17 September 2010

Readings, 2010.09.16

Thursday's Readings


A new study in Cognition suggests that religion may bias visual attention; see the summary at BPS Research Digest.

This may be one of those studies where you want to read the data and analysis, not just the conclusions, which smell overstated to me.


According to a new study led by Robin Dunbar at Oxford, falling in love will (on average) cost you two of your closest friends.  Steve Connor reports at The Independent.

Research Tools

A new open source project that looks to be of potential interest to anyone who does archival work, Scripto:
Scripto is a light-weight, open source, tool that will allow users to contribute transcriptions to online documentary projects.  The tool will include a versioning history and full set of editorial controls, so that project staff [can] manage public contributions.
Scripto is based on MediaWiki, the platform used by Wikipedia. Some technical details are here.  There's not much to look at so far, but the project bears watching.


It has been reported in the Austrian press that Cecila Bartoli will take over leadership of the Salzburg Pfingstfestspiele in 2012, from current director Riccardo Muti.  See the brief report in Der Standard.

This year is the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth.  Chopin's first performances outside of Poland were in Vienna, during visits to the city in the years 1829 to 1831. The Polish government has now donated a Chopin memorial to the city of Vienna. The artist is Krzysztof M. Bednarski; the memorial will be in the Schweizer Garten (about a five minute walk from where I used to live), and will be unveiled in November. (Der Standard.)

Thursday was the 33rd anniversary of the death of Maria Callas, who died on 16 September 1977 at the age of 53. Alex Ross offers this clip from a live performance of La Traviata at La Scala in 1955, which he describes in his new book, Listen to This.  He calls what happens at 3:30 ("Amami Alfredo") "one of the great moments in recorded music."  I may have to agree (and I say this as a former Callas basher).

And from perhaps the greatest example of operatic acting ever filmed: the end of act II of Tosca, with Callas and Tito Gobbi at Covent Garden in 1964 (but you should watch the whole thing, because this clip doesn't show how extraordinary Gobbi was; some other clips of him from this performance are available on YouTube, and the whole of Act II is available on DVD).  If Callas's chest voice at "È morto! Or gli perdono!" doesn't give you chills, you'd better check your pulse.

German Zombies

Especially for Dr. Mike: Patrick Bethke at sueddeutsche.de reviews the German zombie film Rammbock, directed by Marvin Kren.  The bumbling hero, Michael (no, really), returns to Berlin from Vienna to find that a virus has turned everyone into bloodthirsty flesh-eating zombies ("Die san total durchdraht alle, die wolln bäßn"—roughly: "They're all completely nuts, they wanna bite.")

Mozart lovers should also take note:
Bis auf einen heillos verirrten Schluss, in dem Kren allen Ernstes eine Zombie-Liebesszene mit dem Lacrimosa aus Mozarts Requiem unterlegt, wandelt "Rammbock" schlafwandlerisch sicher zwischen Momenten intensiven klaustrophobischen Horrors und absurder Komik.


Douglas Coupland at The New York Times offers "A Dictionary of the Near Future," including terms such as Airport-Induced Identity Dysphoria, Blank-Collar Workers, Dimanchophobia ("Fear of Sundays, a condition that reflects fear of unstructured time"), Karokeal Amnesia, Limited Pool Romantic Theory, Rosenwald's Theorem ("The belief that all the wrong people have self-esteem"), and many more.

From Tom the Dancing BugGod Man vs. Science Hero (who looks remarkably like Stephen Hawking).

And, via Mark Frauenfelder at Boing Boing, the ant death spiral.

A description from The Ant Room (quoted by Frauenfelder):
This is one of my favorite things about ants — the ant death spiral. Actually, it’s a circular mill, first described in army ants by Schneirla (1944). A circle of army ants, each one following the ant in front, becomes locked into a circular mill. They will continue to circle each other until they all die.

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