding of classic diner staple and trendy Asian canapé.

They promise comfort with a bit of spin and a dash of international sophistication, comfort with a cheeky tweak. And in doing so they crystallize the appeal of this seriously mediocre but ingeniously conceived restaurant, a delicatessen that’s not really a delicatessen, in the same way that its forebear, Cafeteria, isn’t really a cafeteria.

And then there are the “Reuben fritter (Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and corned beef inside a densely battered shell)” and the “’blintz trio,’ one … filled with banana and Nutella, another with sweet corn and ricotta.”

I could learn to like serious mediocrity.

Categories: Food, Today's News