As the small, white-haired, bespectacled man in a sleeveless cardigan took his seat a few rows from the front of the stalls in London’s Royal Festival Hall one night in 2004, several dozen people among the already packed house greeted him with a standing ovation. Those who did not recognise the seemingly insignificant figure were soon apprised of his identity and importance: this was Van Dyke Parks, the former wunderkind who, almost 40 years earlier, had supplied the lyrics to the work whose world premiere the audience was about to hear: Brian Wilson‘s SMiLE, the album designed for the Beach Boys at the height of the 60s but abandoned in despair and left to acquire the status of myth.
Reconstructed under the supervision of its authors and a small orchestra of acolytes, SMiLE turned out to be, if not quite the “teenage symphony to God” that Wilson had promised during the album’s original gestation period, then a compellingly original symphonic portrait of America, studded with brilliant moments of pop fantasy. At the conclusion of the performance the lyricist stepped up to share another ovation with his old friend, relishing the belated acclaim for a work that had once been engulfed in acrimony.
As a child chorister and actor in the 1950s, Parks had sung under the batons of Toscanini and Beecham, performed Silent Night to the accompaniment of Albert Einstein’s violin, and appeared in Grace Kelly’s final movie. Yet his first substantial contribution to pop music was initially met with incomprehension and disdain when Mike Love, the lead singer of the Beach Boys, took angry exception to the wordy, allusive, double-punning lyrics being supplied by Parks to Wilson, the group’s chief composer and resident genius.
Strange Random Beach Boys Quote:
“Music is Brian Wilson’s best friend, lover, everything. On a one-to-one basis, it’s the only thing that has never wronged him.” – Van Dyke Parks
- Orange Crate Art – Van Dyke Parks (timbrosnan.wordpress.com)
- News in Brief: Portishead, Van Dyke Parks ft. Robin Pecknold and Daniel Rossen, Real Estate, Summerfest (pitchfork.com)
- Van Dyke Parks To Play Barbican (thequietus.com)
- Van Dyke Parks On Mountain Stage (wnyc.org)
- Wind chimes (scrapydo.wordpress.com)
- L.A. Weirdos (longform.org)
Brains: The Mind As Matter also features the brain of US suffragette Helen H Gardener, which she donated to science to disprove theories about gender.
The eminent scientist was cremated and his ashes were scattered according to his wishes.
He kept the brain, which to many people’s surprise was not particularly large, and divided it into 240 sections preserved in jars of formaldehyde at his house.
He gave a box of 46 slides to his pathologist colleague William Ehrich, and the samples were eventually donated to the museum in Philadelphia.
“Gentleman, scholar and murderer” Edward H Rulloff’s brain – one of the largest ever known – is also on display for the first time in Britain.
Despite being known for his intelligence, he is thought to have killed his wife and child and was sentenced to death in 1871 for killing a shop assistant in New York.
The exhibition also includes the brain of an ancient Egyptian, one of the oldest specimens ever known, the brain of computer science pioneer Charles Babbage 1791-1871, and a brain specimen containing a bullet wound.
Strange Random Brain Quote:
“Memory offers up its gifts only when jogged by something in the present. It isn’t a storehouse of fixed images and words, but a dynamic associative network in the brain that is never quiet and is subject to revision each time we retrieve an old picture or old words.” ― Siri Hustvedt, The Sorrows of an American
- Einstein’s brain goes on display in Philadelphia (pathologyblawg.com)
- Odd Zone: Odd Zone: Einstein’s brain to go on show in UK (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Brush with genius: Einstein’s brain cells go on show (independent.co.uk)
- A slice of genius: Thinly cut segments of Einstein’s brain go on display in Britain for first time (dailymail.co.uk)
- Brain Teaser: Einstein’s Grey Matter On Display (news.sky.com)
- Slices of Einstein’s brain show “the mind as matter” (vancouversun.com)
- Explore Einstein’s Brain Through His Letters (gizmodo.com.au)
- Brains! London exhibition looks inside our skulls (hosted.ap.org)
People who like a lie-in may now have an excuse – it is at least partly down to their genes, according to experts.
The gene is carried by one in five Europeans, they say in their study, published in Molecular Psychiatry.
The researchers said the finding could help explain “sleep behaviour”.
Over 10,000 people took part, each reporting how long they slept and providing a blood sample for DNA analysis.
People’s sleep needs can differ significantly.
Strange Random Sleep Quote:
A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book. – Irish Proverb
- Cheer up! Sleepy gene holds key to a good night’s rest (independent.ie)
- The Gene for Short Sleepers (neatorama.com)
- Scientists ID ‘Morning Person’ Gene (abcnews.go.com)
- The ABCC9 of sleep: A genetic factor that regulates how long we sleep (medicalxpress.com)
- The ABCC9 of sleep (eurekalert.org)
- Researchers find gene that influences our sleep needs (ctv.ca)
- Gene That Controls Sleep Discovered (myfoxphoenix.com)
For those of you who like to celebrate Valentine’s Day as an alternative or even an addition to Sant Jordi, a couple of resources.
First, the sweet. Fancy Cakes BCN make cakes, cookies and other pastries for special occasions such as this and also to order. You can check out many of their designs at their website, including a very beautiful (but gloomy) wedding cake based on Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride!
Secondly, the funny. Admittedly, there aren’t many funny and romantic jokes around, most of the funny ones have to do with an anti-Valentine feeling. Such as this one from Reader’s Digest:
A Little Nuts About Love
Driving through Southern California, I stopped at a roadside stand that sold fruit, vegetables and crafts. As I went to pay, I noticed the young woman behind the counter was painting a sign. “Why the new sign?” I asked. “My boyfriend didn’t approve of the old one,” she said. When I glanced at what hung above the counter, I understood. It declared: “Local Honey Dates Nuts” – Contributed by Theodore Bologna
A Russian man divorced his wife of 18 years after finding she had been feeding him cheap pumpkins instead of courgettes. Ivan Dimitrov, 47, was devastated to find the pies he had been eating for six months were made of pumpkins and not courgettes. Mr Dimitrov, from Voronezh, said when he realised the truth, after finding pumpkin rinds in the bin, he immediately hired a lawyer to organise a quick divorce from wife Irena, 38. He said, “She knows I absolutely hate pumpkins and she lied to me for months about it just because the pumpkins were cheap. What else has she been lying about? What man could trust a woman who fed him pumpkins for half a year?“
If you do celebrate Valentine’s Day, have a great time!
Strange Random Love Quote:
“Gravitation can not be held responsible for people falling in love.” – Albert Einstein
- Funny Valentines Messages (socyberty.com)
- Healthy Desserts For Valentine’s Day (fitsugar.com)
- 10 Funny Valentine’s Day Ideas From Someecards (blisstree.com)
- Friday Five: Valentine (the9513.com)
- Five Romantic Valentine’s Day 2011 Commercials (pamil-visions.net)
- The Ultimate Anti-Valentine’s Day Treat (self.com)
Just to prove that not all news is boring or depressing at the moment, here are two stories, possibly linked by the idea of “human nature” or “human weakness” and in any case, so strange as to obviously be true!Penguin cookbook calls for ‘freshly ground black people‘. Publisher destroys 7,000 copies of The Pasta Bible after ‘silly mistake’ causes outrage Full Story Here —————————-
Fine owed by George Washington for overdue library books now $300,000. First president of US failed to return two volumes borrowed in 1789 from New York Society Library Full Story Here
Strange Random Human Quote:
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- The $300,000 library fine Washington won’t have to pay (news.bbc.co.uk)
- George Washington Racks up Late Fees at NY Library (abcnews.go.com)
- ‘Ground Black People’ Recipe Typo Leads to ‘Pasta Bible’ Reprint (blippitt.com)
- Cookbook pulped over ‘ground black people’ typo (mycookingathome.blogspot.com)
You probably know where the sandwich comes from (and no, I don’t mean the kitchen) and you may also know who invented the Biro pen or the Gillette razor. But who were behind the naming of the Beef Wellington, Crepe Suzette, Bloody Mary or even the Pizza Margherita?
Find out in this interesting article: 10 Foods Named After People | Quazen.
For those of you who want to know even more, here’s a list of things named after Albert Einstein and another page telling the story of how musician Frank Zappa got a planet named after him.
Strange Random Frank Zappa Quote:
A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it’s not open.
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- Frank Zappa Marvel Comics Ad, 1968 (trueslant.com)
- DIY geiger counter (makezine.com)
- Baltimore honors native son with ‘Frank Zappa Day’ (seattletimes.nwsource.com)