shaken & stirred

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monday morning stuff

Okay, either I'm easy this morning or the Washington Post is extremely full of interesting things today. Either way, it's numbered list time:

1. Bat love in Austin. Nightly, the spectators arrive as the sun begins to wane in the west, lawn chairs and blankets in tow, picnics packed and cameras in hand. The lowly bat may be the most hated and feared mammal in some parts, but not here. This is, as many like to say, the most progressive, anything-goes city in Texas.
"It's a very cool thing," said Craig Saper, who on this warm evening came to watch the bats wearing a bright blue velveteen Austin Powers suit replete with white ruffled shirt, oversize glasses and a fake set of bad front teeth. He and his friends are videotaping the bats for a promotional film they will show next month to high school athletes about local "hot spots."
(I really hope there's a reason this kid was dressed this way, otherwise, I fear for his virginity... remaining intact forever.)

2. I love it when medical detectives try to diagnose from this side of the grave. The latest subject is Alexander the Great and this article chronicles the most popular theories of late. West Nile virus is one: Then Marr and fellow epidemiologist Charles Calisher of Colorado State University found a passage in Plutarch's writing that other diagnosticians had not noted.
As a still-healthy Alexander had approached the Western gates of Babylon, something strange happened: A flock of ravens flew erratically overhead, and several fell dead at Alexander's feet.

3. Latest Reading Lolita in Tehran article, this one focusing on the reaction by people who've read it in Iran and by people who haven't. "The idea of the book is so brilliant," said one Tehran resident, who wished to remain unnamed so she could speak candidly about a system that still can cause problems for people who speak openly. "The intermingling of literary criticism and politics is brilliant. The style of writing is brilliant. I mean, it's a brilliant book. But it has nothing to do with Iran."

4. He's there, he's everywhere: Mr. Teachout has a fun piece about Elvis Costello's first foray into writing a ballet score for a symphony. It's not cut-rate Prokofiev or Bernstein, but a lively, ingratiating piece of mainstream modernism, with decorous snippets of symphonic rock and jazz thrown in from time to time to spice things up. If anything, it's too polite: Costello was clearly on his best musical behavior when he wrote it, and I'm sure he felt he had something to prove to all the "legit" musicians who took it for granted that no mere rock star could bring off so ambitious an undertaking. Also, I missed the chance last week to remark upon the fact that About Last Night turned one year old -- it's one of my first stops every morning and it should be one of yours too. Now, let's just hope for a FIFTH anniversary and beyond.

(end Wash Post linkfest)

5. The NYT asks: Is Ken Jennings a genius? And the experts they consult seem about as flummoxed as anyone else. He said he was quite impressed after watching Mr. Jennings compete. "He was playing the other competitors as much as he was playing the board," Dr. Plucker said, by making guesses, holding back at certain times, acting confident. "This guy was clearly good at contextual sorts of intelligence," which is to say, reading the situation and the rules, in addition to having the necessary knowledge.

6. Yet another story on Marvel comics business savvy. (In movies anyway.)

7. And Cathy Day's The Circus in Winter sounds fantastic in this NYT review. Anyone read it? I'm a sucker for circus stories.

End shameless morning shill for mainstream media.


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